Be blown away with paint!

The school holidays seem to be particularly dreary this year. The toddler seems to have fallen slightly out of love with painting so I decided to come up with a new method to renew her passion. 


This was a super-simple, fun and VERY messy project and one we both enjoyed. Seriously though, if you decide to try it, paint goes EVERYWHERE so make sure you put lots of paper down.


Those who know me, know I’m terrible at drawing (I once drew a stick an with three knees….) but luckily ‘Moon’ from the toddlers new favourite show (Sarah & Duck) is easy enough for even my cack-handedness to draw. I also did a few other simple outlines, including a tree, Spidergirl and a hedgehog.


Next, it was time to pour the paint. I bit of trial and error taught us that small drops, fairly close together worked better.


Then it was time to blow!


It was fun trying different lengths of straw and different ‘blowing’ techniques from short, sharp puffs, to longer blows while moving the straw around. They created surprisingly different results.


The tree is a little abstract.


Spider girl turned into a Deadpool/Venom hybrid. We used slightly too much paint on this one….


And here’s Moon, waving on his way to work.

Have you tried blow-painting? How did you get on? Let me know in the comments below! 

Things That Go Bump In The Night

‘Monster!’ Christopher pointed a small, pudgy finger towards the wardrobe, hugging his teddy bear tightly.

His mum, Sarah, lay him gently down in his bed. ‘No, sweetie, there’s no monsters in your wardrobe,’ she said, tucking his blankets around him.

Christopher sat up and pointed again. ‘Monster, mummy.’ Sarah looked into his saucer eyes and signed inwardly.

Forcing a smile to her face she rose and crossed to the wardrobe in the corner of the room. She made a dramatic show of opening the doors and rummaging through the few items of clothing hanging on their small hangers. She lifted out the boxes of toys and even lifted out his tiny shoes and peeked into each. ‘See? No monsters. Now, time for bed.’

‘Bed. Monsters. Bed, mummy.’ Christopher started waving under the bed, tears springing to his eyes.

‘That’s enough Christopher,’ his father, Mike, stood wearily at the door. Sarah threw him a sharp look. ‘What?’ he asked. ‘We go through this nonsense every night. There’s no monsters in the wardrobe or under the bed. Playing along just encourages him. Come on, you little monster. You’re the scariest thing in this room, so off to bed.’

‘Dr Jenkins said we shouldn’t dismiss his fears,’ hissed Sarah.

‘Well Dr Jenkins can spend three hours putting him to bed every night as I’m fed up with eating cold dinners.’

Sarah glared at her husband before quickly forcing a smile to her lips and stroking her son’s cheek. She reached under his cot and pulled out a stuffed toy. She brought it to her lips and whispered in its ear before handing it to her son. ‘Now Chris, I’d like you to meet Mega Mo. He’s a monster eater and I’ve just asked him to look after you all night, ok?’

Christopher looked at his mum, then at the toy. he chewed his lip as he studied Mega Mo. Mega Mo had a small, squat body, clad in denim dungarees. Small black leather boots stuck out the bottom, laces tied neatly in a bow. His arms were disproportionally long and muscular, the stitching etching out his fingers of his broad hands. However, it was his face that Christopher spent the longest studying – it was circular with two small, black eyes made from buttons, two cloth ears stuck out at 90degrees from his head and wool stuck out the top to form hair. It was his mouth which Christopher spent the longest looking at as it was overly wide, almost slicing his head in half. Velcro stuck his lips together, but it opened easily as Christopher pulled. Mega Mo’s mouth was empty, just a cloth bag.

‘As if he wasn’t already seeing monsters, you’re giving him one to sleep with,’ muttered Mike.

‘Dr Jenkins suggested it as a comforter. Mega Mo isn’t afraid of anything, Christopher and he look after you, ok? Now, lights out, time for sleep.’ Sarah rose and before Christopher could complain moved to the door, flicking off the light. His parents paused in the doorway, giving their eyes a moment to adjust to the assorted night lights Christopher insisted light his room. ‘Night, sweetie,’ said his mum.

‘Night son,’ his dad called, already heading to the kitchen.

Within a few minutes Christopher head the ping of the microwave as his parents reheated their dinners and the television as they flicked through the channels.

Christopher hugged Mega Mo to his chest as he sat in his cot. He knew they were out there, waiting. Every night since they had moved into the new house was the same: the monsters under his bed would wake him up. Christopher didn’t know why they did these things, other than to torment him. He’d hear them giggling, their long fingers curling around his blankets before dragging them off of him. He’d feel their breath on his face as they flicked his ears and their sandpaper skin as they yanked his feet. Christopher squeezed his eyes closed tightly and pretended to go to sleep. Sometimes they didn’t bother him if he was asleep. Sometimes.

The familiar scratching started at his wardrobe door, one long fingernail dragged across the wood, slowly at first, then in faster, shorter bursts until the door creaked open. A low buzz filled the room, causing the bars on Christopher’s cot to rattle. He closed his eyes more tightly, covering them with his small hands, fingers splayed over his face.

His cot was moving now, bouncing on the carpet as the creatures bounded out from underneath. Christoper started shaking. It sounded like more of the creatures were coming than had ever before. The giggling creatures moved around the room, their long claws plucking at the carpet as Christopher continued to shake, tears free-flowing down his cheeks.

The sound of velcro ripping made him pause. He desperately didn’t want to take his hands away from his eyes, but curiosity finally pulled them down to his sides. He started to reach for Mega Mo, only to discover the toy was no longer by his side. Christoper quickly scanned his bed, his blanket rumbled beside him, his bottle the other side, but the stuffed toy was nowhere to be seen.

A squeak from under the bed drew his attention. He hesitantly reached for the bars of his cot, but pulled back when he heard another squeak, followed by a thump. His cot rattled, then stilled.

Swallowing hard, Christopher peered through the bars. He saw Mega Mo on the floor, his broad arms swinging like a windmill, his club hands knocking the creatures down. He paused, scooping up several of the creatures and, grinning widely before opening his mouth and dropping the screaming creatures into the chasm. A blue felt tongue whipped around, licking his lips before he started chasing more of the creatures around the room, gulping them down as he caught them. Christopher watched as Mega Mo ate all of the creatures until there was one left, cowering in the corner. He chittered to Mega Mo who smiled before launching himself at the creature. In one fluid move he swallowed it whole. He stood upright and surveyed the room. Christopher followed his gaze and for the first time, he listened to the silence of his room.

‘Wow, I can’t believe he’s asleep!’ whispered Sarah, retaking the blankets that had slipped from around Christopher’s shoulders.

‘I know, he’d normally have screamed by now,’ muttered Mike. ‘Told you it was just a phase.’

‘Or Mega Mo helped. Where is that toy anyway?’ Sarah’s foot nudged against something. She looked down and saw Mega Mo. ‘What are you doing out of Christopher’s cot? I told you to protect him.’ She bent to pick up the toy. ‘Blimey, you’re heavier than I remember.’

‘Forget about the toy,’ hissed Mike, ‘Just enjoy the tranquility.’

Sarah tucked Mega Mo in next to Christoper who instinctively hugged him. He smiled in his sleep, dreaming of monsters, and those who ate them.

Make it Monday: Greetings! 

I love receiving cards, don’t you? But even more than receiving, I love MAKING cards! Here’s some of my recent makes. 

I’m The Big Interview: Lois Kay

It’s funny and ironic but some of the loveliest Brits I’ve met have been one my travels and this is true of Lois. We both worked in Spain and would celebrate the end of a working week each Thursday (Feliz Jueves!) as we worked our way along Calle Laurel, tasting pinchos and wine as we went. Happy days!

Lois recently undertook the ‘plastic challenge’ from the Marine Conservation Society where she gave up using single-use plastic for a month and spoke to me about how it went. Lots of hints and tips which I’ll be using for my Earth Day Pledges.

GCH: Can you briefly tell us about your no plastic challenge?

LK: Promoted by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) for the month of June 2017, I didn’t use any food, cosmetics, toiletries or cleaning products contained within single use* packaging http://www.mcsuk.org/plasticchallenge/

Together with the MCS I tried to raise awareness of the reality which is that many single use plastic items end up in our seas and on our beaches, where they persist and impact our marine life and that nearly of these items we really didn’t need in the first place.

*a single use plastic is anything which has a very short lifespan in terms of its usage. Think of a plastic bag containing rice which rarely would get re-used, pots of ready prepared sliced fruit with a plastic film over the top – not resuable at all.

GCH: What motivated you to take part in a ‘no plastic’ challenge?

LK: I wanted to see whether it was possible, to see what positive changes I might be able to bring about amongst friends and colleagues. I love snorkeling and swimming in the sea, and it makes me so sad to see such a beautiful natural environment often damaged by humans wastefulness.


GCH: Did you need to buy anything new to help you with your no plastic challenge?

LK: Yes a lot!

I generally cook with fresh ingredients so that was just making the change from convenience shopping where the fruit and veg is in packaged in punnets to buying loose and visiting local fruit&veg shops – which I really enjoyed, and wish I had done more of before.

But then I realised that food really wasn’t the main problem – my toiletries, cosmetics and cleaning products are all in plastic packaging. So…I made a lot of things from scratch, didn’t wear make-up for the month aside from my homemade mascara (burn almonds until charcoal, and mix with vaseline), and have now switched permanently to Lush shampoo and conditioner bars. I also invested in a metal safety razor to replace disposable plastic ones.

GCH: What’s been the most challenging aspect of the challenge so far?

LK: Snacks. Everything in the shop bar fruit is wrapped in plastic! There’s only so much fruit you can eat! Once I found cashews, pistachios and almonds loose in a local Asian shop together with dates it got a bit better, and I have made quite a few cakes, biscuits, and my mum did make a batch of homemade crisps for my birthday party!

I didn’t manage to find pasta or noodles not in plastic anywhere so went without one of my favourite meals – pad thai in June!

GCH: Do you think it will be easy to continue once the 30 days are over?

LK: A lot of things now seem so easy. The first few weeks giving up Singe Use Plastics were really hard trying to find alternatives to my normal shop but now I have figured out a lot of it, I am going to continue with switching away from plastics as far as possible.

GCH: Any hints or tips for people looking to do the same challenge, or to even simply reduce the amount of single-use plastic they use?

LK: The four big nasties ending up in the oceans are Plastic Bags, Plastic Bottles, Plastics Straws, and Plastic Coffee Cups. I ask everyone to really try and unless an emergency, find alternatives or just do-without.

  • Make it fun and not a chore, spend a Sunday exploring your local shops and see what plastic free products you can find. Find a how-to online and make your own soap or lipbalm.
  • Stock up on glass jars and containers for all your lovely homemade products.
  • Talk to people about what you’re doing, You will feel empowered, people can be inquisitive and perhaps defensive about their habits to begin with but once you sow the seed in their minds, you will get a lot of respect and more

GCH: What other things have you done/will you do to minimise your carbon footprint?

LK: Cycle as much as possible and not just for recreation. Since I bought a second hand bike with a pannier rack (I am a big fan of bungee cords now!) I can go on adventures around Greater Manchester and do my shopping. You can travel through parks and along canal towpaths – something which you definitely can’t do in a car.

GCH: You’ve travelled extensively. Has seeing how different countries approach recycling and refuse disposal influenced you?

LK: It was sad to see the state of some of the laybys and waterways in Cambodia and Phillipines filled with rubbish but they are some of the loveliest people I have ever met and also some of the poorest. If they had access to the same infrastructure and education we have here in the UK, they and their environment would benefit in so many ways.

In the flip side, I don’t know how England is so far behind some of our European neighbours who pay a deposit for plastic bottles and on their return, the bottles are re-used. Knowledge and awareness around packaging and recycling, and the benefits of the basics of reducing and reusing could be so much better here!

GCH: We’re constantly asked if we have a favourite country and it’s always so difficult to choose because everywhere we’ve visited has been special. Do you have a favourite country or place?

LK:
• Cambodia for beaches and rivers
• Barcelona for its architecture
• Bangkok for its amazing buzz
• Manchester – my home
• Greece – for the food and friendly people

GCH: You’ve lived abroad. Any hints for people planning to move to a foreign country? How do you integrate yourself with the locals?

LK:
• Speak the native language at every opportunity
• A smile will help overcome what may seem like many barriers in communication and will make you so many friends along the way
• Admit when you need help or even just a hug.

GCH: Where would you like to visit again?

LK: Budapest in summer! I visited in December, and the -8 temperature made sightseeing a little tricky. I’v also heard in summer they have amazing roof terrace bars. That said, one of my most memorable travel experiences was sitting in the dark in an outdoor 30 degree pool in Budapest whilst snow fell around me.

 

Have you done the plastic challenge? Let us know in the comments below.

Make it Monday: Shark Week


We live every week like it’s Shark Week here at Beagle HQ but having a dedicated week is always fun to try some new crafts.

Seeing the Lamb playing with a toilet roll inspired the ‘shark fin cuff’. It was incredibly simple but turned out better than we expected and the toddler loves ‘swimming’ around the house with her cuff. We cut a fin shape, painted it grey, while the toilet roll was painted blue. Then it was a simple case of gluing the fin to the toilet roll and cutting an opening! I added some tissue paper to cover the flaps at the base of the fin and the cuff was ready!


Just in case the Lamb didn’t want to wear a cuff, we also made this fun hat/hairband. Another simple construction, with a band of paper to fit the Lamb’s head, and an extra one to go over the top. The Lamb painted both and again I added some tissue paper to hide the join, and to add a bit of texture. If I’m honest, I think hubby and I are a little jealous we don’t have a fun hat like this. Perhaps next week….

How are you celebrating Shark Week?

Make it Monday: Room On The Broom inspired Quiet Book


We’re HUGE fans of Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler’s books here at Beagle HQ. So much so that the toddler’s last birthday was themed around some of their more famous books, but that’s a post for another day.

A zipper for a mouth

What’s inside? Some other characters!


I wanted to make the toddler something a bit different, so I combined some of her favourite characters with different openers and fasteners to help her improve her dexterity and coordination. The product was ‘Evie’s Quiet Book’.

Bird’s wing has a magnetic which helps it move. There’s also plenty of ribbon to practice tying bows


Quiet books seem to be hugely popular and it’s easy to see why: soft to touch for little hands, they are only limited by your imagination and can keep little people occupied for ages. 

Help Dog count bones


I created a page for each of the main characters: Witch, Cat, Dog, Bird, Frog, Dragon plus all of them on the broom.

What’s in Cat’s cauldron?

All the ingredients fro a witches brew! Each item is sewn onto a popper so can be removed for an endless mix of spells


I tried to use a mix of fabrics and materials to make it interesting to touch as well as various colours. Some worked better than others, with some of the coarser fabric fraying, however I think this adds to the characters. 

The Dragon isn’t too gruff here – he has a squeaker for a voice


There are also different fasteners including zips, poppers, buttons and clips, all of which encourage to toddler to explore and learn how to use them. They’ve helped her improve her manual dexterity while also teaching her some key skills for getting dressed. 

Help the Witch button her cardigan and plait her hair, but be careful not to lose her ribbon!


I think the Witch is my favourite page. Her long ginger hair is a mix of different wools, from very soft, to slightly more coarse and even a few strands from my rag doll I had as a baby! Perfect for learning how to plait, and to tie a ribbon! Her cardigan also needs buttoning. This was the only page where I used my sewing machine (for the cardigan), all the rest was sewn by hand.

And out flew, a magnificent broom!


The last page is the broom with all the characters sat safely in their seats. I made the finger puppets as a fun accompaniment when reading the book, but they can be used for reenactment while out and about, or for creating new adventures!

Endless fun with the finger puppets


Have you made a quiet book? Do you like the characters from the Gruffalo and Room on the Broom? Let me know in the comments below. 

Pawsome Peppermint Pup Treats

Since last year we’ve been trying to up our ‘good’ food intake and that includes the pup too.  Talking to her vet during a routine check up, I mentioned that she had a bedtime ‘Dentastix’. While he said they were good for cleaning her teeth, they were very high in calories, which meant, like all of us, she needed to cut back on food and treats elsewhere. I thought there had to be an alternative, one with fewer additives but which also helped with the dreaded morning dog breath.

I had a look at a couple of recipes on Pintrest but many had items we don’t keep on hand in a vegetarian household (poor pup, no bacon pieces or chicken broth!). So I started devising my own recipe. I tried to select a range of ingredients that not only taste good, but have a range of health benefits for the pup. 

I’ve used porridge oats as they’re a good source of fibre and a great substitute for any pups who are allergic to wheat; coconut oil is the superhero of foods for dogs – it’s antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial as well as being good for digestion and gives their coats a beautiful shine; honey has many of the same benefits as coconut oil (as well as a host of others such as vitamins and minerals!), but in this recipe I’m adding it more for flavour and as a binding agent (if your dog has diabetes, check with your vet before giving honey products); an egg to bind the mixture but also to boost the protein content; and finally as this is a breath freshener dried peppermint leaves, which can ease an upset puppy tum, help with flatulence and obviously minimise that morning breath. I buy peppermint leaves loose from Neil’s Yard and would personally use caution about using the leaves from tea bags as they may contain contaminants, although I have read some recipes which suggest this. 

So that’s it! After a LOT of testing (as you can imagine the pup didn’t complain!) here’s my recipe. It’s so simple, even a toddler can make it!


Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of porridge oats
  • 1/2 cup of dried peppermint leaves
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/3 cup of coconut oil (melted. I had one batch where the oil stayed ‘clumpy’ even after blitzing so melting ensures even distribution)
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 egg


Pop the porridge oats in a food processor and blitz until it’s a powder. Then add the peppermint leaves and mix again (the toddler loved pouring as you can see!).

Add the egg, honey and melted coconut oil, then slowly add the water while watching all the pretty colours blend together.


Once all the ingredients are fully blended, they should look a bit like toothpaste. If it’s too runny, add more oats, too dry, add more water. 

Take approximately a tablespoon and either roll it into a ball, or squish it into mini cupcake cases. I’ve found these silicone ones work really well as they’re wide enough to be forgiving of little hands spreading ingredients everywhere but shallow enough that the treats bake well.

Bake at 180degrees C/ gas mark 4/350degrees F for about 25-30minutes. I like the treats to be crispy but if you like more of a ‘cake’ for your pup, you could take them out a few minutes sooner. Take them out and allow to cool fully. Feed to your pup! I tried to get one of those nice pictures of the pup sitting politely, waiting for her treat, but she was so excited, this was the best I could do! Safe to say, these are a hit!


As with all treats, use as a compilement to a balanced diet.