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Our Ultimate Christmas List

Our Ultimate Christmas List

It’s the time of year when every child out there is putting pen to paper and writing their all important Christmas List. For some children this is an absolute delight with catalogues open, TV adverts remembered and they could write page upon page. For others its can be a great source of stress with the pressure to think up something that they like. In our house this year the list is very short, as the boy has decided he would like some surprises. Usually everything is done to the list, so its a first for me having a free reign so to speak. Here goes…

  • K’nex – we’ve amassed quite a collection in our house, but there is always room for a new rollercoaster or theme park set. This year we are hoping for this 3-in-1 Amusement Park
  • Lego – what stocking wouldn’t be without at least one set. Carrying on the theme park tradition, this Bumper Car Set looks perfect.
  • A height chart – we love this one from I Want One of Those – how else do you know when you’ve gone up a rollercoaster size?
  • We love a holiday, but there’s nothing like exploring the UK – check out where you’ve been and where to go next with this fab map
  • Silly Story Laboratory  this game from The Happy Puzzle Company looks great fun. We love a new board game at Christmas time.
  • If like me, you live in a house full of Maths fanatics, this game looks ideal. Equate is similar to Scrabble but with numbers.
  • Admittedly we may have a *few* versions already, but this Gamer Monopoly looks too cool to miss.
  • Hex Bugs have been popular in this house for years. Great to add to the collection each year, and a really good to toy to play collaboratively with friends.
  • Mulberry Bush have a lovely range of children’s toys, and just when I think we may be outgrowing them, I find gems like this readling light book mark for the stocking. Perfect.

Hopefully Father Christmas will have room for all of this on his sleigh!

Creating a Clutter Free Life

Creating a Clutter Free Life

I have to confess we are a bit messy in this house. Well not even a bit. Really messy. We seem to have taken mess to a new extreme and its beginning to drive me a bit crazy. I’m fairly certain that the problem stems from us all being rather untidy. Having lived with clean freaks in the past, I think not only do I make more effort to tidy up, they probably clean up around me. But having three of you in a house, who not only make the place look like a tip, but also have no problem with everyone else’s mess, it was only a matter of time before we tipped over the edge.

So its out there. We are a messy family. I’m wondering if admitting it is part of the solution, and slowly I can retrain my brain to become a nurturer of neat?

I wonder if there is a messy gene? Is it a nature versus nurture debate? Could it be true what Einstein said?

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

  • Albert Einstein

I’ve been telling myself that we are messy because of our busy brains for years, but all of a sudden its not cutting it anymore. In fact I have a whole list of reasons that I tell myself and others:

  • We’re eclectic and creative. Tidying up would stifle this.
  • Our brains are too full of ideas to worry about tidying up.
  • All the great thinkers throughout history were probably messy.
  • Untidyness is a sign of intelligence.
  • Tidying up is for grown ups.
  • How will I ever find anything if I tidy it all away?

I have even thought about pretending that I am embracing “strewing” as part of our home education philosophy, but that’s just a bit of a lie. So where does all this mess come from? We just seem to have too much stuff. All of us. And we are all absolutely hopeless at parting with any of it. Yesterday we were discussing how we might redo our kitchen in the near future, and it left B in tears. He finds change a challenge, but even highlighting to him that a new oven would bring the return of his favourite dinner wasn’t swinging it. He is adamant things should stay as they are. In fact I’m certain we all think that we are not quite as untidy as each other. So how are we ever going to get anyway? The man and I have duplicates of DVDs, of films we will probably never watch again, but who’s copy do we give away/sell/pop on eBay? It’s a never ending cycle of toot.

I have a feeling its going to need some kind of multi step plan. We need to reduce our clutter, address the storage, and get out of some bad habits. Last night I had a count and we have 7 games of Monopoly. Yep, 7. Which would be fine if we played on a regular basis, but I couldn’t tell you the last time we played! From old X-Box and PS3 games which haven’t been played since around 2008, to wooden train track B had when he was 2 years old, our house is slowly becoming a museum.

I am going to try and lead by example and start by clearing out my own collections. From clothes that, in reality, I am never going to wear again, through to my beloved Jimmy Choo’s that live in a box under the bed, it’s time to get ruthless!

B has said that he can cope with finding 3 things a day to get rid of until we are tidier. What I didn’t realise is that he didn’t seem to mean 3 of his own things!

So at least for now we have an action plan, and we’ve made a start. We should be minimalist within a month at this rate!

The Big Plastic Project

The Big Plastic Project

This weekend we’ve been discussing just how much plastic we go through as a family. I can tell you now, it’s a lot, and I’m pretty dismayed about just how much we are using. Out of all the recycling that leaves our house, the plastic is the most plentiful. Although we’ve always recycled religiously, I’ve never been particularly hot on the “reduce” part of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Over the years I’ve tried to reduce our carbon footprint in other ways, we’ve looked at air miles and being vegan helps our impact somewhat. But there is always more that can be done.

We’ve been thinking of all the plastic things we can do without and we’re a bit stuck on these ones:

  1. Tetra Pak cartons – although these go in with our plastic recycling do they count as plastic? We drink soya, rice, almond milk etc and I’ve only ever found them in these type of container.
  2. Sandwich bags – I’m sure I’ve seen material type pouches for packed lunches. Any pointers would be appreciated.
  3. Pasta, rice, Cous cous, etc. All in plastic packaging. Any alternatives out there?
  4. Tofu – I’ve only ever found this in plastic. We tend to eat tofu once a week and I would miss it. It has a lot of calcium in which is vital for growing bones so I’m not sure how we’d replace that.
  5. Cleaning products. We’ve used soap nuts before so will be switching back to these. I think I could manage with baking soda and lemons to clean with, but what about washing up liquid?
  6. Take away boxes. Ok yes we could live without an occasional take away, but why does Chinese take away food come in plastic and curry come in foil? Is there a reason?
  7. Bread! Due to our problems with dairy intolerance, cross contamination with fresh bread often makes it a no go area for us. I usually bake a loaf at home at least once a week, but sometimes time gets the better of me.
  8. Fruit and vegetable packaging. Are cucumbers always shrink wrapped? Does spinach always come in a bag? Are lettuces always in a bag? A trip to the market will solve a fair amount of our packaging problems with more paper bags available for delicate goods but I’m stumped on the others.
  9. Tortillas – I’ll need a fail safe recipe for these as I’ll miss these!
  10. Bin bags and dog poo bags – ok this ones a bit grim, but I’ll need a solution none the less. We have a fair few pets that need regularly cleaning up after, and cage detritus always ends up in bin bags. Any environmentally friendly alternatives?

I think a tour of the local recycling plants is a must for us to fully appreciate how much waste we make. I’d like to discover just how much of a demon plastic is? Should we choose glass over plastic? What’s the consensus on what causes the least damage?

Looks like we have a lot to keep us busy for now. Keep us posted with your tips!

Making a Mud Kitchen

Making a Mud Kitchen

We’ve had a couple of old wooden crates knocking around the garden for ages, and I’ve finally found a purpose for them. We are making a mud kitchen. Now if you ask anyone who knows me, DIY and me are not the best combination. I’m not so bad on the ideas front, I’ve even been known to start many a project. But finish them? Not me. This is probably the first time I’ve managed to see something the whole way through, so I’m hoping its a whole new side to me emerging. Maybe I’ve turned into a grown up!

We made our mud kitchen with a minimum of materials. This is what we collected / bought:

  • 2 wooden pallets
  • A packet of wood screws (long ones)
  • 9 coloured tiles
  • A bird bath to use as our sink
  • Hooked plant pots for storage
  • Pots, pans and utensils for mud pie making

​B wanted to make as much of it as possible so I let him do the sawing (not for the faint hearted). Here’s how we made it:

  1. Take one of your pallets and cut roughly in half. I’d choose to do it where there is a minimum amount of sawing.
  2. Take your two pieces and screw together to make an “L” shape.
  3. Screw your “L” shaped pallet to your remaining pallet, to form your kitchen.

4. It’s time to paint your mud kitchen. We chose lots of bright colours for ours as we both love a rainbow. (We used a lot of left over paint up this way too!)

5. Once the painting part is done, add your tiles (we stuck ours down with adhesive suitable for showers to cope with the British weather)

6. Add your finishing touches and you’re done!


Our Positive Living Challenge

Our Positive Living Challenge

I’ve had a bit of a cull on my social media lately as I’ve noticed that some things (pages and people) really bring out a side of myself that I’m not too keen on. It could be a little of the green eyed monster, or it could just be an irreconcilable point of view. Either way, I decided that if I don’t speak or see these people in real life, I didn’t need to see things that irritate me that much.

I’m a big fan of action, if something is getting you down, so B and I have embarked on our new positivity challenge. B can become quite self-deprecating and I’m trying to enable him to deal with his emotions and channel his negative energy and learn some coping mechanisms when things don’t go quite right. It wasn’t that long ago when he would declare that whatever was causing him offence should be put in the bin. This could be anything from a drawing not going to plan, a game, his dinner, or a friend. The outbursts are decreasing, which is a huge progress, but his confidence could definitely do with a boost.

So we are taking on this challenge together. We’ve sat and designed and made our new “positive bracelets” together, and the challenge is this:

  • For every negative thought or action you have to switch the bracelet from one arm to the other.

Our goal is to build up from a whole day off of negativity to 30 days. I’ve already had to switch mine 3 times this evening – oops! We’ve discussed where we sit with anger, and how that affects our positivity. So far we’ve looked at things we think are unjust and that we should tackle them with positivity rather than apathy. I don’t want to remove anger altogether if it promotes us to partake in change for the better. But I also think there’s a lot to be said about anger being one letter away from danger.

I think its going to be quite a challenge. We’ll keep you posted on how we get on!

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