Wassail with kids

“Shall we go to this?” Laurence’s text read. Cue a photograph of the flyer for a local Wassail. He’d never heard the word before but I had. I used to list them for a little online ‘zine I worked for some years ago in the quirky town of Lewes, where amusing British traditions never die. I’d always thought they looked like great fun so I penciled it in.

Wrapped up in all the layers (I wax evangelical about my knitted wool socks and merino thermals I bought from Cambridge Baby. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have been subject to this), we grabbed some ribbons and headed to the community orchard where it was all going down.

Wassail with kids
Wassail with kids-2

There was singing and recorder playing a-plenty. So merry, in fact, that I considered for one mad moment that maybe I would be OK with teaching Talitha to play the recorder. Reality hit me on our way home so no such thing has been purchased. Visions of my four-and-a-half-year-old and 23-month-old fighting over a glorified whistle, indiscriminately tooting the day away still make me cringe.

Wassail with kids-6

Meanwhile, the children all got stuck in with decorating two of the apple trees that were being “blessed”. A Wassail is essentially a celebration in hope of a good harvest. It now remains an opportunity for communities to get together, get outdoors and connect with the seasons.

Wassail with kids-8

We took a break to grab some cake, mulled apple juice for the girls and I and mulled cider for Laurence. Then the morris dancing started. I have to admit, I love a bit of morris dancing. I get irrationally excited over it – the sight of it, rather, I actually can’t do it at all.

Wassail with kids-7
Wassail with kids-5

In fact, I went along to a friends morris dancing side’s practice to try it once and discovered that I was particularly inept. It looked so simple and like so much fun but alas, I wound up rather confused. I still have a real soft spot for watching it, though, and luckily the kids found it fascinating. Talitha was particularly interested in the accordion they were dancing along to.

Wassail with kids-4
Wassail with kids-3

A bit more ribbon tying, playing with a random child (I love how kids do this!) and we decided we better head off and make supper. The girls absolutely did not agree and in retrospect, we should have stayed a bit longer, maybe cosied over by the fire, struck up a conversation with a few more people and let them run around some more. Ah, retrospect. Next time.

Wassail with kids-9


What we’ve been watching on Netflix

In case you’ve reached the end of a series and are wondering where to next, here’s what we’ve been watching on Netflix recently…

tudors

A guilty pleasure
I’ve been making my way through The Tudors. I watched it here and there back when it aired for the first time when I was doing my MA in Early Modern Literature and Culture but I could never allow myself to get into it. I think I found it contrived (which it is) and liberal with history (also true). Perhaps I needed the distance of time to enjoy it for what it is, a sexy take on an exciting point in British history. I can hardly believe that I didn’t like it because I find it utterly addictive now! Amusingly, Laurence has watched a couple of episodes with me and identified Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones, whereas I kept looking at her in Thrones and thinking, there’s Anne Boleyn.

master of none

Laugh out loud funny
I don’t think Laurence is going to join me with The Tudors anytime soon but both of us are hooked on Master of None, ironically named because the indie-style Netflix original comedy certainly is masterful. It’s literally one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in years, thought-provoking, elegantly executed and offers a consistent flow of laugh out loud moments. Bring us much, much more Aziz Ansari, please!

ella the elephant

One for the kids
I asked Talitha what she’s been enjoying on Netflix lately and unsurprisingly, she chose to recommend to you “the elephant magic hat show”, ie. Ella the Elephant. Aimed at 4+, it’s a sweet, gentle series following the adventures of Ella and her friends on Elephant Island, with a strong focus on helping each other. Importantly for my sensitive 4-year-old, there’s absolutely nothing scary in it. Hopefully, we’ll looking into the book series it’s based on some time soon.

Where to next
Everyone is going on and on about Making a Murderer, a documentary in which a man is exonerated after serving 18 years for sexual assault and attempted murderand soon after convicted of murder in suspicious circumstances. It’s definitely next on the list.

What have you been watching lately? Any recommendations?

In association with Netflix


Buy things you won’t throw away

I didn’t really go in for New Year’s resolutions this year. With a third baby on the way and continuing our home education journey, survival felt a reasonable enough goal.

However, I do have a few things I vaguely want to give a bit more attention this year. One is to “make” more. My parents gave me a sewing machine for Christmas and I’m looking forward to learning to use it. Picking up crochet again last year was a bit of a revelation.The other is to majorly declutter because the tyranny of stuff in our house (too much we don’t even use!) is doing my head in. And the last is where this post comes in. I want to buy things I won’t end up throwing away.

After trying everything we could last year to rehome a sofa that had become an eyesore, and failing, I finally accepted that we had to get the council to take it and that it would most likely end up in landfill. I was gutted about it but I’d tried dyeing it, it was too expensive and awkward to reupholster, I didn’t feel up to the job myself and no one, absolutely no one wanted it.

We’ve since been given another sofa (a sofa bed in fact) that will see us through the next few years and this time I’m trying to keep it in good enough nick to pass on to someone but eventually (read: when the kids are older), we probably will go looking at new sofas.

When we do, the principles I plan to apply relate to just about any big purchase you want to ensure won’t end up in landfill. Obviously they may not reasonably apply to everything.  However, there are a lot of things that we probably could spare throwing away with a little more thought from the outset. Before clicking through to PayPal or whacking out my debit card, here’s what I’ll be thinking about:

  • Is it built to last? What is it made of and how well is it made? How well are the materials and structure likely to last – bearing in mind we have kids and cats in the house?
  • Is it timeless? Am I likely to change my mind about it in years to come? How well will it accommodate changing needs?
  • How well does it clean? Is cleaning straightforward or will I need specialist products or services to do it?
  • Can I fix or upcycle it? Is it structured in such a way that it can be repaired if not by me then by a local craftsperson?
  • Does it come with a guarantee?
  • Can I pass it on? What would I need to do to make sure I can sell, donate or give it away? Is this realistic?

Over to you. What do you think about when making a big purchase? Do you have any other ideas for keeping big items out of landfill?

This is a collaborative post. See my disclosure for more details.
Photo from StockSnap.io


Our Christmas stop motion- Learning at home with Sprout by HP

Having had a lot of fun trying out Sprout by HP, a new creative desktop that offers so many possibilities with it’s touch screen mat and 3D scanner, we worked on a little stop motion as a festive family activity one Sunday afternoon. So, here’s the big reveal. Hopefully it makes you smile and puts you in the mood for the season. Merry Christmas!

For more about Sprout by HP, take a look here.

PS: Let me know what you think of it!

Post in association with Hewlett Packard


Creating a stop motion animation with Sprout by HP

The Sprout by HP feature we were most excited about trying out was the ability to create a stop motion animation. We thought this would be particularly cool for Talitha to do with Laurence.

Feeling festive, we grabbed our nesting doll nativity set (from Tigerlilly Quinn’s shopped – closed now but do check out her blog as there’s so much pretty over there) since we wanted to make something with a Christmas theme. The downside of this was that they are rounded so didn’t stay in position on the mat. A little white tack gently helped with that.

HP Sprout Creating a Stop Motion Animation

Talitha was a bit trigger happy with the scanning so we ended up having to delete loads of slides with Laurence’s hand in. Playing it back every so often meant that she got a real sense of the process and understood how it all worked.

I can imagine that, given enough time to really play with this on her own, it could become a highly creative, high-tech version of her everyday puppet shows, turning any object into a potential character.

HP Sprout Creating a Stop Motion Animation-3

This project definitely illustrates how Sprout by HP can simplify a somewhat complex creative process. You can read more about what Sprout by HP generally offer in yesterday’s post, Everyday creative projects for the whole family – Sprout by HP.

My next post does the big reveal on our finished Christmas stop motion animation.

Post in association with Hewlett Packard


Everyday creative projects for the whole family – Sprout by HP

We’ve been getting to know the new Sprout by HP for the last few weeks. It’s a desktop PC which comes with a mat that acts as a second touch screen and, using the scanner above the conventional screen, allows you to capture objects in 3D.

Sprout by HP’s main focus is capturing, creating and editing photos and video, allowing you to simply move objects around, cut around them and generally bring the physical and digital together.

HP Sprout

As a blogger, I have to try my hand at a lot of design that doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me. Sprout has the potential to simplify so much of that. I’d love to see what professional designers like the one I’m married to make of it once Photoshop launches a Spout version, which apparently is in the works.

HP Sprout-3

Even if design doesn’t come into your work, though, creativity is a part of all of our lives. From Christmas cards to promotional posters, stop motion animations to 3D printing, I’m sure most families could find a lot of use for Sprout by HP. In my introductory tutorial, I was shown a tiny 3D printed shoe which had been taken from a 3D scan of a baby’s first shoe. It was a touching demonstration of what Sprout by HP could offer.

As a home educator, my main interest in testing this computer was to see what my kids and I might be able to do with it together. From this perspective, there are so many possibilities.

christmas fun

Something which intrigued me from the outset was that though I struggled a little bit to get to grips with how it all worked (I haven’t used a PC in a long time), 4.5-year-old Talitha found it no trouble at all. She’d sat with me in the tutorial and clearly absorbed it all but I think her uncluttered mind finds it pretty intuitive to operate too.

On their own, both girls have been having fun playing Crayola Draw and Sing which plays music as they colour, allowing them to choose different images, tools, tunes and musical instruments. Crayola DJ has been another favourite. They’ve had fun using it to mix sound effects with backing tracks.

Together, we’ve been bringing together images and objects and they’ve had a lot of fun manipulating them and moving them around. We’ve talked a lot about how animation works and she even had a go with drawing a cartoon we’ve titled: “Four-year-old doom and destruction”. It would have worked more smoothly if she’d scanned it a stroke at a time but I don’t think she has the patience for that just yet.

Talitha especially loved making a stop motion animation with our nesting dolls, which I’ll blog about in a separate post.

For more on what Sprout by HP offers, check out Sprout by HP presents “Jane”:

Post in association with Hewlett Packard


The new DC Super Hero Girls show – Win a £100 Visa Gift Card

Earlier this year, Talitha had a super hero party to go to. As we talked about who she could go as, we realised that she wasn’t familiar with many female super heroes. I mean, the super hero thing isn’t hugely on her radar even now but she at least had some awareness of characters like Batman.

More recently, she’s started donning a cape, flying about and saving people. I don’t think that she’s particularly thinking of herself in gender when she’s playing these games but I’ve felt that if she wasn’t exposed to female heroes, she might begin to absorb the message that the business of power, rescue and adventure is better left to the boys.

So, we enjoyed watching the new DC Super Hero Girls playlist on the DC Super Hero Girls YouTube channel together.

In this new show, DC reimagines its female (and some male) characters, like Wonder Woman and Supergirl, as teenagers attending Super Hero High.

I have to admit that I found it a bit goofy and maybe even cringey in parts but I think that’s possibly because it’s not the mostly serious, tense, action-packed stuff I grew up with. I’d love to introduce her to those comics and videos at some point but for now this is probably more age-appropriate for her as I doubt she’d be able to deal with the suspense they’re laced with just yet. I was also pretty surprised to find Poison Ivy and Harley reimagined as heroes!

Talitha loved watching these clips and has gone on for ages about how strong they are and that they can save people, asking about their different powers. I like that there’s also an emphasis on friendship between them and that they’re all so unique, there’s a favourite for any child to latch onto.

For kids who want to take the experience further, the DC Super Hero Girls website offers play games, free printable activities, and more.

DC Super Hero Girls is also currently giving away a £100 VISA Gift Card giveaway to one lucky entrant of the giveaway below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Post in association with DC Super Hero Girls