Saturday, 14 February 2015

Valentine Heart

Today's blog post is dictated by Madeleine.

 This is me.   I'm putting the tissue paper on the box.  It's the red one, but I needed the pink one, and Daddy cut the pink one for me.  It was a heart shaped box.  I had good fun.  I was making the box for Heidi.
Mummy made the little heart box and I made the big heart box.  We were making them because it was Valentine's Day.

We made biscuits.  Me and Daddy and Mummy ate the biscuits.  There was white snow (icing sugar) on top of the biscuits.  They had jam in.`

Monday, 9 February 2015

Frozen: the sequel

This has nothing to do with our Frozen party - well not much!  Since the Autumn, in an attempt to compensate Madeleine for her philistine parents, we've been going along to this fantastic art class at Jupiter Artland, where the immensely talented Izzie, Helena and Catherine have been nurturing her creative potential in a magical woodland setting.  It being February, and things being frozen (but literally there) no Disney in sight... and inspired by the work of Anya Gallaccio, not Elsa... they have been making ice art.   You can read about their snowy stickmen.  As a seriously competitive parent though, and seeing an activity in my competence range,  couldn't resist a blogger response, so coming back at you ladies, here is our attempt at icy stuff. 

So I think this might be called transitional art - don't quote me on that...  which basically means you get nothing to take home with you.   Us being us, we couldn't resist a FROZEN themed frozen thing, but as we are gently steering Madeleine away from "that film" and have just managed to take the decorations down, we also did a woodland one too.  

snowdrops; twigs; berries; moss; snows; butterflies; ladybirds; snowflakes; chalk; feathers; cord; ballons.

We did try to freeze it in the garden over night, but it wasn't cold enough.  Freezer worked well.

Then it melted - "that's art too" Madeleine remarked casually.  She's really getting the hang of this art stuff.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Our FROZEN Party

 We had a party to celebrate all things FROZEN.  12 little children, tons of glitter and acres of turquoise, party games and food, all leading up to the triumphant cake finale with candles. It was nobody's birthday, but as Madeleine wanted to blow out candles, we did - whilst singing Let it Go - which they all did with great enthusiasm, as though this was a totally normal request and none of the adults involved were stark raving bonkers. I thought I was videoing it - but instead I was taking a single still - although a video would have been scary, because I have to confess I *was* singing.   

As the last bars of Let it Go phased out, I got up on the chair and declared in my best regal tone: "The Party is over.  Close the gates!"  

If you haven't watched FROZEN 400 times that won't make any sense to you.  Anyway, it was basically worth throwing the whole party just so I could do that.

The children enjoyed it too.

You can read about how we put the party together here.  

Thank you to everyone who came to our party and helped us celebrate all things Frozen... especially our seamstress, facepainter, photographer, plongeur, tea maker and general dogsbody... I couldn't have done it without you 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

How to do a really excellent Frozen Party (on the cheap)

In the midst of preparations for our Christmas Party, Madeleine revealed that she didn't want one.  She wanted a FROZEN Party.   It has to be said that 3 year olds are not the most grateful people in the world, but instead of throwing myself on the floor and sobbing, I uttered those immortal parental words: you can have a FROZEN Party after Christmas, without even clocking my rookie error.  I think I had sort of been thinking maybe March-after-Xmas, but of course 3 year olds don't do "the month after next", so instead, as soon as the Christmas decorations came down, Madeleine wanted to know if she was having her FROZEN Party today as in NOW, this very moment. 

So this is it - how to do a Frozen Party on the cheap, for parents who have virtually no artistic ability what so ever, and can't sew.


There's good news and good news.  The first bit of good news is that Disney are really good at making animated films.  The second bit of good news is that they will sell you a copy of the film really cheaply as they make their real money  selling lots of tacky film related tat, which is generally pretty naff.   However, the really good news is that you don't have to buy it!  For little people, snowflakes and turquoise, and all the other non-TM-able stuff is just as much FROZEN as anything else.   Remember, snowflakes and turquoise are your friend.

For our FROZEN tree, we went for a wander in the woods and dragged back a likely looking branch and painted it with left over gloss from the shed.  Decorated with white lights and glass and silver baubles (from our Christmas box) it looked quite smart.   Our principle concession to the theme was these little salt dough snowflakes with turquoise ribbon - use a snowflake cookie cutter and a piping nozzle to pattern the surface.  We bought a 50 metre roll of ribbon for £2.75 on ebay, and used it for a few bits and pieces, and obviously have loads left. 

Next we made a throne.   Everyone likes to have something special to sit on, don't they?   This was pretty easy - we used an existing toy box as a base and cut out cardboard to make a fancy shape.   The principle expense was a tube of acyrlic paint from Hobbycraft (£3) which we used pretty much everywhere.

We painted snowflakes on the throne, cut a glittery Elsa crown out of blue glitter card and used cut out snowflakes to decorate the window.  I know some people can do them freehand, but I am completely without talent, so I used these templates.  It's really easy and effective - you just send the template to the printer, fold the print out up, and cut it out.  They would be good for Christmas and general winter themes too.

So, so far we've spent £5.75, and already have one very excited little Madeleine.   Finally we used our Disney and other toys to create the North Mountain - green sheet for the foothills, white for the snow - and Madeleine's cardboad Ice Palace, FROZEN dolls and the wooden animals that she got for Christmas.   Total cost: nothing.

Finally, my lovely friend Wendy, noticed we were doing a FROZEN party on facebook, and spontaneously sent us some lovely turquoise and ivory bunting.  Couldn't begin to price it or do it myself, as I can barely thread a needle.  It's lovely though.  It dramatically arrived minutes before the party started, so it's not pictured here.

Party Bags

I have to confess I really, really HATE making party bags.  The children do sort of expect one - and yes, they will be filled with tat, which will cost a fortune, and will break in the car on the way back from the party... and yes, they really do want a little bag of treats, and no, a sensible book doesn't really cut it.  So how do you do it on the cheap, when everything with FROZEN on it is sold at a premium?  This is our take.

First up, an almost free toilet-roll craft to "build" a snowman.   Instructions pinned round the outside of the roll, and a slither of orange and black foam and 2 googly eyes tucked inside.  Cute eh?
Next up, Madeleine and I made some playdough - turquoise of course... and the friends came to help glitter it - a very important step.   Some free printables and a little cling film later, it was looking quite good.  The most expensive ingredient is cream of tartar, but in all honesty, once you're using value flour, it's cost is pretty close to nothing...   so, so far our party bags are almost free.

The girls all got a little bracelet - very simple.  A silver Tibetan snowflake charm on some turquoise elastic, which Madeleine loved making and wrapping up in blue tissue paper.  We ordered the charms from China (99p for 20), so allow plenty of time.  A branded chocolate bar (13p) and a lolly (5p) completed the bag.  Madeleine loved packing them as usual - all part of the excitment of the party!

Ironically, the most expensive element of the party bags was the bag itself.   £1.75 for 12 turquoise bags from Ebay, decorated with a little snowflake and a little turquoise gem (99p for 200 from Ebay) and tied up with turquoise ribbon.  It still works out at about 50p per party bag, which isn't bad at all.

Party Games and Crafts

Most of our guests were 3 years olds or 4 years olds, so we kept the party games simple.   We pinned the nose on the Olaf - notable as my one artistic endeavor, as I drew Olaf free hand - go me!   I also bought a packets of glistening snowflake plastic decorations from China (99p), which let us play an easy treasure hunt from our inside "snowflake flurry".  I have to admit I sort of splurged here and bought everyone a prize... largely because little Charlotte had told me at Christmas "I never win anything".   You really don't have to do this, but it's hard being 3 years old and not winning, and they were only little things - so I'm estimating my budget at about a tenner, and another quid for the FROZEN wrapping paper from ASDA.  

Madeleine and her friends love crafts, so we went all out and had two.   When they arrived they could start to make a snowflake decoration like the ones we made for the tree.   I pre-baked the salt dough snowflakes, so the activity was to add paint and glue and glitter.   This is a bit messy, but little kids love glitter and it is so cheap, I couldn't even work out the unit cost.  Whilst they were doing it, we also painted their faces

 The main craft was a cut out Elsa or Olaf.  All the girls chose Elsa.  Olaf was really simple - I cut out an Olaf shape, and the child got to choose twig arms, add a nose and googly eyes.   I used stiff card from Home Bargains - about 1p per Olaf or 2p per Elsa.   At Christmas I used waste cardboard for the Christmas tree shapes, but it is hard work cutting round it, and it didn't seem worth it given the unit cost.  However, my reservation would be that when I made the prototype, I didn't use tons of paint, but little children will.  We ended up having to blot all the Elsas as the card rolled up and would never have dried in time.

The idea for the Elsa is my feeling that little kids like to make something that looks really good.  Yes, yes, I know - it's all about the process, but well - sometimes it isn't.   I cut out an Elsa shape - actually I drew this freehand (very proud), and printed out an Elsa face off the internet to stick on top.   We gave the children turquoise paint to do the dress - they obviously would have got it all over her head as they are 3 years old, but - hey clever - we didn't stick the head on until aftewards!    We cleared away the paint and gave them a piece of blue tissue paper for her cloak, and they glued on snowflakes made before the party with a punch.  I think the end result is pretty impressive and the children loved it too.  Given we already had the turquoise paint, I don't think all the crafts could have cost more than a couple of quid  - pretty good.  However, I warn you, the prep took absolutely ages!!


Food is pretty much the only creative thing I can do, so don't tell anyone, but I think it's a bit of a waste of time.  You see some lovely FROZEN themed food, but I really don't think 3 year olds are that into it.    They want things they recognise.  They want cooked sausages (no, not homemade ones), they want cheese and ham sandwiches, little tomatoes, popcorn and pom bears.    

The main special food that Madeleine wanted was a big cake.  I know it's only because she likes blowing out candles, but oh well, say "yes" where ever possible ;-)   A very simple cake - the top tier isn't real.  The Elsa figure cost £1.80 on Amazon.  The snowflake cutter came from China and cost me £1.50, but allow plenty of time for delivery.  Total make time was around 3 hours, and it cost about £10, including the figure and the snowflake cutters which can obviously be used again.  My only other concession was some rice paper toppers (£1.99 for 22 on Ebay) because little kids loves them.

An awful lot of work, but lots of fun to be had making things for the party.   All in all, I think it cost around £70-ish, but bear in mind it created activities for 3 weeks in the run up to the party.  Here's my shopping list.

Facepaint £5.00
Prizes £10.00
Turquoise ribbon £2.75
Turquoise paint £3.00
Silver snowflake charms £0.99
Tuquoise party bags £1.75
Turquoise gems £0.99
Frozen chocolate Bars £1.56
Lollies £0.60
Magic Bubbles £1.20
Snowflakes from China £1.00
Card for crafts £0.60
Basic food £10.00
Cake £10.00
FROZEN Cupcake toppers £1.99
FROZEN paper plates £2.50
paper cups £0.60
Table cloths £3.00
So how did the party go?  Find out here.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Our Christmas Party

Way back in January, I innocently popped into Sainsburys for a pint of milk, and they'd reduced their £4 Christmas craft packs to 20p.   I think a judge might consider that entrapment.  We HAD to have a Christmas party.

Easy peasy Christmas party.  Plain paper lunch bags with a gnome and a christmas stencil, filled with our bargain craft kit, some sweeties, stickers and a cracker.   Unwrap the Christmas Parcel game and Stick the Star on the tree.   Decorate the cardboard Christmas tree with acres of glue and glitter.  Christmas topper cupcakes, 2 plates of ham and cheese sandwiches.    Add 10 excited 3 year olds.  Voila!   Success.