Friday, 28 February 2014

Stress free kids' parties

I loved this article by Natalie Trice and had to share it with you.
When I read Martha Stewart describing birthday parties being like road trips: getting there is half the fun. I laughed as I learned this the hard way when I planned a surprise circus party for my son. There were going to be clowns and acrobats flying through a big top whilst guests ate candy floss and had their faces painted. On paper it was perfect but when I told the birthday boy he burst into tears and whispered he didn’t want a circus party.  The thing is, whilst social media bragging and peer pressure have upped the party stakes, if we go back to basics, all that matters is the birthday boy or girl has fun and feels special.  Whether you rub your hands in delight at the thought of planning a party or reach for the wine bottle in despair, you can successfully keep a bunch of over-excited revelers, high on sugar, happy and entertained for two hours, you just need a PLAN.
ALL ABOUT THE THEME: Go with a theme your child likes, trust me on this. If they’re mad about Minecraft, how about a junk making party? Rock ‘n’ roll parties with instruments and a stage are great for budding musicians, a cupcake decorating party is cute and a treasure hunt for pirates will keep children entertained for ages.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Whilst parties at home keep costs down, going for a Church hall, leisure centre, pizza restaurant or bowling alley often means leaving the washing up and mess for someone else; BOOK IT!
GUEST LIST: Whist it might be ‘PC’ to ask the entire class, extended family and Brownie pack, things will spiral out of control. Most children won’t think about putting noses out of joints they just want the people they like at their party – end of.
KEEP THEM BUSY: You can guarantee one irritating delightful guest will say your party was ‘rubbish’. Book an entertainer, have a disco, organise a karaoke competition and have a plan B, that way they will be busy from start to finish and too tired to complain when they are collected.
FAB FOOD: Be imaginative with food; ‘flying saucers’ (mini-bagels) and ‘moon rocks’ (rice crispy cakes) are loved by astronauts and telescope wraps are perfect for pirates. It you stick with pizzas and sandwiches make them star and heart-shaped and put out big bowls of snacks and fruit too, but no nuts.
INVITE EXTRA HELP: Some parents read party as ‘kid free shopping time’. However, be smart, ask some of them along, give them snacks and fizz and you’ll have a team of waitresses, peace keepers, toilet monitors and DJs for free.
A PIECE OF CAKE: Whether you make it or buy it, cake is key. Once the candles have been blown out don’t just slice it up and squish it into party bags, serve it as dessert. If it is too good to share, pop fairy cakes into the party bags and keep it for later.

PARTY BAGS: Speaking of party bags, not giving them out is pretty much social suicide. Funky, bright cellophane bags can be filled with pots of Play Doh, toy dinosaurs, hair clips or mini books and tied with a ribbon attached to a glitter filled balloon. If you want to do something a bit different, a cool alternative is a lucky dip, where each child picks a present and cupcake as they leave, simple but effective.
Finally, charge up your camera, relax and try to enjoy the party and smiles because these days don’t last forever.
P.S. If you hire a female entertainer who dresses up as Spiderman at tea time be prepared for the kids to talk, and the Dads to look!
Natalie Trice is a freelance journalist, writer and award-nominated blogger, she knows a thing or two about PR and social media too. She’s also a Mummy to two small boys, wife to Oliver and an owner of a cat and a dog. When she isn't writing or networking on Facebook, Natalie is an avid shopper, coffee drinker and collector of handbags and shoes.

I guess my tenuous link of the day would be our great character inspired T-shirts which complement most themes - pirates, cops, knights, spacemen, cowboys and indians, witches and firemen.  You can check them out here. 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Meet the Maker - Louise Firchau and Paper Panda

It's no surprise that Paper Panda has over 80 000 fans on Facebook and that, as a result, designer Louise Firchau has been able to quit her day job and make her hobby for making typographical lyrical papercuts from recycled paper a full time job.
I'm not going to say too much about her work as it speaks for itself but there are a few at the bottom in Louise's own words for those who want to know more.  
It is no surprise to me that this piece is causing a bidding frenzy on e-bay - it's just adorable.
One lucky competition winner had an original design created just for them and you can see the work that goes into producing one of Louise's pieces.

And because I'm always on the look out for projects you can have a go at yourself, you should know she has a beginner's kit, more details further down the blog too
 and you can get a template, just perfect for Mother's Day.
I promised to let Louise explain more about Paper Panda so here she sums it up in her own words:  "PP has three very distinct styles available in a multitude of merchandise.  I hand draw and hand cut The Bird & Bunny and folk series of papercuts that are inspired by Quarwood, where the Panda family live in a little cottage in the Cotswolds surrounded by animals and woodland life.
The Storybook series (and other gothic darkness) is a cute collaboration between Mr & Mrs Panda. I tell Ryan what to draw with a waggy, pointy finger over his shoulder and only when he gets it perfectly right will I cut it out of paper. It's a good bit of teamwork.
The typographical pieces are created using digital software. I studied typography at university and it became an obsession. There is nothing more satisfying than creating a piece of graphic art using amazing fonts and hand cutting it so perfectly that no matter what the size it looks like it's been printed."
As promised too, here's the information about the trainee kit: w
hat's included and reassurance that you will be able to do it!

In each kit there will be:
1 x A4 self heal cutting mat
1 x soft grip blade handle with 5 x blades in a rubber encased blade holder (some may differ slightly)
1 x 'how to Panda stylee' instuction sheet
1 x Practice sheet showing you what to do
1 x Baby Panda Design 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star'
1 x Baby Panda Design 'Home Sweet Home'
1 x Small Panda design 'I love you'
1 x Large Panda Design A4 (Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's learning to dance in the rain)
1 x sheet of speciality paper
1 x Panda badge (essential)
I guess today's tenuous link would have to be our own 'learn how to knit' tutorial which you can find on our website by clicking here.   Personally, I'm off to order my own kit from Paper Panda and hopefully surprise my mum with a truly personal gift this year!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Great Escapes - Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo

It's half term in Wales and where better to take the kids in Spring than to a farm where they can see all the newborn lambs.  
What started out as a small dairy farm near Tenby, Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo has become recognised as the Best Family Day Out in Wales, where you can not only find donkeys, chickens, horses and other traditional farmyard animals, .....
..... but also zebra, ostrich, camel, lemurs, meerkats and giraffes amongst others in their less traditional zoo!
And when you've had a go at milking a full size plastic cow!, you can burn off some energy in their adventure playground and vintage funfair.
With activities inside and out, there's something to do, even when it's raining.  Kids can enjoy Carousel Woods, Pirates Adventure, Pedal Tractors, Big Dig or Follystone Racetrack. Rides include Dodgems, Waltzers, Helter Skelter, Golden Gallopers and many more.
And probably something you wouldn't expect to see in rural West Wales on a farm - penguins!!  But such is the diversification of this impressive attraction that last year they opened Penguin Coast where you can see the birds play both above and below water.
Nothing tenuous about the link today as we have lots of farmyard animals you can choose from as well as zoo animals too.  We even have a pirate.  Check them out in our clothing range here. 

Monday, 24 February 2014

Trivial Pursuits - Pom Pom making

Another thing I got up to last weekend when friends came to visit with their kids was a marathon pom pom making session.  Overhearing their mum explain that she would show them how to make them the traditional way using cardboard I couldn't resist the urge to leap in and introduce them to the amazing time-saving pom pom maker that had Kirsty Allsop so giddy when she discovered them on her last C4 series.
However, there are several ways to make your pom pom, so here are some YouTube clips using cardboard, special machines or just your hand, as well as my own visual tutorial for making multiple mini pompoms 
which I discovered when making bootees to complement my moptop hats which you can see here and buy from our website.  

Just using your hand .....
... or cardboard ...
... or a special machine ...


And of course, let us see how you get on or which method you prefer, or indeed, if you have a method of your own.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Meet the Maker - Katie Almond, ceramicist.

Another workshop to whet your creative appetite.  This time from ceramicist Katie Almond in Rutland.
Since graduating five years ago, Katie has set up her own workshop in Rutland making ceramics using a variety of slip casting and hand-building techniques.  Each piece is essentially a canvas for decoration and collage as she combines drawings with found ephemera.  "I am inspired by nostalgia, old paper ephemera, vintage textiles and a love of drawing."  
She transfers old envelopes, bus tickets, seed packets and magazine adverts unearthed in charity shops and car boots sales on to her hand-painted porcelain jugs, cups, cakes stands and brooches.  
The mass of handwritten receipts, savings books and postcards she acquired from her grandmother has been a constant source of inspiration.  “Reading through them is fascinating.  One receipt from 1951 just have been when she was out buying presents for my mum, aunt and uncle.  I love being able to add a personal touch to my work.
"The pieces I create are unique, one-offs that explore a variety of nostalgic themes that I am always adding to. Currently my themes are; the notions of afternoon tea, ‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside’, gardening and flowers, and traditional blue and white pottery."
Katie is another artist exhibiting at Unit Twelve alongside Kirsty Elson in the 'madebyhandonline' exhibition and she also supplies galleries and shops both in the UK and internationally as well as regularly attending craft fairs.
And of course, you'll be keen to know more about the workshops she runs at Debbie Bryan's studio in Nottingham which include courses in the art of  brooch, tile, card and bead making.  These are all on offer in the coming weeks, with the added incentive of homemade cake and tea thrown in! Ideal for hen parties, birthdays or just to vent your creative bent, you can find out more from her website

And don't forget if you can't get to Nottingham, do try to search for something similar in your area and let us know how you get on.  We'd love to see the fruits of your labour.

And my tenuous link for the day - I guess it would have to be my pottery, as featured on our vintage inspired aprons!  Take a look on the website if you fancy something to keep you tidy as you bake (or even wear one for your ceramic sessions!)