7 Great Disney-themed Craft Activities

Disney are constantly creating characters that kids love. It makes sense, then, to capitalise on that love and get creative. There are limitless opportunities to turn Disney films into craft activities, with practical creations as well as things to do just for fun or to stick on the fridge. For your arts materials you can’t go wrong with the website Artifolk which stocks a great range in acrylic paint, pencils, card and much more. Here are a few Disney-themed activities to try with your little ones.

Mickey Mouse tags

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The iconic two ears silhouette lends itself well to a whole host of creations. These are perfect tags for luggage, school bags or even to help with the veg patch. All you need is some stiff cardboard and use three circles (one large two smaller) to outline the classic Mickey Mouse head. Use this as your template to outline as many more as you need on more card (or if you prefer, use plastic or any other material you can cut) and cut out the shape yourself. From there, you can let your kids decorate and label as they wish.

Frozen Christmas Tree Decorations

Create the likeness of all their favourite characters from the most recent Disney classic and attach some string to hang from the tree. Ask them to do their best outline of Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and the rest of the gang, cut out the shape from cardboard and get the paints and glitter out. You could even create a Princess Elsa for the top of the tree.

Toilet Roll Tube Characters

Create a collection of the best characters from Disney history in the form of toilet roll characters. If you first paint them green, white, blue or whatever the base colour of the character you can let the kids add the pipe cleaner legs, googly eyes or tissue paper clothing.

Felt Characters

Cut out the shapes of the different parts of the character and let your kids stick together with PVA glue. These make great coasters or more Christmas tree hangings.

Decoupage Picture Frame

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Decoupage is a nice variation from collage and can have very practical applications. Simply collect lots of Disney images (preferably on thin paper or tissue) and apply them to the surface, in this case a plain wooden picture, with lots of PVA glue.

Room Sign

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You very often see these name sign for children’s bedrooms in gift shops. You can make your own by getting a small piece of balsa or plywood and attaching a loop on the back for a hook. Make this a joint effort with your child with one of you writing the name and the other drawing their favourite Disney character.

Disney Baking

Decorate cakes with scenes from the best Disney films, bake ginger bread Mickeys and Minnies or make your own Monster’s Inc cupcake. Delicious and fun for all!

Upcycling Ideas for the Bathroom

Everyone who is looking to save a bit of cash and isn’t afraid to get a bit arty is embracing the upcycling trend at the moment, and we love it!

There are upcycling ideas and projects for every room in the house and we’ve taken a look at some great ones to try in your bathroom to decorate it in style without breaking the break.

Using an old ladder for storage/display

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Lots of designers are utilising old ladders to become new interesting storage shelves or as shelves to simply display items in a unique way. You can either go for a rustic appeal and use an old one without finishing it so it keeps it’s shabby chic look, or you can make it look more refined by painting and varnishing it in a colour to complement the rest of your bathroom’s decor. There’s a great article all about this here.

Mason jars for storage

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Mason jars are really useful in terms of storing an array of items in each room, and we love their appeal in the bathroom in particular as they’re really simple and have an elegant vintage feel. They make ideal toothbrush holders, cosmetic organisers and even small vases for little flower arrangements in the bathroom. You could leave them clear or even paint them to match the rest of the room.

Scrabble letters for a bathroom sign

When you’ve finished off your bathroom with brilliant pieces from stores like Ideal Standard, you’ll want to show off and present the room to those who use it, and a door sign is a great way to do this. We’ve seen lots of ideas for this, but our favourite (and most thrifty) has to be using old scrabble tiles to spell out ‘Bathroom’ (or other related words, depending on what you call the room). Attach them to a strip of wood or plastic and then string them up; then hang them from a hook on the door and voila!

Giving new life to an old mirror

Mirrors are such an important part of the bathroom, and who said they need to be boring or expensive? You could pick up a cheap one and then decorate it how you like to make it look beautiful, interesting and unique. You could cover the edges with things like coloured pebbles, tiles or shells, which has a lovely nautical appeal that would cost you a lot in a shop!

Using door knobs as hooks

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You’ll of course have lots of things to hang up in the bathroom, including towels and bathrobes, so hooks are always important. Instead of standard, boring ones, why not use pretty old door or draw knobs? The possibilities of this are endless, as a few minutes on Pinterest have proved!

Covering a tissue box to make it look better

Most of us have a box of tissues in the bathroom, and the boxes are usually quite bland or even tacky. Cover it to make it become a lovely decor item rather than an eye sore. Things like wrapping or wall paper are great for this, as are things like a crotchet pattern if you’re nifty with a crotchet hook!

Bedtime story: Malala/Iqbal

This powerful children’s book has been read and re-read many times in our household. My son loves the bit where Iqbal declares his and the other children’s freedom to his fellow bonded workers.  It has led me to investigate further about these two inspirational young people and Malala’s book has accompanied me on many miles of running thanks to Audible.  Her story is wonderful in so many different ways, from the insight of how people in other countries live to her undying positivity throughout.  I also found a radio play about Iqbal on Audible, and plenty of YouTube videos that I watched with littleLion.

Here are their stories, beautifully combined in one head-to-toe book:

SIMON & SCHUSTER UK BRING FORWARD PUBLICATION OF MALALA PICTURE BOOK

London, 30th October 2014 – Simon and Schuster Children’s Books today announced the early release of Malala, a Brave girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan, which will now be published in hardback in the UK on 6th November 2014. A paperback edition of the book will follow in Spring 2015.

The book has been moved forward in light of the recent news that the Nobel Peace Prize 2014 has been awarded jointly to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”*

Rights deals have been confirmed in the following languages: Chinese (Complex), Japanese, Greek, Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese and Welsh, with more to follow.

Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan is published as two stories in one, in picture book format. It is the story of two brave young heroes of Pakistan who stood up for the right to freedom and education. The stories of these two courageous children, whose bravery transcended their youth, are brought to life in this inspirational non-fiction picture book by acclaimed author/illustrator Jeanette Winter.

Ingrid Selberg, Managing Director, Children’s Publishing Division says, ‘I am so proud to be publishing this extraordinary picture book, which tells the inspirational stories of two amazingly brave young people, which should be shared with children everywhere.’

Jeanette Winter is the acclaimed author/illustrator of many highly regarded picture books, including The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq; Mama: A True Story in Which a Baby Hippo Loses His Mama During a Tsunami, but Finds a New Home, and a New Mama; Wangari’s Trees of Peace.

*From the Nobel Peace Prize website @ “The Nobel Peace Prize 2014″. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 16 Oct 2014.

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2014/ The Nobel Prize Ceremony is on Wednesday, December 10

Review: Biscuiteers.com & voucher code

biscuiteers.com gingerbread house kitIt was a cold Sunday. We were tired, and a bit under the weather.  The above tin, containing a DIY Gingerbread House Kit had been sitting in my kitchen slyly winking at me for a few days, inviting me to prize open it’s tempting-looking lid and reveal it’s contents.

 

LittleLion did the honours:

The kit contains everything you’d need to create a beautiful gingerbread house – the biscuits, the icing, lots of silver balls, some mini smarties-like sweets and some tiny red sprinkles.  We added some jelly beans and chocolate chips that I had in the cupboard.
What a morning! LittleLion got totally over excited about the icing sugar and it went everywhere and had a nibble of his wall while I was concentrating on the roof.
We had a great time, sweets and icing sugar covered kitchen surfaces and both of us too.  We were giddy on the sugar and very proud of our beautiful creations.    I found it very soothing to squiggle away with the icing sugar and make pretty patterns on the roof and walls.  What a brilliant gift!
IMG_20141123_215955When the icing sugar had set, I tried to glue it all together.  Maybe my icing sugar was a bit thin, maybe it was because LittleLion had nibbled half of his wall and disappeared somewhere with his end bit but I could not get the house to cement together as it should.   I really should have watched the “how to” on YouTube first – I think that I was too eager to get stuck in.
IMG_20141123_215650Never mind! The tin that it came in makes an ideal storage tin and we’ll eat it all up in due course.
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I added some chocolate chips that I had in the cupboard, because somehow the little colourful smarties all disappeared.

 

The Biscuiteers website has a huge selection of biscuit-based gifts, and I particularly love the idea of sending a birthday card that you can actually eat.  It just seems much less of a waste than paper cards, though, maybe not well received if the intended person is on a diet.  They even sell advent calendars and advent tins.

 

BUT! It’s not just biscuits that they sell, but chocolates and cakes too, can you imagine a box of get well chocolates arriving at your house? Or the perfect gift for a new mother, a massive box of new baby chocs to munch on through the long nights of breastfeeding (or bottle, but breastfeeding definitely needs extra calories).

 

Biscuiteers also sell the most beautifully iced cakes, starting at cupcake sized too.  Plus, if you’re near Notting Hill, they can even teach you everything you need to know about gorgeous icing skills, in two hours.

 

I really enjoyed icing our Gingerbread house, and if you fancy a go you can click here and use webcode NEWMHOULA15 to get yourslf 15% off Biscuiteers cards and tins.

 

Competition: Win a night at Travelodge

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I’ve been around the world, to far away lands like Australia and India, but can you believe? I have never visited Scotland, UK.  Everybody tells me that I would love it, the wild wilderness and the cosmopolitan cities.  I like the feeling of being alone, with nobody around for miles and miles and the freedom that brings with it, being able to sing at the top of your voice or lie down on and lose yourself in clouds.   I love cities too, in smaller doses, the hustle and the bustle and the museums and man made history.  I read the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander Mccall Smith and fell in love with the idea of Edinburgh.  Reading them felt as though I had an insight into a community there and it felt safe and friendly.

People I know have told me that I would love the city, that the Literary Festival and Hogmanay would be an enjoyable time to visit.  I’d like to take my dog and my son out into the Lothians and have some wild adventures.  Maybe we could hire a camper van and bop around the highlands for a few weeks, stopping to visit my friend in Dundee and heading off to find the Loch Ness monster.   I think that’d be the holiday of a lifetime, even if the weather is apparently not that warm.  There’s no such thing as bad weather, just incorrect clothing.

If you fancy a break in the UK yourself, maybe I can help you, with the treat of a comfortable night in a Travelodge.

Enter by rafflecopter below, and the terms and conditions are as follows:

  • The prize is 1 night at a Travelodge of their choice
  • Maximum of 4 people (unless it’s a family of 4+)
  • Not redeemable between the 15th Dec – 5th January
  • You must redeem the prize within 6 months of winning.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Museums of the Future: More Relevant Than Ever Before

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Image by: Nico Trinkhaus

Museums have changed little over the centuries; objects are presented in a one-way medium, as all the information about the life and times of any given object are presented on information placards behind a velvet rope.

Human tour guides are available in most museums, and they will happily recite to you all you need to know about each object in a linear fashion. From start to finish, they will provide details with prescribed descriptions and historical anecdotes.

And this process may have been all fine and good in previous centuries, before technology raised our expectations for the availability of information, and the experience to which it is delivered.

In order to remain relevant, museums such as the Smithsonian, Andy Warhol Museum, Roald Dahl Museum, and the National Media Museum, to name a few –are fighting hard to keep visitors flowing through their corridors, and they are turning to technology to accomplish this.

Art has the ability to cross borders, break language barriers, and speak to every unique individual who observes it –and museums are beginning to follow suit.

Here are a handful of ways museums are enhancing the “personal discovery” element that contemporary museum-goers are looking for.

More Focus on Visitors: Socially Integrated Exhibits

Today’s “selfie culture” provides a number of opportunities for museums to increase online visibility while engaging with visitors.

Exhibitions are going above and beyond, by creating immersive experiences that leave digital crumbs in visitor social feeds.

Contemporary museums effectively engaging in a digital strategy are aware that cross-platform social media engagement includes a blog, and spreads deep across multiple social media channels including; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, Soundcloud, Vimeo, Flickr, and Tumblr – the focus will be on social networks with a high probability for reshares.

Some examples of how exhibition stand contractors are changing the way we experience museum exhibits;

Free Portraits at Headlining Exhibits

Providing free portraits for exhibit visitors by sending them over social media create a stir on social feeds, and compelling (branded) subject matter increases reshare probability.

One of my favourite examples of visitor focus which museums might choose to draw from is Intel’s “Museum of Me”.

By visualizing elements such as your Facebook friends, photos and Likes, The Museum of Me reveals who you are as a reflection of your social graph.”

Share Options on Touch Screen Exhibit Terminals

Touch screen terminals are an excellent way to provide a complete set of non-linear data on a particular object to a visitor. Visitors have the flexibility to explore points of interest, as opposed to a pre-canned description. Additional information may include video, images, or live feeds.

If a museum is already providing touch screen terminals at their exhibits, it is a small jump to add social share functions. Implementing a share or Like option on existing or proposed systems could highlight the information the visitor found interesting, with comments, or a photo.

Live Feeds

Live-Tweeting events is also the norm, from the Pistorius trial and TED talks, to NASA’s recent Philae comet landing –allowing the world to join in an event, exhibitor seminar through Twitter, Google+ Hangouts, or the like is definitely key to raising awareness of your subject matter to a much broader audience.

Going Deeper

With larger museums possessing millions of objects, the process of three dimensional scans for each will take decades. In the meantime, museums are also engaging with visitors through crowdsourcing their research and exhibits.

Building upon how museums will integrate digital platforms in the future, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, G. Wayne Clough sums it up best;

In the past, the creative activities were entirely behind the walls of museums and collection centers. The public only got to access that through labels in exhibitions, which told them what we thought. Now, in this new world, people actually will help us design exhibitions, and it will be interactive.

The future of the museum is interactive, and location independent.

The Works – Voucher code

Here is a great voucher code to give you a head start on the Christmas shopping.  Books are always great gifts, and The Works is offering 15% off orders in November with the code NOV15

 

*T&Cs: Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. Excludes multi-buys, bulk buys, trade orders and some lines. Online only.

Promotion Code Exclusions

The following items are excluded from promotion codes as they are already discounted by up to 50%:

The following items will be discounted by 5%:

  • Gardners
  • VOW
  • Kits
  • Black A4 Pocket Display Book
  • The World Of David Walliams – Best Boxset Ever
  • The World Of David Walliams – CD Story Collection
  • My Busy Books – Disney Frozen
  • The Divergent Series – Box Set
  • The Hairy Bikers Asian Adventure – Over 100 Amazing Recipes
  • Compact Maxilight Torch – Truelight
  • Black Intempo Pulse Table Top Bluetooth Tower Speaker
  • White Intempo Pulse Table Top Bluetooth Tower Speaker
  • Dancing Water Speakers – Assorted
  • Frozen Products
  • Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect
  • Mary’s Complete Cookbook
  • Tom Kerridges Best Ever Dishes
  • The Viz Annual 2015 – The Dutch Oven

The following items will be discounted by 10%:

  • A Song Of Ice And Fire – Game Of Thrones – 7 Book Collectable Box Set With Westeros And Free Cities Poster Map

All other items will be discounted by the advertised amount when you add the code to the basket. Please note that only one promotion code can be added to each order.

Soak and sleep – voucher code

I discovered Soak&Sleep years ago when it was then know as the Duvet and pillow warehouse.  Since then it has been my only click-to when I am shopping for bedding.  The products really are high quality, and I sleep on little white pillow-clouds, enshrouded by super-soft Egyptian cotton pillowcases.

They have an offer on at the moment where customers can save up to £65.  Now your bed can be as awesome as mine!

Hurry though, it ends on the 20th, but they also have a Christmas offer, which I have listed below as well.

Offer: Spend £75 save £12, Spend £150 save £25, Spend £350 save £65
Voucher Code: BIRD65
Start date: 13/11 @9am
End date: 20/11 @9am

Xmas Flash Sale – 20% Off Everything

Voucher Code: XMAS20

Start date: 19/11/14

End date: 26/11/14

T&C’s: Min Spend £75

*the above link is an affiliate link, you don’t have to use it but it’d be kind if you did :)

Introducing the new Jack Daniel’s sauces

If you’re a great believer in using up everything in your cupboards – and in this day and age who isn’t – then you need to be able to get creative with your ingredients. I was thinking of this the other day as I looked at what I would consider ‘summer’ items in the kitchen, such as a jar of barbecue sauce.

When you think about it, the flavours we like about summer barbecues don’t have to stop just because the sun’s gone away and we don’t get to eat outside for a few more months. You just have to think a little differently.

The people at Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauces have had the same idea, clearly, as they have a series of great recipes on their website (www.jackdanielsbbqsauces.com) that work all year round.

This year, Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauces introduced two new flavours to their range that use the flavour of their famous whiskey – a Hot Pepper Steak Sauce and Extra Hot Habanero Barbecue Sauce.

All of the Jack Daniel’s range works extremely well used in slow-cooked, winter warming recipes.

The one I’m going to share with you below is top of my list to try out when I next get the chance.

SLOW COOKED BEEF STEW WITH A PUFF PASTRY TOPPER

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Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

220ml (one bottle) Jack Daniel’s Hot Pepper Steak Sauce
700g beef stewing steak or rump steak, cut into 3cm chunks
2 large carrots, cut into thick rings
2 large onions, roughly chopped
150g button mushrooms or field mushrooms, quartered
400ml water
1 beef stock cube
400g canned chopped tomatoes
75g flour or for richer beef flavour add gravy granules
Pastry
500g puff or shortcrust pastry
1/2 egg whisked or 1 tbsp milk
Sea salt, crushed

Sides

Baby new potatoes
Butter
Fresh parsley – roughly chopped
Fresh sugar snap or frozen garden peas

Method

Place the carrots, onions, beef, full bottle of Jack Daniel’s Hot Pepper Steak Sauce, and water in to a slow cooker or casserole dish, crumble in 1 beef stock cube and place the lid on.

If using a slow cooker – cook on low heat for 8 to 9 hours or a high heat for 4 hours depending on the amount of time you have.

If using a conventional oven, use a casserole dish with a lid and cook for 3 hours at 325°F/170°C/Gas Mark 3

Once all ingredients are tender, add the mushrooms, water and sifted flour or stir in the gravy granules to thicken.

Take the lid off the casserole dish or (if you have used a slow cooker) pour into a casserole dish and gently top with rolled puff pastry – brush the topper with the whisked egg or milk to glaze and pinch the sides to make sure the topper is secure. Optional: sprinkle with a light coating of crushed sea salt.

Turn the oven up to 400°F/200°C /Gas Mark 6 and bake for approx 30 minutes until pastry is golden brown and crispy.

To serve

Serve with buttered baby new potatoes, chopped parsley and peas.

All about the Most Famous Diamonds in the World

What Makes a Diamond Truly Special

Diamonds are an extremely rare find, but did you know that only around 30 percent created diamonds are actually gemstone quality? That’s partly why natural diamonds are revered, partly because of the stunning quality and partly because of the historical stories that accompany each of these diamonds.

The Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond is one of the most famous diamonds, in part because of the legends surrounding it. It was first found in India by Jean Baptiste Tavernier before 1668 and weighed over 100 carats as a rough crystal. While some of the history varies, almost everyone who owned the diamond from Louis XIV to Marie Antoinette were killed.

That diamond disappeared when the royal treasury was looted in September of 1792 and all of the Crown Jewels were stolen. Exactly 20 years later, a London jeweller located the presence of a 45.52 blue diamond that Daniel Elliason, local diamond merchant owned and which may have been cut from the original. In 1830, Henry Thomas Hope purchased it, and it became known as the Hope diamond. It was insured for a million dollars, because it was the largest diamond of its kind at that time period. The curses continued until Harry Winston purchased it and he sold the diamond to the Smithsonian to keep on display. It’s currently worth at least $2 million.

The Regent Diamond

The Regent diamond was also discovered in the late 1600’s around 1698 in India and was originally owned by Thomas Pitt, the Governor of Madras. After it was sold to Philippe II, the Duke of Orleans in 1717, the royals used the diamond to make new crowns for Louis V and Louis VI. It was also stolen in the raid of the Crown Jewels in 1792 but found soon after. The jewels were only used sparingly until Napoleon Bonaparte took ownership in 1801 and used the diamonds in his personal sword.

After Napoleon was exiled, the diamond was transported to Austria but it never stayed there no matter how many times people tried. The French government kept a close eye on it and it is now stored with the other French crown jewels at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

The Great Star of Africa

Cut and faceted from the original Cullian, the Great Star of Africa weighs just over 530 carats and holds the title for the largest cut diamond worldwide. The pear-shaped diamond features 74 facets. It’s part of the Royal scepter and is stored among the other Crown Jewels at the Tower of London. While the fact that it was discovered in 1095 is fascinating in itself, it’s most infamous because of its relation to the original Cullian diamond.

The Centenary Diamond

This is another more recent diamond as it was only discovered in the Premier Mine in South Africa in 1986. The 599-carat diamond is considered to be both internally and externally flawless with a colour rating of D, the highest rating possible for a colourless diamond. It took five years to cut and facet the diamond into smaller pieces and, it ended up into 13 different designs. It was completed in February of 1991 and is insured for $100 million dollars. Would have made 13 elegant diamond engagement rings with those 13 different designs.

The Spirit of de Grisogono

The Spirit of de Grisogono weighs just over 310 carats, making it the fifth largest diamond worldwide, and the world’s largest cut black diamond. Black diamonds are still extremely rare because they have a different composition than other colored diamonds. The Spirit of de Grisogono features the mogul diamond cutting style, which was developed in India years ago and works well on historic diamonds, especially black ones, where symmetry and sparkle don’t matter as much. It’s been used on other black diamonds like the Orlov Diamond. The Spirit of de Grisogono was mounted into a white gold ring with 702 white diamonds, totaling 36.69 carats.

The Golden Jubilee

The Golden Jubilee weighs just under 550 carats and holds the honor of being the largest faceted diamond worldwide. Gabi Tolkowsky designed the diamond, which was presented to the King of Thailand for the 50th anniversary of his coronation in 1997. Tolkowsky describes the diamond as a fancy yellowish brown shade, with fire-rose cushion cut facets in them. It’s only 15 carats larger than the Star of Africa.

Steinmetz Pink

The internally flawless and vividly pink diamond was originally unveiled in 2003 at Monaco. It was originally discovered in Africa and it took a group of eight people and 20 months to cut and re-fashion the rough 100-carat stone to the 60 carat diamond. It features an oval cut with a step-up crown. In 2003, the diamond was showcased at the Smithsonian Institute in an exhibit, titled the “Splendor of Diamonds,” featuring others like The Heart of Eternity and The Millennium Star.

The Steinmetz Pink was renamed the Pink Star, and now that it has been purchased by famous diamond cutter Isaac Wolf, has been renamed again to the Pink Dream.

Purchasing unique and elegant diamond rings

If you want diamond engagement rings with one of these stones, it’s almost like a status symbol for people because blue diamonds are especially expensive. They’re more affordable if you purchase a treated blue diamond versus a natural one, and blue diamonds do symbolize inner strength, grace, and harmony in relationships.