Sunday, June 27, 2010

Joyful Mama's Favourite Finds: Dizzy Dots Pocket-size High Chair..and a GIVEAWAY!

I am in love! With this....

A friend of mine recently returned from a holiday in the UK with her husband and 18 month old daughter, and was singing the praises of a rather plain looking piece of fabric which converts into a high chair....?!?
I was bemused, so she quickly whipped it out of her handbag and before I could *blink* she had converted the chair in the cafe where we stood, into a very safe little 'high chair' for her daughter. I was hooked!

So... I came home, Googled Dizzy Dots, browsed their website and then very blatanly e-mailed them to ask if they would sponsor a high chair for me to 'test drive' on our upcoming Brenton holiday. Not only did they agree to my request, but they are also giving away  Dizzy Dots Pocket Size High Chairs to three lucky readers!! (Details at the bottom of this post!)

If you read my last post you will remember that this little vacation was a second honeymoon of sorts, so we decided to re-enact that blessed time by stopping for breakfast at the Shell Ultra City outside Worcester, just like we did on that first morning as Mr. & Mrs. T. (Terribly unromantic, I know, but we were so in love and so hungry, we didn't care one bit!)This was a great opportunity to try out our high chair for the first time!

We were shown to a booth, and the Dad, Sweetpea and I slid in and then pulled up a chair from the table next door to which we attached the high chair for ArrowBoy. It worked perfectly! Arrow was happy and safe and we all enjoyed our breakfast in peace - no baby trying to slide off the seat to chase a piece of sausage the previous patrons dropped, and I had both hands free! And we where the center of attraction as waitresses and people at other tables craned their necks for a look at our handy little on-the-chair-baby-holder!

At our chalet in Brenton-on-Sea we enjoyed our meals at a counter with bar stools  - so where to put the baby? Well,  we stacked three of the plastic garden chairs on top of each other for height, slipped the high-chair over the back of the top chair, and little Mr ArrowBoy sat right there with us for every meal, feeling part of all the mealtime action ,and,  once again..leaving Mama's hands free to eat a complete meal with a knife AND fork!

We used the high chair almost eveywhere we went, with the exception of a few places that had only picnic-style benches. (Why do 'family friendly' establishments always have those benches? Have they no idea about the proportions of little people's bodies? Toddlers always end up standing on their knees and have to stretch to reach their plates and drinks, resluting in inevitable spills and messes.)

These pictures from the Dizzy Dots website shows how it works:

Here are some of my favourite features of the Dizzy Dots Pocket Size High Chair:
  • It fits over the back of almost any chair you will find in a restaurant, cafe or coffee shop.
  • The long ties makes it adjustable to babies of any size - as soon as they can sit unsupported, up to toddler.
  • There are two sets of loops at the back to accommodate the size of the child and the height at which you need the front piece of fabric to go around the baby's body.
  • It weighs almost nothing and folds as flat as a wash cloth!
  • It is fully washable!
  • It is safe - ArrowBoy could not stand up while tied to the chair, but I think in another few months he will be able to. The high chair should therefore never be used without parental supervision. As long as you are right there with your baby, though, this is a very nifty little device that greatly contributed to the enjoyment of our holiday!
Be sure to visit the Dizzy Dots website to check out their other clever ideas for making life easier! (I like that car seat insert  - "Keeps seats dry when toddlers are wet!")

If you could use a Dizzy Dots Pocket Size High Chair - and who wouldn't!? - be sure to enter the giveaway! There are three high chairs to be won!
Here are the details:
  1. This giveaway is open to South African residents only.
  2. The closing date for the giveaway is Saturday, 10 July.
  3. Enter by sending me an e-mail, telling me what your favourite family friendly cafe or restaurant is.
  4. You can earn extra entries by getting your friends to enter, too! Just make sure they mention your name in their e-mail!
  5. The winners will be notified via e-mail.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A lovely little vacation!

To celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary, we took a lovely little vacation to Brenton-on-Sea.
We had five blissful days with nothing more pressing to do than soak up some winter sunshine and be with each other.
Here just a few pictures of our trip.

PS: We came home to some problems with our Internet connection, so I apologise for the long silence! Give me a day or two to sort out the piles of laundry, and then get ready for some exciting new posts!

Mama put a lot of preparation into ensuring that the 6 hour drive would go by smoothly...

At Knysna Elephant Park, where we fed and touched and talked to some gentle giant babies

ArrowBoy along for the ride in the African Baby Carrier - it came in so handy during this trip!

When we ran out of fruit, she offered them grass! I wish you could hear her talking to this little baby elephant, gently cooing and coaxing her to come take the grass...

At the entrance to the Knysna Waterfront. Soccer fever was running high everywhere we went!

Funny Daddy!

Making a new friend on the suspension bridge at Birds of Eden near Plettenberg Bay.

And we were on the beach EVERY DAY!!

One of my favourite things about motherhood is rediscovering the joys of childhood with my children!

He LOVED the sand!!

Bestest of friends...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

One rainy day...

We woke up to a very wet Tuesday morning last week and I realized right away that I'd have to prepare some engaging activities
 if the three of us were to survive the day indoors without contracting cabin fever!
So, here's what we did to banish the blues:

A few weeks ago I bought a really inexpensive plastic doll for exactly a day like this!

I kept it out of sight until Arrow Boy went for his morning nap, and then quickly set up a
baby bathing area
using our baby tub, an old changing pad, empty talcum powder bottle and plenty of towels on the floor and table!

The sudsy water was nice and warm to chubby little hands on a chilly morning!

Despite her wearing a plastic apron for this, we had to change clothes afterwards as she ended up loving the water so much that her sleeves got soaked!

By this time Arrow woke up, so sister's aquatic activities had to move up to the counter!
I gave her a plastic tub filled with pebbles and shells, a small enamel bowl with warm water, and a nail brush and asked her to wash the pebbles for me so we could place it in the bottom of a clear vase later on.

I took these pictures just as we were blessed with a sunshower outside, and I just love how the light bathed her in mellowness...It was such a moment of perfect childhood bliss and I will cherish these photos for a long time to come!

By them Mama seriously needed to get some ironing done, and Sweetpea joined in! I was SOOO glad for making a quick trip to the Durbanville Craft Market early last Saturday morning, with the express purpose of buying this ironing board and some dolls clothes!

We didn't get much work done with Arrow hanging on our ironing boards all the time , and finally gave it up to dance the polka with Mama around the kitchen!

 Of course, this can only be done to the tune of The Lonely Goatherd from The Sound of Music!! My children LOVE this song, and don't think I can short change them by dancing half the song with each and then swapping partners - nope, Sweetpea wants a whole song, and then, with the sense of justice of a two-year-old, insists that ArrowBoy also gets a full song. HE doesn't complain! For obvious reasons this part of the day had not been photographed...

By late afternoon we all needed a change of scenery...but since it was coming down by the bucketsful, we had to get creative...

By 5pm it was dark enough that I could fetch a little flashlight and we crawled into our hideout with a bowl of sliced oranges and read our books by flashlight...and then sang "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" about 20 times while Mama made the little 'star' dance about on our canopy...

We were very happy when Daddy came home and I could get supper going while he rough-housed with the bambinos on the bed! But what a blessed day it had beenWinter has only started, though, so PLEASE send ideas of what you do at your house on rainy days!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bath-time foam fun

I hope you had a ton of patriotic fun making the foam flag I posted about earlier this week! If you missed it, click here!!

We've been having some
 bath time fun
foam shapes
this week.
When wet, craft foam 'sticks' nicely to the side of a bath, turning all that white expanse into an waterproof version of a felt board!

We started out with some basic shapes...

And then I saw a great post over at Pink and Green Mama's blog, (click here to see her rainbow people!)  and we just had to make our own
foamie family!
We added a car, a few pets, a happy golden sun...the posibilities are endless! My biggest challenge was to not get carried away by adding googly eyes and glueing layers on top of each other (I have the same tendency towards detail when making felt themes. Trying my best to Keep It Simple!!)

Sweetpea kept putting the little boy on his side, "so he could take a nap!"

Contact me if you'd like to order craft foam to make your own bathtime scenes!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fly that Foamie Flag!

I sent out a newsletter this week with our latest specials for June, as well as prices for the great craft kits and supplies we now sell, and a few moms were intrigued by the packs of
 craft foam
I mentioned and asked for some ideas.

With the
2010 FIFA World Cup
less than a week away, you can hardly turn around without seeing our national flag!
Almost every car we pass has one flapping in the wind; there are flag stickers on everything from packs of minced meat to crayons; the supermarkets are really going all out: the aisles and shelves and till points - and cashiers! - are all decorated in either flags or soccer balls or Bafana-jerseys!
 I LOVE it - especially for the teachable moments it offers!

Sweetpea wanted in on all the excitement and so we bought her a little
car flag
 of her own.
(But instead of mounting it on the window, she prefers waving it vigorously from her car seat for the duration of any little trip to the shop!)
But what an excellent opportunity to
teach her the colours of our flag!

Here's what you need:

A black and white line drawing of the South African flag
Card stock OR a sheet of white craft foam
White glue
Craft foam in the colours of the flag.

Here's what you do:

Draw the flag design onto your cardboard or craft foam in the size you want.

Cut the shapes of the flag from the correct colours. Mom can do this step for the little ones, and older children can cut theirs out by themselves.

Now glue the foam pieces onto your piece of cardboard or foam.

And here's where the teachable moment comes in: teaching flag protocol to your little one while having fun! Explain to them that the correct way for the flag to be hoisted, is with the
 RED  at the TOP!
Also, when the flag is hung vertically, the red should always be on the LEFT.

Whenever you are out and about during the next five weeks of soccer frenzy, try to spot any flags that are upside down or the wrong way around. If your toddler isn't shy, she may even point out the mistake to shop managers or Bafana fans in the wrong!

And if you are just having way too much fun making these flags and don't want to stop with only one, why not string a whole bunch of them together for a
patriotic banner
over the front door?!

To read the GOVERNMENT'S OFFICIAL DOCUMENT on flag protocol, please click here. 
(This is a quick read and quite interesting! I think inquisitive little minds may find some of the facts fascinating, and you may learn a thing or two as well!)

Monday, June 7, 2010

First Felt Food!

Last year at exactly this time I was almost 8 months pregnant with my ArrowBoy, and like my mother before me, the pregnancy hormones of that last trimester spurred me on to
new creative heights
( my mother wallpapered her entire bedroom when she was 7 months pregnant with her fourth baby),
and so I took a class in
needle felting.

A needle felted door baby I made for a little friend.

 I was smitten with this new craft and spent the last part of my pregnancy happily making colourful felt beads, a ladybug brooch for Sweetpea, and a funky hot pink scarf for myself!

But when I started searching the Internet for more needle felting ideas, I also discovered another little hobby that was right up my alley:
 making FELT FOOD!

The lady who taught the needle felting class also sold craft kits for children for making
felt cupcakes,
and I immediately bought a kit and made two yummy cupcakes for Sweetpea, which we still enjoy 'tucking into' at our little tea parties! (The beauty of felt food: its amazing shelf life! It still looks fresh a year down the line!)

So when I started bloggin earlier this year I was delighted to discover that there are hundreds of blogging moms who share my passion for felt food! I have been bookmarking blogs that inspire me, and this week I finally decided to add a new dimension to my current
love affair with felt
(click on the label for felt boarding in the side bar to see what I've been up to).
Yep, I went 3-D, and made some
fabulously fun felt food!

I simply couldn't resist this
gorgeous, cream-topped cupcake delight
from Katja at Maedchen Mit Herz. Click on the link to see the original on her oh-so-pretty blog!
(she also has a great tutorial if you want to make your own)
I think I made the base part on mine a little too high, and my white felt is also a bit stiffer than hers, so it doesn't 'fall' quite as softly, but I am happy with the result just the same!

For the
strawberry on top
 I made a mini-version of these by CJ over at Pink Tea....

and then made her heart-shaped sugar cookies, too!

Then a few felt lollipops that I saw over at One Inch World, and I had to call it a day since it was supper time, and felt food was just not going to satisfy my family!

(sorry, I just can't get this photo to turn sideways!)

Next I am going to make popcorn, and then it's on to the healthy stuff: fruit and veggies and maybe even a few eggs! So watch this space! And if all this has made your fingers tingle, remember that I sell sheets of craft felt in a wide variety of colours, so drop me a line if you are interested!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Joyful Mama's Favourite Finds: Co-operative Board games

When I joined Nucleus Toys a month or so ago, I was intrigued by a category in their catalogue called
Co-Operative games. I was given an already opened set to bring home and explore...and I am hooked!! These are the perfect entry-level board games for little ones who often struggle with the pressure of competition, or the disappointment of losing a traditional board game.

So here is what it is all about:

The players in a co-operative board game play together against the board, using strategy, logic and problem-solving. Yes, they still take turns, but since they are all on the same team, players have to work together to achieve a common goal. If they win, they win as a team, and the same goes for losing.

Although there are many of these games available to players of all ages, most readers of this blog are parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers, so I will use an example of a game perfect for this age group!

MAX is a lovely game by a company called Family Pastimes (click on the link to visit their web site and see my note at the bootom of this post) and is available in South Africa through Nucleus Toys. (You can  contact me for ordering information).

A fat old cat named Max finds his way out the door of his house. His owners have only so many treats to get him back inside, and Max is a quick treat-eater. Can you distract Max long enough for the woodland creatures to get safely home? Watch out-- Max is hungry!

The aim of the game is to help the chipmunk, bird and mouse to get home safely before Max catches them. This happens if Max lands on the same space as one of the little animals.

The game is played with a set of special dice, with only one dot on each side, either black or green. There are three possible results to each roll of the dice:
• Two black dots (this will let Max advance two spaces)
• Two green dots (This helps one small animal advance two spaces, or two of them can move one space each)
• One green and one black dot (this lets Max advance one space, and a small animal move one space)
Depending on the roll of the dice, the players have to consult with each other as to what the best strategy would be to keep the woodland animals out of harm's way. They have access to four treats which can be used once each during the game to lure Max back to his mat on the porch, and there are also short-cuts on the board - BUT...these can be used by the woodland animals and by Max, so players need to anticipate Max's next move!

The game helps children to understand the relationship between cats and other small animals (we try to help the small animals get to safety, but we also understand that Max is a natural hunter!), an encourages children to make meaningful decisions.

I found a lovely review of this game here, and the writer, Evelyn Saenz, gave the following suggestions for how the game of MAX  can be used to teach children a variety of skills:

LANGUAGE ARTS: Oral communication
MATHS: One to one correspondance, counting, probability, and strategies
SOCIAL STUDIES: Cooperation, taking turns, caring for and taking responsibility for pets
SCIENCE: Natural Selection, backyard habitat, animal behaviour
ART: How about drawing Max and the other creatures?
MUSIC: Could you make up a song about Max?
GROSS MOTOR SKILLS: How about going outside and reenacting the game of Max? Be sure to scurry, scamper and flap your wings!!

MAX is suitable for ages 3/4 - 10, and 1 to 8 players can play at a time.

There are 18 co-operative games from Family Pastimes in the Nucleus Toys range. You can view the online catalgoue by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Day at the Zoo

It was definitely an animal-themed weekend in this household!
Besides the farm outing on Saturday, we spent a gorgeously sunny Sunday afternoon at the Tygerberg Zoo!

I find zoos very depressing places, no matter how well the animals are taken care of.
And yet, when I think of childhood trips to the Pretoria Zoo, I only remember the excitement and wonder at seeing all those animals. So I suppose the disillusionment only came once I knew enough about the world to be able to guess at the sad stories behind each captive animal.

But my children are still too young to comprehend any of that, and to Sweetpea especially, the zoo was a tremendous treat! She LOVED being able to get so close to these animals that she has, up until now, only seen in picture books!

So here, without further ado, some pictures of our day:
Is she pink with white stripes, or white with pink stripes?

He obviously has NO IDEA yet!!

Just give me dirt, Mom!

She LOVED these guys!

White Lions - apparently just a colour deviant and not a different breed.

My Australian husband was SO excited to introduce us to this CASOWARY, a bird from his part of the globe, looking like an ostrich-sized guinea fowl without the spots! The World's Best Dad explained that the horn on the head is used to clear the bush with, and for self-defence, and that a casowary could cut open a man with it! It also has long toes with very scary, thick, sharp toenails! I'll have to read up on this one!

We also saw brown bears, leopards, chimps, a tiger dozing in the shade, African wild dogs, racoons, several species of buck, many different monkeys, a Toucan (the highlight for me!), a snow owl, and many more. Far from being a world-renowned zoo with gleaming ammenities, we had a really good time and I actually enjoyed the 'ruggedness' of it all, and the fact that we could really get rather close to the animals.


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