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Christmas abroad

I am very keen on my traditional British Christmas – from stockings and trees to families and board games.
So how, I wonder, will any of our friends and family members who are living abroad be celebrating, probably in sweltering heat and beautiful sunshine.

My younger daughter will (I desperately hope) be given leave to come home for a few days, so I won’t have to ponder how Christmas Day is spent in Singapore. However one of the ladies that work here, now has two daughters living in Australia. I understand there will be much barbecuing, swimming and happy celebrating and they reckon Christmas is just as fun as in the UK.

I do contemplate the idea of a Christmas holiday somewhere hot like the Caribbean – may be a luxury cruise so I don’t have to cook – but I always end up shaking my head and muttering, “Nope, home is best!”

For anyone that has family or friends living far, far away, here are a couple of ideas for cards and remember it’s really early for the last posting date!

Smiles Joanna

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First day at school – or off to Uni?

It’s that time of year – and a very personal one this year. My tiny granddaughter Grace (who it feels is still about one!) is actually coming up for five and starting school. I can’t wait for the first day of school in her uniform picture, definitely one for the mantelpiece! Also, a new start looming for my nephew who heads off to university to study marine biology and lastly but very importantly for me, my youngest daughter is moving to live in Singapore (aghhh!)

So it’s all change and will all have happy outcomes I am sure. If there’s someone in your family starting university – do support them with a card and bear in mind what needy creatures university students are and send them a fiver in the card. Just joking there – it seems to me all students are constantly broke! The card on the right uses our signature die Tree of Life SD410, while the one on the left uses the Townhouse Trio Multibuy signature dies.

Starting on the ladder by going to full-time school is a huge step and turns the life of little 5-year-olds upside down. I remember the comment a friend’s daughter made when going to school came around. She loved day one and came home full of beans saying it was really fun but she was tired – fair enough. The following morning she was inconsolable when she learned she had to go for a second day, she felt having been once was sufficient.

Here are a couple of cards to give you ideas for designs to send to new starters!

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Congratulations – well done you!

Friends, children, grandchildren, siblings – they can all be involved in exams, tests or other achievements that we want to acknowledge and cheer for and offer our congratulations.

This is prime exam and end of term time that often involves passing things (or not) and I think it’s really important to appreciate everyone’s effort. I recently heard that a friend had received a congratulations card when her son had finished all his A-level exams. Not saying well done to the son but saying well done to her for living through the undoubted stressful times!

We all like being acknowledging and it’s lovely when someone says “well done”, or “you did a good job” or a mass of other things – so why not make a congratulations card? These two are very focused on exams but you could just as easily congratulate someone with flowers or a pretty landscape!

The card with the cap and gown on uses a Signature Die – Graduation Gown SD323and the owl die is Beautiful Owl SD101. The words are all part of the collection one inevitably accumulates. I think it’s great to have several different fonts for words like Congratulations – but my favourite is our sentiments die that has You Did It (SD507)… just something a little bit different.

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Helping children to grow – get them gardening!

Grace, dressed for a little watering!!

With the school summer holidays upon us, I’m sure parents and grandparents alike are racking our collective brains on how to keep youngsters occupied and, preferably, not just glued to their tablets and phones! Getting children outside can be a bit of a challenge, but if you can get them interested in gardening that has to be a bonus – on so many levels.

Granddaughter Grace is still too young for gadgets and, thanks to Grandpa Richard’s veg growing skills, she has already shown a lot of interest in the garden. There are ways to encourage youngsters outside and, if you can drag them away from their screens, it’s a fun family activity and is good for mind and body. The rise of technology has given us many great things, but nothing beats getting outside and working with your hands, growing your own fruit and vegetables, and learning a bit about life!

A child’s eye view

To spark their interest you need to think about what appeals to a child, which might mean coming at it from a different angle. If they are interested in butterflies or beetles of other bugs (what little one doesn’t find worms and caterpillars fascinating?), that can be a good starting point.

A bit of a plot

If you have space, it is always a good idea to offer a child its own patch to work in. A sunny spot with good soil is good, then things should grow quickly. A small raised bed would be ideal but failing that, or if space is an issue, a large tub or planter can work perfectly well. I can remember growing mustard and cress in a saucer on the windowsill as a child and being fascinated!

Ideal for little hands

Small children will love having their own gardening tools. Not only are they designed specifically for small hands, but children love feeling they are joining in with an adult and doing something ‘properly’. You can find sets of children’s gardening tools online at reasonable prices. These would make a good birthday or Christmas present ready for next year if they are still a bit young. Here are a few I found on Amazon, but there are loads to choose from! 

Patience, patience…

One of the many things gardening can teach is patience! However, it’s still a good idea to start them off on seeds that will give quick results like salad leaves or rocket, or something like nasturtiums. When sowing the seeds, try shapes – a circle, or a star – rather than boring old straight rows. Or what about sowing the shape of a child’s initial? If you want even quicker results, then why not buy a few plants that are just about to flower or fruit?

You can find seed growing kits especially for children online, but I’m sure buying a few seed packets yourself will work just as well. Click on the photos to go to the link.

What about the water?

This summer has been so hot, I know water is at a premium and it seems hosepipe bans are imminent. But all is not lost! Wastewater from the kitchen, baths, basins and showers is suitable to water plants and containers. It’s also a good way of encouraging children to think about resources and not wasting precious water.

Happy gardening!

 

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Peppa Pig World!

Peppa Pig was never meant to be this big!

I thought it would be fun to post a little story about our recent trip to Peppa Pig World. Richard and I went with my daughter Pippa (no not Peppa!), her husband Dave and of course little Grace – who at 4 was, I felt, at a perfect age to try some gentle rides and meet Peppa Pig ‘in person’!

Well, let’s start with the initial greeting from the star herself – a giant Peppa Pig standing poised on a balcony to meet the children as they arrived. She was very big and, of course, being up high made her even bigger. I introduced Grace whose lip quivered and she wailed: “She’s too big I’m scared”… so that wasn’t such a good start!

A nice little tame ride with Mummy and Daddy…

There were several little rides (VERY tame) with 20+ minute queues and, it has to be said, it was a very hot day, Grace got quieter and quieter and then said she had a tummy ache. I translated this as anxiety developing and was sad that our day didn’t seem to be working out as planned. So, we wandered away from the safe rides and over to a VERY tall and (to my eyes) scary looking wavy slide where you got nice and wet and Richard asked her if she was brave enough to go on. Overprotective Granny here wouldn’t have suggested it for the world but yup, apparently Grandpa knows best and she trusts him.

Standing at the bottom with her parents I waited anxiously – 50% of the children leaving the slide were screaming and scared. I had now given up on anything working out that day. HOWEVER… Grace was beaming from ear to ear as she left the slide and could only say “Again, again!”

This was a bit more exciting as it involved water!

This was the start of a very smiley little girl’s day – we ventured into the main park and, all pretence at keeping to the small safe rides having gone – she was extremely happy. The highlight of the day was a ride on a fearsome looking roller coaster – you know the kind where you are strapped in and your feet dangle? Again Granny sat at the base and quivered, counting the seconds until all the rest of the family got off the ride and worrying about Grace… “Again, again!” she said and went on the ride with Grandpa!

It seems at age 4 ¾ we have a budding roller coaster junkie – bodes well for a trip to Disney in the future – and Richard is very happy to have company on scary rides. I am such a wuss, the teacups make me feel queasy, tall rides, fast rides – whatever it is I am just rubbish!

This Granny-scary roller coaster was deemed the most exciting hing ever!

So I was delighted that it turned out to be the happiest of days! I will also add that if you are going with extremely small children, the toilet facilities, feeding and changing rooms were amazing. I have never seen such a clean place – well done Peppa Pig World!

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