Saturday, 30 May 2015

Crochet rainbow unicorn

Kind of fitting to post this TA-DA moment following from Williams letter U week... I had a special commission from a lady here in Dubai. Randomly posting on Facebook asking if anyone could make her a crochet unicorn plushie... Naturally I jumped at the chance!

I've seen similar plushies and toys before online and straight away I got excited about this one! So off I went to Pinterest, found a pattern and got hooking! I had to adapt the pattern a bit to make it more like the image the lady sent me and I think it looks so cute!

I love the brightly coloured twirly, twisted mane and tail. They were great fun to make, and really stand out against the Snow White body of the unicorn. I feel he looks a little sad at the moment, so hopefully once he reaches his new home he will be happy, loved and treasured!

If you are interested in a unique, custom handmade gift, check out my Sharky Knows Facebook page or send me a message!

I've got quite a few orders for blankets on the go too, so will pop back and show you them soon!

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Back to school - Letter U

Continuing on with our letter of the week crafts, we have come to the letter U. That's 21/26 letters done. I can't believe it. I'm gona miss this when we get to the end!

Uh for Umbrella

Quite a few umbrella related crafts this week. We started with an attempt at paper mâché. We did the paper mâché part at a friends house, by layering newspaper dipped in pva glue over a small blown up balloon. Will enjoyed doing this but it did get quite messy! Once it was dry we peeled it off the balloon and painted it, then added a wooden skewer as a handle. I must admit, it didn't look much like an umbrella. I kind of feel it's not even worthy of posting the picture. Haha. But there you go, working with kids goes like that sometimes!

Our next activity was a lot more successful. I supplied William with a piece of kitchen towel and some felt pens to colour in an umbrella. I helped him a bit by drawing different patterns and making sure there was lots of colour on it. When it was done I gave William an old spray bottle to spray it with water. This made all the colours bleed and b,end together creating a nice effect. William loved spraying the water on it. (Then proceeded to find other things to spray like the toilet, bath and a plant.)

To present the umbrella picture, William used a sponge to paint the background of the paper blue. After I cut the u bells out, he stuck it on the paper and added some cotton wool clouds.

To make it a bit more educational, I quickly cut out some rain drop shapes from blue paper and numbered them one to ten. I then gave them to William and asked him to glue them onto the page in the right order. We do this kind of activity a lot and I really think it's helping William to recognise numbers and the order they go in.

One of our books from the library this week was "The Thingamabob" by Il Sung Na. It was a cute little book and went well with our umbrella theme.

After the disaster of an umbrella made out of paper mâché, we tried a different technique this time. William really likes using washi tapes, just pulling them and cutting them. I drew William a big circle onto some paper and let him cut and stick washi tapes across it. It's sticky business so he needed a little help at times. When he had filled the whole circle I cut it out, shaped it so it looked more like an umbrella and stuck a straw to it to use as a handle. A bit flimsy and I'm pretty sure won't stand up to much in the actual rain, but fun none the less!


Ugly doll

As I love seeing and have done it in one form or another as a job and hobbies for years, I like to impart my love of handmade things into William too. So every now and then I try to include seeing activities,weaving or the use of textiles. It was actually the husband who suggested this activity for us to do together, creating an ugly doll. It was fun to do and quite easy. If you do not have a sewing machine you can always sew it by hand.

I drew a shape for the doll onto some felt, making sure it had two layers, for front and back. I let William try and cut out some shapes out of other coloured felt to use as features for our dinosaur / dragon / ugly doll. Some needed a little modifying by myself so they actually resembled eyes and teeth. He glued them on using some pva glue. I sewed around the edge of the shape I had drawn, leaving a gap to stuff him which is weed up by hand later.

William loves using scissors and so was very happy to sit and cut shapes out of felt for a while. The end result was a little weird, but we had fun making it. If you are not particularly handy with a needle, maybe just make ones out of paper, or flat versions you don't need to sew.

So that's a it, another week done, another week closer to William starting school. Join us again soon for our next letter of the week!


Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Homemade anniversary presents

I am dying to show you my anniversary present from the husband! I absolutely love it. He made it himself and i don't know how he kept it a surprise to be honest. He is very talented and I love it when we have pieces at home made by him.

It's a gorgeous personalised family tree, with our names on. It must have taken him ages to design it. Isn't it cool? He also made the card to go with it. For now it's in the lounge, next to the TV table until we decide where we want to put it. It was a really great gift and I love personalised things!

I made something for him too, another funky tie for work. He loves different patterned and coloured ties and there are quite a few fabric shops here in Dubai with so many to choose from!

Do you ever make homemade gifts for your loved ones? I'd love to see them!

Monday, 25 May 2015

Weekend in Oman

Following on from my post about our wedding anniversary, I thought I would share a few photos from out weekend away. Hubby had a few extra days off work for half term and we wanted to make the most of it by exploring a little outside of Dubai.

We started with a night in a hotel in Ras Al Khaima, the Hilton Double Tree. The hotel was lovely and eat for a relaxing time by the pool or beach. Hubby was feeling a little under the weather so we didn't do much here, just floating around the pool, reading the kindle and playing in the sand for William.

The following day, we drove on up to Oman to a town called Khasab. There was quite a bit of faffing about at the border but once through, the drive around the coast was just beautiful. The winding road took us up and down the mountains, scenery very different from Dubai!

We checked into our hotel, Antana hotel Khasab, where we were given a free room upgrade to a sea view. And what a sea view it was! It was truly breathtaking! The mountains were towering above on the left hand side but the rest was pure brilliant blue sea!

The hotel was lovely, kind of old fashioned but in a nice way. The staff were brilliant, room was simple and comfortable. The staff were very helpful and booked us an all day boat trip around the Musandam for the next day.

We spent most of the day cruising around the beautiful mountainous coast of the musandam, stopping a few times to swim with the fish and do some snorkelling. We saw Dolphins that were finding great delight in swimming alongside our boat. William really impressed us with his bravery when jumping into the sea and snorkelling with us. He was so excited seeing the scholes of fish beneath him, squealing with excitement! Hubby loved diving in to the refreshing sea too!

We had some tasty lunch and snacks and enjoyed the sunshine and warm winds.

We had a great time In khasab and the Musandam boat trip was just amazing. I'm so glad we did it! Another one for the memory bank!


Saturday, 23 May 2015

6 years and counting...

6 years ago today my life changed fairly dramatically. I got married. We became partners for life.

And what a life we have had so far. In those six years we have had three different homes, enjoyed many holidays together and added our gorgeous William to our little family.

Thinking back to the day we got married, I remember the fun we had with our family and friends. How gorgeous the ladies looked all dressed up and how smart and dapper the men looked.

I also think of the loved family member that is no longer with us, and those who we have not seen for a long time.

So to my husband, I'd like to say thank you. Thank you for looking after me. Thank you for giving me our wonderful son and for being the best dad to him. Thank you for working so hard to give us our fab life in Dubai and all the adventures that have come with it.


Thursday, 21 May 2015

Back to school - Letter T

Welcome back to my Letter of the week series. I can't believe how fast the weeks are flying by, I can't keep up with the posts! Anyway... Here are our crafts for the letter T, and we kicked it off with a name train.

Name Train

I really like this easy activity for encouraging William to learn how to spell his name, or at least the sequence of letters anyway! We happened to have some Thomas the Tank Engine stickers which came in handy for him to make his own train. I cut up some pieces of paper to act as carriages and wrote his name on them. I then let him try to stick them down in order. As William doesn't know how to spell his name yet it did take quite a lot of prompting from me but he did recognise some of them. I'm sure the more we do this kind of activity he will get the hang of it. We will do it again for W week with a worm!

If you want to focus on something else, it's so easy to change it up. Maybe using numbers, or the whole alphabet instead? Or again, to practice shape sequences and patterns. This prompted a reading session of Thomas the tank engine... Of course!

William and I love going to the library and choosing new books to borrow each week. We try to get at least one non fiction book each time and this week I saw this book about Turtles which would be perfect. We flicked through the pages, looking at the pictures and I read some of the turtle facts to William. He then made this turtle out of a paper bowl. I let him go wild with the paint and he did really well covering the whole bowl, and not covering himself too much! He glued on some Googly eyes and I folded him some wiggly legs out of paper. While looking at the pictures in the book we noticed that the shells of the turtles had patterns and shapes on them, so William had a go at adding some details with a felt tip pen.
Paper plate and bowl crafts have endless options. Have a quick google or Pinterest search if you have some lying around. We have done this before by turning the bowl into a crab.
Tire Tracks
I love encouraging William to use different materials and resources, especially when painting. And as he loves cars and trucks he jumped at the chance to do a bit of painting with them. Dipping the cars in paint and rolling them back and forth creating patterns, shapes and marks with them. We used the brown paper to wrap up some presents for hubby for our anniversary. What a great idea for decorating boys (or girls!) wrapping paper! I know a Grandad who would like this too!
Living in Dubai we are blessed with gorgeous weather and a swimming pool in our neighbourhood. So William also makes tracks using his big truck by the swimming pool, dunking it in the pool water and racing it around! Then watching them disappear in the sunshine.
Terrific Tulips
Now in April it was Williams Grandmas birthday and her favourite flowers are Tulips! I saw this great, quick craft on Pinterest and thought William would enjoy it. Again, painting with a new object, a fork! Place the fork in some paint, then print the shape onto some paper. William really liked doing this one and was trying his best to do it neatly. I probably shouldn't have given m sugar paper to do it on as the paint bled a bit which distorted the shape a little bit, it definitely worked better on normal paper. He insisted on drawing on the stems, and then I cut them out for him to mount onto another page. A bit mad with his crazy paint dripping, but awesome none the less!

Other ideas:

- Teeth. Check out some books on brushing teeth, learn about the names of them, even create a collage of a mouth by using stickers, cut up paper or buttons for teeth.

- Treasure Hunt. We ran out of time for this one but will no doubt have a go at some point. Draw a simple treasure map of your garden or house that leads to some special treasure at the end. Maybe some golden raisins or apricots.... Ok, let's face it, sweets!

- Towers. Build them with blocks, draw them, or if you live in the city go for a drive and spot all the towers you can see.

- Trees. I'm sure there are countless tree crafts floating around out there, again collages, leaf prints or tree rubbings would be a great idea. How about a nature hunt, spotting and drawing or recording the different trees you can find.

Thank you for popping over and I hope you have enjoyed our crafts and activities. As always, please let me know if you have a go at any yourself! For U week we are experimenting with paper mâché!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Back to school - Letter S week

We had great fun with these crafts for S week! We did the usual colouring and collages but lots of thinking about patterns and sequences, as well as new skills like sewing and textile art.

Slithery Snakes

Our first snake craft was making a snake using an old toilet roll. Love a toilet roll craft me, reuse and recycle and all that! You can see it in the bottom right picture. William painted it pink (because you get a lot of pink snakes?!) and I cut it up for him into a spiral. He then added Googly eyes and a little tongue.

I then drew William an S shaped Snake, and cut up some different coloured shapes. I started him off by sticking the first three down and asked him to complete the sequence pattern. He needed a little promoting at some points but on the whole did really well! As he enjoyed doing that, I quickly drew some more and we used some pens to draw our own shapes. We took it in turns and I tried to encourage William to tell us who's go it was next and what shape they had to draw. This was a really quick craft to prepare, literally a bit of drawing and a few cutting out of shapes.

If you are working on numbers or letters you could write them on the shapes and get your little one to stick them down in order, or to make it easier, you could draw an outline of the shape onto the snake so they can match the shapes maybe? It's such a simple idea but loads of options!

Spider's secret web

Our first spider activity was based on something I saw recently that was completed unrelated. It was a wax resist painting where you could write secret messages, that only became revealed when you covered it with water paint. I started by drawing a spiders web with white crayon on a white piece of paper. I gave William some watery black paint and told him to wash over the page to see if he could find the surprise. It took a few seconds for it to soak into the paper and reveal the secret spider web and William was amazed when he saw it turn up! William wanted to do his own so he drew a spiderweb (bit of a scribble basically, it annoyed him that he couldn't see what he was doing) and painted it again. I might do this again for other letters somehow as it was good fun.

The next craft was something I was excited about doing as it was kinda based on a passion of mine, sewing! I drew a very rough spider web with a sharpie, and punched some holes at intervals along the lines using a big needle. I then gave William the needle with some wool tied onto it so he could thread it through the holes I had made, creating a spider web out of wool. He enjoyed doing this and I think he liked the fact he was using one of mummy's special needles. Obviously, if you try this, make sure to give your child a big needle like a bodkin that's not sharp at the end.

To go with the spiders web, we made a spider out of card, glued on some cotton wool and painted it black. When dry, we added googley eyes and some pipe cleaners for legs.

I wrote "spider" in pencil on the top and William did amazingly well at copying the letters with a pen. I was actually a bit surprised at how well he did. He liked doing it and asked to do it again on the back too so he did a couple more. I am trying to encourage him to practice copying letters a bit more.

We got a great book out from the library a while ago which was all about sunflowers. It was great for showing the names of the different parts, how they grew etc. William enjoyed reading about them and I thought it would be fun to make a collage of one. William kept checking back with the book to see if we had everything it should have! We used paper for the leaves and petals, wool for the roots, rice for the seeds and a Popsicle stick for the stem. If you have the space and opportunity it would be fab to grow your own sunflowers too!


This was a really simple and fairly quick game to set up. I cut up some shapes out of coloured paper, laid them out on the floor in front of some coloured cups. William then matched the coloured paper shapes to the cups, or put all the circles in one, triangles in another etc. I blogged about this game before here. William got very good at it and was so proud of himself when he finished the games so quickly.

Back to sewing again for our next shape activity. I punched some holes in card so they created different shapes. I then set William up with a big needle again and some coloured wool to see if he could sew the shapes. If you have some, try using some cross stitch material. This would make it harder, although you could always draw the shape in pen for them to go over.


Other ideas

- Toilet roll snakes. Cut up old toilet roll tubes into sections, paint them then string them together to make a snake.

- Scarecrow. There's a fab new Julia Donaldson book about scarecrows. You could also make one out of a toilet roll tube or a paper plate with crazy wool or scrap paper hair.

- Number Seven. Practice writing the number. Collect items n groups of seven, e,g. 7 toy cars, 7 balls, 7 crackers, try drawing with 7 crayons taped together.

- Snow man. Make one out of paper plates, cut up card, glue some cotton wool balls onto paper in a snow man shape, create snowmen out of circles joined together with your child's name written in the circles, or if you live near snow (if in Dubai, maybe visit the snow dome) or sand, build a snowman!

- Sand. There is tons of sensory bin ideas based around sand. Fill up a tub, bowl, anything you've got, up with sand and add some different toys to play with, maybe a little water so the sand can be sculpted into shapes. Create your own sandy pictures by painting with pva glue then scattering sand over it.

So there you have it. So a great letter to use as a start, so many brilliant activities you can do based on it. We are kind of rushing through our letters a bit now as we are running out of weeks before we go back to the UK for the summer and then William starts school. If we have some time left, I will try and come back to some of these ideas! Funnily, sometimes when I am blogging about what we've been up to, I come up with more ideas I'd like to try with William!

I hope you have a good week and enjoy and arts and crafts you may be doing with your little ones! Come back soon!


Monday, 4 May 2015

Back to school - letter R

We had great fun doing these activities for R week. I don't know why, but some letters just seem to be a perfect match for william friendly activities and crafts!
R is for Rocking Robots!
William loves this book, "No-bot robot", so it was fun to get it out and have a read before we created our own robot collage. We used some kitchen foil, coloured paper, Googly eyes and some nuts and washers to decorate him. We also did the same but using a cardboard toilet roll tube.
If you want to work on numbers or letter, you could always write them on the coloured buttons and get your little one to stick them down in order. William has enjoyed doing that in the past with other collages.
William also came across this robot hand toy in Daiso this week and as he had been such a good boy at football we bought it. It was either that or a really really noisy rattle instrument. I thought I had chosen wisely, until yesterday in the car he decided it would be hollarious to reach the robot hand through the headrest to tickle me.
I came up with this game for him to play with it, using his robot hand to pick up the numbered foam shapes. We rolled a dice to decide which shape he needed to get first and deposited them in his dumper truck. A fun way of reinforcing numbers and practicing coordination. If you don't own a robot hand, you could try simply using hands, or chop sticks, tongs from the kitchen etc.
There are lots of activities online based on rainbows and some great songs to sing too. William likes using stamping pens so I drew him a basic rainbow and left him to colour it in. He started with his stamp pens and we finished it off together with some crayons.
Williams Rocket!
Blast off! I am trying to bring to find ways of bringing Williams name into the crafts he does. He recognises his name but as he goes to school in September I thought it would be nice to get him used to the order of the letters etc. to help him along when he learns to write it. This rocket picture is so easy to make, simply cut a few squares of coloured paper and letter or number them for your little one to glue down in order. Again you could do this on other materials such as cardboard tubes, or paint an old cereal box and glue the shapes on that!
Ripe market
Vaguely linked to the letter R! If you live in Dubai, chances are you will have heard about the Ripe market. The one we visited was the Night market at Al Barsha Pond Park. It's hotting up here in Dubai now so to pop along in the evening, 4-9 is great. There's loads of wonderful stalls selling homemade and locally produced goods. I had my eye on some really nice jewellery and kids clothes! Lots of potential presents for the kids in my family. Definitely check it out as a nice chilled way to end your weekend in Dubai, Saturday's 4-9pm. Since writing this post, I think the Ripe market has finished for the summer, but be sure to check it out on its return.

Other ideas:
- Races. Create obstacle courses, or a simple running race, egg and spoon, choices are endless! My husband set up an obstacle course today for William, climbing under blankets and jumping over cushions, throwing balls into saucepans. William had great fun!
- Rainbow cakes. I have seen a few recipes pop up on Pinterest for making different rainbow cakes. This involves creating a mixture and using food colourings to create a rainbow effect. Another option would be to jazz up your little ones lunch or snack time by asking them to help you pick foods to create a rainbow, yellow peppers, red tomatoes, blueberries etc.
- Rabbits. You could create collages, read non-fiction books about them, visit a petting zoo to see some in real life (if in Dubai, try posh paws)
- Rings. I saw a fab post recently about creating your own rings, making them out of pipe cleaners and attaching paper flowers to the top.

Well that's about it for our week of letter crafts. We are soon coming to the end of the alphabet, only 8 left to go! Just enough time to wrap them all up before we head back to the UK for the summer. As always, please let me know if you try any of these activities or if you would like to share your own!


Saturday, 2 May 2015

Nutty balls

Haha, couldn't resist that title! This is a quick recipe for some nut balls that I have been making with William recently. We have made them twice now and varied them a little, so feel free to change them up a bit if you try them too.

Reasons to make them...

- Thay are easy for kids to make, and don't require too much help from adults

- No baking required!

- Once you have the ingredients in your cupboard, you can make them again and again without more shopping for fresh produce.

- They are fairly healthy for you, nuts are good for you, low sugar, high protein and they also feature dried fruit. I tried one batch with a low sugar peanut butter, they were ok but I must admit nicer with the normal peanut butter.

So here we go, here are the list of ingredients. The quantities can be changed slightly if you don't have enough of something and don't forget you can add in any other things you think would go well. I ground my nuts first as I thought this would go down better with William, but you don't have to do this. Literally put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together. When it comes together like forming a dough you can roll them into balls. Well, they can be whatever shape you want really. I chill them in the fridge for a while just to firm them up before eating. I keep them in the fridge in an air tight container.

Nut balls Ingredients

3 table spoons of peanut butter

3 table spoons of ground cashew nuts

3 table spoons of ground almonds

6 apricots, chopped into small pieces

1 table spoon of cranberries

1 table spoon of raisins

2 table spoons of oats

1 table spoon of chia seeds

1 table spoon of sesame seeds

2 table spoons of chocolate chips.

You can easily mix up this recipe by using different dried fruits, small chunks of dried Apple may be nice. As long as the ratio of peanut butter to dry ingredients is right and you can form them into solid shapes they are good to go! I'm wondering if adding a little coco powder might be nice?

If you try them, please do send me a photo or tag me in Instagram as I'd love to see others! Enjoy!