Easter Egg Treasure Hunt

Easter Egg Treasure Hunt

I love the idea of the traditional Easter Egg hunt for kids, but somehow it always seemed to rain when we wanted to do it outside, and in any case the idea of putting chocolate eggs near mud and slugs makes me shiver.

Instead I devised two variations of Easter Egg treasure hunts that can be played inside or out, depending on the weather and the amount of space you have available! The second one comes with a free clue sheet ready for you to use.

1. Plastic Egg hunt

For the first version of this game I used plastic eggs hidden around the home and garden. They come in lots of bright colours and can be bought cheaply in kits from pound shops. Sometimes they come apart to hide things in, but other versions are just solid plastic. Either works well, but egg shapes cut out of card work too if you don’t want to go to the expense of buying a load of plastic eggs.

Preparation: Get the children otherwise occupied (eg in decorating their Easter bonnets or some other Easter themed activity) whilst you scatter the eggs around. I hide them in plant pots, behind leaves and up in trees, all within easy reach of little ones. Just remember how many you have hidden or you won’t know when the game is over!

How to play: The idea of the game is to collect as many eggs as you can until they are all gone. The children can race off into the hunt area and collect eggs into their baskets. Ours tend to get quite competitive but love discovering eggs hidden behind pots or garden gnomes! This game avoids having chocolate sitting in soil or being accidentally left out in the garden!

And the winner is: The person with the most eggs when no more can be found. The reward can be whatever you like – everyone gets the same goody-bag; winner gets a bigger prize, or they can trade in their plastic eggs for the same number of mini eggs – it’s up to you!

Easter Egg Treasure Hunt
And the winner is…

2. Easter Egg Treasure Hunt

This is my favourite, but it takes a bit more preparation. This is a treasure hunt with written clues hidden around the house and garden, leading them from one clue to the next. You can hide the clues inside plastic egg shapes or print them onto the back of egg-shaped cards.

Preparation: Use my template document below to create your clues. I’ve given you 30+ clues to get you started, but you will need to adapt these to suit your home and garden.  The final clue will bring them to the hoard of eggs, or whatever you determine your big prize to be!  Once you are happy with your clues print them off twice and cut up one sheet into separate clues.

The most important thing to remember is that when you are laying your clues out that you need to do the treasure hunt BACKWARDS! So, in my example from the clue sheet, you would start at the toy box, where you would hide your big prize, then put the toybox clue at the pink chair, the pink chair clue under the child’s pillow etc.

You can hide the clues inside plastic eggs if you want to keep the Easter theme going strong!

How to play: Start the children off by giving them the first clue and ask them to solve it together. When they have guessed the answer they go there together to find the next clue. Our children took it in turns to read out and try to solve the clue regardless of who found the egg.

And the winner is: Everyone wins as they should get to the final location at the same time. If you use a toybox or cupboard as the last place then you can create a buzz by hiding balloons or confetti there, that will fall out when they open the door and find their Easter goodies waiting for them!

You can download my Easter Egg Treasure Hunt clues here.

 

Easter chick
Happy Easter!
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Upcyling charity shop clothes – easy no sew skirt alteration

I love rummaging through charity shops to see what I can find. I have brought home some awesome clothes for the kids in the past and things for the house. Quite often I find clothes that I really like but are the wrong size or not quite the right shape, so I have taken to upcycling them. Doing your own skirt alteration may be a bit daunting if you are not used to it, so here is an easy method to alter the length of a skirt that doesn’t involve any sewing!

This skirt caught my eye because of the colours and tweedy pattern. It was the right size for me but way too long. So here is my step by step instructions on how to shorten a skirt using the ‘no sew’ method!

 

The skirt before alteration
The skirt before alteration

1. Get the skirt length right

Use an existing skirt to measure the length.
Use an existing skirt to measure the length.

I used an existing (black) skirt that I have to guide me in the right length for my alteration.

Measure the skirt’s length from waistband to hem and then pin that same length along the fabric of your skirt to be altered. Try it on at this point as the waistband of one skirt might sit higher than the waistband of the other, which would result in the wrong length! It’s also worth trying the skirt on with the shoes you would normally wear with the outfit, as heels vs flats will make a difference in how the skirt sits on your hips.

Measure the hem allowance.
Measure the hem allowance.

Cut the excess fabric off, leaving around 5cm additional length for your hem. If your skirt is lined (like mine was) then just cut the lining to the same length for now.

 

Cut away!
Cut away!

 

2. Create the hem

Iron creases into your hem allowance to create the folds for your hem by folding the fabric up into the wrong side of the skirt. It can be easier to do this if you turn the whole skirt inside out. You want to fold the hem up about 2cm, iron it flat, then fold it up again, about 2.5cm and iron it flat again.

By doing this you will make sure that your hem is even all the way around and you can double check that the skirt length will be even all over, using a tape measure. Pop a few pins in and try the skirt on again.

Fold, iron, fold, iron
Fold, iron, fold, iron

3. Iron in place

Iron hemming tape in place.
Iron hemming tape in place.

Once you are happy with the hem length you can iron in the hemming tape (Wundaweb). Take care not to touch it with the iron as it can get very sticky!

 

4. Dealing with lining

If your skirt is lined you will need to lay it flat and mark out the final length of the skirt on the lining using either pins or tailor’s chalk. For the finished garment you ideally want the lining to fall 2-5cm shorter than the skirt, so cut away any excess and repeat steps 2 and 3 for the lining.

Because lining fabric is harder to work with I tend to pin it through to the ironing board to keep it in place better. For lining you want the hem to sit on the outside of the skirt so that any rough edges are away from your legs.

 

Cut away excess lining.
Cut away excess lining.
Pin the lining to the right length.
Pin the lining to the right length.
Pin lining hem.
Pin lining hem.
Iron into place.
Iron into place.

5. Wash and iron – finished!

The finished skirt!
The finished skirt!

Here are the tools needed to do the job with a link to suggested products on Amazon:

How I cut our energy bills by half

Energy Company logos

I realised this week that we have cut our energy bills (gas and electricity) by half compared with what it was this time last year. I’m quite proud of that! I haven’t done anything radical, but I have played the system a bit, so here are my tips to see if you can make a saving too.

You probably shop around for a mortgage deal and the best credit card, so why not your energy account too? We’ve ended up saving hundreds of pounds per year on our energy bills, which actually makes me quite embarrassed now that we paid so much before!

[At this point I will declare an interest that I have an energy company as a business client, but what that does mean is that I can share a bit of insider knowledge!]

1. Get an online account

Most of the UK’s energy providers allow you to register for an online account. This enables you to access your details via the web and gives you better visibility of your energy usage and therefore puts you in control. Look for a ‘log in’ or ‘register’ button on your energy company’s website.

2. Check you are on the right tariff

Using your online account you can see if you are on the right tariff for your needs. If you have come to the end of a fixed term deal (just like mortgages you can get 1-year or 2-year fixed price deals for energy) you may have been transferred onto a standard tariff, which is normally higher rate and will be costing you more. Use your company’s tariff checker to see if you could save money by switching to a different product. Before you switch check if there is an exit fee for the product you are currently on.

3. Select the money saving options for your new tariff

Some companies give discounts for paperless online billing and monthly direct debit. Unless you have an aversion to either they can save you a reasonable amount of money (£50+). If you are on a pre-pay meter try to get a credit meter installed as they generally offer better priced deals. If you opt to take both gas and electricity from the same provider you may also qualify for a dual fuel discount of £15-£20. Some providers offer extra benefits such as Tesco Clubcard points or Amazon vouchers either as a one-off golden welcome or as an ongoing customer benefit, so take those into account too.

4. Opt in to price alert emails

Some providers will notify you each time they drop their prices or issue a new product that could be cheaper. Other providers will notify you 6-monthly. Either way, it is worth signing up for this service as it ensures that you are kept up to date on the latest deals from your current provider.

5. Join the Cheap Energy Club and switch supplier

Sign up for Moneysavingexpert.com’s Cheap Energy Club. This works as an intermediary, using the collective buying power of all the members to negotiate the best prices for a fixed time period. Again, it is worth signing up to join the club and you will be notified when a collective switch is available. When the switch opportunity comes along you get to select the best tariff for you, from whichever company you want, and the switch is managed via the intermediary.

Before you switch just check out the green credentials and customer service ratings for your new supplier, as it is sometimes worth paying a little extra to get a good service. You can however even use the club to switch tariff and stay with the same supplier.

6. Get accurate bills

Estimated bills are not good for you or the energy company, so provide regular (at least monthly) meter readings (either online or via your company’s mobile app) to ensure that you get an accurate bill. Otherwise you could be paying over the odds for energy you haven’t used. Watch out for what they call the ‘billing window’ which is a period during which the meter reading/estimate that is on the system is used even if you provide an accurate reading.

Once Smart Meters are installed across the country you won’t have to provide meter readings any more as they will be automatically transmitted to your provider, but for now the responsibility is for you to provide accurate consumption data to your provider.

7. Cut your energy use

Whilst the biggest savings to be made are by switching supplier and/or tariff you can still save money by cutting down on the amount of energy you use.  A lot of the energy saving tips will save you a few pounds a year, but I discovered that the biggest savings you can make are by turning your heating and/or hot water down by a few degrees.

Being completely nesh [Nesh: Nottingham slang for a person who feels the cold] I couldn’t face turning our heating down but have dropped our water temperature to 60 degrees (Hot water should be stored at 60 °C at least in order to kill legionella bacteria.) No-one has noticed and I am sure it has made a difference to our energy bills!

Many energy companies offer an energy saving tracker tool online, or a counter-top energy monitor which are worth using for a while at least to understand where you use energy and how you could make savings. Worth looking into if you have the time and sufficient attention span!

I’d love to hear how you get on and if you manage to make savings too!

The Great British Sewing Bee and Gender Equality

Ladybird Ladybug Fancy Dress Costume

I’m a late comer to the Great British Sewing Bee, having missed the last two year’s of programmes, but what I am seeing this year is filling me with the joy of a neatly fitting garment.

It’s great to see essential life skills being applauded on TV, rather than the shallow fame we are fed via The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. Sewing is a skill that every parent should pass on to their child, and I’m pleased to say that my kids can sew their own cubs/scouts badges on to their shirts (I say they CAN, whether they DO or not is a different matter!).

The programme’s website has some handy tutorials for people inspired to go on and try it for themselves, making it accessible to beginners.

I’m also really (pleasantly) surprised by the gender balance in the programme. We’ve got 4 men and 6 women as contestants, and one of each as judges. This is great recognition by the BBC that sewing machines and haberdasheries (like the kitchen) are not the exclusive domain of women. There are some real stars across the board, so it is definitely not a case of the women overshadowing the men.

I’m really getting into this series, and it’s inspired me to get on with my sewing jobs, so get ready for some sewing related posts!

The Contestants
The Contestants
The Judges - May and Patrick
The Judges – May and Patrick

Easy Papercraft Valentines Decoration

I made this valentines decoration today. Easy peasy valentines-themed papercraft decoration. You can make them with any decorative paper, left over wrapping paper, foil or plain coloured paper.

Paper heartsStep 1 – Cut out paper hearts from a range of papers. I used a cookie cutter for the stencil and a fab book of paper patterns. The contrasting papers look great once they are put together.

Step 2 – Fold all the hearts down the middle. Collect a range of ribbons. Some of these are from the tags you get in new clothes!

Ribbons

Step 3 – Stick a ribbon onto the back of one of the hearts using sticky tape.

Sticky tape

Step 4 – Stick two other hearts onto your first heart, so that you have a set of 3.

Set of 3 hearts

Step 5 – Fold each heart along the crease again to make sure they are 3-dimensional.

Step 6 – Attach to a ribbon or decorative twig to brighten up your home.

Valentines hearts

 

Step 7 – Sit back and relax with a coffee whilst you enjoy your handiwork.

Coffee heart

 

What is your hidden vegetable masterpiece?

The Art of Hiding Vegetables

I was chuckling to myself today as I blended up some celery to hide in the chilli I was making, that hiding vegetables is a becoming an art form. It’s the most cunning way to get fussy eaters to get their 5-a-day without the tantrums. Parents up and down the country are chopping, slicing, dicing and blending to disguise healthy ingredients in children’s dinners. The hidden vegetable secret is shared in whispers at the school gate lest the kids cotton on.

I’m sure the Earth Mother fraternity will have something to say about this. It is perhaps not ethical to trick your children into eating things that they don’t know about, or want to eat? Is it an infringement on their human rights to tell then that a bit of swede is a carrot, just to get them to eat it? Perhaps so, but for me, and lots of others, hiding healthy stuff in our kids’ dinners is a way to ensure that your child is eating well, and lets you feel like you are being a good parent.

I have overstepped the mark a few times when the offending vegetable ingredient wasn’t chopped small enough to disappear from sight, or had a distinctive taste that I couldn’t mask with the sauce. Fennel, for instance is not going to be able to don any sort of disguise and get away with it. Over the years my son has finely honed his radar for things he doesn’t like, and can now identify a hidden mushroom from the other side of the kitchen, no matter how small it is.

Aubergine or Eggplant?
Aubergine… mysterious Mediterranean ingredient to some… alien eggplant to others.

Yet, I can still get away with hiding vegetables so long as I act smart and know my limitations. Onions, celery, anything that can pass for carrot, cauliflower, courgette and so on are all staples in my book. Chopped to oblivion in the food processor I challenge anyone to pick them out of a shepherd’s pie.

My finest moment in the Hidden Veg Oscars was when I added Aubergine to a lasagne.  Despite its distinctive dark colour it got with the joke and snuck into the shadows of the lasagne, never to be found by the hungry children. I could barely contain my glee, sitting eating my veg-packed layered baked dish with the rest of the family, knowing what only I knew… ha ha ha.

So, what is your finest moment in vegetable hide and seek? Broccoli anyone?