Planned price increases from 1st May 2016...

Next month, Hooded Owls will celebrate its third birthday – something we’re really proud of – but it has also prompted a moment to reflect, both on where we’ve come from, and where we’re going in the future.
 
For those of you that have known us from the beginning, you’ll remember it was all a bit of an adventure. My mum and I had made some hooded towels for my two children, because we couldn’t find what we were looking for in the shops or online. And it turned out that several of our friends also wanted some and couldn’t find them, and so we made hooded towels for them too.
 
This led to the launch of the Hooded Owls website, and a few months later, we joined notonthehighstreet.com. Over the next two years, our reputation and orders grew, and by our second birthday, my spare room, hallway and every spare space in the house was overflowing with boxes and towels. My mum and I were both exhausted… the time had come to find an office and some people to help us. We outsourced the majority of our production to a factory, moved into our offices, and took on someone to manage the packing and dispatching of orders and someone to help with the sewing.
 
The result of all of these changes, however, is that the costs of running Hooded Owls have increased dramatically, and we are now being faced with some tough choices about where we go from here.  One option would have been to drop our quality significantly, but that is not what we want Hooded Owls to be about. So after much discussion about the different options, our conclusion is that our only option is to raise our prices.
 
So from 1 May 2016, we will be introducing a new pricing structure. I understand that this decision will not be a popular one, but I want to assure you that we are making these changes to our pricing structure very reluctantly, to enable us to continue with the high quality we currently provide. Most of our prices will rise, but we will aim to ensure that some of our designs are on offer at any given time.
 
However, we wanted to give you some advance warning of the price increase so that if you are planning to buy any new towels, either for yourself or as gifts for friends and family, you have the opportunity to buy them at the existing price. And I hope that by explaining the reasons for these changes, you will understand.
 
With very best wishes
Charlotte
(Founder)

 

Come and see us!

We're busy busy busy at the moment getting ready for a couple of weeks of Christmas Fairs, so if you'd like to meet the team, and see our towels in the flesh before you buy, why not come and visit us?

Here's where you can find us:

20/21 November   Harpenden Christmas Fair, Public Halls, Harpenden AL5 1PD

26-29 November   Frost Fair, Hatfield House, Hatfield AL9 5HX

25-29 November   Ideal Home Show at Christmas, Olympia London, W14 8UX
 

We'd love to see you, so if you're out and about at any of these, come and say hi!

Want to build a snowman, anyone?

With less than 50 days to go until Christmas, the shops are all decked with festive decorations,  a new John Lewis advert is doing the rounds, and it's starting to look a lot like Christmas (already)! We thought we'd join the party, so we've added 6 'Christmas Specials' to our shop: Snowflakes, Anna, and Gingerbread men in our Standard hooded towels range; and Ice queen, Superheroes and Stars to our personalised hooded towels selection.

We've only got a limited number of the standard ones in stock, and initial indications suggest they're pretty popular, so if you've got them in mind for Christmas presents, don't leave it too late!

Ocean Giants

We've been a bit quiet on here of late, mainly because things have been a bit hectic. We've moved into a new office, and had a big delivery of new stock arrive as we start to get ready for the slow build to Christmas... (It's only 10 weeks away, who knew?!)

Our stock delivery included several new trim designs, two of which are these fabulous Whale and Shark designs. They're already selling fast so we're thinking our Ocean Giants are a bit of a hit!

Whales
Shark FIns

Goldfish and birthdays

Oh, it's been a busy old week. Mabel had a hectic penultimate week at school, the culmination of which was a Fun Day on the Friday with a ‘sea’ theme. The children had to go to school dressed up in a sea-related costume. After some discussion Mabel chose to be a jellyfish. So, most of last week's evenings were taken up creating said masterpiece. 

Whilst over on our Instagram feed we had another Trim Week. This week we were all about the Goldfish towel. You can find it included in our summer special offer at the moment. So, if you need a towel for holidays, the beach or for drying off from the paddling pool, now is the time to purchase this bright pink fluffy towel with a lovely goldfish blowing pink bubbles on the trim. 

Goldfish

The felt fish that I posted on Wednesday were some that I made a while ago for Mabel. They were very simple to make and have been used hundreds of times, in various situations. I just cut a simple fish shape out of felt, sewed around the edge (you can either do this by hand or by machine) and then stuffed them with the filling from a cheap pillow. Finally I added either a sequin or a bead for the eyes. I need to make some more really as Mabel keeps asking for them in different colours!


On Friday we did one of our favourite free activities! Our local garden centre has quite a good pet department with a huge wall of fish. Fish of all varieties, not just goldfish! We can spend ages in there studying our swimming friends. Then the other small animals they have. Also the cafe which does amazing handmade cake. Then the little play area. Then a little potter around the garden centre. We can be there for hours sometimes! I am contemplating getting Mabel a goldfish for Christmas. She keeps asking for a pet and I think a goldfish is not only a good place to start, but also the only creature that her Daddy will let her have at the moment! So, I could also do a bit of research as we wandered around. 

On Saturday morning, in between cleaning and tidying, we whipped up some goldfish crafty action. Keep your eyes peeled for a full rundown on what we did over the next few days. It was simple and straightforward and kept both of them quiet for ages!

And finally, today is a special one in our house as it’s Eric’s second birthday! I thought his first year flew by. This one has been on hyper-speed! We had a little family party yesterday for him as we always do, and then today whilst Mabel was at school we popped over to our local farm park. Eric loved feeding the animals and stroking a barn owl. Unfortunately it started to rain just as we got there so we didn’t stay as long as normal, but it was lovely to do something to celebrate his birthday. Happy, happy birthday to my wonderful, funny two year old!

Eric_birthday

With a splish and a splash!

I had a light bulb moment on Thursday evening as I pondered what I could do with Eric the following day. I knew that the weather would be good, so I was aiming for something based outside. That was when I remembered that a local park had, last year, had its old outdated paddling pool replaced with a modern splash park. I had planned to visit it last summer, but the building of it was delayed. Then the local water supplier had issues connecting the water so that it wasn’t actually completed until the autumn, when it was wet and cold and really not splash park weather! 

splash

So, off we headed armed with swimwear, our Hooded Owl and a plastic watering can. From previous water play I have found that it is always good to have some kind of vessel to add to the fun. I was really impressed with the park when we got there.

That_way

Once changed, Eric was straight into the action. He liked the troughs filling with water and his trusty watering can was put straight to work. It actually took him a while to notice that there was more to explore. I love to watch him register his surroundings and to see his face when he sees something new. He noticed some little fountains of water first and enjoyed going back and forth between the two as they took turns to spurt up and down. He loved putting his hands in them and trying to stop the water.

As he got braver he started to explore the bigger bits of equipment that dripped and dropped water all over the place. This end of the park was a little trickier for me as I kept getting wet, which of course Eric thought was hilarious! 

I couldn’t quite encourage him to be brave enough to go through the semi-circle of water that shot out every now and then. It almost caught him (and me!) off guard a couple of times. 

Semi_circle_water

After a while I had a sit down on the grass and enjoyed the sunshine. The park was a bit busier by this point and Eric soon joined me and raided all the snacks in my bag. (I must remember to restock before we go out again!) I wish I had planned ahead a bit better and thought about bringing a picnic. Two children, and five and half years of parenting under my belt, and you’d think I would think of these things by now! 

Eric dragged me back into the water for some more playing before we dried off my feet (and all of Eric) and headed to the play park right next door before wandering back to find the car.

We had a lovely morning and he fell asleep as soon as we pulled away from the car park. I will definitely be going back, assuming the good weather stays with us. Next time I’ll take Mabel with us. I know for certain that she will be running through that semi-circle of water!

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Summertime strawberries

Another week, another trim focused theme. This week, to tie in with the wonderful Wimbledon, we have been focusing on the lovely bright pink Strawberries Hooded Owl. 

Mabel_strawberries

I love strawberries. I love them most of all still warm from the sun, straight off the plant. I have very fond memories of going to Pick Your Own farms when I was little. Carrying one of the cardboard baskets and filling it with plump, red, strawberries. I also vividly remember the rule that it was one strawberry for the basket and one for my mouth! So, when this week came around, with the Strawberries Hooded Owl as my focus, the first thing to pop into my head was to go strawberry picking and to take my favourite little man with me. I had a feeling that he would like it almost as much as me.

Starwberry_feet

I was quite surprised to find that there don’t seem to be quite as many PYO places around anymore. I don’t know if that is a sign of the times? The nearest one was actually a 30 minute drive from me, which feels as though it kind of negates the process, but I was doing it more for the experience than to save any precious pennies.

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I found the farm that we went to from the website, which lists all the PYO farms in the UK. Very useful!  Of course, Eric fell asleep on the way there. I sat in the car park for an hour and a half, letting him sleep. To be fair it wasn’t any hardship. I had a lovely view of the Derbyshire countryside and a lovely cool breeze. I was just a bit miffed that I didn’t have my crochet with me to while away the time!

When he eventually woke up we pottered off with our cardboard basket (It is so strange how an inanimate object can stir such emotion and memories!) to go and see what we could find.

Straight away he was very excited, but it was mainly because we were quite close to the airport and an aeroplane was coming in overhead! Once that had passed over he was quickly involved in the strawberry picking. He was really good to begin with and the basket was filling up quickly.

Then he developed an interest in the green unripe fruit rather than the lovely juicy red berries! He is just learning his colours at the moment. Blue is currently favourite. Everything is blue when you ask him what colour something is, but he happily accepts the correct colour when you tell him. I kept asking him to pick the red fruit, not the green, so he was chattering away to himself and every other word I heard was ‘red’.

As I think every child before him, he ate each alternate strawberry that he picked. He is a real fruit bat anyway, and strawberries are a particular favourite of his. He was in strawberry heaven!

It wasn’t long before our basket was almost full and we decided to go and pay for them. He very gallantly tried to carry the basket for me, before realising that a basket full of strawberries is actually rather heavy!

Starwberry_chops

When Mabel got home from school we told her all about our strawberry adventures and she was eager to tuck into some of our pickings. She quickly declared that she didn’t actually like strawberries and that she was off to play in the paddling pool! Oh, the fickle tastebuds of a five year old.

Mabel_strawbs

To coincide with our strawberry week we have been running our first Instagram giveaway competition, and asking our followers to submit their own strawberry shots. I’m happy to say that @hmcmanus won a lovely Hooded Owl with this great shot of a strawberry cocktail! We like it when people think outside the box! Keep your eyes peeled for any future giveaways, both here and on Instagram and our Facebook page.

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As ever, to coincide with a Trim Week, we have a new board on our Pinterest page to complement our trim. Pop over there if you want any strawberry shaped inspiration and keep those eyes peeled to see which Hooded Owl will be featured in our next trim week soon.

The sun has got his hat on!

It was a real scorcher yesterday! Not wanting to sound typically British, but I’m not great in the heat. (That we honeymooned in Iceland highlights that fact.) So for the hottest day of the year so far I planned lots of shade, lots of ice cube-filled drinks and cracking out the paddling pool.

Eric wasn’t as enthusiastic about the paddling pool as I thought he would be. He anxiously got into the rather chilly water and thankfully, after a couple of minutes, decided that he quite liked it. He loved taking control of the hose pipe, which I had on a very slow dribble to keep him entertained. He spent the morning dipping in and out and pottering around the garden.

I have such clear memories of the paddling pool when I was small. I remember seeing a glimpse of it in the shed and just feeling pure excitement that it was being pulled out and pumped up. I remember them bursting quite often. Maybe that was the quality of 1970’s plastic?!

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I knew that Mabel would be straight in there once she was home from school and I was right! It didn’t take long to bring out our paddling pool secret weapon, sliding directly in and making a big old splash. This has always been a great success, but surprisingly Eric wasn’t that impressed. He loves sliding normally, but he was very cautious about sliding straight into the pool. Even going down on Mabel’s knee didn’t sell it to him. He was much happier stood at the bottom laughing at Mabel’s splashes.

One of the things I love at the moment is sitting back and watching the pair of them interacting, and using their imagination with one another to create their own games. Mabel obviously has more control currently (being so much older) but it’s great seeing them bounce off one another. Not literally! Although that does happen quite often too. I love to see them develop little games.

Feet

The slide moved on from being a fun way of getting into the pool, to being something that they were swimming round and round and underneath. It created a little cave that they kept swimming through. Mabel kept a running commentary as to what animal she was. Penguin, seal, dolphin etc. For anyone who knows Mabel in real life, this is quite standard! She does like to take on an animal form. Eric, as ever, was right behind her, copying all her animal impressions. He does a pretty good penguin himself now.

They also spent ages playing with three plastic jugs. Mabel went all 'It’s A Knockout' with one, by going down the slide and trying to fill her jug up as she entered the pool. Then she would fill the jug to the top and try and carry it back round and up the steps without spilling a drop. She wasn’t very good at this when she got the giggles! Eric just liked filling and emptying them. Basic stuff for a toddler.

After a break for tea which ended with very clean plates — sunshine and paddling pools definitely make for big appetites — they were back at it. We added some plastic balls into the mix and a few bounces on the trampoline. Then, alas, it was time to empty the pool. This worked well in my favour as they each had a jug and slowly emptied it jug by jug on to my thirsty plants, saving me a job for later.

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Mabel had a very ‘sad that the paddling pool was empty’ face, that soon cheered up when I suggested she was some kind of exotic bird in her Hooded Owl, so she went for a good old flap around the garden. 

Sad_face

Of course, her little brother-shadow was right behind her, although he looked more like a cute little towelled-monster than an exotic bird in his Hooded Owl. 

Exotic_birds

Fluttering butterflies

Another week done and dusted. Does anyone else feel like their lives have been flicked into fast forward, especially since having children? It was our second Trim Week over on Instagram. This week we were focusing on the Hooded Owl with the Butterflies trim, a lovely flutter of red, yellow and orange butterflies on a fluffy white towel.

Butterflies

I did a lovely little after-school craft session with Mabel on Thursday, making wax butterflies. It’s simple and straightforward with quick results, always a bonus when a child is involved if you ask me!

You start by folding a piece of paper in two and drawing the outline of half a butterfly. (If you aren’t confident doing this, there are lots that you can see on Google.) Then all you need are wax crayons and a pencil sharpener.

Sharpen the crayons over your butterfly, mixing and combining the colours where you like. Once you are happy with your design, fold the paper over enclosing the wax inside.

Next, you need to heat the iron up. Obviously you know your own child and whether you think they are ready to use the iron themselves. Mabel has already had a go a few times, such as when we melted some Hama bead designs, so I was happy for her to be in charge of the melting. (I was stood very close observing, of course!) 

Protect your ironing board and your iron by using several layers of paper, you don’t want to be getting wax on anything! Use the iron to press the paper and melt the wax, moving it around gently. After a bit of a press, take a peek inside and see whether the wax has melted. The thickness of your design will determine how long you need to melt it for.

Once you are happy that it has melted leave it a minute or two to cool down. When it is cool enough to handle, cut along the outline of the butterfly, then open it up to reveal your lovely creation, just like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon!

Butterfly_window

They look wonderful on a window with the light shining through the wax. We might make some smaller ones and then string them together to make a garland to hang in the playroom. They would be lovely on the front of a birthday card too. Ooh, so many ideas!

Back over on Instagram, we also spent this butterfly week reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and discussing whether the butterfly at the end is upside down or not. The jury is still out! We searched for butterflies in the garden, but I think we are a bit early yet. We saw a couple of Cabbage Whites, but they weren’t hanging around for us, so we searched out some Peacocks that we saw last year to feature. Then there was face painting and dress wearing, all featuring lovely butterflies. 

Butterflies_mosaic


Don’t forget that the Butterflies Hooded Owl has 20% off at the moment as part of our Summer Special (along with Eric’ s favourite, Tractors!) So, you can head on over to the website and pick up a summery bargain, ready for drying off after a dip in the paddling pool or a paddle in the sea…maybe once the weather warms up a bit?!

Raindrops keep falling on my head

We were just getting used to the glorious back-to-back sunshine last week, when the heavens opened on Saturday and it rained. And rained. And rained. All. Day. Long. Faced with being stuck inside with two little people I was racking my brain as to what we could do, and then I had a lightbulb moment. Let’s go outside! It’s so obvious now. It wasn’t cold, just wet, and what is more fun than a good old splash about in the rain? (Especially when you are aged five and (almost) two.)

So, we waterproofed ourselves up. This only took about four hours to achieve, and then we headed out into the rain. We started just with the pure enjoyment of having a splash around and the wonder that they were allowed out in the rain. Thinking about it now, I can’t actually believe that I have never done this before! Perhaps because I normally like a lovely, lazy pyjama day when it’s raining? As per usual Eric had a car in each hand, so they came out into the rain too. We had great fun zooming Lightning McQueen through the puddles, closely followed by a few dunks at the water table that was full to overflowing. I tipped some of it out which created more shrieking.

Then I got the bubbles out. Who knew how much fun bubbles in the rain are? Trying to pop them before the raindrops did created lots of giggling and chasing. It also gave the decking an extra wash! The bubbles seemed to stay much longer on hands and arms too, so we did lots of bubble catching. 

Mabel was really good at this, and unsurprisingly Eric not so much, but he showed plenty of willing and 100% effort.

Eric_pop

Finally we went off on a snail hunt, and do you know what? We found one measly snail. ONE! Obviously as a gardener, I should be happy with this. As the head of a snail hunt, not so much.

On the way back inside we found a few more puddles to jump in, and we did a bit more bubble blowing for good luck. Once back in the warmth it was time to strip off and have a hot chocolate. I think this is the first time that Eric has had a hot chocolate. He approved of it greatly, especially the whipped cream and marshmallows that came with it as a special treat.

The main downside to our rainy, splashy trip outside was that every twenty minutes or so, for the rest of the day, Eric would go to the patio door and request to go outside again. I tried to explain that all his waterproof clothing was now wet, but he didn’t quite understand. Rather he didn’t want to accept that as a reason not to go back out. I managed to distract him until it was time for a bath, and time to get all wet again, this time without all his waterproof clothing and alas no hot chocolate!

Eric

Foaming dinosaurs

Last week we did our first Trim Week over on Instagram, where the week's worth of pictures are dedicated to one of our trims. (Did you know that we live over on Instagram too? If you are on there pop over and give us a follow, we’ll follow back!) We started with Dinosaurs as they are currently a favourite in our house. Oh who am I trying to kid? They are a constant favourite in our house! Eric does a fabulous roar, and Mabel does an uncanny impression of an Allosaurus.

Eric_dinosaurs

So over the week the various dinosaur members of our house got up to all sorts of mischief. We kicked off with some sensory shaving foam fun. I had planned this to just be an Eric activity whilst Mabel was off swimming, but we were still at it when she returned home. As soon as she saw that we were up to something she had stripped off and was in the bath in a flash. 

It was very straightforward, just a box of various plastic dinosaurs and some shaving foam. I added a touch of blue and green food colouring to create the effect of landscape, but I don’t think Eric noticed to be fair! I put three blobs of shaving foam in the bath and popped the dinosaurs in, and then added my toddler into the mix. 

He loved pulling the dinosaurs out and finding them covered in foam. I was worried that I didn’t have enough foam, but it was fine and actually goes quite a long way, even when it doesn’t look like much. 

Eric_feet

He enjoyed covering the dinosaurs all over and then covering himself! Then he grabbed the paintbrushes that seem to live in the bathroom now, and started painting any missing bits of dinosaur with foam. This kept him quiet for ages and he was quite particular in getting them covered.

Eric_painting_foam

Then we started to wash the foam off. To start I just gave him a little jug and the teapot filled with water and he carefully washed them clean. I realised that this was going to take forever, so I added the shower into the mix. He always likes it when we put the shower on, and he loved rinsing the dinosaurs off whilst I was rinsing him off. 

We were almost done when Mabel put in an appearance. I had to add more shaving foam so that she could have a go, so I was back where I started! Eric loved showing Mabel what he had been doing, and she enjoyed covering the dinosaurs in foam too. After most of the dinosaurs had been re-covered in foam (there was no foam left now, so we had no choice but to stop!) we started to rinse them off again. 

Mabel_foam

It was only once we were out the bath that I realised Eric had foam all over his face still. He looked like he had done a bad shaving job on himself! I’m sure it won’t be the last time. 

Eric_foam_face

The rest of Dinosaur Trim Week involved some dinosaur adventures in the garden, more bath play, reading dinosaur books and the creation of a dinosaur board on our Pinterest page. (More of that at a later date!) Keep your eyes peeled for our next one coming up shortly. I just need to decide which of our lovely trims to focus on next!

Final_Dino_Trim


Chalk and talk

Some of you may know, (and some of you may not!) my husband is a photographer. Most of his work is based around weddings. This means that most Saturdays (and various other days) throughout the spring and summer I have to solo parent. On these days I try and occupy us as much as possible. I try and go out to make the day go quicker and to keep us all entertained so that long lonely days don’t stretch out ahead of me.

Luckily, where we live there are lots of free family events planned over the coming weeks and I am intending to make the most of them. Today we went to a free festival called Belper Goes Green. We had a lovely time, although Eric missed most of it by having a gigantic sleep. (But when you have decided that your day will begin at 5am, a gigantic sleep, I guess is inevitable!) After lunch and some face painting, we wandered home.

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As well as looking for cheap/free entertainment outside the house, I am always trying to find cheap ways to entertain them at home. Once we arrived home this afternoon, I armed them both with some pavement chalks that I had bought ages ago and totally forgotten about. I can remember chalking on the ground when I was little, and loving it. I’m not sure why we haven’t done it before. I think that sometimes you forget the simple, straight forward and easy things. (I do anyway!)

chalk

Our driveway out the front is next on my jet washing list (see my last blog post about the wonders of jet washing!) So please excuse the moss and grass, but it made a great surface to do some drawing on. They both love to draw so this kept them entertained for ages.

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Eric_chalk1
Chalk_rainbow

Eric’s mind eventually wandered back to his cars and he went back to play with them, so I suggested to Mabel that she drew some roads for him to drive down. The blocks in the paving lent themselves brilliantly to roadways and they both enjoyed driving the cars around. I was all for for drawing trees and flowers along the roadside, but I had to go and put tea in the oven. I am definitely doing that next time!

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Chalk_road
Chalk_road2

When we were in town earlier in the day, we had made the extravagant purchase from the pound shop, of a Click and Catch ball popper. They had great fun pinging the balls, with lots of giggling and chasing around. Then I had the inspired idea to draw some targets for Mabel to get the balls on, on the floor. As she scored we wrote her tally in chalk. A lovely chance to practice some mental arithmetic. Then we moved on to trying to shoot them into the recycling containers! It was good target practice! So several hours of play for just a couple of pounds.  

Click_catch
Chalk_targets
Chalk_tally

Once we were done we decided to wash the drawings away with the watering cans. We are expecting rain tomorrow which would have done the job, but who can turn down a bit of water play? So with watering cans filled, they set about watering the driveway. Maybe next time I’ll get the jet wash out!

Watering_can

I was slightly dreading today, but it has been lovely. Mabel sat next to me just before bedtime and unprompted, declared: “Mummy, I have loved today!” It doesn’t get much better than that. Eric had a successful bath time, and went all necessary when he saw me get a clean Hooded Owl out of the airing cupboard. (I'm not sure why, it is one he has seen before!) Hopefully all these long lonesome Saturdays won’t be so bad after all.

Eric_dinosaurs

How to do jobs in the garden

I have spent the last few weeks trying to drag the garden out of hibernation and get it ready for lots of playing for the long, warm summer days that we are going to have. (She says, fingers crossed!) I love gardening and being out in the garden, but the last few years I have either been pregnant (and feeling terribly sick.) With a newborn (so my mind was elsewhere.) Or moving house (so leaving one garden behind and inheriting an overgrown and unloved one.) This is the first year that I feel I am getting anywhere with it, and having an outdoor loving toddler is really helping.

It didn’t take me long, when I had Mabel, to figure out that the best and easiest way to get chores done around the house, when you have a toddler in tow, is to get them in on the act and have them help you. By giving them smaller tasks and getting them involved, you avoid the nightmare that is trying to keep them out of the task in hand.

jetwashing_deck

When I was jet washing the decking, Eric was out there with me, pottering around with his car and truck. I was going to get him to help, but I soon realised that was easier said than done in this case! This is the first year we have properly jet washed the decking (we should have done it last year. Oops!) I found it a very pleasing task as I blasted away a couple of years worth of dirt. As I was jetting away I had a light bulb moment that I could also jet wash all the outdoor toys, so I did! It was amazing, I highly recommend it! But as I was blasting away I suddenly thought that I bet Eric would love to give his car a good old bubble bath. So I waited for a sunny day (and waited, and waited, and waited. What is with the weather this month?!) And this morning I dashed out there, as the sun was shining. (There was a slight gale blowing too, but we just ignored that.)

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jetwashing_spongebrush

I armed him with a big car wash sponge, a brush that we have used previously and a big bucket of bubbly water. As it was quite chilly I made it nice and warm. It was then that I realised that we have never actually washed our car in his presence, so he probably won’t know what to do. I was wrong! He got stuck right in, giving it a scrub and slopping bubbles on all over. He carefully washed the steering wheel and he gave the wheels a real scrub.

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A fly landed on it at one point and he stopped and carefully studied it. I love how toddlers are so in awe of the world and all the small things that happen around them. You certainly lose that awe once you are an adult.

jetwash_fly

Once he was done, he got straight back in it and sat in a big bubbly puddle of water! So off we went back inside for a dry off with one of his Hooded Owls, the car one of course! I knew that him getting wet and requiring a change of clothes was inevitable. Thinking about it, that seems to be inevitable every day at the moment. Part of the life of an enquiring toddler I guess.

jetwash_hoodedowls

I also knew that as soon as Mabel got home from school and clocked what we had been up to, that she would want in on the act. Luckily the sun was out again, even if it was still blowing a gale. So we went out again and give it a second wash. I love seeing how they interpret things in different ways, given their age gap. Obviously Mabel can tell me what she is doing, which she does, with a constant running commentary! She soon whipped Eric into shape. She was running the car wash, he was just a meagre employee being bossed about. Poor chap!

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Jelly fishing

This is something that I have planned for a while, but has taken me much longer to pull together due to one or two issues, despite it being really straightforward and only needing a few items.

I had initially planned it as a post Bank Holiday task. Something to ease me back in after a weekend of Bank Holiday ‘stuff’. But one day merged into another as they do and before I knew it I blinked and it was the weekend again.

Anyway, onwards! My plan was to make some jelly fish that can be played with in water. I had seen them on the Internet and knew that the kids would enjoy the tactile nature of the jelly. I figured that they could use nets and pretend to catch them and just generally enjoy handling the jelly and moving them from one container to another.

jellycubes

As I said, I had planned for them to be fish-shaped jelly, but I couldn’t find that ice cube mould! (I know it’s in a cupboard somewhere, but isn’t everything?!) So I did some stars and skulls and cross bones, figuring that they could be star fish and pirate related. But I couldn’t get them out of the moulds! I ran the mould under a hot tap, but it was too hot and melted the jelly. (So avoid doing that!) I ended up just with old school ice cube trays, which actually made very pleasing shapes, and the fact that they weren’t a specific shape didn’t bother the kids at all. (It was just me and my aesthetics and photo opportunities that were troubled!)

gelatine
foodcolour

So, I used all eight sheets of gelatine but used less water than was suggested on the packaging, just over a litre, or four cups. I added my usual food colouring to them and popped them in the fridge over night. Once I had them out of the tray, by using warm water rather than hot to help them on their way, I used the same set up as I did back when Eric was washing his vehicles. So the plastic sheet, then the large plastic tray and finally a clear plastic box which normally holds magazines to give a fish tank feel, although I guess the fish idea had gone out of the window by this point!

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jellyfish
jellyfishing

I filled the clear plastic container with water and plopped the jelly shapes in. I really should know by now that I don’t really need to think these things through too much. The children just use their imagination and go with it, and that gives the best results. So I just gave them a few props, a couple of little nets, some scoops, the fail safe teapot and a few other pots and they were away. Eric enjoyed gathering them up and putting them in the teapot, whereas Mabel was more vocal in what she was doing, giving me a running commentary, and went with the catching them in the nets and chasing them round the water. “This is cool!” she said as she played.

props
fishing
jelly

It didn’t last as long as I had hoped, as the jelly fell apart quite easily. Although that didn’t stop them playing with it. But they enjoyed it for a good while and it gave another dimension to what was turning into a wet Saturday stuck indoors. Next time I think I will make the jelly more concentrated and harder to break up, and I also think I will try it in the bath, so it doesn’t matter how broken up it gets or where it goes. Plus, if they are already up playing in the bath, it’s much easier to just transform it into bath time!

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Soup, anyone?

With the glorious spring weather that we have been enjoying, I decided to set up a fun activity in the garden. It is turning out that Eric is a huge lover of being out in the garden with me, which I am loving. Mabel is more inclined to have an hour or so out there and then decide that she has had enough. But Eric is banging on the door to go out first thing in the morning, which, as a garden lover myself, is fantastic!

sensory soup

I have been thinking back to what sort of things I liked to do as a child in the garden and the first thing that sprang to mind, was to make lotions and potions. I was forever putting rose flowers in water to make ‘perfume’, did everyone do that? So I did a bit of research and discovered that it now has name; Sensory Soup! Further research showed that there are a million different recipes and ways to create your soup, so I set about gathering the equipment and making plans.

measuring spoons
spatulas

I made the same error that I have done previously, and that is to unleash the kids on the task before I am 100% set up and ready. (Such a rookie error!) I was kicking myself even more, as I could have easily got it set up whilst Eric was still napping and before I went collect Mabel from school. As soon as they knew I was planning something, they were all over me, which was a little stress inducing and something that I won’t do again!

jam pan

The main vessel for the soup was a large clear storage container. I also remembered about the old jam pan that we have in the garage which was perfect for the ‘cooking’ and ‘mixing’ of the soup. They loved plonking the lid on and off and stirring the soup.

picking
dandelion bucket

So, what actually is in the soup? I decided to do an orange and yellow soup, the main base being Dandelions. I am currently waging a war against Dandelions in the garden. We have an area in the front garden that is wild flowers, the Ox-Eye Daisies are just coming up, but so are the dreaded Dandelions! So to begin I set them both on to picking as many Dandelions as possible. (See what I did there? Getting them to de-weed the garden! Ha ha!)

fruit

These were added to water that has been coloured with food colouring. We had a few oranges and lemons that were past their best in the fruit bowl so I chopped them up to add to the colour. And that was it.

dandelions
cooking1
mixing

I then armed them with a range of utensils. I made sure that there were two ladles, as I had a feeling that they would both want to slop the soup around, and I was right! I also gathered bowls and measuring cups and some other bits and bobs and then I set them free. At last!

ladels
soup
soup bowls

Straight away they started mixing, ladling and generally slopping the soup around. Then Mabel became the waitress and Eric the chef and I had to pretend to consume A LOT of sensory soup! The soup was moved from container to pan and back again and in and out of pots and bowls. They both got soaked, but that was expected, they had a whale of a time!

straining

To be fair, there wasn’t a lot of soup left to clear up once teatime came around, but the great thing was that (having strained the flowers and fruit out) it could just be tipped out onto the garden, and they enjoyed doing that too! Unfortunately, Eric then discovered the joy of sitting in the flower bed and digging with my trowel, so he ended up a big muddy mess. I had to strip him off and transfer him straight into the bath. There were more giggles during bath time and giggly Hooded Owl cuddles afterwards. I am loving these sunny spring days, I hope that they last a while longer so that I can concoct more soup recipes!

eric giggles
eric dinos

Bearded men! (not really)

Ever since we did the bath painting at the beginning of the month, at every bath time Mabel has asked if it will be an ‘exciting’ one or a ‘normal’ one. She has been pleading to paint in there again so I felt obliged to do it all again for her!

I researched some more painting ideas and settled on using shaving foam. My husband was slightly alarmed when he saw the shaving foam in the shopping bag, being a bearded man. I think he thought I was dropping unsubtle hints! I quickly explained it was for the kids and not for him (I am a big fan of a bearded man!)

foam_spoons

This was even more straight forward than the previous recipe. All that is needed is shaving foam and food colouring. That is it! I have never really used shaving foam before, so I didn’t know how forceful I could be with it when mixing in the colouring. I didn’t want it to lose its plump! But I quickly discovered that I could whisk the colouring in with a bit of elbow grease. The colours are much more subtle, and very pretty!

foam_dish
foam_spoons2

The tactile element of the shaving foam was amazing. A slightly fraught start to the bath time (I wasn’t quite ready and they were desperate to get on with it) turned into a really serene and calm bath time. They spent quite a long time painting with it and then just touching it with their hands and mixing the colours. This didn’t end up in a slightly brown mess, like the previous one, which was nice.

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foam_painting
foam_hand
foam_blue
foam_face

Then when it was time to wash it away, I once again got a full bath scrub down and clean. Result! Once all the shaving foam had gone (it washed away really easily) they spent a while playing with the foil dishes I had used. Filling them up and tipping them out. Then it was on to playing with the sponges and brushes. They have a new game where they both put in a sponge in their mouth and then try and clean the side of the bath with it. This results in a lot of giggles.

sponge_duck

Once they were both showered and clean it was time to get out and snuggle into their Hooded Owls. Mabel has started getting out at the same time as Eric and coming into his room. They make islands out of their towels and pretend to be an animal, jumping from one island to another. Well, that’s what Mabel does. Eric just copies anything that she does. Which is rather cute and endearing. And then Mabel goes and gets one of her books to read to Eric whilst sitting in his bed. He doesn’t listen, he has to go and find one of his own books and starts reading back to her. It can get a bit confusing!

HO_blueflowers

The only downside of this new bedtime routine, is that when Mabel is ready to leave, Eric gets really upset. We recently realised that Eric’s name for me, Mama, is also the same name he uses for Mabel. So, more cuddles for Eric were needed, and then off to the lad of nod for him.

Sunshine, mud and sunflower seeds

What lovely Easter weather we have been having! We have been making the most of it, by being out in the garden. It feels like it is the first time this year that we have properly been able to be out there without it being a complete mud bath. (Although, having said that, Eric has still managed to get covered in mud several times!)

We decided to make the most of the sunshine by doing a couple of spring time jobs. One of the most important ones was to plant our Sunflower seeds. Mabel and I have done this every year since she was big enough to help, but this was the first year that Eric was able to join in. And he joined in with gusto!

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I started off by making sure I had everything to hand and ready to go. Then Mabel counted out the 15 pots and they both were let free to fill them up with compost, much to Eric’s joy!

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www.hoodedowls.co.uk/blog

Once all the pots were ready to go, we opened the seeds and studied them. We concluded that they were stripy and that it was most impressive that such a big flower could grow out of a small seed. We popped one seed into each pot and gently made sure that they were covered with compost.

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planting

Then we moved onto the best bit - watering them in! We had to search around a bit to find a watering can for both of them, then we filled them up and gave them all a good old water.

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watering2
watering3

Finally we put them on a nice warm and sunny windowsill inside. Mabel had already checked them about 35 times by bedtime to see whether any had started to grow!

bathtime

After so much fun out in the garden a bath was well needed! There was compost down everyone’s fingernails so we had to find the nail brush. Eric thought the nailbrush was hilarious for some reason. But whatever the reason was, he was very willing to have the compost scrubbed away. The giggles carried on right from bath time and into bed. Mabel has been on top comedy form this Easter break, making herself, Eric and me giggle on a daily basis. So good for the soul, much better than a ton of Easter eggs.

pirates

I’ll keep you posted on the growth of the Sunflowers, and it would be great to hear if you have planted any this weekend too. I’m guessing there won’t be any ready to bloom by the morning, much to Mabel’s disappointment. But maybe we can have a Hooded Owls Sunflower-growing competition!

Rainbow bath time

www.hoodedowls.co.uk/blog/rainbow/intro

Time for a bit of a creative bath time today, with some homemade bath paint. Maybe not one for people that don’t like mess (read my husband for that, who stuck his head round the bathroom door to see what all the whoops and giggles were about and then made a swift exit when he saw what was happening!) But the good thing is, that the cleaning up of this was half the fun, so the kids were entertained and I ended up with a scrubbed and gleaming bath!

So, to make the paint you will need:

1 cup of white or clear bubble bath or body wash
4 tbsp of cornflour
A few drops of food colouring

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Start by mixing the cornflour into the bubble bath (this takes a bit of elbow grease for it to dissolve). Then divide it into the number of colours that you have, I used six. Just add a couple of drops of the food colouring and give it a good stir. (I did do a stain test on the bath first. I’d recommend you do the same if you are at all worried about any staining!) If you make more than you need, you can just put it in a lidded container and save it for later.

www.hoodedowls.co.uk/blog/rainbow/colours

Then it’s time to get creative. I striped the kids off, popped them into an empty bath and gave them the paint and paint brushes. Mabel was slightly amazed to begin with. “What? I can paint the bath?!” She exclaimed! Eric typically, tried to eat it. It didn’t take much for them to get going though, and soon the bath was a rainbow of colour and they were both having great fun.

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Mabel then moved it on to trying to do hand prints. I said that she could paint her arms and legs if she wanted, which she thought was hilarious for at least a second, and then she slapped some on. And then she slapped some on Eric too!

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I think that they would have happily painted the bath and each other all night, but time was ticking and we needed to actually have a bath. So we did a first rinse and got rid of most of the leftover paint and then I handed over the sponges and washing up brushes that we used for the washing of the cars with Eric a couple of weeks ago. I actually think that they almost enjoyed the cleaning as much as the actual painting! They loved sponging down the bath and they scrubbed and they cleaned until the bath was gleaming!

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Once most of the cleaning was done, we started to fill the bath up. The one downside was that as the left over paint mixed together it turned into a slightly muddy looking bath. However, anyone that knows Mabel will know that she loves animals and has a great imagination for pretending to be various beasts. So our discussion of muddy baths led on to what type of animals like mud and after discussing pigs and hippos we moved onto elephants and soon enough Mabel was an elephant bathing in mud to protect its skin from the sun.

Such a colourful bath time naturally led on to some bright Hooded Owls for drying off. So we cracked open the bright blue cars for Eric and a hot pink with hearts and flowers trim for Mabel. A great colourful, bubbly bath time finished off with a colourful, snuggly hug or two.

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As I put Mabel to bed this evening, the last thing she said to me was, “Mummy, can we paint the bath again tomorrow?” I’ll take that as a successful bath time.

The ultimate bath toy

Ooh, this was such a success! I’d seen this idea online and thought I would give it a go on the Hooded Owls blog.

I have seen how much fun can be gained from a run of the mill marble run, so I had a good feeling that creating one for water, in the bath would be greatly appreciated. I especially hoped that it would be successful as Eric has suddenly decided that bath time means he should throw cupfuls of water over the edge of the bath onto the floor. Obviously to his almost twenty month old brain that is great fun. To my 40 year old brain, and the one that has to mop it up, not so much.

waterpipes

So, to start you need some suction cups. I found them easily on good old eBay. I paid a couple of pounds for 20. You need to make sure that they are the ones that have the indentations, this will become clear why shortly. Then you need a range of pipes. Different shapes, waste pipes, u-bends, elbows. You get the gist! I also decided to chuck a funnel into the mix.

suction-cups
pipes

Then you get your drill, and using a drill bit between the size of the sucker and the indentation on your suction cup, drill holes in your various pipes. I think mine was an eight.

drill-bit
pipe-drill

Once you have your holes, you can shove the suction cup in, (I found I needed to help it in with a screwdriver.) and it should sit on the indentation, that’s what they are there for! Then you are pretty much good to go. You can arrange them on the wall in whatever format you like, or let your little person arrange them and figure out that they have to be placed a certain way to flow into one another.

pipe-suction

Once I had done the pipes, I had an idea to add a recycled bubble bath bottle. I did the same as the pipes, with the suction cup, and I also drilled lots of little holes in the bottom, to make a little shower.

suction-bottle
bottle-shower

Well, Mabel couldn’t get her clothes off and in the bath quick enough when she saw them on the wall. (And of course Eric had to do the same as her. Although he didn’t know quite why they were rushing. And he can’t actually undress himself yet, so he just ended up falling over while trying to remove his socks in a hurry.)

water-pouring
eric-peering

They had a whale of a time. It was lovely to see them playing together on it, working as a team. They realised that some of them could twist and tip the other way, and they rearranged them a bit and moved some other funnels which I had added around. They found various different vessels to fill up and tip into them.

funnel-pouring
eric-shower

And I am happy to say that Eric wasn’t at all interested in tipping water over the side of the bath and onto the floor. Instead he was ready to snuggle up on the dry bath mat, in his Hooded Owl. He has just realised that he can do the poppers up on them. Well, actually he can’t, but he spends ages trying to!

eric-hood

I found myself this evening, wandering around the house looking for suitable items that I could drill holes in and stick to the wall! I shall keep you updated of my progress, and let me know if you try it and have any great ideas to add!

(It may look from these images that Eric has a crazy hairstyle. That crazy hairstyle is today sponsored by ‘lets put our yogurt in our hair rather than in our mouth.’ Sigh.)

eric-crazy-hair

Bubble and (toy) soup

Ah bath times. A daily occurrence, and one that sometimes I love and sometimes I hate. I love the fun and the giggles. I hate it when it’s a tired wet stress, resulting in a wet bathroom floor and sometimes a wet me. (I am hoping that we have all been there?)

eric-bath

I am lucky that both Mabel and Eric have loved having baths right from an early age, so we have never had to fight to get them in there. Although we do sometimes have to fight to get them out!

bath-for-two

So this post is just about every day bath toys in our house, and over the next few posts I’ll share a few games and other fun things that we do at bath time. Eric has a bath every day, mainly because, being a toddler, on a day to day basis he gets half the food he consumes in his hair, or over his face or somewhere it shouldn’t be! Or like yesterday, he was helping me dig in the garden. That definitely required a bath! But we have included a bath as part of the bedtime regime, right from the early days. Originally it was to help relax and unwind. Now, when both of them are in there together it tends to wind them both up! At least it gets rid of the last bit of energy of the day and it’s a signal that bed time is imminent.

bath-cups

We like lots of bubbles in the bath, and lots of toys. Some days you almost can’t see any water because it’s like toy soup! Our top bath toy, that are consistently played with, would be the stacking cups. Eric just loves filling them up and tipping them into each other. Mabel now likes to build water towers with them. Stacking them upside down, filling each cup as she goes and then the race is on to get it finished before the water escapes. Maybe she’ll be an engineer when she grows up?

bubbles

Another favourite is anything that can tipped from one vessel to another. So we have a range of cups, pots, and I recently added a plastic teapot that came in a cheap tea set at Christmas. This has been a huge success, because the arc of water that comes form the spout is great! (I have had to share many cups of bath water out of that teapot.) But by far, one of the favourite things is just a bit of recycling, empty bubble bath bottles, these are great fun, as they hold a lot more water and empty out with a big gush! Plus they change every time one is finished, so the shape and size of them is different, which is always a positive to a little person, something new! Add to the entertainment with the excitement of a lid! And you are good to go. This also helps with the development of the fine motor skills. Being able to put a lid on and screw it in place is quite a tricky manoeuvre to pin down and one that Eric has mastered a couple of times so far.

bath-teapot

Obviously every bath time ends in our house, with a big snuggly cuddle in one of our Hooded Owls. Mabel was disappointed tonight because she wanted the fishes and that was in the wash. (Minus Mummy Points for me there!) Eric was more than happy with his Tractors as that’s one of his current favourite words. I was just happy that I had got away with not having wet jeans! That’s a win for me.

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