Crafty Chefs

Crafty Chefs North LondonWe went to our first Crafty Chefs toddler workshop last month! Seren loves helping in the kitchen and we haven’t had chance to do much cooking and baking together since Imogen’s arrival so I thought we would give this class a go.

Crafty Chefs offer a variety of children’s cookery courses and workshops. The North London franchise is run by Ailsa who offers weekly themed toddler classes (each one is based around a different children’s book) and a variety of other workshops aimed at older children. The session we went to was Guffalo themed and the children made ‘Roasted Fox Rolls’ (i.e. sausage rolls!). On arrival at Ailsa’s house the children coloured in ‘G is for Gruffalo’ colouring sheets and a Crafty Chefs’ certificate. Once everyone was there, we all took turns to wash our hands and the children put on their aprons (though Seren refused the apron) and took their places around Ailsa’s table.

Crafty Chefs North London

Each child had ingredients and equipment set out for them and Ailsa guided them through the recipe. They started by breaking up bread into small pieces then chopping up an onion using child-friendly knives. We talked about where the different foods came from. The children then mixed the bread and onion into some mince. The red marks on Seren’s hands and arms are felt tip by the way! She is very much into drawing on herself at the moment.

Crafty Chefs North London Crafty Chefs North London Crafty Chefs North London

Next they rolled out the ready made pastry then formed the meat mixture into a sausage shape and made up the Roasted Fox Rolls. Then they cut them up into smaller pieces and brushed them with milk. Ailsa talked the children through each step and the mummies helped them (which was a little tricky sometimes whilst juggling Imogen but we got there!).

Crafty Chefs North London Crafty Chefs North London

Whilst the Roasted Fox Rolls were cooking, the children had a drink and fruit snack and Ailsa read The Gruffalo.

Crafty Chefs North London

When the Rolls were ready, Ailsa put them into little boxes  for the children to take home along with their colouring, certificate and a recipe card. Seren held her box all the way home (I don’t eat meat but have to say that the car smelt amazing!) and was excited to eat the Rolls for her tea. Daddy gave them a thumbs up too!

Crafty Chefs North London Crafty Chefs North London Crafty Chefs North London

Crafty Chefs North London are running a series of festive workshops over the next few weeks! See their website or Facebook page for more details.
Crafty Chefs North London
Crafty Chefs North London on Facebook

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It’s beginning to look a lot like …

… Christmas! I know, I know it’s still November. Back in October Seren started to ask us for a Christmas tree and I gave her a list of things to look forward to before we could get excited about Christmas. The last one of those was a birthday party mid-November and after that, well, it’s been a steady slide into tinsel, fake snow and Father Christmas. And I am so excited! In a way that I haven’t been for ooooh, 25 years or so. Excited to share the festive season with an excited child. We’ve started to spend cold, rainy afternoons watching Christmas films. We’ve seen Elf, The Muppets Christmas Carol and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas so far and watched the Christmas episode of Charlie and Lola over and over. The Grinch (or ‘The Christmas Witch’ as Seren calls him) is the clear favourite so far.

christmas wonderland at crews hill

Last week we even fell into a Grotto! We didn’t mean to but my sister came to stay and we went to a local garden centre to see the dancing polar bears then ended up standing in a snow globe (gorgeous photo of my sister and my girls in the snow at the top of the post) and then taking the ‘train’ to see the big man himself. It’s the place where we’ve seen him for the last 2 years and the best thing about doing these things in November is … no queues! We walked right onto that train. Christmas in November? I’m a convert! They’ve added some train announcements to the set for this year and when Seren heard one and realised where we were going, her face was a picture!

christmas wonderland at crews hill christmas wonderland at crews hill

The photos are terrible sorry, I didn’t have my camera with me. Seren was a bit shy with Father Christmas to start with but soon warmed up and started telling him that if he got stuck in the chimney she was going to pull him out. She asked for Elsa, Anna, Ariel and Tinkerbell presents (at least 5 times) and he pretended to write down everything she said. She told him that she had left a mince pie out for him last year and he had eaten it and he asked if he could have an eclair this year. She chose a mermaid toy for her and a teddy bear for Imogen.

christmas wonderland at crews hill

It was a lovely, unhurried, impromptu experience though my worry now is that she is going to spot that the various Father Christmases we see at parties and other places are not the same person! Hmmmm.

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Imogen at 6 months

imogen-6-months imogen-6-monthsWe’ve hit the half year mark!

2weeks+1month imogen-2+-3-months imogen-4-+-5-months

There is so much going on right now: she has started to eat solids, we’ve moved her into her own room into her cot and she is desperately trying to crawl. She is often WIDE AWAKE for a couple of hours in the middle of the night trying to put her new found skills into practice. She is sleeping about as well (or about as not so well) in her cot as she did in our room. Invariably she ends up back in our room at some point during the night at the moment.

sitting up BLW banana

She enjoys eating and is having 3 meals a day now. Like with Seren, we are mainly using a Baby Led Weaning approach though we do spoonfeed porridge and yoghurt, letting her grab the spoon and put it into her mouth and play with it too. Her favourite foods at the moment are toast, avocado and yoghurt.


She has always been a wriggler, nappy changes are a battle of wills, but she is refusing to lie down now (see the out takes above from her monthly photo shoot!). So, we’ve ditched the playmat and purchased a playnest to help her sit up and she does little press ups on the side too.

Her upper body strength is building and she gets up onto all fours, desperate to crawl. She rocks backwards and forwards and gets upset that she can’t quite work out how to do it. I’m convinced it won’t be long now.

We’ve started another course of swimming lessons and tried out a Gymbabies group. She came with us to the Bonfire Night fireworks and enjoyed the show! She’s had her first visit to see Father Christmas (he gave her a teddy bear) and is mesmerised by the Christmas lights we are starting to see more and more of!

Imogen at 5 months

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Ideas for Advent

ideas-for-adventSo, it’s only 2 weeks until the start of advent! I’ve been scouting for ideas of what to do this year. Last year we did a different Christmas book every day (mostly ones we had already) plus a traditional picture based advent calendar. This year we have another advent calendar and I picked up a set of 24 little gift bags from IKEA a couple of weeks ago. I’m reluctant to give presents or chocolate every day though and I kept coming back to ideas I’d seen around the web of an “activity” based advent countdown so we are going to do similar. As Seren can’t read I’ve been sorting out photo based clues to put inside the numbered gift bags. So far I’ve got:

Things to do at home:
Bring out our Christmas books on Day 1, this might turn into a treasure hunt whilst I’ve still got festive enthusiasm
* Make a duvet den and watch a Christmas film on Day 8 (possibly repeat if something else falls through or we get ill)
* Christmas crafting (I bought a jumbo Christmas craft set from Sainsbury’s) on Days 10, 16 and 19 and with leftovers for back up activities
* Make salt dough decorations on Day 11
* A Frozen inspired cloud dough sensory adventure spread out over Days 16 and 17
* Help mummy make or bake (TBC) on Day 20

Getting ready for Christmas: 
* Paper and glittery pens to draw a picture for Father Christmas (letter alternative) for Day 2
* Decorate the Christmas tree for Day 7
* Make reindeer food to sprinkle on Christmas Eve on Day 21
* Receive letter back from Father Christmas on Day 23
* Christmas PJ delivery on Christmas Eve

Christmas outings: 
* Carol service on Day 3
* Christmas cookery activity on Days 4
* Trip to Father Christmas on Day 5
* Shows booked for Days 6 and 22
* Various parties on Days 13, 15 and 18
* A festive visit local attraction Forty Hall on Day 14
* A neighbourhood walk to look at the Christmas lights outside people’s houses as another back up plan

What are your ideas for advent?

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The garden in November

the garden in novemberUp to this week we’ve had a lot of bonus time in the garden this autumn what with all the lovely, mild weather we’ve had. Some of our summer plants are still going strong too, such as the fuchsia.

the garden in november the garden in novemberGenerally things have died off though and there are a thousand autumn leaves from the surrounding trees covering the ground. I managed to spend an October afternoon clearing up, cutting back and planting bulbs for spring. Andy’s parents gave us a bag of 150 tulips as an anniversary present and we added daffodil, allium, hyacinth and crocus bulbs to that. I planted them in layers in various pots and hanging baskets, much easier than trying to get them down deep enough into the flower beds. We’ll probably add some of them to the beds when they bloom in the spring, I know we have other bulbs in there somewhere, but who knows where they are and which ones will flower!

the garden in november the garden in november

I planted some bargain winter plants into some of the pots; cyclamen, heather, ivy and ornamental cabbages. I covered the rest of the pots with netting to deter the opportunist squirrels (Seren is on squirrel watch). We haven’t had cyclamen and ornamental cabbages before so it will be interested to see how long they last but I’m enjoying looking at them through the rain when I’m having my morning coffee and tuning out the chaos inside the house.

The Garden In July

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Monkey Music

monket-music-whetstoneLast month I wrote about my experience of baby groups and how it was time to start trying some new groups with Imogen. The lovely Amy who runs Monkey Music classes in High Barnet, Whetstone and Mill Hill, invited us along to try out one of her Rock’n’Roll sessions aimed at babies from 3 months upwards. I hadn’t been to a full Monkey Music session before though Seren and I enjoyed party entertainment from a different Monkey Music teacher last Christmas.

Monkey Music was founded by Guildhall School of Music & Drama graduate Angie Coates back in 1993 when she couldn’t find the type of music group she wanted to take her own children to. It has grown up to become a much loved nationwide pre-school group, winning prestigious national awards such as the ‘Best Toddler Development Award’ in the What’s On For Little Ones Awards.

Did you know that the ear is the first organ to develop fully in the womb, enabling babies to take comfort in the sound of their mother’s voice at just 11 weeks gestation? Monkey Music’s Rock’n’Roll baby classes encourage the instinctive musicality that babies are born with. During each class the babies and adults are engaged through gentle songs and absorbing activities designed to aid development.


Amy enthusiastically welcomed Imogen and I to the class and we found a spot on the mat near the front. The class size is around 12 and the other mums were friendly and welcoming too. Many of the babies were wearing their Monkey Music t-shirts, which I’ve never seen at a baby group before. The class started with the Monkey Music ‘Hello’ song with us all singing hello to each of the babies and waving at them in turn. Even though Imogen was possibly the youngest baby there, she beamed at everyone when it was her turn. It’s lovely to see the babies socialising in this way and I could tell that the babies who attend the session regularly enjoyed waving at their friends as well as newcomers.

Amy guided the group through a range of energetic musical and sensory experiences; catchy songs, bubbles, scarves, percussion instruments and movement. Imogen adored cuddling up to one of the pink and yellow cuddly monkeys and also holding on to the little maraca she was given to shake. Well, she mainly liked eating that (Amy reassured me that the instruments are regularly cleaned!) but I could see how she would enjoy playing with the different instruments as her motor skills develop. Amy came round to each of the babies shaking a rainmaker which captivated Imogen, and reminded me to get out one that we have at home.

monket-music-whetstone monket-music-whetstone

Towards the end of the session, Amy spread out a silky throw that the babies could lie on or hold on to.  Imogen enjoyed another cuddle with the monkey and watched as the bubbles Amy blew fell towards her.


The sessions last for 30 minutes which is the perfect length of time for little ones.  As I mentioned, I think Imogen was one of the youngest there but the class was energetic enough to hold her attention and I can only see her enjoying it even more when she can sit up unaided and have more fun with the instruments.

As well as Rock’n’Roll, Monkey Music offers sessions for toddlers from 12 months+ (Heigh-Ho), 2-3 year olds (Jiggety-Jig) and 3-4 year olds (Ding-Dong). The activities are tailored towards each specific age group and at Ding-Dong level, the children advance to read simple music notation.

Amy offers a free first session (I think most Monkey Music classes do) after which you enrol for a term of classes if you want to continue. Class costs vary, Amy’s classes work out at £7.50 per session plus an initial one-off fee of £17 to join the Little Monkey Club (your little monkey gets a t-shirt and CD as part of their Welcome Pack!).

Monkey Music runs sessions at over 200 venues across the country. Find one near you.

Imogen and I were invited along to a free session to review Monkey Music’s Rock’n’Roll class. All opinions are our own. 

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The Ghost of Halloween at Lee Valley Park Farms

halloween at lee valley park farmsWe headed up to Lee Valley Park Farms again last Sunday, this time with daddy in tow too. After our lovely visit in August, I snapped up discounted entry tickets via Littlebird thinking it would be good to go one weekend. But we’ve been very busy and the weekends have rolled by and all of a sudden, the tickets were about to expire. On the last day we could possibly use them, the morning started with heavy, heavy rain and grey skies. We very nearly canned the trip and were prepared to waste the tickets, I wonder how many people snap up offers on discount websites and never use their vouchers? I’m guessing quite a lot! Anyway, we decided we might as well go and Seren could at least spend some time in Bundle Barn, the soft play area.

halloween at lee valley park farms halloween-at-lee-valley-park-farms halloween at lee valley park farms

So there we were, in the rain, us, a couple of others with Littlebird tickets and a birthday party group. It was ghostly. The farm was nicely decorated for Halloween though and during half term, the previous week there had been special Halloween activities on but these were no longer running. The story telling guy was still there (from the Roald Dahl Museum no less!) but he wasn’t doing his show due to the lack of an audience. Boo.

halloween at lee valley park farms halloween at lee valley park farms

Andy and I did enjoy a lovely hour of peace while Seren played in Bundle Barn, Imogen was asleep and we sat and drank our warming homemade soup. After a while, the rain eased off and Seren was keen to find some animals so off we went.

We saw the pigs in their pens. Did you know that nursing piglets always use the same teat? No, I didn’t either.

halloween at lee valley park farms halloween at lee valley park farms halloween at lee valley park farmsThen the fish, reptiles and rodents.

halloween at lee valley park farmsThen back outside for the chickens. And the dinosaur. Apparently chickens are related to dinosaurs, I don’t remember seeing that last time and wondering if the new developments they are advertising will be dino themed?

halloween at lee valley park farms halloween at lee valley park farms halloween-at-lee-valley-park-farmsAnd then a whistlestop tour of the sheep and goats as Seren had spotted the play area.

halloween at lee valley park farms halloween at lee valley park farmsMaking the most of the dry weather, she played in the sandpit and on the combine harvester whilst I had a cuddle with my teddy bear.

halloween-at-lee-valley-park-farms halloween at lee valley park farms P1100032 halloween-at-lee-valley-park-farms deemed the Hilltop and Alpine Adventures too wet to play on and headed back down to the cafe for coffee and witch cake. Stopping to say hi to the guinea pigs and rabbits first.

halloween at lee valley park farms halloween at lee valley park farms halloween at lee valley park farmsWe bumped into a family we know on the way out. They were just about to walk across to see the cows. I thought you could only get Tex the Tractor to see the cows, which we’ve never managed, I didn’t realise you could walk. Next time!

Lee Valley Park Farms are now closed for their winter break. They do open for 2 weekends in December when Santa visits and then re-open on the 14th February 2015

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Our Halloween | 2014

halloween-2014 littlestarandme.comAfter a lacklustre Halloween last year due to early pregnancy (though we did get to see Imogen for the first time, my 12 week scan was on Halloween!) I was ready to celebrate this year. We had a few friends round for Halloween fun; play dough monster making, Pass the Pumpkin, Pin the Tail on the Cat, mummy face painting and lots of unexpected play in the garden. We ate scary face pizza, worms in green gunge and a lot of cake. Seren and her friends had a lot of fun giving sweets to the Trick or Treaters who knocked on the door. Though she is a little dismayed that the treat tub is empty this morning but she has switched on the battery tea lights in the pumpkins again. We’re snuggled watching Room on the Broom and saving our energy for Bonfire Night fireworks tonight. I love this season!

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I hope you had a spooky Halloween!

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Pre-schooler Books for Autumn

preschool books for autumn littlestarandme.comIn my Autumn List post I talked about tackling the toy and book mountain and putting some away for future use. We are getting there with the toys but have sorted through Seren’s books and chosen 25 to read over the next month or so (before the Christmas ones come out!). These are:

preschool books for autumn

Halloween books: Meg and Mog (Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski), Room on the Broom (Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler) and Charlie and Lola: Boo! Made you Jump! (Lauren Child).

preschool books for autumn

New birthday present books: Oliva and the Fairy Princesses (Ian Falconer), about a pig who doesn’t want to be a pink princess like all the other princesses; The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams), we’re reading this bit by bit; WOW! Said The Owl (Tim Hopgood), a beautiful book about colours.

preschool books for autumn

Number books: a shape sorter one and one inspired by The Gruffalo along with the brilliant Toddler Treasury book. We’re focusing on counting and number recognition at the moment.

preschool books for autumn preschool books for autumn preschool books for autumn

Autumnal (leaves, woodland, moon and stars inspired) books: The Gruffalo (Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler), Seren has gone back to The Gruffalo after it inspired the Crafty Chefs session we went to recently; Superworm (Donaldson and Scheffler again); We’re Going On A Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen); Gruff the Grump (Steve Smallman and Cee Biscoe); Moon Rabbit (Natalie Russell), Goldilocks and the Three Bears; The Gingerbread Man; How To Catch A Star (Oliver Jeffers); George Catches A Cold (from Peppa Pig) and That’s When I’m Happy (Ben Shoshan).

preschool books for autumn preschool books for autumn

And some others: Spot Loves His Friends (Eric Hill), Seren is hugely in to the concept of friendship at the moment; Dinosaur Sleepover (Pamela Duncan Edwards), sleepovers are another favourite thing; The Little Mermaid, another favourite thing is mermaids, her next birthday party is going to be mermaid themed apparently; Each Peach Pear Plum (Janet and Allan Ahlberg) and Mister Magnolia (Quentin Blake).

We rotate the books and Seren picks two to read before bed. It’s definitely more helpful and less overwhelming to have a small-ish number out at one time.

Books Lately | Seren aged 2.5

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Autumn Hand Print Tree Play

autumn sensory - play dough and handprint treesI mentioned last week that Seren and I had been working on an autumn sensory project. My plan is to bring the pieces together in a big sensory tub in the next week or so. It makes me so much more motivated to do little craft projects with her knowing that there is an end purpose!

The first step that we took was to paint a large piece of paper (using one of the rolls of drawing paper from IKEA) in seasonal colours. We had collected some leaves from outside and used them to guide us in choosing paint colours. I asked Seren what colour paint we should use, she immediately said “pink and purple are my favourite” (it’s almost like she has been conditioned to say that!). We talked about what colours the leaves were and eventually choose yellow and red then also mixed orange and brown. We free painted on the paper and watched as some of the colours mixed again. I forgot to take any photos of that but we also did a fingerprint autumn tree which I remembered to photo! I might stick that on the lid of our autumn sensory tub.

autumn sensory fingerprint leaf painting autumn sensory fingerprint leaf painting

When the paint was dry we drew round Seren’s hand, then she asked me to draw round mine too, I wasn’t going to do that initially but pleased I did as we now have different sized handprint trees. Then using the handprints as a template, we cut out a few more too and painted them on the back in the same autumn colours. When they were dry we sandwiched them onto a craft stick using PVA glue and then we had our trees!

autumn sensory handprint trees

I made some bright green play dough, using this recipe and rolled it into balls.

green homemade play dough

Seren enjoyed squishing it to make a hill shape then she stuck in our trees and some pasta shapes too.

autumn sensory handprint forest autumn sensory handprint forest autumn sensory handprint forest

As per usual, Seren took things off in her own direction and decided to play ‘Peppa Pig World‘.

peppa pig world play peppa pig world playThe bright green play dough is a very similar to the green colour used on Peppa Pig. We found a little Peppa and some other little bits from party bags to stick into the play dough and she played ‘digging for treasure’.

See our Autumn Salt Dough Leaves

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