Wednesday 30 November 2011

What I Wore Wednesday

Most days this is what I'm wearing. Not very glamorous but it is what it is. Working from home while watching a toddler means most days I rarely leave my living room so formal attire is shockingly not required. I'm never going to be one of those women who get dressed up for grocery shopping or toddler groups; when I have someplace to go and someone to see I like to look my best but if it is just Blondie Boy and I kicking it style takes a backseat.

If I'm wearing a t-shirt 9 time out of 10 it will be of the Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals or Cincinnati Bearcats variety. I don't know if I'd rep my hometown so much through fashion if I still lived there but I certainly wear it with pride over here. What are your go to comfy clothes?

Fearless Tiny Skull Studs- Dogeared
Cincinnati Bengals T-Shirt- Present from my Dad
The Flirt Skinny Jeans-Old Navy
Black Boots- Sketchers

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Potty Training & Reward Charts

It has been awhile since I have updated on potty training and I know y'all are dying to know what is going on, right? Every one of those stickers is for peeing on the potty. I made him the reward chart and stuck it up in the bathroom. I just used some old poster board and got 1,000 stickers for £1 at Poundland so it wasn't expensive to implement.

As you can see from all the cars he is doing well but that also means he is going a lot. Sometimes he asks to go just to stare at his stickers--seriously. He also has a little sticker book that we used this weekend at his Grandma's house so he is still getting rewarded when away from home.

No pooping on the potty yet which is kind of annoying but I feel like if we can get one he'll be good to go in the future. I gather from others that not pooping on the toilet is normal so I'm not too worried. 

We know he is young so again we aren't pushing it but he asks to go himself now so we are moving forward. If anyone has any tips for the elusive poo in the potty that would be great! We got some Mickey Mouse big boy undies in the US as well so hopefully that will encourage him?

Wednesday 23 November 2011

What I Wore Wednesday: Versace for HM

Last Thursday I was lucky enough to win a Twitter competition and skip the queue for the unveiling of the new Versace for H and M collection! (ed note: I know it is not H and M, but I can't get an ampersand to work for some reason!) I got to go in early and shop before anyone else hit the store. The same rules still applied: I could only shop for 10 minutes and only one of each item.  

I went in with only two items in mind and came out with five items from the Versace collection. I had planned a fashion show for y'all but well life took over so lucky for me Polyvore stepped in! So here is how I *would* have worn them if I actually got chance!

I'm still unsure about a few items and have until tomorrow to return them so please be honest about what you think! I'm also keen to hear alternate styling options, too!

Versace Geometric Stud Skirt

Embellished Skirt-Versace for H and M 
Black 3/4 sleeve top- H and M
Black Peep Toe Heels- Stuart Weitzman (Don't actually own but have similar pair)
High stylized bun
Black Ice Manicure- 15 Royal Terrace (I'm loving how the micro glitter breaks up the black!)

Versace Red Dress

Red Dress- Versace for H and M (Sold out! No Link)
Black Peep Toe Heels- Stuart Weitzman (Don't actually own but have similar pair)
Long, Straight Hair; Middle Part

Versace Vest Gilet

Black Fur Vest- Versace for H and M (Sold out! No link.)
Black Leather Studded Bag- Versace for H and M
Black Boots- Sketchers
Skinny Jeans- Old Navy

Versace floral leggings

Floral Leggings- Versace for H and M

I've no idea how to really wear the leggings other than some sort of plain black top; any ideas? Did you shop the new Versace collection?

Monday 21 November 2011

Guest Post: Mummy's accent

This guest post is from a fellow expat Adele from Circus Queen. I briefly met the stunning Adele at the MADs and immediately wanted to know her experiences of being an expat mother in the UK. Here she shares her concerns about something I've often wondered myself-- what kind of accent will our dual national children have?

It's recently occurred to me that if we continue to live here, my daughter will grow up with a Bristolian accent. I'm not sure how I feel about that. 

There's a certain edgy charm to it, sure, but I just can't get my head around the idea. To be fair, it's not just the Bristol thing. 

This is just part of the general confusion I feel over raising a child who is British when I am not. 

Growing up in Trinidad, a "farrin" (foreign) accent was something exotic.
It meant experiences outside of mine - contact with a bigger world

Though six years of living in the UK have confused my own accent, perhaps
irreparably, I can't help but be weirded out by the idea that the baby
whose nappies I'm changing will sound (and be) "farrin".

But what's in an accent? Can it tell a person’s whole story?

I was teased for mine as a child and teen. For one thing, it was
inexplicably affluent. One sentence and people would make assumptions
about the kind of school I’d been to and the kind of family I was from. I
don’t know why the fact that my accent was associated with wealth was such
a point of amusement for others or why it bothered me so much myself.

Secondly, it morphed according to context. As a teenager a lot of my
sounds were hugely influenced by time spent in a mini-marriage to my best
friend who was in fact “farrin”. She was from Texas.

I was self-conscious about my accent the way some girls are about their
boobs (and, of course, I was conscious of those too).

Then I moved to England and apart from mistaking me for Welsh, people kept
getting confused about whether I meant "hair", "here" or "hear". Uh,
context, please.

Little by little, what started as a bid to be better understood became

For instance, last week, I was thinking through some political issues and
found that when I referred to the “British public”, I’d included myself in
that entity.

For most of the time I’ve lived here, I’ve viewed myself as separate from
“the British”, a self-identified outsider. It was “them” and “me”.

But I’ve married a British man, I am raising a British child, I benefit
from the National Health Service. I pay taxes. I take an interest in
British politics. I watch XFactor. Religiously.

And the more Britishness my life accumulates, the more my accent seems to
transform. Is it disingenuous? Is it self-loathing?

Part of me wants a slap for admitting that I’ve conformed. It's telling me
it's time to buck up, take a swig of rum and start sounding broadly
Caribbean and proud.

But really, I don't see that it is such a big deal. So what if I'm
starting to sound British? Maybe it means I'm becoming more comfortable
with being here. Maybe, just maybe, Britain is becoming home.

And if that's so, perhaps by the time my daughter's old enough to chat
with, I'll not notice that she's "farrin".

Wednesday 16 November 2011

What I Wore Wednesday: Family Photos

So technically I am cheating because I wore this in October but I've only got the photos back this week so in my mind that counts! This week's outfit is three for the price of one! It is what we wore for our family photos when we were home in Ohio.

The ridiculously talented Geri Ciulla took our photos and I couldn't have been happier with how they turned out. I don't think you should get professional photos taken without professional make-up (trust me on this one) so the fabulous Mollie from Brideface gave me that defined eye I love so much without making me look like I just tripped off the Rock of Love Bus. Blondie Boy and NotBlondeHusband are gorgeous as is so they just rolled out of bed and turned up.

The photos were taken in Eden Park, one of Cincinnati's many stunning public parks, which overlooks the Cincinnati River, Kentucky and part of the Cincinnati skyline. It was a fabulous location for photos and I'm so glad Geri suggested it! Now on to the clothes!

Pink Polo: Ralph Lauren
Black Trousers: Nautica
Brown Shoes: Sketchers

Blondie Boy:
Grey Cable Knit Crew Sweater: Next
Jeans: The Gap
Black High Top Sneakers: Converse
Kilt: Bare Knees


Black Feather Earrings- Monsoon
Black Ribbed Zipper Dress- M&Co
Black Leather Biker Jacket- John Lewis (Oasis Concession)
Purple Tights- Tesco
Black Boots- Sketchers

I listed kilt but Blondie Boy isn't wearing one you say? Hell yes he had a wardrobe change!

A teeny, tiny sporan? I die. Here are a few of the other photos from that day Geri has so kindly shared but I can tell you there were SO many more amazing ones! I think we did a good job of matching without being too matchy-matchy?

Monday 14 November 2011

Fish is the Dish: Fish Pie ala NotBlondeHusband

It's always fun to get a parcel in the mail. It's even more fun when the parcel turns out to be a box full of delicious, gourmet fish, which is exactly what arrived in our house on Thursday. The box contained haddock, smoked haddock and salmon fillets provided by John Milne at Delish Fish.

Given that smoked haddock is one of my favourite things in the entire world, I was pretty excited. I was also hugely impressed by the sustainability of this particular fish and of it's easily traceable origin. The haddock is caught in the North Sea and has Marine Stewardship Council accreditation

Not only do we know who provided the fish and where it was caught and landed, we also know it had been caught by the crew of one of two vessels:   Harvest Hope or Sustain.

More and more people want to know not only that the food they are eating is sustainable but also where it came from. It's pretty difficult to be more specific about where the food you are eating has come from, without providing the fisherman's name, shoe size and sexual preferences, which would probably be taking it too far anyway.

The people at Fish is the Dish provided a recipe for "Karen's Scrumptious Fish Pie", which was pretty lucky, since fish pie is probably Blondie Boy's favourite meal so it's a bit of a staple round here. The recipe also came with a challenge, to provide a top tip to change the recipe in some way. I changed a few things. Sorry Karen, I'm sure the original was nice too!

The ingredients:

200g each of haddock, smoked haddock and salmon fillets
1 pint of milk
30g butter
30g plain flour
grated parmesan
lemon pepper
dijon mustard 
1 Make some mash as you normally would, enough to cover your dish. I probably used 1.5-2kg of potatoes.
2 Chop the fish into 2cm chunks. I also skinned the salmon at this point. The great thing about making the fish into a pie is the pieces don't have to be perfectly symmetrical. Rough chunks are great.

3 Bung it all in your pyrex dish and give it a good mix together so all three varieties of fish are evenly distributed.

4 Melt the butter in a saucepan and gradually stir in the flour. Heat for a minute or so, stirring constantly.
5 Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the milk. Return to the heat and bring to the boil, stirring all the time.
6 Fish is the Dish challenged us to change something about the recipe, I can't help tinkering with recipes, so I changed a few things but if I could only recommend one tip it would be this: stir in a teaspoon or a teaspoon and a half of Dijon mustard. The sauce without it might be rather bland, the mustard makes it richer and velvety, without overpowering the fish.

7 Simmer for 8-10 minutes then season. The recipe recommended adding parsley at this point but we're not really a parsley house, so I added finely chopped chives.

Next tip, switch out the pepper here and season with lemon pepper. Light, zingy and perfect with fish.

8 Pour over the uncooked fish then top with the potato. 

Topping isn't the easiest thing to do elegantly but fortunately it doesn't need to be elegant, just delicious. I put the potato into a piping bag with a large nozzle and piped it on before forking the top to give the peaks which will crisp up in the oven.

9 Scatter some parmesan over the top (optional, but highly recommended) and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 200 degrees celsius.

We ate the pie with my Dad and his wife. I prepped and cooked it at home and then heated it through for 10 minutes in his oven. It was still perfect.

Although the recipe suggested serving with petit pois, I served it with savoy cabbage and broccoli. The pie was delicious, it seemed to be a success with everybody at the table from 22 months to 50+, even including Miss "I don't like cooked fish" herself, Blondie.

You can really taste the difference between good quality fish such as this and cheaper supermarket stuff. It really needed nothing done to it, it arrived filleted and perfectly boned, it was thrown roughly into a dish and with little effort on my part and it produced a delicious meal for 4 adults and a toddler, with enough leftovers for 4 toddler sized portions which are now in our freezer! 

As I said I'm a bit of a smoked haddock aficionado and this stuff was the business, I'll definitely be getting some from Delish Fish again. It's such an easy food to prepare, stick it in an omelet, fire it in a pie, or even just poach it and flake it through some mashed potato, it's seriously difficult to mess it up and the results are always exquisite.

Transatlantic Blonde were provided the fish used in this recipe.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

We totally rocked the vote

vote election polling place
Super excited to vote in a polling booth for only the second time ever! I've almost exclusively voted via absentee ballot since I turned 18.

I'm not shy about my opinions so I am proud to say I voted NO on Issues 1, 2 and 3 in the State of Ohio.

Blondie Boy and I are both rocking our "I voted" stickers and if you are American and haven't gone out and voted why not? If you don't vote you can't complain... 
i voted today sticker

Guest Post: The Cupboard of Crap

We all know Nickie from Typecast makes amazing tutorials but apparently she is also a hoarder. I feel Nickie's pain on this one as I have myself a garage and office full of crap as well as several crap drawers around the house. If Nickie is greedy, I must be a glutton.

I am greedy.  I have two Cupboards of Crap but they both are independent of personality as one resides at work and the other at home.  They reflect my very secret unorganised side – something that not a lot of people see.

The Cupboard of Crap at work is where all the shredding goes to be done “one day”.  It is where I store two old computers, some bits of wire and a broken printer that may “come in useful” at some point even though the printer is beyond repair, the computers are useless and I have nothing to do with wire in my job at all.  I also have old filing trays, letterheads from three old premises and a load of accounts files that are probably more than ten years old.

The Cupboard of Crap at home is in the kitchen, behind the door.  It houses a number of my husband’s tools, tins with old paintbrushes standing in a couple of inches of water, coats that no-one will ever wear any more, spare light bulbs, the barbeque and my father-in-law’s ashes and memorial stone.

I should really clear them out but I am such a hoarder that I panic over the notion that I may need one of those items a couple of days after I throw it out.  I am the same with book although I was recently forced to be very ruthless and had to “re-distribute” about 400 of them due to a serious lack of storage space.  I kept my most favourite 101 but the pile of books next to my chair in the lounge is growing again.  We have eight shelves full of videos that have never moved but they are all ‘classics’ in our eyes.  I also have a box full of cassette tapes from my teenage years and, even though we don’t have a cassette player any more, I am loathe to throw them out as they are part of my history.

So when I read somewhere that Mahatma Ghandhi could count on two hands all the possessions that he owned (i.e. ten in total) I start to think that we live in a possession-laden world and question whether we need all of this “crap”.  I start to make lists (oh yes, I’m the Queen of Lists) of items that we can easily do without but then I am overcome with sentimentality.   I can’t get rid of photograph albums even though I could scan the pictures into my computer and store them digitally.  I can’t dispose of my CDs or DVDs even they could be stored on a hard-drive somewhere.  And, if the inevitable happened, how would my nearest and dearest ever my “personal collection” as we are constantly reminded not to share digital passwords with anyone?

We have moved towards a disposable era, to be backed up by recycling – so that is exactly what I am doing.  I am storing all my disposables in my Cupboards of Crap in readiness for recycling when the time is right. 

Sunday 6 November 2011

The X Factor Live Show: Dancefloor Classics

This week's snark is from one of the original members of #TeamTrashTelly--Nickie from Typecast!
Kelly is back from her skive, Tulia is trying it on for the sympathy vote, Gary is moaning about what a tough job it’s turned out to be and Louis is playing the ‘bitch to the media’ card a couple of weeks early.  It’s Club Classic Floor Fillers Dancefloor Classics week, people, and I’m all prepared for a little bit of chair dancing and a sing-a-long so let’s hope I’m not disappointed.  PLUS it’s an X Factor DOUBLE ELIMINATION this week so everyone is at risk.

Dermot comes on stage to rapturous applause and does a little head flick shoulder groove.  He announces that the “Dancefloor Classics is a ballad free zone”.  I’m now wondering if Janet and Craig are being given oxygen backstage

The Fashion Bit:
Kelly – Long red number – cut out at the front to knee length
Tulisa – Black and gold one sleeved number

Kelly and Tulisa high-5 each other at the judges table.  Everyone is “fine”… yes that type of “fine”… and Kelly’s voice has made a miraculous recovery – must be all that LA air!  I sit and wait for Gary’s pre-written jokes – provided by James Cordon’s personal scriptwriter.  Also, Louis seems to have given up the “You sound like a black [insert someone, anyone with black skin here] route and is going down the “You brought it DOWN girl” track, slightly (a lot) taking the piss out of Kelly.

Johnny – Hung Up/You Spin Me Round mash up
Backstage, he realises that most people who win the XFactor aren’t his age (!).  Louis believes he can go all the way!  Johnny camps it up with the dancers backstage. 
He is wearing a purple suit and Ohhhhh slightly off key – no, A LOT OFF KEY -  with the Madonna song and he sounds like he’s had half a helium balloon before he came on stage – as soon as he moves into Dead or Alive he’s bang on again!  Gary doesn’t look impressed AT ALL!  It’s nowhere NEAR the quality of last week’s performance – Louis has done him a disservice with this choice of mash-up.
ADVICE:   Tulisa says it was predictable.  Kelly says he looked like he was having a good time but she can’t comment further.  Gary says it was like the opening of a bad panto and it’s making a mockery of the competition. 

Janet –  I Want You Back
Backstage, Janet says she doesn’t dance – she knows what she likes and that’s all that matters.
She’s had her hair straightened (which does actually suit her), she looks like she’s wearing a t-shirt and a cape type thing but forgotten her trousers and she jiggles about on the spot a bit.  Out of tune at the beginning and forgets her words in the second verse.  Kelly mouths them at her and she picks it back up again.  Anything that Janet sings sounds more Irish that her actual accent.  She also manages to include that annoying catch in her voice regardless of the style she is singing in
ADVICE:   Tulisa says she should stick to her own style because she looked uncomfortable.  Gary thought the performance was weak and she lost her identity.

Craig – Heaven
Backstage, Craig is scared this week because he has to dance.  Gary says he can sing it well anyway because he’s a good singer (yes, we’ve all seen Gary-the-dancer in Take That, haven’t we?).
He starts off slow – probably to build his voice up – I’m losing interest already.  The shouty bit is out of tune but it leads into the Ibiza version of Heaven.  He’s just RUINED one of my all time favourite tracks.  He bounces up and down the stage like an excited puppy and sings out of the side of his mouth – then slows it down again at the end.  He gets a standing ovation from Gary.
ADVICE:  As Louis says, “You remind me of a young Gary Barlow” – I look over my shoulder to see if he’s reading my live blog.  Tulisa says, “This shows how versatile you are.”  Kelly does some American shite about singing up tempo.

The Risk –  Night To Remember
Backstage, The Risk meet JLS and one of them gives his mobile number to Nicole Shirtslinger after last week’s show.  She just about manages to refrain from screwing it up and throwing it away whilst the cameras are on her. 
As a group they can’t harmonise.  Individually they aren’t too bad.  But this is what happens when you put a group together of individual singers – the voices don’t blend.  They are wearing leather jackets with pencil ties apart from one of them who does some unnecessary rapping.  They also do some Dermot-style dance-walking up and down the stage.  Forgettable, not memorable.
ADVICE:  I wish Louis would wait for the audience to shut up – everything he says is drowned out.  I think he says that performance will put them back in the race – Charlie is the main singer and Gary agrees.  Gary also says the song choice was the best for them but the performance was lacking.

Marcus – Reet Petite
Backstage, Gary says Marcus is expected to flower this week (!).  Marcus says his body is aching from all the dancing and he’s worried about his breathing.  In and out, love, in and out – that’s all you do.  Marcus gets the Frankie treatment this week with a special 50s TV announcer.
Marcus is definitely the dark horse in this competition.  I didn’t rate him in the auditions but my husband had his card marked.  I’ve loved his “journey” so far and the way he throws himself into each performance.  He’s bang on key and even does the rolling R’s in the song.  He’s fantastic – the “whole package” to steal an X Factor bingo phrase.  Tulisa is dancing in her chair.  He’s totally stolen the show!
ADVICE: Louis says “you are the perfect pop star”.  Tulisa says that he is the only one who understands how to reinvent himself  each week.  Kelly says it’s been interesting watching him grow each week.  I’m now even more convinced the X Factor judges have a webcam in my front room

Kitty – Like A Prayer
I adore this girl – I wish the general public “got” her.  Backstage, Kitty is wondering “What Would Madonna Do” – I’m so going to get her a t-shirt with that on and send it to her. 
She’s got a gospel choir and it’s a slow start but she’s got a fantastic voice.  She strips off to a sparkly leotard and does a lot of “ooohhhhh” and “yeaaaahhhhh”.  The judges don’t seem impressed but it’s a song with not a lot of words.
ADVICE:  Tulisa says that she’s captivated by Kitty’s performances each week and believes that she could hold the attention of a concert audience easily.  Kelly says it fell a bit flat but only because she thought she was holding back.  Gary says that she can’t dance – POT?  KETTLE?

Frankie –  I Gotta Feeling
 Aaarrgghhh - Cut your hair, stop using family entertainment television to make a name for yourself.  You’re not the next Pete Docherty – he was also a shit-for-brains.  Also, X-Factor – stop providing the platform for him to do this.  I’m convinced that if he survives this week he will have a Waissel make-over and then get booted out.  Backstage he says he can’t work out why people are voting for him.  Gary berates him about the media attention he’s receiving.  Then he says “Frankie’s got his head down this week” and I think “I’ll bet he has…” *cough*
He’s doing a rock version of I Gotta Feeling – it’s out of tune, out of time, off key, just all wrong and he looks like he’s just dragged himself out of bed.  There are lots of Boooooo’s from the audience after he finishes.
ADVICE:  Louis says it was bad karaoke and Gary has built him up to be a big rockstar.  Tulisa says it didn’t work for her tonight.  Kelly says Louis was out of line for part of his comment and adds that she wants Frankie to concentrate on his vocals (erm, it’s a singing contest – he should be good enough already!).  Then there’s a bit of a bitch fight between Louis, Kelly and Gary before Gary admits that he picked the wrong song for Frankie.  ANY SONG IS THE WRONG SONG, LOVE.

Misha B - Proud Mary
First of all, “B” is so pretentious – it’s not like there’s two Misha’s in the competition!  Anyway, backstage, Misha and Kelly agree that the performance should be “fun and bubbly”.  Her family also turn up to give her a boost.  She channelling Tina T good style with the “ha” interjections in the song.  She also looks like she’s had her trousers sprayed on and has stolen Whoopi Goldberg’s hair from Sister Act.  Give the girl her due, she’s putting on a fabulous performance and really commands the stage. 
ADVICE: Louis loves what she did with the song and says her and Marcus are natural born stars.  Tulisa says she got it right & had good energy.  Gary says she’s got her crown back.

Little Mix – Please Don’t Stop The Music (modern remix)
We get a “when I was young” update from the girls complete with complementary photos from their childhood – all of them holding a microphone (or pretend microphone) funnily enough.  They’ve also been on stage with Jessie J which confirmed their reason to succeed.  These girls are growing and growing – they do actually work well together as a group but this song doesn’t work for them as individual singers – they sound much better as a group and have their harmonies down to a T.  They have the dance moves too but the flashing lights are actually distracting from the performance.  Not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  Not a bad performance on the whole.
ADVICE:  Louis says he thinks they’ve broken the girl band X Factor curse.  Kelly says she wants to hear more A-Cappella (unsure how that fits in with a club theme but there you go).  Gary says it was incredible.

My predictions for X Factor bottom three are Frankie, Janet and Johnny.  And I really don’t want to see you moaning at the elimination results if you don’t pick up the phone and vote, m’kay?

Thursday 3 November 2011

What I Wore Wednesday

This week I'm linking up my Halloween costume but you can link whatever you like! I was a Rock of Love girl for Halloween, but 90% inspired by Ashley from Rock of Love Bus. I found out via Twitter that she actually owns the shirt I wore so I feel it was a pretty authentic costume :)

Sparkly Pink Bow Barrette- Target
Nude Lipstick- Revlon 405 Pearl 
Fake Lashes- Walmart
Black Hoop Earrings- Target
Pink Shiny Skull Tee- Target
Tutu- My Dad's Attic
Hello Kitty Lip Gloss Ring-Old Navy
Tattoos- Walmart
Black Leggings- My Step-Sister's
Pink Faux Uggs- Step Sister again via Second Hand Store

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Guest Post: Natural, child-led play with babies and toddlers

This post on Natural, child-led play is from Anna at The Imagination Tree. She beat me out for Blogger of the Year at the MADs and a more lovely and deserving person couldn't have won! Her blog has loads of creative play ideas and she's sharing four of her favourite toddler activities here.

Treasure Baskets: Open-ended thinking and learning can be encouraged from a really young age and doesn't require any expensive toys or take up loads of space! It's really easy to make your own treasure basket for a baby to play with as all of the items can be found around the home and are better for baby to play with than brightly coloured, noisy plastic which offers only a couple of different stimuli. Treasure baskets encourage investigation and exploration using the senses of touch, sight and taste. They also help to promote thinking skills and curiosity by challenging the baby to wonder "what should I do with it?" or "what happens if I combine these two materials?" etc. 

Discovery Boxes: These are the term I've given to a toddler version of the baby treasure baskets. Every now and then I collect some simple materials such as cardboard tubes and beans, sellotape and scoops and put them into a large box for the girls to get stuck into! As with the treasure baskets, the idea is to step back and watch them play without interfering or suggesting what they should do, only joining in if asked. I find they can stay engaged with these simple items for so much longer than with their usual toys and they spend a lot of time thinking, collaborating, experimenting and having great fun! I've got a collection of the different items we have put into our Discovery Boxes on my site, if you need some more ideas! 

Musical Instruments:  Following along the same principles as the treasure baskets and discovery boxes, it is so easy to put together some makeshift musical instruments for plenty of hands-on experimenting with noises and sounds! Music making is crucial for building listening skills, distinction and perception and investigating cause and effect. It's also one of the vital building blocks for pre-reading so that one day they will be able to hear and distinguish sounds in words, pick up rhythm and hear intonation. Making "music" is as simple as opening the kitchen cupboards to pull out the pans, wooden spoons and metal utensils! Then have a great bash-a-long to some nursery rhymes or chants! If you want something more "sophisticated" you can make shakers easily using dry rice or pasta in a plastic bottle, stretching a balloon over a tin can for a drum or even make your own rain sticks

Messy Play: Last (but probably BEST!) comes the delightful messy, sensory play! Again, no money is really needed for this apart from a few essentials from the kitchen cupboard. Make your own play dough and keep it for 6 months or more, using it to strengthen hand muscles and as a tool for learning letters, numbers and more. Making Goop like Blondie did is cheap and easy, too.  Create sensory tubs filled with dry rice, pasta, lentils, pom poms and allow your little one to investigate with hands, scoops and spoons. (Watch smaller toddlers so that they don't put anything in their mouths.) Other ideas for investigating in deep table trays are water, sand, shaving cream, jelly, wood shavings, beads and lego! Whatever you have on hand will be of interest!