We're home...

And oh my goodness it doesn't take long for that holiday feeling to go does it?

We spent a couple of weeks in Spain, the little foxes are back with amazing tans and impressive new talents in the swimming pool.  I've a pile of washing, cleaning and unpacking and two slightly sulky dogs to contend with.  And the school clothes to go through, check and label, autumn term classes to reorganise and pay for. Last of the summer holiday play-dates to arrange and ferry the little foxes to.  Oh and a Pirate Party to finish for little Miller... more on that soon.

While in Spain we stayed in a lovely little hostal in Nerja.  And one of the great things about this part of Andalucia is that as the height of the summer tourist season winds down it is still a great place to visit.  Jane and Ian at Hostel Miguel in Nerja were wonderful hosts and we can't recommend their friendly, simple, clean hostal enough.

We loved visiting the caves and the beautiful surrounding pueblos blancos like Frigiliana (Thanks for the tip Sarah!)  The kids had a wonderful time and were "gracias"-ing with gusto by the end of the two weeks.  I've not been to Spain much before but this was a great family holidays.  Probably because it was so easy, for me that is another of Spain's big attraction.

We're all going on a Summer Holiday...

We're all going on a summer holiday
no more working for a week or two.
Fun and laughter on our summer holiday,
no more worries for me or you,...

...We are back on 28th August


Louis and Freddie - One boy and his doll

My little boy Louis is 3 and he adores his big sister, Una, who is 6.  We recently had a little incident when Louis took Una's pink purse and one of her favourite toys, "Peanut the little monkey", out on one of our daily dog walks by the lakes.  The pink purse with Peanut inside it was lost for 48 hours.  While disaster was averted (I spotted the purse in the long grass 2 walks later; with no help from the dogs I might add!) my son and I have not told his sister about Peanut's adventure, and Louis clearly understands that this is how it should remain.

Louis loves his sister's toys, particularly her favourite doll, Kiki.  Kiki is made from a Clothkit doll kit designed by the fabulous Jane Foster, and sewn together by yours truly.  Since this incident I no longer have to argue/explain to Louis that he cannot take Kiki out of the house with us as she is far too important to his sister.  I simply say; "Remember what happened to Peanut..."  

So, Louis switched his tactics.  Now he wanted a doll of his own.  I got back in touch with the wonderful gang at Clothkit and Freddie has joined the family.

Louis is very pleased with his new toy.  He takes Freddie to bed, where he joins little white bear, POP the rabbit and little dinosaur every night.  There is never any argument about taking Freddie out of the house.

So, how do we feel about boys and dolls?  

When I had my daughter I was always very clear that I did not want her dressed from head to toe in pink, she is not all "sugar and spice" and fairies are wonderful but they do not need to adorn every book, bag, toy, item of clothing etc.  I want my daughter to be happy, healthy, independent and free of gender stereotyping.  I actually didn't think about it that much in regards to my son until now.

I do also have to admit that whatever I may believe and hope for my children, gender differences clearly exist and become apparent so much earlier than I expected.  I like the idea that Harrods has gone to the trouble of creating it's first gender neutral toy department.

Harrods gender-neutral toy department, designed by London and Singapore-based interior architects Shed
But I also think that toys are gender neutral in themselves, it is us who load and apply all the gender meanings to them.  Louis loves football and cooking, cars and handbags, blue and pink, dinosaurs and now Freddie his doll.


Books We love - Dr Seuss

I started collecting children's books before I had children of my own.  I was relatively slow to start reading at school, but once I got going I quickly became a voracious book worm.  But when I got to University I realised I had missed loads of children's classics and so started collecting.

I think my first books were old copies of Rudyard Kipling's THE JUNGLE BOOK and JUST SO STORIES.  I even remember a wonderful afternoon with my friend, Anne, constructing a crepe paper elephant head as wrapping for a friend's birthday gift of a second-hand copy of the Just So Stories.

I know that everyone goes on about the importance of books and reading to your children.  Having spent the last year volunteering at my daughter's school in Year One.  I can only add my voice to those of all the other, much better placed, voices.  It seems to me that it can't be emphasised enough how much the children's progress in reading is directly related to how much their parents put into reading with them at home.

At Mrs Fox HQ we've been trying to come up with a list of our favourite children's books.  It's a wonderfully hopeless task, the list just never ends.  But then a blog is the perfect place for a list like that, isn't it?  So here goes, and in no particular order:

THE LORAX by Dr Seuss.

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, 

nothing is going to get better. It's not."

The Lorax

I love the "mossy", "bossy", "sharpish" Lorax and the psychedelic Truffula Trees.  As a bit of a tree hugging hippy at heart I really appreciate the environmental message of this book.  But mostly I just love the language.  I always struggled with being asked to read out loud at school and it was, among others, Dr Seuss books that helped me to hear the words as I spoke them, and love the sound of language.  All the Dr Suess books, and particularly this one, owe a debt to the nonsense poetry of people like Edward Lear (THE OWL & THE PUSSY CAT) and Lewis Carroll (THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK and JABBERWOCKY).  I used to doodle all over my school books; "the time has come the walrus said to talk of many things, of sealing wax and candle flax cabbages and kings...", I think this is actually a misquote from ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.

I now love reading aloud to my own children and they can join in with the Dr Seuss books after only a few readings.  We have lots of rhyming books, and my daughter at 6 loves reading these aloud to her 3 year old brother.

I think the Lorax is my favourite Dr Seuss, although it is very hard to pick a favourite.  GREEN EGGS AND HAM is an all time great read and THE CAT IN THE HAT.  My Mr Fox was often read BEARS IN THE NIGHT at bedtime when he was a child and we have kept up the tradition with our own children too.  His mother bought our children the book - Ahhh!

The other Mrs Fox, Jackie, recommends THE BIPPOLO SEED AND OTHER LOST STORIES

We have taken the little foxes to see the new film of The Lorax.  We really enjoyed it, it's great!  It takes the book and frames it within the story of 12 year old Ted's search for a tree to impress the girl of his dreams, Audrey.  A mad, technicolour, 3D, musical extravaganza by the team that made Despicable Me and Horton Hears a Hoo.  It is a little sentimental and has not quite got the wit of the book (And I am not one of those people that always says the book is better than the film), but the kids loved it, it was a great way to spend a rainy morning in the summer hols and I'm sure we will get our little foxes the DVD when it is released.

Mrs Fox would just like to say that the books listed in this strand Books We Love are all ones that we have owned, and usually purchased ourselves.  Links in this article to Amazon are to our store Mrs Fox's Books and More, where we receive a small commission on any purchase made through our link.  However, we choose the books we add to the store and review and are not influenced by any third party in this choice.


Summer Flower and Leaf Headbands

felt flower and leaf headbands

This year on the festival scene we've noticed all the little girls are wearing floral headbands.  We've gotten into festival fever here at Mrs Fox's HQ and have been making these beautiful flower and leaf  headbands.  Each is  hand crafted and completely unique.  They make beautiful hair accessories, adorn a party outfit, dressing up costumes (great for our Fairy Teaparty!) or just something to make the birthday child feel special.  And we are using them to help launch our Mrs Fox's Handmade store on Folksy.

My little girl fox, Una, loves to make daisy chains, putting them in her hair and I love making things in felt.  I've just recently made my first attempts at neddle felting. Felt is also a great fabric to use for children's crafts, both for collage and sewing.  It's obvious benefit when sewn is that it doesn't fray so you can create simple dress-making patterns for children to sew clothes for their cuddly toys and dolls without them having to hem things.  Anyway, back to the headbands... 

making felt flower headbands - stage  1

making felt flower headbands - stage  2

making felt flower headbands - stage  3

Each flower is hand cut and sewn together from coloured acrylic felt. I worked out how to make the flowers by searching for ideas on pinterest, I'm a little addicted, have you tried it?

The flowers are then hand sewn individually onto the green felt headband.  The headband is done up with a ribbon at the back, so they will fit any size head (yes, even an adults) The back of the headband is lined with a floral cotton, I've some very nice Liberty lawn cotton on it's way to finish these even more perfectly.   

making felt flower headbands - stage  4

We're still working on different design ideas and will be creating a few of these in pastel shades as I think they would look gorgeous on young bridesmaids.  At the moment it's summer brights that are really inspiring me.  

flower headbands - summer brights

If you are interested in purchasing a flower headband we are selling them for £20, £15 for the leaf headbands, plus p&p.  They are handmade to order so may take up to three weeks.  If you have a particular deadline let us know and we will tell you if we can meet it.  If you would like to commission particular we colours should be able to accomodate you with enough time. Send us an email we'd love to hear from you; info@mrsfoxs.com.

making felt flower headbands
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