The Rise of the Guardians

UK Cinema Release Date :  TODAY - Friday 30th November 2012
3D computer animated fantasy adventure film by Dreamworks, directed by Peter Ramsey
Ok, so, I didn't love this film, but, I enjoyed it.  It's no Monsters Inc, or Rango, or Toy Story.  But it is a good family Christmas film, sweet enough but not too sacharinne and great for little ones who will like the odd action sequence.  The animation is beautiful the details of background and characters fluid and gorgeously rendered.

Based on the idea that the man in the moon has chosen a group of Guardians to care for the children of the world.  When the evil Pitch Black (Jude Law) trys to expell hope and wonder and replace it with fear and disbelief the immortal Guardians spring into action.

There is a new Guardian in the team, Jack Frost, with the voice of (Chris Pine).  Jack has spent 300 years having fun, causing mischief and is not too keen on becoming a Guardian. The other Guardians are sure that he has been chosen for a reason and he needs to understand what is at his "centre".  

His new workmates include the half hummingbird Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and the silent Sandman.  Their leader is Father Christmas (Alec Baldwin), a tattooed Russian sounding warrior.  The subversion of the usual characterisation of these childhood heros is one of the best parts of the film.  The easter bunny is a 6ft, boomerang welding Aussie.

I watched the film with my two little foxes, Una (6) and Louis (3).  Louis was a little scared in parts, although not so bad that he wouldn't watch it, just fingers over his eyes and then insisting he wanted to watch it to the end.   I would say the film is a little too old for his age.

Una, however, said it was "fantastic" her favourite characters were the; "Tooth Fairy because she's pretty" (and she has just had a recent visit from her!) and "Jack because he's funny, he landed and his cloak went over his head..."  She says she wasn't scared but I definitely remember holding her hand at one point.

They both jumped up this morning in excitement to check the windows for signs that Jack Frost had been and may have left some sign of his artistic talents on the window.  So, I guess they both enjoyed it really.


Based on William Joyce's The Guardians of Childhood book series and The Man in the Moon short film by Joyce and Reel FX. Peter Ramsey directed the film, while Joyce and Guillermo del Toro were executive producers. Produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Paramount Pictures.


The making of Miggins (and chums).

Following on from our 'Santa's Little Helper' post, here is how I made Miggins, Buba, Pickle, Luna & Jay from the following bits and bobs;
  1. a wooden bead
  2. a cotton reel
  3. green garden twine
  4. garden string
  5. raffia paper and
  6. glue
  7. a little paint (and/or pens) for the reels, hats and facial features
The first thing I did was chose the colour for each elf and paint the reels and hats.  I went for autumnal colours, probably inspired subliminally by the season I was in rather than traditional Christmas colours...
Once the paint was dry, I chose my colour raffia ribbons which I wound with glue around the reels to dress my elves.
Then I cut 2 lengths of garden string and wound one end of each tightly into little flat spirals and glued them solid for the feet.  (A couple of elves got fancy footwear in the end but the others were more modest.)

Once the glued feet were dry, I decided how long I wanted the legs to be and stuck part of the string 'legs/thighs' to the bottom of the reel.  I then snipped off excess twines within the string and threaded the remaining lengths through the middle of the reel - then through the wooden bead head, gluing them to the head to hold it all tightly together from the feet through to the crown.  For some, these were the first strands of their hair.  (I so hope that this leg part makes sense!  The whole thing, although fiddly, is very easy but explaining this finds my words failing...)

I then glued on more string or green garden twine for hair and once the glue was dry, gave it a hair cut. This, for some reason, was my favourite part of the whole process.  Very satisfying indeed.
I wound once, then tied, another length of string under the top rim of the reel closest to the head and left lengths hanging down for arms which I glued into various positions.
Next I gave the elf a face and began work embellishing the hats - my second favourite part of the job.
The tiny paper mache cones which I had earlier painted, I decorated with ribbons before gluing them a'top the head of hair.  This, being the final step, was also satisfying - not unlike putting on fancy shoes and slapping on a lick of lipstick before leaving the house one of those very rare nights out when you've made an effort not to wear jeans and boots.

Before I knew it, I had a group of little elves sitting on my dresser smiling at me - and before long, they all had their little sacks of lavender sitting next to them.
Unfortunately, I think my oldest fox at almost 7 is too old to fall for this one again although he's actually the easiest to get into bed these days - and the earliest to rise... but I think foxes 2 and 3 might really like the idea again this year.  They will keep one eye on the elf, I think, waiting for it to twitch into life while the lavender sack in their bed helps them to calm down and settle into a much needed sleep.

These are not at all complicated to make but if you want to make one and don't have the bits, for £4.25 we can supply you with a kit containing all you need to make your own little elf, excluding paint and glue.  We have small 'small' or large 'small' reels (they are all pretty weeny) so please stipulate if you would like a shorty short or a tall short elf.  Just send us an email or leave us a comment and we will get back to you.

The kit contains;
  • A reel
  • A wooden bead
  • A length of green garden twine
  • A length of garden string
  • A little cone
  • A length of raffia 'ribbon'
  • Fabric for the sack
  • Home picked and dried lavender
  • A length of fine fabric ribbon


Ladybird Tuesday - The Pottery Makers

I read a post from a fellow blogger, Being Mrs C, last Tuesday.  She seems to have a bit of a thing for vintage children's books, a passion I share.  Mrs C has started a strand on her blog called Ladybird Tuesday and as a fellow collector of old Ladybird books, I fancied joining in.   I have quite a collection, some are from my childhood, some I have picked up in second hand shops since.

In fact seeing Mrs C's last Ladybird posting was what reminded me that my collection is yet another thing that can go into the studio when it is finally finished (which is meant to happen this week - **EXCITED SQUEAL!**), so...

People at Work - The Pottery Makers

Ladybird Tuesday The Pottery Makers

"The shapes of many of the pots we use are basically the same as they were hundreds of years ago.  However, to produce all the pottery needed today, much quicker methods must be used.  

This book shows how pottery is made in a modern factory and will help to answer many of the questions that lively children will ask."

So, says the introduction to this sometimes rather dry and incredibly detailed tome from the "People at Work" series printed in1969.   I was one of those "lively" children and this is one of my favourites, for several reasons: 
Ladybird Tuesday The Pottery Makers
I remember being really impressed with how good the pictures were.  They look like paintings but of photographic perfection and I dreamed of being able to draw as well as the people who illustrated the Ladybird books.  I never have been able to.  The illustrations are by John Berry, who I believe illustrated many of the People ar Work series.

I love ceramics, I love delicate old limoge teacups, Poole Art Deco, old grocery jars and pots, modern Danish china... the list goes on.  I could start a whole new blog strand on my ceramic collection.  My mother's side of the family are from the Staffordshire and my obsession with ceramics comes clearly from that side of the family, it is something that my friends tease me about.  (Yes, collecting is a bit of an obsession in itself!)
Ladybird Tuesday The Pottery Makers
I have learnt to use a potters wheel.  Everything I made was in the US and when I shipped it home to the UK it all got broken.  One day when my children are a bit older and less demanding on my time I will take it up again.

But mostly, I loved the way this book did not talk down to me.  I'm not sure how old I was when I got it, but, it is one of Ladybird's "Easy Reading" books.  The amount of information packed onto each page, is incredible.  I love making things and I was fascinated by The Pottery Makers and ploughed through the book until I understood what all the different people in the process did and how you made pots.

I understood the book because along with incredibly accurate pictures of the modern mechanised process of the potters art there is detailed text.  It introduces the young reader to the manufacturing process and technical terms like;  pug mill, slip, jigger, biscuit firing.
Ladybird Tuesday The Pottery Makers
Pride in British manufacturing might is evident; "Today, the finest bone-china in the world is made at British potteries in Staffordshire, Derby and Worcester."  And it's, of course, comments like this that date the book.  It is clearly believed in this book that the "lively children" of a manufacturing super-power need to know and understand the details of the manufacturing process.  That their children's future was bound to it and that they were capable of and expected to understand it.  And within my lifetime that has completely been turned on it's head.

And Here are the other Ladybird Tuesday posts this week:
Things to Make
From Being Mrs C
The Story of our Churches and Cathedrals

And a couple of vintage Ladybird sites:
Vintage Ladybird  - The official Ladybird Vintage site
The Wee Web - The definitive guide to Ladybird Books, 1940 - 1980


Christmas Traditions

Mrs Fox's Christmas inspirations
Tammis Twinkle Angels fabric by Michael Miller    -    Sinterklaas & Zwarte Piet       -     Mrs Fox's Fergal Fox
I remember those lessons at primary school around this time of the year, when you were taught about the different Christmas traditions around the world.  I have confused but vivid images of Dutch children filling their clogs with carrots and peppernoot and being chased around with a stick by Zwarte Piet (Black Peter).  As a 6 year old who loved playing chase and was quite a fast runner, I remember thinking it sounded like a lot of fun, and wished I was Dutch for a week or two.

While these international traditions are eye opening and horizon broadening and all those other good things.  It’s the personal family traditions around Christmas, no matter how small, that are the most evocative.  Even with the most common traditions, advent calendars and letters to Father Christmas, it's the memories from your childhood and it's in the details of each family's actions that a personal tradition begins.  

Do you get to eat the advent chocolate as soon as you get up or once you’ve been a good girl/boy that day?  Do the presents get left under the tree or at the foot of the bed?  What goes into the Christmas stocking?  The year that our presents began to be delivered to the tree rather than in the old pillow case at the end of the bed, where I could feel the reasuring weight with my toes.  I thought Father Christmas had forgotten me.

Growing up my family always had ham and boiled eggs for Christmas breakfast and in those days before “posh” coffee was the norm this was the one time my mother’s cafetier would get used.  There was also a set of tiny brightly etched glasses that came out at Christmas and we would get to use them during our Christmas meal but at no other time.  A lot of my family’s Christmas traditions seem to revolve around food and to this day I am still obsessed with good coffee and pretty vintage glasses.

Since having children I have thought more consciously about these traditions and we, like every other family, have developed our own.  Christmas breakfast is still always ham and boiled eggs.  The stocking from the fireplace goes onto the end of the children's beds, but the rest of the children's gifts go under the tree in large hessian sacks I made for them adorned with the Michael Miller fabric above.   We make Christmas decorations every year, one of our favourites is our paper angels.  

I always make at least one gift for each of the children every year.  We have an elf who comes to stay.   And our letters to and from Father Christmas are a very important family tradition.  Our letters were inspired by my love of JRR Tolkein, I read that every year his children received a letter from Father Christmas, written in spidery handwriting and illustrated with little pen and ink drawings. 

Letters From Father Christmas by JRR Tolkien

I eventualy found a book of Tolkein's letters.  The letters are all about life at the North Pole;  the reindeer, the accident-prone North Polar Bear and the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house.  And I have to admit I have stolen the handwriting and many of the ideas.  My children love polar bears since watching a documentary on them last Christmas and so I think the North Polar Bear is likely to make an appearance this year's letter.

So, on the first day of December our elf named Brian arrives.  We really should have made our own elf, but I have to admit Brian is from Elf on the Shelf.  Una named him Brian ,I don’t really know why.  Every night up until Christmas Eve he moves to a different spot in the house.  The children must not touch him, or his magic disappears, but he sees everything and will report back to Father Christmas if they have been “naughty or nice”.  Which is quite a useful thing during the festive season!  The children write a letter to Father Christmas including their Christmas list, shortly after Brian has arrived and he delivers it.  Then on Christmas Eve they'll receive a letter back. 

This year in the run up to the Christmas Mrs Fox's is going to be publishing post about our Christmas traditions and Christmas crafts to do with the children including; snowman cookies, cotton reel and pine cone elves, paper angels, snowflakes and chains to mention a few.  Christmas card making and gift wrapping ideas and we've some free printable gift tags.  Reviews of Channel Four's new Snowman animation, some of our favourite Christmas books, Folksy finds and treasures from Mrs Fox's Bazaar and Mrs Fox's Handmade.

I love Christmas, I'm sooo looking forward to this...


Santa's Little Helpers

Unlike many of my friends, I start looking forward to Christmas at the end of Sept.  I can't help it, I start buying the odd gift here and there... I look out for offers on chocolates... I bought  my Christmas cards in the middle of Sept.
As we run through November, I get even more excited.  I daydream about what presents to buy, I spend ages browsing Amazon and other sites I usually visit for gifts as well as investigating new links.  I start winding the little little foxes up, I crank it up bit by bit as December approaches.  I ask them repeatedly what they would like to ask Santa for, I 'misplace' their lists so that they have to think it through again.  I ask what they might like from mum and dad and leave the odd wrapped present lying around so that they ask me, 'Who is that for?' and 'What is it?  Oh yes, this to me is the best part of Christmas - so much so that I actually feel melancholy on Christmas morning because I know it will all be over soon.  The evening almost feels, no, it actually does feel like a bit of an anti-climax.
My melancholy morning ends as soon as I hear little hands rustling around sacks and hear them asking each other, 'What have you got?  Have you got one of these?'  Then there's the moment they rush into our bedroom with their stashes and jump on our bed, excitedly showing us all their bits and bobs.

Of course Christmas Eve is always a challenge.  They are so excited but I need them to sleep so that I have enough time to make sure I've got everything covered.  I want time to prepare some veg and make sure everywhere is tidy before snuggling up with daddy fox to watch a film while sipping last years batch of sloe gin.

When one of their cousins stayed for Christmas a couple of years ago, I decided that I needed a little white lie to keep the excited chattering to a minimum.  Something to make sure their heads were down early enough for them to not be rotten tired and therefore, hard work, by late afternoon the next day.  So, after finishing some raffia paper, I used the cardboard roll as the body of a Xmas elf.  I had a large wooden bead left over from my paper angel decorations to use as a head and used more raffia and string as hair and clothes for my handy helper.

Come bed time on Christmas Eve, I took one of the lavender bags from my knicker drawer and together my cardboard elf, stepped into their bedroom.
'Ssssshhhh!' I told them, 'ssssshhhh' and held up the elf.  'This little fella' I said, 'he is called Miggle and he's one of Santa's elves.  I know he doesn't look much right now but he is magic and will come alive when you lot go to sleep.  You all know that Santa can't leave your toys here until you're asleep so Miggle has brought this lavender pillow to help you all drop off.  The moment you are all asleep, Miggle will send word to Santa and let him know that it's safe for him to come into the house with your toys.'

Well, I said something along those lines and put the little lavender bag in the middle of the room.  This was clearly only going to have a placebo effect, if any, because I really needed 4 bags - one for each of the children but the gist was there and accepted and considered.  My oldest was 4, middle was 3 and wee Tom fox was 1 and too young to really know what was going on.  Cousin Daisy had just turned 5 and I think that they were all young enough to seriously take it on board.  Whether it worked, I don't know but they were asleep well before 9 so I decided the idea was a success.

This year one of our suppliers was selling empty cotton reels so I decided that Mrs Fox should make some more elves, each with their own sack of lavender.  I bought some and set to work.  The results are  at the bottom of this piece, Luna is my favourite.  These are for sale in our shop or...

... visit us again within the week and I'll show you how I made Mrs Fox's elves - with pictures and everything!

Mrs Fox's cotton reel elves


"All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth."

Little Una fox has lost one of her front teeth and the other is a little shaky so this may be the song of her festive season.  However, Una is now 6 and the sentiment of the song is becoming a little lost on her.  “All” Una wants for Christmas is whatever the brightest ad playing on “M-M-M-M,  M-M-M-M More Milkshake” this week.  This includes; various Barbies and Disney Princess Dolls, Sky High Tinkerbell, oh and a DS! 

In an attempt to teach Una, and her brother Louis, that Christmas is not all about consuming, we have begun our countdown to the big day with what I hope becomes a new tradition.  We are going to clear out some toys and books that the little foxes don’t use.  

Now, I really don’t need to tell you my ulterior motive for this do I?  I mean, I’m sure I am not the only parent that started out with a beautifully organised toy basket that she assumed was big enough for all her little angel’s toys.  And a plan to keep their toys limited to their bedrooms and maybe just one of the downstairs rooms in the house.  Only to find herself 6 years later drowning under a sea of plastic crap, and some very nicely designed toys too.  I need to make room for the new toys that Father Christmas will be supplying.

Invariably my favourite toys are not their favourite toys and what with things given by members of the family, or with specific emotional significance there are a limited number of toys I can just bin without a second thought.  In fact I never bin, unless something is broken,  the toys will be heading to the charity shop.  This year we are taking part in the Rotary Club’s Shoebox Scheme.  Each of my little foxes, has a shoebox supplied by the Rotary Club for them to fill with toys for a child of their age in Eastern Europe who might not otherwise receive a Christmas gift.  The size of the toy is obviously limited by the size of the box and there are a few other limitations like no sweeties and no “warlike” toys.  

I like this scheme as the children also get to decorate their boxes and have made a Christmas card for the child they are sending the box to.  Louis has been made a card based on his new obsession, fireworks and Una first drew a Christmas tree then went for the firework theme too. we've included a picture of each of the little foxes in their card and a little note.  The children also have a small budget to buy a couple of things to go into the box too.  

I’ve also spotted that Argos are running a toy exchange this festive season.  You can take your unwanted toys into your local Argos and they will pass them on to Barnardo’s to sell and raise funds.  So, get into an Argos by 27th November and in return for your donation you’ll receive a £5 Argos voucher to spend on toy purchases over £35 in-store.


Christmas Creatures, Festive Friends & FREE Advent Calendar from Mibo

Mrs Fox has just added Mibo's Festive Friends and Christmas Creatures  to her on-line store.  £9 for a set of 5.

Festive Friends for sale at Mrs Fox's
We've been stocking Mibo's paper-craft animals for a while now and we love them.  With just scissors, glue and patience these beautifully designed images turn into magical little animals.  They are not difficult to make, instructions are clear and simple.

However, to form them you'll need to hold recently adhered tabs for a few minutes for glue to dry.  You'll need to give concentrated help to most children under 8 or 9 to make them, but my 6 year old has managed.  And is very proud of her blue elephant who sits on her bookshelf.

christmas creatures sold by mrs fox's
Madeleine Rogers designs are so beautiful, we stock some of her other fantastical paper creatures.  And this year's advent calendar is wonderful too, and it's FREE to download.


Mrs Fox's Studio - Part One

Every morning, for about 10 weeks now, in that moment before being totally awake, when you go over the day before and the day to come Mrs Fox has been distracted by dreams of her new studio:   

Will there be enough light?  Do I use the old desk from the spare room, or buy a new one?  Once I have my vintage school cupboards in there, where will I put all the DVDs that have been stored in them for the last 4 years?  Do I wait to order those wall lights off the internet for the free delivery offer I know will come soon?   What am I prepared to bid on ebay for a brass fox knocker for the door?  Is the vintage French decorative toile 6 branch leafy chandelier a bit of an extravagance...

mrs fox's studio items

This was our old garage at the end of the garden:  

old garage

And that is an attractive picture of it; covered in wisteria, photoshopped and everything!  When we moved in the garage doors were locked and once we got them open we discovered why.  They wouldn't close.  The roof was asbestos and leaked.  The steps at the side were a siren song to every toddler who wished to practice their rock climbing and flying abilities.  After working with an engineer, builders fuelled by cups of tea, getting lots of inspiration from pinterest, and despite a few set backs, things are moving along nicely and there is an end in sight:

mrs fox's studio build

In the meantime my house is slowly creaking under the strain of the lack of storage.  The laundry room is rammed with things from the garage. I am attempting to make all of Mrs Fox’s Christmas pieces, not to mention our party-wares, at the kitchen table as the spare room that used to be Mrs Fox making room is now completely full of everything that used to be housed in the garage that isn’t in the laundry room.

We live in a small cottage in Hertfordshire and as getting a whole “room of one’s own” is a bit of a luxury, we are also building a playspace for the children underneath the stairs to the studio.  Not sure what Mr Fox is getting out of it... 

The happiness of his little clan.  Maybe I had better get him a really good Christmas pressie.  Any suggestions anyone?  

Autumn Colours and Crafting

autumn colours inspire felt foxes for Christmas

After dropping the little foxes at school and walking the dogs it was back home to make some more felt foxes for Mrs Fox's Handmade Christmas tree ornaments.  The red and gold of autumn are just beautiful and, dare I say it, make me feel christmassy.  Our Handmade Christmas Foxes are on sale on Folksy.

christmas foxes


Books we Love - Barefoot Books World Atlas

Today our copy of Barefoot Books World Atlas arrived.  Hurray!  We received this for participating in the Britmum’s Caine’s Cardboard Challenge Linky, our post on making with cardboard is HERE.    

The atlas is a great introduction to factual reference books, to an understanding of geography, maps, climate, the countries and cultures of our planet.  As travel is one of my passions I want my little foxes to have an understanding of the wonders and diversity of our planet.  We have an Peter's Projection world map on the wall opposite the loo; I'm hoping they will be particularly susceptible to taking in this knowledge while on the lavvy!

Barefoot’s World Atlas is written by Nick Crane and illustrated by David Dean

Barefoot Books World Atlas, children's books

“We are living at the start of a new chapter in the story of our planet and it's central theme is the way in which we work together as a global community to protect it."

This atlas is very much focused on the diversity yet interconnectedness of all things on the planet.  It’s a beautiful book that would make a wonderful Christmas present.  

After an introduction to the Story of Our Planet and Mapping the World the book is divided into sections based on the oceans and the continents, which have been divided into regions, of the world. With fold out pages, lift the flaps, a poster map of the world, and bright accessible illustrations, it engages with it's readers from the first page.  Little Una fox is 6 and she really enjoyed looking at it, particularly the sections on the oceans and could read much of the text with only a little help.  Louis is only, 3, but he also enjoyed having it read to him, looking at the maps and pointing out the animals, vehicles and people he recognised.  

Barefoot Books is one of my favourite children’s publishers.  I first came across them when looking for toddler boardbooks for my daughter.  Barefoot publishes Clare Beaton’s books which we love.  Her simple lyrical tales are illustrated with images from her skilful hand sewn art-works.  As I love fabric, sewing, embroidery and felting and collect vintage fabrics she is something of a hero of mine. 

There's a Cow in the Cabbage Patch by Clare Beaton

My absolute favourite is the first book of hers we found, There’s a Cow in the Cabbage Patch, we’ve also got; How Big is a Pig?, Elusive Moose, Secret Seahorse, and Mother Goose Remembers and Playtime Rhymes For Little People, which come with music CDs.  The CDs have been permanently in our car for long journeys for the last few years.

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.
In this instance we would also like to say that we are not members of the Barefoot Ambassador's scheme, I just genuinely love the books!


Mrs Fox's Handmade Christmas

Christmas Fox
Well, the little foxes are all back at school and both the Mrs Foxes are busy crafting and creating for Christmas.  Many of our Handmade Christmas item are already available on the Mrs Fox's Handmade Folksy store, some are already being snapped up and more will be added soon.  We have taken a woodland Christmas theme this year so we hope you'll like our little felt foxes, robins, deer and acorns, please take a look.

On our blog we'll have ideas for Christmas crafts, stocking fillers, and party ideas.  To keep in touch you can always sign up for our newsletter.

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