Earlier in the summer, Pip and I tried out some Finding Dory crafts after watching the film and I’ve been trying to find the time to post about them ever since. I literally have no idea where the days go. The film is still showing at cinemas though, and if you’re either still waiting for reception to start, or at home with pre-school children, or even looking for something to do in half term which seems now to be right around the corner, you might be interested in these Finding Dory crafts. We went to watch Finding Dory one afternoon and then tried out some of the crafts and had fun with some of the characters that we’d seen on screen. All of the crafts are created by Disney and EpsonUK and are designed to be printed on the Epson Eco Tank printer which we have been testing all summer and is amazing. You can of course print them on whatever you have handy – all you really need is a printer, card, scissors, glue and then a couple of additional things like sticks, or blue plastic.

Finding Dory

First, the film. Pip has loved Finding Nemo for a while and has watched it frequently. At the event the baby and I attended to learn how to do the crafts we were told that the average Finding Nemo DVD has been watched some staggering amount of times, maybe even as many as 50 (?). It is also 13 years since it was released! I couldn’t believe that it came out whilst I was still at university. Anyway, Pip really enjoyed the film (although she did end up sitting on my lap at one point) and was captivated throughout. Personally, I found it rather strange as it was like stepping into a computer animated version of my memory as we spent a lot of time at Monterey Bay Aquarium when we lived in California when I was a young child and which seemed to me to have been used almost as a blueprint for the Marine Life Institute in the film – even down to the sea otters and the touch pool.

Pip was particularly taken by Hank the 7 legged Octopus when we watched the film and so she loved cutting out the print out of Hank (below) – she is very proud of how independent her scissor skills are (and how she is trusted with proper scissors) and managed to do this activity all by herself, albeit with a little guidance from me at the sticking section. You can download the Hank PDF here and then print out the PDF on A4 card, cut out, fold and stick.


We also enjoyed cutting out the print out of the various characters, attaching them to sticks and playing games with them. Rather appropriately, Little Baby was rather taken with the littlest fish Nemo at the event at the Disney Store that I went to, as was Pip, and even now he sits decorating Pip’s desk. I think we ended up amalgamating the images from the aquarium task and the idea of the photobooth props, but that’s the beauty of crafting and using the Eco Tank printer – plenty of ink.


Finding Dory | The Little Pip

Again, these need downloading (click the image to find all the resources), printing and then cutting out.

Epson EcoTank Review

We have the Epson EcoTank ET-2550 which is one of 6 models in the Epson EcoTank range. The ET-2550 is the one of the more basic printers of the range, perfect for the casual home user. It prints black and white and colour up to A4 and comes with 2 years worth of ink in bottles, printing 4,500 pages in black and 6,500 pages in colour. It will also copy and scan. Set up was an easy process which basically involved tipping the bottles of ink into the tanks and following some instructions on screen. If you are hoping to do some crafts then make sure you set it up before you sit down to the complete the crafts as it takes around 20-30 minutes to sort out the system. Once that is done and you’ve activated the wifi element you can basically forget about it and print so easily.


  • Prints over wifi. This is not unique to this printer, but it is the first printer I’ve had which does and it is AMAZING!
  • Download the Epson app and you can print using said wifi FROM YOUR PHONE. I am not sure whether this is brand new information but I find it incredibly useful and so satisfying. I bought some of this Epson Premium Semigloss paper which isn’t too expensive and prints decent quality images for things like sticking in scrapbooks or taking to school for school project requests.
  • Low maintenance. Without cartridges you can print without worrying at all about price per sheet. Buy it, install and then it will just keep printing good quality prints for over 7000 pages which is said to be around 2 years. Particularly great if you have kids who are into crafting and school projects.
  • Really easy to set up.
  • Good print quality. All of the models in the Epson EcoTank range use Epson’s Micro Piezo technology for clear, sharp and precise printing and I have not been disappointed with the quality either printing onto ordinary paper, crafting card or semigloss photo paper.


  • It needs to be kept flat, so it is a printer which needs a home, not one that comes in and out of the box when needed. It’s not just a random warning – do not store it on end once the ink is in!
  • Initial purchase price is high although if you do a lot of printing, particularly colour, then the cost of replacing cartridges adds up fast, and also requires thinking about. That said, the ink in the eco tank lasts for a long time, and then when it does require replacing is also much cheaper to replace.
  • I have read that some people find the ET-2550 display too simplistic and that it lacks an Ethernet port, auto-document feeder and duplexing, but for home use I have found that the simple display is easy to use and it is perfectly decent at feeding the paper in for the level of printing crafting and photos require.

Thanks to Epson UK and Disney / The Disney Store for inviting us to the event, sending us to see Finding Dory and for the printer to review. All opinions my own.

Top tips for starting primary school, image of shoes and pencils

Pip finally started school yesterday; it drew to an end what seemed like a long year of decisions and planning, and of course commenced the next chapter in her (and our) life. We really were clueless when we began the process this time last year, so I thought I’d both reflect on my experience and share some tips, in the hope that something might assist any parents starting the process of applying for primary schools in England & Wales for September 2017.

The Little Pip school

Consider your options

The first decision of course is to decide how you want to educate your child. The government requires that:

You must make sure your child gets a full-time education that meets their needs (eg if they have special educational needs). You can send your child to school or educate them yourself.

Children must get an education between the school term after their 5th birthday and the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16.

I attended a hugely helpful seminar hosted by Educating Matters as part of my CityParents membership which considered the options which essentially narrow down to 3 choices – home education, state school education or private school education.

As we chose the state school option the rest of my tips relate to that but can no doubt be adapted to private school too.

1. Start early & identify your area’s admission policy and dates

If your child was born between 1 September 2012 and 31 August 2013 you will need to apply for a reception place at infant or primary school for September 2017. In our borough, Haringey, applications are easiest through the online form on their website and the closing date for applications is 15 January 2017. This means on decision day in April you can log on to the website and view the result online, and easily accept online.

This basically means you have 3 months to identify possible local schools, attend their open days, do your research and then compile your list of options (which in our case was technically 6, but in reality 1 or maybe 2).

Our choice was in effect narrowed by a combination of factors:

  • Number of places/allocation of places/catchment area – the admissions booklet with the list of schools lists the number of places available and how these were decided for the previous year (places at Pip’s school were allocated in the following order: Children in Care/ Looked After Children, Social Medical, Siblings, and Distance). Out of the 60 places available (2 classes of 30) slightly more than 1/3 of the places were allocated to siblings and the rest on distance, which was around 1/2 mile.
  • Admissions criteria – we decided we did not want Pip to attend a school which had spaces allocated based on religious requirement, which meant that some of our local options were not available

Whilst we were able to give 6 options (and did) we knew that in effect we only had a chance of getting into 2 schools based on siblings/distance, so those were the only 2 schools we visited.

2. Check open evening/tour dates and book time off – get used to the idea that schools & working parents don’t really mix

It didn’t really occur to me that the school open sessions/tours would be during the school day, and I guess on the one hand it is nice to see the school in action. On the other, this will be your first (of many) realisations that schools by and large seem stuck in some kind of parallel universe comprised solely of families with one parent at home and that the parent in question is some kind of mind reader with amazing instant access to documents, resources and fancy dress making skills. I jest, kind of. Probably better to make peace with this now though…

For some reason, in our borough at least, the dates are not advertised. Each parent has to individually call or email the school for options. Despite the fact that the options are the same for everyone. I think we had 2 options for each school, one in Oct/Nov, the other in January. We wanted to make our final decision over the Christmas holidays when we both had some time off, so we went for the earlier dates.

If you work in the private sector and haven’t encountered school since you left school, you will likely despair at the apparent incompetence and disorganisation of the school admin. I just keep reminding myself that I’ve been told this has no reflection on the teaching or the care given to the children. It drives me mad though, so if you are like me, probably worth recognising and having a strategy in mind to deal with this from the outset rather than spending time after each and every interaction seething with irritation.

3. Write down your questions to ask at the open day

A very kind colleague at work gave me a lunchtime crash course in things to consider when comparing schools and when considering their Ofsted reports. During the school tours it is easy to either forget your questions or have so many you forget one – my experience is that the headteachers don’t take kindly to questions they perceive as interrogation (my husband said this, not the teacher) so I would recommend highlighting two or three key ones in a notebook and taking that with you! Considerations my colleague suggested included:

  • How do they deal with
    • children who don’t drag the data down
    • 4 and 11 year olds in the same building
    • infant/junior divide or relationship between the two
  • How do year 2 SAT results compare against other schools locally/nationally
  • How often does someone read with your child & how often does the teacher?
  • Where does that reading take place?
  • Is there a library/quiet area
  • When child has finished a piece of work, what happens next?
  • Can parents attend an assembly?
  • In the Ofsted report, look at the “raise” data (how kids are doing and split by various segments) and question what the school is doing to improve the bits they do badly at.

Other things to look out for which can give you a feel for the school:

  • How do the adults speak to each other?
  • What is the headteacher doing?
  • How do the children react when they see the headteacher?
  • What is the school security like?
  • Do the children seem happy and chatty?
  • Are they wearing a uniform or dress code?
  • Where do they eat lunch?
  • Is water available?
  • Are there IT facilities

4. Make sure you’ve completed the form on time

I’m told that some boroughs ask for things like Child Benefit details in addition to proof of address, so worth registering for the online account in good time and checking you have all the required documents.

5. Don’t forget to accept the offer if you are happy with it

We found out Pip’s school just 2 days after her little brother was born and whilst I was still in hospital. Thankfully, we were reminded by a kind friend from Pip’s pre-school that I needed to actually accept the offer, as by the time I’d recovered from the birth, I’d forgotten I needed to do it.

6. Don’t despair if you don’t get your first choice – you might end up with it, or even something better

I believe if you qualify for a place on admissions criteria but are too far down the list to be allocated one, you still remain on the list. I have it on good authority that there is a lot of movement up the list, particularly as some parents who will eventually choose a private school also apply for a state school back up. I am not the person to advise if you haven’t been allocated a place at all, but please don’t despair. Steph from Don’t Buy Her Flowers wrote a great piece after her son didn’t receive a place at any of their choices but is now happily attending a school.

7. If your school has uniform, buy it in July

If you want the pick of the sizes and options, buy it early. It didn’t occur to me that places would have nothing in stock by September, but I’m glad I listened to the experts in the years above me! I am going to do a separate round up post with my favourite options. Also bear in mind that some of the girls might start the year in checked dresses, so if you have an early start date, might be worth getting one just in case.

Cost wise – I found George at Asda and Sainsbury’s to both have reasonable quality skirts and pinafores and polos at a fraction of the cost of some of the other options…

8. Communication can be slow/non-existent so don’t be afraid to ask the school office & WRITE DOWN YOUR START DATE!

We heard nothing from the school once we’d accepted our offer in May until a letter arrived for the parents evening in June for new parents – less than 2 weeks before the intended date and around 6 weeks of no correspondence whatsoever. They do know the dates earlier than that though which I discovered by emailing the office.

At that meeting I was verbally told the start date, which thankfully I wrote down on the folder of forms I was handed, as we then heard nothing whatsoever from the school. No home visit, no reminder of start date – nothing. We turned up for the first morning on trust.

I also feel very much none-the-wiser to things like the PTA and any kind of procedure or indeed what Pip will be doing from now til Christmas, but I am trusting that eventually someone will give me some information at some point. In fact, I just got a random text message about Jeans for Genes day, so presumably some information will start to be forthcoming!

9. Breakfast / after school clubs – book in the morning that bookings open

Our school somewhat coyly refused to reveal any details of this until the June parents evening, and even then it was just a bit of paper in a pack. Parents in the know however tell me that there are nowhere near enough spaces for everyone, so early booking is ESSENTIAL. As I’m on maternity leave, we haven’t booked anything for January when I intend to go back to full time work, which is making me a bit anxious, but equally I can’t commit to it, so I can’t book anything.

Also, you get the form on the evening but I am told by those in the know, that this means booking opens on the day of the parents evening, so they went to the school office first thing on that day, requested the forms and booked. Easy if you know how, isn’t it (nothing in the paperwork or the evening suggested that this was even a possibility by the way).

10. Save all your annual leave!

Prepare for a long summer holiday due to a staggered start – and then be prepared for weeks of half days. Just when you think you’re into a pattern there’s a week off for half term, so make sure you’ve got all the dates sorted in advance…

At the open evening in June, we were told Pip’s start date. Our school and others in the area do start the reception class at the beginning of September when everyone else goes back, but they only have a couple of new kids every few days until they’re all in. Our school started with those who’d been at the attached nursery and then I think in date order, by oldest birth date. But, you can’t just start and get on with it, you have to do a tedious process of only doing mornings for a bit. Pip, who has attended full time nursery all day every day for more than 3 years has found it quite trying watching everyone else get to go to big school without her, and then when she was finally let in, had to leave after only a couple of hours! We then have to do a whole week of half days (which runs over the weekend into 2 weeks because we started on a Tuesday, much to my surprise).

11. Bring snacks to the school gate

I’m not sure whether it is because Pip ate very regularly at nursery but she has emerged starving each day so far. So hungry she can’t make it down the road home for lunch but has to have something THERE AND THEN!

12. The first morning is pretty weird and anti-climatic

Don’t worry if the only emotions you feel are slightly bewildered and a bit frustrated. And that you didn’t cry. Just as Pip seemed to think this whole going to school thing was a bit of a let down (only for 3 hours, “all I did was write my name and draw a picture and I didn’t even get any books for my book bag”) but seemed very excited again this morning, the first day is not so much an event as a gentle beginning. We were not welcomed with the singing shining optimism of my imagination – it was shambolic and chaotic and the teachers and office staff seem to pass the buck to each other as often as possible with the vague threat of the headteacher if needed – but we survived. She enjoyed it and was delighted to go again today. Whilst now slightly terrified that for the next 20 years I cannot take so much as a long weekend in term time, I have also tried to remember to be both kind to me and M as well as Pip. And, if all else fails, think back to whether you can remember your own first day of school? Thought not, so stop worrying! (I’ll try and take my own advice too).

Any other tips for the process up to the first day?

Linking up with #SchoolDays linky

Bubbablue and me school days linky


Just one more week left of the holidays here. I have to say, school can’t start soon enough here (we have a staggered intake by age into reception – I’m just glad she is a spring not summer baby or it would be nearly half term before she starts). After nearly 8 weeks of holidays we are starting to crave some structure again, and to be perfectly honest, I’d like to get on with some of my own projects again which have largely been on hold since both kids have required looking after all day. All summer we’ve been rather lax with all our routines including bed and bathing – simply chucking them both in the bath or shower when they really needed it, but not paying too much attention to bed times, or the occasional muddy feet in the bed. This week though, it’s been dark by 8pm again, and now LB is sitting in his chair with us at the supper table, we’re moving back towards a meal, bath, story, bed type evening.

As we’ve been clearing up and sorting out in an effort to get back to organised, I thought I’d round up some of our hero toiletries. Both of my kids suffer with eczema so all of these options are not only tried and tested for effectiveness and smell, but also whether they are ok for eczema sufferers.

1. Childs Farm Blackberry and Organic Apple Hair and Body Wash

This hair and body wash is a new product from Childs Farm. Blended with Argan oil to protect and moisturise young skin and hair, it smells delightfully of sherbet and summer fruits. I particularly like Childs Farm as all their products are suitable for sensitive and eczema-prone skin, and are approved and tested by dermatologists and paediatricians. Childs Farm is “committed to using natural, ‘free-from’ ingredients and essential oils in all their products, to help care for the skin and hair of newborns, babies and children. Their entire range is also extensively tested and trialled to ensure it’s mild, kind and safe to use, even on sensitive and eczema-prone skin” which means I can let Pip use scented products.

2. WaterWipes sensitive baby wipes

Although we have these mainly for LB, these are the only wipes that we can use on Pip’s hands and face when a clean up is required out of the house. We had numerous problems with the chemicals in other wipes (and washing powder on flannels at nursery) causing her eczema to flare up and then get infected, causing her on one occasion to be hospitalised with peri-orbital cellulitis, so we take our face cleaning regime pretty seriously. Once we’d switched to these wipes, and taken charge of the cleaning and washing liquid choices for her flannels (I literally had to provide one for each meal for nursery) we haven’t had any problems since.

3. Weleda Calendula Face Cream

Whilst we mainly use Cetraben cream from the GP, both Pip and I love the smell of this Weleda cream so I will often use this on her face in addition to the Cetraben. I use it on her little brother’s face too and his skin always feel really lovely afterwards.


4. Mustela Dermo-Cleansing liquid

Our original wash that we have used since Pip was born and which smells quintessentially of new borns. Whilst Pip now prefers her big girl scented Childs Farm options, we still have this in our bathroom – I like it so much that I’ve been known to bring it back from my favourite budget pharmacy in Paris and I still use it most days in the shower.

5. Green People Organic Berry Conditioner

One day Pip’s hair took me by surprise. We’d been using the Mustela newborn shampoo very happily with excellent results. And then suddenly, overnight, she grew up a bit and the newborn shampoo was no longer effective. We both like the texture and smell of this Green People one and we use the tiniest of dollops on the end of her hair. She likes it because she wants to be like me!

6. Green People scent free sun cream

Another of our hero products that we use year in, year out. I love it so much I write about it frequently – it goes on beautifully, doesn’t aggravate her skin and protects it nicely. We do mix it with a sun hat and long sleeved shirt (or rash vest in the water) as I am also a believer in staying out of the hottest sun and covering up too, but it is our go to suncream.

7. Aveeno bath oil

This oil is excellent for when Pip’s skin is feeling a little sore – it goes into the bath as oil and then turns a milky white, very soothing. We also like the Weleda version.

8. Childs Farm shampoo and Childs Farm detangler

As with the blackberry wash above, the shampoo contains nourishing argan oil for a tangle-free formula and smells delicious in strawberry & organic mint and works really well on Pip’s hair. After we use a little drop of the Green People conditioner, I then towel dry her hair and spray with the detangler and brush with a tangle teezer. Pip has really long fine straight hair and we found the newborn shampoo we were using previously tied it up in knots. This stuff is fantastic.

What about you – what other products should I be trying out for Pip?

Some products were initially sent to us for testing/review but everything featured here I have since bought again myself.