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.

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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.

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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.

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

And so the last days of August are slipping away. The light already seems more autumnal and everyone’s thoughts are surely turning now from the salad days of summer holidays to the first weeks of the new term. For many, this will be the last week of the holidays, so, bearing in mind budgets are tightening towards the end of the month, this is a something that will fill a day but the activities are all free.

I am re-capping some of the things we have enjoyed doing in a series for The Little Pip novelly entitled Things to do in the school holidays Sometimes I find even routine ideas can slip the mind, so I’ve been compiling a series of posts of ideas and things to do over the summer, or indeed, all the myriad half terms that will soon be on our radar.

MBNA Thames Clipper - The Little Pip

Take a boat trip with MBNA Thames Clippers

Forget about the tourist boats – beat the queues at the various wharfs and catch one of the MBNA Thames Clippers. We boarded at Blackfriars and sailed east to The O2, returning later in the day to Bankside for the Tate Modern. The boat we caught had a bar/cafe on board and plenty of interior seating, as well as some seats outside at the stern of the boat (rear) and all of the boats had a toilet on board.

MBNA Thames Clipper 2- The Little Pip

We were given a River Roamer ticket (£14.70 for an adult, under 5s travel free) which allowed us to get on and off as much as we liked between Vauxhall and Woolwich however you can also use your Oyster or contactless card to pay for a single fare too. We enjoyed the boat so much that we actually went the other way along the river as well during the evening after we’d collected Dad from work – we bought a picnic and ate it as we floated in the evening sun down the river to Putney.

The Little Pip | MBNA Thames Clippers Putney

Sky Studios and Nissan Innovation Station at the O2

After pretending we were on the boat David Beckham drove during the London 2012 opening ceremony, going along the river under Tower Bridge and passing Greenwich, we reached  almost the far end of the Eastern zone of the MBNA Thames Clippers and the O2, where we disembarked and spent a few hours exploring their free exhibits. I’d not really given The O2 much thought beyond it being a venue, but, if you’re looking for some interesting but free things to do, you could do worse than spending a couple of hours at The O2. If you head to Sky Studios when it opens at 11am and then head to the Nissan Innovation Station for 12pm you’d likely find them pretty empty. We were first into Sky Studios and had the pick of the experiences – and it wasn’t specially put on for bloggers.

I particularly liked the use of technology at both experiences – Sky and Nissan are both sponsors of The O2 so these are essentially experiential marketing techniques for them both, but don’t let that put you off if you’re looking for free but vaguely interesting/educational things to do with your kids this week. Sign up with your smart phone at Sky Studios and swipe the QR code at each activity and at Nissan, you register on the way in with a pass which you swipe to get things emailed directly to you. Both have a good sports focus which we particularly enjoyed in the Rio 2016 excitement – Pip rode a Sky bike, we played several famous golf holes, signed for the Liverpool team and even presented Sky News with a real camera and teleprompter.

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I love how funny I look in the photo above with Little Baby in a sling which is then covered in the Liverpool top. We both loved all of the green screen experiences, and I particularly loved that each experience had a member of staff to operate the camera and help you out.

At the Nissan Innovation Centre, we test drove an actual electric car (on rollers with a computer screen over the windscreen, Pip sat in the back and was very impressed), played Gran Turismo and Pip particularly enjoyed colouring a car which she then brought to life using a scanner on an iPad. The Nissan Innovation Centre is probably better if you have slightly older children, as there were a number of enticing sports/technology/body related things to try which looked fun, but Pip was too young and I couldn’t leave them!

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02 Nissan 1- The Little Pip

We ate lunch at Ask Italian which was really nice as it was so child friendly. One of the staff even served my lasagne for me as I was nursing Little Baby and was struggling with one hand, and there were lovely clean easy to access baby facilities (although I’m not sure I want to remember my least finest moments of the day which included some interesting nappy changes and a suit which I had to throw away as I’d run out of nappy bags).

I’d forgotten that there is almost every chain restaurant known to London to be found in The O2, and during the day you really are spoilt for choice in a way that you couldn’t imagine if you’d only been there for an event. There is also a cinema, so you could pop along to the free exhibits in the morning, have lunch and then while away the afternoon in the cinema – totally perfect for a grey day.

We were guests of The O2 for the day

During our first school holidays (and my first time looking after 2 children all day every day for 8 weeks until Pip starts school in September) I am re-capping in a series for The Little Pip novelly entitled Things to do in the school holidays Sometimes I find even routine ideas can slip the mind, so I’ve been compiling a series of posts of ideas and things to do over the summer, or indeed, all the myriad half terms that will soon be on our radar.

Relive your childhood and watch Swallows and Amazons

Swallows & Amazons | Studio Canal 2 An exciting parcel arrived for me one day from England. It contained Swallows and Amazons and was from my grandmother. I was 6, living in California for a bit and from the moment I started reading, a life long Arthur Ransome relationship was started.

I have been often asked how I came to write Swallows and Amazons. The answer is that it had its beginnings long, long ago when, as children, my brothers, my sisters and I spent most of our holidays on a farm at the south end of Coniston … We adored the place. Coming to it we used to run down to the lake, dip our hands in and wish, as if we had just seen the new moon. Going away from it we were half drowned in tears. While away from it, as children and as grown-ups, we dreamt about it… Swallows and Amazons grew out of those old memories. I could not help writing it. It almost wrote itself.” Arthur Ransome, 1958

 

 

Throughout my entire childhood, Arthur Ransome’s books were a constant back drop. Reading them, listening to my grandmother reading Pigeon Post to me on tape, playing games inspired by them, dressing up for Book Day competitions, and finally, back in England, learning to sail and spending time trekking round the Lake District looking for possible Wild Cat Islands and Swallowdales.

So it was with great excitement that I booked tickets for Pip and I to watch a special preview at the BFI, which also included a q&a with the director and script writer. I was absolutely desperate for Pip to enjoy the film and, at 4 and a bit, she is a little on the young side, but, I am pleased to report that it was a winning choice. We both loved the experience.

Swallows & Amazons | Studio Canal

Why to watch the film…

As an appealing family adventure film, I thought it was excellent. Ransome had a way of turning the ordinary into an adventure, and Philippa Lowthorpe has certainly captured this in a heart warming film. I actually really liked the upscaling of the robbery storyline into a spy story, although I doubt any spy of Ransome’s calibre would have been quite so careless as Rafe Spall’s Captain Flint appeared to be, and it added an element of danger such as would never have been so explicitly articulated by Ransome. As a mechanism for the film though, I thought it worked well if elements seemed slightly forced and super unrealistic. Spall did make a compelling Captain Flint though, if somewhat younger, far less rotund and much more attractive than his character ever read to me as a young child! Kelly Macdonald made a good Mother and I thought Seren Hawkes was an excellent Nancy.

Set in 1935 as opposed to the 1929 of the book, (Andrea Gibb says that they moved the date forward 6 years to be closer to WW2 and therefore make the spy line fit a little better – although I’m not sure that was really necessary) this is in some ways a period piece, which makes for a nice piece of wholesome escapism, albeit perhaps much more along the lines of the times Brexiters harker for than canny observations. I doubt any child watching it would have noticed but at times I felt there was a bit of jarring between the more modern children seeming more worldly than their 1935 characters should have been, yet also oddly incapable in ways that children of that age used to being in the countryside wouldn’t have been.

Pip, when asked which her favourite bit was says “all of it” (although I should note that whilst watching she found the spy climax scene a little scary) and thoroughly enjoyed the outing.

(& some notes for the adults – particularly any fans)

If, like me, you first read Swallows and Amazons as a child and love the novel so much, bear in mind that this is not a faithful representation of either the plot line or the essence of the book. Without spoiling anything of the plot that you wouldn’t get from watching the trailer, you can tell that the script writer, Andrea Gibb, only read the book for the first time when she was asked to write the screen play. She is unable to craft the childhood magic in the way that Ransome could, having experienced himself as a child his subject matter. That is not to say that it is a poor film per se, just that for me something substantial was missing – Ransome’s Walkers do not fall out with each other or berate each other for their failings. They are nuanced where Gibb’s Walkers are flat, albeit with reasonable acting particularly from the two youngest. (Don’t get me started on the changing of Tatty’s name – I suspect it is less about giggling potential as Gibb and Lowthorpe maintain and more about wanting to get it past strident American censorship). Her Blacketts fare better I thought, but for me the beauty of the book as a child were that the adults were far less present than they seem to be in the film. With only an hour and 40 minutes into which to condense the entire storyline there is obviously not much time to scene set but the vast majority of the book is unaccompanied, which is not reflected in the film.

If one of the things you like about the book is that things are always done properly, including all the sailing details, you will have to suspend this for the film and enjoy it first as a film and remember that your children probably won’t notice… Whilst I can sail both dinghies and bigger boats, I don’t personally know much about lug rigged sailing boats but even I probably wouldn’t think it wise to leave the dinghy at the end of a shingle spit with the sail still fully up.

Don’t let these details put you off though, I still thought it was a very enjoyable stand alone entertaining family film that I would recommend watching if you have children aged 5 upwards. I just wish they hadn’t named it after the book!

In cinemas from August 19 – look here for tickets

Images from Studio Canal.