Saturday, 13 February 2016

Happy Valentines


I had a lot of delicious fun taking the photos of the Valentine treat box. I had to take them on a morning when the boys were at nursery as photo shoots and 3 year old don't work at the best of times let alone when sweets are involved! 


Once I had finished and packed everything away I left a box for both boys with a few chocolatey treats inside. When they arrived home one of my boys said "The Love elves have been, they are like Santa's elves but they bring love not presents" How cute is that!


Ellis and I are filling some boxes now for family and friends (and eating a few sweets in between)
If you haven't already download your free treat box here
Happy Valentines everyone
M x

Monday, 8 February 2016

Valentines Crafting & Making Fun


How are you going to celebrate valentines? In my house I like to use it as an excuse to make and do things with my children. We will get creative with some paper and pencils and do a whole lot of cooking inspired by what love means to us. What is so lovely is that children are full of love anyway and in my experience they adore making something to tell people who are important to them how much they care.

 If you live in the UK Valentines Day is also at the beginning or the end of the half term holiday so getting children to make something for valentines will keep them entertained for a few hours.  There are plenty of activities ideas across the web but to make it easier for you to find here are a few of our favourites.  Mandy has also been busy with Clare creating a very special free Belle & Boo valentines day treat box which is free to download - just print at home.


If crafting isn't your thing we also have ideas over on our 'Belle & Boo Recommends' February guide to activities and events across the country.

Now let's get crafty!

Activity Village has a wide range of ideas for Valentines day for children and they are all free.  This Lovebird is one of our favourites.  They have even provided a template to use if your children don't want to draw their own.  All you need is pink or red card, or you could paint white card, decorative glitter card and crepe paper to make the wings,  wiggle eyes are ideal but again children can draw their own.  And ribbon or string if you want to hang your bird up.  You can find the full instructions here



Martha Stewart is another great websites full of inspirational ideas for children to make and do at home.  Send a message of love with this adorable, super simple to make valentines notes made from tracing around little hands.  Easy for nursery schools and reception classes to do in class too.


So sweet and easy peasy lovebug craft for toddlers is by Michelle who writes a blog called Craftymorning.  This is one even tiny people will love to do as they can make the red dots using their finger prints.


For something a tiny bit more complicated check out these amazing, homemade snow globes.  These were created by the very clever Mummy of six Danyelle.  She created them for one of her daughters who, like her, is mesmerised by Snow Globes (what kid isn't!).  Don't be intimidated, all you need is an empty jar, some glitter, pipe cleaners and the slightly more obscure things but easy to find styrofoam balls and glycerin.  Go to her beautiful blog here for instructions.



If you don't already know the amazing website Oh Happy Day then you have been missing out.  They have a fab party shop but they also have a fantastic blog full of crafts, interiors inspiration and more.
There are quite a few project ideas for valentines day but these cat goodie bag caught my eye.



This is something you could make and fill with little chocolates for your loved ones or make with the children to give to friends perhaps.  They aren't difficult to make but you do need a few supplies.  Definately a fun activity for a weekend.  Go to Oh Happy Day for all the details.



Belle & Boo love to bake fans we had to include a few ideas for your little ones to enjoy with you in the kitchen.  BBC Good Food has some easy but impressive ideas including these valentines biscuits.  You will need a little heart cutter and the recipe uses freeze dried raspberries (from Waitrose) and red or pink food colouring to make the intense colour of the heart but they are simple to make.  I will  be baking these with my kids who love to relax by cooking in the kitchen (not so relaxing for me but such a great way to keep them entertained and away from the TV) .



Looking for a healthy way to say 'I love you' how about a yummy, nutricious homemade tomato soup with tasty heart shaped cheese crouton.  Sure to warm your families hearts it is perfect for cold February days.  Soup is also a great introduction to cooking for children so get older kids involved by helping to make the soup whilst younger kids can help you cut out the heart shaped bread.  Go to Parenting for the full recipe where you will also find a brilliant idea for heart shaped calzone.


These stunning Love Letters are by a fantastic, stylish blog called Sister Suitcase which we discovered thanks to one of our top favourite blogs from the UK 'The Little Buttons Diaries' (who also have a very cool round-up of valentines day ideas).   This is a project for big people but it is very effective and once you have got the hang of wrapping the yarn around the letters it is pretty straight forward.



I'm also a little bit in love with this DIY heart elbow patch from Swell Mayde - again introduced to me by the team at The Little Buttons Diaries.

So after reading this post we hope you are feeling the love for this cute, fun craft trend.  And don't forget please share your crafty and cooking pictures with us and let us know your own ideas.  We love to hear from you.

With Love,
Jules x




Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Belle & Boo Recommends - things to do in February

Parades of lanterns, snowdrop festivals, making wild art to fairytale ballets,  the UK has tons of wonderful things to do this February.




Now January is over I am looking forward to seeing the first signs of spring and enjoying the longer days.  As I researched things to do in February for this blog post I found lots of events and activities on offer across the UK to encourage us to take our families outdoors.    There are so many inspiring things to see and do that it is hard to pick what to feature , so I picked things  that are close to our hearts and things I think Belle & her friend Boo would enjoy - from building dens to exploring what colour means to the world.

The UK's first 'Snowdrop Festival' - across the UK and Wales





What a gorgeous idea - a Snowdrop Festival to celebrate one of the nations most beautiful flowers, the start of spring and to help raise much needed money for charity.

The first ever Snowdrop Festival is part of the 'Year of The English Garden' created by the National Garden's Scheme, an organisation which coordinates the opening of beautiful gardens across the UK to raise money for nursing and caring charities.  Starting this February, more than 100 gardens across the UK and wales will open their doors to visitors to see the carpets of beautiful snowdrops and watch the start of spring.  Find a garden near you by visiting the NGS website.

The Snowdrop Festival
Across the UK and Wales
From February
http://www.ngs.org.uk/gardens/snowdrop-festival-2016.aspx#resultsbookmark




 Den Building, Star Gazing, Wild Art With The National Trust - Across the UK
There is a rapidly growing movement in the UK to encourage children to go back to simpler pleasures and play outdoors, taking a break from screens. Something we believe is important.

The National Trust has created a brilliant, inspiring interactive club and guide called '50 Things to Do Before You are 11 3/4' to help parents get their children outdoors which is free to join here. And this February half term there are lots of outdoor events taking place in National Trust properties across the UK including den building, campfire cooking, star gazing, making wild art and more.

There are too many to list but a few tasters include a family fun day flying kites, tracking animals and building epic sandcastles at Brancaster Beach in Norfolk ; there's bird box making at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal water Garden in North Yorkshire; Take the family to Leigh Woods in Bristol and build a den from materials found on the woodland floor; At Stoneywell, Leicestershire there is a week of wild art on offer, inspired by the William Morris' prints around the cottages. And at Gibside in Tyne and Wear are a multitude of muddy outdoor events taking place as well as a half term hog roast with real ale for the grown-ups to also enjoy.

February Half Term Events
National Trust Properties- Across the UK
Various ages
https://www.50things.org.uk/

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/february-half-term-events-for-all-the-family


Creative Play With Scrap - Bristol



The Scrap Store in Bristol is a charity that makes practical use of scrap material for children's activities. The charity gathers supplies from businesses and industry and puts it to good use including running events throughout the year.  As Belle & Boo HQ  is in Bristol, the team including Kate and Mandy ofetn take their children's along to enjoy all this brilliant place has to offer.

During half term there are a whole host of creative events happening through the week for all ages.  Children and their parents can make shelters and grottos, get involved with a fun art attack and on the friday there is a technology day, with construction and deconstruction opportunities for children aged 6 - 12 years.

All year + half Term Events (8th - 12th February)
Bristol
http://www.childrensscrapstore.co.uk/

An Eye for Colour  - Liverpool




The award winning World Museum in Liverpool has lots to offer for all the family from antiquities to zoology.  And from now until September it is the home to 'An Eye for Colour' exhibition - a visual feast  to alert the senses.  Designed to be family -friendly the exhibition is packed with hands-on and interactive displays, exploring the endless ways in which colour shapes our world. As people who love to draw, we love the idea that this exhibition teaches children how colour is formed and used by artists.  It also explores how the natural world uses colours in many clever and mysterious ways. We hope the exhibition tours the rest of the UK soon.

An Eye For Colour Exhibition
World Museum
Until 4th September
http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/wml/index.aspx

A Giant Bed For Story Telling (Half Term Events At The Southbank) - London


The Southbank Centre in London is filled with wonderful events for kids during half term.  From Wednesday 10th February to Sunday 21st February it's the Imagine Children's Festival with music, literature and theatre events running every day. We love the idea of listening to a story on an enormous, comfy bed or making a dream jar, inspired by Roald Dahl's The BFG.  And one that really has caught our eye is the creative workshop to build and construct a city, inspired by two of our favourite children's books Rosie Revere Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty.

The Imagine Children's Festival
The Southbank Centre
London 
All ages
http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/



Make A Dragon - Wales




To celebrate St Davids Day  the wonderful, 19th century neo-Norman Penryhyn Castle near Snowdonia is opening it's gates for free on Saturday 27th February.   There will lots to see and do including Welsh craft activities and a special dragon making workshop.

Celebrate St Davids Day
Penrhyn Castle
27th February
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/penrhyn-castle

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty - Birmingham



Matthew Bourne's version of this classic fairy tale is a delight for any age.  New characters have been added and Aurora's great love is not a prince but a gamekeeper.  Created in 2012 this became the fastest selling production in the company's history.   A glorious Gothic fairy tale for all ages and for all those little dancers out there.

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty
The Hippodrome
Birmingham
9th - 13th February
http://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/matthew-bournes-sleeping-beauty/

Drawing On Childhood - London



A small exhibition at The Foundling Museum brings together illustrations from fiction depicting  images of children orphaned, adopted or fostered.  Original drawings, first editions and more from books and stories including James and The Giant Peach.  Hetty Feather, Rapunzel and Cinderella.

The Foundling Museum
Until 1st May
http://foundlingmuseum.org.uk/


Celebrate The Year of the Monkey - Manchester


Manchester has the second biggest China town in the UK and the third biggest in Europe and every year there are events throughout the city to celebrate the Chinese new year.  There is street food, lion dancers, live music and on the Sunday there will be parade led by a 175-foot dragon, a funfair and a finale of fireworks to finish the day.

It is also 30 years since The Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art in Manchester opened and to mark the anniversary there is a high profile exhibition of some of the most respected Chinese artists of today.

Manchester
Thursday 4th - Sunday 7th February
http://chinesenewyearmcr.com/


Magical Lantern Festival  - London



London has a lot to offer this February so if you can take a trip to the capital you might want to end your day at Chiswick House & Gardens where the spectacular Magical Lantern Festival will be taking place. This is an event  we think will enchant children as well as adults.  A beautiful installation of sculpted lanterns in the shape of animals to buildings to celebrate the Chinese New Year.  Adding to the electric atmosphere there will be staged performances to enjoy, a market and food stalls.

From 3rd February to Sunday 6th March
From 5pm in the evening
http://www.chgt.org.uk/


We will also be posting ideas for half term valentines crafts on our blog so do check back.  And don't forget to enter our valentines competition to win a new Belle & Boo personalised wall sticker.

Happy February
Love
Jules x

Friday, 29 January 2016

Room Tour - A Room Revisited!

A few years ago we showed photos you a lovely Belle & Boo Nursery sent to us by Michelle. Recently, Michelle sent us some updated photos of her daughters room in their new house of how the nursery turned into a  'Big Girls Room'.
We love seeing the transition of the room and how our pieces grow along with children.

This is also a great example of how our wall stickers can be moved around time and time again! 





The blanket, cushions and sweet heart are made Ava and Friends Cotton Poplin


If you've got a Belle & Boo themed room in your home we'd love to see the photos! Email them to us at hello@belleandboo.com





Friday, 22 January 2016

Lou's 2nd Birthday Party




We were recently sent these stunning photos of little Lou's Belle & Boo themed 2nd birthday party. There was lots of 'oohing' and 'ahhing' in the office and they sure did put a smile on our faces. 
We love the soft tones and all the little bits of detail. I think the pictures speak for themselves so I shall leave it to them to do the talking!

Lost Cut Out Postcard used for embellishing.




(Top Left: The birthday girl wearing her special Belle & Boo dress
Top Right: Tea Light Decorations with Belle & Boo Accordion Stickers 
Bottom Left & Right: Patchwork Fabric tags and bunting adorn containers and goodie bags)

Belle & Boo "Furry Friends" Tattoo's used as party favours.


Top Left:  Seedbombs used as party favours. 
Top Right: Playtime Collection postcards used as decorations.
 & Lost Cut Out Postcard used as pretty details. 

Stunning pastel dessert table. We love the hyacinth flowers in there too!
Adorable carrot patch cupcakes
   
The birthday girl enjoying her Belle & Boo tattoos!

Beautiful bunting made with our Patchwork Fabric


We hope this has inspired you to have your own Belle & Boo party for your little one! Don't forget we  also have our range of party stationery and tableware available from www.belleandboo.com too.
Love,
Clare

Friday, 15 January 2016

8 Beautiful Belle & Boo Years

I can't quite believe it's been 8 years, on one hand it's gone so darn quickly and on the other when I think of everything that has gone on in my life and Kate and Patrick's, 4 babies, 4 house moves, 3 studio moves, lots of lovely staff coming and going and all the other stuff that busies up our lives for the better and worst, I am pretty proud we are still here and better than ever.

I have written about how Belle & Boo came about many times, so please feel free to skip this next bit! but I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the road so far and the journey ahead.

Russ and I were working and travelling when a friend in Sydney introduced me to Etsy, I was immediately hooked by the likes of The Black Apple and Ashley G and when I returned to the UK I couldn't wait to give it ago. People often ask me for advice on how to get started and I have to be honest and say "I was in the right place at the right time" in the sense that Etsy was still relatively new so it was easier to be found, also it had just become affordable to print archival quality prints at home on a relatively inexpensive printer (although I do remember wincing when I invested £400 on my first Epson printer having no idea whether I would sell a single print!) These 2 factors meant that I like many other creative people could start selling their art work directly to the public at affordable prices.

'Gentleness Green'  The first art print sold!
I wasn't from a computer generation (when I went to art school we didn't even have mobile phones!) I was meant to have 6 computer lessons during the first term of my degree, but I was so scared of them I typed on an old fashioned typewriter, cut and pasted and photocopied my work to make it look like I had done it on the computer! So websites and blogs were all very new to me, when I actually managed to list my first print on Etsy and it disappeared 10 minutes later I thought I had done something wrong until I realised I had actually sold it! and luckily they kept on selling!

My first shop on Etsy was called MillyMollyMandy after my childhood favourite heroine, but quite quickly it became apparent that I needed my own name and Belle & Boo were 2 characters that I had been drawing for a while and they came to the fore front.

It was around this time that I was struggling (in a good way) with work load and my lovely friend Kate and I started talking about the possibility of building Belle & Boo as a business together. Her background is in design and management and well quite frankly she is a great sales person and had always championed my work. Another thing I say when asked how to get to the next level with a fledgling business is "get yourself a Kate"! There is NO way Belle & Boo would be the brand it is today without her tenacity, humour and hard work and it definitely wouldn't have been as much fun.

We worked for the first year in my garden studio in London, which seems crazy now when we are busting out of our 2 floor 2000 square foot office, it was a lot of hard work but a lot of fun the possibilities seemed endless.

Mandy's Garden Studio in 2010

Kate and I in 2009 with Kate's eldest daughter, Robyn.
In brief, Kate then had 2 children, we had meanwhile moved the dispatch part of our business to Bristol where we relied on a fab bunch of mums to manage the consumer website. We got our first publishing deal with Hachette and this gave Kate's husband Patrick the confidence to leave his job at a London design agency and join us. Kate and Patrick moved their family to Bristol, then I fell pregnant with twins (Russ my partner and I had been considering moving to New York for a while for his work, but we quickly knocked that idea on its head, when the scan showed us 2 heart beats!) and we also moved to Bristol.

There are 9 of us now in the Belle & Boo team and most of the time coming to work feels like hanging out with your good friends, we eat too much cake, we drive Patrick (currently the only male) to distraction and we support each other at the different stages of lives that we are all at.

My family at home in Bristol.
5 Books later and a huge array of products and opportunities, mistakes made, lessons learned we are now all ready and a little more able (although our kids are all still deliciously small so we aren't going full time any time soon!) to move forward for the next big push.

So watch this space! but before I have to run off to bath my children I have to say that none of this would have been possible with out all the lovely Belle & Boo customers we have out there. We are always amazed, inspired, moved & over joyed by the different ways the brand has touched people's lives. When I think back to my childhood and my favourite children's books, the thought that I might be creating those memories for children today, well it kind of blows my mind!

THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.

Love Mandy

PS. To celebrate our birthday we have 15% off at www.belleandboo.com with code BDAY8 until Monday 10am GMT Jan 18th 2016.