Rocking the art

We’re well into the summer holidays now, so I thought it was time for some arts and crafts. Given the amazing weather, it had to be outdoorsy too, which means ROCK ART! My extended clan ranges from 5 to 15, so finding activities for all can be a challenge but this was a huge hit with everyone (including granny and grandpa).

We gathered the rocks on a hike (we’re currently up in Scotland and hiking daily, to some teenage mutterings). The 5 year old had ambitious plans that left his dad looking like Sisyphus pushing a boulder uphill in Greek mythology. The others had more modest sized selections. Back home, we decorated them using these

  • acrylic pens – I got a multipack plus silver and gold extra. The black ran out first, so next time I might get a spare as it was used to outline everything (I hadn’t realised that).
  • “>modge podge – we used the gloss finish but you can get matt if you prefer.

Several hours of painting and varnishing later, we had a large collection.

We then wrote the details of the local rock art FaceBook group on the back of each rock, to encourage people to share pics of when they found them, and hid them across the area (hike number two with absolutely no complaints from the teenagers). Just search for “rock art” to find the local group.

Here are some examples where we have hidden/ found rocks but there are loads of groups

Aboyne Pebbles & Rocks

Hidden Rocks Chichester


The next morning, I woke to demands of a repeat of the activity – result! More hiking, more art. Happy families 🙂

There was huge excitement as several rocks were spotted over the next few weeks and the finders very kindly shared pictures of their finds on FB, but sadly most of the rocks vanished without a trace. We consoled the kids with the fact that their art work was so good people wanted to take it home as treasure. If you do find any rock art, I would urge you to share a snap with the FB group as it really makes the kids’ day.





Do I need an English culture coach?

Since I featured the book Bloom Where You’re Planted on expat life, I’ve had people asking me about relocating, so I thought it would be interesting to invite a professional to provide another perspective. Victoria runs Perfect Cuppa which supports people, usually professionals, relocating to the UK with the language and culture. Since my blog is not a corporate blog, we had a chat about settling the family in, which was not covered in great depth in the Bloom book.

Anywhere, here she is with her top tips …

Top tips for settling your family into the UK

Moving to a new country can be a big challenge, even if you have done it previously. In  fact many people I meet as clients believe moving to the UK will be easy, as London is a large, multi-cultural city with English as the international language. This is true to a certain extent, however, relocating to London with a family might not be as straight-forward as it seems, so here are my top tips to help the kids feel settled quickly & you feel orientated & more plugged in.

  1. School gate chat: chatting to other parents at drop off & pick up time, is a great way to have your questions answered about the school, how things are done & where to find things in the local area. Not sure how to kick off? In the UK the weather is a good topic & we like to comment on the weather, even it’s only a little bit warm or cold! But of course anything to do with school is a hot topic like SATS (the national tests in years 2 & 6. The British are quite keen on testing kids, even at early ages), whether people are tutoring or not (can be controversial), homework etc.
  2. Coffee mornings: depending on the school, you may find coffee mornings are organised as socials or information meetings, and you can meet other parents & learn more about what’s going on in the school. Don’t be fooled by the name, yes there is coffee, but tea is still the drink of choice in the UK. Usually drunk with cold milk (not hot milk or cream), the most popular way to make tea is in a mug, tea bag first, then hot water, finally milk. If you have a friend around, you will need a kettle to make a proper cuppa! I don’t recommend making a cup of tea in the microwave, it just doesn’t taste nice.
  3. Lunchtime: School dinners confusingly can be the name of the meal at lunchtime, and every school will provide an option to eat there. The meals are free for school years Reception to year 2, and there is a small charge for the other years. If you prefer your child to have a packed lunch, then this is possible, and they can bring in a cold lunch, usually including the very English sandwich, in a lunchbox. Just check your school’s rules on what you can include, as some schools are very strict about nuts or chocolate, plus sweets & crisps (the British names for “candy” and “chips”).
  4. After-school fun: there are countless opportunities for after-school clubs, inside school & in externally-run groups. If you child is shy or they are trying to get better at speaking English, then they can get to know their classmates in a more relaxed environment. There is a group for anything & everything out there, and if you’re looking for recommendations, then check out your local parenting facebook group, e.g. “Hampstead Mums” is the facebook group to join if you live in Hampstead. Alternatively, I think Girl Guiding & Scouts are another good option for your kids to meet friends, and don’t forget there are a number of day activity camps in London during the school holidays.
  5. Play date rules: Another popular thing for after school in the UK are playdates. We tend to organise these in advance with the other parent, and it can be in a local playground, one of your homes, or soft play. Usually they are quite short, an hour or 2, and the kids will have a snack but won’t have a full dinner, unless you specifically make an arrangement. Play dates with younger children would expect you to go along too, but with older ones, if you’ve arranged for them to be picked up after school by the other parent, then you need to let the school know in advance that you give permission. Occasionally people will spontaneously organise a playdate, especially in the summer when lots of parents might head to the playground, but it’s more unusual.
  6. Chill time: a great way for your kids to understand British life & other children can be as simple as watching TV, and if English is a 2nd language, then this can help them improve. Even at advanced levels, it’s worth watching with the subtitles on to improve fluency & connect British pronunciation with words. I would highly recommend you check out programmes via the BBC i-player app, which is an on-demand service you can access for free if you have paid your TV license fee, and CBBC is the children’s channel. Current popular programmes include Blue Peter, Millie Inbetween, and the 4 o’clock club.
  7. Charity fundraising & dressing up:Whether it’s Red Nose Day, Halloween, or Children in Need Day, you need to know the British are pretty serious about key events in the calendar & charity fundraising. You can expect quiz nights, school fairs & fancy dress or “wear your own clothes” days (very exciting as British schoolkids usually wear a uniform), all ably organised by the school’s PTA (parent-teaching association). You can volunteer to help organise these events, which is another good way to make friends. Also don’t forget that fundraising & school events include lots of cakes, sugar consumption & prizes, all in the name of charity!


Thanks Victoria, I could do with some help on school gate chat myself! Hope you have found the tips useful and if you have any further questions do comment below or get in touch with Victoria directly:,

About Victoria


Victoria Rennoldson, Founder of Perfect Cuppa English, was born in & has lived most of her life in London with her young family. After a first career in brand marketing, she re-qualified in teaching English, and took the plunge to become an entrepreneur. She set up her company, Perfect Cuppa English, in 2015 to offer private English language and British Culture courses for adults, in Everyday & Business English, for greater speaking confidence. She regularly gives talks and writes articles about British language, life & culture.

You can regularly find her zipping between client meetings on the London underground, and she’s now pretty fast on the escalators. Her favourite things include tea (of course);  a good pair of flat shoes to maximise speed up & down escalators on the speed dash between meetings; beautiful notepads & a great selection of coloured pens. If you’re making her a cuppa, she prefers Twinings English Breakfast tea.



A practical handbook for expat families

This caught my eye as I’ve been an expat, admittedly a long time ago. I know it sounds exciting and glamorous, and of course it is, but there are challenges. This book focuses on these aspects.

The book is written by Las, who is a “trailing spouse”, the non-working half of the family. It was actually my job that took us to Sydney, but my husband quickly found a job in his sector, so we avoided many of the isolation issues that she encounters and, other than distance from home, Sydney has to be one of the easiest places to settle as an expat, however much of the rest of the book resonated. I’ve also done a short stint as a trailing spouse in South Africa, where I got an insight into many of the struggles Las addresses.

The chapters cover a wide variety of topics. The chapter on packing was pretty basic, but the one on Expat Drop was extremely insightful – in fact any expat should read the book for this chapter alone.

Overall, I’d recommend this to anyone considering the expat life. I also think it would be useful for the working half of the team to read it to get a better understanding of some of the issues that their trailing spouse faces. My only gripe would be, it felt like it should be humorous, but it was neither totally funny, nor totally serious. The home help chapter for example nearly had me laughing out loud, but not quite.

One thing I would add from my personal experiences, is that it took us about 18 months to break out of the expat community and make local friends. That group are still some of my closest buddies even now, 20 years later, and some of them are settled in the UK!


BloomWhereYourePlanted Cover

Are you contemplating a move abroad?

Don’t panic!

From culture shock to capable, from language barriers to lifelong friends, and from foreign land to the familiar. Being hurled into life in a strange new place can be daunting and overwhelming, but it can also be exciting and enjoyable.

Rich with tips on how to expat like a boss, Lasairiona McMaster’s “Bloom where you are planted”,takes you on a journey from packing up her life in Northern Ireland to jumping in at the deep-end as an expat in two countries.

An experienced expat from a decade of living abroad, her honest and uncensored tales of what to expect when you’re expatriating, are as funny as they are poignant, and as practical as they are heartfelt. If you’ve lived abroad, or you’re considering the move from local to expat. If you’re looking to rediscover yourself, or simply wondering how on earth to help your children develop into adaptable, resilient, and well-rounded people, this book has something for you.

About the author


Lasairiona McMaster grew up dreaming of an exciting life abroad, and, after graduating from Queens University, Belfast, that is exactly what she did – with her then-boyfriend, now husband of almost ten years. Having recently repatriated to Northern Ireland after a decade abroad spanned over two countries (seven and a half years in America and eighteen months in India), she now finds herself ‘home’, with itchy feet and dreams of her next expatriation. With a penchant for both travelling, and writing, she started a blog during her first relocation to Houston, Texas and, since repatriating to Northern Ireland, has decided to do as everyone has been telling her to do for years, and finally pen a book (or two) and get published while she tries to adjust to the people and place she left ten years ago, where nothing looks the same as it did when she left.

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Traditional Bulgarian Easter egg painting

Happy Bulgarian Easter! Yes, it’s today – it’s celebrated at a different time to in the UK and is a very important date in the Orthodox calendar. We have several Bulgarian friends, and every year they bring us the most stunningly painted eggs. The tradition is you bash the top of each others eggs and the intact one is the winner and has a year of good luck. The winning egg is kept until the following year – seriously – I still have mine from last year. You can read more about the tradition here Traditional Bulgarian Easter eggs


Attempt one: we tried dying them with food dye. Epic fail. Very pale and washed out. So for attempt two, we’ve bought proper egg paints, but there’s a slight technical hitch as the instructions are in Bulgarian. And the packet comes with plastic gloves, which is a rather worrying sign for a kids activity. A quick experiment with 3 to 4 drops doesn’t give enough colour intensity, so we decided to use the sachets neat.

Step 1: boil eggs for at least 10 minutes. I put kitchen paper in the bottom of the pan to stop the eggs from cracking.

Step 2: cut up an egg box to make a painting stand.

Step 3: cool eggs.

Step 4: warm the gel sachet paints to soften, if you’re using ones like I bought.


Step 5: dip brushes in the gel sachets and paint directly onto the eggs.


Step 5: use the gold paint as a final decorative layer. Our finished eggs


Now for the competitive side as the siblings attack each others eggs …



Anyone for pom pom sushi?

Every time my nephews and nieces get together, we try a new craft activity. They range from 4 to 15 so it’s quite challenging to find something that they’ll all enjoy. Since I’m always searching for new ideas (I actually keep a whole Pinterest board just for this – its become a tradition and the pressure is on for each to be better than the previous one), Let’s Make Pom Poms caught my attention.

I didn’t realise there were so many things you could do with a pompom, although I’m not sure anyone will ever need sushi pom poms? My personal favourite was the key ring but the kids voted for the Easter chicks, and since that’s seasonal, and I had some left over yellow wool from another project, that was easy.

There are other seasonal projects too. The spiders would be a great Halloween project, but I’d use black wool. And the snowman is a must for Christmas.

The instructions in the book are clear and simple. My only criticism is that it could do with measurements so you can make your own cardboard rings (old school style, using a cereal box), rather than having to buy the plastic ones. Cheaper, and more environmentally friendly. And it’s not difficult. As I didn’t want to buy seven rings just for one afternoon activity, I guesstimated. Obviously I miscalculated a bit as our chicks are hens. It was great fun though.

I love a spot of crafting and happily recommend this as a family friendly activity.

Let’s Make Pom Poms


Fun and easy makes for all the family. Get crafty with pom poms with 15 easy to follow step by step guides. Make your own set of fluffy dice, sushi that looks good enough to eat and an everlasting Christmas tree as well as many other exciting projects

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Author Bio – Katie Scott is a craft and book blogger who lives in the county of Kent, UK. Living at home with her husband and infant daughter, Katie loves nothing more than long evenings in with a good book, a pile of crafting goodies and a very large pot of tea.

Let’s Make Pom Poms is her first crafting book.

Find more work from Katie Scott on her blog:

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(Legal) street art for all ages

“Please bring in some of the art you’ve done at home,” the teacher asks.

That’s going to be a little bit tricky …

Don’t worry, the garage doors were being replaced, and I’m thrilled with my colourful garage interior.

I adore street art. Several years ago Chichester did an amazing street art exhibition. These make a very teenager friendly alternative art tour. Plus I’m always up for a bit of stealth education.

Sadly my favourite, “King of Cats”, was whitewashed over recently by the council following complaints about antisocial behaviour. Personally I’m happy that the Belgian artist, Joachim, has provided a new masterpiece for us to enjoy. The Chichester Observer reported

Joachim’s management said he had been ‘horrified’ to hear his King of Cats mural ‘attracted antisocial behaviour’ within the city of Chichester and took it upon himself to put things right. Knowing that cats can be rather antisocial by nature, Joachim decided to paint ‘The Watchdog’ to watch over the streets and keep the neighbourhood safe.

King of Cats

King of Cats by Belgian artist Joaquim

Back to our budding vandal. It was really no surprise that he wanted a graffiti birthday party. Near Waterloo Station in London is Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel where anyone, armed with a spray can or two, is permitted to make their mark, without getting arrested. The tunnel was originally created by Banksy although his artwork is long gone.


Luckily, his friends are urban cool, and their parents super chilled, so there was barely a raised eyebrow.

The toughest decision was what to paint over, because all the art was amazing, but eventually the spot was chosen and after a tentative start they all got into it.


Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel

Top tips if you’re thinking of taking the kids

  • buy the cheapest spray paint you can as they race through it
  • painting masks from the DIY store hopefully helped with the fumes, but it was outdoors so it wasn’t too bad
  • surgical gloves are a very good idea! I bought a box of 100 from the local chemist.

The other artists working on the same day were super friendly and showed the kids how they used stencils in their designs.

There are official “street art” walking tours in various towns if you’re interested in exploring but unsure where to start. I was looking at the Shoreditch Street Art tour which I haven’t done but it’s on the list.

And since this is also a book blog, here’s a little bit of bookish news

Purely by coincidence, I just finished reading Revenge on the Rye by Alice Castle about the murder of a street artist, which I highly recommend. I blogged about this a few weeks ago.


Easy guide to illustration apps for kids

Sometimes you meet people whose talent just blows your mind! So today I have the very great pleasure of introducing Charlotte who is going to share her illustration app tips. She’s already planning a career in art and I see a bright future for her.

2019-02-26 19.50.13

She entered my illustration competition, and not only were her drawings amazing, but she was the only computer based entry which really caught my attention. I asked her, via her Dad, if she would mind sharing her knowledge on computer based illustration to help other youngsters try it out. I’m delighted too share this blog from her, and being a super cool tech-savvy kid, she’s made us a YouTube video too!

So over to Charlotte …

Hi, I’m Charlotte and I am 11 years old. I love to draw; it’s one of the things that I like to do most in my free time and I hope to someday make a career out of it. 

I mostly draw on my an iPad using the Apple Pencil, which I prefer, but I also enjoy drawing on paper. The reason why I enjoy digital drawing more is that you can do so much with colours, shading, and layers. Layers are really useful as they can help you build up your artwork and allow you to experiment with your drawing without ruining it.

The app I draw with most is Autodesk SketchBook but I do have a few more, including: Adobe Sketch, Adobe Draw and MediBang Paint. Even though drawing is my speciality, I do like to animate as well. The FlipaClip app is a very good app to animate with, and so is Toonator (a website), but I would say FlipaClip is better.

I have an art style that the Japanese created called Manga. I feel Manga is probably easier than drawing realistic art. The reason why I like Manga so much is because it has that cute cartoony look to it but you can also make it realistic. So it’s like a mix between cartoony and real life. Also, I think eyes in Manga are just beautiful and there are so many ways to draw them.

If you are starting to draw on paper or on a digital tablet, here are some tips:

– Firstly, find out what your art style is first before you start doing anything. E.g. realistic, manga, cartoony, abstract (and lots more).

– Secondly, picture your drawing in your mind and then sketch it roughly.

– Thirdly, when you’re happy with the outline, start to build up the detail in your drawing.

This is how I draw step by step:

– Sketch the thing you want to draw (It can be messy).


– Go over it in a black pen or press hard on a pencil – go for the pen it’s easier.



– Colour it in or go for the monochrome look (Black and white).


Once I’m happy with the colours, I start to shade in a deeper colour than the original colour that I started with. Also, a great way to record your artwork is to have a paper sketchbook. It could help you over the years until you fill it up with all sorts of things, then you can look through everything you created and see if you have improved. Then you could try and see if you could learn a different art style.

Going back to the drawing apps, the best thing about using a good digital pencil/stylus is that if you press harder when drawing it makes it darker and thicker and if you press softer it’s thinner and lighter. If you select the pencil tool in the app when using an Apple Pencil (or similar digital stylus), tilting the pencil slightly creates shading very similar to drawing with a real pencil on paper, but the app makes it easier to correct your mistakes and doesn’t leave any marks or traces of the pencil behind. You can also make your pencil thicker and thinner just by changing the settings of that tool and can adjust the opacity of it too (see-through).

I hope you find these tips useful, Charlotte.