not your average zoe

life, love and knitting


Letter and Sounds Phase 2 Resources review

I haven’t posted a review for a while.  Well I haven’t posted for a while.  Anyway, I’m back in a long-term role (all of a half-term) and I’m back in EYFS (hooray!), so here are a few of my favourite Letters and Sounds Phonics Phase 2 resources from twinkl Resources and Phonics play

Rhyming Bingo

Rhyming loop cards

A favourite site for all things interactive is where Poop Deck Pirates and Loo, Cover, Write are super popular games in Reception!

Phase 2 phoneme/sound poster

A useful guide about applying phonics in Literacy can be found in the free resources section of and some great pointers for when you feel your phonics sessions are stalling…

3D High Frequency Word helper

Phase 2 and 3 High Frequency words on colourful bricks

Are there any resources you rate? Or would like me to review? Do let me know!



Hobbycraft Women’s Institute yarn review: Soft & Silky DK

On to Women’s Institute Yarn review number 2!


Today we focus on Soft and Silky a double knitting yarn that is 100% Microfibre acrylic.

I was perplexed by this as it felt so….. silky.  (well done marketeers for excellent labelling).

I took the yarn to my knitting group, minus the label – what do you think of this?  I questioned?  What do you reckon it is?


Lots of stroking, oohs and aahs happened.  Lots of happy smiles about how vivid the red was.


“It’s Hobbycraft acrylic.  £3.00.  Light DK – 5ply” I inform them.

Multiple splutters of disbelief.  Taking of yarn and strokage and working out whether trips to Hobbycraft can be worked into the Saturday afternoon routine.

So far – so good.



I looked at my Ravelry queue (list of projects that I want to do – by no means a definitive list, more of a starter for 10) and found that the Circlet by Dani Sunshine would be perfect yarn/pattern match – seeing as how rare it is for me to actually check these things and then actually find a match I knew that it was destined to be.

So I made two crowns – one for my niece and one my nephew – and here are the results:


Let me tell you – I LOVED this yarn!


It feels so super luxurious


yet, it’s acrylic and £3.00 a ball (with a minimum of 5p going to WI per ball).

Go and buy it.  You really need to.  There aren’t enough colours in my opinion – but other than that it is a great value purchase.



Thanks to Hobbycraft for sending me this new and exclusive yarn to review.  The yarn was free, but the views are entirely my own and I am not paid to write my opinions.

Thanks also to my gorgeous husband for using his fancypants new camera to take better photos than I could ever manage!


Hobbycraft Women’s Institute Yarn: Soft & Cuddly

Hobbycraft have recently launched an exclusive line of yarns that are acrylic based, value prices and donate money to the Women’s Institute with every purchase.  The yarns are rich in colour, nice to the touch and wont break your yarn budget either.  I was lucky enough to be sent 2 balls of the 4ply baby yarn Soft & Cuddly, 2 balls of  5ply sport/light DK weight Soft & Silky and 2 balls of Premium Acrylic.


There are far more positives than negatives with all of these yarns – however I feel I must mention something that did jar a bit with me.  Much is made of the money going to the Women’s Institute by buying this yarn.  It feels good when you indirectly do something good, when buying something huh?  However the yarns really aren’t going to revolutionise the charity funding sector.  The 4ply yarn donates a whopping minimum 2p a ball.  You read it right – 2p.  The biggest donation comes from the acrylic 100g ball – wait for it….. 10p.  Not a massive donation is it?


Anyway – I thought that each type deserved a post of its own and so this first in the series is dedicated to the baby yarn 4ply – Soft & Cuddly.


I don’t really enjoy knitting swatches for the sake of it, so I decided to make purposeful samples – another reason why my review has taken so long!  The 4ply was very thick so I wanted to use it to make squares for my knitting group blanket that we are making for a local retirement home that gave us MASSES of yarn.  More on that when it’s done – back to the review-

The sample above is the shade “blue stripes”  – and I really enjoyed knitting it up.  The blue shade was self patterning as you can see and I think that the pattern came out well considering that I knit a diagonal square and it was all garter stitch.  My only note was that there was a lot more grey than I anticipated in this colourway.  Not something that would worry me, but those choosing it as a baby yarn may desire less grey.


Next I made the same square in the “Pink Flecks” colourway.


I found it strange that this was not a self-patterning yarn as the blue had been, but it did seem to fleck in stripes of pink then burgundy and a pale purple.  Still pretty and the square definition is more visible as the colour is less dominant.


All in all I enjoyed using this yarn and would pick it again for future projects that required a heavy 4ply acrylic – especially at £3.00 a ball.



Thanks to Hobbycraft for sending me this new and exclusive yarn to review.  The yarn was free, but the views are entirely my own and I am not paid to write my opinions.

Thanks also to my gorgeous husband for using his fancypants new camera to take better photos than I could ever manage!




The pattern I used is:

Cast on 3stitches

Row1 – knit 1, knit front & back, knit 1,

Row 2 and all even rows – knit

odd rows k1, kfb knit to last 2 sts kfb, k1

when triangle is desired size (this is as wide as it will be ) start to decrease on odd rows:

k1, slip 1, k1, pass slipped stitch over, knit to last 3 stitches, knit 2 together, k1

Continue to knit all even rows.

When just 3 stitches remain, cast off all stitches.

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Exciting news – yarny goodness

Guess what my lovelies?

I got picked by Hobbycraft as one of only 3 craft bloggers to review their new exclusive Women’s Institute Yarn!

The Women's Institute Wool & Yarn

Totally squee-worthy huh?

I just can’t wait to get started, much staring at the letterbox has happened.  This has not meant a delivery has arrived.

I will (bien sur!) keep you posted!

As you can see from the photo, it’s currently 3balls for the price of 2, and you donate to the WI with every skein.

Oh and don’t forget, if you go through the nectar e-shop website, you will get nectar points on any purchase.

All in all, it would be rude not to really…

Photo care of Hobbycraft, hyperlink takes you to the Hobbycraft web page where you can peruse their stock.  I claim no rights to any of the images, and I am not being paid for this preview, nor any forthcoming reviews.

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Meet Joe Brown

I think if I had to pick one high street designer to wear forever, it would be Joe Brown.

The fact that he designs for bigger ladies too is an amazing bonus.

Marisota recently sent me a catalogue of temptations of just Joe Brown pieces (well done Marisota marketing people).  Here are some of my favourites, in no particular order.  Click on the image to head over and purchase.  No, I am not on commision – I wish!

Joe Browns Floral Parka Style Mac


Funky Floral Mac – £50


Joe browns Tropical Crinkle Tunic

Tropical Crinkle Tunic – £35

Joe Browns Twit Twoo Retro Tunic

Twit Twoo Retro Dress – £30


Joe Browns San Pietro Dress

Hugely popular and starting to get low in stock San Pieto Dress – £45


Joe Browns Marvellous Floral Maxi Dress


Floral Maxi Dress – £45


Joe Browns Hit The Beach Tunic

Hit the Beach Tunic – £35


Joe Browns Days Gone By Dress


Days Gone By Dress – £45


You must be sure that you are on the uk site, as the items aren’t on the American one!  Also Nectar customers can earn points using the Marisota website if you go through the nectar eshops site.

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ideas for Lent

Lent starts next Wednesday (5th March) and whether you are religious or not, it’s a good time to stop, think, evaluate and restart something in your life, tweak something that you could make even better – or give up something that bugs you.

I don’t work well with giving up everything at once and being made to feel deprived.

I believe in love and generosity and self-improvement.

So here are some ideas:

  1. make the bed everyday
  2. restrict your processed food intake
  3. use a room fragrance
  4. give up negative thoughts
  5. draw the curtains everyday
  6. tell the people you value that you love them, and why
  7. bake
  8. look at the dates on your spices, jars and tins and check they are in date.
  9. give your baked goods away
  10. regularly take a small bag of donations to the charity shop
  11. stop saying the word “but” which devalues any positive statement you may make before it.
  12. cut some flowers/buy a bunch of flowers and give them to some neighbours you haven’t seen for a while
  13. volunteer to help someone/some cause out – even offering to help a friend take stuff to the tip, or walk their dog counts.
  14. put your favourite song on really loudly and dance your little tush off
  15. donate an hour of your wages to your favourite charity
  16. stop, think of 3 things you can be grateful for right now, then carry on.
  17. make time to do your favourite hobby everyday for a week.
  18. look at some old photos and if they make you smile, put them on display.
  19. try turning off the radio in the car – we are used to constant noise!
  20. go to bed at the same time every night (including weekends) and see if anything changes with your sleep patterns.
  21. organise a family board game session – no technology allowed.
  22. email someone you haven’t contacted in a while.
  23. call someone you usually email
  24. go au naturel and forgo makeup/hair products
  25. take a walk in the fresh air
  26. limit your technology time to 30mins-1hr a day
  27. cut out caffeine
  28. turn the TV off for an hour
  29. deep clean the showerhead
  30. if you self-assess your tax, or even if you don’t – collect all your receipts for the week and store them sensibly
  31. weed the garden
  32. light a candle
  33. clean the washing machine by putting it on a hot wash with just bicarbonate of soda and vinegar in the drawers
  34. check your bank balances and make sure you know to the penny where you are.
  35. stop drinking fizzy drinks
  36. smile – it will help you feel better from the outside and start to chip away at the feelings within
  37. have a cuddle with a loved one
  38. sit down for a cup of tea (decaff)* and really savour the taste
  39. avoid fried foods
  40. stop swearing

*insert own choice of drink here

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wedding anniversary gift ideas

I usually bumble about in the darkness until the week before our anniversary.  I intend to be more prepared due to my tight budget constraints this year.  Here are my humble offerings of ideas for the traditional (only) gifts given on specific wedding anniversaries.  Any comments or suggestions welcomed in the comments!

First: Paper – magazines, a book, a love letter, a poem, tickets to something, a poster, seeds in packets,

Second: Cotton – handkerchiefs, clothes, tablecloth, napkins, underwear, fat quarters for the maker in your life,

Third: Leather – gloves, belt, keyring, gadget cases,

Fourth: Linen – tablecloth, underwear, bed linen,

Fifth: Wood – time infront of a log fire, a wooden ornament, a tree, a wooden bench dedicated to your love,

Sixth: Iron – wrought iron sculpture/birdbath etc, pumping iron weights (?), iron cooking pans (I would not buy this). an iron (prepare for divorce).

Seventh: Wool or Copper – wool clothing, knitting supplies or a knitted item, a suit, a blanket,

Eighth: Bronze – bronze sculpture, bronzer (makeup), bronze tanning lotion, a fake tan (lordy, I may ask for a repeat of year 7…)

Ninth: Pottery – go to a paint some pottery studio experience, dinnerware, a pot plant

Tenth: Tin or aluminum – a metal sign (I see them around in garden centres alot), biscuit tins with favourite treats in,

Eleventh: Steel – stainless steel cutlery and cookware, Man of Steel DVD, Steel Eye Span CD, a date ice-skating together (on those steel blades)

Twelfth: Silk – underwear/nightwear, scarf, moisturiser and razor – for skin as smooth as…

Thirteenth: Lace – lace trim for sewing (just me?), lace underwear, lace curtains (lordy, not sure I should have thought that, let alone suggest it)

Fourteenth: Ivory – anything white, a date at a piano bar/piano concert,

Fifteenth: Crystal – glasses complete with champagne, crystal cufflinks, swarovski ornaments,

Twentieth: China – a holiday to China, new teaset, a chinese meal out/take away

Twenty-fifth: Silver – you really need help here?

Thirtieth: Pearls – seriously?  Ok buy a Pearl Jam CD and see the disappointment in her eyes EVERYDAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIVES…

Thirty-fifth: Coral or jade – scuba dive in the Coral Reef, or if you are broke, get a picture of some coral… or go with the colour / the gemstone.  Both work.

Fortieth: Rubies – go with the colour or the gemstone.  Both work.

Forty-fifth: Sapphires – see rubies.

Fiftieth: Gold – see silver.

Fifty-fifth: Emeralds – see rubies.

Sixtieth: Diamonds – honestly if you get to diamond wedding and you have no clue what to buy, how did you get there?