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Our Inspiration

Five top tips for making your own family fun this summer!

Five top tips for making your own family fun this summer!

As the summer holidays draw near, it's time to face up to the annual challenge of keeping the kids entertained for six whole weeks.  We're here to help with five creative and budget friendly top tips for family activities … plus some great selections from our collections of toys, games and craft gifts for children!

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Why children need crafts

Why children need crafts

We look at why it's so important to encourage our children's natural creativity.  Taking part in craft activities helps to create new brain connections, learn new skills and interests, and improve mental health - plus it's great fun.  And you can browse our new Craft & Creative Collection for great gift ideas to inspire any child's imagination!

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Our five favourite gardens to visit this summer

Our five favourite gardens to visit this summer

Summer is on the way and it's the perfect time to celebrate our great British gardens!  With so many amazing gardens to choose from, we've recommended our five favourites to visit.  And check out our top pick of unusual gardening gifts and nature lovers' gifts (not forgetting gifts for gardeners who have everything ....).  ...

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Discover the secrets of our Vesica Piscis suncatcher ...

Discover the secrets of our Vesica Piscis suncatcher ...

We love this latest addition to our crystal suncatcher collection! And we're fascinated by the stories about its simple yet striking design and its surprisingly profound associations. Find out more about this perfect gift for lovers of nature, mythology, maths and geometry - and secrets too!     

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Celebrating our forever friends

Celebrating our forever friends

Where would we be without our forever friends and how often do we take the time to tell them how important they are?  Whether your special friend is your mum, your best friend from school or your family pet, here are three special days for you to celebrate.  And Peach Perfect have created three gorgeous collections of gifts for friends to help you show them how much you love and value your friendship!

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We're loving angels ...

We're loving angels ...

As more and more people believe in the physical presence of angels, we take a look at these powerful symbols of hope and their influence - from world religions to the New Age, from Victorian death angels to Dr Who, and from medieval art to Antony Gormley's Angel of the North.  Our love of angels and angelic images is set to continue - and you can send a special message to a loved one with Peach Perfect's angel keepsakes!

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Remember, remember ... it's traditional entertainment time!

Remember, remember ... it's traditional entertainment time!

November is fast approaching and we're looking forward to the start of the festive season.  One of the things we most enjoy is entertaining at home with friends and family and playing good old fashioned games.  And we've been inspired to take a closer look at the stories behind some of our traditional entertainment.

Halloween party pumpkins

With Halloween lurking around the corner, we're getting our apples all lined up for apple bobbing - still one of the most popular party games at this time of year.  Like many traditions, there are several different stories about how it started, but we've traced it back to the Roman invasion of Britain. 

The Romans seemed to have had a god for anything and everything - their fruit goddess was called Pomona and she was symbolised by an apple.  Their legends became intertwined with Celtic mythology and Celt elders often used apple pips for divining matters of love and fertility.

Unsurprisingly, the game of apple bobbing became a courting ritual. Whichever girl managed to take the first bite would be the first to marry - and if she put the apple under her pillow, she'd dream about her future partner that night.  Now that's something we haven't tried yet!

Apple bobbing in water

It's been more than four centuries since Guy Fawkes and his team failed to blow up the Houses of Parliament, but we're still happy to celebrate!  Many people go to public parties as there are so many great local large firework displays and safety concerns, as well as costs, have increased over the years.  

During both World Wars, though, outdoor displays were banned and so families had to celebrate inside the house with indoor fireworks only.  Did you know that up until 1959 it was illegal not to celebrate Bonfire Night in Britain?  We certainly didn't!

The current Guinness Word Record holder for the largest firework display is the Church of Christ in the Philipines, who launched an astonishing 810,904 fireworks for an hour long New Year's Eve display two years ago.  All of which took place in the pouring rain! 

Bonfire Night fireworks

One of our favourite dinner party traditions, especially after a glass of fizz, is a spot of acting - murder mystery games are great, especially if everyone's willing to dress up in character!  Often we'll stick with charades, though, as it's quicker and usually easier to guess the answers.

That didn't always use to be the case, however.  When the game was first invented by the French, it was intended to be more of a literary riddle.  It allowed people to verbally show off their knowledge of tricky language and play on words instead of acting.

Charades became very popular in Regency times and appears several times in Jane Austen's writings.  To make it even more difficult, it was usually written in verse and had to rhyme - we'll definitely stick to acting!

Murder mystery party evening

Lastly, it wouldn't be Christmas for us without getting our playing cards out!  Games such as whist were popularised in Victorian England, although children had to make do with their own, often "educational" sets.  They weren't allowed to play with adult card sets in case it encouraged them to gamble.

There are lots of theories about the history of playing cards, but it's generally agreed that they were first used in China.  They were much thinner than modern cards and were often linked to paper money.  One version had numbered pips at the top and bottom and this eventually developed into the game of dominoes.

Cards seem to have reached Europe by the fourteenth century via Egypt.  Some decks then included additional mystical and individually painted "high cards" - the precursor of Tarot cards.  The French-based suits we now use supposedly represented four classes of society - clergy (hearts), peasants (clubs), merchants (diamonds) and nobles (spades).

We just wish we could make a house of cards that looks like this!

House of playing cards

Games make great presents at any time of year, but are particularly welcome at Christmas for entertaining family and friends with a wide range of ages and interests.  Here's our seasonal selection of gift ideas - and hopefully you may start some new party traditions yourself!

Our Music and Pub Quiz and Murder Mystery games are perfect accompaniments to dinner parties … and adults and older children (14+) will also love Weird Things Humans Search For and Obama-LLama  or the death-defying Bucket of Doom (aged 17+) game. Children aged 8+ and older family members will enjoy award-winning The Mind and Dragonwood - and Outfoxed is ideal for younger children (5+).

We've even got sets of Angel, Chakra and Viking Oracle cards - so there's plenty of presents for you to snap up this festive season! 

 

 

 

 

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The magic of crafting

The magic of crafting

When I was ten, my grandmother taught me how to knit and crochet.  "Making magic," she would say to me, smiling at my wonky, bright blue knitted scarf and mustard coloured crochet top (this was the Seventies, after all).  Although I've long since lost that scarf and top and lots more of my early efforts, I'll always remember that special time we spent together, stitching memories into my life.  Magic indeed.

It's no wonder that research keeps showing how good crafting - in all its forms - can be for us.  Focusing on making something with our own hands frees us from worrying about what's going on in the outside world, particularly the draining feeling of being constantly attached to our phones and social media, and having to perform both at work and in our social life.

Peach Perfect cross stich kit and crafts

Crafting is also a fantastic distraction for many people suffering from anxiety, depression or other types of mental illness.  This is being highlighted by Mind's national Crafternoon event on 1st December.  There's lots of tips, templates and topical advice on their website to help participants raise funds for the charity while having fun doing all sorts of seasonal craft activities.

As children face more and more testing in the classroom, this can also contribute towards anxiety and a fear of failure.  It's important for them to have the chance to develop their creative abilities and explore non-academic opportunities too.  The comedian Johnny Vegas credits pottery making with saving him from struggling at school and building his confidence.  He still loves to make pots and here demonstrates how to make a teapot in under 60 seconds for BBC Get Creative!

Johnny and I would both agree that creating something yourself not only makes you happy but can also help you to inspire other people.  The simple act of making can break down boundaries and bring all ages and cultures together.  A great example of this is the Paint Pals Project, started in Bristol and gradually spreading further afield, which brings children and care home residents together to enjoy a wide range of painting activities.

Sewing toy animals with Peach Perfect's craft kits

The need to communicate and to tell stories is hardwired into the human race.  Helping children to gain confidence by doing craft activities and talking about what they have made is vitally important.  It helps them unleash their imagination, develop their vocabulary and build their social skills and interaction.  Far better than spending long solitary hours on their tablets!

Keeping our confidence as we age is equally critical.  For older people, taking part in some form of craft activity also encourages storytelling and sharing memories, as well as creating and reinforcing connections in the brain itself.  A recent report by Age UK confirmed that crafting was one of the most popular activities having a direct impact on older people's wellbeing. 

For dementia sufferers, making scrapbooks and compiling photograph albums and collages are just some of the ways in which crafting can help to build a bridge between the past and present, and bring some meaning to an often confusing world.  It gives family and friends a way to connect with their loved one as well as preventing loneliness and social exclusion in a broader sense.

As for me, now it's my turn to be a grandmother!  Playing with my gorgeous little grandson and encouraging his natural childish creativity with paints, paper and plasticine has well and truly brought the magic of crafting back into my life.  I'm also giving myself the freedom to experiment instead of aiming for perfection.  My new motto is forget about getting it 'just so' - and just sew (or knit or crochet) instead!  I think Granny would be very happy with that.

I hope you like my latest home made creation - my bright blue hat in the main picture.  It's from our lovely Learn How to Crochet Kit which comes in its own suitcase and has everything a beginner could possibly need! 

All the other images are from our Cross Stitch, Sewing and Knitting Learn How to … Kits.  Perfect for friends and family - or maybe a treat for you!  And you can find plenty more present inspiration in our Crafts & Hobbies Collection.

Happy crafting - and have fun making your own special magical memories! 

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Rain, rain come again - it's time for umbrellas to shine!

Rain, rain come again - it's time for umbrellas to shine!

As the grass slowly starts to get greener again after the summer heatwave, we realise how much we've missed our traditional British downpours! Our wellies, waterproofs and umbrellas have been gathering dust over much of the past few months.  So - dare we say - we're ready to get our brollies out in style this September!

Umbrellas have a long history of use.  In Egypt and other ancient civilisations, they fulfilled the purpose of parasols, protecting the elite from sunshine, not rain.  They were often made from palm leaves or feathers tied together in a canopy shape.  

 

The Chinese believed that the bigger the umbrella, the more important the person using it would be!  Their history of beautifully decorated oil-paper umbrellas dates back nearly two millennia and they are still used in traditional Chinese weddings.

Parasols were brought to Europe in the sixteenth century, pioneered by Portuguese colonists who saw them being used in Asia.  They became popular in England, France and Italy, although waterproofed umbrellas didn't come into use for many more decades.

Umbrellas were rarely used by men until the late 1700s, when they were sometimes called "Hanways" after the first London man who regularly carried one.  They were heavy and difficult to carry around, as they were made from oiled silk, with wooden or whalebone ribs and a thick wooden handle.  The Duke of Wellington even had a dagger set into his handle!

For many years, umbrellas were seen as practical, slightly dull, items that were completely different to the lighter type of parasols.  These came in all colours and were far more suited to women's fashion and flirting - familiar to all Jane Austen readers!

Samuel Fox's lighter steel ribbed umbrella design in the mid nineteenth century created the template for modern umbrella design.  Hans Haupt also made a major breakthrough, inventing the first telescoping pocket umbrella in late 1920s Berlin. And although umbrellas have become lighter and have improved coatings like Teflon, the classic canopy shape remains a tested and timeless sight.

 

With today's incredible range of colours and patterns, there's a perfect umbrella for everyone - and they make a practical, stylish and thoughtful present for adults and children alike.

Take a peek at Peach Perfect's Art Umbrellas, Beautiful Brollies, Inside Out Umbrellas, Sports Umbrellas and our dainty little Woodland Fairy Umbrella for all the inspiration you need.  And get your family and friends ready for singing - and splashing - in the rain this Autumn!

 

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