...seen through a slightly smudged, secondhand pair of rose-tinted glasses

Sunday, 28 December 2014

'Present' Danger

I came across this when I was clearing out my half finished posts from ages back - a timely find really, but feel sort of mean, because I got brilliant Christmas presents this year... 

'Hope you like it!' he says and I smile politely,
thinking that's probably very unlikely,
and bless him, because I know he tries,
but when it comes to clothes they're never my size...
Jewellery's dodgy,
music's okay,
though I'm more Stereophonics
and he likes Doris Day.

I open my present. There's a torch inside.
'You just wind it with the handle.'
I almost cried
'So useful sweetheart, hope you like yours',
it's Rick Stein's India,
there's a pregnant pause...

'Wow…that looks just great…' He never cooks.
But he does like spice
and he does like books.

He starts fiddling with the torch and I flick through Rick Stein,
everyone's happy, it's all turned out fine.

So, I buy what I want, it's simply stress free
when a gift's from me
to you
to me.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Jumbling along

You know what I've probably had the most comments about at Craft Fairs?
My cardboard letters.
The only things that aren't for flipping sale!
Lost count of the number of times I've had to explain they actually spell my name.

A few people have asked if I'll make them to order, and I didn't exactly say no, because I find it REALLY hard to say no when I'm selling, which can be a bit of a nightmare. But I don't want to make more letters, because covering them took me ages and I'm not that great at it. A close inspection of a B, or any of the rest, and you'd see what I mean. And what would I charge? I'm rubbish at pricing - the one thing I'm learning is, getting it right has got a lot to do with how confident you sound. I started off being almost apologetic about my prices, but think I'm getting better...

Apart from trying to dodge letter enquiries, the Fairs have been going pretty well - it all feels a little easier now, and lovely when there's positive feedback. A lot of the bigger toys sold at the last one in Monmouth, which was brilliant….and strangely alarming, because as I said in my last grumpy post, I don't appear to have time to brush my hair at the moment.

This is especially worrying as I've a two day Christmas Craft Fair this weekend and very little stock. So I've been trawling through the house looking for anything I've ever made, including a little plundering in the kids' rooms. Feeling guilty about that.. I've also been gathering up any charity shop/car boot bits and bobs that might sell, sort of stretching the 'Jumble' part as far as it will go.

Haven't managed to shift the decoupage mirror yet, but to be honest it's useful for hanging stuff, and fills a sizeable space on the stall….maybe I should just keep hold of it.

Hope you're feeling a little Christmassy?…even the merest tinselly bit? Shame when it all gets smothered by mountains of festive prep, but I haven't worked out how to stop that happening. Still, I'm trying very hard to hold on to at least a holly leaf of Christmas cheer - just have to see what a weekend of customers, carols and hopefully the odd glass of mulled wine does for my festive mood.

It could go either way.

Monday, 1 December 2014


I used to have a good memory; I'm pretty sure I did - I could juggle all kinds of work, kids and admin stuff and still pick up a few bonus points remembering more left field things, like my husband's God childrens' birthdays.
But lately it's all been slipping: I've missed appointments, birthdays, play dates; the printer's had no ink in it for weeks and I can't for the life of me remember where I put the Sealife tickets I bought with my Tesco vouchers.
It's that, walking into a room and forgetting what you came in for scenario. I'm so easily distracted these days - a new thought pops into my head and the minute it does, an older one just pops right out the other side. It would appear I've run out of head room.

The problem is I have no back up plan - no handy, organised list system - just several tatty, scribbled pieces of paper that roam around the kitchen until they're lost under a pile of Christmas catalogues. And of course a Tintin wall calendar.
Quite clearly not good enough anymore. Time really to find a better way, and whether I like it or not, some kind of electronic help is probably the answer. Well, that's what people keep telling me.

Anyway, all this got me thinking about what's so different now than before, when I could actually remember stuff. And there are some glaringly obvious things:

1. I've stopped pretending that spending hours in the car doing the school run 5 days a week has no real impact on my life. I'm not going to moan, it was our choice to move the kids, but as the term goes on, it does grind me down. Most of the route is along narrow, windy country roads - quite beautiful in the spring/summer, but the other night the fog was so thick I couldn't see the sides of the road. And I hate admitting this, but I'm becoming an anxious driver - never used to be - now I see danger around every corner. Usually in the form of some monster-sized tractor clattering towards me at full tilt. Anyway, I do try to make good use of my time in the car/hanging about in school car parks, but it still takes a huge chunk out of the day.

2. Because of all of that, I get up at 6am. Always an early start - yet I just don't seem to be able to make myself go to bed before 11.30pm. I know it's mad, but I'd nearly rather be knackered than lose those precious hours of quiet; click-clacking away with my knitting, watching rubbish tv. The kids aren't upstairs till about nine now - I have friends who would be in bed half an hour later, but the thought of doing that makes me want to weep.
A while ago I watched a programme about sleep disorders, and as well as all the usual ones you'd think of, there was this mum who wouldn't go to bed - at about 11pm she'd be pulling out all kinds of craft stuff, or doing some baking. Don't think I'll ever get to the stage when I'm baking fairy cakes at 2am in the morning, but it did make me wonder.

3. I have a new job - it's only temporary but pretty intense, and appears to have pushed most other stuff out of my head.

4. Who said kids get easier as they get older? I'm sure somebody did, but that's definitely not what I'm finding. 'Challenging' would be a good word, and as I'm the only one here with them during the week, it's pretty blinking challenging… More strops, more shouting, more mess, more arguments, more flipping homework. More social stuff too, like parties and clubs - so even more time in the car! We live in the country. Nothing is close.

5. I've signed up for a few Craft Fairs, but haven't really given myself time to make any more stock. So I'm now in a weird position of not wanting to sell too much stuff... which is sort of missing the point.

I need a 'get organised' App; I need to be kinder to myself - nothing new there, for any of us I'd imagine. But I've had a few moments recently that have made me want to do something about it.
The other morning my daughter stomped down the stairs in a right old mood,
'Why has the Tooth Fairy left me 50c Mummy, instead of normal money?'
A moment of panic: How had I managed to miss that? Okay it was late, but I'd never normally miss something like that. I hadn't even thought to check.
I fobbed her off with some story about the Tooth Fairy getting confused...

Don't think she bought it.

On the bright side, at least the Tooth Fairy remembered to come at all! Though there have been times when she hasn't…
She can get a bit distracted too.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Jumper upcycling…you might warm to...

I had this favourite cashmere jumper; it was a bit baggy and shapeless, but I loved it because it was a present from my husband before he went to Afghanistan the first time.

The jumper was the thing I'd reach for when the kids were finally in bed, and I had a bit of time on my own in front of the telly with my granny squares.
I think I wore it nearly every night for those 6 months. Funny how it became such a comfort, but it did. And it was a long six months.

Anyway, probably because I wore it endlessly, it started slowly falling apart - under the arms, then an elbow, then a random hole. Eventually I just left it in the drawer, until it was time for my old friend to become something else - and no, not a rabbit, though obviously that did cross my mind! No, I wanted to make the jumper into a useful thing, and so settled on a hot water bottle cover, because I  love a hottie; and the one I'd been using has a football on the front.
Hand up here, because I nicked this idea from a lovely friend who used to blog, and made one out of an old cashmere scarf she'd picked up in a charity shop. It was woven rather than knitted cashmere, and possibly easier to work with, but after a few hot washes my jumper shrank quite nicely to tiny, tight proportions. So small in fact, that I was worried there mightn't be enough jumper to make the cover! In the end I opened up the non-holey sleeve.

Then I just drew around the bottle on some newspaper, added a centimetre with a ruler at points round my drawing, and joined the dots. Once I'd cut it out, I folded it lengthways to make sure it was as symmetrical as possible, snipping off any extra bits.

I cut a whole one out from the sleeve, then used the ribbing at the bottom of the jumper to cut two overlapping pieces. The top section is just over a third of the bottle, the bottom piece makes up the rest + an extra 6cm for the overlap.

Then pinned it inside out, making sure when I turned it back the top section covered the bottom, rather than the other way round - I say that, because I often forget to check…
Didn't take long to sew round, and I'm by no means a ninja with a sewing machine. I added a zigzag row to neaten the seams and stop any fraying.

Finished off with two shell buttons that fasten with loops.

It's not perfect, a bit lumpy in places, but I'm really pleased with the end result, and a rather fitting, comfy reincarnation, don't you think?

Also, a pretty easy bit of upcycling, especially when you consider this one costs £109! £109!!

Worth digging out those old jumpers?

Monday, 20 October 2014

Before the rain

I love taking pictures when it's like this - dark, foreboding skies and sunshine. Not kind of what you expect. A battle of the elements. There's more drama, more contrast - the photos look the way I want them to look, if that makes sense…quite often they don't! Especially landscapes.
Having said that, I took loads of the view from the window yesterday morning, because every time I checked, the scene seemed to shift: brighter, darker, greener, hints of orange.

It's often windy when it's like this too. I went for a quick, blustery walk, and just as I reached the top of the hill where the lane flattens out, I found I was heading towards a rainbow. Definitely one of those lovely moments. Beautiful and uplifting.
Kicking myself for leaving the camera at home, though they're tough to photograph don't you think? Hard to catch the magic. Feel like I've seen a lot of rainbows in the last few weeks - more than I can remember seeing for ages - but usually as I'm rushing to and fro from school, so no time to stop. Strange old autumn weather.

And as if to make a point, when I turned to head home, the rain arrived!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Hedwig owl costume

I was up really late last night finishing off, but it was worth it, because today I've been basking in the warm glow of being the best mummy Ever!

Obviously it won't last, so I'm enjoying the moment...

I'm not going to pretend the costume's quick to make, but it is straightforward, so if you're not in a rush and would like to have a go, here's a little run through.

You'll need an old sheet, a balloon, glue and lots of newspaper.

Cut a head-sized hole in the middle of the sheet and slip it on.
Get them to hold up their arms and cut to fit. You'll end up with a sort of circle. It doesn't matter if it looks a bit rough - all adds to the feathery effect!

I pinned and machined a row of stitches down each side, to give the wings more definition, but the costume would work just fine without this.

Zig-zag the wing edges, then make a paper template for the feathers, and cut plenty out of the remains of the sheet, plus any other fabric scraps you like. Quite time-consuming this part, but it makes a big difference I think. Once you've got a decent pile, start sticking them on the wings. We used ordinary PVA craft glue.

The head can take a while too, though this is the most fun part - certainly for the kids. Good old papier mache! Make sure the balloon is as big as possible and that you've torn up lots of newspaper, then get sticking with some runny glue (watered down PVA).
Use a brush to spread the glue all over the top of the newspaper pieces too, so they're nice and smooth. Check you've covered the whole balloon. The ears are scrunched up bits of newspaper, covered in more gluey paper.
For a sturdy head, best to let it dry between layers - this is when you need a bit of patience.
We did three layers altogether.

Paint it white, pop the balloon and cut the paper carefully at the bottom until it fits (a slit at the back helps)

Work out where the eye holes should be, then draw big owl eyes. Make a beak out of cereal box card, bend to give it a ridge down the middle - then, below the eyes, cut an upside down v, the same width as the beak. Feed it through the v, keeping it angled down. Sellotape in place inside. Make a mouth hole under the beak if you want.

Cut out smaller feather shaped pieces from the sheet and snip them in half. It looks good if the first row hangs over the edge a little, then just keep going round.

We cut a few little bits to go round the eyes, but it's totally up to you how much you decorate the mask.

Finally, tie some string through holes in an envelope addressed to Harry Potter.

I was kind of hoping to take another picture, but the snowy owl I picked up this afternoon was muddy and quite dishevelled with a few tomato ketchup splodges down the front….still, no matter, because Hedwig won a prize! Hallelujah!

She was so excited as we walked to the car.

'I'm not going to wear this again Mummy - next time I'm going to be something EVEN BETTER!'

Yeah....I know...

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Giving a hoot about dressing-up days

I'd hazard a guess that for many parents, events like World Book Day are less about the joy of reading, and more about the angst of finding a 'favourite character' costume for the kids to wear to school. And preferably not Harry Potter or Hermione…though you can't knock the quick-delve-in-the-drawers-or-dressing-up-box option.
In my daughter's class last World Book Day there were nine Harry Potters and 4 Matildas (blue dress and a hair band) - I know this, because she was one of them.

On the whole, I tend to stubbornly steer clear of competitive dressing-up - apart from possibly Mr Twit's Beard a few years ago. I did get quite carried away with Mr Twit's Beard!

But then the other day, I got one of those forlorn looks from my daughter that just made me sort of crumple inside.
Her class had to dress up in something purple for a special party at her new school - I was chuffed to bits to find a purple cardy and a dress with purplish flowers.
She wasn't so chuffed…especially when she saw her friends glammed up in sparkly lycra, Strictly style. That's when I got the look.
The best dressed prize went to an impressive bunch of grapes.

BAsically I was shamed into action. So, when a letter came home about the school's book week with a dressing-up day thrown in for good measure, I thought I'd pull out all the stops.
By the way, don't be worrying you've inadvertently missed something: the official World Book Day isn't for months - this just seems to be a warm up!

Anyway, we settled on Hedwig, Harry Potter's snowy owl - somewhat random, and a rather liberal interpretation of the 'favourite character' theme, but it fitted with my 'make stuff for school rule', which is, only things I've already got at home are allowed. Definitely no buying.

I had a sheet, a balloon and plenty of newspaper.

The dressing-up day is tomorrow and I still haven't finished ….if it works out I'll post a pic!