Monday, 31 December 2012

December pinaddicts: Amy Butler quilt

Its been a while since my last Pinaddicts challenge, a series of hospital admissions with Little E's chest and starting work full time seems to have put paid to much in the way of crafting lately.  But here we are all fit and well and I finally completed my Amy Butler lap quilt that I started a year ago and intended to complete for my sisters birthday in August. Hmmm.  The original Pinspiration is here and here.
Anyway I actually completed it this month, sewing the binding on in the car on the way down to the New Forest to see the in-laws - not sure their carpet particularly lends itself to good pics particularly as the back is a similar colour and Little E couldn't leave it alone while I was taking photographs.

After the New Forest we headed up to Bath and stayed in Church Farm cottages for a little break - (totally fab swimming pool for little E) and then into the Bath Christmas market to meet my sister and Mum.  She seemed pretty pleased with the quilt! Apologies for the lack of pics of the quilt in the making I do have them somewhere on the hard drive but its taken so long to actually finish, they are all dispersed throughout the year, here is where it started and here.
Other fab December projects can be found here

Friday, 19 October 2012

Tea and a Toddler at the Ritz

My ocassionally madly extravagent sister booked us in for afternoon tea at the Ritz for my Mothers birthday. I'm not allowed to say how old my mother is although she says it's not a secret or a big deal.  My sister seems to be labouring under a misapprehension that mum is two years younger than she is. I didn't bother to entlighten her either.

Anyway tea at the Ritz with a toddler. This I felt would only end one way. Me on tenderhooks and a host of disapproving looks. Little E is not what you would call naughty but he is a normal (nearly three year old) child with all that entails. And if people have forked out between £50-65 quid they won't want a child squawking in their lugholes, spoiling their enjoyment of the earl grey and curdling the creme anglaise. No. All was well, although my sister did shoot me a decidedly threatening look when Little E loudly annouced he wanted 'booby'. Thankfully he was easily distracted by the cakes as even I wasn't sure I could carry that one off.
The seating actually feels quite private despite being in a big room with a couple of hundred other diners.The low level conversation buzz helps with that.The staff were extremely polite and friendly as you would expect but not remotely stiff which I think we did expect.  The waiter coming around with the sweets trolley took particular care to give little E the only chocolate decoration on the top of the cakes he was slicing.
The cakes were lovely and you could eat as many as you liked.  But actually I was a bit disappointed with the variety.  Once little E had demolished 4 of the 5 little cakes they bought out another plate of exactly the same cakes.  There were also scones, jam and clotted cream which were lovely, lacking in sultanas, but I had braced myself for this disappointment after reading someones complaint online beforehand.  I think if the number of sultanas in your scone is the only complaint it can't be half bad. Also, although the cakes and sandwiches were dainty its surprising how quickly you fill up, (seriously whats in those things? soluble fibre to fill you up?) but it seemed as long as you cleared a plate another one arrived to replace it.  
They didn't charge for Little E when it came to pay , although he demolished five little cakes he didn't eat much and they didn't offer him a drink either so he just sat nursing his fruit shoot and pushing cake through the silver tea strainers.  I was just glad he was quiet and occupied. It does ask you to pre-book a high chair if you need one.  All in all a much more relaxing experience than I expected and Mum loved it. If you book a celebration tea with a cake you can have a message decorated onto it for no additional charge and they box it up for you to take away. Ian the pianist plays Happy Birthday as they bring it out. 
Happy Birthday Mocco.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Cork: Irish chill out time

My initial impressions of Cork are the people are very friendly and the drivers drive very fast.We stayed at the Clarion hotel, very near to the main shopping area and had a fairly chilled out time.  

Brilliant successes were Little E's new found love of swimming after daily dips in the pool.  A lovely Irish stew at the thriving English Market place as well as a sack of pink chocolate pigs bought at the fabulous chocolate stall which little E was delighted with.  A visit to the very peaceful wildlife park in Fota, with kangeroos, peacocks and mara's running free. The sun. The river. The glasses of pinot grigo by the river. Indulgent fat boy breakfasts, bookshop browsing, window shopping all the independant stores and the lovely park and grounds of Cork museum.
Less good was the picture of me in the pool looking like a eastern european shot putter circa 1980 not to mention the compulsory black swimming caps me and my sister had to wear and that aged us ten years. Heaving luggage, buggy and a small child on and off Ryanair and through the airport.  The difficulty booking a taxi with a child's car seat.  If I hear 'Just strap him in and I'll drive carefully' or any variation thereof I will scream.
I have visited Cork a couple of times before, once to give a presentation on a European project which teamed the Isle of Wight with Cork and once a fleeting visit when me and JJ cycled from Cork to Kerry for charity totally beautiful countryside and I still remember the huge tent full of cakes at the end of each 40 - 60 mile cycle each day. The tour of Ireland was on and Sean Kelly and the peleton flew past us.   It was simultaneously wet, sunny  and green and how you imagine Ireland to be. Now Pembrokeshire has teamed with Ireland on another economic project and I must admit it is hard to see the similarities.

All in all a lovely time with opportunities to chat and catch up with the family. I will certainly go back.


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Paralympics at Greenwich Park

So here we are back to post a little sooner than expected.  The equestrian paralympics at Greenwich Park was totally fab. Apparently there were 10,000 spectators and afterwards in a television interview it  was commented that this in itself was an adjustment for the horses and riders who are used to mainly being watched by the other teams.  Consequently some of the horses were a bit spooked.  This is all new to me, but the reason for bringing  a second horse into the arena is so the competing horse can see his buddy and feel reassured.  Which is a good thing as some of these were quite skittish when they came out.  Two riders were eliminated after failing to have control of their horses for more than 20 seconds.  This was heart breaking to see.  Witnessing it in person makes it even more poignant than seeing it on television.  So much hard work geared up to just five minutes in the arena. Gutting when it doesn't go to plan. I found myself welling up as Grace Bowman put her hands to her face and Antonella Cecilia briefly buried her face in her horses mane in distress.

Natasha Baker for Great Britain

When the horse above came out there was a ripple of laughter, compared to the other well manicured horses it did have the appearance of a cart horse with its big fluffy feet and tail.

We were lucky enough to see the session where Natasha Baker made her debut for GB and won gold.  So much flag waving and whooping went on, not to mention a stadium mexican wave. We went back to Pips in the afternoon and watched Lea Pearson on television get silver after winning nine gold medals at previous Olympics. His horse seemed to have been particularly affected by the crowds which is a huge shame for him and the only downside to seeing the paralympics so warmly supported.

Lea Pearson said in the papers this week: "I am just so proud of Britain, to get the crowds we have got at all of the venues and a sell out with the tickets is phenomenal." Having bronze busts made of him, and documentaries made about him was "all lovely and fluffy", but he added that the real victory of these Games was the increased visibility of disabled sports and athletes. "Public perception has changed and we are household names now,".

I would certainly agree with that.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Bunting for Sofia and Sara

Just a quick post, we are off to watch the Paralympics in London this weekend so will shortly commence running around like a headless chicken by way of preparation to get the train at 1 o' clock.
I finally completed some more bunting a few weeks ago and posted them off to my friend Claire in Italy.  Embarassingly, I started making them for the girls birthdays in February but only completed one of them and thought I'd hang onto it until the other one was completed in...August.  Arrrgh! So here just slightly belatedly is Sara and Sofias' birthday bunting.


Also a work in progress which I blogged about ages back and have only now made a start on.  It's a quilt for my sisters birthday (which was Thursday - spot a running theme yet?).  It is made from an Amy Butler Soul Blossoms charms pack and I am hopefully it will ready by the end of the month for when we next go to London. I am working without a pattern and even though it is probably quite a simple one, to a relative beginner like me it has been a small challenge. 

Now I must pack. After London we are off to Cork for a few days, just Mum, Little E, Pip and me for some much needed R n' R.  It will be Little E's first time on a plane so how that goes is anyones guess.  See you next week!

Sunday, 5 August 2012


I spotted this lovely window display whilst visiting the relatives down south, as if the Olympic rings in wool were not sufficiently fantastic, they also had an abundance of red, white and blue bunting. Love it. 

We have planned a trip to a Paralympic Horse event at the end of August in Greenwich Park.  Its a stones throw from where my sister lives and as I've got her a ticket too will give her an opportunity to see the changes they have made to the park which she has been up in arms about. I am loving watching the Olympics! My other sister cannot understand the fascination at all, but to me it completely sucks me in and I think most people around me are the same.  It is also completely inspiring, not that at age 41 I can aspire to an Olympic medal (although you never know! The oldest Olympian to win  a medal was a 71 year old Swedish guy in a shooting event), but inpiring in the face of these paragons of  physical perfection, in a 'I really should get my trainers out' kind of way. 

And who knows the impact of seeing this massive event for children, Little E is parroting us watching the events shouting  'Oh no, Oh my god!'  and 'Come on, come on!' and one or two less repeatable phrases...but who knows what he will be in the future. 

The next big event we will get close to  is  when Ironman Wales comes around again and we will shout ourselves hoarse, just like last year.  In fact probably more so as my little brother is participating.....and supporters are important too! Whilst it is the athletes who amaze us with their physical feats, it is the supporters who create the atmosphere and help in some way to spur them on. So come on GB! And come on Little Bro!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

#Pinaddicts 6: Memory Game & Olympic Medals

It is #Pinaddicts time again and my much neglected blog is starting to predominately composed of my pinaddicts here we go for July.

                                                                     My version

I did attempt this without reading the tutorial and so I made each square individually. Provided you have an extremely sharp pair of pinking shears the tutorial shows a much quicker way.  I was not happy with the finish on my first square using the pinking shears and so I ended up using two layers of felt stitched together with a thick piece of card inbetween.  We used pictures of little E's favourite people and them some stock photographs of things he likes, starfish, pinecones, the moon etc.

                                                 Make number two: Olympic medals

We used a cookie cutter to cut our medals out and I just used a knife to carve the numbers into the dough before drying out. Tesco had some nice metallic paints a couple of weeks ago so I got some gold, silver and bronze which I am sure will be used again for more olympic themed crafts.

Hung on blue ribbon, we did order ribbon with British flags on for these but it didn't arrive in time.

We are a bit light on pics showing the process but the last week has been fraught. Little E's sleeping habits have gone haywire in an off the scale kind of way and I am shattered.  JJ is finally home after 6 months working away (not a moment too soon) and we are now at his parents in the New Forest and heading off to Butlins on Monday for a big family holiday (there's also a little spa afternnon in there for us girlies so....Hooray!)

Check out the linky for more marvellous Pinterest inspiration!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

#Pinaddicts no. 5: Jubilee!

Its #pinaddicts time again!  I missed out last month on account of thinking the linky ended Monday and still sewing baby bootees Sunday evening....but this time I am uber-ready for a Jubilee themed Pinaddicts no. 5! So here goes...

 First off, you can't have a Jubilee without a crown.

My version

I added some red felt 'jewels' to the crown and pink felt for a second one for my neice's little one (Little B).  I fancied adding some colourful buttons too but I could see JJ looking sideways at me....he thinks some of my 'makes' are a bit girly sometimes. The pin links to a tutorial which is easy to follow and includes a template for the crown to print off (or just trace off the screen). The little ones looked so cute in them and they are now a great addition to the dressing up box.

I definitely fancied having a go at a Union Jack cake.  My baking is always a bit hit and miss so this one is a massive cheat using a packet mix and Betty Crocker Vanilla frosting.  The mix is a Tesco Celebration cake complete with butter icing mix (discarded) and dolly mixtures for decoration (scoffed).  It even comes with its own baking tray (handily flag shaped) which I attempted to remove for display purposes but found I don't own anything else suitable to put an oblong cake on and to be honest it was about 5 minutes before the family arrived for a lunchtime barbecue and I was still padding about in my PJs so presentation went out of the window a bit. Plans to add a glaze to the blueberries similarly went awry.

I probably could have spent more time arranging the stawberries and blueberries for a more exacting finish.  It tasted good to me (not that I have a very discerning palate, but  little B  ate three helpings so it must have been ok).

Little E's Jubilee cakes.  There are several Jubilee cupcakes on Pinterest that we pinned and that inspired us to purchase flags, red, white and blue sprinkles and sugar paper butterflies patterned with the Union Jack.  In truth I found the ones most like ours after we had made them.  There aren't many decorated with hundreds and thousands - am I right in thinking these are no longer the height of cake decorating sophistication?   Sugar and E numbers, whats not to love?! Little E did a great job although when I went off to make dinner (taking the cakes with me to put away) he managed to eat the rest of the sprinkles I had overlooked, the result being a very blue lower face which gave him a five o' clock shadow and a Desperate Dan kind of look.

The finished article

And lastly I'm including this one because it fits with our Jubilee makes but doesn't relate to a pin. Our Jubilee flag, painted using hands, feet, rollers and brushes and anything else that took Little E's fancy and then glued and taped together to make our window display.

Thats it, Jubilee makes over! Head over to Simply Outnumbered to check out all the other lovely #Pinaddicts projects this month and get inspired.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Soapbox Sunday: Breastfeeding & that TIME cover

The internet is buzzing with responses to the Time magazine cover depicting a woman breast feeding her five year old son.  The issue is actually about Attachment Parenting but they have of course picked out the most controversial aspect of Attachment Parenting and presented it in a provocative manner.  Sells more mags right?

First off breast feeding is an individual choice and I have no beef one way or another with mothers who do or do not do it.  Even so, I had no idea I would come to feel so strongly about it after having Little E.  I knew it was something that did not work out for a lot of people, but to my mind the important thing was that I tried my best to make it work and if it didn't well, most people use formula these days. I was formula fed. JJ was formula fed. Interestingly, although I don't remember it, my sister had her first child when I was 13 and breast fed her little girl for two and a half years.

I thought I had read around the subject when I was pregnant but looking back now realise I knew very little. My son came into the world after a four and a half hour labour, he was washed and dressed before he was put in my arms. There was no skin to skin until some hours later.  He took no interest in feeding. Not that night, the next day or in fact for four days. I became increasingly teary and upset.  The ward filled up and emptied as other mothers took their babies home. The midwives took Little E away a couple of times and gave him formula. I had advice to go home, maybe I would relax and it would happen. I had advice to stay until he fed properly. I buzzed for help feeding him late one evening to have a midwife tell me 'you do know we have emergencies to deal with don't you?' she disappeared off to get me a Latch Assist device and never returned. Thank Christ. Sometime over those days I decided I was not leaving the hospital until Little E had fed properly irrespective of what anyone said. I met a lovely nurse from the SCBU who helped something click into place and here we are 2 and a half years later still nursing. 

I consider us exceptionally lucky, despite those first few days we have loved breastfeeding and the comfort it brings to Little E. However, I often feel the need to justify why I still feed him, even trotting out partial truths to do with his dairy intolerance, his slow weight gain.  I am cross with myself, I have the courage of my convictions don't I?  The fact is I read a lot of research regarding immunity, brain development and social capabilities in relation to extended breastfeeding and decided at some point, I can't remember when, that we would continue nursing after 6 months. And then after a year. And then after two, as long as me and Little E are still happy.  I have a few people in my life who are actively and sometimes vocally disapproving, more than once making comments to my son 'What do you want that for? You don't want that.'  using a disapproving tone of voice that suggests it is something nasty he found in the road.

We all make choices about how we parent. It is perhaps not common to nurse past a year old in the UK and America.  This article raises some interesting points and more concisely in a direct response to the Time article here. The author Katherine Dettwyler states natural weaning can occur bectween 2.5 and 7 years. I must admit the idea of 7 does make me balk a bit. I am a product of this society too after all but I certainly won't be condemning anyone else for doing whatever they feel is best for their child and family.  It is a highly individual thing. 

Perhaps once you get past Time's provocative cover and antagonistic strap line 'Are you Mum enough?' (Wow, whole other blog post...) inside is an insightful article raising some interesting points about parenting. Unfortunately since the cover is pure sensationalism the thrust is likely to be lost. Either way it is unlikely to win over any breast feeding dissenters using this approach but has if nothing else prompted a raft of discussion and comments:  For, against and puerile.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Real Nappy Week

It's Real Nappy Week!

It has been a while since I brought any new fluff,  Around Christmas the nappies I had began to not quite cut the mustard on Little E at night.  I reasoned that I had done over two years of real nappies and Little E would surely be potty trained soon so why spend out on more fluff. Although actually at one time buying new fluff was serious retail therapy for me, sad I know but other fluffy bum mums probably understand.

Why use Fluff? For me it was partly environmental and partly money related.  The Local Authority gives a big cheque to you if you go the fluffy bum route  to enable you to get started with fluff. I also read a study that had suggested a possible link between disposable nappies and male infertility. Only suggested a possible link mind you, but none the less, that is a bit scary. I would be suprised if the big multi national nappy producers didn't get together and bring their financial might to obliterate that study with studies of their own.  Don't get me wrong I am not averse to using disposable nappies.  After our first holiday with Little E lugging an entire case full of fluffy nappies to the Isle of Wight and a pretty stinky case of nappies back I decided high days and holidays would be undertaken with disposables.

Our beautiful nappies!
Revisiting my reasons for using washable nappies made me start using them again last week after a three month abstinence.  I am now thinking that I should invest in some proper night time washable nappies because even if by some miracle Little E is fully potty trained by next week it is unlikely he will be out of night time nappies for quite a long time. My personal favourite nappies are itti bittis (up to about a year old anyway, lovely neat nappies) and then Blueberry nappies which are near perfect but at £19.99 a nappy not the cheapest option.

 There are some great offers at various nappy websites this week so if you are tempted to give them a whirl here are some of my favourites:

Monday, 9 April 2012

#PinAddicts Challenge No 3: Easter weekend

My plan to make a Kindle cover for Pinaddicts has been abandoned for this month at least and my thoughts turned to the Easter weekend and I decided an Easter egg hunt in my Mothers garden for Little E and Cousin B would be fun.  This was a bit of a last minute plan so all ideas of coming up with anything other than 12 chocolate items to go with the 6 clues I made up on the morning of the hunt went out of the window.  My brother and neice (40 and 28 respectively) freely took the mick out of me over the effort I had gone to as it was and there was an outbreak of schoolboy sniggering over my clue that involved rhyming the word 'bush'. Very juvenile indeed.

Here is my pin - in the end I only printed out the Easter circles mainly because Little E jumped on the printer and it is now defunct (so he can add that to his tally of defunct items which consists of one camera, one laptop and the DVD drive on the PC). Had to grit my teeth a bit at that point and remind myself I was devising a fun activity for the kids and we were GOING TO HAVE FUN COME WHAT MAY. Ahem. Anyway, I digress. Back to the Easter clues.

Here's the clues!
Here are two of the clues, Easter circles added and clues handwritten on the back on account of me no longer owning a working printer (sorry to go on about it).

So the hunt itself only took about 10 minutes but they really enjoyed it. As Little E excitedly proclaimed when he found the first egg (whilst hopping from foot to foot) - 'I've won, I've won!' and Cousin B wanted to rehide the eggs and make us find them again. So smiley, chocolatey faces all round. Hooray!

After the Easter Egg hunt we went home to make some Easter Rice Crispy cakes - don't think I need to reproduce a picture of those but the pin is here. I haven't made these in years but they are as yummy as I remember and so easy to make even I couldn't stuff them up (not even on a bad day!).

Little E was not so keen but kept helping himself to the mini eggs on top leaving me to eat the Crispies bit.  I think I might give Weight Watchers a wide berth this Thursday, although how much damage can you really do in two days? I'll let you know....

Thursday, 29 March 2012

#PinAddict Win: Trip to London Zoo!

So, I won something, I actually won something. Ok, it was a random pick but it was still me that was randomly picked! I haven't won anything since I did a litter poster in Junior school in 1981.  And the odd tenner on the lottery.  But apart from that, nothing!
Thank you to Louise at Sew Scrumptious for my  prize, an Experience Days voucher and Viv over at Melksham Mum for hosting March's extremely excellent PinAddicts Challenge.

As I was travelling to London to see my sister Pip this week I traded my voucher for tickets to London Zoo.  I haven’t been for nearly 20 years and it was lovely.  I vaguely remember being photographed with my little nieces inside the Giraffe house in 1994ish.  It must be that long ago as they both have children of their own now.  For our visit this week it was a beautiful sunny day and Little E ran himself ragged looking at all the animals. Some were more appealing than others....
Little E's body language speaks volumes in response to the question,
'Would you like to stroke the ferret?'

The butterfly house was just lovely, it is amazing to see these huge butterflies flying overhead and the racks of chrysalises spinning and twitching and waiting to emerge.

There was underwater penguin action.

And a closer look above the water.

The Komodo dragon seemed to hold Little E's interest and they sat eyeballing each other for a long time.  Auntie Pip explained they eat people if they get the chance. Thanks Pip, I fully expect the nightmares to start shortly.

There were many others of course: lions, tigers, gorillas, aardvarks and goats. A wonderful day out which probably wouldn't have happened without my #PinAddicts win! Entries for April's #PinAddicts no. 3 are due over at Sew Scrumptious on April 2nd. 

So get creating!