Monday, July 31, 2006

Vintage button swap and Charlie and Lola

Sarah my vintage button swap partner look away now....

Got the package sent off today. I was really pleased, because Sarah (who is blogless at the moment) had kindly e-mailed me a run down of her likes and deep green was high on the list. I just happened to have in my stash this card of vintage lovelies. I am not entirely sure when they date from, but it's pre-decimalization (1971 in the UK) for sure. I just love the fact that they are on their original card, and even better, on the back of the card is a long sum, which must have been the shop totaling up this sewer's purchases (she bought a LOT).

I also had a go at making some of the button bouquet flowers I have seen floating around - they were a lot of fun. I won't show you the rest of the package in case Sarah was naughty and didn't look away, but I posted it off today so she shouldn't have long to wait.

And the boys have been having fun with this fabby Charlie and Lola colouring in book.

I love it for the fact that it engages their imaginations better than your average colouring book.

Maxine posted about giving her daughter Emily some tools to equip her to explore creatively. I know what she means, I just wish I had more ideas about how to do this for the boys.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Oasis for the summer

Given that Mark was away with his grandparents last week, today really marks the start of the summer holidays for me. We've got lots planned, friends to see, places to visit, but there will be precious little 'me time' around here for crafting or any other form of indulgence. I'm okay with that (so far anyway!) but I thought it would be nice to have a few little 'oasis of pleasure' spots around the house. This is the first.

I've been saving this indulgent hand soap for a while. Do you do that - hoard lovely things instead of enjoying them? Now at least when I change a nappy I can have 5 seconds of pleasure as I wash my hands, Think it will save my sanity? I'll let you know.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Ladybirds and elephants

Home again, with armfuls of spoils from our visit to my folks. Look at these luscious Ladybird books. They are very collectible now, but I just love them for the great little books they are, and when I see titles I think Mark or Johnny would like, I always pick them up. This time though, there are a couple for me too. Who knows, I may finally crack blanket stitch.

Not sure why I am bringing more books into the house - I'm on a mission to get rid of some usually. I had a dabble with bookcrossing, but got a bit frustrated at the number of releases that just disappeared into the ether. My latest plan to offload ones I am done with is Maxine's book swap - go and have a look if you're interested.

Johnny is happy to be home and looking forward to seeing his Daddy and brother tomorrow, but he did have a great time.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sushi and salad people

No crafting going on this week, as I'm away from home, but it gives me the opportunity to do some overdue thank yous. Firstly to Momma Pajama, for the cute sushi purse she sent me. I told you I used to live in Japan didn't I? So it stands to reason that I love sushi and this little purse just makes me laugh. The writing says 'sushi' in hiragana (the one form of Japanese I could manage to read). Paula's blog has some wonderful illustrations - go and check it out.

And secondly to Tasha Hock, my partner in the kids cooking swap (who doesn't have a blog). She sent this Mollie Katzen cookbook for kids. It has a great layout, with a recipe written first for adults and then in simplified pictoral form for children to follow.

I first came across Mollie Katzen on holiday in California about 12 years ago. I bought a copy of the Moosewood cookbook - partly, I have to confess, because I was so enchanted by the layout and line drawings. But I've come to love some of the recipes too - the banana bread is still the best one I've come across yet.

I'm fairly American recipe literate (have cups!) but I still struggle with a stick of butter - does a stick weigh 4 ounces? Someone please weigh one and tell me once and for all. And while we're on the subject, corn syrup? Is this like golden syrup? runny honey?

Monday, July 24, 2006

The boy has gone

So, Mark at the tender age of 5 has gone to visit his grandparents for the week. He left us this note. I'll translate...

To Mum and Dad, I will have lots fun but miss you. Lots of love from Mark. Big hugs xxxxxxx

He's having a whale of a time and Daddy will go and pick him up on Friday. I am secretly very impressed at my independent boy.

I can remember having to be tearfully returned home from a sleepover aged about 7. It was all a bit too much when the mum gave me a dry toothbrush for my teeth (as opposed to one which was wet before the paste went on). Control freak? Me? Just a bit.

My in-laws live a 6 hour drive away, so there is no popping home for my boy. I'm glad he seems to be coping with the situation better than I did. In fact, I suspect Daddy may have to drag him reluctantly away at the end of his holiday.

Johnny keeps asking 'Where Mark?', but we've come away on a little trip of our own to see my folks, so that he's not pining for his brother at home. Andy has the rare treat of being at home sans children and is wielding a paintbrush (I hope) and catching up with a few overdue DIY jobs.

Blown away

You guys are so funny - I was blown away by your comments about my Trinny and Susannah-ing day. Thank you so much for all your sweet words of support. You made me feel much bolder going into the lions den on Saturday.

So, I feel I'd be cheating you if I didn't let you in on how it all went. Please feel free to skip along to the next blog if you couldn't care less - I quite understand.

Well I enjoyed myself so much more than I was expecting to. I wore my crocs for extra courage and the first thing they said was 'wow, you've got a pair of those funky shoes'. Good start.

My friend Sarah and I were swathed in different coloured squares to determine 3 aspects of our best colour palettes; dark-light, cool-warm and bright-muted.

The beauty of this system is that it's not a 'red is not for you' judgement, it just lets you know if a tomato red is better than a pinky red or a plum. The dark-light relates to the intensity of the colour, cool-warm is blue based versus yellow based colours and bright-muted is colours with little or lots of grey in them. I am a dark, bright with cool tendencies. This means, in a nutshell these colours in my wardrobe get to stay...

and these have to go......

Yes, I was so taken by the whole thing that I turfed out all the no-no's from my wardrobe the moment I came in. Just on the basis of colour, not how much I paid for them, or I can't part with them for sentimental reasons. Actually, I haven't parted with any of them yet - just hung them in the guest wardrobe to see if I can do without them. It helped that I agreed totally with their advice and actually have many of the shades they advocated in my wardrobe already.

Weirdly, when I look at the no-no's all together, I have to say that they are the things I never get compliments on wearing and don't feel quite comfortable in.

Next, they did our make-up, the scariest bit for me as I am always bare faced by day. I did feel a bit like a child who has been rummaging in my Mum's make-up bag, but a comment from my friend Sarah 'Don't take this the wrong way, but I didn't know you were so pretty' has made me vow to try a little.

Then it was style time, where I was surprised at how kind they were. They didn't criticize anything we were wearing. In fact, their mantra was, if it makes you happy, wear it. But they did help us focus on our good points and give us tips on how to emphasize them. Mine are my collarbones (never really took much notice of them, just thought they gave my arms something to attach to) and a flat stomach (yes, sorry, even after 2 kids, don't hate me). So no focus on my gigantic arse, thunder thighs, chunky calves..... Their advice was, give people something nice to look at and they will gloss over the rest. Which is so true - how many times have folks failed to notice a new hairdo or glasses.

For the cheeky anonymous commenter who asked what it cost me - £125 and money VERY well spent in my opinion. But in the future, don't ask me anonymously or I won't tell you.

So for me, a definite confidence booster and a real help for future purchases. My friend Sarah had colours that are further from what she usually wears and seems less excited than me about the whole thing. But then, she was less hopeless than me in the first place.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Confessions from a clothing disaster zone

Shall I own up about what I am doing on Saturday? Don't mock me - I'm really shy about this, but I am going for a session with an Image Consultant and I am terrified.

I've always been a bit of a slob if the truth be told. I was an active child, prone to climbing things rather than fretting about my appearance and somehow I just never grew out of it. The whole grooming bandwagon seems to have passed me by. But I've decided, it's now or never. So I'm off for a colour analysis (where they show you which shades suit you) and an image consultation (where they ban me from wearing unflattering styles and things that don't fit properly).

I am steeling myself for a gentle telling off and hopefully lots of confidence boosting compliments too - after all, I am paying! I have been a very good student and filled in questions about what I hope to get from the day and what my problem areas are. I also made a mood board of folks whose style I like and, horror of horrors, taken a photo of what I've worn each day this month. No, I'm not showing you - if I felt good about showing you I wouldn't need the image consultation would I? I do wonder what they'll say when they see my crocs? Crocs with everything....

Part of me feels that the whole thing is vain and shallow and that my friends see me for who I am, not what I wear. But then it turns out that every second woman I speak to has had it done - outrageous - they never told me until I confessed.

So, anyway, here's a quick 'before' flash of the inside of my wardrobe. I hope they leave me with something to wear. And apologies of you hate this navel gazing post - part of me does too, but really, I think it needs to be done.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Gone fishing...

It's too hot to blog.

Mark had sports day today (35 degrees, hardly any shade) and when we got home, we were so whacked I couldn't even be bothered to get out the paddling pool. I filled the bath with cool water and we had an indoor paddle instead.

This is ENGLAND - we don't do hot. Air-conditioning anyone?

Oh, and the boy wonder won his race, not that I was a competitive parent or anything, no, no...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Favours and garden envy

We said goodbye to our furry visitors this weekend. Miffy and Lillefee belong to my neighbour and when she went away for a couple of weeks I jumped at the chance to give my boys a taste of small animal husbandry.

The bunnies were pretty good houseguests, but more work than I was expecting. They came with a little harness and leash and instructions for 15 mins exercise each per day. Not such a big deal, I thought, but I had underestimated the stress of putting a harness on an unwilling bunny whilst being *helped* by a toddler and an over-enthusiastic 5 year old. In the end I gave up on the walking lark and let them hop around the kitchen for their exercise period.

I think the bunnies were glad to see Ann (I know I was!) and no-body here has asked for a rabbit of their own, so all in all, a successful experiment I think.

Now I think I must have 'SUCKER' tattooed on my forehead, because this week we are on watering duty for some other neighbours, a couple in their late 40's, no kids. Watering duty, in the hottest week of this summer so far.

Their garden makes me spit. It's so manicured and tranquil, not a shred of plastic play equipment in it. Now I love my guys as much as the next parent, I just wish they came with less stuff and didn't leave a trail of havoc in their wake.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Feeling Sunday afternoonish

Had an uncharacteristically grown-up night last night, with a bunch of friends round to dinner. It gave me a good excuse to try out a new dessert recipe - gooey chocolate stack. It's from Nigella Lawson 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' - one of the finest book titles ever, in my opinion.

And watching over proceedings was Millie who arrived this week all the way from Australia. She was keen to dive in, but I managed to halt her by offering the beaters to lick.

I am always keen to use our dinner guests as guinea-pigs for new recipes (particularly dessert - because you usually know in advance if it hasn't worked out and can save the day by whipping out a bowl of artfully scooped ice-cream). But some folks are horrified at the thought of making something that is not tried and tested.

As luck would have it, it turned out delicious anyway - great mix of crunchy, gooey and chocolatey and amazingly, not sickeningly sweet (thanks to the 72% cocoa solids choccy which gives it a great bitter hit).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

For once I find myself ahead of the game (in one tiny area anyway, never mind the ironing, cleaning, cooking...). My swap package for the kids cooking swap is ready to go to the Post Office in the morning.

The brief was for anything that would be helpful for kids cooking in the kitchen. Without giving too much away about my recipient family, here's a little apron I sewed up, modelled by my beautiful assistant Mark.

I haven't made an apron before so I thought I'd be all official and get a pattern. Holy cow - big mistake. I got one of those 'Sewing for Dummies' numbers, because I've never made anything with a pattern before and was looking for simple. Sadly I did not find it. Talk about making something complicated out of a straightforward job. I couldn't understand what on earth was going on, so I abandoned it and devised my own methods. I mean ... how hard does it have to be?

Perhaps it is me - I am congenitally unable to follow a recipe without meddling either. But the biggest difference is I can cook, not sure I am as confident about saying I can sew.

The boys were good as gold letting me get on with doing it. They were fully occupied perfecting their pigeon catching contraption. Yes, I know, it's a bucket. But it does have bird seed in and Johnny is calling enticingly "Pibin, kum n get oor bir sheee" which, as google translate will tell you, means "Pigeon, come and get your bird seed".

Monday, July 10, 2006

So much to read

Just a quick post tonight, because I am dying to leap into bed with hot tea and my new magazine stash and what a stash it is. I was lucky enough to get paired with Gina in the Magazine Swap and her parcel arrived today. Six ... count again, yes six lovely magazines, all new to me (apart from MS Kids, which I know I love).

Is this girl a compulsive over-swapper or what, because she also sent me fabric, origami paper, a cute notepad with my initial and pizza and hot dog candy. Thank you so much Gina.

And forgive me if I have nothing more to say, but I am very busy reading.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Raspberry Ice-cream

The boys and I have got sore throats and Mark is running a bit of a temperature, so to cheer us all up (and boost the vit-C intake) I hauled out the ice-cream machine and made a batch of raspberry from the fruit we picked on Saturday.

Our machine is just a cheap number, with a bowl you freeze before adding the mixture. It works fine though and I always feel more virtuous feeding the kids homemade stuff with no additives. The raspberry recipe couldn't be simpler - make custard, chill, add raspberries squished with a fork with a little extra sugar. Churn and eat.

We only have a weenie freezer inside and a dinky one in the garage, but I usually manage to have the bowl frozen and ready to go. Part of me envies people with huge freezers, but I know I'm not organised enough to use one effectively. I NEVER remember to get stuff out to defrost in time.

Creative Little Daisy's flashing her freezer today. Feel free to join her! I'm too ashamed... the only items in regular use from mine are peas, ice cubes and ice cream. The rest is just in transit to the bin - I have such good intentions when I put stuff in there, but I forget it and then chuck it out when I next defrost, because it's so old.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Baby shower

My neighbour Jennifer's baby shower was yesterday. I think it went well, but given that none of us had ever attended one before, we didn't really have a benchmark. If the measure of success is everyone having a good time, it hit the spot.

And I had such fun creating along a baby theme, shamelessly stealing ideas from all over the place. Big thanks to
Tasha for sharing her shower plans with me and Cathy Gaubert for the secrets of her nappy cake which I had to copy (complete with minimoopy topping).

Apologies for the dodgy photo - I actually forgot to take one and had to go round to Jennifer's after the party and ask sheepishly to take a picture. I didn't dare ask for styling privileges too!

Much to my husband's amusement I made gingerbread babies, complete with sex-appropriate nappies. He made a LOT of politically incorrect and insensitive jokes - I'll leave those to your imagination. We used these in a predict the gender test on Jennifer and the gingerbread says girl, but personally I'm plumping for boy.

This might explain why the gifts I made her aren't overly feminine. Another go at the bitty booties using my hand dyed blanket and a freezer paper all-in-one with a bug. Freezer paper courtesy of my swap with Melissa.

My friend (in real life !) Sarah made these gorgeous nappy favours filled with soap for all the guests and was very soothing as I panicked about getting it all together.

Jennifer had some really lovely presents and it was such fun to coo over them. It's much more civilized than the usual British thing of waiting till the baby is born. I found gifts straight after the births of my boys totally overwhelming at a time when I didn't have any capacity to enjoy them. The shower idea could really catch on here I think.

And you guys, thank you for all the lovely comments on the latch board and Robbie Robot. You gave me the warm fuzzies and I really appreciate it. You're the best.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Robbie Robot

Over the summer I am going to have to do a bit of re-adjusting. If I can't integrate the children into my crafting episodes they are either going to be watching a LOT of TV (which I hate) or I am going to be irritable with them because I would really rather they let me get on with doing something or other.

This must be a common dilemma among the legions of crafting mummies out there. The obvious solution seems to be to integrate them into what I am doing. With gardening this works brilliantly - Mark is a willing and increasingly able labourer and Johnny loves to potter. With cooking it's also fine but with crafting - I just can't seem to do it. I think the problem is that I am still such a beginner in so much of what I am trying to do, that I find it hard to accomplish it while supervising and helping little ones in the meantime. But I am really really trying.

I enjoyed making the series of minimoopies I did recently and I learned that it's not so impossible to sew a softie. Feeling quite bold, I asked Mark to help me design something we could make together and he drew a really great robot picture. I have annoyingly mis-placed it or I'd scan it for posterity.

He helped me choose the fabric and buttons and arrange the paper pattern and then, when they were safely tucked up in bed, I sewed and stuffed him.

Mark loves him in a really gratifying way and shows him to anyone who comes to the house. And I am trying to think of some other ways I can let them share this stuff with me. I surprised myself - it was fun.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Today is a bad mood day - it's a billion degrees and I'm grumpy having wasted precious time making a failed batch of chocolate banana muffins. The recipe had an error in the ingredients measurement and they came out oily and inedible.

I'm also doing some frantic housework and clearing for the baby shower tomorrow and I've decided that some of the kids toys have got to go. (I am so much better at throwing out other peoples' stuff!)

Andy and I made this when Mark was 1. He was a strange child as far as toys went. He never used them in the way they were designed to be used and if truth be told, he wasn't really into most of them at all. We tried endless types, but all he really wanted to get his mits on was REAL stuff. So in the end we gave up. He spent many a happy hour emptying my kitchen cupboards, pulling all the CDs out of the rack and washing up (including the floor). It wasn't very relaxing play for the supervising parent though, so we came up with the latch board by raiding Andy's toolbox and ransacking the hardware shop. Mark adored it, particularly the 'twangers' which are springs designed to go on the skirting board so doors don't bump into them when opened.

Our friends were half fascinated, half appalled at the new toy - 'What IS that thing?'. But in our house it was the bees knees. Johnny is much more conventional in his toy tastes (and easier to please), so it's gathered dust recently. I'm feeling quite sad about it going off to the dump though - with a little more refinement, I think they could have caught on.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Chaos in progress

I'm astounded at how many beautiful Work in Progress pictures appear in blogs each Friday. Lovely fabrics, neat piles, orderliness. Reality here is somewhat more chaotic. So in the spirit of honesty, here's what our dining table looked like late on Friday night (hence the bad lighting).

Crafting carnage.

Scattered about are:
Kids cooking swap recipe cards
Half completed stuffed robot
Bitty Booties for baby shower
Leftover template and fabrics from butterfly mobile

Amazingly, we ate lunch at the very same table today (but it did take me half an hour to clear it). I'm one of those people who likes to have what they want to use to hand. I'm terrible about putting things back in their proper places (if they are lucky enough to HAVE proper places).

I so envy folks with 'studios', but the truth is if I had one it would also be messy. It drives me nuts having to spend precious time locating the scissors, glue, thing I had in my hand a second ago but has now disappeared. I would give good money for a tidy and organized gene. If anyone has a spare please let me know.