Friday, 30 March 2012

Plant something and nurture it

A few years ago, I read an article on the BBC News website. Titled Path to true happiness 'revealed', it summarised the results of an experiment carried out to try and improve happiness levels. You can read all about it and see the 10 steps to happiness in the link above. I was so taken with the list that I printed it out and placed a copy on my desk at work and another at home.

Top of the list is "Plant something and nurture it". I must admit that although I'm very good at planting things I'm not so good at the nurturing side. I have a tendency to lose interest once something has sprouted, especially if it needs constant repotting. However I do get an enormous feeling of satisfaction from seeing a little row of pots all full of seedings.

I find it amazing to think that one day you can take a tiny brown seed which has been kept in an old tin in the garage for a couple of years, put it in a pot with some soil and water, and a week or so later you have a bright green seedling, stretching up towards the sun.


My biggest problem is that I tend to go a bit mad, for example by planting about twenty tomato seeds. I can't bear to throw out the weaker seedlings, so I continue to grow all of them, meaning that I'm constantly running about repotting into larger pots, filling windowsills with huge planters, and struggling to keep up with removing the side shoots. Then we go away for the weekend, they don't get watered for a few days, my poor spindly plants all die, and it's a relief to chuck them all in the bin and promise to try harder the next year.  

Now that I've got a Harry to help me out, let's see how I get on this year!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Swanbourne Lake, Arundel

We are trying to make the most of the beautiful weather, and so this morning we joined up with a friend and two other little ones, and headed over to Swanbourne Lake in Arundel. The lake (actually a reservoir) is in a beautiful location, just down the road from Arundel Castle. There is plenty of free parking along the road (although it does fill up at busy times - you might need to park in the Pay and Display in the town and walk in that case), and a small cafe. We bought some duck food so that the boys could feed the ducks, which was a big hit.

Feeding ducks at Swanbourne Lake

Mia was not quite up to feeding them yet, but they showed a lot of interest in the pushchair! 

Child in pushchair with ducks

Then I was persuaded to buy Harry an icecream in the tearoom. There is a path all the way around the lake, although it's a bit rocky with the pushchairs so we only managed a short distance. From memory the path also joins up with some other longer walks across the Downs. There were some small hills that the boys could climb, and I even got Mia out of the pushchair for a crawl about, although it turned out that she was more interested in eating sticks.

Then as a bonus, both fell asleep in the car on the way home. If only all the fresh air meant that they would sleep better at night!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Sleep Fairy and lying to children

Last Christmas, Harry was totally on board with Father Christmas. He's also fully aware of the Tooth Fairy (albeit thanks to Peppa Pig rather than actually losing any teeth himself). I posted the other day about the Fairy Garden than we made as a home for the Sleep Fairy - this is a new concept that we're introducing in the hope that one day he might actually go to bed without a fuss and sleep through the night for more than a few weeks at a time.

The thing about small children is that they completely accept everything that you tell them as the truth. We told Harry that if he slept all night in his bed then the Sleep Fairy would give Daddy a present for him. For the last two nights we haven't heard a peep from him until his sleep clock told him that it was morning, and the first thing that he asked when he came into our room was "Did the Sleep Fairy bring me a present?"

I'm all for any tactic that gets us an undisturbed night, but I must admit that I'm starting to feel a bit uncomfortable. He has started asking supplementary questions. "Where does she live?" "What is her name?" "Does she fly, all by herself?" and of course we need to answer them and embellish the story further, which only increases my discomfort.

Did we make a mistake? Should we have just bribed him with a present from Daddy? Or is an undisturbed night for us all worth a white lie?

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Babies don't keep - but you do still need to do some housework

Whenever a parent of young children bemoans the fact that their house is a mess, inevitably someone will respond with one of the many versions of this popular poem:

Song for a Fifth Child (also known as Babies Don't Keep) by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.


It's a lovely poem, but when someone quotes it I always think that while it's a sweet sentiment, it's not really the best advice to give. Whether you have a new baby or older children, you do still need to do some things around the house!

You need to keep the kitchen and the bathroom clean and hygienic. You need to make sure that the washing is up to date, otherwise you will be rocking a very smelly baby. You need to take out the dirty nappies. You need to buy and prepare food for yourself and the other members of the family. You need to do some tidying, otherwise you'll spend more time looking for things that you've lost. You need to keep the floors fairly clean, especially if you've got little ones crawling about. Maybe you don't need to hoover everyday, and you certainly don't need to do any ironing, but there are things that need to be done.

Here are a few tips for keeping up with the housework when you have small children.

  • You only need a toddler to be occupied safely for a few minutes to wipe around the toilet or sink, or even just squirt some bleach down the toilet.
  • A small baby can be laid down on the changing mat for some nappy off time while you put away the washing or run a duster around the room.
  • My toddler loves to be given a spray bottle and a duster, and will happily clean the doors and walls while I quickly dust the rest of the room.
  • When preparing dinner, wash up as you go so that when you've finished eating you've only got your plates and cutlery to worry about.
  • Clean the bathroom while your older toddlers are playing in the bath.
  • Babies and toddlers can be happily occupied for some time in a high chair with a snack while you clean around them. Choose a snack that takes a little while to eat, raisins are good.
  • And my biggest tip of all - declutter. The fewer things that you have, the less stuff that you have to worry about, and the easier it is to keep the house clean. If you are overrun with toys, get some boxes and pack away half of them. Then in a couple of months time swap them over. As well as having a tidier house the children will play with the 'new' toys for much longer.

If you've visited my house then you'll know that it's not perfect, and it's best not to look too closely at the skirting boards or around the edges of the carpets. But I do think that it is necessary to do some things around the house when you have a baby/small children, and you shouldn't be made to feel guilty for that.

I can get loads done while she works her way through these!

Friday, 23 March 2012

A day in the garden


The weather over the last few days has been wonderful. It has been as warm as a day in the middle of summer. Ram wasn't at work today, so we were able to spend a family day outdoors. First we turned our attention to the vegetable patch. We were lucky enough to move into a house with a ready made vegetable garden at the back of the garage, complete with a large raised bed and some good soil ready for planting.

Digging in the vegetable patch

We gave it a good dig over and then we planted a few things - carrots, spinach and spring onions for now. I've got a few other things started inside in the propagator. Maybe this will be the year that we finally manage some proper vegetable gardening! We had our lunch outside. Mia has been a bit under the weather lately, so hopefully some fresh air will have done her good.

Child picnic in the garden

After lunch I helped Harry to make a fairy garden in a large plant pot saucer. We used a smaller saucer to make a little pond and then decorated it with small stones, plants and flowers. We've been having a few sleep related issues lately (by lately I mean for the last three years or so...) so we have promised him that if he is good at night tonight then the sleep fairy will bring him a present. The fairies in the garden are some stickers that I already had stuck onto cocktail sticks. He was really interested in this activity, he loved hunting around the garden for different things to use to decorate it.

Fairy garden

It has been such a lovely day that we have spent almost the whole day outside. Harry has been running around with his lawnmower, playing in his sandpit, washing his toys, playing football and riding on his scooter to the park. It's amazing the difference that some good weather makes to the things that you can do!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Highdown Gardens

Our first picnic of the year! With maternity leave ticking away and the weather being so beautiful today, when things got grumpy after lunch I piled the three of us into the car and headed to the nearby Highdown Gardens, just outside Worthing in West Sussex between Ferring and Goring.

Highdown Gardens, West Sussex

The gardens are lovely at any time of year, and on this beautiful sunny day they were glorious. My favourite part of the gardens is the Chalk Garden, one of the first areas that you encounter, with a large grassy area to sit on, a pond with enormous fishes and a little footpath at one end that goes up the side of the hill and is usually filled with butterflies, great for little ones to run around and around.

Highdown Gardens, Chalk garden

We'd just eaten so the picnic was limited to raisins, cheerios and breadsticks. Mia didn't really get into the spirit of it, she just up-ended all my little pots. The birds will be well fed this evening. I love our vintage Marmite picnic mat!

Picnic and Highdown Gardens

You can get around the gardens easily with a pushchair, there are some steps but they can be avoided. The gardens  are situated on a fairly steep slope, so you just have to keep an eye on toddlers that love running down hills as it's a long walk back up from the bottom!


Entry to the gardens is free (although donations are gratefully accepted) and I'd really recommend a visit if you live nearby!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Denim and felt butterfly bunting

You may remember a little while back that I wrote about my new project using felt butterflies. Well my project is now finished, and so I present to you my colourful denim bunting with felt butterflies!

Felt and denim butterfly bunting

I made ten butterflies out of felt, using lots of different colours. They all use the same pattern, and were very quick to stitch together. I had lots of fun choosing different colour combinations, sometimes going for colours that were similar and somethings going with something that had a little more in the way of a contrast. I used a paper pattern that I drew up quickly.

Denim and felt butterfly bunting

For the denim flags I cut up an old pair of jeans which had developed holes in the knees (thank you crawling baby). I cut the flags so that the grain ran the same way on all of them, and I washed the pieces so that the edges frayed nicely. Then I ironed them (don't laugh, Mum) before sewing on the felt patches. I purchased some stiff red ribbon to sew the flags to at the top.

Denim and felt butterfly bunting

When it came to sewing the flags to the bunting I had a bit of a dilemma, because I wasn't sure whether or not to leave gaps in between the flags. I've seen it done both ways, and both ways look good. In the end I decided upon a 7 cm gap between flags as I thought that spread the flags out nicely.

Denim and felt butterfly bunting

They are hanging up in the summerhouse, which I'm intending to decorate for the summer with a butterfly theme. Even though the weather is only just starting to warm up, we've already spent a lot of time out there, so I think that we'll still get to enjoy them a lot even though they're not in the house.
Do see this fab tutorial at The Girl Creative for making denim bunting. I'd already decided to use red ribbon on mine, but this tutorial inspired me to wash the denim once the flags were cut to make the edges fray so beautifully.

Denim and felt butterfly bunting

I've since made some flowery fabric bunting to decorate the outside of the summerhouse, and it is starting to look very pretty!

I will be linking this post to the Jeanius Challenge at Me and My Shadow, pop by to see lots of other lovely ideas for recycling denim, including some more gorgeous bunting made from denim.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Running with the pushchair

This morning I managed a 5k run with the pushchair, and I'm jolly proud of myself. It's the furthest that I've run in nearly two years. When we were buying pushchairs for Harry we were gym bunnies, and we deliberately purchased one that could be used for running. Perhaps predictably, it didn't get as much use as we had envisaged, although during Harry's second summer when he was rising at 5am we did get out for a few early morning runs along the seafront.

Mondays are the day that Harry goes to nursery, and last Monday the weather was so beautiful that I was suddenly struck with the desire to take Mia out for a run. I put on my running gear and my trainers, loaded her up and off I went. I only went a short way around the estate, but it felt good. I got a few second glances from people as I puffed past them, but luckily the estate is quiet and I didn't see anyone that I knew.

This morning I stepped up the pace a bit, and added in a couple of extra loops. I'm hoping that I can make my Monday run a regular thing now, as long as it's not raining. Timings need to be carefully planned - Mia must have been up for long enough that she is ready for a sit down, but not so long that she will fall asleep in the pushchair. I don't want to waste that precious naptime in her cot! Of course it won't happen when I'm back at work, as on my days off I'll have the two of them, but I can still try to get out at the weekend.

I wouldn't say that running with a pushchair is any more difficult that running without one, although because you can't really move your arms you do need to adjust the way that you run a little. As the baby gets bigger it does get a bit harder to push, but I hope that this just adds to the workout. The downside is that you get back from your run completely exhausted, ready for a shower and a sit down, while the baby is fully rested and ready to be entertained!

I'd love to know if anyone else successfully manages a running regime with a pushchair, as I did feel a bit of an oddity!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Listography - 5 reasons I know I'm a ...

... Mum approaching the end of her Maternity Leave!

The Listography at Kate Takes 5 this week is very open ended, and we can insert whatever we like to complete the sentence. So I thought that I'd write about something which is on my mind at the moment - the end of my Maternity Leave. I timed my leave almost to perfection this time - I had my last day at work on a Friday, enjoyed a Bank Holiday weekend, then gave birth on the Tuesday morning - meaning that I didn't waste any time sitting around being pregnant, not like I did with Harry for 6 weeks!

My work offers a fairly generous Maternity Leave package, and the flexible working options mean that I can fit in part-time work around the little ones without too much trouble. I've also been lucky enough to be able to take a full year off. Unfortunately it can't last forever, and even though I've still got a couple of months left, I can sense the return to work looming. Five ways that I can tell:

1 - I just went to the dentist. Need to make the most of that maternity exemption certificate.

2 - I'm desperately trying to fit in at least one of my Keeping in Touch days. The trouble is that it's not really possible for the first few months, and then you get so used to being away that you forget all about it until you suddenly realise that there's no way you are going to fit them all in before you're due back. I've got one booked in for the middle of April and suspect that might be all I manage.

3 - I'm beginning to worry that I no longer fit into my work clothes. Now that I'm in the final stretch of my leave I'm also not being paid anything, which makes buying a whole new work wardrobe feel rather extravagent.

4 - I'm starting to think of all the things that I should have been doing and all the places that I should have been visiting while I had the opportunity.

5 - Lastly, my baby is getting so grown up! She's is crawling about, pulling up on everything, and I suspect that it won't be a baby that I leave at nursery, it will be a toddler!

I hope that you liked my list, remember to pop by and see how everyone else has interpreted the theme this week!

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Saturday, 17 March 2012

Story Sacks and Goldilocks and the Three Bears

We recently joined the toy library at our local Family and Children Centre, and through this we have been introduced to the fantastic concept of a Story Sack. Along with a great selection of toys, for a joining fee of just £2, every couple of weeks we can choose another sack to take home. I can't believe how much Harry has been loving these sacks. They contain a copy of the book, a non-fiction book related to the story, sometimes an audio CD, a relevant game (they've all been good quality Orchard Toys ones so far) and, most importantly of all, some toys, props or puppets to bring the story to life. Some of them are the official sacks as linked above, and others have been put together by the centre.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears story sack

Harry loves getting more involved in the reading of a story. His favourite activity is to take the puppets and props, and then act out the story as I read it.

Because I love watching him interact with the story I made these simple little felt bears for him to play with while I read him the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, along with a yellow haired doll. I also got him three bowls and spoons in different sizes and filled them with porridge oats, and he was occupied for ages getting the bears to take it in turns to eat their porridge.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears story sack

Story Sacks are very expensive to purchase, as I think that really they are aimed at teachers or childminders and so on. But it's really easy to put one together yourself, probably from things that you have around the house anyway. You can also theme some activities around the story, for example you could make and eat porridge, or cut out chairs and beds in different sizes from a catalogue. In addition there are many opportunities to talk about what is happening in the story - how the characters might feel, how you would act in that situation and so on. I'm really interested in ways to bring stories to life, and so hopefully I'll have some more ideas to share soon!

I would love to hear about any ways that you make books come alive with your children.

Friday, 16 March 2012

I've been tagged!

Two lovely bloggers have tagged me in a questions and answers meme! They get to ask me 11 questions each and then I am supposed to tag people to answer my questions. As I recently took part in something very similar, I hope that they will forgive me if I just answer the questions. There are some tricky ones!

First up from You're Not From Round Here:

1. What age were you when you had your first kiss?
I was a newborn baby (well I assume that I was kissed as a baby, I can't remember!)

2. How long have you been with your partner for?
We've been married for nearly 5 years, and together for a few years before that...

3. Chocolate or crisps?
Crisps when I'm hungry but chocolate when I'm eating junk for the sake of it.

4. What do you most enjoy doing in your spare time?
Anything which lets me relax and have some space in my head away from toddler chatter. At the moment I'm enjoying cross stitch. I also like reading books and blogs, and watching films.

5. How old were you when you had your first child?
I was 29.

6. Which famous person do you find the most attractive?
David Tennant is rather easy on the eye...

7. Do you like any sports or follow any specific teams?
I don't follow any sport at all. I had to pick an Olympic sport that I wanted to watch when we were applying for tickets. I chose synchronised swimming, which we did actually get but then to my husband's delight we were upgraded to normal swimming. Personally I would have been interested to watch synchronised swimming, but as the non-sports-fan in the house I can't really complain.

8. What or who is your inspiration in life?
My Mum :)

9. Do you have any pets and, if not, would you like any?
I had a goldfish for a long time and I'd like to get another one day. Really I'd love a cat, but my hubby claims that he's allergic...!

10. How long have you been writing a blog for?
I started in July 2011 so that's (counts on fingers) 8 months.

11. What are your top parenting tips for others?
Babies don't just cry when they are hungry, as well as many other reasons, they also cry when they are tired! Also, with a baby a walk in the pushchair solves most problems.

And next from Mummylish:

1. Do you collect anything? If so, what?
I collect free postcards from the cinema.

2. Where in the world would you like to visit and why?
Since reading about it in a Bill Bryson book I've always wanted to visit Hammerfest, which claims to be the northenmost city in the world, and see the Northern Lights. I have seen the Northern Lights in Iceland but I'd love to see a more spectacular display.

3. Today I really should ___________?
Hoover.

4. Who is number one on your “allowed list”?
If this means what I think it means, we haven't had this discussion!

5.If you could do any job in the world what would it be?
Probably something with children, or else a librarian.

6. Countryside or city life?
Countryside, as long as I had a car and the roads weren't too narrow.

7. What is your favourite flavour crisp?
I like those Pringles that come in the green can, I think it's sour cream or something.

8.What is the funniest search term someone used to find your blog?
Mine are all really boring and actually relate to things found on my blog. The most interesting is "donkey head cardboard outline". I was about to say that I've never written about donkeys, but in fact I have, not cardboard ones though.

9. Radio 1 or Radio 2?
Still Radio 1, although I only listen to the radio in the car and I don't know how to tune it, so I listen to whatever my hubby was listening to the last time he drove.

10. What is the first word that comes into your mind when you see the word “tree”?
House! I'd love a tree house!

11. What is your favourite spot in your house?
The nice comfy bed!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Listography - Top 5 Cookbooks

I've been reading this week's Listography at Kate Takes 5, and must admit to feeling a little intimidated when faced with the Delias, the Nigellas and the Jamie Olivers. These are not the type of books that reside in my kitchen. In fact, when I looked I only actually have five cookbooks, so this should really be titled '5 Cookbooks'. They are:


New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner - Annabel Karmel
I would have been a wonderful Annabel Karmel mother. I've got the blender, the ice cube trays and the little pots. I have the organisational tendencies to batch cook and meal plan. Unfortunately my babies are not Annabel Karmel babies, and scream when a loaded spoon is thrust towards them. Therefore, instead of the spotless, rosy cheeked cherubs that adorn the pages of this cookbook, after every mealtime I am faced with cleaning up a baby that looks like this.

The Marmite Cookbook - Paul Hartley
This isn't really for cooking from, more to celebrate my love of Marmite. As well as the recipes it has lots of vintage Marmite advertising which I love as well as a little history of Marmite.

The Survival Guide to Cooking in the Student Kitchen - Susan Crook
This was an 'off to university' present from my parents and is probably my most thumbed cookbook. It has easy recipes for lots of basics, like boiling eggs and pancakes, as well as general cooking and shopping tips.

30 Things to Cook and Eat for Christmas - Rebecca Gilpin and Catherine Atkinson
This is a lovely little book, full of sweets and biscuits with really simple instructions. I bought this pre-children with the intention of making gifts for grandparents. Not sure that I actually have yet, but the intention is still there!

Blue Notebook
Do not be fooled by the inscription 'French Words' written in a childish hand, this is where I keep the handwritten recipes passed down from my Mum, and includes the favourites 'Sponge Pudding' and 'Ginger Shortbread'.

See everyone else's cookbooks here!


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Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Trying to garden with a baby

The weather has been beautiful, and we have a lovely new garden which needs some attention. Harry has a sandpit to play in, his own gardening tools to help out, and he is quite content to play in the garden while I get on with a bit of weeding and tidying. He is fascinated by a new bird feeder that I've hung up, and we're looking forward to shortly planting some seeds.

But at the moment, all our garden activity has to take place while Mia is sleeping. She does still have two longish naps during the day, so that gives us a bit of time, but as soon as she wakes up I have to come into the house because I just don't know what to do with her in the garden. She's not walking, and it's too wet and muddy for her to crawl about on the grass. She wouldn't sit still if I set her up on a blanket, and I wouldn't get away with strapping her into a pushchair or putting her in a playpen. When I put her in the summerhouse with some toys she screams and tries to crawl out, which means she'll end up headfirst down the steps. She's not tall enough or stable enough yet to stand up against the sides of the sandpit or our water table.

It's really frustrating, because I'd love for us all to be out in the fresh air enjoying the sunshine together but I just can't think of a good way to occupy a baby outside unless it's going for a walk with the pushchair. Perhaps it will be easier in the summer when the grass is dry enough for her to crawl on, or perhaps she will be walking by then anyway and then I'll feel happier letting her wander about. Does anyone have any ideas for involving a baby in garden activities?

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Patchwork fail

As a blogger, I feel that it's very important to write about both the good and the bad, which is why I am sharing my latest project with you. I recently decided that I fancied having a go at patchwork, so I bought a kit online which was a fantastic kit, and, I felt, very reasonably priced. I'm reluctant to give the name of the company here, because I know for a fact that the design and quality of the kit has nothing whatsoever to do with what my failure. I chose a simple kit, a four block of Cathedral Window patchwork which can be sewn onto a small drawstring bag.

For reference, here is what Cathedral Window patchwork should look like:

Cathedral Window patchwork quilt close up
Cathedral Window patchwork quilt done properly

And here is what I have managed to accomplish so far.

Cathedral Window patchwork quilt in a mess

As you will see, even the sequins supplied do little to hide the wonky corners. I think that I'm going to put it aside for a while, then perhaps I will take it apart and have another go. I have at least learned the theory of Cathedral Window patchwork, even if I don't currently have the skills to accomplish it.

If you are interested to know where you can purchase the kit let me know and I'll add it into the comments. It really is a lovely kit!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Needlework Days - My cross stitch sampler

I spotted a post this week by Feisty Tapas about her love of cross stitch. She has started a new link up for people to share their needlework projects, and I thought that I would join in this month as I'm very proud of mine. I started doing cross stitch when I was quite young - certainly pre-teen - although I've picked it up and put it down again over the years. That's the good thing about cross stitch, you can pick it up no matter where or how long ago you left it off. I posted recently about my current work in progress that I expect to last me a good few years yet, so now I'm going to show off the sampler that I completed a few years ago.

Cross stitch sampler DMC

It was made from a DMC kit, but I sold the original pattern and I can't find it to purchase online, so it looks as though it is no longer available. It's a shame, as I think that it's a lovely sampler. It's a traditional sampler, the text reads "East or West, home is best" and it features a house, which I always like.

This post has become an unlikely target for spammers so I've disabled comments, sorry.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Discipline (or lack of)

I'm not very good with discipline. Perhaps we are lucky, because Harry is generally pretty well behaved. He's never done anything really naughty, and if he has it's been our fault anyway (like the time he put the digital camera in the toilet, that taught us not to leave small, expensive items lying around near babies!). Of course, like all toddlers he has his strops if he doesn't get what he wants, but generally I just leave him to whinge to himself for a bit, and he'll gradually move himself closer and closer to me until we end up having a cuddle, then a few minutes later it's all forgotten.

I don't think that I've ever even shouted at Harry, only if he was about to do something dangerous. Even if I raise my voice he gets upset and hides behind his hands and I end up feeling bad and giving him a cuddle anyway. I do try to be consistent though, and if I've said that he can't have or do something then I don't give in. I'm also very good at ignoring him - if I ask him to come over so I can get him dressed and he runs off, I just let him run about without giving a reaction and he soon comes back!

We've never even used a naughty step. I have a friend who visits with her son the same age, and she uses the naughty step very effectively. Harry has therefore seen the naughty step in action a couple of times, and it has made such an enormous impression upon him that we can now threaten the use of the naughty step to stop him doing something, without him ever having sat on it!

Mia is crawling about everywhere now so it's time to start with the 'No' word. Like Harry, she has learned very quickly which things she isn't allowed to touch (sockets,  radiators, the television and so on). This doesn't mean that she doesn't try her luck though. I love how she heads for something that is out of bounds, then looks back over her shoulder in anticipation, and just to make sure that I'm paying attention! It's also funny to watch Harry copy me, giving her a stern 'No' when she picks up one of his toys!

Sometimes I wonder if I'm too soft. Does everyone else use a naughty step with their toddler?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Framed felt owl picture

For my second entry into the PinAddicts challenge, hosted this month by Melksham Mum I was inspired by these gorgeous little Felt Owls at Bugs and Fishes. Bugs and Fishes is a fantastic blog if you are looking for felt crafting inspiration, there are all sorts of lovely little bits and pieces!


I decided that rather than making a stuffed owl, I would use the design in a small picture frame. I used an Ikea Ram frame, which I also used to make my felt name picture.

I made my own owl template based upon the Bugs and Fishes design, and chose colours from my felt stash. It was very tempting to go mad with lots of different colours, so I tried to introduce some continuity by making most of the stitching yellow. I also painted the frame yellow to match. My owl came out a little wonky (perhaps because I drew him freehand rather than use the template which the designer kindly provides), so I set him at a jaunty angle to try and hide it.

Felt owl framed picture

I had some space left in the frame which needed to be filled. I originally cut out some small letters to spell 'owl' and placed them along the top, but I didn't feel that it looked right, so instead I made him a little branch with a leaf, and I also gave him some feet. I glued all the pieces onto some white linen for a backing. Owl designs are very popular at the moment, and I'm really pleased with him!

If you are looking for more owl crafts you might also like my Fimo Owl

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Crafting together

One evening sticks in my mind from my teenage years at home. I must have been about 13 or 14. I was well into musicals, and in the days before you could download music on demand I was super excited because I had finally been able to get a cassette out of the library that I had been waiting for. It was called "Hey, Mr Producer" and it was a collection of popular songs from the musicals of Cameron Mackintosh.

It was a weekend evening, and my whole family gathered in the living room, listening to the cassette and engrossed in our individual activities. I was working on some homework, which was sewing a cushion for Textiles. I can't remember what everyone else was doing, but I do remember how contented we all were.

There probably weren't many evenings like this, especially as we all got older and our social lives expanded. It was brought back to mind the other day because for the first time I sat down quietly with Harry and we did some painting together, but working on our own individual projects. I was painting a photo frame for something I had been working on, he was splashing blue paint around and painting lakes. I moved on to working on some sketches inside circles, using a cup to draw around, and he wanted to copy me, drawing his own circles and colouring them in.

It was so nice that he was able to busy himself while I got on with doing something for myself. Here's to the start of many more crafting sessions together!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Review: Hello Kitty books

HarperCollins published three new Hello Kitty books this January, and I had the chance to review the Best Friends Activity Book and My First Cookery Book. Yes, I know, Hello Kitty is a bit girly, and I have a son. And, if I'm honest, I have a tiny hunch that girls are the target market for these books. But I'm not one to be driven by gender stereotypes, even if Harry does show more interest in his trains and cars than dolls (and yes, he has some).

To start with we looked at the Activity Book. It's a little book of puzzles and activities around the theme of friendship - activities like draw a flower for your friend and design a dress for Hello Kitty. It is a little bit twee, but Harry didn't seem to mind. Before getting out the glue and pens, Harry was in a quiet mood so we sat down together on the sofa and looked through it. There are lots of starting points for discussion - how would you spend a perfect day, who are your friends, what do they like, what do you like about your friends and so on. It was very sweet, and it was fun to have a conversation about these things with him, now that his language is good enough to do so. I learned that he has a favourite little friend at nursery that he plays trains with, and when I asked what he liked he said 'me!'. I also found out that he drinks hot chocolate at nursery, and that his favourite thing about me is when we draw pictures together!

Some of the activities in the book, like the wordsearch and anagrams, were a little beyond him as he is only just three, but there was still enough in the book for him to have fun with. I've written all his answers to the questions into the book, and even though some of the pages have now been cut out for the activities, I think it will make a nice keepsake to look back on!

The Cookery Book is divided into sections for different meals throughout the day, which is good because I've only really done baking with Harry and not involved him in proper meal preparation. There are some nice simple recipes, with not too many ingredients, and they are the sorts of meals that would appeal to little ones, for example pizza and cookies, as well as some healthier options like salads and sandwiches. There are also some activities to do in the book as well, like how to organise a treasure trail. The only criticism is that because it is a cartoon book there are no photographs or good pictures of the finished result, and I like to see what I'm trying to make! The recipes are so simple though that you shouldn't have any trouble following them.

Two very sweet little books, and not just for girls!

Harry drawing a flower for Mummy
The books are available to purchase on Amazon here:

Hello Kitty - Best Friends Activity Book
Hello Kitty - My First Cookery Book

We received the two books to review.
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