5 November 2009

4 November 2009

I'll Try With A Little Help From My Friend

Sorry I've been away for a while, things just went a bit mad and there was no hope in the world I'd get 10 minutes to blog, let alone read other blogs. But it seems to quieten down a little, so hopefully I'll be back a little more often. I've hired a new help in the house to make things easier, he's still a little unexperienced and unorganised but hopefully things will improve soon.

Five things I can tell you about the past weeks and the next days:

  1. The last fair went really well, I had a lovely day with lots of sales and am now getting ready for the next event. My new blankets are selling really well which makes me very happy.

  2. I am a very lucky girl this week-end as my husband has decided to take me on a surprise week-end for our 4th wedding anniversary - well it's now no longer a surprise because after the consumption of about a bottle of wine last week-end, in front of me he told a friend that 'we're off to Flor....' and then realised what he was doing. I figured that a week-end was too short to go to Florida so yes, we're going to Florence this Friday. Hurray! Without Luca. For the first time. Gulp!

  3. There are 6 weeks left to Christmas and I officially started browsing for Christmas gifts and wrote down my list of Christmas cards whilst the photos were uploading for this blog. There is no escape now.

  4. Toddler lunchtime naps are highly overrated - at least this is what Luca decided, and so we don't really do them anymore. Help!! Mind you maybe we can use that time for some more household cleaning training.

  5. I am desperately trying to come up with a 5th point but it's getting too late so I'll give up before I start writing rubbish.

24 October 2009

Sunday Family Event

If you're anywhere near the South East on Sunday, here's a great day out for you.

23 October 2009

Foodie Friday - Brownies

I was going to post this at the beginning of the week but then I had the idea of 'Foodie Friday' so this is my new regular feature, a regular little culinary contribution to the week-end.

Last week was National Chocolate Week and I managed to resist the urge to indulge in something chocolate-related on a daily basis, but on Friday we made THE MOST YUMMIEST BROWNIES.

Breaking up the chocolate was the perfect job for my little helper

You need

400g dark chocolate
350g unsalted butter
6 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
300g caster sugar
40g cocoa powder
80g plain flour
1tbsp of vanilla extract

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C
  • Butter a 20cm square tin and put some parchment paper on the bottom
  • Break chocolate into piece and melt with the butter over some hot water, stir and leave to cool a little.
  • Beat the eggs, yolks and the sugar with an electric mixer until it is pale and creamy.
  • Stir in the chocolate mixture mix gently.
  • Sieve the flour and cocoa powder in, add the vanilla extract and continue to mix gently until all ingredients are combined.
  • Pour into the baking tin and bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. The edges should rise slightly and the surface in the middle should be slightly firm. If it is still a little wobbly leave it in the oven for another 5 minutes.
  • Leave to cool in the tin, then take out and cut into squares. They should be firm around the outside an slightly gooey inside.

I love these with a glass of cold milk. They can be frozen and defrosted in the microwave in about 45 seconds - perfect for a little afternoon treat.

20 October 2009

Words and Pictures

The lovely Sandy at Baby Baby suggested a Photo and Book tag.

These are the rules for the photo tag:

  • Mention who tagged you.
  • Go to your photo files…Select the 6th photo folder.
  • Select the 6th photo in that folder.
  • Post that photo along with the story behind it.

Here we go - my photo folder goes all the way back to 2001 and in January 2002 I had the chance of travelling to Antarctica with my mum. After a long flight to Buenos Aires, then another long flight to Ushaia, we boarded the ship. Three days through the Southern Ocean and we finally arrived - it was, and still is, a truly magical place where we had the chance of staying for three weeks. I think I came back with about 700 photos and the one above is just one of them.


The rules of the book tag are:
  • Collect the book that you have most handy.
  • Turn to page 161.
  • Find the 5th complete sentence.
  • Site the sentence on your blog.

Oh this is going to be a boring one:

"A Creative Commons license is a way to tell them what they can do."

from "Get to the Top of Google" by David Viney. I'm currently reading it because I haven't done much in that sense for my website and I certainly won't have any time for it in the next two months but it's on my to-do-list for the New Year. The scary thing is that that's only two months away.

So if you fancy it, go and do the Photo and Book tag yourself and see where it leads you.

14 October 2009

The Thing With Toys

Last week our local NCT branch had their Nearly New Sale, which is always an excellent opportunity to clear out and sell old and not wanted toys and find nearly new ones for Christmas/birthdays at great prices. The advantages of the clear-out are obvious:

1 - all the space you suddenly have
2 - a bit of additional money which always comes in handy
3 - an afternoon of entertainment for your little one as you get boxes of old toys out that they haven't seen in while

The disadvantage is that said little one could re-discover THE. MOST. ANNOYING. TOY. that you have been trying to hide for the past 18 months and decide to turn it into his favourite toy to the point where it has its own place in his bed at night and you are woken up by it every morning.

But as I started to think about what to get the little man who is now 2 1/2 for Christmas I thought I'd share my his list of favourite toys:

1- Red Bobby car. Still a hit after 1 1/2 years
2 - Quadrilla Marble Run. Age recommendation is from 4 onwards but it's been a great hit since last Christmas when he was 20 months old and I think it will be for years to come.
3 - Brio Train Set. It sometimes stays in the cupboard for a few weeks but when it comes out again it's a hit. And can be extended endlessly.

And these are the ones that were quickly hidden from his view:

1- said most annoying toy that now sleeps in his bed. Actually looking at the Amazon page that the link goes to, I noticed that 17 out of 24 reviewers give it only one or two stars. I am so glad to see I'm not the only one!!!
2 - this wooden push-along. If you have tiled flooring the noise is horrendous. Mind you, it made good fire material for the log fire we had last winter but I think it's a little too expensive just for that.

I can't really think of many more, luckily we are in a position where we can give recommendations to family as to what to buy him for Birthdays/Christmas.

He likes to help out in the kitchen so a toy kitchen came to my mind - but I really don't want to pay over £100 for a nice wooden one. But after a bit of searching I came across this brilliant Blog called Ikea Hacker - basically ideas of what people have made out of Ikea products. And within that blog are a couple of amazing ideas for play kitchens - so here is my pledge: I will make a play kitchen from one of these tuts, I have two months, a saw and a shed, and an Ikea shop not far away. And no excuse now that I've written it here.

7 October 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Baking cakes ... it's his favourite pass-time at the moment. Bad for my waistline but good for the morale, given that it's been raining non-stop for the last three days.

1 October 2009

Holiday Guilty Pleasures

Recently when we were on holidays it struck me that every time we go away and rent a cottage, we have a tiny fridge. And this fridge is never very full, in fact last week it looked like this:

Given that we were 3 adults and one toddler (who really eats just like an adult), it amazed me that our holiday fridges always seems so empty. At home our fridge is gigantic, you could literally fill it with food for a small army. So I started questioning my shopping habits at home, wondering if maybe we just bought too much of unnecessary stuff. But we're quite good and hardly throw anything away. And then I realised that

a) we don't have a little corner shop within one minute where we can quickly stock up on a pint of milk or a box of eggs when needed. No we are in driving distance of event the smallest of shops.

But most importantly in dawned on me that our holiday diet consisted of a whole lot of these

and those

and occasionally even this (mind you this was a kids portion ...)

If you ever pass within 5 miles of Padstow you MUST stop at the Chough Bakery * - but be warned, those are truly the best sausage rolls and raisin buns in the world. I promise you will not be able to eat a different sausage roll ever again ... now come to think about it that might not actually be such a bad thing. 
* And if you follow that link you will see that they even do NEXT DAY DELIVERY, although I have chosen to ignore this for the time being.

29 September 2009

Time To Get Sewing Again

I was going to call this post 'Time To Get Sewious Again' but Other Half thinks it looks like a spelling mistake so I won't give you that but you get the idea - holidays are over and it's time to get busy again. Since my last fair I have done very little apart from working on orders but I now have three, yes that's THREE, fairs looming between the end of October and the end of November. Oh and I might throw in a little Christmas event in my local area just because I haven't got anything better to do - ha!

So on the 25th of October I'll be at the Southern Baby Event at Fontwell Race Course, West Sussex. Then two weeks later on the 16th of November at The Designer Baby Show in Berkshire and finally November 20-22 it's the Life Crafts & Gifts for Christmas Fair near Guildford, Surrey. If you're in the area come along, say hi, buy me a cup of tea.

I still have a bit of stock from my last fair so don't need to go too mad, but it's still a little daunting to be having three of them and not too much time in between to get new stock ready. Also at my last fair I had an open space whereas the next three are in a shell space so I've got to rethink my stand layout again. Well only for the first one, after that it should be easier.

I enjoyed the last fair so much, I'm really looking forward to these. But at the end of the year I'll be reviewing my 'fair experience' and deciding which ones to do next year.

On the sewing side I have found a lovely fabric called Velboa, I didn't even know it existed in the UK but it's similar to what the Americans call Minky and it's super soft, perfect for baby blankets. But oh this morning I had a quick try at a small blanket ..... it felt like a snake trying to do ice skating under the needle, the fabric is so stretchy it doesn't stop moving. Not a good moment! So if anyone has any tips and hints how to make this easier fire away, I'm all ears. Right now the fabric is in the washer/dryer but I can't wait to get going again in the next days.

On the blanket front I have been making more, they're not yet in the shop though.

I also finally got round to making one of my crayon rolls as a pencil roll.

It was only afterwards though that I realised that I haven't got any of this fabric left so that'll be one off then. Duh .... holiday brain!

21 September 2009

A Little Piece Of Paradise ... No Matter What They Say

Sorry for not having blogged much these days - we're away. In fact we're enjoying a week in Cornwall in a beautiful little fishing village, we have rented a gorgeous little cottage, we have fabulous weather, it couldn't be any better (well apart from the fact that I didn't expect it to be THIS warm and didn't bring ANYTHING for the beach. But that's just an excuse to go shopping tomorrow).

It's a real shame that villages by the seaside like this are hard to find, luckily the people here are preserving what they have whilst still making it attractive for visitors. But it seems that not everyone is so happy with this.

Last night we enjoyed dinner in a little restaurant and left around 9. We (myself, husband, mother and 2-year old) stepped out of the building onto the very narrow road, just as a car came speeding around the corner. As my husband signaled to the driver to slow down, said driver let out a few words that I won't repeat. Just then a second car came towards us at an even quicker pace, and again we tried to slow him down. But the driver just poked his head out of the window and shouted 'oh just get off the f***ing road'.

It was a stark reminder that all may not be well in paradise - what a shame. But I won't allow one idiot to spoil a fantastic week.

17 September 2009

And The Winner Is ....

Ok so I haven't figured out yet how to put this widget on the blog but Randomiser says that it's entry no. 6 from all those that wanted to enter the Baby Blanket give-away, which means it goes to the lovely Sandy at Baby Baby. Congratulations!!

I am once again packing as we're heading off to Rick-Stein-Land where I'll be scoffing posh fish & chips and wash them down with a nice glass of rosé ..... aaaahhhh! Before that though we have to attempt the little man's first haircut this afternoon - I think a little bribery may be required.

14 September 2009

Food Glorious Food

Autumn is nearly here - and how do I know this? Because yesterday we re-introduced last year's tradition of Sunday lunch at Wagamama. We would drive to either Brighton or Guildford and indulge in a noodle-edamame-gyoza feast which meant that no dinner was required afterwards. We stopped doing this once summer arrived because traffic was just getting too bad and frankly it was much nicer to stay in our garden with the sun shining down on us than sitting in the car for 45 minutes. But yesterday we were back and Wagamama is probably Luca's favourite restaurant, after Pizza Express (or any other place that serves pizza).

January 2009

9 months later - grilled chicken noodle dipped in sticky sweet sauce is still the favourite.

When Luca was six months old we decided we were going to do 'Baby-led weaning' (BLW) with him, meaning he has never had a spoon of puree in his mouth or seen a jar of baby food. No spoons, no mush, no purees, it allows a baby to control his or her solid food intake by self-feeding from the very beginning of the weaning process at the age of 6 months. Well if this meant less work for me, I was all for it.

At 6 months, babies learn to chew and grasp objects with their hands, making it the ideal time to introduce finger food. They often begin by picking up and licking food before progressing to eating and at first, very little food is actually ingested as they tend to be more interested in exploring textures and tastes, but soon they start swallowing and digesting. It is important that milk (breast or bottle) is continued together with weaning until the age of 12 months. The belief is that self-feeding supports the child’s motor development on areas such as their hand-eye co-ordination and chewing and it encourages the child towards independence, which can provide a stress-free alternative for meal times. Some babies refuse to eat solids when offered with a spoon, but happily help themselves to finger food. It is important that no salt is added at the beginning which means meals should be cooked from scratch, and you can add salt after you’ve taken babie’s portion out. But within a few months they can pretty much eat what you’re eating, meaning less cooking and work for you.

At first we were worried about choking so we attended a first-aid course which put our minds at rest. Soon a first plate of steamed and roast vegetable was laid out in front of Luca and within a week or so he had figured out what to do with these odd bits and pieces and the result could be seen in his nappies …. Luckily there is no history of allergy within our family so soon I started to introduce soft boiled pasta which still today are his favourite, with various sauces, as well as bread, egg and finally meat and fish.

I don’t know if it is because of BLW, but still today Luca will refuse anything offered to him on a spoon, unless it’s yoghurt. Everything else must go on his plate first and then he decides which bits he wants to eat in which order. He loves strong flavours such as smoked mackerel and olives, and pasta is still a big hit. Messy? Yes, very but as with everything you learn to relax about it, and it does get better. In the meantime an old newspaper or a towel under the highchair certainly help, or a dog (so I have been told). Also there were weeks when he was eating like a log followed by a week where he wanted to prove to us that you can indeed survive on a handful of grapes and a cup of milk. But deciding to wean him this way was certainly one of the best decisions we made, it made the whole process very stress-free and a lot of fun.

These are a few basic principles of BLW:
  • At the start food is offered in baton-shaped pieces or in natural shapes with a ‘handle’ (such as broccoli)
  • Food is not cut into bite-sized pieces until the baby has mastered the pincer grip.
  • First foods are soft cooked, steamed or roasted vegetable and fruit. Harder foods are lightly cooked to make them softer.
  • Dangerous food such as nuts are not offered and raw food such as carrot and apple withheld until the child is able to handle them.
  • No sugar or salt is added to food.
  • Meals should not be hurried and water offered at all times.
  • Child is allowed to decide how much he/she wants to eat.
  • Food can be offered on a spoon and baby should be encouraged to grab spoon and guide it to the mouth.
If you're looking for more info have a look at this website and also the fabulous ladies at the BLW Forum, they have been a lifesaver on many occasions. If you have a little one and are coming up to the six months mark, please please please think about this, it's great fun, you won't regret it and you won't spend hours pureeing and mashing food that might end up on the kitchen floor.

So to celebrate Luca's love of food, here are some of my favourite glorious food moments.

October '08: And we're off .....

Broccoli? Not sure!

I thought I'd just move this around the tray a little ....

... and then stick it in my hair.

Multitasking - two plates, cup, fork and spoon? Easy!

Beetroot is good for you!

And mixed with tomato sauce makes a fabulous face mask.

And finally: Proof that food is fun, fun, fun!

10 September 2009

Goodbye Life

I have succumbed ....

9 September 2009

You Can Always Count On A Scot .....

A couple of weeks ago, Mr Frog and I went to see U2 at Wembley ... we had a great night out, got drunk, had a kebab at 1 in the morning, in short it was brilliant.

And this is what it looks like when 90.000 people hold up their mobile phone as requested by the men, Mr Bono himself. 

But I thought I'd share this little anecdote with you. 
U2 were playing at a concert in Glasgow in 2006, when Bono asked the audience for total silence. Then in the silence, he started to slowly clap his hands, once every few seconds. Holding the audience in total silence, he said into the microphone, 
"Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies." 
A voice from near the front of the crowd pierced the silence...
"Well, f***ing stop doing it then!"

OK sadly this is only a rumor but it did made me laugh when I heard it for the first time so I had to share it.

8 September 2009

5 Things .... And My First Free Give-Away

Today I feel a bit like this:

Because ...

5 Things I Am Doing At The Moment

- filing bills, invoices, bank statements
- tidying my desk and slowly trying to reduce the number of messages in my inbox
- emptying the suitcase from a week-end away, washing + folding laundry
- tidying the house
- emptying the garage of all items for this week-ends car boot sale

A-List-Of-Things-That-Could-Go-On Forever Of Things I'D Rather Like To Do

- make more baby blankets
- make a new nappy bag since we've lost ours
- make a wallet/organiser for my bag
- think about new curtains for Luca's room or amending the current ones
- work on my webshop
- look at fabrics
- watch a nice movie
- read blogs

I think I should have my own reward chart where for every task accomplished I'm allowed 30 minutes with my sewing machine - the problem is only that once I start it's hard to stop. Last week I was all set to go for a run and just quickly went upstairs to check on a fabric and before you know it, I came out an hour or so later with this:

My first baby blanket. And because I wasn't really supposed to be there doing just that, I've decided that this will be my first free giveaway. If you think that you should be the lucky receiver of this gorgeous soft blanket, post a comment with the reason by Thursday 17 September, the winner will be chosen at random by myself at 13.00pm UK time. The blanket has a cute owl design with pale pink, blue, yellow and blue owls on a white background, and a super soft pink fleece on the other side. It measures 31x39 inches.

2 September 2009

Bag Lady

A mother's bag can contain a wealth of hidden treasures. My son knows this, every time we're out and he starts rooting through my bag like a little animal, I know he's hungry because he knows there is always a little treat in there for him. Unfortunately my bag also contains A LOT of other things ... as of this morning the list is as follows: One purse, one diary, two lipsticks, a pack of chewing gums, a crayon roll, one envelope with cards, one babybel, one nail polish, an endless number of receipts, one pair of sunglasses, one case in which the pair of sunglasses should be but aren't, one packet of Oaties, two toy planes, two packets of tissues, one passport in case I want to run away from it all, one mobile phone, one digital camera, three pens, one concealer, one packet of raisins, two stale biscuits, a toddler water beaker, one muslin ... Just imagine if I had a bag like this, all the things I could carry around with me!!!

But the problem lies in two items - the toddler water beaker and the digital camera. Because the toddler beaker keeps emptying itself in my bag. Now the inside of my bag is water proof which is great in theory, but in reality it means that two weeks ago my digital camera had a little swim .... and then sadly died. This week-end I purchased a new camera and I thought I should really give it it's own bag. The sensible voice says to buy one of those really functional camera cases but the creative voice says 'No No think of all the lovely fabrics in your fabric stash, there are some that you've always wanted to use' so there I am now trying to make a bag for my camera. I haven't got a tutorial so god knows what the end result will look like but I've decided to make two little bags for my handbag with these lovely fabrics.

And if they do turn out well my poor family will be getting lots of bags for Christmas. Only 114 days left, did you know that?

25 August 2009

It's Never Too Early To Find Your Career Path

And so it seems my son has found his.

Ok so this is what the end result looked like ....

but it's early days ... . I mean can you see how SERIOUS he looks?

24 August 2009

Craft Fair Do's and Don'ts

It's been a brilliant week-end, my first craft fair has been a great experience, thank you to everyone who came and to anyone who bought something from me and all the great feedback I got, it's been an incredible confidence-booster and learning experience. This is me at my stand , and given that I am sitting, it brings me straight to my do's and don'ts list:

- set up your stand at home before, it saves you invaluable time when you do your actual set-up as you can try things out at home and then get whatever you need to make it look better
- bring a box of essentials with scissors, pens, marker, sticky tape, rope, blue tack, stapler, upholstery pins etc
- buy stick-on velcro tape. Whoever invented this deserves a medal!!
- have spotlights to enhance the look of your products. Also if it's a cold day it'll create some warmth for you
- if you bring lights and extension leads, get a PAT (portable appliance testing) certificate for all items, some event organisers will ask for this
- you may need to get PI (public indemnity) insurance for the events, again some event organisers may ask for this and you don't want to wait with this until the last minute
- bring easy snacks that you can graze on like nuts and dry fruits
- bring water/tea but not so much that you need the loo every 30 minutes
- create height on your stand, the visual impact is important
- depending on your price range, see if you can take credit /debit cards
- have a money box with lots of change
- know what to do when someone hands you a cheque
- bring a stool (see below under Don'ts)
- have a layout that invites people INTO your stand
- have special prices for someone placing an order on the day, i.e. no postage fee, and have an Order Book for said orders
- have a large banner with your company's name displayed at height so that people can see it even if your stand is busy
- have cards
- have bags and tissue paper
- have baby wipes to keep your hands clean
- have a few sweets in your bag to keep your spirits up when things are slow

- don't sit on a chair. Never. You can perch on a bar stool (which I highly recommend, it made day 2 and 3 much more comfortable) but do not sit on a chair. Ever.
- and finally do not bring a tuna salad. You'll be drinking water or looking for mints after every bite. Ooops.

20 August 2009

Craft Fair Here We Come

If you're anywhere in the South and have no plans for the week-end .... come to Live Crafts & Food at Parham Park near Pulborough. Well that's where I'll be anyway. My stall is set-up, the weather forecast is ok-ish and I am knackered before it's even started, so hopefully I'll be able to report some good results by the end of the week-end.

Oh yes in case you're wondering - I will not be standing behind two empty tables, I will actually have products to sell. But more of that tomorrow, when I'll also be able see if all my organisational skills have paid off. I feel quite excited, a bit like a kid on Christmas Eve ... will I be able to sleep tonight?