Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Handmade Christening Gift

Life has certainly been hectic these last few weeks and I've been unable to grab even a tiny amount of time in cyber space.  It would be super nice to have a bit of time this weekend to catch up on some lovely blog reading and feel inspired and connected again!

Recently, my gorgeous new niece was Christened and so we made the 2 hour journey to stay with family in Bucks before the ceremony on the Sunday.  Here is the beautiful blue eyed girl with her doting Aunty J9!  She reminds me so much of my Little Lady as a baby.  Truly blessed.
I contemplated what would be a suitable gift for the occasion for some time.  Financially, every spare penny was going to our extension work plus rather than just buy something I wanted something more personal to give to mark the day.  Of course this prompted some crafty time!  I had already crocheted a blanket which was given to her when she was born - so that box had already been ticked!

After some thought, I decided I wanted to create something that incorporated her name - given that this is a key element of being christened - you are 'given' your name as part of the ceremony.

I considered cross stitch but the family d├ęcor is more modern in style so I decided to craft a scrabble tab picture.  I used an IKEA box frame and chose some scrapbooking papers as a backdrop.

I was really pleased with the outcome.  They have said that they liked it and I hope that it will be a treasured memory of this special day.

I'd been asked to bake cakes for the occasion too so on the last day that I had my oven (before it was removed during the building work!) I baked and decorated a wonderful fruit cake with a 'new to me' recipe from this book.  My most favourite fruit cake mix so far - I thoroughly recommend it as it is not at all heavy!  As the lovely 'Mummy of the Baby' requested, I also made a Delia Smith coffee cake but sadly I didn't get any photos - that one got devoured really quickly!!

It has been a manic time in this house over the latter part of this year and I have not paced myself well on the pain management front.  I have a few ideas in mind to craft for my new kitchen space which I aim to work on during the new year once Christmas is over.  Generally though I'm planning a slower pace of activities over the coming month - I no longer thrive on rushing around being so busy and list driven that you can't stop to smell the roses as I did in my twenties!  Project managing this build has certainly tested me and I'm looking forward to a return to 'balance'.

That is my promise to myself.  I need to slow down to my usual happy mode and take time to enjoy the passing moments.  I hope you manage a bit of the same - especially over the Christmas period!

Thanks for reading and enjoy your week - whatever you're up to! 
J9 x

Monday, 9 December 2013

Simple Pleasures & Snapshots

Hello there!!  It is just too long since I last posted!  Even so, it's a bit of a short, sharp catch up post!!  So many moments to capture over the past few weeks. 

A Sneak Peak at the Makeover of My Dresser
Weeks of building work, followed by weeks of painting, a little wall papering and some sanding and our build is CoMpLete!  We are gradually growing in to our new downstairs space.  The kitchen is literally amazing.  Of course I'm not talking magazine shoot, Hollywood house amazing - I'm talking achievable, clean, affordable - AMAZING. 

My Dresser is the first part of my reveal - I love it - and it is currently adorned by some sparkly, Christmas star lights, which are giving me lots of joy.  The wall paper behind (Laura Ashley) was purchased some six years ago - when I saw it in a reduced bin for £1.50 per roll.  I had no need for it then but bought two rolls - my late Father was a firm believer in "Something having a use once in every seven years".  Hmmmm.... wall paper you were worth keeping hold of.  It is only on this back wall of the kitchen and breaks up the milk white nicely!

Enjoying Festive Displays on my that Dresser!
I spent a rather joyous day to unpack my treasured china from it's boxed surrounds.  Many items have been kept wrapped for months - for the day when that dresser would be transformed.  I got the contents just as I wanted in in late November - and promptly replaced many items with Christmas decorations (forgetting to take a picture of the display as I was constantly waiting for the light to be in my favour - something that is very tricky in wintery England!!)

However, I've equally enjoyed adding a little festivity to the new area.  It has already changed the way we spend time together as a family for the better but I'll save that for another post.

Special Interactions with Granny
 Last week, we had our first overnight visitor to our home in nearly 7 months!  How fitting that it would be my mum to come and peruse the new additions to our home.  She was able to stay for a week as the extension now homes a downstairs toilet and shower room which has previously negated any longer stay than a couple of nights.

Anyhow, mum and I did have some festive plans (a trip to Bath Christmas Market no less - again another post).  But that didn't stop my littlies having lots of fun.  Board games, sugar icing cake decorating, making mince pies for the school Bake Off... all were undertaken with Granny at the helm.

Ahhh.  Simply divine.  That week alone made the last few months of upheaval completely worthwhile.

Christmas Hama Bead Creations
Little Lady and I spent some quality time this weekend creating while the boys were at Football.  The Football thing is fairly recent and very momentous as Little Man has joined a team and is enjoying matches and practising!  All very cute but it does mean that us girls get to spend some time crafting each weekend.

First was some felt craft and second we sat making Hama bead creations which I'd seen on Pinterest.  We modified some but were completely inspired and influenced by Purple Cards although the original page seems to have disappeared so in an effort to link back you can find it through my Crafts To Do with Kids board.

The intent Concentration...
...and sheer delight that the erection of an artificial Christmas Tree can create!  In my pre children life I was somewhat obsessed with Christmas Tree Decorations.  I have some from New Zealand, some from France and Germany as well as many from all over the UK.  I treasure them and it is true that the majority have a story linked to them.  I LoVE that the children adore the process of decorating the tree. 

This year it was Little Lady's turn to put the fairy on top! (See that changing smile? So many teeth have been lost and found by the Tooth Fairy over the past couple months).

So in short - building work is over!!  Painting has stopped until January (life is too short to aim for perfection) and Christmas is definitely on its way.  My posts will be a little like buses over the coming days... you wait ages for one and then a couple come at once!!  I have so much to share with you, so many half drafted posts but still so much to do!

How do you all manage to post and organise yourselves sooo much better than I?!  I congratulate you on your organisation anyway and can only aspire to do better ;o)

Happy December Folks!
J9 x

Friday, 8 November 2013

Half Term Happiness

Just popping by to write a quick post about our half term break last week.  Well, I say break but really it was only a break from routine - which 'they' do say is as good as a rest.

Hmmm.  I'm not sure I agree in this instance.  The hubby and I spent 3 days juggling the children and painting new plaster at the latter end of the week off - such a challenge!

Aside from the home front we managed a lovely trip to my Mum in Cornwall for four days.  Sadly Hubby had to work so the children, Granny and I spent some much needed down time...

#  Nature walks (and/ or skipping!) - gorgeous autumnal colours and much needed fresh air

#  Pooh Sticks - the river was running fast due to high rain fall so the game was lots of fun and there are 4 bridges of this type on the route so lots of opportunity for play!

#  Decoupatch Time

#  And Pumpkins - of a happy and a scary kind. 

Our build is due to finish in the last week of November- I cannot wait!  It's a mixture of excitement and a need for it to JUST BE DONE ALREADY!!

I'm not meaning to be ungrateful - it's just been a long time cooking for a family in this space.

Watch this space - I'll be showing you the blank canvas next time!  Apologies to all you lovely bloggy friends out there - by December I should be back in the land of blog!!

J9 x
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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Reality - the Good and the Bad!

Hello lovelies,

Apologies for the longest break I've taken from cyber space since starting this blog.  This was partially because life has gotten in the way and partially because reality has Not been too pretty here of late.  That and electricity, telephone and internet cables being cut accidentally at various points over the last month!

Don't get me wrong - it's mainly good stuff happening in our home.  Just messy, dusty, exhaustingly dirty and energy sapping StuFf.  Progress on the home front is GReAt though.  The walls (in photograph below) are being plastered (at this very moment) and we hope within a fortnight to reclaim the house from the builders.  Below you can see our new hallway and front door - now to the side of the house.  All those boxes have been there for 5 days now - my new kitchen.  The knowledge of this 'potential kitchen loveliness' is the only reason I didn't pull my hair out when I stubbed my toe for the hundredth time!!

The whole building experience has been a combination of awful and wonderful moments.  It's not a pretty reality but the space is really taking shape.

I know that this invasion of my home is temporary and the outcome will make enormous differences to the way we live in our home and how I manage my disability in the future.

To escape from the clutter in my home - and my mind, I've been purposely seeking joy in Simple Things.  

#  These gladioli were in a reduced bucket at the local corner store and have provided so much pleasure in my make shift kitchen.

# Purchases from the charity shop - lovely pastel pots and some gorgeous lemon Pyrex lidded pots!  Not sure what I'll use them for but my goodness I love them!

I have been creative over the past month - not much baking (due to lack of kitchen!) but other creative efforts which I hope to share next time. 

Apologies for being behind on my blog reading too - I've had so little opportunity but can't wait to catch up on what's been happening in your part of the world!

Thanks for reading,
J9 x

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Extention Catch Up - 3 weeks in!

As I mentioned in my last blog post, we are now 3 weeks in to our 'big build'.  So far it hasn't caused us too much inconvenience.  The main change is that we have to use our back door as the front porch was knocked down the first day the builders started and the inner door was boarded up preventing access.  So far though, no internal work has started.

Our house is a sixties build and can in no way be described as a pretty house from the outside.  In fact, it's quite fair to say it is ugly.  So here is a before - I was looking forward to seeing the end of that ugly porch! 

It was the inside space that sold the property to us (and the price being what we could afford!)  I think once it's finished it will have slightly more curb appeal but it still won't be pretty from the outside.  We would need a much larger (unobtainable) budget for that!

The main build progress so far is in the development of the extension structure.  The builder aimed to build the outer walls, roof etc. and make it watertight before progressing on to knocking down the old outer wall which houses the current (very cramped) kitchen.  This means that the extension has been built in isolation around our current house!  It has made the kitchen space very dark but it has meant we've not been inconvenienced too much in the early stages of the build.  If you look closely you can just make me out doing the dishes at our current kitchen sink!

Lots of excitement ensued when a digger arrived to dig the footings.  I didn't get a good picture of the process as I needed to let them 'get on' but once dug you could see the size of the new space...

Further excitement happened early one morning before school as the cement mixer arrived and filled in the enormous footings.  We all found this fascinating and watched closely from Little Man's bedroom window.  All the cement was firmly in place before we left for school at half 8 in the morning.  Not bad going eh?!

Once this base was dry, the walls went up super quick! 

The brick layer came over 2 weekends and the external walls were complete.

The final picture is how it looks at present - the roof is nearly (but not quite) complete.  The windows are being fitted later this week and then building work will start in our current kitchen - of which half will become a downstairs shower / toilet room.

The mess is beginning to wear on me - as is the knowledge that things are about to get a whole lot worse in the near future.  I keep telling myself it will be so worth it (I know it will) but it doesn't make it any easier during the difficult times when mud is walked throughout the house! 

I have set up a reasonable 'make shift' kitchen in our conservatory and we will be emptying the remainder of the kitchen cupboards this weekend.  I'm aiming to sell our old kitchen units and our appliances have found a good home so we're doing our bit for the environment!  Once the inner wall comes down I will have no cooker and no kitchen sink for 2-3 weeks.  I do have a camp stove and I have prepared a bit by cooking up batches of Bolognese and different sauces and frozen them so I don't feel guilty about not providing nutritious food for the kids.  If we can stretch to it, we will pay for school dinners two or three times a week over the peak build time so that it takes a bit more pressure off.  I'm also planning on using paper plates for a while as doing dishes in the upstairs bathroom would be physically challenging for me!

Brick dust do your worst... I am ready for you with gritted teeth and a forced smile.  The new space will be my saviour and will help with managing my disability.  I'm ready.  Bring it on!

I'll update when I've got more photographs of progress and when the internal walls come down.  Think positive thoughts for me!

Thanks for reading,
J9 x

Thursday, 19 September 2013

A Beanie Baby Party

Little lady's request this year was to have a Beanie Baby themed party for her birthday celebration with a small gathering of her close friends.  It was as long ago as June when she decided that this was what she wanted (when it was little man's birthday party).  With lots of other options available, she remained absolutely convinced that she wanted a few friends to come to our house and that Beanie Babies would be the theme.
I love to organise parties for my kids - I find it so rewarding to tailor activities and games to their preference.  I did a bit of research and started collating ideas on a Pinterest Board.  I had planned to make another beanie baby cake but I ran out of time - in fact I was melting chocolate just an hour before the party started! 

The plan for the party comprised a little free play, dancing and some creativity thrown in!! 

I decided that instead of party bags I would purchase some beanie babies (they were under £4 each in Sainsbury) for each of the five party girls to take home.  Each Beanie Baby had to be won by the recipient (tactical stopping of music was required to ensure each child won a round of musical chairs, bumps, statues!)  With Beanie Babies won we could use them as a foundation for crafty activities during the remainder of the party!

Inspired by Monogram's n Mud blog which I found via Pinterest, party hats were constructed, decorated and tied with ribbon on the Beanie Babies that they had just won.

Then the Beanie Babies were suitably dressed for the celebration!!

We then did some games in the garden to burn off some energy (although the sky was grey, it was warm and dry) so we were able to use some outside space while I set up the next activity.

So, the next creative element was some cupcake decoration.  I had mixed some regal icing colours that morning with Little Lady while Little Man was at football practise.  I also made up a batch of cupcakes and the girls set to it - with the aim of using the icing to decorate the cake and recreating their favourite Beanie Boo faces.  They rolled out icing and used cutters or shaped icing with their hands - and the cakes came together with relative ease. 

All the girls were really engrossed in this activity - I'd definitely recommend it for a party or play date.  They all learnt a few sugar craft tips too - whilst having fun they were learning too! A lovely and calm activity with the added bonus of the children being able to take their cakes home afterwards!

Free play followed - Little Lady showed her friends her bedroom and they all played with their Beanie Babies together whilst I laid up the party tea.

The usual party food ensued - in our house 'party tea' means triangle sandwiches, Cadbury fingers, party rings, grapes, strawberries, cucumber sticks, quavers and CAKE!  It's the law and I can't see it changing!

The larger cupcakes were topped with white chocolate and those lovely beanie baby rice paper toppers which I bought online.  The main cake was a very simple chocolate sponge covered in chocolate, sprinkles and smarties.  I had planned for a more creative party cake but time just ran away from me.  I was glad I had made a big effort for her cake on her birthday.  Building work started two weeks ago on our much needed extension.  More on that in another post but needless to say there was lots of cleaning of grit and sand from the floors and hiding of kitchenalia that needed rehoming in the week leading up to the party.  In hindsight it was probably a mistake to agree to a party at home once building work had started but hey, who doesn't like a challenge?!  I bought three cheap carpet runners from Dunelm to line the muddy side entrance way we are forced to use at present - and the girlies carefully entered via the rear of the house - not ideal!!

Despite this, the party girl had fun and they all seemed to enjoy themselves.  The years seem to be going by so quickly (I'm turning into my mum by saying that - but it is so true).  I enjoyed what may have been the last 'little girl' birthday party in this house - I'm told that at age 9 sleepovers become all the rage - we'll wait and see...

Billy had his best friend over for the party too - they enjoyed the balloons - perhaps a little too much!

Beanie babies were a great 8th Birthday bash.  So cute.

The following day we had a go at sculpting more Beanie Baby characters using the left over icing - super sweet!

 - here are close ups of Magic and Muffin!

Thanks for reading - and more on that extension progress next time!
J9 x
P.S Do you like my new oilcloth for the table?  I got it at Dunelm last week when I bought the runners and was going to keep it for December due to the snowflakes - but I think it'll stay on the table now!!

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Thursday, 12 September 2013

A Beanie Baby Birthday Cake

Last week my first born turned 8. Just where has that time gone?

I'm immensely proud of this little lady.  She's full of life - sensitive, caring and a wonderfully feisty redhead.  Our family is all about letting our children be children.  To encourage them to enjoy the outdoors, to play and to relish everything that childhood should encompass.  We aren't currently very technological and I definitely like it that way but accept that this will likely change in future years - for now we're completely enjoying Lego of all varieties!  In fact, the majority of the day was spent putting different Lego sets together that she'd been gifted - lucky girl.

Anyhow, the past six months have seen my little lady being literally crazy about Beanie Babies (or Beanie Boo's).  Both of my kiddies have favoured cuddly toys over dolls etc. and I think the Beanie Babies are equivalent to the Ty Beanies that were prevalent in my childhood.  This interest translated into a request for a birthday cake of a particular character 'Bubblegum', which was in fact the first in her collection and remains a firm favourite in her gradually growing brood.

I started looking for ideas using search engines and Pinterest and starting putting together some ideas on my new boardThis was a real inspiration for the birthday cake.  What an amazing effort that cake was!  And here's my make!

 I used a 6inch tin for the base and then made 3x 3.5 inch cakes in some cute tins my mum had kindly given to me for making small Christmas cakes to gift when I put my Christmas hampers together later this year.  Once cooked, the 6inch chocolate cake became the flowery garden.  I interlaced chocolate and plain sponge layers all sandwiched together with a very thin covering of butter icing.  The body of the beanie baby was then sculpted with a knife, covered in a thin layer of butter icing before being decorated.  I mixed the icing colours myself using Wilton Icing Colouring Gel and white icing (as I usually do).  Bubblegum really came to 'life' by piping pink icing on (for a furry effect) and rolled out regal icing for the tummy, eyes and other details - some bits like the ears and hands were moulded and held in place with cocktail sticks.  The tail was an extra curve of cake covered in darker pink and grey bands of longer piped strips of butter icing to give the effect of the lemurs more bushy tail!

I was really pleased with the finished cake - as was my little lady.  The look on her face is always worth the time and effort I put in.  The birthday cake in our house is something of a tradition that is chosen and re-chosen months in advance by the birthday girl or boy. 

Candles get lit and blown out 5 or 6 times each - including the sibling whose birthday it is not!  Of course the birthday girl or boy always gets more turns!!

I think this is the best birthday cake I've put together so far.  It is interesting to see how this skill gradually improves over time.  I'm not good at intricate details or fine icing but the last cake - little man's dinosaur cake also made this year was my best cake before this one- so hopefully I'll carry on improving.  I'm by no means a professional and certainly wouldn't feel confident making decorative cakes outside the family but I do get such satisfaction from crafting the kiddies cake of choice.

And they get such satisfaction from eating it!!  I will bake a second simpler cake for her Beanie Baby themed tea party this Saturday and will share some of the activities I have planned in a different post next week.  Fingers crossed it goes well!

Happy Birthday Little Lady.
Always & Forever,
Mummy x

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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Jurassic Discoveries at Kilve!

Bank holiday Monday saw us heading along the coast to Kilve for the first time.  I needed to hear and see the sea... I had a real yearning for that noise that sooths my soul.

We arrived at high tide as planned - promptly starting to search for fossils amongst the rocks and pebbles.  Pit stops for refuelling were of course essential!

We were surprisingly successful.  I've been to Lyme Regis before and not found anything so I'd fully prepped the kids that we may not find any fossilised life - and certainly not any dinosaurs!!

While the tide was high little man broke rocks for a full hour!! He knelt, selected a rock that simply 'could not be broken' and smashed away.  Little lady built towers of rock but was much happier once more of the beach became exposed and there was water to play with!

A bridge was an engineering challenge to accomplish...

As the tide went out the expanse of 'rock tables' like huge walkways became visible across the shoreline.

It was fascinating to see the folds of rock and the layers of minerals laid historically with huge boulders deposited sporadically by the power of ice and sea.  As the slate layers break away with the impact of the sea, the pebbles enclosed within are released with their fossilised remains.

The kids played in foot pools, built walls with gloop cement...

...and generally frolicked in a bit of water and fine sand as only children can.

Some fossils were too large to bring home:

...and we chose a favourite to display as a reminder of our day.

It wasn't as accessible as many beaches we visit and I certainly felt the impact of that later in the day pain wise but the effort was worth it.  Little man is a dinosaur fanatic and was super interested.  In our research when we came home we found out that a new species of dinosaur is discovered each week by Palaeontologists for the last 18 months- that's mind blowing - that the rate of discovery is still so  high. 

The Natural History Museum is a destination we need to visit - I'm planning for October half term if we can arrange it.  Although the entry is free to the museum the expense comes in the travel to and stay in London.  I really want to make it happen though.   I know I'll get so much pleasure just from watching little man's face and they'll learn sooo much in so many ways.

Kilve was a different experience for us.  Thoroughly enjoyable with lots of learning coming out of our finds!

Thanks for reading,
J9 x
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Friday, 30 August 2013

Country Coastal Cornwall

As regular readers of this blog you may well be aware that I am a Cornish lassie who at 17, moved out of county to go to University.  By the time I had completed my degree I was priced out of the housing market and couldn't afford to return to the county.  We make regular trips back and I'm so grateful to my Mum for having an open home to welcome us to return to.

We're happily settled in Somerset now (still in the SW 'leg' of England) - but the beaches just don't match that of the Cornish coast.  All of my side of the family still live in Cornwall - and we were fortunate to stay with my mum for a whole week of the summer holidays.

Hubby had a fortnight off and we headed on down to make the most of the summer sunshine that we've been enjoying in the UK in recent weeks (how lush has it been to have consecutive days of sunshine?!)  Such a simple JoY!

Each day, we took a leisurely approach to breakfast (my pain management is so much more effective if I give the medicine time to work before tackling anything!).  Then we'd pack a big picnic and choose the part of the coastline we were headed for whilst supping our morning coffee.  We have the inside scoop as 'locals' - we know to avoid the big touristy sites - they're best out of season!! 

My favourite place St Ives is home to swarms of visitors at this time of year and it so detracts from the natural beauty you can enjoy out of season.  I also love the sometimes rolling often crashing waves of the north coast but due to the whole Rick Stein additional tourist effect on Padstow (and the local area) and the Boardmasters Surfing contest happening at Newquay, we avoided the North Coast on this visit. 

In my opinion, Cornwall is at it's best when you have an expanse of clean sand and bluey, turquoise sea - like here at Mevagissey:

So, amongst our various desires were rock-pooling ambitions, body boarding needs, a family meet with cousins to accommodate plus some all important beach combing (me and Ru) and skimming (Ben and little man).  I do think it's such a man thing to throw rocks into the sea for hours...

all the longer for us girlies to hunt for seaside treasures I guess!

On each day we were rewarded handsomely in our efforts.

Gyllnyvese near Falmouth is the best beach for rock pooling in my experience.  The sheer variety and abundance of sea life is amazing.  Little man absolutely loved fishing and after catching fish, crabs and shrimps he exclaimed "I'm a good little fisherman mummy aren't I?!'  As a little boy that needs lots of reassurance to boost his confidence this was quite a breakthrough and added immensely to my enjoyment.  When it comes to rockpooling, I revert to an excited childlike state.  My degree covered a good amount of marine biology and I do so enjoy the thrill of finding life in these little rock pools.  We often show other children our finds before returning them to the sea - they are often incredulous to see the star fish and feel them on their hands.  My littlies love to catch little crabs - the smallest nicknamed 'pea crabs' as they scuttle across their palms.

A small sea urchin and cushion star fish were amongst our haul.
We had 3 large buckets of crabs caught with a line and net off a local harbour wall - next time we'll take a normal bucket as they looked tightly packed by the end of our crabbing time!  Bacon is our bait of choice for crabs, and boy - do they love it!! 

We had over 17 after 2 hours of crabbing - each of us was successful in landing crabs of various sizes so all were happy. 

These again were returned to the sea - probably to be caught again by the growing crowd of tourists that had gathered after lunch!

On a misty, wet day we drove to St. Mawes and enjoyed fish and chips by the sea.  There was lots going on in the water and the photo doesn't do it justice - that's the mist for you, although it was still pleasant to be out in!  We pootled around the independent shops and watched the world go by.

And this beach had the most sea glass that I have seen at one time.  Such lovely worn, tactile pieces of days gone by...  I'll post about that another time (when I've got a decent photo!)

This plus swimming, visits to local parks, a Vintage Country Fayre...

...and meeting my gorgeous new niece Kaja (Cornish for Daisy) meant for a wonderful holiday.

What a fabulous break we had.  Relaxing days, long and happy. 

The worst part is always leaving to drive back up the motorway... it's always nice to be home but I do so wish we could make our home in Cornwall.  However, work opportunities and cost of housing eliminate that option.  So good to visit though - I'm proud of my Cornish heritage and it's so fab to see many posts across blog-land here and here writing of their enjoyment of their own holidays in Cornwall during August!!

Happy Days,

J9 x

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