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!!

This week I'm joining in with these fab parties:
Today I'm joining in with these lovely blog parties!

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

Today I'm partying with:
 Today I'm joining in with these lovely blog parties!

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
Today I'm partying with: