Thursday, 26 June 2014

Lego Batman Cake for the Birthday Boy

My Little Man celebrated his seventh birthday this week.  He's not so little anymore...  He is growing into a fabulous young man - kind, gentle, happy and content.  He enjoys school - maths especially and of course, LoVEs playing with his friends.  He is our blonde, blue eyed, easy going, fun-to-be with, super chilled boy who is learning to assert his will on his very strong willed sister.  So much personality development and growth during his sixth year - who knows what his seventh year will bring!

In late September he started playing football for a local team and has developed so much in skill and confidence over this time.  He has been awarded Man of the Match three times during these months and made lots of friends.

The toy of choice at present is Lego and we take some everywhere we go - he even plays with it in the bath.  He adores outdoor play of all kinds especially those involving a ball.  He has above average hand eye coordination meaning he is so fun to play tennis or catch with!  As you may guess, I'm super proud of him - just watching him, seeing life through his eyes and spending time with him brings me so much happiness.

OK Proud mother's 'Birthday Gush' over...

Regular followers of this blog may remember that birthday cakes are made into a bit of an event in our house.  The children pretty much choose their next birthday cake subject the day after their birthday - and of course this may change a number of times over the ensuing year!  I learn a little bit more about sugar craft at each attempted cake but am certainly no professional.

This year 'Lego Batman' was Little Man's request and the grand unveiling is really something they look forward to.  I started by making a basic 'all in one' sponge batter (scaled up using 10 eggs!) and baked them in two large roasting tins. Once cooled I stacked the two cakes (using butter icing as the glue) and then cut to shape. Once I was happy with the shape I butter iced them and then used royal icing (which I'd dyed to the relevant colours) to add Batman's suit and shape his detail.

I'm pleased with the result - but don't think it's my best effort.  It's really large and I don't work well on this scale...I think the board is around 60cm long to give you an idea.  Plus Lego is typically very angular and I don't have the appropriate equipment to shape successfully which is a little frustrating.  I'm thinking I'm going to buy a flat sugar icing moulding tool, which would give a better / smoother finish in future.

The important thing is that Little Man LoVED it!!  Bless him.  We did a number of rounds of blowing out candles - his sister has a go too.  So much happiness from little wax sticks!!

I can't believe how quickly time passes.  Childhood is such a precious time I do sometimes wish I could press pause and slow its progress.  I love being a mother and at these milestones I try to create opportunities for lasting memories for us all.  I hope Little Man's lasting memory of his childhood is not of the stuff but of the games played, food enjoyed and his special cakes.  Because into each cake sculpture I pour so much LoVE. With each layer of sponge or icing detail added I hope the effort shows how much I care... if not now, then at some point in the future.

As each birthday passes I like to reflect on previous birthday cake posts and take comfort from the rhythmic nature of our lives.  It also helps to remember how much the children enjoy their special cakes - primarily when late on the eve of his birthday the cake was still unfinished!!

But the effort is worth it.  Especially when you're greeted with a beaming smile like his...

Take care for now,
J9 x

Delighted to be joining in with Inspire Me Tuesday

Sunday, 22 June 2014

May Half Term Catch Up

A crazy 3 whole weeks have passed since the children had a week long holiday from school - and the Hubby had some well deserved holiday from work.  Time is currently flying by - maybe it's the weather raising the spirits or enabling us to live each day fully?  But we certainly managed to pack a lot into that week.

The Hubby, kids and Grandpa took a trip to Wembley to watch the Queens Park Rangers (QPR) v Derby Play off Finals.  This was a huge deal for the men as avid QPR fans and the kids really enjoyed the pre-match excitement of getting dressed, kitted up and the journey.  I painted their faces to add to the sense of occasion.
Gladly they won - which made the experience for the children.  Free QPR flags were on each seat and so the children were delighted to wave them and chant!  Their first trip on the underground too.

After a short rest and repack at home, we then journeyed on to Cornwall to stay with my Mum and visit my siblings / cousins and those truly fantastic beaches.  This was a lovely relaxed time - the weather was very kind which always helps.

We went to Gyllanvese again - a popular choice for our family and my sister's - a good all rounder; shells, surf, sand, volley ball and great rock pools!  We arrived at 11 and didn't leave until 6!  It was a fantastic day with so much activity out at sea to watch.  We found out later this was due to the Fal River Festival - but we simply enjoyed watching the numerous, stunning yachts, sail boats and trawlers moving across the waves.

We're always a little reluctant to leave my childhood home.  The children adore my mum's village park and are very close to her partly because we see her quite often despite the miles between us - and partly because my Mum played such a huge part in their care whilst I was recovering post accident.  I love their relationship and it brings me great joy to see them spending quality time together.

There are four weeks left now until the children break up for the school summer holidays in our area.  I literally cannot wait - I do so love the summer hols.  I have to take time to restore my health in the meantime so that I can manage over those weeks but it is so worth it!  Little Man celebrates his seventh birthday this week so I'll pop in next week to share his birthday cake requests!!

Hope you have a happy weekend,
J9 x

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Pastel Prettiness

I have spent the last few weeks in my home, pottering, rearranging, resting in order to help my body recover from over exuberance which I am no longer physically capable of.  I had succumbed to trying to please others, reverted to trying to do more and said "Yes" lots, which meant I overdid things and there were dire physical consequences.  As a result, other than the school run during each day I have been trying to simply enjoy and love my home.

On Monday I cleared my dresser of its contents and selected different items from my cupboards.  I polished the shelves and slowly chose different items for display. The tones soon took the shape of pastel prettiness. I love these shades and in rummaging through the cupboard shelves for appropriate items I was amazed at how many pieces were of this pastel palette (charity shop finds mainly).

I do enjoy looking around different rooms to find suitable items and 're-finding' treasures that have been housed in cupboards out of sight for storage.  To take them from the cupboards, touch them, remember and enjoy their shape or pattern.  These treasures may have memories attached to them - the pink wooden love heart was given for mothers day last year, this cup and saucer was my mothers and Little Lady made the bird too.

I stacked some of my beloved cake stands (all charity shop finds) to create height in the display (and also because they are just pretty!!)  I arranged some paua shells which we found on a beach in New Zealand on a fantastic holiday myself and the Hubby had pre children in the top stand.  In the next I added selections of sea glass and worn pottery pieces found across beaches in Cornwall and my 'rock heart' (which the Hubby found on Dawlish beach and gave me when we were dating 18 years ago - when we were 18!!)

I do enjoy using an eclectic mix of items - natural beach finds, vintage, treasured gifts, artwork... the possibilities are endless.    
There was an extra crochet bee left over from my crochet mobile project - a little smaller than the others produced and I think it looks pretty buzzing around at the top of the dresser!  

The little pewter fairy pot in the right of this photo was a birthday present from my lovely mum years ago.  All these treasures give me so much pleasure - their sentimental value is immeasurable and I really enjoyed allowing myself to take the time to immerse myself completely in a bit of home loving.

I do really love this area of my home.  You may remember both the dresser and the table and chairs in the foreground of this photo are both charity shop finds which I've 'done up'.  I haven't been to a charity shop since before Christmas (money and overload of 'stuff' meant I chose abstinence) but I have really enjoyed 'shopping' around my home and gathering treasured items together.

I realised that in writing about this I still haven't shared my finished kitchen - the extension that was completed at the end of last year.  I feel that this project has only recently been finished off - shelves added and the homely, individuality has taken shape. That's a post I'll write soon - I promise!!

Enjoy the rest of your week!
J9 x

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

My Disability Journey: A Reflection

As promised, this is the last in my series on My Disability Journey.  Of course, this does not mean that the journey is over - it is not a destination to be reached but more a change in circumstance to manage our life around.

In journalling my family life I sometimes refer to my disability, reduced mobility and pain issues in relation to 'my accident' and had not previously explained it in my blog.  I aspire for my blog to be a positive space and to be an escape from harsh things in the world - to reflect my personality, creativity and especially to store memories of moments in time. 

However, my journey to where I am now was certainly affected by my accident...  so it deserved being explained.  I was concerned about doing this and didn't want pity - people go through a whole lot worse and we all have things in life that we struggle with.  But living through and overcoming these challenges can give perspective if we open our minds and try to release all those negative emotions and implications.

It may seem crazy but (on reflection) in some ways I give thanks for this journey - opening my eyes to a different way of living and to freeing me to be a homemaker and stay at home nurturer of my family.

My life before 19th June 2005 has gone and I've accepted that there is no route back.  I honestly tried to return to that life for almost 2 years post accident.  We saw numerous doctors, I had a couple of big operations but now this is the new status quo.  I still challenge it at times and go through a whole cycle of trying to prove I can do more than I am now capable!  My cycle looks a bit like this and some of you may be able to relate to elements of this!:

increased activity (I'm stubborn and try to push it) = more pain = NO mobility = enormous levels of pain = low mood = not coping with pain = isolation/ feeling inadequate/ useless = incapacitated... leading to: body dictating rest = gradually improved pain levels = managing reduced activity levels properly (pacing) = improved mood = improved pain management = feeling in control and more capable = achievable and maintainable physical and mental health.

I try to learn from each time I do this and one of the big learning curves on a Pain Management Programme I undertook was to be kinder to myself in terms of my own expectations from myself and allowing myself time to recover when needed.  Plus it is since I let that 'old' life go and left the desire to return to what was, that I've been able to embrace a simpler future and a more content present.  [The link above gives details of UK programmes - I was referred by my GP and I found the Programme I undertook at Frenchay Hospital life changing in helping me deal with my situation.]

It has been a hard journey and we have all struggled along the path at times.  I know too that it is hard to see someone you love in pain or see that person unable to participate in family activities or previous hobbies they were passionate about.  I do feel for anyone in this type of situation.  This type of change is really hard.  I hold on to knowing that I am alive and am hugely grateful for this but my disability has been a huge adjustment for us all - myself and my husband especially.  For Little Man - he's never known me as an able bodied person and Little Lady - she can remember me running with her, bless her. Despite all my progress it still brought tears to my eyes typing that.

Far worse things happen to people I know and this was our challenge.  It has taken years to heal the emotional scars and the physical damage to my body has healed badly.  But we have faith.  We are a happy family despite this.  I genuinely believe we've learnt to value our time in our home and on this earth more as a result of living through this challenge.

The human spirit is astonishing.  I'm sensitive and I struggle to deal with people's judgement or their thoughtless comments.  Adding in the variability of my condition can lead to an unpredictable physical and mental state.  This and the pain - which is a constant issue.  It's hard but I choose to try to be happy.  Life is good.  I am alive.  I have two beautiful children that I did not think I'd ever have.  I have a loving, compassionate and understanding husband.  We have filtered out the fru fru of life and re-prioritised accordingly.

On reflection what have I learned?  Well-being is something more comprehensive than physical or mental health.  It is these two things working in balance together that determines how we manage or feel.  It is different for all of us - as are life's challenges but I try to follow this basic approach:

  • Be kind to yourself.  
  • Keep going... but  
  • Pace yourself.  
  • Build a relationship with your Doctor and use prescribed medication to help you manage pain / mood if necessary.
  • Don't let resentment or guilt overwhelm your thinking.  
  • Try to let go of "I used to be able to...."  
  • Don't be afraid to ask for/ or accept help from friends and family if you need it (it is not a weakness).
  • Consciously recognise and be thankful for the small things in life that can bring happiness.  Project Gratitude was a big part of my emotional development post accident and we can all do this on a scale that suits us (for example the Friday Happie's inspired by Gillian)
  • Try to embrace the present... ...however challenging because as humans we have the capacity to continue to learn and grow despite adversity.  

Sometimes we need to hurt in order to grow. We must lose in order to gain. Sometimes, some lessons are learned best through pain

For a long time I looked back at how I used to be (career, physically, mentally, financially - you name it) and then I looked far ahead (the constant search for treatment or a magic cure).  Now I have learnt to allow myself to be fully present and enjoy an activity at a pace that keeps me well/ happy (scientists have proven that the state of 'flow' can reduce pain messages being received by the brain).

Regardless of how golden other people's lives may look EVERYONE has stuff going on at one point or another.  Allow yourself time to meditate, heal, pause... and then engage with life.  

I often see honest expression across the web of frustration because pain or incapacity is stopping someone doing something they LoVE.  I completely empathise with - and understand, this sense of utter frustration due to lack of control, pain, resentment, change.  It is hard to be out of control of your own physical health, being restricted in activity or having to sacrifice something because for whatever reason you have to for your health.  I experience this daily and it is hard to focus the mind on what you can do rather than focus on resentment and regret.  It is natural I think for our ability to do this to change over time (external influences or other stresses all have an impact) being aware of this though can help us make those conscious adjustments to our focus which over time can become habit.  

In fact, scientists have proven that our inner thoughts affect our emotions, which affects our hormone production, which in turn affects our mood.  If we try to see positives or be grateful for the good things, our focus can shift (as does hormone production) and our overall well-being improves.  I believe this is honestly why I've found that my personal gratitude for the Simple Things is integral to my own well-being and recovery.

These are my thoughts on coping and continuing to try to live fully.  Some people may not relate or agree, which is fine too.  This is just based on my own experience.  I've read a few self help books, had a bit of counselling and consciously studied what has worked in my own physical and mental recovery over the years but am certainly NO expert.  Perhaps I'd suggest to try and be open to what may work for you - and be aware that this too may change over time?

So this was my disability story.  I wanted to 'place' my disability.  I wanted these posts to give hope to other people struggling with disability or pain.  Ours has not been an easy path, but it has been an enlightening one.

I wish you all health and happiness... and where one of these seems elusive... I hope it helps to know that you are not alone.

J9 x

If you'd like to look at other posts in this 'My Disability Journey' series please look here and here.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Weston Sand Sculpture Festival 2014

It has become a family tradition to visit the Weston super Mare Sand Sculpture Festival each year and while my mum was visiting over the bank holiday weekend we seized the opportunity to renew the tradition!  This year the theme is "Once Upon a Time" and we were really excited and had a real sense of anticipation to see the different sculptures exhibited.  We certainly weren't disappointed - the usual flair and detail was evident in the various displays.  The sculptures are large in scale - all far taller than me - even the smaller exhibits.  I love to see how the artists interpret the theme and choose their subject - below a sculptor is working on Willy Wonka!

I had two favourite models this year - an inspiring dragon from the Hobbit...

...and the gorgeous sleeping lion (Aslan) from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  They were simply stunning - just look at the movement captured in that mane.

Little Lady liked the Beatrix Potter characters - especially the bunnies...

...and the Alice in Wonderland sculptures best (I have to admit the Hare was so lovely!)

I love the way that the Hare is so expressive - there's so much character in his face!

Whilst Little Man liked the Vampire from Dracula and Frankenstein!!  Hmm.

As usual, the children enjoyed having a go at sculpting themselves - almost more than the exhibit itself!  Some sand and water made for fun creativity for them... and a coffee and a seat for Granny, me and the Hubby was a lovely respite for us!

The exhibition was far busier than I'd ever seen it - but I guess we'd never visited on a bank holiday before! The sea front businesses needed a busy holiday period and I'm glad that tourists are visiting this inspiring exhibit.

There were far more sculptures than I've included here and I would thoroughly recommend a visit if you are in the area.  It's probably worth taking a bucket and spade to fully make the most of the generous sand pit so the kiddies can play and adults can relax!

Poor Rapunzel trapped in her Castle!
If you've enjoyed these sand sculptures you can see exhibits from previous themes including 'Hollywood' and 'Fun and Games'  here and here.

I have a crafty make to share with you and some simple, pretty things too!  Until then, have a happy Sunday,

J9 x

Friday, 6 June 2014

Crochet Bumble Bee Mobile

It's been a long while since I've shared some crochet creativity - I gave you a glimpse here of my recent project.  You may remember that around this time last year I was all excited because we had three new babies joining the family in the shape of gorgeous nieces and nephews.  Well of course, their first birthdays have come around with terrific speed, prompting me to scour my relevant pinterest board for crochet inspiration... and this is what I came up with:

The most challenging thing about sharing this project in all honesty was photographing it!!  I really enjoyed the process of making this mobile and Little Lady has put in a request for an owl mobile of her own - so watch this space!

Do you remember I showed you a glimpse of the creatures before they had their big smiles added? The inspiration came because apparently my lovely niece is 'a Busy Bee' and her mummy is making a bumble bee birthday cake to celebrate her first birthday.  I had already chosen a little something as a gift but the nickname would not shift from my brain and it meant that I simply had to create something...

Laid down doesn't do the 'mobile effect' any justice but with a simple 'point and shoot' camera I had so many blurry photos this was the most successful method!!

I used this fantastic pattern together with some flower patterns from attic24.  I picked buttons from my stash and embroidered basic features onto the bumble bees.  I used an embroidery hoop I'd picked up in a charity shop months ago, covered any knots with washi tape and using basic chain stitches I sewed the flowers onto the hoop in order to assemble the mobile.

I'm really pleased with the outcome and as my first amigurumi crochet I was happy with how it all came together.  Have you been a Busy Bee lately?!

J9 x
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