Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Hungry Caterpillar Bunting

We are going through an unusually cold spell here in the UK, we are all wrapped up inside fondly remembering the weather this time last year which was warm, sunny and spring-like!  Shortly after Orren was born I enjoyed a picnic in the park and a BBQ in the garden, so you will understand that we are all feeling a little down and out at the moment and desperately wishing spring to come.  Last week I planted some beetroot and spring onions in seed trays, but I just don't see them making an appearance unless the weather improves. 
I am trying to pass the time by seeing friends and family.  Last week I visited my best friend who had a baby four weeks ago, he is totally gorgeous and tiny, holding a tiny baby just reminded me how much Orren has grown, he seems giant compared to my friend's baby!  Did it make me broody?  Well maybe a little, I did start thinking crazy things like "I am sure it's easier with two", and "Orren could entertain the baby". 
I made a couple of presents for him including a couple of my neckerchief bibs and some personalised bunting.  I used Hungry Caterpillar fabric from Hobbycraft and come matching plain, coloured cotton.  It has 12 flags in total with four in the Hungry Caterpillar fabric, four yellow, two green and two red.

I hope my friend likes it, and her little boy when he is old enough to know. I thought the colours were quite jolly and would fit in with a few different colour schemes. 
Last weekend we visited my mum and dad in Wales, normally we enjoy a walk on the beach, but not this time, at 1 degree you'll forgive us for staying indoors and then heading to the carvery for a filling lunch. I also visited a friend from my University days who has a 6 month old whom I hadn't seen yet; it is so nice all my friends are having babies, feels like we are all moving into the next phase of life.  Are you in the UK? How are you coping with the unseasonably cold weather?

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Allotment Update

Now March is here (coming to an end actually) it's time for me to get planting if I want to make the most of this year and get my family some fresh, home grown veggies to eat this summer.  It is difficult getting down to the allotment with a one year old, he isn't walking yet so has to either sit in the car or his pushchair which he doesn't like much, so I usually only get half an hour or so there at a time.  Luckily I got a few bits into the ground in the winter so I feel that has put me ahead a little.  So far I have perpetual spinach, broad beans, onions, garlic, rhubarb and last week I planted by first peas of the year.  I am excited because things are happening, but also worried I am not going to be able to keep on top of it.  My motto is "little and often" with the allotment so I am hoping it serves me well.  Take a look:

Here you can see the broad beans coming up

Here is the garlic and beyond that is where I planted the peas

The compost box I put together myself from 4 large pallets

The perpetual spinach

The rhubarb

What are you planting?  Next I am going to do spring onions, hopefully some more peas and broad beans and I am keen to get beetroot in so I can make this chutney again.
Hope you are having a good week.

Monday, 18 March 2013

First Birthday Thank You Cards

Orren received lots of lovely presents for his first birthday, including lots of really beautiful, authentic wooden toys and books.  I much prefer wooden toys to plastic because there is more potential to fix them if they are broken and if they are beyond repair there is the option for burning them which at the very least takes them back to something natural, I also prefer the feel and look of wooden toys and because wood is a natural material there are less chemicals released from it over time.  Plastic toys on the other hand are difficult to mend if they break because the plastic is often quite brittle and can't be manipulated in the same way wood can, and once they have outlived their usefulness the only place for them is landfill where they will stay looking pretty much the same for many many years, releasing chemicals into the environment (no one really knows how long plastics will survive because no one has lived long enough to see it bio-degrade.) Plastic teethers have regulations about what sort of plastics can be used in them ensuring that the chemicals in the plastic aren't easily released into the babies bodies, but other toys do not have such stringent health and safety regulations, even though children are highly likely to chew them anyway. I am also keen to avoid toys that contains batteries, not least because they are annoying but also because batteries contain many toxic chemicals that contaminate the earth and water and they cost money to replace which we can ill afford.
All this makes me even more thankful that our families and friends paid attention to our wishes and bought us almost all wood and battery free toys for Orren.  (We did receive some plastic toys which we are very grateful and thankful for because they are bright and fun and Orren likes them, but we prefer wood when given a choice.) So I therefore wanted to make sure the thank you cards I sent were extra special so made them myself rather than buying them (also better for the environment and my purse because I already had all the materials).  
I used some scrapbooking paper that my mum got me for Christmas called Kitschy Kitchen by Melissa Frances combines with white card stock.  The thank you stamp was one I bought for our wedding thank you cards, so it was nice to use it again.  I mixed and matched the different papers using one piece to cover the whole of the front of the card then a small strip mounted on white running the full width near the bottom of the card.  I then situated a white rectangle of card stamped with "thank you" slightly off centre on the contrasting strip.  I love the patterns of this paper and I am sure I will use it again in future, it's cute, and kitsch without being garish.  What do you think of them? Do you prefer wood toys to plastic?


Sunday, 17 March 2013

Sustainable suburbia

There are many, many ways to change one’s lifestyle to make it more sustainable, from growing your own food to cooking from scratch to making your own clothes to going completely carbon neutral. Not surprisingly there are just as many different sorts of blogs which roughly fit under the sustainable living umbrella.  I follow some in my favourite blogs list or you can look at this website for more.
I have decided to join the Sustainable Suburbia links list, you could join too if you are into that sort of thing or else take a look at the many fabulous blogs listed.
Sustainable Suburbia: Striving for a lower impact lifestyle. Join the Sustainable Living Blogs Linky Lists

Eco-friendly Bathroom Cleaning

Let me just make things clear from the start because some people do get confused, I don't like cleaning, what I like is things being clean, there is a difference, and this is key to what follows.
Before I have a bath, I always give it a clean, I don't like that soapy scummy thing than stays on the bath after it's been used to shower in, so why would I let my lovely baby wash in a bath with scummy sides if I am not willing to? With that in mind I wash the bath before he uses it.  To maintain a bed time routine we wash him every night so, therefore, I wash the bath every night.  I realise this may sound excessive but it has actually made life a little bit easier easier and happier, so that can't be a bad thing. 

The process of cleaning itself has also received a transformation of late, in the past I used ecover cleaners, or when that ran out I used whatever shampoo or shower gel we had lying around not being used.  But I was never really happy with how clean it was, there were still water marks and lumps of limescale here and there.  I started to use vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to clean the bathroom initially because I had run out of anything else and this was a last resort, (I had read about it somewhere)  to my happy amazement the more I used it, the cleaner the bathroom got, it is so much shiner than it ever has been.  I realise this may sound like a really dull thing to share, and I am not telling you to say "look how wonderful and eco-friendly I am" (clearly not that eco-friendly or I would have been doing this all along) or "aren't I amazing, I clean the bathroom everyday"  but we use the bathroom a lot and it being clean and tidy makes me happy, and knowing I am harming the environment and my health less also makes me happy so it might make you happy too (sharing the love). 

Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar are far safer for the environment than the medley of chemicals that most bathroom cleaners contain which contaminate the waterways and use of valuable fossil fuels to extract, not to mention the risk of skin irritation and potential lung damage from toxic fumes and perfumes.  There is also less waste afterwards because I am buying less packaging so throwing less away, and it is waaaay better for the purse as well because bicarbonate of soda and vinegar are super cheap.
Here is what happens:
I go up to the bathroom at Orren's bedtime and hose down the bath and walls,  I then spray round the bath and walls with a solution of distilled malt vinegar and water (about 1 part vinegar to about 5 water (I am gradually trying to reduce the amount of vinegar to see how little I can get away with whilst still getting a decent shine)) then I sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on a loofah.  I then scrub round the bath and walls of the shower and the tap and shower fixings.  I do the same on the basin and spray the bowl of the toilet.  I then hose down the bath and walls and rinse round the basin with a cotton cloth. I sprinkle some bicarbonate of soda into the toilet bowl and scrub round with the loo brush, I then wipe over the whole of the toilet with a wet cotton cloth, then again with a dry cotton cloth (top to bottom with the bowl the last thing). I then run the bath and while the bath is running I do one of the following each day - spray the window and window sill with the vinegar solution and wipe with a cotton cloth, do the same on the mirror and shelf above the basin, spray and wipe the shelf behind the toilet, clean the walls, wipe the floor.

This whole process takes no more than about 7 minutes and means that every time I or a guest go in the bathroom I know it is going to be clean. Gone are the days when I would spend over an hour once a week cleaning the bathroom, an experience I used to dread, because it is cleaned so frequently the dirt doesn't get a chance to accumulate so it wipes away much more easily that is it has been festering for a week.  Quite often my husband will do the cleaning instead of me so that's even less work.  He was worried that the bathroom would end up smelling like a chip shop but the smell goes within a couple of minutes. 

I get a big tub of bicarbonate of soda and a big bottle of vinegar from makro because it's really cheap.  I think the bicarb was about £1.99 (1.15 kg) and the vinegar about £2.99 (5 litres).  I could get organic vinegar and bicarb from the True Food co-op if I was going to be really ethical, but it is more expensive and cost is more of a priority for our family at the moment.  I use a loofah to scrub with because I don't like the thought of the small pieces of plastic breaking off a conventional sponge and entering the waterways and I use cotton cloths that I cut from an old, thinning towel and hemmed.
I really hope I have encouraged you to have a go at using bicarbonate of soda and vinegar to clean your bathroom because it is far better than any conventional cleaners I have tried. 

Saturday, 16 March 2013

First Hair Cut

Last week we took Orren for his first hair cut, we decided it was time because it was starting to go in his eyes and hang over his ears and generally looking a bit messy. We went to the barbers that Paul normally goes and he got his hair cut at the same time.  I was a bit emotional and worried about how his was going to be, I was certain there would be tears but we went in, I took off his coat, the lady put a sort of booster thing on the seat to lift him up, he had his cape put on and he just sat there, curiously looking around.  He was very patient for the whole thing, even the blow dryer the blow the hair away where the hairdresser had finished cutting, he just got a little bothered toward the end because he couldn't find his hands under the cape! I took loads of pictures and saved a little but of his soft blond hair.  I haven't decided what I will do with it yet, perhaps a locket or something I am not sure.  But he looks so grown up now, then next day I couldn't believe how different he looked.  Paul joked that "he's a real boy". 

Doesn't he look serious!

Friday, 15 March 2013

My mothers day

Before Sunday my husband was asking me what I wanted to do for mothers day, I think he was hoping I would want to go on a trip somewhere, visit something, DO something, but my wish for the day was simple.  I wanted some flowers, some chocolates and to be on my own for a bit.  
Does that sound terrible?  I love my baby so much, and my husband of course, but for the last year I could probably count on one hand the number of hours I have spent truly alone, and I missed it.  
Of course the chocolates and the flowers were an instant win, it is kind of a tradition in my family to give/receive daffodils on Mother's Day ever since as children we had to go up to the front in church and collect a little bunch of them to take back to our mothers, (I always loved how my mum had loads of flowers because she had four children.)

I enjoyed a tasty breakfast of pastries then lunch out I had about two wonderful hours to myself and I used it to do a painting, my first since Orren was born.  I didn't write finish it unfortunately, but I did get some nice textures, layers and shapes down.  It was great to sit for a while, to not have to talk and to let the paper, glue, brushes and paint do the talking.  Here are some details.

I hope at some point I will be able to finish it, it's still out, along with all my paints, waiting for some words and a symbolic image, I am not sure what they will be yet, I will have to see where it takes me. 
One the Monday following Mothers Day, I was in the bathroom and Orren was crawling around upstairs, I thought I had packed all my paints away, then Orren crawled through onto the landing and I noticed his hands and feet had white emulsion on them, NOT good. I went into the spare room where I had been working on the floor and there was a puddle of white emulsion on the carpet.  I spent the next 40 minutes scrubbing the carpet to get it up, my hands look like an old lady's now!! Not a great start to the week, but I can laugh about it now thankfully.
What did you do for mothers day, did you see your mum?  Did you have something special to celebrate being a mum?

Thursday, 14 March 2013

New look for the blog and a change of attitude

You may have noticed that the blog looks a bit different, I felt it needed a spring clean, I might make a few more changes yet, I took away the tabs at the side and may replace them with new images when I get time, there is a new banner and profile pic, and a new tab along the top - recipes.  I hope you like it!
As for the change of attitude, I felt bad after the last post, it was so negative and although it was how I was feeling that day and possibly everything I said was legitimate I have decided that I want this blog to be more about the person I would LIKE to be than jumping on random moments of anger or annoyance.

When I dwell on negativity it makes me feel bad and I am sure you readers find no joy from me ranting,

If I want to be happy then I need to spread happiness,


So that's the plan for the moment, do you think it's a good one?

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Wake up smoothie for mums (and busy people)

 I don't know about you but recently I have been finding it difficult to look after my one year old, and look after myself, the health eating has fallen by the wayside and I most definitely have not been getting my 5 a day.  I am not being funny but it takes ages to eat an apple.  So I thought an easy way to boost my fruit and veg intake would be to drink it rather than eat it (no chewing win!) So here is my smoothie recipe:

One peeled orange,
one peeled and chopped apple,
one peeled kiwi,
a handful of spinach,
a sprinkling of mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, linseed etc)
twist of lemon,
tsp of honey,
1/2 cup of water,

Try to get organic if you can because it tastes better (in my opinion) and local is better for the environment and local economy, I try to avoid supermarkets.
I forgot to photograph it after but I can tell you it is a wonderful green colour and is really tasty.  This makes about a pint so you might want to share it with someone.  It's a great way to start the day knowing you are a good way through your five-a-day, plus the extra benefit of the seeds, you could also add a spring of mint or some ginger, I think that would make it even more tasty.   Don't add fresh oregano though, I did once and it made it tasted like grass.  Not good.
Hope you are all having a good week, how do you busy people manage to get in all those fruits and veggies with limited time for chewing?

Saturday, 9 March 2013

International Womens Day

Yesterday was International Women's day and tomorrow is Mother's Day, so with that in mind I have decided to reflect on women's current social situation, in recent times I have become concerned by the way women's equality seems to have been subtly eroding in our society.  In spite of the work many amazing women have done for women's rights and women's liberation throughout history women are still discriminated against and their status devalued in the most insidious of ways.  I listened to a radio interview with Columnist Hadley Freeman yesterday and it really struck a chord with me.
Her objection is to the use of the word "mum" or "mummy" as a prefix to many words for example entrepreneur (mumtrepreneur) suggests that the only source of value that an entrepreneurial mother might have is in the fact that she is a mother, as if her entire identity is defined by the fact she is a mother and nothing else.  Motherhood is the highest honour that can be bestowed upon any woman and to talk about it in this way is demeaning, there is even a hint of surprise in the words as if *shock horror* a woman who is a mother can do other things apart from care for children, or even, in the case of the acronym MILF that a mother might actually be attractive!
Here is a link to the really interesting interview:
I am also a bit concerned by the current fad for an idealised 1950's lifestyle with the woman grinning inanely with a home made cake and a Cath Kidston apron.  It's as is we have gone back in time.  I obviously don't object to women staying at home to look after their children, it's what I am currently doing after all, what I dislike is the image of the subordinate woman with no brain, and of course the fact that in the 1950's the lifestyle was not a choice but more an expectation, where as my staying home is a choice amongst several options open to me.

50's Feminism

There has also been a trend for denouncing feminism which boggles my mind a little.  I think some women want to disassociate themselves from an incorrect stereotype of a feminist which they perceive to be butch, aggressive and a man-hater, of course the definition of feminism is about equality for women (who doesn't want this right?) , I wish more women realised this. This again comes back to choice, something which feminists strongly defend.  I recently have read several blog posts and newspaper articles which criticise women for their choice for full term breastfeeding (breastfeeding for 2 years or more) this blog post from renegade mothering explains it much better than me and this one.  (I have more to say on the subject of breastfeeding actually since reading The Politics of Breastfeeding.)  Actually she just writes better than me generally, what I particularly hate is women criticising other women for their choices, now that is messed up.  I know this blog is supposed to be about everything beautiful blah blah blah, but today I feel annoyed. So back to the point, now we are attacking each other!!  That really is messed up, can't we let women choose their choices and let them be happy?
So to summarise this slightly chaotic and angry blog post, over this weekend that celebrates women in all their forms can we start to accept women for who they are and stop trying to change them into what we think they should be?

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Fun things to do with babies - Part 3:Playdough

I have been waiting sooooo long to get the play dough out and have some fun with my little man, I actually made this dough months ago but immediately my boy tried to eat it which was a bad move, (cue lots of retching), I thought I would try it again today and...result!  No dough was ingested.
So although he is technically still a baby (becomes a toddler when he starts walking right?) he is a bit older so this sort of project really isn't suitable for babies under 12 months.  I don't need to tell you a recipe for making play dough, there are plenty here, I used the cooked play dough recipe and added yellow, blue and red food colouring.  We stamped shapes, stuck in feathers, rolled balls and made shapes, so here are just a few pics of the fun we (I) had with dough this afternoon, and hopefully some ideas for you to make it even more exciting.

He wasn't into it for that long to be honest, and seemed a bit scared of it, but I am hoping he might get into it a bit more once he is more familiar with the feel, it's cheap to make so I don't mind if it gets wreaked or dries up (though I don't think it will because this has already kept for months).  There are loads of other fun, dough related activities that I want to do with him when he is a bit older.  Are you a fan of the dough?  What sort of fun games do you and your babies play?

Friday, 1 March 2013

Forest Girl

A little while ago a friend of ours came over and we were chatting about mobile phones and I was telling him how for ages I didn't know how to work the internet on my phone if I was away from the house and I was always like "meh", then we changed internet provider and I couldn't get on the internet on my phone at home either and I was still all "meh" and our friend said "that's cause your a bit of a forest girl isn't it"  I was like YES!! (but only in my head because I didn't want to seem crazy, and really said "yeah" in a kind of normal way) I am a forest girl, I like to feel free and unplugged and like I could live in a forest.
Check it out:
Forest house
Yes a Mori girl could absolutely live here.
Outdoor Picnic Setting
This would be my forest lunch
I would look like this...dreamy
#Japanese fashion #Mori girl
Or maybe like this.
#quote #inspiring #dreamy #photography #forest #green #trees
And I would tell myself this.
Do you find peace in the forest?