Saturday, 23 February 2013

Oh look, another pretty thing I made

I found another wonderful-thing-with-lots-of-potential at the dump and knew it could be turned into something that is just wonderful in every way - and I had just the thing to perform the transformation. 

Here it is before - it's useful, but kind of ugly, right?

Well some PVA and one old ordnance survey map later, here it is! I still need to varnish it to protect the surface but my golly gosh I do love it! 

The map, rather perfectly, is a Lake District National Park map - home sweet home! I may have moved away but the Lakes is always home, and always part of me - and now it's a beautiful, useful part of my house!

I gave it a really good scrub with scrubby scrubbing stuff, I cut the map to the right size for the surfaces, I pondered covering the entire thing like a decoupage thing of wonder but decided I liked it like this. I carefully stuck the pieces of map in place and used a wooden spatula to smooth out every single little tiny bump and lump, and wrinkle and press it really firmly down. 

The excess PVA that squidged out of the sides I coated the surface with to ensure it was all properly glooped in place.

Tomorrow, when it's dry, I will varnish it and once THAT is dry it will go in our very nice living room in place of something less nice that will be tarted up too!

Is my boy odd?

Jellybean is a really, really friendly little boy, and he's very clever and sharp, and very sociable and forward. 

He has no qualms at all about approaching other children and talking to them, and he has no issues with confidence or worries about rejection. 

His teachers at pre-school think he is a delight because he is always cheerful, polite, charming, funny, friendly and kind. He is everyone's friend in his class - he doesn't have any favourites that he picks over others and hasn't attached to just one child - because he flits from group to group and plays with everyone and joins in with whatever game catches his attention. 

All the other children want to play with him, and he is happy to do that. 

When we go out places he will involve himself in any game he sees taking place, with total strangers, and if there are kids in the playground or at the softplay centre who know each other and are playing together he won't pick up on any awkwardness on their part if he just throws himself into their private game - but there are times that the other kids laugh at him and it turns me inside out. 

Today at the softplay he ran over to two bigger kids who were playing together and cheerfully shouted "Hey you guys, I'm just going through this tunnel, I'll be right back to play with you!" and they looked at each other and laughed their heads off - Jellybean didn't notice a thing but I wanted to grab him and save him from it, keep him protected from the chance that anyone might think he was odd and not want to play with him.

Not many kids are as forward as that - not many kids will just run in and chat like he does - not many kids shout "Hey you guys! Let's play! I'll join in!" and fully immerse themselves in the game they witnessed as they ran over. 

He is EVERYONE'S friend, but not everyone will want to be his, and I want to encourage him to keep that confidence to never fear rejection, but I also want to protect him in some way from the times, which will come, that someone DOES knock him back, and doesn't want to play with him.

Today the bigger kids who had laughed, when he did catch up with them, pushed him off something that they'd been playing with when he just joined in, and he ran back to me crying for comfort. He was upset for less than a minute, decided they were naughty rough boys, and went to play with someone else - but it's stuck with me. 

I don't want him to ever feel that sickening feeling of fear, and to stop approaching people to play with. I want him to stay that happy, friendly, social butterfly who throws himself into everything and smiles, expecting the whole world to be his friend. 

How would you handle this kid?

Is he odd? Is he just amazing? Am I the odd one? 

Should I teach him a different greeting to "Hey you guys!" ?

Softplay and Mummy guilt

Today we took the kids to softplay, so that they could run around, sweat some, play with other kids, throw themselves on/off/into things without getting hurt and they could exhaust themselves in a fun, safe way that didn't mean us getting freezing cold and/or snowed on.

They had a totally excellent, wonderful, brilliant time - and by the end were exhausted, as hoped. Less exhausted than us - we were there for four hours - but exhausted and happy. 

It's really hard to get photos in a softplay place because 1: your children are sweaty, red faced blurs who run past you giggling their heads off and 2: you're not supposed to take photos in case you accidentally photograph someone else's child and are a pedophile. 

It was brilliant - we all had a lot of turns on the big wobbly slide, we all ran around and squished ourselves between giant roller things made of foam, we all squirmed seeing the inch thick dust on the parts outside the nets that nobody can get to. 

We all laughed our heads off, cheered quietly when a nasty big girl did swearing hands and Midget Gem hit her in the face with a ball in the ball pool (she pushed him off the big penguin thing - he's only a tiny child, she was at least 12 and in the under fives section - I don't feel at all guilty for laughing!) and we all ate wotsits because it's the weekend and we like them. 

It was really, really good and the kids loved it. And I'm now full of guilt. 

Jellybean goes to pre-school three days a week and on the other days we often go to the playground and on walks so they rarely have a whole day inside. 

But Midget Gem only goes on the playground outings, he only really plays with Jellybean, I don't go to groups with him or take him to the toddler activities. I have only been to one since I stopped working in October and it was rubbish - nobody spoke to us, he didn't want to sit still whilst we all quietly sang whilst trying not to let anyone hear us sing, nobody knew the words to the nursery rhymes apart from the very awkward librarian, it was horrid. 

I haven't even looked to see what else is on, I know I should, I KNOW I should, I know how much Midget Gem would love it and how much he would get out of it, I know how much he LOVES being around other children. 

So my promise to him this week is that we will go to the library group again, we will speak to other Mums and children there, we will ask what other activities there are, and we will find another group to go to. And will go. To two groups. In one week. 

That's my promise to my beautiful baby boy - because his brother has a busy social life, and lots of friends, and I want my baby to have the same thing. 

Friday, 22 February 2013

Shabby chic cabinet

I have a bit of a habit of bringing home furniture from the dump and telling mu husband that I will do it up and make it beautiful and that it will not just take up space in the shed for all time...and that is exactly where it stays! 

This time, though the find was his - and it was amazing, and had a lot of potential! 

The only problem was, though, that it was a properly ugly red colour that didn't fit in our house, and I had a vision! 

A little work, a little time, a lot of fun, and it became THIS! 

Gorgeous innit! 

In real life it's a very pale blue but that doesn't really come across in a photo - I did make it deliberately scuffed and scruffy - I do very much like the shabby look and my painting skills are rather...impatient! 

Here's what I did. I took it all to pieces - doors off, glass out, handle off, back off, and I sanded every surface to get the shiny varnish off - then I cleaned the surfaces off and painted them - I used emulsion because I wanted a kind of scruffy matt finish that would wear and get bashed up. 

Then I started to put it back together wondering what to do to make the ugly ass red back look nicer - because, as you see below, it looks a bit minging. 

It just doesn't WORK with a red back.

So with my trusty PVA glue, some pretty wrapping paper and my trusty three year old helper, it very quickly changed into something more suitable!

See - MUCH more suitable! I really, really love it with the flower - it's just gorgeous! I initially wanted white paper with some red polka dot spots on, something totally contrasting, but I couldn't find any - so I tried this and it is just gorgeous, and well worth the strop I had to find it. 

I used my trusty staple gun to put the back back on with the picture in place and hung the doors back on, with a lot of 'help' from a toddler. 

One final touch to perfect it - this little love birds thingymajig was given to me by my best friend, the magnificent Molly, and I love it - it's been on the kitchen wall for months but I thought it deserved something a little more special - and because I was crazy in love with the cabinet I stapled it to the front to look extra super perfect - and it goes perfectly (and because it is cream you can see better that the paint I used is blue!) 

Then all that there was left to do was put in our carefully selected treasures. 

The boys chose the aliens that they made yesterday in our craft session, and I think they fit rather well! Everything in the cabinet means something special - and we LOVE it. 

Now we just have to hang it on the kitchen wall so that we can admire it all the time and it isn't sitting on the table!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Transformers! YES!

What was the greatest cartoon in the 80s? The very bestest most brilliant of ALL THE CARTOONS? 


Everyone make that noise - go on, make it, make it! YES THAT ONE! I just turned into a MOTHERFLIPPING PLANE! 

I loved Transformers when I was a kid - I didn't care that it was aimed at boys, boys had all the coolest stuff, so I just did boy stuff (in a tutu, occasionally, but hey, so did my brother!) and the Transformers were the KINGS of all toys and entertainment. 

I was pretty excited when the films came out recently - and am a little bit in love with Bumblebee, which might be a bit odd because he's a robot from space who can't speak, but you shut up. 

And do you want to know something REALLY EXCITING? There's a new DVD out with the brand new, re-launched super shiny fantastic Transformers cartoons! 


You want it, don't know you want it! 

There's a press release too - check ME out being all with the details baby!

Prepare for combat as the Transformers tread on ‘Dangerous Ground’ in their new DVD release
The battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons rages on in the latest installment of the action packed seriesTransformers Prime: Dangerous Ground, produced by Hasbro Studios, out on DVD from 18th February 2013 in the UK.
Follow Optimus Prime, Arcee, Ratchet and the rest of the awesome Autobots as they come face to face with some of their toughest challenges yet, including some ferocious new characters. 
The bio-mechanical aliens have to contend with a new evil in the form of Starscream. Having taken over as leader of the Decepticons in the wake of Megatron’s supposed death, he’s proving a powerful force to be reckoned with. Not happy with the respect he’s getting from his own troops, Starscream awakens Skyquake, a legendary Decepticon warrior, to join his ranks and bolster his sinister status.
On Earth, the Autobots travel on a scouting mission where they face dangerous perils which see Optimus and Arcee stranded in the Arctic. Meanwhile Bulkhead’s old friend Wheeljack sends a message to the Autobots, which is intercepted by the Decepticons who capture Wheeljack and send in a spy in to the Autobot base. Will Wheeljack escape unscathed?
The Autobots will have to keep fighting the good fight in the face of one of their most challenging battles yet. Will they overcome the threat and defend Earth? 
The DVD features five episodes giving fans more than two hours of action and adventure as the Transformers face their most epic battles to date. What better way to revolutionise your half term break than getting some primeTransformer time!

So I got my sweaty, overexcited hands on a copy - and sat down with the kids to watch it. Well - it was like magic - they sat and watched it! They didn't wander off, they sat still for a whole episode then asked for another (what a pity) and learned all the names, that the Autobots are the good guys and the Decepticons are the baddies, and that Bumblebee is the GREATEST ROBOT OF ALL TIME. 

Starscream is an excellent baddie, Skyquake makes you quake, an old friend is a figure of extreme interest and it is just as great as it was when I was a kid - and as a proper grown up I really should be over cartoons by now, but I'm not. 

If you want a copy do the do on the oojit below and shiz, and I'll announce the winners - and there will be TWO of you - count them, TWO - as soon as the comp is closed. 

Good luck! Now if you'll excuse me I have some cartoons to watch...
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Lazy 'baked' eggs

So, once again I'm on a diet, which means I'm trying to, you know, eat less and not be so fat and stuff. Less fat is a good thing - so I'm trying to eat things that have less cheese and crisps in. Mmmmmm cheeseandcrisps...

Anyway - this is something I've been making quite a lot, and it's absolutely delicious, and properly easy. 

What you need:

A tin of chopped tomatoes
A beef stock cube
Some dried herbs (I've been adding basil, because it's the best) 
A few olives (if you like them) 
Black pepper
Two eggs

What you need to do:

In a smallish pan mix everything that isn't an egg together and put on a medium heat. 
Crack the eggs in. 
Leave it until the eggs are cooked. 

That's it. 
Oh, wait - EAT IT ALL UP. That too. That's important. 

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

50 lists - 1.

I am a bit of a stumbleupon addict and I happened across this website this week and it made me smile, and got me thinking about good things - so I thought I would share. 

So I thought I would write my lists - and because I am a blogger I thought I should blog them.

I think each list will be a little fluid size wise, because, you know, it's not always going to be easy - sometimes it will be too easy - that kind of thang, but here is my first list. 

List one - People who have influenced or inspired you.

My Nanny B - Mum's Mum, who I spent a few years living with over two periods of growing up, and who taught me a huge amount about being a strong woman, about pushing myself to achieve things, and about being there to help other people get past their fears and achieve things. 

She taught me about how much better your life can be when you help others and showed me what people can achieve if they just support each other and use their strengths. 

She founded the South Cumbria Rape and Abuse Service - now renamed, in her honour, as the Birchall Trust, which covers a large area of the south Lakes and Lancashire. 

Because of her work hundreds of victims of abuse, childhood and adult, are on a better path, stronger, happier and moving on from their past to a brighter future. 

It makes me so proud to have known her and she makes me want to be a better person in her memory. 

My Mama, my other grandmother, is next on my list. 

She was the kindest, calmest, most loving person I have ever known. She raised four (rather nice) sons, and having two of my own I can see how hard that can be at times, and never in my life did I hear her raise her voice, get cross or say or do anything hurtful, to anyone. 

Nobody was cruel or rude around Mama - she just brought out the best in you and very quietly led by example. 

When I am cross, my temper is short and things are getting on top of me I think back to the happy, sunny days spent with her doing simple things to make other people's lives better, and the tiny kindnesses she did for others without ever asking for anything in return, and the simple pleasures she taught me, and I feel calm. 

She was goodness, inside and out, and made the world a better place. 

Next: I admire my friend Molly, who came through some horrible things and is utterly wonderful. She is an incredibly talented artist, a wonderful friend, a great Mum and the most honest person I know. I'm glad she picked me. 

I admire my friend Sophie. Her daughter has been very poorly, and when doctors were saying that she might not make it Sophie said "She is coming home with me" and Poppy did - and every day Sophie makes Poppy and her brother Hayden laugh, and no matter how hard it is Sophie's smile can light up a room and I am proud to be her friend, proud to know her, and proud of everything she and her family have achieved. 

I admire Lexy Ellis - who tweets as Mammywoo and blogs on Miss Lexy Woo - I admire her humour, her honesty and her talent as a writer. 

I admire Gill Hoffs, who wrote the last book I finished and I cannot get it out of my head, and I want to be her. 

Who do you admire? Why? Post on your own blog and link in a comment, or just comment. I'd love to hear your inspirations. 

Singing toddlers are ace

Here's a little video to bring some smiles to some faces - who can fail to be totally charmed by a snotty face singing songs!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

A quick re-purpose of some icons

I have a bit of a thing for certain designs - and the Lyles tins are one of my favourites. I also have a thing for spider plants, and a bunch of baby plants needed somewhere new to live after getting a bit in the way.

A few scoops of compost, some gravel in the bottom for drainage, press the babies in nice and firm and baboom - two of my favourite kitchen thingumies in one, brightening up my house. They will grow nice and big and have babies of their own. 

The spider plants, by the way, which are many and rather large in my home are all offspring of one tiny two leaved baby, less than an inch long, which hooked off a giant plant in a garden centre onto my husband's coat when we first began dating, and we decided it was meant to live with us, planted it up and here we are five years later with loads of lovely big plants all over the place. My husband hates them! 

I love them - the more they grow the more I see them representing our lives together. 

What a dork!

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Cake pops, get in my face!

With Midget Gem turning two last week I wept for a few hours thought it would be fun to try making cake pops - I've never done them before but everyone I knew who has said that they're super easy peasy, and I do think they taste extra delicious - so I decided to give it a go. 

First of all I had to check there were eggs outside so I could make as much cake as I wanted (I wanted to make an actual birthday cake I could put candles in too, obviously!) and I was in luck - the ladies are finally laying again, and we get a lovely mix of eggs! 


6oz butter
6oz sugar
2 eggs
6 oz self-raising flour
1 tsp vanilla essence

(The recipe in the book is actually a 4,4,4,2 - ie 4 oz of everything to your 2 eggs - but I used big eggs so bumped it up a bit because last time I baked the cake just tasted all of egg, and this made a nice consistency.)

I used an electric whisk to beat the butter and sugar until it went fluffy, threw in a pinch of flour and added the eggs (adding some flour now stops that horrid curdling thing happening) then I sifted in the rest of the flour and whisked it up all creamy and nice. I chucked in the vanilla, and then popped it all into a square tin I'd greased and floured (just greasing doesn't do as good a  job of stopping things sticking - if you've never tried it add some flour to the greased sides and tap out the excess - life changing)

I baked the cake on 180c for about 25 minutes then cooled it on a rack. 

I then got a big bowl made some kick ass delicious butter icing (a huge, quite frankly ridiculous amount) using the following recipe:
250g butter, soft
1 tsp vanilla extract
600g icing sugar
(2 tbsp milk - you add this if you're actually icing a cake with it - if you want it for cake pops skip this step for a firmer texture) 

Then I crumbled up all my cake into an even bigger bowl and made sure it was all broken up.

I added two big heaped tablespoons of the icing to the crumbled up cake and, with my handy electric whisk, I beat it all together to make a thick dough. I got teaspoons full of this thick dough, rolled them into a ball and popped them onto a tray in lots of rows of scrummy looking balls then when I had rolled all the cake balls (I like the word balls) I popped the tray into the fridge for half an hour. 

I used that half hour to give two small handsome chaps a nice hot bath. 

Once they were clean and jim jammed up I sent them upstairs with Daddytwo for bedtime stories and I melted some white chocolate, mixed in some colouring, added some more colouring, got a bit grumpy that the white chocolate made my red and blue pink and baby blue instead of the bright, bold colours I'd expected even though I'd bought the fancy gel colouring, and prepped the next step. 

The shop hadn't had any cake pop sticks, but they had had bamboo skewers, so I dipped the blunt end in to the melted chocolate and poked it into the cakes, then left them to cool as I added more chocolate to the melting pot and tried again to make the colour bright, and failed.

I poured some little chocolate beans and some colourful sugar stars (Twinkle Twinkle is Midget Gem's favourite song, and he gets excited when he sees stars, so they were the perfect choice) into little bowls then I dipped each cake pop in the melted pastel coloured chocolate, carefully wiped the excess off with the back of a spoon, then dipped them into the toppings and jabbed the sharp end of the stick through some boxes I had ready on the table to hold them up whilst they dried. 

There were a couple of disasters where the cake pop came off the stick - but Daddytwo and I just used those as samples to check that the cake pops were ok! 

And they were!

Admittedly these aren't the most professional LOOKING cakes of all time - I definitely need more practice - but they were delicious, and a big hit with the kids for the big day - remember to cut the sharp end of the sticks off though!