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Easter Bank Holiday Weekend 2013

It was cold…so cold that I had to make an emergency trip to Marks and Spencer to buy thermals for the children!

That said, Easter Weekend 2013 has been a lot of fun and rather than write about it, I thought I’d show you…so here you go, hope you like it!

 

 

 

A poem…

Sorry for not posting, but it’s been a busy week,
With so much to do and places to go, I’ve honed my multi tasking technique.
I’m now quite the expert at juggling, three hundred tasks at a time,
But I have to adnit that this week’s tasks have seemed like a mountain to climb!
It started with a party, a birthday extravaganza,
A balloon, soft play, jelly, ice cream, birthday cake bonanza!
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So next came Calonogi and the sewing machine’s been manic,
Two full days of bunting making had me in a panic!
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Some days I feel that social networking could be a full time job,
Just keeping the website, Facebook and twitter updated has been making my head throb.
I’ve actually cleaned my car this week (my children will be over the moon)
As they no longer have to travel in a rather untidy saloon *
My efforts at making an Easter Bonnet were quite a sight to behold,
The kitchen looked quite pretty decorated in swathes of purple, red and gold.
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And on to biscuit making, Easter bunnies all in a row,
And thirty five faces to decorate, each with a golden glow.
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So after such a busy time, some retail therapy was needed,
And with this lovely purchase from The Salmon Leap, I think I have succeeded,
In making myself feel that this week’s drama’s been worthwhile,
But if next week isn’t slightly calmer, I think I’ll run a mile!
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* it’s actually a people carrier but that didn’t rhyme with much!
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Friday in photos…

Today has been a…

House tidying…

Manic sewing…

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Cushion finishing…

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Laundry doing…

Birthday party decoration making…

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Internetting…

Sweetie prepping…

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List writing…

Tissue paper ball making…

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Invoice sending…

Party bag filling…

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E-mail writing…

Gift wrapping…

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Photograph taking…

Fun filled…

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Takeaway eating…

Kind of day!

Here’s to a good weekend!

Over and out.

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The Domestic Goddess Mission

And so begins another busy week. On top of the usual domestic goddess type duties, completing this week’s Calonogi orders and making sure that PFB (Perfect First Born) and PSB (Perfect Second Born) don’t start the next world war, I have a birthday party to organise.

PSB hits the grand old age of 2 next Sunday which means that this week, I shall be consumed by party planning. I could get all philosophical at this point, spouting about how it seems like yesterday that he was born, but I won’t…all I shall say is “time flies when you’re having fun!” And it is a lot of fun, as will be PSB’s birthday party. But, parties for small children are hard work, especially when they’re in the house. This means that today, I have started the mission that I am fondly calling “Operation Blitz”.

Operation Blitz constitutes everything that needs to be done to get the house, the children and myself ready for next Sunday. It started today with window cleaning…this isn’t exactly a chore that gets done on a weekly basis, but I swear the house looks bigger when the windows are clean (I am aware that that does sound slightly mad!) The dining room has also been tackled and my boxes of stock have found a new, albeit temporary, home…in the garage. I next took on the kitchen drawer. I swear this drawer has the ability to multiply the items within it ten- fold whilst I sleep. The last straw was when I tried putting a few pens and pencils this morning and couldn’t physically close it. And speaking of straws, they have also now found a new home and are a particularly pretty feature perched on the windowsill.

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The doors and skirting boards were next, bleaching away to my heart’s content. I now realise that wearing black jeans whilst doing this was not the best idea…has tie-dye come back into fashion yet?

Now some of you may know that I had to cross the threshold of the local hospital last week to have an operation. I HATE hospitals. I HATE Doctors (the vocation, not the people, I’m sure they’re all very nice). I have a heightened case of white coat syndrome and it is seriously debilitating. I may enlighten you with one of my hospital experiences at a later date…I’ll need to psyche myself up for a few weeks beforehand just to be able to write about it. Anyway, as I am still somewhat painful following this operation, I have been advised to take it easy. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but me and taking it easy don’t really see eye to eye. I’m finding it hard not to carry on as normal…I’m sure I’ll suffer for it tomorrow.

As a reward for my thorough, if not slightly OCD-ish, cleaning, I spent half an hour or so internetting, searching for party decoration ideas. Cue some YouTube tutorial viewing and hey presto, some pretty impressive tissue paper pom poms. I’m not showing you yet, even though I’m dying to! You’ll have to wait until next Monday’s blog for the whole PSB party experience…bet you can’t wait!

Now, during this frantic cleaning, PSB has been the golden child, happily playing with his cars and garage, but by this point, even Lightning McQueen had been cast aside. So out to the garden we go for a bit of fresh air and watering…lots of watering.

image (95) image (94) image (93)PSB has a bit of a penchant for his watering can and he thinks nothing of watering every inanimate object he can find. By the time he’d finished, the garden looked as though it had been subjected to a monsoon…still, it gave me the opportunity to sit down and have a cup of tea.

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Before I knew it, it was time to collect PFB from school. In a vain attempt to keep them both amused, we embarked on a bit of cupcake making. PFB takes his cupcake making very seriously. He likes to assume full control, mixing the ingredients himself, spooning the mixture into cases, icing and decorating. PSB on the other hand, just wanted to lick the icing off every one of his cupcakes. He still stuck his Postman Pat wafers on top of his saliva covered offerings though…best to be avoided methinks.

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Perhaps I’ll have one of PFB’s cupcakes after dinner, which tonight, has been cooked for me…now, I can’t complain about that!

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I thought I’d show you a few of my Calonogi offerings from the last few days. This “Fabric in a Frame” is quite different from my usual style , but I’m very pleased with the final result. The name “Zaha” means “blossoming flower” so it’s quite apt. And the little house sign is something totally new…in fact, this is the first that I’ve done, however, I now have quite a few more to do! For those of you not “in the know”, the Welsh phrase “Ty Bach” literally translates to “little house” but is commonly used to describe the toilet/bathroom/WC, delete as appropriate.

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I also have a new project to finish this week. Well actually, I need to start it as well. If it works, it’ll be amazing, if it doesn’t, needless to say, you’ll hear no more about it! Intrigued? Here’s a clue…

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I can’t finish writing this post without mentioning the by now infamous Six Nations rugby game that took place on the weekend. It was an epic win for Wales. Some say it was down to the experience of the players, others say that their previous five consecutive home losses was a huge motivational force, I say it was down to PFB’s rousing rendition of the national anthem!

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So onto tomorrow and day 2 as a domestic goddess…yeah right!

Have a good week all.

Over and out…

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Me, my business and I…

My blog posts often make reference to my business, Calonogi, but I realised that I’ve never formally introduced you to what I do or why I do it.

So how did it all begin? Well, I worked for the same large organisation from the time that I graduated until very recently, moving from one role to another as promotions came about. In the early years, I viewed it very much as a career; I was motivated to climb the corporate ladder as quickly as I could and basically thrived on building a good reputation for myself. Then came the children…and everything changed.

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After PFB (Perfect First Born) came along, although my life changed, having a child didn’t really affect the way that I viewed my career. I still applied for promotions and whilst PFB was in toddler mode, I was promoted into the most demanding and pressurised job that I’ve ever had. It didn’t bother me that I worked long hours, or did work on weekends or late into the night, I just wanted to do make sure that each task was completed to the best of my ability. And it was whilst I was doing this job that PSB (Perfect Second Born) decided to make himself known…

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Now, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll realise that PSB is quite a mischievous little thing and causes some kind of trouble on a daily basis; his 9 months of “cooking time” was no exception. It was a difficult pregnancy and one that was fraught with problems…I knew he was going to be trouble from the very beginning! And it didn’t end when he made his grand entrance either as my health continued to suffer (much like it is now actually, but that’s another story!).

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Going back to work was never going to be easy and what with two little ones to ferry around to breakfast club, crèche, football training and swimming lessons, it was hard. I felt that my life was not my own anymore. So I decided to do something about it and do something for myself for a change. I’d always loved to sew, it was a gift inherited from my grandmother, although both my grandmothers were quite crafty in fairness. Now, I’m not one for technical sewing and I have trouble following patterns; I love to be a bit more “freestyle”.  I like to think of my talent as creating art on fabric. So creating my bespoke fabric crafts business was a no-brainer really!

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So for a while, I did my crafty-thing, albeit only making things for friends and family at this point, alongside my 9-5 job…yes, I was completely insane to think that I could juggle everything and I had to come to the conclusion, that I, multi-tasker-extraordinaire, couldn’t do it all and live to tell the tale: this was a sad day. There were days that I would leave my desk, pick PSB up from crèche, collect PFB from after-school club, dash home, feed them both, change PSB into his pyjamas, take PFB swimming twenty miles away, come home, feed them again, put them to bed, get the sewing machine out and finally get to bed at around 3am. Not exactly a sustainable lifestyle I think you would agree!

Cue some difficult decisions and lots of heartache BUT, this did lead to my decision to establish my business and make a go of it. It’s been hard, it’s still scary, but I love every minute of it. It’s exciting when I see the orders come in and I love spending entire days making gorgeous pieces of fabric art for my customers and spending evenings sketching out designs ready for the following day. I could never call it a job, or a career, come to think of it…it’s an extension of me. This is what I was meant to do.

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It makes me laugh when I think back to my school days: deliberating over which subjects to do at GCSE, agonising over which A-Levels to take, which university to go to. Today it all seems so insignificant and irrelevant. I’m doing something that I don’t need any of those qualifications to do…unless you can think of a way in which a joint honours degree in Politics and English is relevant to making a coastal scene cushion?!

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So that’s where I am at the moment…self employed and loving it! Now for a bit about the business itself, Calonogi. I’m not one for making the same thing over and over again. I want everything I make to be unique to the person who commissions it…and I’ve had some great commissions! For me, it’s all about bespoke: if you can’t think of it, I can make it (and I’ve never said “no” to an idea to date). I work predominantly with fabric, with a bit of wood and clay thrown into the mix on occasion, just to keep it fresh! I make cushions, fabric frames, doorstops, bunting, children’s baking bags and everything in between…and they’re all personalised in their own unique little way, whether it be as  brazen as putting someone’s name across a cushion or slightly more subtle such as co-ordinating a doorstop to the colours of a customer’s living room. And then of course, there are the more unusual commissions…take a look at my facebook page to see some of my creations www.facebook.com/calonogi.

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So at the moment, my business is 75% “virtual” with orders pouring in through the Calonogi website and facebook page; the other 25% of my orders come through Calonogi displays on other retail premises. Breaking news for this week is the brand spanking new display at O&F’s Coffee Shop in Carmarthen. I was really excited to put his together as I had a particular concept in mind for the display. I didn’t want it to look like just a bunch of things for sale, so I went with the vision of “breakfast before travelling” complete with breakfast tray, travel ticket and vintage suitcase. So if you’re visiting the cobbled streets of Carmarthen in the near future, why not call in for a delicious latte and see what they have on display at O&F’s (the Italian leather handbags are to die for!) http://www.olioefarina.com/en/carmarthen

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There we go, insight into me and my business duly completed. It may be small scale at the moment…but I’m working on it!

See it all for yourself at www.calonogi.co.uk.

Over and out…

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Crafty little things…

As expected, Saturday was a whirlwind.

It was an early start to get PFB’s (Perfect First Born) football kit ready for his game later on that morning and to do a last minute check that I had everything ready for the morning’s craft fair. Why is it that every time I do a “last minute check” it turns into an hour of complete and utter panic? Cue lots of running around the house like a headless chicken, walking into rooms and then forgetting why I went in there with PFB around my feet trying to “help” when all he succeeded in doing was making me trip over my own feet…or his. If I told him to be careful with the keys to the cash box once, I told him a million times…I had visions of prising it open with a screwdriver when he told me that this time, he thought he had “REALLY” lost the keys and that he’d looked “EVERYWHERE” for them! Needless to say that my stress levels by this point were rather heightened…

Following a mad ten minute hunt for the keys, during which, PFB triumphantly announced that he’d found them…in his pocket, he was duly dropped off with his Gramps. Gramps is responsible for football duties you see, which conveniently saves me from having to stand pitchside in cold, wet conditions. I think it’s an excellent arrangement.

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And onto the Gorseinon Food and Craft Fair I go with a neatly packed boot full of wicker baskets. I arrived at around 8.20am and proceeded to empty the car and set up the stall. My new, streamlined version of the stall looked very pretty, even if I do say so myself! There was a great atmosphere amongst the stall holders and I even managed a browse around the other stalls before the doors opened to the public. I met some great fellow crafters who were selling some gorgeous products…so gorgeous, that I thought I’d feature a few of them in this blog post.

The Pure Bliss Body Products stand was one of the first to set up and I was instantly drawn to it because it smelled so fantastic. The stand was brimming with brilliantly coloured and of course, glorious fragrances…the cherry bath bombs smelled good enough to eat. It was most definitely an assault on the senses! I believe that Beverley may be looking into doing house parties before long so keep an eye out for news on her website www.bevbombs.com

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The next stall to catch my eye was Little Bit Different who had an amazing range of quirky vintage products that were right up my street. Think hyacinths planted in teacups, personalised wooden letters, pretty floral jewellery and quaint vintage tea cup candles. A very eye catching stand which proved popular throughout the day with a steady stream of customers…no doubt helped by the lovely customer service provided by Vicky and her daughter. If you take a look at the website www.littlebitdifferent.co.uk, you’ll find that Vicky has given each design of vintage tea cup candle its own personal name…I love Agnes..and Belle…and Grace!

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Onto something a little different and it was Twiddleys Wedding Stationery and handmade cards that next drew my attention. Their range of stationery was simple, elegant and refined; a total contrast to the crystal encrusted, glitter embellished offerings that you often see. The choice of colours on the stand was understated and classical and it was obvious that it was drawing much attention. And if you visit their website www.twiddleys.co.uk , those of you who enjoy card making will find that they also supply a comprehensive range of card making supplies.

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My next visit was to the stall of Sam’s Invites. Sam had a great range of wooden embellishments and shabby chic plaques. One of her plaques instantly caught my eye as it summed up my morning with the children beautifully! It read “Having children is like being pecked to death by a duck”! Never a truer word was read…Sam specialises in blank wooden plaques and shapes so take a look at her facebook page www.facebook.com/people/Sams-Invites/100004499283469 for some great crafty ideas.

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And on to the stall of the Little Black Hen I go to rifle through the album of amazing celebration cakes that Alison makes. The cakes, whether they be for a birthday, christening or wedding, are a sight to behold. I totally recommend taking a look at the website www.littleblackhen.com or visitng the facebook page by clicking HERE to see for yourself…the rainbow creation complete with rainbow coloured sponge is ridiculously impressive. The Little Black Hen jam and chutney range was a definite hit at the fair with lots of customers taking time to read the tempting flavours on offer…I can thoroughly recommend the lime curd!

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My final destination on my whistlestop tour was to Goggi’s Cuisine. There was no way I could walk past Naseem’s stall without sampling her amazing Pakistani home cooked food. The onion bahjees and samosas were being freshly cooked on the stand and the smell was marvellous. A few samples later and I was set to go back to my own stall with my bag containing Chicken Tikka Massala, Lentil Curry, Vegetable Biryani and a selection of onion bahjees and samosas which served as my delicious Mother’s Day tea. Take a look at the Goggis Cuisine Facebook page by clicking HERE.

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And I hope you don’t mind that I’m sneaking in a few photos of my own stall! Come and visit Calonogi on facebook to see some of the commissions I’ve been working on recently… www.facebook.com/calonogi

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Before I knew it, it was time to start packing up the stall and say goodbye to the lovely people that I’d met…but I’m sure that we’ll cross paths again in the near future.

It was, however, rather nice to come home to an afternoon filled with good friends, mad children, my favourite food and one or two Cherry Fizz cocktails!

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Hope you all had a great weekend too.

Over and out…

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Today…a photo diary

I have been so manically busy this week; I’m really not exaggerating, it’s been borderline “losing my mind through stress” territory. I could use twenty thousand words to tell you about my week, using the thesaurus to find suitable three hundred suitable alternatives for “stress”, “pressure” and “losing the plot” but I thought I’d make it a bit more interesting. So here is a snapshot of my week: today…a photo diary.

The day started with work and a visit to Gwendraeth Valley Fine Foods who kindly host my products. You could say that it’s the physical version of www.calonogi.co.uk! So a quick restock and some new products added and then a bit of time spending my profits on the wonderful food stuffs on offer.

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I am a total advocate of and supporting local producers and the content of my shopping bag was the epitome of high quality local produce. Even my shopping bag is a product of a local company…CaBW is based just ten minutes from Calonogi HQ.

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A short drive home and I was soon in my kitchen preparing the food for the Mexican buffet that I’m making for friends. You see, I have my first craft fair of the year tomorrow, so there was no way in the world that I could have prepped and cooked everything tomorrow. The ingredients look so colourful, I can’t wait to cook them. The menu is as follows:

  • Mexican Chilli Beef
  • Spicy Chicken Enchilladas
  • Veggie Enchiladas
  • Nachos with all the trimmings
  • Mexican style potatoes

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Before I knew it, the school run was calling and on a Friday, this is swiftly followed by PFB’s (Perfect First Born) guitar lesson. Here he is with his Spongebob Squarepants guitar (I still find it funny that in Welsh, the name of the spongey yellow character is “Spynjbob Pants Sgwar).

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The walk from the car park to Cadno Music Shop is always eventful and today was no exception; PFB insists on carrying the guitar himself. Today, he bashed at least three adults, almost knocked over a small child and narrowly avoided totalling an entire shelf of glass olive oil bottles.

So from the music shop back to the car we go, stopping half way to wrestle the guitar from PFB after he hit an old lady with it whilst pirouetting through the town centre. A swift journey home and it was then my chance to mock up my display at the craft fair tomorrow morning. At the craft fairs that I’ve previously attended, my display has been absolutely gorgeous but after the fourth two-hour long set-up, I’ve streamlined it somewhat. Cue the delivery of an exceptionally large box of wicker baskets, and here is the final configuration…simple yet effective (well, I think so anyway!)

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I then put the finishing touches onto a new product that I’ve been working on. A few weeks ago, I planted some Spring flowers to put outside the front door, but it still seemed as though it was “lacking” something. So this is a Spring Wreath by Calonogi, designed to brighten your front door at any time of year…who said that wreaths were only for Christmas time?

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Today’s “courier delivery of loveliness” award goes to this striking vintage suitcase that I bought from Ebay. I’ll be using it in the very near future for Calonogi purposes and that’s all I’m telling you! I’ll be blogging about it next Friday, so stay tuned.

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So with the display sorted and loaded into the car (I know, super-organised today), it was time to make a delivery of these lovely Calonogi Easter Jars to a very lovely customer and then back to the kitchen for some baking.

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I’ve been so busy this week that baking has taken a bit of a back seat, so it was nice to get the Kitchenaid working again. And the spoils of my baking bonanza? These obscenely rich, heart shaped, gold dusted chocolate fudge cakes that will serve as dessert tomorrow.

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I did get a very nice surprise during my baking as I had a visit from the Little Black Hen fairy. These freshly laid eggs were left on the doorstep which shall be used for tomorrow’s breakfast at Calonogi HQ…I think I’ll need a hearty start to the day to keep me going!

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And so here I am, ending the day by writing this blog. True, I haven’t had any tea yet, but it’s all in a good cause…your reading pleasure! Now you can’t say that I don’t make sacrifices for you!

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Have a good weekend all.

Over and out…

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“Memory…is the diary that we all carry about with us” Oscar Wilde

Brightly coloured crocuses and tulips and cold, crisp mornings are very welcome given the miserable weather we’ve had recently, and over the weekend, I’ve felt the sense of Spring being in the air…time for a bit of reflection methinks.

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Over the last month or so, it feels like I’ve been so busy, that I haven’t had the opportunity to step back and take stock of things. Life has been chaotic, moving from the school run, to cooking, to house cleaning, to ferrying the children around to various activities, to running my business…I feel as though I can’t function without my iPad (that is completely true…my business depends on it) and my brain is full to bursting with designs, colour combinations and types of fabric. Now I have to admit, my work is a lovely thing to be consumed by, simply because, I absolutely love it. It’s an enormous sense of satisfaction when I hand over a truly bespoke gift to a happy customer…I wouldn’t have it any other way. But this morning, whilst drinking my first cup of tea of the day and watching the children causing their usual chaos, I thought to myself “What kind of memories am I creating for my children?”

I have lovely childhood memories. I remember being taken on day trips, going on holiday, spending time with my grandparents, spontaneous weekends away to London when we were originally heading to Cardiff (this really did happen and we didn’t have a toothbrush between us)! I feel so guilty when I realise that I’ve spent the last two hours berating PFB (Perfect First Born) for whingeing and whining and I feel awful when it dawns on me that I’ve spent the majority of the day saying “No” to PSB (Perfect Second Born). It makes me think to myself that my children are going to have awful childhood memories. But then I think back to when I was as young as PFB…I don’t remember being given rows or being in my parents’ bad books…ever. Now, this means that I was either a perfect child (very much doubt it) or that the good stuff outweighed the bad (far more likely).

I took the children to the park over the weekend…the same park that I use to be taken to as a child. It evoked some great memories of playing on the long since removed roundabout (why don’t you see roundabouts anymore? Is it another sign of Health and Safety gone mad?) and the absolutely massive slide, which I’m sure wouldn’t look quite so big anymore. It was nice to think that my children will have the same memories of this park that I have. In fact, the swings that I’ve photographed (of course I had my iPad with me) are one feature of the park that hasn’t changed in 25 years…although I’m assuming that they have been replaced many times since I played on them as there were no “condemned” signs and they looked in quite good condition on Saturday.

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I do remember being looked after by both sets of grandparents as a young child and these memories are quite vivid. Perhaps it’s because I’ve since lost my Dadcu (my paternal grandfather passed away in 1988) and my Mam (my maternal grandmother, who we lost in 2005) that I now remember spending time with them so clearly. I remember having sleepovers with Mamgu and Dadcu; I’d sleep on a little daybed that they slotted onto the end of their double bed (even though they had spare bedrooms!) but come the morning, my Dadcu would get up and make us breakfast in bed. It would be the same breakfast every time: my favourite, thickly buttered cracker-bread with grapes…bizarre, I know, but I was five, this is what I wanted and my grandparents catered for my every whim. Another distinctive memory is my Dadcu’s hair. It was completely silvery white, which was a stark contrast to his dark framed glasses and I remember how he used to stand in front of the mirror in the hallway looking at his hair, inspecting it almost. I used to stand and watch him and I’d ask him what he was looking for. He’d say “I’m looking for black hairs” and if he were to find one, he’d quickly pull it out, not to blemish the whiteness! My Mamgu would often berate him for driving too fast, calling him “Stirling Moss” at every opportunity…so there we go, those of you who call me “Penelope Pitstop” now know where I get it from!

I spent a great deal of time with my Mam and Dat as a child as they looked after my brother and I whilst my mother worked. Dat was a local Councillor and Mam would complain that the landline was like a hotline because it rang so often (I secretly think she enjoyed being his PA!). She would cook us proper chips in the shed, so as not to let the house smell of chip fat, and she’d make me cawl…without onions…and parsley…and meat…let’s just say that it was a very sanitised cawl and she’d put the ingredients that I didn’t like into little muslin bags to make sure that my cawl didn’t get “contaminated” as I used to tell her!

Mam and Dat had one of those half sized fridges that was veneered with a mock Walnut front and of course, “half-sized” meant “me sized” to my four year old self which meant that I was able to reach everything. For some time, every time I entered my grandparents’ house, I would make a beeline for the fridge and casually drop every egg that was neatly placed in the in-built egg rack, onto the floor. I wouldn’t have thought that this would have been met with praise, but do I remember being given a row for it? I honestly don’t. Neither do I remember being told off for scooping up the small pebbles used for the base of the flower arrangements in a local cafe and piling them up in the middle of my Mam’s ham salad whilst she wasn’t looking (you see, I told you that it was extremely doubtful that I was a perfect child).

Speaking of eggs, yesterday, I was lucky enough to be given some fresh eggs from the inhabitants of the chicken coop at Little Black Hen HQ. They looked so pretty, it was a shame to crack them, but it had to be done. With a little help from some lovely ingredients and a muffin tin, I fashioned the eggs into these little “Egg Muffins” as I like to call them. And the left over eggs were just screaming out to be made into pikelets. Needless to say, lunch was good…

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My Mam used to sew…a lot. I remember sitting by her side whilst she fashioned scraps of fabric into tea cosies and pretty little drawstring bags with her wheel handled Singer sewing machine. I’d sit there for hours happily watching her…unlike my cousin, who once got bored of watching and took it upon himself to use a ball of wool to tie my grandmother to the chair. She was totally oblivious to it until there was a knock at the door (it was the “egg man”…you don’t get egg delivery men anymore) and she tried, in vain, to get up (my cousin had actually used an entire ball of wall to tie her to the back of the chair and so, she was going nowhere). She had to call the egg delivery man into the house to cut her free! Now I DO remember the row that my cousin was given for doing this…funny that!

So, whereas I inherited my speed-demon tendencies from my grandfather, my love of sewing undoubtedly comes from my Mam. It most definitely doesn’t come from my mother, I can assure you; my mother tells the story of how, in her school sewing class, she completed a beautiful piece of embroidery, only to discover that she’d actually managed to embroider the fabric onto her skirt and it had to be cut apart to remove it. I still have some of the fabric from my Mam’s stash. Some of it still smells of her; it’s a combination of Imperial Leather soap and lavender.

I’ve now decided that I’m not going to fret too much about the memories that I’m helping to create for my children…I’m banking on them only remembering the good stuff!

Over and out…

This week, I learned…

1.That in this job, meetings are good

Meetings were once the bane of my life. Meetings called for the sake of meeting, when a phone call would have sufficed. Meetings arranged first thing on a Monday morning by people who obviously didn’t have children and hence no school run. Meetings convened in the middle of nowhere on a Friday afternoon. Meetings in which the agenda would be sidelined in favour of gossip…ok, so this one’s not so bad!

So this week I have learnt that being the owner and designer of your own business means that meetings are now more about gorgeous venues, delicious coffee, creative conversations, interesting people and usually involve use of my sketch book or iPad to demonstrate gorgeous photos of my hand made products.

I quite simply love this “alternative” approach to meetings. It really is about “meeting” people rather than skimming through 20 page agendas (40 if you consider the Welsh translation) and watching endless powerpoint presentations, fighting to keep your eyes open by drawing flower scribbles on a notepad in an attempt to seem interested. It’s about leaving a meeting not feeling downtrodden and sceptical but feeling positive and excited about what’s to come…and there are definitely some exciting prospects on the cards for Calonogi in the near future.

2. That no matter how hard I try, my house will never be tidy all of the time (or even most of the time)

I clean the house as close to the weekend as possible in the deluded hope that it will remain tidy at the prime time for surprise visitors. This plan of attack, however, is actually counter-productive; weekend equals children at home, children at home equals mess on a far grander scale.

My green tufted living room rug becomes PFB’s (Perfect First Born) camouflage for toy soldiers…this means that at some point in the day, I will step, barefoot, on a small plastic sniper, causing immense pain and suffering (not quite on a par with stepping on lego, but it’s close).

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Every cushion from the living room and dining room become construction objects for some architectural masterpiece courtesy of PFB. This usually descends into chaos as PFB attempts to build something akin to the Taj Mahal, whilst PSB sees it as an opportunity to do his best JCB impression, careering around the living room, knocking it down. This is usually followed by complete pandemonium with both boys hurling cushions at the other in anger: PFB angry at PSB’s destructive tendencies and PSB angry that PFB is now refusing to build anything for him to knock down. And that is my key to leave them to it and make a cup of tea…

So anyway, as I’m now sitting here writing this, I have half the contents of one of the kitchen cupboards around my feet (PSB does like to empty a cupboard), the knights of the round table in procession on my mantelpiece thanks to PFB and I think that’s a smear of raspberry yoghurt that I can see on the TV screen…this is following the house cleaning blitz which I finished only two hours ago…I give up.

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3. That if I’m not extremely careful, I will be decapitated when opening my stock cupboard door

I think I should look into some kind of life insurance policy to cover anyone who might accidently open the door to my craft stock cupboard. I’m really not being over-dramatic as today, I was actually knocked over by a fabric avalanche. It’s one of those cupboards that only I know how to handle. It requires a very slow opening, accompanied by frequent peeks through the gap to make sure that the pyrography machine or die cutter won’t take my head off. BUT, ask me where anything is in that cupboard and I will find it instantly…creative people are rarely the epitome of tidiness (well that’s my justification and I’m sticking to it).

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4. That the more I rush, the less gets done

I never learn from this mistake. Trying to pack in the three hundred things on my to-do list whilst PSB is taking an afternoon nap is never a good idea, this I know, but will it stop me from trying to do it tomorrow? Of course not. Will it stop me from starting twenty tasks and only finishing one properly? Definitely not. What can I say, I’m a professional multi tasker! I just need to finish the things I start!

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5. That I will never be able to get an early night, even with the best intentions

I CANNOT get to bed before midnight, no matter how hard I try. There’s always that “last minute” thing to do: tidying the kitchen, getting the school uniform ready, writing this blog! And one thing always leads to another: if I get school uniform ready, then I may as well sort out the packed lunch, and whilst I’m getting everything out of the fridge, I may as well give it a clear out. Before I know it, it’s 1am and then I’ve passed the point of being tired…perhaps I should use this time as an opportunity to finish those tasks that I’ve left on half throughout the day but then I don’t think anybody would appreciate the dulcet tone of the vacuum cleaner in the early hours of the morning…

 6. That my banana muffins need more banana

These weren’t my most successful bake I have to admit. It was more of an attempt to use up some over ripe bananas in the fruit bowl, but I think I needed a few more of them…they just didn’t taste “banana-y” enough. They still looked good enough to justify a photo though.

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7. That PSB (Perfect Second Born) will cause no end of destruction if left alone for longer than it takes to make a cup of tea

When PFB was a toddler, he wasn’t mischievous or naughty, he didn’t demand attention  and most of the time, he would actually listen to what he was told (shame that trait didn’t last). PSB on the other hand is the devil incarnate.

One of his favourite past times is climbing. The breakfast bar stools, the back of the sofa, the odd windowsill…nothing is too much of a challenge. This week has seen two rather more dare devil climbing attempts though. The first is the stacking of toy boxes against the door so that he can reach the light switch and plunge us into darkness. It’s only a matter of time before he uses this technique to launch himself over the safety gate. The second is rather more dangerous and this involves using the TV stand as a ladder to climb up to the level of the TV so that he’s actually hugging it with his nose pressed against the screen. This has got to be seen to be believed. He has me lost for words on an hourly basis at the moment.

He has also recently taken it upon himself to strip all of my floral arrangements of all flowers, be they live or artificial, wooden or fabric, he doesn’t discriminate. He happily stands there plucking flowers and leaves and scattering them over the floor. I now have five vases of stalks and twigs…I like to refer to them as “modern art”.

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And then there’s the crayon drawings that he decorates the house with. So far, I have found PSB’s crayon masterpieces on the freezer drawer, the oven door and the DVD player. The walls have so far been preserved, but it’s just a matter of time before I have something akin to Banksy-style satirical street art covering the living room.

8. That my brain does not have the capacity to store all of my creative ideas

As my business is taking off, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to reign in my ideas for new product ranges. I get an idea, I scour the internet for suppliers of the products I need, I order them and then for the next few weeks, I get various boxes of loveliness being delivered. I have to admit that I do sometimes forget what I’ve ordered, so each box is a surprise! Take this week for example, I thought of a great product idea and ordered everything in readiness. Now, I have difficulty in gauging quantity. So imagine my surprise when I saw the size of the box which contained the 1000 polystyrene balls that I’d ordered last week…the box was bigger than me, which seems quite funny initially, but then I have to work out where to store it…not so funny when you have a garage that’s so full, it requires GPS to navigate through.

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So I’ve decided that I’m not going to make any new product ranges for a while but concentrate on perfecting those that I already have…she says as the fourth courier of the day knocks on the front door.

9. That those “little” changes to my website will actually take days to do

I had an idea. I would overhaul my website to make it more streamlined. Simple.

Wrong!

My father, aka website maintenance man, is now faced with spending the whole weekend updating, amending and re-jiggling.

“Just a few changes Dad” she said…

10. That my life is not my own

The sooner I accept his fact, the better.

There are not enough hours in the day, not enough days in the week and not enough weeks in the year to do everything I need to do. I am constantly on autopilot, moving from swimming lessons, to football training, to guitar lessons, to sewing, to baking, to cleaning, to entertaining.

We all do it though, don’t we! Well, life would be quite boring otherwise!

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus i chi gyd…Happy St David’s Day to you all. We’re toasting the patron saint of Wales with some Welsh inspired cupcakes for tea this evening…my hands are still green from the food colouring! Hope you all enjoy the weekend.

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Over and out…

And the weekend went…where exactly?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term ”Weekend” is defined as:

Noun

Saturday and Sunday, especially regarded as a time for leisure:

“She spent the weekend camping”

Verb

[no object, with adverbial] informal; spend a weekend somewhere:

“He was weekending in the country”

Now, neither did I spend the weekend camping, good God no (imagine my forlorn self wandering around a tent looking for a socket to plug my hair straighteners into), and neither did I “weekend” in the country. In fact, both these definitions couldn’t be further away from the truth. Quite the opposite actually!

Saturday was spent with the girls in the capital city of our home nation, eating Latin American and drinking cocktails (no tent or rolling hillsides in sight). I’m pleased to report that the closest we came to anything to do with the great outdoors was walking within a two hundred yard distance to the Cotswold Outdoor store.

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It was simply a great day. It started well with a few preambulatory glasses (slightly pushing it there as they were actually plastic) of bucks fizz on the train followed by a leisurely stroll into the city centre for a little window shopping… I challenge any fashion loving female to resist the lure of the window displays of Kurt Geiger and Reiss.

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An hour later and we were all gossiping with the accompaniment of some very sensible coffees, or Mocha in my case (hit of caffeine without the calories of a hot chocolate…perfect) before hitting Las Iguanas. And this is where it went slightly awry…through no fault of our own of course, but more due to the buy one get one free offer on the cocktail menu. Let’s just say that a significant proportion of the final bill was taken up by Cherry Fizz cocktails…

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Following a short peregrination of Cardiff’s finest drinking establishments, we ended up sampling some absolutely delicious cocktails…I can highly recommend a strawberry and vanilla daiquiri should you ever come across it.

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No w as I read over what I’ve already written, our jaunt to Cardiff comes across as quite a tame, respectable affair, and indeed it was until our final stop…Caroline Street aka “Chip Alley”. For those of you unaccustomed with the cultured streets of Cardiff, Caroline Street is a side street with more fish and chip shops and take-away outlets than you would care to imagine, hence “Chip Alley”. BUT, as much as one may disparage and admonish such a spectacle, I am 100% sure that this little transgression from the norm was our saving grace come Sunday morning…sans hangover!

We took the short walk back to the train station…we were tired, we had aching feet, but we’d all thoroughly enjoyed. The conversation on the journey home included lots of “pyjama” and “cup of tea” and “collapsing in front of the tv” references and this is exactly what I did: I got home, I put on my pyjamas, made a cup of tea and promptly fell asleep on the sofa before I’d even drunk it…I think it’s a cert that the Rock’n’Roll lifestyle just isn’t for me!

On Sunday morning, boy was I glad that the hangover haze didn’t feature…it was an early start to get two dozen cupcakes made for a party that afternoon. The KitchenAid was at full speed by half past eight and 100 royal icing flowers had already been prepped (organised, I know) ready for the decoration. I can’t say hand on heart that they were the most complicated cupcakes that I’ve ever made, but they certainly looked very pretty! Pretty that is, until PSB (perfect second born) got his hands on them…I’d put them on the dining room table so that I could clean the disaster zone that was the kitchen and ten minutes later, it occurred to me PSB was being unusually quiet. Although I seriously hoped that he was entertaining himself with toy cars in the conservatory (not likely) I knew in my heart of hearts what he was up to…he was redecorating my cupcakes! The cupcakes that I had painstakingly decorated to make sure that all the flowers faced the same way and were of equal height. The cupcakes that had caused serious tendon damage in my hand from a way too full piping bag and even harder butter icing. The cupcakes that were due to be delivered to a party in around an hour.

I was almost afraid to look but when I eventually did, a very proud looking PSB was sitting on a dining room chair, carefully removing small icing flowers and placing them tidily in a row and not so carefully squashing the larger flowers into the actual cupcakes, completely wrecking my carefully piped butter icing grass effect. Cue frantic retrieval of piping bag, removal of all cupcake decoration, re-piping of the grass and replacing of the flowers. Crisis averted. (NB…I negated to tell anyone of this heart attack inducing moment on arrival to the party…so Mel, now you know what I had to deal with!)

All things considered, I think the cupcakes were a hit and in the end, they did look party-worthy!

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The party was a lovely ensemble of pinkness with nail painting, dancing and butterfly tattoo application with a handful of boys, including my own, refuting any form of girlyness by playing the Xbox for the duration, only looking up to collect the coveted party bag at the end. My face painting efforts were a hit too and to be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in pink, purple and silver butterflies instead of the usual tigers and pirates that tend to be the norm at home.

And then it was home and feet up.

Last night, I sat on the sofa wondering how it was possible for a weekend to pass so quickly. But then, that’s the way isn’t it: on a “quiet” weekend, you desperately look for something to do to occupy the children and on a “busy” weekend, you covet a “quiet” one. Seriously though, if next weekend is as busy as this one has been, I think I’ll be incapable of functioning in a logical and rational manner.

Needless to say, it’s an early night tonight (if only to stop me from me from eating anymore…I’ve managed to scoff my way through an industrial sized bag of popcorn whilst writing this)…nos da pawb x