That Friday Feeling…

And so it’s the weekend again and what a weekend it’s likely to be! It’s an early start tomorrow to get myself looking halfway decent for a day out with friends to Cardiff. Cue the hunt for the dust covered heated rollers, a frantic false tan application and the debacle that will be searching for a suitable handbag…can you tell that any form of regular social outing is somewhat lacking? And then of course, there’s the getting ready with two small boys hanging around my neck. No doubt my preening ritual will be hampered by desperately trying to stop PSB (Perfect Second Born) getting first degree burns from my hair straightener and keeping one eye on PFB’s (Perfect First Born)attempts to sharpen my eyeliner pencils into oblivion. But it’s all fun…right? (If I keep telling myself that, one day I may start to believe it!)

So an update on my previous “5 Things I Need To Do” list.

1.Start (and finish) this week’s orders

To say it’s been a busy week work-wise is ever such a slight understatement. I have been overwhelmed by orders…overwhelmed in a “can’t believe it” kind of way as opposed to a “I can’t cope” manner. Seriously though, it’s so encouraging and I’m absolutely loving this working for myself lark. And there are quite a few exciting developments in the pipeline for Calonogi, so watch this space…

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2.Update my website

Ok, so remember when I said that of the five things on my list, this was the most likely to fall by the wayside? Well it has…epic fail.

3. Have a toy clear out

Breaking News…You will be pleased to know that we no longer need to vacate out current place of abode and neither are Buzz Lightyear, Optimus Prime and Fireman Sam liable for rent (which is quite a relief as I didn’t really fancy the legalities of drawing up rental agreements for plastic figurines and then there was the issue of collecting all of the arrears…it wouldn’t have been pretty).

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4. Have a clothes clear out

I am also pleased to report that there is no longer a single odd sock in this house (unless one day I actually find that den of iniquity where all the “cool” lost socks hang out, drinking some illicitly produced hooch and playing poker). I feel that my soul was cleansed just that little bit more with each item of clothing that was put in the “Charity Clothes Bank” pile…

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5. Find myself a suitable outfit for a day out with the girls

This has been something of a challenge, not least because of the freakishly cold weather that we’re experiencing at the moment. On Tuesday, the weather was glorious; slightly crisp, but gorgeously sunny and warm enough to take PSB out to do a bit of Spring planting in the garden. We thoroughly enjoyed…not even PSB’s spectacular tumble right into the box of freshly purchased flowers could dampen my spirits (the pansies, however, looked rather sorry for themselves following their acquaintance with a two year old’s backside).

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So it was unsurprising that this lovely weather had a bearing upon the outfit that I bought that afternoon. It was a pretty navy and flamingo print skater dress that I would have completely frozen in given the dramatic change of weather…minus two degrees whilst doing the school run yesterday!? Needless to say, I had to revert to “plan b” with regards to my outfit choice and have plumped for a slightly more substantial dress and jacket combination.

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So there we go, my list complete…almost.

My efforts to provide enriching life experiences for PSB have continued with various outings and activities undertaken throughout the week. This evening we baked some biscuits (although I waited for PFB to return from school before we embarked on this task for fear of complete and utter PFB meltdown…he really likes to decorate biscuits). It didn’t start particularly well as the initial excitement spilled into a full on cookie cutter fight with PSB eagerly trying to knock PFB’s cutter out of his way so that he could cut out stars as opposed to PSB’s circles. Then there was the “flour” incident with PFB managing to cover half the kitchen in white dust as he threw the whole lot of flour into the food mixer at the same time…with the mixer on full speed. And whilst I turned my back, PSB had managed to crawl over the floured worktop, cleaning the surface with his jeans as he went: cue frantic clothes removal to avoid any further flour spreading. So with a half naked PSB and a moody PFB (following the row after the flour/mixer incident) we moved onto decorating. With icing. Blue icing. BIG mistake…unless you really want to see what your children would actually look like as real life smurfs. I managed to do a pretty good job of covering myself with the food colouring too and of course, it takes a few days to fade, which did instil a slight panic moment at the thought of having to go to Cardiff tomorrow with blue hands. I have consoled myself that this particular shade of food colouring, Wilton Sky Blue, will complement my chosen colour of nail varnish quite well…crisis averted.

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I am absolutely and totally looking forward to tomorrow’s shenanigans BUT I will have to regularly remind myself that I have 30 cupcakes to make on Sunday morning in readiness for a birthday party in the afternoon and then have to attend said party to face paint some kiddiwinkles who I’m sure would appreciate minty fresh breath as opposed to mojito infused exhalations.

I shall report back for duty on Monday and update you on the weekends frolicsomeness (it is a word, I checked).

Have a good weekend all…over and out.

A Walk In The Park

I feel under pressure…today is the first Monday that PSB had been at home with me as opposed to being in crèche. As I’ve now decided to put all of my eggs into one basket, ditch the 9-5 and concentrate solely on my business, PSB is no longer going to crèche. This is TEMPORARY…and breathe a long sigh of relief. I have a few weeks in before he starts in the local Cylch Meithrin and I feel as though I need to provide him with the same stimulating experiences at home with me as he would have in crèche. In short, it’s all about enriching his life and all I need to do is provide a substitute for the paper plate decorating, pancake cooking, mud pie making, crazy foam spreading and full scale puppet showing that he’s now used to. Simple.

So this is what we did today:

  • Dropped PFB at school
  • Played in the park
  • Fed the ducks
  • Bought some crafty supplies
  • Modelled clay animals
  • Cleaned the conservatory windows (well, he seemed to be enjoying himself, so I ran with it)
  • Went for a bike ride to collect PFB from school

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Ok, so it might not be on the same “fun scale” as crèche, but I think he’s had quite a fulfilling day.

So around the enriching of PSB’s life, I have set myself a list of challenges to complete this week. Here are the 5 thing I need (or want) to do before midnight on Friday.

1. Start (and finish) this week’s orders

There’s been a rush of orders over the last week or so at Calonogi HQ. Not that I’m complaining, far from it, it’s great, so a big thanks to any customers who may be reading. Now this may well be a touch of OCD breaking through, but I don’t like to have orders from one week that roll over to the next; in other words, if I start it, I must finish it by Friday afternoon. This sometimes causes issues. Friday evenings can be quite tense. I sometimes don’t speak to anyone for an entire evening whilst I manically sew that final cushion or string of bunting. My sewing machine is often on the fastest possible setting, the vibration of which is taking its toll on the kitchen units…how long exactly is a kitchen meant to last for without falling apart? Note to self: must check whether sewing machine vibration is listed as viable wear and tear by the insurance company.

2. Update my website

My website, www.calonogi.co.uk, whilst looking fantastic thanks to my amazing web designer, needs a bit of an overhaul. I have a dropbox full (is that the correct terminology?) of new product images from the very talented GPhotography awaiting upload to the website. So this week, my mission is to write the product descriptions for each new product and perhaps also redesign the shop layout to make it a bit more “co-ordinated”. I’m going to think of a few product categories to group the items for a more “streamlined” look. Note to readers: if any of the five tasks is going to be shelved, it’s this one as now that I’ve written it, it doesn’t sound like a particularly fun thing to do!

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3. Have a toy clear out

We’re being taken over…not by an alien species intent on conducting some sort of experimentation with human DNA, but by various types of plastic playthings. Even with the pre-Christmas toy cull, the house feels as though it’s about to burst at the seams and PFB celebrating his birthday mid-January hasn’t helped matters…but with PSB’s birthday looming in March, something’s got to be done about this situation, before we have to seek alternative accommodation and start demanding rent from Buzz Lightyear , Optimus Prime and Fireman Sam.

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4. Have a clothes clear out

Do odd socks breed? I’ve come to the conclusion that in this house, they most definitely do. Somewhere in the process from removing socks, putting them in the washing basket, transferring them to the washing machine, then tumble dryer, and clean laundry basket, socks mysteriously vanish, never to be seen again. I’ve tried retracing my steps, I’ve emptied entire drawers,  I’ve even stuck my head inside the washing machine drum in the hope of finding a secret hiding place only for socks. But alas, I never succeed in finding any lonely item of hosiery. So I now have to tackle the single sock situation…no more keeping them “just in case” I come across its partner because quite frankly, I never do. And this cull isn’t going to just stop at the sock situation, oh no, these wardrobes have no idea what’s in store for them…

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5. Find myself a suitable outfit for a day out with the girls

Woohoo! Girls day out! So it’s a case of “Ladies First” this Saturday as the men and children are being left at home as we head out to our nation’s capital for birthday celebrations. I never believed people who told me that my social life would never be the same again after children arrived. Well, you don’t do you? You completely and totally believe that the new little bundle of joy will just be a fulfilling addition to the family and will not in any shape or form compromise your current lifestyle. Wrong. They do. Massively. I have made a vow to myself that I will never, ever, bestow on parents-to-be the warnings that were imparted on my pregnant self that “my life will never be the same again” by well meaning already-parents. Is this because I don’t want to burst that perfect bubble of delusion that encompasses parents to be? Not likely: it’s because it’s completely pointless and I have better things to do with my precious time. Seriously though, a day out with the lovely ladies sipping cocktails in Cardiff Bay is well overdue and I am mightily looking forward to it. BUT…what am I going to wear? It’s not a “day” thing or an “evening” thing it’s a kind of “go out as early as we can to make the most of it and see how long we can last before we admit defeat” so it’s difficult to choose suitable attire. And there lies the task in hand…I’m on a mission to find an outfit, let the web browsing commence.

So there we go, I shall be reporting back on Friday, hopefully with a tick against all of the above.

Over and out…

Making, Madness and Macarons…

This week was half term. That’s right, a whole week at home with PFB…lucky me. Well I am lucky actually, as one big advantage of working for yourself is that now, school holidays will never be a problem. So this week, amongst the sewing, baking, cleaning and laundry, I’ve been doing my very best to keep PFB entertained (PSB has been otherwise engaged for part of the week with crèche, grandparents etc). Put it this way, it’s been a challenge…

Now PFB has had two school projects to complete during the week and what a  wrench these have been. When PFB decides that he doesn’t want to do something, he REALLY doesn’t want to do it, so foraging for natural materials to do the ‘environmental patterns’ project was not high on his list of priorities…come to think of it, wandering around the local woods through mud and puddles wasn’t high on my wish list either. In fact, trying to supervise PFB on his bike,  pushing PSB on his, whilst carrying half a tree, a selection of rather large branches, a bag full of leaves and some ivy and wearing entirely the wrong footwear wouldn’t be many people’s activity of choice I wouldn’t have thought. And is the project finished you may ask? Of course not (but it will be by my next post so I may even enlighten you with a photo of our efforts).
I realise that the majority of my blog posts refer to PFB and PSB aka Perfect First Born and Perfect Second Born and the things they get up to. So I thought it only fair that I formally introduce them to you…and what better way to do this than video style! So for your viewing pleasure, I introduce ‘The Tales of PFB and PSB’…popcorn optional.
So whilst snatching a bit of ‘work’ time in between keeping PFB gainfully employed in some kind of activity, I’ve been working on an amazing commission. The customerasked Calonogi for a large framed fabric ‘print’ to celebrate her husband’s 40th birthday…up to this point, it sounded completely do-able. She also wanted her son’s names incorporated into it…still do-able. And she wanted to include every place in the world that they’ve travelled together since they met…still ok…until I saw the list. Their around-the -world escapades amounted to the cutting  out of 125 letters from fabric. Cue slightly sweaty palms at the thought of this, but I thought to myself, ‘ok, I can do it, I’ll just pace myself throughout the next few weeks.’ But then came the deadline…I had 5 days when factoring in the need to arrange courier collection and delivery. It was definitely the most pressurised commission I’ve ever completed, but I have to say, I loved the finished result and more importantly, so did the customer. Well worth the callouses forming on my hands from holding a scissors for four days solid. If you’d like to take a look at the finished article, pop over to my Facebook page to see the photos www.facebook.com/Calonogi.

So at the moment, it’s around 11am and I’m sitting in Cafe Play with the yummy mummies (and daddies) of Mumbles writing this blog post with one eye on the children and one eye on the ipad. Cafe Play is a fantastic soft play venue catering for every whim and desire of young children. And the best thing is that the design of the building allows parents to sit and chat whilst having a delicious coffee and still be able to see their children wherever they may be. A big thanks to Cafe Play for keeping me happy with their fantastic Nutella Hot Chocolates whilst writing…I couldn’t have got to the end of this without you!
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Whilst watching the children tear around Cafe Play, I have to admit that I was anxious to get home to get baking. My plan was to wear the children out so that PSB would sleep for a  couple of hours so that I could get on with making some gorgeous macarons. They didn’t go completely to plan, but they did look and taste fabulous. I flavoured the macarons with lime extract and filled some with Little Black Hen lemon curd and lime zest butter cream and the others with raspberry butter cream which I blitzed with Little Black Hen raspberry jam and fresh raspberries. I love this photo of them…so vibrant.
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Following the macaron marathon, it was time for PFB’s guitar lesson, so a trip into town to visit Cadno Music Shop was called for. Apparently, he learnt how to play ‘Gangnam Style’ this evening!? I’m yet to ask for a rendition…
With the children fed and bathed with Madasgar 3 on Box Office, it’s time for me to have a little bit of ‘me’ time…so off to the shower I go. Now, you may think of having a shower as quite an everyday thing to do, but this one is different. I’ve made my own body scrub and I can’t wait to try it. It’s an amazing mixture of olive oil, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract and honey (for those of you who’d like to have a go at making it, just mix the ingredients according to your personal preference). I shall report back shortly…
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Oh my gosh, not only is my skin gorgeously soft and shimmering, but I also smell like a dessert! I think this shall be the first of many!
That’s it for this evening, hope you all have a great weekend.
Over and out…

Never a Dull Moment…

Wow! What a day! To say its been, um, ‘fulfilling’ is quite the understatement. It’s been non-stop taking, doing, starting, finishing, running, talking and organising…hence starting to write this post at twenty past nine at night. It was an early start to get PSB (perfect second born) up, dressed and ready for crèche (no mean feat when you have a tired, moody nearly two year old on you hands). So after much disapproval and disdain from PSB, he was duly dispatched to the lovely ladies who make it their mission to make sure that he and the other little bundles of fun, have an enriching and action packed day…lucky them. The upshot of this…early bedtime!
 
This week of course is half term, which means that I have PFB (perfect first born) on my hands for the entire week. Now, any other week, this wouldn’t be a problem, but this week happens to be one of the busiest weeks for my business, Calonogi, that I’ve ever had. Add to that the need to make 60 cupcakes for PSB to take into crèche tomorrow and the two school projects that require some elaborate 3d creation on the theme of ‘environmental patterns’ (?) and its a pretty manic week. So this morning, following the deportation of PSB, the cupcake production line began.
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I’m the first to admit that I’m not ‘tidy’ when it comes to cooking…or crafting come to think of it. As hard as I try to keep things clean and tidy as I go along, the kitchen always resembles a battlefield when I’ve finally finished baking and the entire room has quite a heavy white covering from the flour and icing sugar. At times, it actually feels like I’m walking through a snowstorm the kitchen is so thick with icing sugar dust…all adds to the fun though. Today however, amongst the utter devastation was PFB on the laptop giving me a running commentary of the Ninja Turtles game that he was playing. He just didn’t seem to understand that it wasn’t feasible for me to take even a passing interest in Raphael and Leonardo having a pizza hurling battle with Shredder. Did my obvious inability to interact with PFB’s incessant description of the pizza assault have any effect on his verbal diarrhoea? Of course not and quite frankly, he nearly drove me insane. I do, however, now know the ins and outs of the lives of four crime fighting reptiles…every day’s a school day! 
 
So here are the spoils of this morning’s efforts…I’m really pleased with my little owlet cupcakes as it goes!
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Moving swiftly from baking to crafting, the next task on the list was to get a few orders ready for my lovely customers. This was altogether a far more relaxed hour or so as PFB had been cunningly amused with a box of crafting supplies…the fact that I’m still scraping gold glitter glue off the breakfast bar is by the by…he was quiet for an hour and I have some beautiful lollipop stick puppets to show for it (the one that is supposed to be me has a pink head).
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The main reason for this week being so ridiculously busy is an amazing commission that I’ve been asked to do as a present for the husband of the ‘commisisoner’ for want of a better word. Sounds great you may say, and indeed it is…problem is that it’s a huge piece of work and it needs to be with my customer by Saturday…no pressure there then. It’s a lot of fiddly, intricate work and of course, me being me, I can’t do this without creating carnage. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here you go…my kitchen worktop!
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Before I knew it, it was time to collect PSB from the happiest place on earth aka crèche, with PFB also in tow. Cue 10 minute battle with PFB over getting his shoes and jumper on with sustained threats of making him leave the house shoeless and cold. And then ensued the 30 minute drive, with numerous pleas for PFB to have a ‘five minute talking break.’ So we reach crèche, collect PSB, get them both back in the car and then I have to deal with the drive home with one child incessantly talking about nothing, but making it sound extremely important and the other child singing ‘Old MacDonald Had a Farm’ with constant interruptions to point out every bus, lorry and emergency service vehicle he sees on the way…I take solace in the fact that when I look at the car in the next lane, that that parent is probably having to deal with exactly the same thing (please no-one comment below that this isn’t the case, I will be irreparably crushed and will have to sit in a dark room for a lengthy period of time).
 
Then of course is the usual feeding and bathing, snatching time here and there to do a bit more work on that commissioned piece. And then I look at the clock and its that absolutely fabulous time of evening…bed time. Up we go for a story before sleep time, the choice of book tonight being David Walliams’ ‘Ratburger’ throughout the four chapters of which, PSB read his own incomprehensible nearly-two-yearold babbled version of the text, periodically pointing at words as though he’s actually reading them…PFB was not impressed. And then the amazing happened…as I reached the final few paragraphs of the fourth chapter, I looked to my right and PSB was contentedly snoring on my shoulder,  mouth wide open, soaking my shirt with his dribble (I have been told that he takes after me when it comes to his sleep traits) and to my left, PFB arms and legs wrapped around me in his usual vice like grip, fast asleep.
 
So following a quick meal, here I am, writing this post for your reading pleasure…and after an hour of writing, deleting, editing and a panic moment when my iPad ran out of charge and I thought I’d lost the whole thing, here it is, hope you’ve enjoyed it.
 
Over and out…

Today is a day that I need to write a list…

It’s one of ‘those’ days today. One of ‘those’ days when just the thought of getting out of bed seems like a chore. One of ‘those’ days when daytime TV seems quite appealing.

No chance of a lie in though as it’s a school day which means one thing, the faffing around to get PFB ready for school and all that brings…and I’m beginning to severely dislike making packed lunches. If PFB wasn’t so fussy with food, he could have school dinner just like the majority of other children, but no, PFB has a penchant for crustless sandwiches, peeled and sliced apple and home-made biscuits. So there we go, packed lunch it is. His fussiness with food has me racking my brains for ingenious ways to feed him fruit and vegetables without him finding out that he’s actually eating something healthy.  Which gives me an idea…today, I shall find another cunning and devious way to penetrate PFB’s ‘fruit and vegetable’ force field. And whilst I’m at it, the kitchen needs a bit more colour and I need to finish my latest ‘creation and I’d like to go for a walk and…hang on, I’d better write a list.

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Well, I’ve got to start somewhere and this seemed like a good place to start…onto the next task.

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Given my initial lack lustre approach to the day, this coffee is somewhat medicinal…from “bleurgh” to “brilliant” in one easy step.

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And ono the next item on my list…

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My wonderful idea to go out into the fresh air to clear my head before making a start to the day was somewhat blighted by the raging wind that is plaguing the country today. It turned what could have been a picturesque and pleasant stroll along the coastline into a head-down battle against the gale force conditions which left me with nothing but an earache. I think the grass in the photo is quite telling… Thinking that it would be slightly more sheltered at an alternative location, I headed for the waterpark where I was greeted by these exceptionally elegant if not slightly scary swans (well, have you seen how big they actually are when they get out of the water! And I also have a vivid childhood memory of my brother being attacked by swan as a child. Ok, so “attacked” is slightly dramatic, more along the lines of brother taunts swan, swan retaliates, brother is taken aback, swan seizes opportunity to pounce, brother tries to make a run for it, swan gets hold of brother’s trouser leg, cue lots of “tug of war” type to-ing and fro-ing, brother manages to get free and starts to run, swan in hot pursuit!)

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got some nice photos though! Onwards and upwards…

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Ok, now to tackle adding some colour to the kitchen. Flowers seem an obvious choice, but how about adding a slightly more unusual twist? I can’t actually remember why I purchased this little colander given that it’s too small for the majority of the usual “colander” tasks and quite frankly a useless kitchen implement, but it makes a lovely daffodil planter.

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That’s another task ticked off the list then…

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And now for the top secret mission that is trying to feed vegetables to PFB. The answer…cheesy fish pie.  Now this would usually be topped with mash, but my version will be topped with potato, sweet potato and carrot mash. How do I explain the distinctly orangey coloured “potato” to PFB you may ask? That’s easily answered and quite frankly, the more elaborate the answer, the more likely PFB will accept it…orange coloured potatoes that only grow deep in the Igazu rainforest in South America, harvested by the native black howler monkeys and transported back to the UK by nuclear powered, torpedo armed submarine and dropped into our back garden by Apache Longbow attack helicopter…totally plausible to a six year old and ultimately effective given the successful result.

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I have rather a large box of empty jam jars in my dining room, which have for a while, been awaiting my “eureka moment” when I actually figure out what I’m going to do with them and this brings me onto the next task…

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There have been many prototypes, but this is the finished article…Jars of Hearts. I’m very pleased with them and I’m also very pleased with the photos that I took (had to brave the wind again to take them though). Perhaps this would be an opportune time to tell you all a little bit about my business. It’s called Calonogi, which is a Welsh word meaning “to hearten” or “to encourage”. I’ll save the story of how it all came about for next time, but it’s basically making things out of fabric (although I have diversified as of late). To sum it up, it’s something that I love to do and my enthusiasm is reflected in the quality of the items that I make. If you have a few minutes to spare, take a look for yourselves www.calonogi.co.uk or give me a “like” on my Facebook page www.facebook.co.uk/calonogi .

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And there we have it, my list is complete.

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That’s it for this instalment and quite frankly, it’s been quite a busy day so I’ll make my excuses and leave whilst no-one’s looking…

My birthday…in photos

So today is my birthday, the day I reach the grand old age of 31. I had lots of ideas with regards to what to write about today for your reading pleasure, but I thought I’d shelve those in favour of a snapshot of my day…in photos. So I’m going to take my iPad everywhere with me today and basically photograph as I go. It’s a little bit different to my previous posts but a change is good right? Anyway, I hope you like it, I’m off to start snapping…

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As much as I would have loved a lie in today, alas, it is not to be as the school run is calling. Cue frantic ironing, lunchbox making and homework sorting. PFB duly dropped off at school (to protests of “but i can’t go to school today because it’s your birthday…nice try) and back home to get myself ready for yet another hospital appointment…on my birthday?!photoCAVMDORW

 Lots of this on the cards today as PSB is unwell with a congestion and cough. Hate seeing him unwell.

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So this was is birthday outfit of choice: plain white top, navy spotted skirt, navy tights, tan boots…simple but effective.

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My lovely silver fingerprint necklace is the chosen jewellery for today. I’m quite plain when it comes to ‘day’ jewellery and am definitely a ‘silver’ kind of person as opposed to ‘gold’.

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Some of my lovely birthday cards from my lovely family and friends (some needing more parental guidance in the presence of small children than others).

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And here it is, the piece de resistance. My AMAZING birthday present. I love it already (don’t tell my sewing machine, it might get offended).

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I was surprised with a knock at the door last night and was even more taken aback with my birthday cake gift from Little Black Hen. How gorgeous is this? Simple and elegant.

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Obviously, the bulbs that we planted in the Autumn know it is my birthday as today, we have our first flower. Spring is on its way folks (at least I hope it is! Knowing our luck, the bulbs will flower over the next few weeks only to be killed off by freak freezing conditions in March)

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More of this in order

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My idea of heaven…having some funny looks whilst taking this one!

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This, however, was the sight that greeted me when I returned from Hobbycraft: my lovely lamp obliterated by PSB.

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Some gorgeous surprise flowers from some friends that have just been delivered. I always have flowers in the house, makes it look more welcoming in my opinion.

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And here they are, the first spoils of the Kitchenaid. Not bad for a first attempt, even if I do say so myself! They’ve turned out to be a bit of a labour of love if I’m honest, but they do look pretty.

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And they’ll also be great as little ‘thank yous’ for the gifts I’ve received today.

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And some more…

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My birthday dinner…hot, spicy and fantastic. I have to admit, I’m a big fan of chillies and am prone to adding them to quite a few recipes…recipes that don’t usually have chilli in them! This takeaway is gorgeous, a great end to a great day.

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Do I really have any room to fit in a slice of this? Silly question…

 So there we go, my birthday in photos. Hope you’ve enjoyed viewing them as much as I enjoyed taking them, even though it did raise a few eyebrows in public places (I did stop to buy a bottle of diet coke in the local Co-op on the way home from picking up the takeaway, but resisted the urge to take a photo in fear of being ‘talked about’ by the locals).

 Over and out…

Smell the coffee…

It’s been a busy week at HQ with lots going on and lots being done. I feel as though I’ve been on autopilot, moving swiftly, if not slightly chaotically, from one task to another. So this afternoon is the first time in the last few days that I’ve been able to sit down, take stock and write this post. I’m usually pretty organised and jot down ideas as they pop into my head, but this is completely off the cuff . When I think about the various things that have transpired this week, most of which have revolved around the children, play dates, guitar lessons, homework, school projects to name but a few, it’s made me think about the things that I loved as a child…things that my children may never get to experience. So here it is, my list of childhood experiences and memories that may elude PFB ( perfect first born) and PSB (perfect second born) completely…

1. Writing letters to friends Now this was something that I became ever so slightly obsessed with as a child. It got to the point where to me, it was inherently important to communicate with my friend who lived quarter of a mile away, by mail. Well, she did live right at the top of the hill to be fair to me and of course, this fact made the writing of ten page letters seem a totally logical and reasonable task. Fast forward twenty years (it’s actually slightly longer than that but I can’t bring my self to put the actual figure in writing) and I very much doubt whether my sons will ever feel the need to get out a sheet of paper, an envelope and a stamp.

2. Taping the Top 10 from the radio I loved doing this! I would even go as far as taping the taped version to cut out the talking in between…that’s as hi-tech as technology went but Sunday evening were eagerly anticipated and woe betide anyone who interrupted my concentration whilst the taping was in progress. The coming week would then be taken up by the fast forwarding and rewinding of my recording as I’d lie in bed, headphones plugged in, lost in my own little world. PSB knows how to log into iTunes, select songs and create playlists…I never did work out how he found out my iTunes password (note to self: change password).

3. Researching essays from actual books Our house had lots of books, in fact books are a distinctive childhood memory of mine. But, there was one book, one very special book, that was delved into for every essay, project and homework task…The Children’s Encyclopedia. This was not just a book, oh no, it was part of the family. I was lucky that I was the eldest of three, because I’m sure that my brothers would have had very similar information to mine in their school work. As the Internet has taken over the world, these days, if PFB has a school project, then I call on my very good friend ‘Google’ for help! I’d be lost without him…

4. Open Sandwiches I loved these and my mother was skilled at making them. For those of you who have never experienced the delightful ness of an open sandwich, it’s basically a sandwich…but not closed. this worked well with rolls or a baguette, but I remember them having all sorts of weird and wonderful fillings…tinned peaches spring to mind! I think it’s safe to say that these will never be seen again, especially the tinned peach variety.

5. Sticking photos into self adhesive photo album pages Does anyone do this anymore? Enough said.

6. Sitting at a wooden school desk with an inbuilt ink well These days, you walk into a school and all the furniture is plastic. I genuinely think the classrooms of today lack character without the compass engraved wooden school desk with the inkwells that were used as pen holders, but inevitably, your pen would just fall into the desk below. These desks were a lesson in themselves…you just had to read the graffiti written on them!

7. Being allowed to drive the car on the beach at seven years old Not much explaining to do with this one but I loved sitting on my Dad’s lap and driving down the beach (well, I was actually just steering, but to a seven year old, that’s actually driving). Now there was the incident when we intercepted by a panda car, but that’s another story. Think we’d get away with doing this today?

8. Owning a Global Hypercolour T-Shirt At one time in my distant childhood, these t-shirts were the most coveted item of clothing ever…period. For those of you who have no idea what I’m taking about, a Global Hypercolour T-shirt was one which changed cloud in heat. That’s right, the sweater you got, the more vibrant the colour…no wonder you don’t see them on the shelves today!

Right, leaving the writing for a couple of hours as I now have a school quid night to attend…the fun just never stops!

Ok, so back from the quiz, our team was third out of ten so not too bad! Moving on from nostalgic memories to nostalgic aromas. Lots of people tell me that cinnamon evokes childhood memories of baking and being in the kitchen with family, so I thought I’d end the evening with a vanilla and cinnamon coffee…and for you lucky people, I’ll note down the recipe as I go.

You will need:

2 and a half mugs of Whole Milk (just use the mugs you’ll be drinking from)

160g Whole Organic Coffee Beans, lightly cracked (but this will vary on how string you like your coffee, so try it and make a mental note for next time)

1 1/2 stick(s) (3 inches long) Cinnamon Sticks

1 vanilla pod

60 mls Honey

A blender

A saucepan

The finished article...complete with a sprinkling of cinnamon

The finished article…complete with a sprinkling of cinnamon

What to do:

Place the milk, split vanilla pod and crushed coffee beans (I put them in a blender and pulsed around twenty times) in a saucepan.

Heat the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat until it starts to simmer.

Immediately remove from the heat and leave to rest for 15 minutes (or 5 if you’re as impatient as me) Strain the coffee mixture and transfer to a blender. The crushed coffee beans and vanilla pod can be filed under ‘b’ for bin.

Add the cinnamon sticks, and honey to the milk and blend on high speed until the spices are ground, about 30 seconds.

Strain the liquid back into the saucepan and throw away the ground spices.

Rewarm the spiced coffee over medium-high heat until the liquid is hot and steaming. Pour into mugs, and serve hot (I have found that pouring in a splash of rum for medicinal purposes, of course, is a nice addition)

So there you have it…they say that the smell of coffee helps to sell a house, the smell of THIS coffee may get you an offer over the asking price!

Over and out x

Cardiff, Cobbles and Calonnau

Well, what a lovely weekend it’s been…for various reasons, my birthday celebrations were brought forward by a week this year and what with a distinct lack of child free nights out since the birth of PSB (perfect second born) it was decided that a night in the Welsh capital was in order. Cue the frantic making of child care arrangements, the digging out of long forgotten “night out” clothes and shoes and the abandonment of all the usual responsibilities…for Cardiff beckoned.

For me, getting ready to go out has always been almost as pleasurable as the night out itself. I get lost in the make-up, the hair products, the heated rollers and the false eyelashes; it’s a total escape from normality, although I’m slightly out of practice, as I am with walking in sky-scraping heels on cobble stones as I found out to my detriment on Saturday night (the decision to install cobble stones within a 100 metre radius of any venue frequented by women in the evening  must have been made by a man, as any woman would have realised the potential for an expensive pair of high heels to be irreparably damaged by the offending choice of paving). I have to say, it was an extremely pleasurable evening away even if it was only a 24 hour break away from the children. To conclude…great food, great champagne and a late check-out allowed for the watching of the Australian Open final!

Speaking of “check-outs”, this brings me to my rant of the week…5* hotels (as classified by various hotel booking websites). Well , more specifically, a rant about a certain 5* hotel which shall remain nameless…but I will say that its located in the capital, in the area of the city where there’s quite a bit of water and is near the home of the Welsh Assembly. I was “fortunate” enough to stay at this hotel-which-shall-remain-nameless recently. Yes, it was a traditionally busy time, but that doesn’t make up for a number of misgivings. This is in complete contrast to my experience at The Hilton over this past weekend. So if any of you are torn over the decision with regards to which 5* Cardiff hotel to stay at, here’s a rundown of my experience:

  Hotel   which shall remain nameless but regularly frequented by Assembly Members The   Hilton Cardiff
Car Parking Left to our own devices, had to trudge from car park via muddy pathway to hotel. Parked outside, greeted by Concierge who helped with luggage and   parked the car.
Greeting A greeting of sorts by a less than helpful member of staff who   informed us on our request to dine at the hotel restaurant that evening, that   is was full…really?! Surely, you would expect a hotel of this calibre to be   factoring in hotel guests to their restaurant reservations…or is it just   me! Greeted by the Hilton “Employee of the Year” who just couldn’t do   enough to help. I happened to mention to her that we were celebrating my   birthday and within 2 minutes of arriving in our room, a plate of chocolates   emblazoned with a chocolate-piped “Happy Birthday” was delivered.
Food and Drinks No food…no room at the inn! The bar area was very nice though and we   did return at the end of the evening for a bottle of champagne rather than   face Cardiff’s madding, and increasingly rowdy, crowds. BUT, breakfast was an   altogether more chaotic affair with having to queue for a table and queue for   the buffet only to face rather a bland breakfast. Also had a nice bar area (but the same bottle of champagne came in at   around ten pounds cheaper!) Enough said…

So there we go, I hope it’s pretty obvious which hotel wins my vote…the AM’s can keep their alleged modernist opulence. (Having re-read this rant, I fear that I may come across as some kind of 5* hotel connoisseur …please be safe in the knowledge that I’m really not, it’s just that we’ve had a couple of “big” birthdays to celebrate recently: some “bigger” than others!)

Now, I would imagine that some of you lovely readers may be booking into hotels of your choosing within the next few weeks, what with V-Day approaching. Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is inescapable. I can’t say that I’m a big fan and with the Welsh equivalent, Diwrnod Santes Dwynwen, being celebrated not long before it on the 25th January, by the time it actually comes around, I’ve hit V-Day overload. Whilst I appreciate that some people may well like the plastic roses, heart confetti filled snow-globes and the other general tat that is farmed out at this time of year, I’ve been on a mission…oops, you’ll have to excuse me whilst I clear up a generous amount of apple juice that has been spilled on my freshly washed cream carpet by PFB. How two small children can create such devastation is beyond me, anyway, I digress…as I was saying, I’ve been on a mission to find some gorgeousness amongst the tat and the best thing about it, is that they’re all from Welsh companies. So here they are for your viewing pleasure (disclaimer: I possess no guilt whatsoever for featuring products from my own business, after all, if I didn’t think they were utterly lovely, I wouldn’t make them…enjoy)

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1. Kate Hamilton Hunter Vintage Heart Rose Necklace, £28.50, available at http://www.medi-gifts.com

2. Vintage Love Bird Wedding Cake, price on request, http://www.littleblackhen.com

3. Caru Ti love you soap, £4.50, available at http://www.adrahome.com

4. Modern Welsh Love Spoon, £9.95 each or £17.95 a pair, available at http://www.adrahome.com

5. Small Welsh Love Heart, £8.50, available at http://www.medi-gifts.com

6. Gingham Fabric Roses, £10.00, available at http://www.calonogi.co.uk

7. Clay Love Token Magnets, £6.50, available at http://www.calonogi.co.uk

8. Love Heart Cushions, £25.00, available at www.calonogi.co.uk

9. “Cariad” Silver Pendant, £45.00, available at www.adrahome.com

I have to finish with a quick shout out to the absolutely amazing initiative that is Little Angels Cakes. I can’t sum it up better than they have themselves on their facebook  page, so here you go…

“Little Angels Cakes is no ordinary cake page, we are suppliers of free beautiful cakes using cake makers across the UK to make cakes for children with life threatening conditions and their siblings.”

So take a look at the amazing work that this not-for-profit organisation does by following this link www.facebook.com/LittleAngelsCakes (and I’m sure they’d appreciate a few more “likes” on their page!) Well done ladies x

So there we go, that’s quite enough from me on this rainy, windy Monday evening.

Over and out…

Sink or Swim?

So I’ve made it past the first post…here’s the second instalment for your reading pleasure.

Now, for the last eighteen months, PFB (Perfect First Born) has been partaking in swimming lessons. He seems to have progressed remarkably quickly given his mother’s aquatic ineptitude. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t drown, but we’re definitely not talking Olympic medals. There are many qualities and skills that PFB possesses that I take direct credit for: his unyielding negotiating skills, his unwavering ability to get out of doing anything he doesn’t want to do and his expensive tastes are obviously directly derived from the maternal side of the gene pool, but as I watched PFB swimming in lanes to get his 200 metre badge, my first thought was “He definitely doesn’t get that from me!”

So obviously, when it comes to PSB (Perfect Second Born), I want to make sure that he also gets the same opportunity to develop his swimming ability. Cue lots of googling to find the warmest swimming pool in a 50 mile radius of the house (yes, I really would be willing to drive that far to find a pool at a comparable temperature to my bath water).  We’ve now been twice, today being the second time and I’m pleased to report that it was altogether a far more pleasant experience than the toddler-fighting, forced nursery-rhyme-singing, sweat inducing visit that was last week. It was difficult. PSB just didn’t get why he had to wear a special swimming nappy emblazoned with Winnie the Pooh rather than his usual Sesame Street characters: he must really dislike Winnie the Pooh. He also took an instant dislike to the floral swim shorts, spending the majority of our time in the water trying to remove them. I then walked the perimeter of the pool at least ten times singing his favourite nursery rhymes to try and calm him down, singing louder and louder to drown out his vocal protestations before I finally gave in (not least to avoid the disapproving glances from the other parents, but then that could have been a reaction to my repeated singing of “Mi welais Jac y Do”). But on a more positive note, not once did PSB try to remove his swim nappy today (I chose a Finding Nemo design, so that could’ve been why).

In my first instalment, I excitedly told you about the arrival of my new crafting supplies, photoCAH3H690so I thought it only right that I show you the spoils of my purchases. This was a bit of a leap into the unknown as my crafting has been limited to the realms of fabric up until this point, so polymer clay was slightly scary in an exciting kind of way. I was actually surprised at how relaxing it turned out to be. It was a refreshing change to be working with something so tactile and silent…ah, the silence. No constant whirring and vibration of a sewing machine (which I’m sure was at least partly responsible for the demise of some of my tropical fish, their tank being situated in very close proximity to my workspace, but that’s another story which I may enlighten you with at some point).  So, here are the results, let me know what you think.

MoLavender Shortbreadving swiftly from crafting to cookery…some of you will be well aware that I’ve been putting a considerable amount of effort into perfecting my lavender shortbread. I’ve tried all manner of tweaks to my recipe but I think I’ve got as close to perfection as I’m ever going to get and I’ve also run out of willing taste testers to whom copious batches of shortbread have been dispatched (even the local school staff room has been in receipt of a jar or two!) On making the discovery that infusing caster sugar with the lavender flowers was the way to go, I now have to be extremely careful that PSB doesn’t take it upon himself to open the containers of infused sugar that I have in the cupboards: I just can’t deal with a repeat of the “pickle incident”, “pasta-sauce-disaster” or “long-grain-rice-gate” all of which required clean up on an industrial scale.

Now, some of you will know that I’ve spent the last few months on a mission of epic proportions.  This mission is not some glamorous MI6, James Bond style, international intelligence gathering operation, oh no, it’s quite simple really: I need to find out what is making me ill. “That’s hardly a mission” I hear you say, but believe me, it’s turned into a feat more difficult than a six year old trying to solve a rubiks cube without taking all the stickers off (we all did it…didn’t we?). Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details, but having had six months of Consultant appointments, some pretty scary discoveries and to this point, no firm way forward, I have to make light of the situation, otherwise I think I will just spontaneously combust out of frustration. So being somewhat of an expert on hospitals in this area and having seen a myriad of different Consultants, some amiable and patient, others downright rude, a friend suggested that I am now qualified enough to start professionally reviewing the hospitals of South Wales to kill the time that I actually spend sitting in them. I thought I’d begin with a short questionnaire:

Question 1: Do you feel it is appropriate to wear a shirt unbuttoned so low that your chest hair is visible?

Question 2: Do you think that wearing pink sparkly ballerina pumps with a bow on the front makes you look like you’re twelve years old? Do you feel this inspires confidence in your patients?

Question 3: Do you actually feel that your artistic skills are of a standard good enough to clearly illustrate the body parts in question and their current state? If yes, please use this blank sheet of paper to draw an anatomically correct representation of the organ/system in question (if you intend to draw a few blobs connected by some lines, intersected by some squiggles, please skip to the next question)

Don’t get me wrong, some of the doctors that I’ve seen have been quite simply great, but how much fun would this be? I could be commissioned to do a UK wide review of the NHS…I think I’ll go and pitch my proposition to a few Health Boards…

My “purchase of loveliness” this week has been courtesy of Radiance Lighting. I wanted some fairy lights to spruce up the kitchen, but wantedphotoCA1YHOFP something a bit different. During my search, I came up with a lot of the same type of thing and couldn’t find anything that would look “just right”. That was until I came across www.radiancelighting.co.uk. Their range of lighting suits me down to the ground and I was spoilt for choice in terms of fairy lights, although their complete range is the epitome of gorgeousness. I settled on these paper heart lights…not too “bling” but just enough “ooh”. They look great around the kitchen window and I’m already looking for other potential fairy light areas around the house as I have my eye on the Cabbage Rose lights. And, I LOVE the Peapod and Radish lights…perhaps I’ll get a set of these when I get my first paycheque from that NHS review…

photoCA4UX9V3

The first of many…hopefully!

So I’ve made the break into the up-until-now undiscovered world of blogging…well, for me it’s been ‘undiscovered’ in any case! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read plenty of them, I just haven’t made the leap into actually writing one. Before I started to write, I asked myself the question, what’s it going to be about? I spent quite a bit of time trying to settle on a theme but I just couldn’t narrow it down to even a vaguely interrelated subject matter. So here it is: Me and my life (with a couple of children and a business thrown into the mix just for fun).

It’s been quite an eventful week here at HQ as my PFB (perfect first born: as opposed to my PSB, perfect second born – well, you can’t discriminate!) turned six years old. Cue the frantic opening of gifts, preceded by the frantic buying of gifts, the cupcake making marathon – see below, the ‘special’ birthday tea and the birthday party…and what a birthday party it turned out to be with the original party cancelled by the venue at short notice due to snow and me having to arrange another party with two hours notice or face the wrath of a tantrum-ridden PFB! So it’s been a very busy, slightly manic week for me and a very enjoyable week for PFB.

The night before PFB’s birthday, I was on the sofa, watching pre-recorded episodes of Eastenders and just enjoying the peace when I thought to myself, “What was I doing on this evening six years ago?” The last child-free evening I would have for the rest of my life should have been a celebration, perhaps incorporating some kind of momentous turn of events. Was it a momentous celebration? No. Did I take stock of how significant an evening it actually was? No. I was actually dyeing my hair in preparation for my c-section the following morning. I was concentrating on one thing and one thing only…getting my hair looking good for the post-birth photos. How things have changed…

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Now those of you who know me know that I like a challenge and don’t do things by halves so I decided to embark upon an endurance event. Now this was no ordinary endurance event. It paled the Iron Man Triathlon into insignificance and put the Three Peaks Challenge in the shade. This was a feat of fortitude, persistence and stamina…now I must admit, there were times when I felt like giving up, abandoned of all hope, but I kept at it, the possibility that PFB could potentially have a total meltdown should I fail, in the forefront of my mind. PFB was depending on me…I had to get through it.

So I soldiered on, fighting my way through clouds of icing sugar, wrestling with the ridiculously tight plastic seals of brand new bottles of food colouring and tirelessly mixing cake dough (Ive asked for a new food mixer for my birthday). Did I win the battle against the slightly too hard butter and the slightly too soft icing? Oh yes! The result, well take a look for yourself. PFB was pleased with the result as were his school friends, big sigh of relief, but I’m still scrubbing the food colouring off my hands!

The finished article

The finished article

The strangest things get me excited and this week, nothing has me more palpitatingly animated than the prospect of the postman arriving…not with my car tax disc reminder in hand, but with the delivery of my new crafty supplies. One thing I’m starting to learn is that when you order things online, you often don’t comprehend (read as: ‘get totally carried away with’) the quantity and volume of the things that you order. The poor postman nearly had a coronary walking up the path laden with my lovely parcels and packets…your efforts are much appreciated Mr Postie. And what do I plan to make with this treasure trove you may ask? Well I’m branching out and delving into the world of polymer clay. That’s as much of an insight as I’m giving you (can’t give too much away for fear of it going horribly wrong!) so watch this space.

Fabric roses

Fabric roses

I will, however, give you a glimpse of something that I have been making that’s turned out particularly well; slightly boastie I know, but I am pleased with these gorgeous fabric roses. You don’t need to be proficient at sewing to make them, as long as you can thread a needle and do a running stitch (that’s the simple in and out way of stitching didn’t you know) then you’ll be fine. What some of you may have a problem with, and I’m only saying this because I had a mahoosive problem with it, is the folding process. Now if you have a mind that works logically, you WILL be ok, but for those of you who do not, like me, it may take you 25 attempts and you still may not be able to fold the fabric correctly without looking at the instructions. How mad did I drive myself with this before it just ‘clicked’ and I could do it whilst watching the TV at the same time? It’s things like this that make me wonder whether I am completely sound of mind!

I just couldn’t write my first blog entry without blowing the trumpet of Jennie Maizels, as this week, she’s got me out of a ‘hole’.  So who is this helpful lady you may wonder: A well meaning friend? A trusty family member? A kind hearted neighbour? Nope, none of the above (although I’m quite sure she’s all three to her own friends and family!) Not only has Jennie designed shop windows for Harvey Nicholls and fantastically illustrated children’s pop up books, she is the designer and creator of ‘Clothes Plasters.’ Her iron-on, embroidered clothes plasters are a simple, effective and absolutely gorgeous way of repairing or even just decorating children’s clothes (although I’m tempted by the ‘birds’ collection myself). So yes, this week Jennie has got me out of a ‘hole,’ and a rather sizeable PFB-knee-shaped hole at that! Take a look at the range on the website www.jenniemaizels.com.So that’s it from me for this week. Better get started on my next instalment…I could get used to this blogging malarkey!

Over and out…