“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…

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…