Tuesday, 31 January 2012

sending some spring!

Such a gloriously sparkly and fresh morning today, making the little vase of daffodils on our breakfast table  more than a little incongruous with the freezing view outside.

They gave me such a happy feeling as I rushed the troops out of the door to various breakfast clubs and childcare drop offs: a little smile inside.

I sat around the same table in the interlude between work and school pick up, enjoying some rare and very precious crafting  time with friends over coffee. I was reminded that it is  the simple things that give us that happy feeling inside.

Later looking at my  calendar (a  gorgeous free gift with the most lovely Mollie Makes Magazine) ready to turn the page to a new month, I  realised  afresh the truth of the  quote:

"There are people who have money
 and people who are rich".

Monday, 30 January 2012

Le Haut Bourg

Fantastic offer coming up!

We finally braved taking the tribe abroad last summer; a run of August births, house moves and lack of funds have meant we have been slow in giving them such an opportunity.  After hours of passport form filling,   nearly  fainting at the shock of the cost for eight little red  booklets  and clutching our EHIC cards,  we were ready for big adventures overseas.  The man of the house took the adventure very seriously and made several trips to the local garage to stock up on european car equipment.  We still have the eight unworn high vis waistcoats.

Almost impossible to have a photo with all of them smiling!

As ever we were tied to the school holidays  and as we did not want to spend too long in the car, Normandy seemed a good option.  A quick search of the internet and we found a place large enough to fit us all in, just under an hour from the ferry and with space the week we needed it.  Amazingly it was a very reasonable price, there was  no pool  but I wanted to relax and knew that would be impossible if there was any chance of our little  adventurer drowning.  It was also incredibly good value, costing far less than the very tatty, right on the main road "cottage" we had rented in the Isle of Wight  the year previously.

Ferries booked we set the alarm clock, downloaded the european sat nav update and printed our tickets.  Obviously it was the first morning in a decade for any of  the children to sleep  later than dawn  . Panicking we  woke with half an hour to get up and all eight of us to Portsmouth.  Amazingly we made  it. The ferry was an event in itself, they had certainly squeezed as many cars as they could onto the boat and putting a child in a car seat with no space to open the door  was no mean feat.

Once we had adjusted to driving on the other side and scarily realised they do a different roundabout give way system in France  we drove the hour to our new home  for the week. Because of the value of the holiday my expectations were not high but anything must be better than the usual canvas walls we enjoy on vacation.  My expectations were surpassed: The house was beautiful, clean, neat and perfect for much needed family space.  The surrounding countryside were full of calm and peaceful inspiration.  There was  wonderful gate with a lock  meaning we could totally relax while the children enjoyed exploring and running free in the gardens.

They couldn't escape!
It was an easy five minute drive to the nearest market town where we quickly discovered the local Aldi, a fantastic find as we were able to stock up on frugal french food to fuel our travels around the local area.  We enjoyed a week of exploring many new places including the beautiful fishing villages and coastal towns.  Such wonderful places of creative inspiration, especially the old picturesque port of Hornfleur.


Evenings were spent in front of the wood burner, although it was too warm to actually need to use it, playing games, drinking the delicious local cider   and creating lasting precious family memories. It was a home from home, well equipped, large and comfortable, a very easy place to relax and enjoy being a family in.  We have already booked to return later this year.  

Freedom to run and safely explore in this spacious place

If you would like to use  this fantastic French house to give your family a fun time away together, mention this blog and get a 10% reduction from the already good rental price. The owner can be contacted here, I am happy to share any of the places we found to explore nearby.

Bargain - book it now!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

A guinea pig gospel..

I received  a text message that has kept me smiling throughout the week, it was from the mother of one of small boys  best buddies:

Thought it would amuse you to know that C said very loudly in church this morning that  "God made a burping boy called Freddie!"

We laughed and laughed because we could very much relate to the situation; it is  always at the most devout and critical part of the service that one of the small people  feel the need to announce their thoughts and it is never done quietly. 

We are in church on Good Friday last year when little  man calls out to Mr oldpolicehouse
"Jesus is like Tales"  
in a very loud three year old boy kind of way.  "A little bit,"  Daddy replied trying to distract him in the way you do when in church.  He was however insistent and for the sake of peace, and to allow others to receive communion without a commentary we simply agreed. But as we thought about it and discussed it later we realised in his child like way he was trying to understand something important and work out the mystery of the gospel.

Middle miss is very caring and loves looking after animals and has asked for guinea pigs for a while, having had several unfortunate incidents involving Coco the dog and small animals in the past we did our best to discourage her but finally gave in.  We trooped off to the pet shop and chose the cutest guinea pigs, checked they were both boys (to the amusement of all as you can imagine)  and duly bought them home.  Oldest boy sarcastically informed us they would not last long but we spoke to the children about taking care of Ginny and Tales  and even took the precaution of putting the hutch  in the garage.

Happy, apart from the final moment!

All was well and we were very proud of the way they were taking the responsibility so maturely.
The next day arrived and we were distracted in preparing for a mini university reunion and did not notice that afore mentioned three year old had left both the garage and the hutch door wide open.  The temptation proved too much for our spaniel and terrier cross mongrel, her hunting instinct took over and little Tales was no more.  A distraught daughter was distracted by a busy day full of people, a devoted Dad drove to several pet stores to find a new companion for the surviving pet.  The surprise backfired a little when distraught daughter was completely traumatised upon opening the hutch after our arrival home.

It was a very similar replacement.  

The children all thought Tales had come back to life and were in turns puzzled, disturbed and perturbed by it,  much reassurance including an opening of the final resting place  was needed  before they were all at peace.  We thought the matter was closed.  Little man had obviously been working it out, thinking it through and in his little boy way had listened to the Good Friday gospel  message and connected the two. He had begun to understand the simple message of the cross:

 Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.  

As it is written in the bible:

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Luke 18 v 17

Our littlest man was childlike in his understanding, accepting of the gospel truth and trying to work it out in his own little life.  We are told to be childlike, certainly not childish  as we approach this great mystery of the gospel.  Childlike faith trusts, it is not contained by adult reasoning,  childlike faith listens to what is said, and believes it.   Wherever we are on our journey of faith  we must always remember this instruction from our Saviour and daily try to live in the truth of it.

A helpful explanation of the gospel can be found here.

From theological thoughts to immediate reality, burping child has just informed me  of his latest most brilliantly boyish ability, of course it involves bodily air!

Take a quiet moment to think  in a childlike way today. 

Saturday, 28 January 2012

chicken keeping

We are about to venture into the world of chicken keeping,  an empty chicken house has lived at the bottom of  the garden for a while but I been a little daunted at filling it.  We have had some experience, my school keeps them  and  we have chicken sat for our neighbours with huge success, middle girl was notably good at taking responsibility and was far better at catching the cheeky chickens than I was.

I have spent a long time researching, read several chicken magazines,  (much more interesting than they sound), visited  and interrogated  several friends with chooks.  My main concern is Coco, our lovable hound who  has an unfortunate history of annihilating smaller pets.  She has eventually formed a love hate relationship with the cat and they live alongside each other in mutual disdain, four previous guinea pigs did not fare as well.  Admittedly it was not all her fault; the first one met a sad fate after a small child  did not close the hutch door and the friendly greeting from Coco was too much for Ginger.  Her companion met a different end when she died of shock a few days following this incident.

A few years past and the next pair of children wanted a small pet, we relented and laid very firm guidelines for the care of them.  Sadly after a friends visit and cuddle with the baby pig the lid of the run was somehow not put on securely and excitedly our stupid mutt jumped onto the run resulting in a severe squashing of two very small and new pets.  We felt terrible but as we spoke to friends we were comforted by their tales of unfortunate happenings to guinea pigs.  Suffocation was not an ending we have experienced thankfully.

Roll on another year or two and small girl wanted chickens for her birthday, we placated her with guinea pigs.  Oldest boy was correct in his dry prediction they wouldn't last the week.  The trauma of the carrier bag in the wheelie bin burial was getting a bit too familiar but we couldn't leave a single guinea pig so hero Dad had to troop to the pet shop for yet another one.  This latest pair have nearly survived a year so please no reports to animal cruelty. 

Chickens would be a lot more messy to clean up  after a massacre, and it would not be fair to either pets to enter into this without much thought.  The plan is to build a secure run at the bottom of the garden but like so many things it is very low down the list of priorities; clean washing and food to eat are more immediate concerns.    However half term is approaching which means more time to complete these odd jobs.  The plan is to build a run and make our chicken house into a (very secure) chicken home.

Any tips or chicken advice would be very gratefully received. 

Friday, 27 January 2012

Eyes down the sink ?

Friday night,  a  hectic finale to an almost overwhelmingly  busy week.  Resisting the urge  for a glass from a tempting bottle chilling in the garage because I  have  the dreaded Slimming World weigh in to  start my Saturday. Not looking forward to it as ate  far too many school dinner chips in the staffroom  earlier.    Parenting abilities are  at a pretty dismal low;  had to  retrieve night wear for the boys from the laundry basket,  run to the corner shop for milk to bribe the babe into her cot and   tea was pizza in front of (various) screens, with no vegetables in evidence.

Patience with a small boy   is rapidly running out especially as the Mister does a quick escape with  his  pizza and a poker set.  "Over tired" is a meaningless word before you parent a small  child,  only  as the hours  tick  past bedtime  and said child has not fallen asleep, do you truly understand the horrendous reality  of this innocent sounding phrase.

Even sheep sleep!

Ignoring seemed to be the safest option for all concerned, that is until a strange swishing noise was heard accompanied by an unusual banging and scrapping.   Parenting over time has developed a sense of impending calamity and I am much more adept at diverting disaster.  Locating the strange sound to the downstairs toilet I met my smallest son.

He  calmly informed me "My eye is down the sink".

Having spent so much time patching his sisters wonky eye for a moment I saw us moving into orthoptic outpatients.  However as I took a moment to look around  I suddenly realised the source of all our recent blocked sinks and poorly draining plugs.  Of course it was smallest boy! Middle boys christmas googly glasses were dismantled and pieces strewn around the floor.

The reason for this particular almost overflowing  sink  was obvious.  Grabbing the best thing I have found for such a crisis (a chopstick) I expertly created that glorious gurgle of a drained sink.  The eye has gone forever as have no doubt several other items from around the house in recent times.  Quickly  little man was marched off to bed before he creates another catastrophe.

The happy result of this episode was a positive change of mood from slack and slovenly to   disaster diverting  mum, a far happier  end to the week!

What mishaps have small people created in your house?  We have had plenty but at least one was avoided tonight.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

resolved to sew 2012

Inspired to think about my sewing aims for this year by this  giveaway and wanting very much for this to be the year I actually use all of these yummy and truly scrummy pieces of fabric.

I am resolving to actually do some sewing rather than  spending my time thinking, planning  and  looking adoringly at the gorgeous patterns.

* First project is to make this gorgeous dress,  hopefully in time to be a birthday dress for my babe.

In the famous words of the nike advert, my sewing resolution of 2012 is simply this

Just Do It!

Do you have any crafty resolutions?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A Titanic Event!

To celebrate her entrance into teenage years, our creative and organised girl wanted to do something special.  Combining a love for socialising, shopping for a 'new' vintage outfit and enjoyment of recent history dramas, she decided to organise a special dinner party.  The theme was the Titanic, focussing more on the glamour than the sinking!  Having a history teacher dad is always a help in these events as he provided some necessary artefacts.  The girls were not as enamoured by the original footage of the film as he hoped!

We spent the entire Saturday moving furniture around so we could have the table extended  and had lots of fun decorating the room.  The table looked lovely, really special and glamorous.

Bribing the other children with a dvd and treats upstairs, we got ready to welcome these beautiful ladies.  They had all made an amazing effort to dress up and they looked gorgeous.  The man of the house donned his dinner jacket and did his best impression of Mr Carson (the Downton Butler), "A drink My Lady?"  was his phrase of the night.

Of course I had more of a Mrs Patmore (the Downton Cook) role  and was busy in the kitchen trying to feed all eleven of them.  

The food was a huge success; a bargain find of some reduced 'Taste the Difference' meals in the supermarket made everything so much easier and cheaper.  A  lovely friend gave me the idea of cutting out puff pastry  and putting it on the top (my original idea was to cook a stew)  to look like a pie, I did this anyway and the girls loved the little puff pastry star shapes on the plate.

They really enjoyed the "cocktails"  we served when they arrived, the favourite was called sunset and consisted of ice, cranberry juice and orange juice  poured into a glass.  The juices separate to form a sunset effect.  To make the drink even more special we dipped the rim of the glass in squeezed lemon juice and then sugar which then sticks to the rim of the glass  and added fruit and a gold umbrella.

After a few hours giggling, chatting and eating the guests sat down to watch some of the film.  Scary to think I went to see it whilst expecting my now teenager!  Thankfully they only had time to watch the start of the film so we didn't have to send them all home sobbing.

Now we have moved the table meaning it can actually extend we are hoping to have some fun dinner parties of our own.   Meaning I am now on the lookout for easy, cheap but very impressive menus,   

has anyone got a favourite to share?

Monday, 23 January 2012

Twenty three months

This little babe is changing so quickly at the moment  and is rapidly becoming the bossiest member of the household. She is excellent at repeating words and phrases which gives much  entertainment to her older brothers!  Say "something naughty and a bit silly  Ruby", results in much laughter.  "I've got lice" made us laugh all through tea time last week, our youngest loves this attention  and is very adept at repeating for another laugh.  

Not really in the mood for a photo today!

Her chatter, laughter and determination to keep up with her  siblings mean the chapter is closing on her babyness.  It is a little sad to say goodbye to having a small one in the house but the fun we all know in sharing the day with such a happy and busy little girl and the joy she brings to our family is more than enough compensation.  Having experienced the twos five times already we should be experts but we have blissful memory loss!  

Stop trying to charm Daddy into giving you a dummy, especially since you took your eye patch off!

Happy last month of  months  little lady!  

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Veggie Growing

If we want to see more of this later in the year,

we need to get busy in the vegetable patch now!

We had good success with beans and potatoes last year.  The raspberry bushes responded excellently to neglect!

What are you planning on growing this year?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


We now have two teenagers in our house and scarily have realised we will continue to have a house full of teens for another eighteen years!   I wanted to give our oldest girl a special present, one that she will treasure and keep  forever as a memory of this special milestone and a reminder of our love for her. 

I met a lovely lady at a craft fair who makes and sells gorgeous silver jewellery,  the story behind her new business is as beautiful  as the items she creates.  "Gracenote  Silver"  is the name and Rosie explained to me that a grace note in music is  special; an extra to the main piece, put in to beautify and make the piece more enjoyable.  What a precious way to think of this gorgeous jewellery, adding an extra something to the owner. This talented artist offers to inscribe her work with a verse or text to really personalise  the gift.  (contact her at   rosie@gracenotesilver.co.uk - she welcomes commissions!)

The simple yet beautiful heart necklace with a pearl hanging was the perfect choice for our newest teen because her name means "pearl: of priceless worth, and precious".  I remember  unexpectedly reading this quite early on in my pregnancy with her, when I was still coming to terms with having a new baby whilst I still had a small baby, and it was a defining moment.  I needed the gentle reminder that  this baby was precious and of priceless worth, to be welcomed into the world as such.

You have been such a blessing to our family  and we are so glad you came to join us thirteen years ago, even if you were fifteen days late!  

In this throwaway society what special gifts have you kept and why?

Monday, 16 January 2012

Snug in a new Shrug

Free Pattern available from here and a huge thank you to my lovely mother who rescued my knitting and finished it for me.  The shrug knits up quite big (this is size 18 -24 months) and the arms are a little long but it was perfect for the winter sunshine we are enjoying today.

       A biscuit bribe is always a help!

Friday, 13 January 2012

More than a coffee

I met a friend for coffee this week, and she made it using an espresso maker like the one above,  it was such a lovely cup I felt inspired to hunt out ours.  We were given  one,  for a wedding present many years ago, in the era  before coffee had such a revival, a time when coffee machine were rarely found in kitchens and  Starbucks wasn't on every corner.   We used it for a while but like most kitchen gadgets it ended up at the top of the kitchen cupboards.    This morning after a thorough clean  it was ready to be put back in use and a quiet moment after the school drop off was the perfect time.  

It was worth all the effort and mixed in with the coffee were the memories; the friend who gave us the gift   which had been bought in Italy during the hot August  before our wedding, the other friends who gave us some pretty espresso cups (sadly not child proof)  and my new friend who inspired me to use the maker again.

After a much needed caffeine boost and equally needed time to plan my day, I took steps to live up to the mug given to me at Christmas.  Filled my flask ready for a  delicious coffee at work, and actually used my most favourite kitchen gadget of all time.  The mixer has totally lived up to all expectations. 

My morning caffeine gave me time to remember, reflect, organise and very much appreciate all I have, definitely worth all the effort involved.  Not bad for a cup of coffee!

What do you have hiding in your cupboards that would brighten your day?   

Get them out and enjoy using them again!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The easiest & most useful baby gift ever

It is strange the items that become a daily part of your life when you become a parent of a small child, the things you always keep near you in case of a mini crisis in the day.  Muslins have been a daily part of our life for many years now.  The most useful baby gift I was ever given was the  one on the right in the photo, hanging next to the rather splendid Cath Kidston peg bag, which brightens my day every time I use it.  It was given to me for child number five  and since then I have added to my collection and made several for other new babies.  I really love taking everyday things and making them colourful and cheery to look at, brightening the day when in use. 

Early motherhood is a time when muslins really come into their own: Always very useful to have one around to wipe the tears (not just babies!) away, cover up the flab, protect a sheet, drape around when feeding, mop up various leaks, the list is endless.  As small babes grow they often attach themselves to a "mussy", "faffy", "icky" or whatever it becomes affectionately known as in your family, it is a great way to offer comfort when needed.  Personalised muslins also mean you can  always identify yours, very useful at a toddler group.

What better than to be able to give someone a gift made with love which will be  well used and offer comfort in moments of sadness?  

Here's how to make the easiest  and most useful homemade baby gift  ever!

This mini tutorial is to show you how to sew a ribbon around,  it is aimed at complete beginners.  More competent sewers I hope will have been inspired to make their own.
Examples are: sewing ribbon around the edge, sewing ric-rac around the edge, blanket stitch around the edge, machine stitch using a fancy stitch around the edge, sewing something onto the muslin, the choice is endless!  Although remember it is meant to be for a baby so sew things on tightly.

You will need - Baby Muslins (supermarket packs are good value), ribbon (I used 2 metres but this will vary according to the size of your muslin), pins, iron 

1. Iron the muslin & pin the ribbon to it

 * make sure you cut the ribbon at a slant to stop it fraying & fold it about 2 cm underneath

* pin all the way round, taking care at the corners to fold the ribbon neatly

Fold the ribbon and pin

another example of a corner

* leave about 2 cm at the end & fold it back under itself 

Cut the ribbon on a slant to avoid fraying

This can be a bit fiddly

An example using ric rac

2. Sew all the way around using either matching or contrasting thread as suits your design

* It is easier on a machine although not essential

* I usually start in the middle of a side as I find it easier

* Finish by going back over the stitches  a little bit for security

Stand back and admire your lovely muslin  and find a gorgeous baby to use it!

I would love to see your finished creation please do share if you make one.