Birthday time again

The last of our three Christmas-time birthdays was today. My little Babykins isn’t really a baby any more, he was two today. Last year we rushed off to the in-laws on his birthday and I didn’t seem to have any time for reflection. This year, spending the day in our own home has given me time to remember the events around his (home)birth. I wrote his birth story quite a while ago and I’m so glad I did. It seems really precious now, to have those memories documented. I wish I’d written my other two birth stories down as quickly.IMG_4086Today was lovely. A two year old is so different to a three year old. I expect that next year he will be up at the crack of dawn, desperate to open gifts. Today wasn’t like that, it was relatively slow and gentle to start with. We waited until his Grandma and Great Aunt arrived from Penrith to open gifts. He has been so cute this year – really taking an interest in each present, wanting to play with it before opening the next one, much to the frustration of his older sister.IMG_1275He is now the proud  owner of a mega-blocks crane and construction site, lots of lovely new books and clothes and a big cement mixer wagon. The rest of the family joined us for tea and birthday cake later in the afternoon.IMG_5866There has been a bit of a pig theme going on lately, all due to his recent obsession with the film ‘Babe’. He was supposed to get his special pig shirt for his birthday but my Mum couldn’t resist giving him it on Christmas day. Here he is raising his glass of ‘special wine’ (sparkling grape juice – he’d drink the real thing given half a chance).IMG_1217Mum was so desperate to give him a birthday present today that she was up at the crack of dawn sewing him another shirt – one with tractors on. The boys have quite a collection of these shirts now and we love them all.

After tea the party really got started. New iPods, disco balls and flashing headwear were brought out and The Middle Miss gave us a ‘show dance’ (we’re big Strictly Come Dancing fans in this house) and Son Number One did his best ‘Gangnam Style’ routine. I wish my camera was better at capturing it but the light conditions weren’t the best.IMG_1339The festivities are almost over for the year. Just the New Year celebrations to go and then we’ll be back to ‘normality’. I’m not sure that I am looking forward to that.

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Winter blues and the return of the Mojo

The start of December was mostly about being ill. First it was me. I think I had tonsillitis, an experience I am happy never to repeat. Then both the older children had what added up to a week off school between them, one with a vomiting bug and the other with the same symptoms as me. To finish it off, I got the vomiting bug, spent 32 hours in a darkened room and then passed it on to The Husband, who, as usual was barely been ill and refused to take any time off work. In this house, it’s the woman who gets the ‘man flu’.

All this illness definitely left me feeling grumpy and fed up. I could quite happily have given motherhood a miss for a few weeks. I was not feeling the joy at all. It’s horrible when you feel like that. I usually have a kind of certainty in the back of my mind that it won’t last forever. I know that it’s usually just the circumstances but still, it can make you worry. When motherhood is your day job and you feel like quitting, home is probably not the happiest place to be.

Fortunately, In the last week or two I seem to have got my mojo back. This also coincided with a pretty drastic haircut.IMG_5744I feel like a new woman. It’s had such an effect on me I’ve even been wearing lipstick!

I’ve got loads of stuff I want to post, mainly because I feel like this is a little family archive now. So, here it is. December’s fun and games in photos…

Generally I like this time of year. I’m happy to see the decorations go up…IMG_5614

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IMG_1040Turning on the lights is always a special moment. So far our cheap lights from Woolworths haven’t let us down. They must be 10 years old.

IMG_1048Every year there are a few new decorations on the tree. These were made by Son Number One and The Middle Miss. The robin and snowman were from kits and the glittery bauble was from school.

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I haven’t really got into Christmas baking mode yet. We still don’t have a Christmas cake though I have made quite a few of my favourite, easy crushed pineapple cakes, which are similar. Unfortunately we have either eaten them or given them as gifts. The Husband baked some fun, Christmas tree cakes for the children to take to the school cake sale and I have finally baked some mince pies but that is it. I think the lack of baking coincided with my lack of mojo.IMG_5621

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That’s not to say that the oven hasn’t been on. On the contrary, at one point it seemed it was hardly off! The children and I got stuck into making salt dough ornaments…IMG_5678
IMG_5725Now, this all sounds very lovely and crafty but I assure you it was more out of desperation that our playdough had all dried up than anything else. Salt dough is quick, cheap and easy to make, really, honest. You can find the recipe I used here, though I also like the look of this one if you fancy something more akin to playdough. I had quite a lot of salt dough left over so I decided to take it to the Bumps and Babies group that I run and see if any of the mums wanted to made a handprint with their baby. All the babies in this group are experiencing their first Christmas and I had this idea in mind….IMG_5782I think it turned out quite well, though I am slightly concerned that the dough was a bit wet and might never be completely dried out. My second batch was much better. I think, like pastry, if you can use the minimum amount of liquid to bind the ingredients together you will get the best result. You really need to get your hands into the dough early on so that you can judge this. The good thing about salt dough is that you can’t really overwork it, unlike pastry.

I had some fun making some (slightly modified) jolly holly and turning it into a decoration for my hat. I didn’t stiffen it though so it looks considerably more droopy now. The berries are made from little bells and I can hear them jangling every step I take. I don’t think anyone else can.

IMG_5653My Christmas gift shopping is complete now. I have made a bit more of an effort to shop outside the big supermarket chains and online retailers. I haven’t managed it completely but it’s had it’s up side. I managed to get an afternoon out to visit our local Christmas market one day when I was feeling pretty blue. It was very cold but the time out cheered me up.IMG_5637Father Christmas will be bringing some gifts from this stall though I don’t think they are in this picture.IMG_5776I was also lucky enough to have a day out last weekend with my Mum at the Bowes Museum Christmas Market. It was a great trip. There was out of town parking with a free park and ride on specially decorated vintage buses. There were all sorts of craft and food stalls. I actually parted with most of my cash in the museum shop and in Barnard Castle itself. The stalls were lovely but I don’t tend to buy much at crafty places because I know so many people within the family who knit and sew. I was taken with a stall selling rows of hooks made from upcycled old cutlery and I nearly parted with £80 (way more than I would normally even consider) for a set of framed Thomas the Tank Engine postcards. The park and ride buses stopped in Barnard Castle on the way back and I was very pleased to get the opportunity to shop. We drive through this town every time we visit the in-laws and I always want to get out and explore but we never have time. There are some lovely shops, it’s well worth a visit, especially if you like antiques and vintage.

This week has been mostly about the end of term; school parties and nativity shows and even a performance on the electric guitar by Son Number One. Of course, the end of term means something else I always look forward to….My BIRTHDAY. I’ve had a lovely day today sharing my mince pies with my friends, unwrapping presents and eating a big, home-cooked (by my Mum) chinese style meal with my family. Poor Mum, she wasn’t feeling very well today but she still gave me a party. What a star. Here is my collection of presents.IMG_5814Didn’t I do well?

If you have been celebrating the solstice today I hope you have been having a happy time. Anyway, at least the world didn’t end.

Baking For A Birthday

The Middle Miss had a birthday this week. She helped me make her birthday cake. She is very good at this kind of thing as she has been well trained by both her Dad and Grandma. It was a treat for me to have her on her own, for a change, while Grandma had the boys. She was so excited by the whole process, but the best bit was adding food colouring to make pink swirls in the mixture.

This was the cake we were aiming for. It’s from a book by the very talented Debbie Brown called Enchanting Magical Cakes. I haven’t made many cakes from this book but I’ve drooled over it for a very long time. The attention to detail in the cakes is what makes them so attractive. That and the liberal use of edible glitter.

Baking the three cakes that this design required took ten eggs and the best part of the morning. In the afternoon Grandma and I did a child swap. I loaned her The Middle Miss and she returned Son Number One. He took over the baking duties. We decided to make the name of each child that was coming to the party. While he rolled and cut and counted letters, I worked on the cake.

It turned out to be a long day. Things weren’t helped by Babykins refusing to go to bed. He eventually fell asleep on The Husband’s knee at about 10pm. At that point the supper pots were still lying around, the cake was very much ‘in progress’ and I hadn’t wrapped the birthday present. In fact, it was still hiding in the loft. I finally turned the light out at about quarter to one in the morning. I think it was worth it, even though I had to retire to a darkened room for a lie down after the actual party!

Give us a twirl then

If you’ve read the posts at the start of this blog you will know that one of the first projects I aired here was a twirly-wirly scarf. It was started quite some time ago and forgotten until I stumbled across Attic 24 and was inspired to take up my crochet hook again. I had seen some yarn in Boyes that I really liked the colour of but wasn’t sure if I should go ahead and buy it. Was I being too indulgent? If I bought it would I turn it into a scarf in time to give it as a Christmas present? Crikey, you would think I was spending a million pounds, not five.

Thanks to some encouragement from Pam at hippy hat – take it from here (her blog) I decided to take the plunge.

Here is the start. I just HATE doing the first row after making the chains. It’s really tricky and although I love this yarn, the mixture of colours in it made it a bit tricky to find the right spot to put the hook into.

It’s worth persevering though because it soon starts to do it’s twirly, wirly thing.

Mmmmmm, love those colours.

Well, after sneaking in a bit of hooking here and there I did manage to finish it in time for Christmas. Not only that but I also whipped up a matching hat and had about 10 inches of yarn left at the end. How about that for good luck. Alas, I didn’t remember to take a picture of the finished articles so you’ll just have to trust me. At that point I was so behind with the Christmas wrapping that I didn’t have a moment to indulge in fancy photography.

I’ve just been to visit my Godmother, the recipient of the scarf and hat combo. What do you know, she’s only knitting Aunty Betty a sweater in the exact same yarn that she chose independently, before Christmas. Great minds think alike.

Birthday Treats

Well, yes, it is in fact my birthday and yes, I love having my birthday so close to Christmas.

As one gets (ahem, whisper it) older, one requires much less from a birthday celebration.

My only requirement these days is Breakfast In Bed.

As you can see from the picture, it doesn’t have to be gourmet. Tea, toast and orange juice are perfect as far as I’m concerned. I’m not sure why Son Number One thought I would like a cream cracker. May I say I don’t normally drink out of plastic lidded beakers or camping mugs. Husband deemed it wise, for son number one was intent on carrying the breakfast tray in to me. I think I may have spent the day in the burns unit if it hadn’t been for Husband’s foresight. Son Number One was soooo excited about organising my breakfast in bed. He had also been at great pains to create a specially decorated box. Grandma had helped with the gift inside. He has obviously been having lessons from his father because the box was big and the gift was…small (but appreciated).

It was probably lucky that the Middle Miss slept in while he did it. Sharing such responsibilities can be tricky for all concerned.  Luckily for me, they took their turns at giving me birthday cuddles. Even Babykins stayed asleep a little longer than usual so I could get in the shower in peace.

Do you want to see what was inside those two packages?

Lovely things. Made by mmum. There was something else too. A very cleverly made, large, paper bauble. MadebyMum’s Mum is big into paper craft at the moment of which, more evidence later…

How about my cards, would you like a peek a those?

Slushy eh?

We made a hasty exit to my Mum’s place because our hairdresser was coming to give us our pre Christmas trim. There was another present and card to open. Here is what was inside.

Isn’t my Mum clever? I told you she was into paper craft in a big way. If you are local and you want to get into this kind of thing, there is a lovely lady called Angela Dawes who runs classes from her home in Ingleby Barwick. You can find her blog, Sparkly Cards and Paper Crafts here. It’s worth a look.

It felt like there were a million things going on at Mum’s. The hairdresser was chop chopping, there was a team of men outside mending the roof who kept shouting for cups of tea and three children needed breakfast. It felt hectic because every couple of seconds we were looking out to see where babykins was. He is practically running already despite being not quite one (eight more days).

Finally, the activity subsided and some quiet crafting occurred.

Would you like to see ‘The Workshop’?

See the organisation. It’s taken years.

Middle Miss drawing a Christmas Tree

What are we cutting out here?

More of Mum’s clever papery things

Remember I said there was another gift from my Mum? A big, paper bauble? Well, the flowery things being cut out in the photos above are the start of another one. We downloaded the pattern from How About Orange. I haven’t had time to browse this blog but what I have seen looks FAB. The finished bauble looks like this (top left).

Sorry it’s not a great picture (try and ignore the background). The light was fading. It is the solstice you know, shortest day and all that.

Isnt’ that clever? The person who designed it must be really good at thinking in 3D. It really was easy to make, occasionally a bit fiddly but really, not that bad. There are next to no instructions other than ‘cut out the shapes’ and ‘slide them together’. My only complaint was that I couldn’t seem to avoid having two adjacent colours the same. I’m not mathematically minded enough to work out how many different shades I need to cut out in order to avoid  that. There are 12 ‘flowers’ all together so let me know if you are good at that kind of thing. I tried three and that wasn’t enough either. Maybe I should try 12!

So now I am having another little bit of quiet time. Babykins asleep, bigger children still with Grandma. What should I do?

Hmmm……

Birthdays don’t come everyday. You’ve got to make the most of them.

Happy Solstice.