Monday, 28 January 2013

Octonauts! To your stations!

Last week my baby turned three! I have no idea where that time has gone but this is not a post about those cliches, this is post about the P.A.R.T.Y.!

Wiss adores the 'Octonauts' and it was the first thing he said/shouted when we asked what he wanted for his birthday. Even though the guest list was very small (4 other children) this was the first year that we had the space to have a party at home and we were keen to have lots of homemade touches. I spent a lot of time on Pinterest and as always, there was tons of inspiration, and we added a few touches of our own.
I wanted to involve Wiss as much as possible and the decorations seemed like a good place to start. We spent one very cold and wet afternoon making Paper Plate Fish, and some underwater scenes with potato prints, sponges and finger painting. He was really proud when we put them up for the party and I definitely want to do more crafting with him in the future.
Wiss loves helping out in the kitchen and these fish biscuits (cheesy pastry) were perfect for a budding toddler chef. The rest of the food was pretty simple - tuna or ham rolls, sausage rolls, carrot sticks (with a nod to Tweak!) and hummus, but we had a trump card to play. I had seen this Shark Fruit Salad on Pinterest and wasn't sure if we'd be able to find a watermelon in January, let alone make it look convincing but I think that the husband did a fantastic job with a scalpel...
I made some card Octonauts hats with logos that could be coloured in and some felt collars with velcro fastenings for all the kids to wear. We planned some simple party games that fitted with the theme - 'Musical Starfish' (basically Musical Statues but you make a frozen star shape instead), magnetic fishing rods, Find the Octonauts (which was the same as this game but with the added extra of having an 'Octo-Alert' to hit when one was found), and 'What's the Time Professor Inkling?'. This re-working of What's the Time Mr Wolf? obviously needed a costume, and so I made this in a hurry using an old shirt collar and some felt! The kids loved it, the husband did not!
The hat was not meant to be part of the costume but  he became rather attached to it!
The party bags were Peso's Medical Bags (see Knitty Mummy for a pdf of the logo) and along with some sea life blowers and stickers, I included some crayons and colouring sheets from the Octonauts CBeebies Page as well as these crocheted beauties from @catgopur...

@catgopur on twitter is making crocheted & knitted toys to raise money for
The National Autistic Society. Contact her if there's anything you'd like yourself.
Can you believe that I forgot to take a picture of the cake? There was cake, honest! A real jam-filled victoria sponge with blue icing, the octonauts logo and neon blue sugar crystals. It was a far cry from the dairy-free, no refined sugar blueberry muffins I made for Wiss to take into nursery...there's just no photographic evidence of it so you'll have to take my word for it!

While I was on Pinterest looking for party ideas I stumbled upon a pattern for a crocheted Captain Barnacles: he looked fantastic, and I thought that he would make a great present for the birthday boy. I commissioned Emma from Lemons for Lemonade to make the Captain as I knew she would do him justice! (Check out her Mr Tickle from last year.)
And talking of birthday presents, we decided to buy Wiss an Octopod from ebay - there are loads on there in perfect condition, with extra figures and vehicles included too; especially at this age, it made good sense. We set it all up for him while he was sleeping and he was so excited when he opened his eyes!

Raoul the Giant Catfish meets the Octonauts!
I think it's safe to say that we all enjoyed the celebrations, some guests were more excitable than others but we all went to bed happy...and exhausted! Happy Birthday little man, we love you!

Monday, 21 January 2013

A Ray-Stitch in Time!

Some time last year, May last year to be exact, I tried my hand at quilting. I really enjoyed it, was full of inspiration, and determined to make a quilt for Wiss. Time passed, I didn't do any more quilting so I realistically decided that it would be a Christmas present. Oops, did I say Christmas present? I meant birthday present!

Wiss's birthday is a couple of weeks after Christmas so that would surely give me enough time to finish it, right? Hmmmm.....

As good as my intentions were, and as pleased as I was with the squares that I'd completed already, I came to the realisation that log cabin quilting was very time-consuming and I barely had enough finished to make a cushion, let alone a quilt.

And then Ray Stitch came to the rescue! They run a class called 'Make a Finished Quilt'* held over two Sundays, which really does do what it claims. And it just so happened that the dates in January meant that I would be able to give Wiss a quilt for his birthday.

The class is taught by Michelle, and she takes you through every stage from designing your patchwork pattern, cutting the squares and sewing the quilt top to actually quilting and binding the finished article. She is wonderfully patient and very informed, so can answer any questions or queries you may have, and let you in on some tricks of the trade. The sewing space is downstairs at the shop, and with their fab coffee, delicious lunch and 6 Music on the radio it was a perfect way to spend the hours along side like-minded people. Each class was 5 hours long and with a little bit of homework I really was able to make a finished quilt!

I used the same fabrics as before, from the Robotics range by Moda, but added some Riley Blake chevrons just because they are so cool. This quilt had to have more yellow in it since Wiss declared it was his favourite colour, and so I backed it with a simple yellow star print cotton. It was really interesting to see the variety of fabrics chosen by the others in the class - each one looked so different to the next, but all beautiful. I think that's what appeals to me so much about quilting, the possibilities are endless and each quilt is truely unique.

Funnily enough, Wiss was almost as excited as I was about his quilt, and demanded to see it at the end of the first class. We took the sides off his cot on Christmas Eve and he is very proud of his 'big boy' bed. His quilt looks great on his bed and I couldn't resist making a co-ordinating piillowcase using this tutorial. I haven't got round to sewing a little square with the date on yet but I will because I hope that this quilt will become a long treasured memory of his childhood.
I think in total this quilt took around 14 hours to make from start to finish. That's pretty achievable in most people's spare time, and the results are fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed the classes, and being able to finish something gives you so much more confidence for future projects. I am a little worried that I've found a new addiction (but at least it will be a way to use up my ever-growing fabric stash!) I'm already planning my next quilt and I heard that there may be a Strip Pieced Quilt class soon at Ray-Stitch...See you there?!

*This class costs £125 for 2 x 5 hour classes. You must bring your own fabric for the front and back of your quilt but the wadding and thread is provided, as are refreshments and lunch. We also recieved a 15% discount on any purchases in the shop, including fabric, so perfect for stocking up for your next quilt! More details can be found on the Ray-Stitch website here

Sunday, 6 January 2013

The End of an Era: Bye Bye Dummies!

Before we had a baby, my husband and I had some very strong opinions regarding it's imaginary upbringing. For example, we decided that we wouldn't smack our fictitious child, that we would avoid gender stereotyping as far as possible, and that we would definitely not be giving our hypothetical baby a dummy. Oh no. No way jose. Not us.
Skip forward to the start of 2010. We were now parents for real and it was time to put our beliefs to the test. We were given a dummy amongst all the baby gifts people were kind enough to bring, and it went straight to the back of the wardrobe. We had no need for that.

Skip forward six or seven weeks. We were tired parents. So tired! Our darling bundle of joy cried. A lot. A lot of the time. We tried all manner of things to soothe him: cuddles, distraction, peace, white noise (the extractor fan in the kitchen was particularly effective) but sometimes nothing worked. One particular morning, nothing was working and then I remembered that thing in the back of the wardrobe. I was ready to try anything by that stage, but I still felt guilty. I was about to break one of our rules! (A rule, by the way, that we still have no real idea why we held it.)

But it worked. Oh boy, did it work! Wiss took to the dummy immediately. It soothed and comforted him when nothing else could. It helped him to put himself to sleep and calmed him down, and so it stayed. We all loved the dummy!

Skip forward to the end of 2012. Wiss is nearly three and although he was relying on the dummy less and less, he still loved having it whenever he could. While he slept we could hear through the monitor sucking noises like a baby cow! It frustrated me when he talked with the dummy still in his mouth, and I suppose I was worried that it may begin to affect his speech. It was also a bit of a crutch for us, it was still a guaranteed way to get him off to sleep, or to calm a tantrum. But it just felt like the right time to give them up. But how on earth could we persuade Wiss to say goodbye?

Step forward...Father Christmas! Yes, Father Christmas had been watching, as he does, to see which kids are being good and he noticed that Wiss was now a big boy. Such a big boy in fact, that he thought that Wiss didn't need those dummies any more and he'd like to take them to give to the tiny babies that did need them. If Wiss agreed then he should leave the dummies out (along with the mince pie and carrot) and Father Christmas would leave him a big boy present to say thank you and well done.

I have to say, I couldn't have imagined how well it has worked! Wiss happily collected all the dummies together on Christmas Eve and put them in a box, and was over-the-moon that Santa had left him a present in the morning. Only once have we had a melt-down, (Wiss suggested that Father Christmas could take the present to the babies so that "the big boy can have the dummies back!") I think it helped that Christmas was such a busy time and there were so many distractions, and we combined it with taking the sides off his cot so he has a 'big boy' bed too. But it's been nearly two weeks now and we're all surviving just fine.
Bye bye dummy, thanks for all your help but we've got it from here!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Greeting the New Year with a KISS*

So Christmas is long gone - I hope you all had good ones? We enjoyed the festivities in our new home, and hosted for the first time too. It was a funny grown-up feeling making Christmas for our parents, but I think we pulled it off! It was also nice to do things our way; continue some traditions and start some new ones of our own. I managed to make some handmade finishing touches and presents myself, but I bought a fantastic handtied Rag Wreath from Upcycled Creativelyand I gave some gorgeous handmade (by someone else) presents too such as a bone china leaf from Sarah May Rogers for my mum.

Since becoming a parent Christmas has become a more magical time, but I know that it can be a period of stress, strain and sometimes sadness for others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and the expectations to have a 'perfect' Christmas are high. And then there's new years eve, which can bring up a whole range of feelings in some. So I hope everyone made it through ok.

But I think New Years Day is a wonderful day, full of optimism, hope and ambition.

"It's a new day, it's a new dawn, it's a new life...and I'm feeling good!"

Last year I made some very clear goals for 2012, and as they were posted for all to see I'd better go back and see how well I did, before setting some more!

1.) I did run the London Marathon in April 2012, and raised over £4,000 for ARC. It was an amazing feeling to achieve something that only 1% of the population have. NB: I have a confession to make, despite all my good intentions to continue running afterwards, I have only run 4 times since. Gasp!!! I have realised I am better with a real goal to aim for, so I have signed up for the Bath Half in March 2013. I'd better get my trainers out again! 
2.) I think that I did make real progress with This is Wiss in 2012 despite taking a break over the summer: I found some great new markets and reached a wider audience, I was featured in Mollie Makes, I launched my online shop and even managed to get a Christmas etsy shop open. I feel really positive for this coming year, and as soon as I've done my tax return (eek) I can't wait to get going again.

3.) I said that I wanted to learn new skills in 2012 and that I did! I went foraging, I learnt how to quilt (but not learnt how to finish a quilt yet!) and I attended a few talks at The School of Life. I really enjoyed taking these sorts of social, informal 'lessons' and will definitely be doing more in the new year.

4.) I have blogged more this year but there's still lots of room for improvement. I've slipped up recently on my Silent Sunday photos, and while I've been having lots of ideas for future posts I've not had the time to do them justice so they remain in my head (for now). I really enjoyed the week-long events I held with guest bloggers for World Book Week, and the Jubilee and I plan to hold more in the coming year.

If you like to keep a work calendar or make plans on paper then have a look at this fantastic diary and blog planner from Stacie Swift. She's made a PDF so we can all be as organised and stylish as she is. I have a serious stationary fetish and that ringbinder with dividers is ticking all my boxes!

As for the rest of my goals, I'm not sure that I can claim I've met them. I have made clothes for Wiss this year but mainly costumes (thisthis or this) although I've made more for the other little people we know! I'm afraid I didn't find time for Project Linus, my photo album remains empty, I found myself listening to Heart Radio (the horror!) so not sure that counts as music, and as for my cross stitch...well! I have done more than this but I think this sums it up for me. Why???
So, what am I hoping to achieve in 2013? More of the same really: more running, more sewing, more selling etc etc. But rather than make another comprehensive list I have been taken with an idea that seems to be popular with my Twitter timeline: One Little Word One word to focus on and reflect upon as you go about your daily life. Some have chosen, 'Focus', 'Play', 'Open' but typically I couldn't distill my aims down to just one word! Like Lucy from Lulastic & The Hippy Shake I think a motto may be a better way to go. I can't think of a better way to sum up my aims for the coming year than this (taken from the ethos of Merchant & Mills):

I want to try to apply this to many aspects of my life: my work, my designs, my business, but even my (our) parenting style, and my social life! I always try to do too much and overfill my time, and while I don't think that will ever change I do feel I could benefit from prioritising certain things, letting go of others and just slowing down to enjoy the ride.

* KISS is apparently the acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid! or as I prefer Keep It Super Simple.

Have any of you made resolutions or chosen a word/motto for the new year? I'd love to hear about what you are aiming for in 2013, so leave me a comment or link to your blog and we can encourage each other. Thanks for reading!