Friday, 14 February 2014

Well loved

I saw this article in a magazine at the hairdressers recently.

It's an article reviewing a book with photographs of people's well loved soft toys and the stories behind them.  It got me thinking about my favourite soft toy - let me introduce you to Oscar.

I got Oscar for my first birthday from my Great Uncle Jack.  Apparently I couldn't decide what to call this newly acquired dog (well let's face it I was one - I probably didn't have much vocabulary) so Mum put various names on pieces of paper and put them in a mug, or a bowl, or something else I could get my small toddler sized hand in.  I pulled one out and my dog became Oscar.

Oscar has gone pretty much everywhere with me.  Over the years his fur has worn away and he has become fairly threadbare.  At least one leg has had to be stitched up and his ears have needed to be repaired countless times.  All of these are an indication of just how well loved Oscar was, and still is.  He now resides on my bedside table despite the fact that I am married and have two children of my own.

Max has his own version of Oscar.  This is Luise.

Luise is a steiff bear that Max was given by his Great Aunty Patty for his christening.  We didn't have to do the "names in a receptacle" thing as Luise came with his own name.  Max couldn't say "Luise" when he was small and so he has become "Elise" over the years.  I think I am the only person who insists on calling him Luise now.  Luise goes everywhere with Max.  Other soft toys go in and out of favour but Luise remains a constant in Max's affections.

Penelope conversely is not that bothered by soft toys.  She will have a favourite for a few days and then doesn't bother.  I think this is partly because she sucks her thumb so has no reason to have a different comforter.  It can't be the whole story though as I sucked my thumb as a child and I had Oscar.  I think ultimately Penelope is just not that bothered by soft toys - not that that will stop me from trying to inveigle one of her soft toys in her affections!!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Yet More Cake

The last week and a half has seen a bit of a cake explosion in this house.  First of all I made this cake for Jo

It wasn't a "special" birthday but a much deserved cake as Jo very kindly offered to look after both Max and Penelope for a couple of hours, not only with both her own children, but also on her birthday just so I could go and get rid of the "sparklers" in my hair.  Now that is friendship!

Jo suffers from coeliac disease (and coincidentally so does her husband) so I made the cake with Dove Farm's gluten free self raising flour.  It's just as easy to make cakes with gluten free flour as it is to make them with ordinary wheat flour.  Jo says it is best to use stronger flavours (chocolate, lemon etc) with the gluten free flour so I made chocolate cake.  The inspiration for the cake came from a Lakeland catalogue that had a picture of this cake. Jo loves owls (as her blog demonstrates) and this seemed ideal.  The first cake was a bit of a disaster though as the middle fell out so I started again and used some smaller pyrex dishes as moulds.  The icing circles on the front of the owls were a god-send as they covered a multitude of sins!!

Today's cake was a birthday cake for my niece.  "Hello Kitty" was requested and this was the result

I made three round sponges, using a bog standard victoria sponge recipe.  Two of the sponges were used for the main part of the face and then the third was used to carve out the ears.  The remainder of the third cake was used for... well... ummm... eating!  Liquorice was the handy tip for whiskers.

Both these cakes were iced using various colours of ready to roll icing from Windsor Cake Craft.  They have an online shop but they also have the most marvellous shop near to me.  It is cake making heaven!  Who knew there were so many sizes of cake boards or colours of icing?

In between times it was the Macmillan coffee morning in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.  Jo organised this at the playgroup we all go to and I chipped in some rocky road, using this recipe (substituting raisins for cherries and gluten free digestives for amaretti biscuits), and a lemon loaf from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.  Jo had made rocky road, a strawberries and cream victoria sponge and a carrot cake.  Our other friend, S, made a coffee cake and some chocolate fairy cakes and there were some other contributions too.  We raised £151 and 1 rupee!  A great cause and an excuse to eat cake :)

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Another Lego Birthday

Max turned 6 just over a month ago.  He and his friend Aidan had a joint birthday party at the Legoland Discovery Centre in the Trafford Centre and then we had a smaller party at home the day after his birthday with a bouncy castle and bbq.

Jo took care of the cake for the joint party

Which meant that I only had to make a cake for the bbq party.  Inspired by one that someone had linked to on Facebook, I made this cake

I used a mould that I purchased from eBay to make the minifigures that run round the outside of the cake and to get the right font for his name I downloaded a free Lego-style font.

I was really pleased with it and, whilst all the adults ooh-ed at it, the children were a bit "whatever" about it - hmmmpph.

I also made a pinata, using the old staple of a balloon and papier mache.  I painted the result green, stuck on some yellow ninjago eyes (googled the image, increased the size and the printed off the result) and wrapped it in green crepe paper.  The headpiece is some cardboard covered in tinfoil.

Let's face it though, Max's birthday was made as soon as he got this enormous pile of Lego!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Pay It Forward 2013

Sorry I've been absent for a while - sometimes life just takes over!  I've been doing loads that I want to blog about but just haven't found the time...

Anyway at the beginning of the year one of my friends posted a status on Facebook about "paying it forward".  The criteria were pretty simple - if you were one of the first five people to reply then you would get something handmade from the person posting. The quid pro quo for this was that you had to do the same on your status and therefore make something handmade for the first 5 people that commented on yours, and so on and so forth.

I naturally commented on my friend's post and then duly posted the same status on mine.  Three people replied to mine and I made the first handmade item (a personalised necklace) pretty quickly but ideas/time for the remaining two have been few and far between.  I knew however that I would be seeing the original posting friend last weekend so it was the ideal opportunity to make something that might otherwise b too heavy to post.  So I made this:

Essentially this jar contains enough to make 30 chop chip cookies.  All the recipient needed to do was cream some butter, add an egg and a little bit of water, throw in the contents of the jar and then cook.  I think the layers of ingredients look really pretty and the recipient of the jar said the cookies tasted good too.  There are lots of variations on these jars - hot chocolate, brownies etc - and I think I might make some more of these for gifts at Xmas.

Now I just need to make a start on the final "pay it forward" item....

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

World Book Day Part 2

As you read this I am feeling somewhat disgruntled that Max's school decided not to dress up for World Book Day.  Instead all he had to do was take in one of his favourite books which, needless to say, was of the Lego variety.

Having gone to to the trouble of making a full on "Max" costume, I made Max model it for me just so I could take some photos.  Here he is:

I made the top, trousers and hood from a fleece-y type material.  It was really easy to sew with the added bonus of not requiring hemming.  The crown was made from a cornflakes packet with gold material applied to it using PVA glue and then some fur trim added.  Had Max actually have gone to school like this I would have needed to rework the tail as it was too big and heavy.

On the Saturday following World Book Day I took Max and Penelope to the Trafford Centre (I had to return something that looked much better on the model than on me - a regular occurrence) with the promise of a new book* each from a well known bookstore.  Quite by chance we arrived when a children's author was going to read her new book and the illustrator was doing some accompanying drawings.  So we found ourselves listening to "The Mummy Shop" by Abie Longstaff and illustrated by Lauren Beard.  It's a lovely story and, given that we were there on the day before Mothering Sunday, was entirely appropriate!!  Afterwards they signed Max and Penelope's copy of "The Mummy Shop" and asked if we would like to take one of Lauren's drawings home with us.  Max and Penelope are now the proud owners of their first original artwork.

It has to be said that we have many many books at home and they are one thing that I do not begrudge spending money on.  I love books and hope to instil the same love of books in both Max and Penelope.

*Obviously Max chose a Lego book and Penelope chose a Peppa Pig one - no surprises there for either of them :)

Monday, 25 February 2013

World Book Day Part 1

You'd think that having had World Book Day last year (and sending Max to school in a hastily purchased knight's costume - "lots of books have knights in them Max") that I might have been a tad more organised this year.  Well you'd be wrong - which will come as a surprise to most of my friends as I am officially "the organised one".  Hmmpphh....

So here I am sitting trying to thing I something that I can rustle up in about a week, from scratch.  Hmmpphh again.

I asked Max what he wanted to be.  Various Mr Men books were produced.  I countered with Burglar Bill - "I don't want to - everyone will laugh at me".  So we have settled* on "Max" from "Where the Wild Things Are" - partly because of the whole "Max" thing and mainly because I thought it would be quite easy to find a cheap plain onesie and then make a crown and a tail.  After 30 minutes of scouring the interweb I am realising I may have to make a onesie from scratch.  Double, possibly triple, hmmpphh!!  I feel a trip to the local fabric shop coming on along with the realisation that separate trousers and top may be the way to go.

Let's face it, it needs to top this hat that I made for him last year

Please come back to find out whether I gave up on this as a bad job and sent him to school as a knight again!!

* For "settled" read "Max this is what you are having"

Sunday, 10 February 2013


OK so I've been a bit absent - life has a tendency to just get in the way sometimes!  So what have I been up to?  Not all that much really but I have taken up dressmaking.

Inspired by Jo's gift with fabrics and having read this blog where Manda's love of fabric is all too evident, I thought I would see about making Penelope some clothes - girls' clothing being a bit more, well, interesting than boys'...

I was looking on Pinterest for a bit on inspiration and a link to a pattern on Etsy led to me buying two dress patterns.  Paper patterns seem to be very expensive these days and the joy of Etsy means that you can get a pattern for about a fiver or less and have it delivered to your inbox.  OK so you've got to factor in the cost of printing it out but I think they represent excellent value.  One of the patterns I bought was one that I thought I could adapt to being a top as well as a dress. 

So after picking Jo's brains for good fabric websites, I ordered some fabric on Saints and Pinners and Seamstar.  I realised I needed some matching cotton and, not being one to hang about, I colour matched from memory whilst in John Lewis.  Now I wouldn't recommend trying to colour match thread without the actual material but, surprisingly, all my matches worked out.

I started off simply and made this top for Penelope

Then because Jo had mentioned reversible trousers for Rowan, I made these trousers for Rowan using this pattern for the trousers and this tutorial to make them reversible.  Once I had worked out what needed to be done to make them reversible it was surprisingly easy.

Finally I made this dress using one of the Etsy patterns

To be honest this was a bit of a trial, partly because of the pattern (bubble skirts are NOT easy), partly because of the material (cotton voile, however pretty, is a bit of a b*gger to sew) and partly because I didn't read the pattern instructions properly which meant I had to remake the bodice - ho hum. 

I've made a few other bits and pieces for P but unfortunately haven't photographed them - ah well.

I also decided to make myself a dress.  Every year we have a girls' xmas night out and this year I haven't been able to find a dress that either a) I liked or b) didn't cost the earth.  So I thought I'd see what patterns for adult sized dresses there were on Etsy and came across this one.  The dress was finally finished about 30 minutes before we went out.  I was fairly pleased with it but I wouldn't say I loved it.  I think it was more to do with the choice of material than anything else.  I think I should have gone a bit simpler and made it in black.  I can't get over the fact that I think I look a bit like an Xmas turkey wrapped in foil....

Mind you I was extremely pleased with the fact that I managed how to use the blind stitch on my sewing machine (which had previously eluded me) and also put in a zip.  Although I did have to email my Mum a picture and ask if it was a zipper foot.

My next project is a mini quilt - mainly because I ordered some fabric and it wasn't quite what I intended.  And then I am going to try a scrappy trip around the world quilt which Jo has talked about on her blog here - as she says resistance is futile.

Oh and Max has requested that I make a miniature Happy Meal for one of his bears - that could be interesting!