Sunday, 26 August 2012

Smooth the Back to School Transition

I can’t be the only parent who’s begun a mental countdown to the beginning of term. If I ever needed proof that, despite my teaching qualification, I could never home-school, the six week summer holidays is it. And this year’s actually been an improvement on last year, because Prima and Secundus have been farmed out to their grandparents on more than one occasion.

On the one hand, it’s good to have a break from the usual routine and not have to be up, dressed and eating breakfast by 8.00 a.m: on the other hand, five weeks in, I am reminded that this carefully constructed routine is there for a reason. And it’s not just for the benefit of the children. The further we stray from our usual way of doing things, the greater challenge we face as we make the transition to uniforms, packed lunches and reading books again. Here are a few discoveries to make “Back to School” time run a little more smoothly, all under a tenner.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Smitten by Hanging Hearts

Photo - Search Press
Love to Sew : Hanging Hearts by Rachel Rowe (Search Press, £7.99) is a rare gem in the world of craft books. It not only makes you want to have a go at emulating the lovely handmade hearts for your home, whether they are traditional, shabby chic, unusual or country style; it makes you ACTUALLY DO IT. So often I read sewing and craft books and expect the finished items to somehow appear just because I’ve read about them and gazed at the photos quite a lot.

With Hanging Hearts I was inspired to put my (hardly outstanding) sewing skills to the test, because the projects were easy to follow as well as very versatile. You don't even need a sewing machine. There's a beautiful rustic wreath decorated in little fabric hearts, a delightful string of hearts, and numerous individual hearts made from various fabrics and felt and decorated with ric rac, ribbons, buttons and bows. The instructions made me realise where I had made errors when trying to make lavender-filled hearts last autumn, and the templates made it all a lot easier.

My first attempt. Photo: A Bayne
I love sewing projects that I can adapt so that they fit my miserly attitude to fabric. These hanging hearts can be made in varying sizes and styles according to what you have in your sewing box, and are a satisfying way to use up scraps of material, odd lengths of ribbon and so on. I cunningly ordered several free swatches from fabric companies and used them when making a number of the items in this book, so that if I didn’t get to grips with the basic techniques, I hadn’t spent much money, only time.

I needn’t have worried and, despite being far from an expert seemstress, now have hearts hanging from most door handles in our house. They brighten up rooms, would be great Christmas tree decorations, and can also make perfect gifts for friends and relatives, weddings, christenings and Valentine's day. Quick and cheap to make, once I started on a couple of hanging hearts I was smitten!

Fancy making something too? Good range of downloadable patterns here

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

De-clutter and multi-task in your bathroom with Calendula

Use everything up
If you’re short of space in your bathroom, one way to de-clutter your array of shampoos and skincare is simply to decide not to replace some items once they run out. Often we buy products simply from habit. Do we need shower gel and bath soap, for example? Is shaving foam really necessary? Couldn’t one product substitute for these three? Try doing without your intensive conditioning treatments, face masks, scrubs and see if you really miss them. Also vow not to buy any more toiletries until you have used up everything in your bathroom cabinet. Yes, even the bath oil you keep saving for a special occasion (or perhaps that’s just me). This will save you money as well.

The second approach is to by products that double-up in the first place. Try not to buy any toiletries that can only do one thing. Just like we mums find ourselves cleaning our teeth, using the loo and plucking our eyebrows at the same time, we need multi-tasking products. The newly-launched Calendula Baby Care Starter Kit of travel-sized baby essentials is a good example of products that have more than one function. It’s also a great size to pop in a changing bag when out and about. The new travel pack contains 5 mini sizes of Weleda’s top sellers, including the award-winning body wash. They are zipped into a handy waterproof pouch that is large enough to hold a spare nappy or a few wipes.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Simple pleasures #3: Patchwork birthday cards

Making birthday cards is a crafty activity I enjoy, as well as saving me money which I would rather spend on a birthday present. As you can see in the picture below, I have a wonderful, bespoke arts studio specially built for this purpose. ;) 

Photo : A Bayne
I keep my cards as simple as possible because I never have much uninterrupted time – there is always someone asking me to come and watch their latest gymnastic feat or lego construction – and also, the design is easy enough for a child to try if Prima or Secundus want to join in. 

This patchwork squares style card is my latest design. It is extremely adaptable - you can use it for all sorts of occasions and people - and cheap to make, as well as being pretty quick. A lot of my ideas come from Fast Cards by Sarah Beaman.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Mooncup Mystery

Guest post by Jane Lloyd of Lovealittle

Have you discovered Mooncups yet?

These mysterious but fantastic menstrual cups are on sale in Boots alongside the tampons and pantyliners, but they are on the bottom shelf and you have to be looking to find them. Information about Mooncups is spread virally on many Internet communities and blogs. The anonymity of a chat forum breaks down inhibitions and ladies share often-hilarious anecdotes about life with a Menstrual Cup. I first heard about mooncups on the TES personal chat forums and after about a year when Boots had a 3 for 2 offer I joined forces with two other TES-ers and went for the bargain.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Simple Pleasures #2: Dens

Photo : A Bayne
This works best for me if I provide a variety of den-building items, such as chairs, blankets, cushions and then start off the construction but - in true Idle Parent style - hand over responsibility to the children as soon as possible, as it makes them come up with solutions to blankets slipping etc.

I just have to set a couple of ground-rules otherwise they drag all the bedding downstairs and dismantle the sofa. The fun is in the actual building, it seems to me, but they are also more likely to play in something they have made themselves. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Emotional Eating

Reviewer: K Gottschalk, 
aged 38, 
from North Yorkshire

Reviewing: The Bach Emotional Eating Kit by Nelson

Diet downfall: Snacks – I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but I love savoury things!

Hopes for this product – what do you want it to achieve for you? I am hoping the Emotional Eating Kit will stop me from wanting to snack whilst winding down at the end of the day, and will stop me from snacking as something to do when watching TV.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Empower yourself by getting organised

As someone who grew up in the “you can have it ALL even if you are a GIRL” 1980s and has opted to become a work-at-home mum, you might think I’m not especially empowered. And I do have moments where I wonder what I’m doing with that Bachelor of Science degree in German and Management and that hard-earned teaching qualification. Then I remember how much I disliked every job I’ve ever done and how lucky I am to be a self-employed freelance writer who can do the school run every day, sport an "unprofessional" hairstyle, and watch Russell Crowe clips on you tube when I’m doing the ironing.

It took me a long time to get to this place of contentment. I had years of being a woman on the edge. One of the big things that changed it was Secundus starting full-time primary school in September 2011. Before then I could outrun a headless chicken once I got into panic mode, I could rival The Smiths for my ability to flood the house with misery and I never seemed to have energy for myself or the housework. If this is you, I truly sympathise. It really does get better once they go to school.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Guest post: An Insight into the Life of a Nutritionist Mum

I love my job; but like most jobs, it has its downside too.  Funnily enough though, the downside of my job has more to do with the effect it occasionally has on people around me.  It seems that mentioning you are a nutritionist to a mum at the school gates as a normal part of a friendly ‘getting to know you’ chat is sometimes enough to send them running for the hills in fear of me getting a glimpse into their child’s lunch bag or worse still their family fridge!

So, when Alison asked me to write a guest blog for Mumtopia, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to set the record straight, and give you a real glimpse into my life and views as a Nutritionist mum.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

BrocanteHome Life Audit #3

Idea and Image : BrocanteHome
Today I am: back to normal after a few days’ break when Prima and Secundus stayed at their grandparents (“the Yorkites”)

Feeling: slightly recharged. Grateful to the Yorkites for giving the kids such a lovely time. Like I need to get back on top of the housework after a few days ignoring some of the tasks on the Confident Mom Planner.

Reading: How to Be Free by Tom Hodgkinson. So brilliant.

Eating: Something chicken-connected, maybe curry or tapas. Also got some garlic bread to use up, maybe with soup. 

Soap-free skincare

Just as I was thinking of embarking on Project 30 (Switch to gentle, eco-friendly skincare) in Tsh Oxenreider’s marvellous and inspiring One Bite at a Time, I was asked by Inlight Organic Skincare if I wanted to review any of their range. Inlight’s belief is that each person is the fruit of what they experience, what they eat and drink and also what they apply to their skin. Serendipity happens a lot when you’re self-employed, I’ve found.

Having read about the Oil-Cleansing Method and nodded my head in recognition as Tsh Oxenreider described the dullness of her skin, post-30, and how it was dry and tight after washing, I was eager to give Inlight’s organic face oil a try. It would be a novelty to wash my skin with something so simple, soap-free and 100% organic, and I was intrigued as to whether the oil-cleansing method would work on my combination skin.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Giveaway : NE Day Craft Kit (ended)

Stuck for ideas this week? Get stuck in to some craft activities. 

Award-winning Victoria Lloyd of NE Day Crafts and Events Ltd has come to the rescue today with a giveaway that’s sure to appeal to busy mums this summer holidays. It’s great to have something up your sleeve to amuse kids on rainy days, and the craft kits Victoria designs are the perfect solution for those “What shall I do NOW, mum?” moments.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Simple Pleasures # 1 : The Button Box

Secundus spent a very happy three-quarters-of-an-hour playing with buttons from my button box, sorting them into different containers: “These are daddy’s in the green lidded one; he would like the sailor button and the one like a shark’s tooth”. I suggested he might like to play with the buttons instead of watching a programme while I was doing the dishes, but had no idea he would get so much joy out of it. I love seeing him so focussed, especially when he has made the game up himself.

Prima also enjoys playing with buttons but what she likes to do is to pick buttons which match her chosen colour scheme and thread them onto lengths of cotton thread. The result is a sort of hanging button mobile which we have decided looks nice dangling from tree branches, trellises and so on.

To read about the Rubbish Robot Secundus and I made, click here.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

How to Create Meaningful Family Rituals

You’re thinking “closet pagan”, right? Yet there’s no reason to connect rituals with religion of any kind. They are just plain good for family life, helping to add to the routine of the week, the month, the year, and bringing a sense of identity, continuity and security to all members of the family.

You probably have a number of family rituals without necessarily realising it. They can be as simple as “every Friday night we all watch a film together after tea” or as complex as the way you light the candles in the home-made Kwanzaa candleholder.

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