Friday, 28 September 2012

Menstruation for Enlightened Meanies

As an advocate of the FemmeCup, Mumtopia readers will not be surprised to learn that I am pretty open-minded when it comes to menstrual stuff. Not only am I an eco-worrier and like to do my bit to stop the sky falling down, I am thoroughly mean and always keen to try and find a cheaper alternative to the status quo: the eco-egg being a case in point.

Make Your Own
Photo: A Bayne
Making your own menstrual pads is right up there with knitting your own muesli and spinning your own yogurt. I admit, it’s not an every-day sewing project. Whilst I did get round to explaining to the King about FemmeCup, I haven’t yet confided in him that I now have hand-made menstrual pads. However, making your own is a great way to sock it to the Man, since you don’t have to buy prettily dressed-up over-priced sanitary protection every month, and the pads are reusable, easy to make and proof that you are a pioneer.

Even if you do use FemmeCup, it is useful to have a few pads for leaks, especially over night, or as pantyliners. The downloadable pdf pattern I used was from Mamma Can Do It. This is not the kind of project that you typically find in Sewing 101 books or dressmaking magazines, so it is worth buying a pattern, not only for the template and instructions but also for the tips on what materials to use. Mamma Can Do It recommends PUL fabric for its waterproof nature, for example, which I had never heard of; fleece for the wicking fabric and flannel for absorbency. There is also access to a wealth of advice about care for reusable items on her website and you can contact her for support while you are sewing.

US leads the way
If I ever needed proof that America is way ahead of us Brits in the Make Your Own arena, this was it; PUL is extremely difficult to get hold of in the UK and appears to only be available at a handful of online shops. Luckily I found that Plush Addict stocks PUL, but I do feel that at the moment it may be cheaper to make your own pads if you are American rather than British. Hopefully, it will become easier to get materials like this in due course.

Fleece or Bamboo?
I have a number of pieces of fleece in my scrap box but they are covered with dinosaurs and dumper trucks, which just didn’t seem right for this project. In the end I followed Plush Addict’s advice and opted for their new bamboo velour which is incredibly soft and velvety.

Photo: A Bayne
Sticking with the cloth solution
The finished pad is a straight-forward and functional item which didn’t take long to make – the pattern’s clear instructions and photo illustrations saw to that – and I am happy with it as a first attempt. My next pads will probably be a bit more “pretty” and I may use press-studs as the pattern suggests, rather than a Velcro fastening but I will definitely persevere with the reusable cloth solution.

Mamma Can Do It have kindly offered Mumtopia readers 20% off any of the patterns in their shop – from hand puppets to baby slings. The code to enter before check out is READERSPECIAL

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Cakes from the Tooth Fairy - review

Reviewer Emma Coverdale, 31, from Harrogate

Book reviewed Cakes from the Tooth Fairy by Sue Simkins

Attitude to cake-making I love baking and find it very relaxing and enjoyable

Hopes for this book To learn new recipes and to break from traditional baking methods

First impressions I love the look of this book; it’s definitely my type of thing and looks easy to use and understand.   

How did you feel about using this book? I felt a little cynical at first about not using sugar – isn’t that what cakes are all about?! Also I was a bit worried that the Xylitol could cause upset tums but we were all fine.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Creating My Own Loop

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.

From “Warning”, by Jenny Joseph

I realised I was out of the loop when I read on Facebook about Honey Boo Boo some months ago and neither knew nor cared what anyone was talking about. “Meh, I’m out of the loop,” I thought. “I’ll create my own.”

Abandoning the Cool
Creating your own loop is perhaps the best thing that comes with being over thirty. What a relief it is to give up trying to be cool. What freedom Cagey and I now have to choose a pub in which we can a) get somewhere to sit and b) hear each other talk. How refreshing to finally care little for what complete strangers think. 

At last we have permission to follow our own interests, ignore the charts, and wear what we like. No longer do I have to try and impress anyone else or fit in, and this is something to be celebrated. 

As I approach 37, I have grown in confidence and self-esteem and this is the result of years of experience, a loving husband, good friends, and hard work in therapy. It also means I am “allowed” to do more of what I want and less of what I am expected/ supposed to do, and one of those things is to wear what I like.

Image : Stitchwerx Designs
Hat Gesture
The cloche hat I made myself recently is a kind of symbolic gesture. Firstly, it proved to me that I could tackle something completely new on my sewing machine and get great pleasure out of the challenge. Secondly, I was keen to re-use fabrics I already had, to keep the expense down, but to still create something wearable that I couldn’t find in the shops. 

Had I been looking to buy fabric instead of recycle old jeans and tweed (for the lining), I would have been spoilt for choice at Stitchwerx Designs' Spoonflower shop (all the fabric shown in the photos comes from that online shop).

It is testament to the quality of the instructions, and template in the Stitchwerx Desgins pattern (available on Etsy) that I was able to create a cloche hat despite having never ventured into millinery before. Not only was the pdf pattern quick to arrive in my email inbox and easy to follow – aided by clear colour photographs – but the templates came in several sizes, meaning that I could also make one for Prima, if I chose to. It would also be very easy to customise the hat by adding a contrast band or fabric flowers, but I decided to decorate it with a brooch.

Image : Stitchwerx Designs

Enjoying the freedom
Taking on a challenging project like this was a real ego boost, as was the opportunity to wear the cloche hat on the school run and getting lots of smiles and compliments. Prima and Secundus didn’t disown me so I will continue to create my own loop, unabashed, and enjoy the freedom that comes with being in my late-thirties, a sense of self that hasn’t come a moment too soon.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Stop buying your way out of chaos

One of the tempting solutions to the general clutter and chaos of everyday living is to throw money at the problem. For many years I have secretly thought that if I could just have a matching set of Tea, Coffee and Sugar canisters, my kitchen would magically be in order. I am still on a hunt for the perfect ring-binder to house my weekly household planner; only then will my paper-work be organised. And yet no matter how many wicker baskets, hanging storage and stacking trays we buy, our window sills are still full of sketchbooks, tape-measures, home-made masks and catalogues. Slippers and sticker books nestle at the bottom of the stairs. Don’t get me started on the King’s shoes. Our purpose-built storage systems take up so much space, there doesn’t seem to be enough room for all our stuff.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Change your Look

One of the bonuses of having to start doing the school run three years ago is that it made me get up and dressed within an allotted time-scale. Not only that but it forced me to make some effort to look at least slightly presentable. You will know that the pecking order that existed in the school playground continues to the school-gates, and mums can be somewhat harsh in their sartorial judgements.

When Teenage Fanclub sang “She wears denim wherever she goes”, they were perhaps talking about me. I can count the number of times I have worn a skirt in the last year on one hand. And that was denim and with black leggings. How would I compete with the Proper Mums, with their swanky handbags and high maintenance manicures? Heeled shoes on the school run: it was never going to happen.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Roll-on puberty

day2day joys
I was surprised to notice, towards the end of this summer, that I could no longer get away with giving Prima a fresh t-shirt every other day. Not because she had suddenly forgotten all her table manners and got food all over it or because she was experimenting with oil paints, but because she needed deodorant.

This came as a bit of a shock to me. Prima is not yet eight years old. However, I did remind myself that she spends every waking moment either upside-down or doing cartwheels and the weather had been warm. Plus my children’s idea of a bath is to sit in some warm water until I ask them to clean their teeth, so I have had to insist that some washing takes place.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Five Ways to Pick Yourself Up this Fall

(See what I did there?) The summer holidays may have been largely successful but the long-awaited return to school is beginning to take its toll. Gone is the novelty of wearing new school shoes. Reading books are shunned. Secundus has taken to wanting a little song at bedtime again. And the morning school run has become a school RUN.

Already the evenings are shortening and we cling on to the final sunny days of the year, wondering how long we can last without putting the central heating on. If Autumn and Winter make you want to hibernate too, here are a few ways to pick yourself up:

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Electric Wombats, Trouserless Elephants and Terry Jones

Every now and then a piece of popular culture breaks in through the family mould and becomes part of our everyday language. This happened in my family, when my parents took my sister and me to see "The Jungle Book" at the Stafford Picture House. It was the first film we’d seen on the big screen and left such a huge impression that we borrowed the soundtrack LP from the library and memorised all the songs. One in particular, “I Must Go to Fetch the Water”, became absorbed into family folklore, as Dad would sing it every time we pitched our caravan on holiday in the middle of nowhere and it was his job to be the water carrier. There are, in addition, whole chunks of fairy tale audio-books that I can, thirty years later recite to my still appreciative sister, dreadful received pronunciation, feeble sound effects and all. Yes, we made our own fun back then.

Allergies getting up your nose?

Reviewer: Linda Clark, 33, from Harrogate

Product tested: Prevalin Allergy nasal spray. I was also given a kids’ version for my son, but he didn’t want to use a nosespray, so this review is just for the adults’ one.

Allergies you currently have, and symptoms: Hayfever = blocked or runny nose, watery eyes, headache and fuzzy feeling in head, strange feelings in ears. Prevalin allergy is designed to give relief from sneezing, runny nose, blocked nose and itchy/watery eyes, whilst being antihistamine and steroid-free.

What do you usually do to treat your symptoms and does this work? I take prescribed medication, which reduces symptoms but on days where pollen count is high, it doesn’t eliminate all symptoms and I can feel quite awful.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Domesticity without Detention or Disapproval

I suspect I am a classic First Born Child. My life appears to be one long experiment and my should-be-high-achiever status is undermined by my neurotic tendencies, introversion and over-developed imagination. So, you know, all good so far.

Yes, I had the bonuses of being the Big Sister, staying up late, more pocket money, knowing more clever put-downs (and thus winning more arguments) and being the first to have trampolining lessons but, I always felt very responsible for my sister, and I grew up way too fast.

Domestic Sluttery (Pavilion, £14.99) is a book that came fifteen years too late for me, alas. It is a rebellious but ultimately dependable Older Sister in hardback form, one who will give you tips on home, food, style and living, without making you feel guilty for taking short-cuts. It is the kind of woman who talks about design porn but also makes a cracking Toad in the Hole. In fact, despite its retro-styling, Domestic Sluttery is not about cleaning and cooking and having tea on the table by 5.30. It’s far more realistic than that. The author admits that everything is more appealing than doing housework and doesn’t promise to turn you into that impossible paragon, the Perfect Housewife. Although it shuns Stepford Wives living, it does pay tribute to the styles and experience of yesteryear, with a fabulous section on vintage clothes and an evocative piece on childhood food memories.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Mummy, why is there an egg in the washing machine?

Product tested : Eco Egg, the new alternative to washing detergent

Attitude to eco stuff and laundry : With two children and a husband who’s a carpenter, I do a lot of washing so I was interested to hear about this product as it is supposed to save me money. The fact that it has no harsh chemicals, so is kinder to the environment, is a bonus.

Hopes for this product : I would like the Eco Egg to get my washing clean and to  make it smell nice when I hang it out to dry.

First impressions of the product: I was intrigued to see Kim Woodburn’s endorsement of the Eco Egg on the box, it must be a pretty good product if she says it really works. There were a lot of instructions and info to read but it was quite clear.

How did you feel about using this product? I didn’t believe that the Eco Egg would work as well as the washing powder I normally use but I wanted it to!

How did you use the product and how easy was it? Filling up the Eco Egg with the white mineral pellets and dark-coloured tourmaline pellets was really fiddly and they spilled on the floor more than once. I would do this over a tray next time I refill the Egg and make sure the children weren't around. But actually using the Eco Egg was really easy, you just put it in the washing machine drum with your laundry. I used it on a 60 degree wash (whites) and a 40 degree wash (coloured fabrics).

What were the outcomes of using the product? I was amazed at the excellent cleaning results! It got lots of stains out of the front of my daughter’s dressing up costume. Also the washing had a lovely fresh linen scent. I was really pleased.

In what ways did the product meet your expectations or disappoint you? The Eco Egg exceeded my expectations in terms of its effectiveness. However I was disappointed that the pack I was sent did not contain the 6 washing machine “detox” tablets it was supposed to (it is recommended to detox your machine once every 6 months or so to remove residues left by powders/ liquids).

What have you learned from using this product? I am really surprised that it can have such brilliant cleaning power whilst using no harsh chemicals. It’ll be great for my daughter’s eczema-prone skin, too. No wonder there has been such huge demand.

Would you recommend this product to a friend? Why or why not? Yes, definitely, its eco credentials do not mean its effectiveness is compromised.
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