Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Creative Home and Garden Hop #20

I'm looking forward to seeing what creative home-making and gardening posts you'll be linking up this week. It doesn't matter whether you live in the suburbs, the city, or out on the range, everyone is welcome. 


I have written some FAQs for the hop so you know what to link up and how; you can read them here. Do have a look at these guidelines, especially if you are new to blog-hopping in general or this hop in particular. In the side bar on the right, you can see the blog hop button and some code underneath. Please include our button in the posts that you link up so we can spread the word about this linky party and get more bloggers joining in.

Mumtopia

Friday, 29 November 2013

Limited time offer on Clean Mama printables!

Clean Mama agrees with Mumtopia that “it's tough being a mom”. No pretence that forgetting birthday presents or medical appointments doesn’t happen, no expectation of keeping it all running tickety-boo all the time (and without writing anything down). 

Amongst the many useful printables Becky of Clean Mama has created, including those designed for budgeting, working at home and cleaning schedules, the kit that shouted out “buy me!” is the ALL NEW Busy Mama Kit, which is “for all the busy mamas out there in need of a few great lists to keep it 'all' together.” It contains nineteen documents designed to keep mums’ homekeeping manageable and on-track. 


Because they are printable, the documents never run out and can be used month after month, year after year. For frugalistas like me, who are mean with printer ink, Becky says “Feel free to print documents in grey scale and to resize in your preferences folder of your printer file.” All the nineteen digital files can be printed out as many times as you want for your own personal use and work well together or separately to keep your home tidy and organized. 

Perhaps this love of paper and to-do lists stems from my childhood games of playing “offices” (how different it all was when I did indeed become a secretary...), but I am certainly more likely to keep my kitchen cupboards stocked and my days productive if I have a list to follow, and Clean Mama’s printables are just too cute to ignore.

To take advantage of the special offer shown above, click here and use the relevant discount codes 50FRIDAY or 30THANKFUL

Frugal Patchwork Shopping Bag

Amy
Patchwork is my favourite sewing technique. It's time-consuming, yes, but the results are very pleasing and it is an excellent way of using up small pieces of fabric. I have lined this bag to make it more sturdy and to cover up all the seams from the underside of the patchwork. In true Make Do and Mend style, I use old tea towels as lining and old clothes to make up the patchwork.

Every Tuesday Afternoon1. Look at your lining. If you are using a tea towel, measure it and work out how many patchwork squares you will need. For this project I used a five inch square patch, and did three rows of seven squares. The fabrics I picked are all non-stretch and are a mixture of cut-up shirts, duvet covers and dresses, and fat quarters I have been given as presents. Ideally use no more than three or four colours. If you salvage fabric from shirts, you may be able to use a square which contains a button-down pocket (see final photo) - a useful addition to a shopping bag like this.

2. Arrange your squares in rows so that no two similar patterns touch one another, except diagonally. Pin the squares in each row, right sides together. Sew the squares together to make several rows of patchwork. Seam allowance 0.5cm. Press the seams open. Iron your patches if you haven't already done so.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

8 Ways with Bicarb in the Bathroom

1. Liquid bicarb, available here, uses the gentle but powerful cleaning properties of Bicarbonate of Soda to deep-clean surfaces such as sinks, and baths. Although the bicarb crystals are mildly abrasive, they are non-scratch, and can therefore be used on a variety of surfaces. I have found traditional liquid bicarb to be more effective than my usual multi-surface cleaner. 
2. Pour several spoonfuls of liquid bicarb directly onto stains in the toilet bowl and scrub well. Flush after waiting a few minutes.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Escape to the Junk Shop

It’s Day Four of Prima’s cough and cold. Were she an extra in a costume drama, she would be at the forefront of the TB ward. Instead she is on our sofa, shunning warm Ribena, choking half-heartedly, silently sipping water and wondering, in a whisper (she has lost her voice) what fun thing we might do next.

We have played Sevens, drawn pictures of lunch box contents, cut out squares of fabric for patchwork, and made a fish pie. Prima has watched me vacuum the dining room and kitchen (an event), light and re-light, the fire, and load and re-load the washing machine. It is not yet midday. It’s time for me to play my wild card. I have letters to post.

Having a letter to post is the perfect reason to leave the confines of our 1920s terraced house. It’s not a long walk but it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s not exciting but it’s a change of scene. The sun’s out and I want to see how much walking Prima is capable of, in her weakened state, to give me an idea of whether she will be returning to school any time soon.

We head to the post box, and, after checking with Prima if she is up to it, towards the charity shop where I offer up my fortnightly consignment of empty carrier bags. There are, alas, no tea towels for sale, with which to line the patchwork totes I’m sewing at the moment, so we continue to the junk shop: Aladdin’s Cave. Its name is apt.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Saintly Homemade Mince Pies

Christmas simply wouldn’t be complete without a homemade mince pie and a glass of something warming (in my case, four cups of coffee).

These luxurious treats, courtesy of the 2014 Dairy Diary (which you can read more about here) are guaranteed to wow your guests over the festive season, and would be a winning edition to any cake stall at your children's school Christmas fair. You could take them to work and spread a bit of festive cheer, or, for a Random Act of Kindness, why not take a batch of two dozen to your nearest Fire Station? Save time/ money by buying a 450g jar of mincemeat, or be ever so saintly and make your own.

The following extract and photograph are from the 2014 Dairy Diary and are featured in Mumtopia by kind permission of the publisher.



Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Creative Home and Garden Hop #19

I can't believe I've been co-hosting the Creative Home and Garden hop for nineteen weeks! I'm looking forward to seeing what creative home-making and gardening posts you'll be linking up this time. It doesn't matter whether you live in the suburbs, the city, or out on the range, everyone is welcome. 


I have written some FAQs for the hop so you know what to link up and how; you can read them here. Please do have a look at these guidelines, especially if you are new to blog-hopping in general or this hop in particular. 

Mumtopia

Week 18's featured posts are 7 Ways with pallets and organizing my backyard by Doodle Buddies


Fotor1117111751

and Make Your Own Rag Rug this Weekend by Let It Shine



Featured bloggers, and anybody else linking up - if you would like to be a guest blogger for Mumtopia, please get in touch!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Making Baby’s Nursery Perfect – What do you need?

Guest post by Kira Browdy

It can be incredibly overwhelming, when you first look at the sheer variety of nursery furniture and accessories. You will find you’re asking yourself, “What do we actually need?” and probably not being able to answer with certainty. While there are some things that are fairly obvious must-buys, it can be difficult to whittle out the other necessities from all the other bits and pieces that are just there to look pretty. If you’re on a budget, or have limited space in the soon-to-be nursery, you need to be sensible about what you do and don’t buy. Here are a few pointers that may help.

The Cot
A fairly obvious addition to any nursery, the cot is going to be the main bed for your child for at least the first 2 years of life. Consider one that transforms into a cot bed to prolong the life of it.
Remember that, for the first few months, baby will be sleeping in your room with you - so if you don’t have the time, or money, to buy one straight away, don’t worry! Also consider second hand cots if you are aware of how much all this costs; you can buy some fabulous quality second hand ones and just invest in a new mattress, if your budget needs to be stretched as far as possible.

Don’t worry too much about cot bumpers and fancy quilts – all your baby needs in the first instance is a blanket and a sheet for the mattress. Add a baby mobile overhead to help soothe them and keep them settled, too.

The Storage
What people use as storage varies greatly. Some people are happy to use a chest of drawers – after all, most baby outfits are fine to be folded. Others have a child’s wardrobe to hang their lovely outfits in. A good space saver would be to use a chest of drawers and purchase one that has a changing table built into the top of it – that way, you don’t have to worry about buying one of those as well!

The Accessories
You’re bound to want to make the nursery personal to you and your baby – whether that’s incorporating a theme or just adding a few bits and pieces here and there is up to you. A nice rug, a canvas or a pretty light shade, for example, will help to bring the nursery together and ensure that the design of the room flows nicely.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on all the latest furnishings and gadgets to make a nursery special. Stick to the basics and you can smile at the nursery and your bank balance, too. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Made in Britain #5: Say Cheese

homestead barn hop linkyDid you know that more than 700 different cheeses are made in the UK each year?

To cut food miles and support the British economy, why not try some of the lesser-known varieties, and opt for British, rather than foreign-made, cheese. 

Here are some simple swap suggestions, courtesy of the 2014 Dairy Diary. 

Cheshire for Feta
Cheshire cheese’s crumbly texture and fresh flavour is very similar to Greek Feta. A mild, young cheese, Cheshire has a lightness and tanginess that works perfectly with fresh salads and balances the intense sweetness of roasted tomatoes. Cheshire also has up to 50% less salt than Feta.

Sussex Charmer for Parmesan
A fantastic alternative to traditional Italian Parmesan, Sussex Charmer is a hard-pressed cheese made from a recipe which is a cross between Parmesan and Cheddar. Use it as you would Parmesan, or enjoy it just as it is for an unusual twist on a British Cheddar

Stilton for Roquefort
The French are justly proud of their world-renowned sheep’s milk blue cheese, Roquefort, but Stilton is a great alternative, with the added benefit that, typically, it contains 40% less salt. Many different Stiltons are available, and the flavour alters noticeably depending on age. Stilton is a great British cheese that works just as well as its French counterpart in sauces, salads and on the cheeseboard

Mild Cheddar for Edam
The Dutch hard cheese Edam is known for its distinctive red waxy rind and mild, slightly salty taste. The perfect slicing cheese, it works well in sandwiches, as does a young British Cheddar, which has the same gentle flavour, perfect slicing qualities and up to 30% less salt than Edam. Mild Cheddar also has a better texture for melting on toast or in sauces. Either cheese works well with fruit, such as pears or apples, for a savoury dessert option or snack. When buying Cheddar, check the label to make sure it is British and not just ‘packed in the UK’. Contrary to popular belief, Cheddar is not always made in Britain, even though it was invented here.

More hints and tips, including some super recipe ideas using cheese, are contained in the 2014 Dairy Diary, which is available to order now, either online or from your milkman. Spiral bound, hardback, with a week to view, my copy has been a source of fascination for Prima already, with its memorable dates stickers, instructions on crocheting mice, budgeting pages, and wedding anniversary gift tables.

Nothing says "organised and not to be trifled with" like a Dairy Diary. This year's edition has a lovely cottage garden cover, a recipe for virtually every week of the year - including seasonal treats like Mother's Day cupcakes and St George's Day Pudding - and a whole host of information that makes interesting and practical reading, whether you are 8 or 38! 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Desperation Crafts #3: Hand Friends


For this handy time-filling project, you will need:

1. People you love.
2. Paper, white and coloured.
3. Pencils and felt-tipped pens
4. Scissors and glue

What to do:

1. Everybody draws round their hand in pencil
2. On each finger, draw a pattern in coloured pen.
3. In the palm of the hand, draw a smiling face.
4. On the thumb, write the name of your Hand Friend.
5. Cut out each hand and glue it to the coloured paper, in size order.

You now have a family of Hand Friends!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Creative Home and Garden Hop #18

We're in Week 18 of the Creative Home and Garden hop. It's the perfect fit for all of your wonderful posts on creative home-making and gardening, whether you live in the suburbs, the city, or out on the range. 
 
I have written some FAQs for the hop so you know what to link up and how; you can read them here. Please do have a look at these guidelines, especially if you are new to blog-hopping in general or this hop in particular. 
 
Mumtopia

Week 17's featured post is Oak Hill Homestead's Gift Ideas from the Homestead. It was great to read how this blogger keeps the commercial out of Christmas. 


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Gift Ideas for Those Who Make, Bake and Create

Make
Anyone who is new to the world of sewing, or has just invested in a new sewing machine would appreciate The Very Easy Guide to Using Your Sewing Machine by Wendy Gardiner. It’s an extremely comprehensive, user-friendly manual that includes nine great projects with step-by-step instructions and photographs, which help put what you read into practice. Making items like drawstring bags, a cafĂ© curtain and a decorated guest towel will build every sewist’s confidence. Neither patronising nor overly complex, and backed-up with a glossary and trouble-shooting guide, this would help keep your sewing on the right track whether you are 16 or 69.


Bake
French pastries may taste out of this world but they are often heralded as beyond the repertoire of all but the professionals. Murielle Valette’s Patisserie: A Step-by-step Guide to Baking French Pastries at Home features all of the glamour and glory of dark chocolate millefeuile, apple tart Tatin and cherry clafoutis but makes them accessible to even the beginner baker. Sumptuous photos are backed up by thorough instructions and tips from the professionals. Chocolate profiteroles are within your grasp!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Going Underground Shopping Bag

Vintage tea towels are the perfect fabric for these simple, useful shopping bags. Search through your airing cupboard for ones that have lost their absorbency or are fraying and make a handful of no-cost cotton bags. Alternatively, you could use old sheets or pillowcases.

1. You will need two rectangles of approximately 44cm by 42cm. You may be able to simply fold your tea towel double, or you may need to use two different tea towels, especially if there are stains you want to avoid. Being awfully British, I used a tea towel which features a map of the London Underground.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Three Ways to Keep Your Cool This Winter

Forced jollity on a national scale, debilitating colds, dark days, what's not to love about Winter? If you, like me, find yourself looking forward to Spring already, here are three ways to keep your cool this festive season.

1. Take control of your calendar.
Do this by blocking out weekends/ weekdays to give yourself some breathing space between Christmas shopping, parties, school nativity etc, and do as little as possible on those days of rest.

Hit the ground running with the new year by buying a diary now and getting dates like Brownie Camp, choir concerts and so on written in. Don't wait to receive one as a Christmas present! For the past couple of years this household has been fans of the Diary Diary. It's got loads of writing space, a pocket for notes, and plenty of information and advice, from anti-ageing foods to companion planting. I always wanted one when I was a little girl; finally, I am grown up enough to order my own copy from the milkman!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Desperation Crafts #2: No Fail Fall Art

CarrieThisHome.comWe don't do Halloween here in Mumtopia (more about that here) but there's plenty to celebrate during this season of "mists and mellow fruitfulness" (I don't know who wrote that, but well done whoever he was), and one way we like to do it is through the medium of art.

I realise that sounds utterly hippie/ pretentious. All I really mean is that I like to give the kids plenty of creative things to do on rain-lashed days, so they don't spend every waking moment watching Penelope Pitstop, and I don't mind joining in.

One such project is No Fail Fall collage, which is simple, cheap, and, if I say so myself, effective. It kept Prima, Secundus, my mum and me all enjoyably busy for a couple of hours one wet afternoon.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Creative Home and Garden Hop #17

Welcome to the 17th Creative Home and Garden hop. It's the perfect fit for all of your wonderful posts on creative home-making and gardening, whether you live in the suburbs, the city, or out on the range. 

I have written some FAQs for the hop so you know what to link up and how; you can read them here. Please do have a look at these guidelines, especially if you are new to blog-hopping in general or this hop in particular. 

Week 16's featured post here at Mumtopia is It's A Wonderful World SOUP by Cackleberries. 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Dig for Victory #5: Crowning Glory

I have been putting off getting to grips with the garden for some time, and the dire weather we have been having has been a brilliant excuse. However, the arrival of some Rhubarb crowns from Thompson and Morgan, and some sunshine, convinced me, the King, and Prima to get our wellies on (nothing would part Secundus from his Lego this morning). 

An anonymous shrub has sprung up this past eighteen months in the corner of one of the raised beds and has overpowered the nearby rowan sapling. We have not been able to identify the shrub, and it has neither flowered nor fruited; today, we decided, it had to go. That was the King's job, with saw and spade. Once it had been cleared out, a lot more light was let in to that side of the garden.

Prima weeded around the strawberry plants and was happy to see lots of worms in the soil, which she enjoyed "rescuing" and placing in her "worm hospital", while I harvested the last of the courgettes and pulled up the old plants for the composter. 

I found the sunniest position I could for the "Champagne" rhubarb crowns, cleared all weeds, and dug in some well rotted compost since I didn't have any stable manure. Reading the leaflet Thompson and Morgan sent me with my crowns, I noted not to pull any "sticks" until the following year after planting. 

From The Farm Blog HopI didn't go online until writing this blog post and at that point I saw that their website advises to set the budded pieces so that the top of the crown sits 3cm (1") below soil level and allow a spacing of 75cm (30") between plants (unfortunately this wasn't included in the leaflet so I may have put them too close together). If the weather is alright tomorrow, perhaps I should dig up the second crown and move it further away. There is also a section on rhubarb aftercare on the website, which I must take note of during the first year and when harvesting in April or June of the second year (fingers crossed).

The garden has always had to work hard for us. It is a place to dry washing, split logs, hung bunting, store firewood, eat meals, play, store recylable materials and grow food. Today, on an unexpetedly sunny November morning, this little outdoor space did wonders for our souls as well.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

A Simple Birthday



The Evacuees were more excited, this year, about my birthday than I was, because all the presents they and the King had in store for me were handmade. These included a hand-written magazine called "Mum Mag" which included a Free Pull-out Board Game (shown above), a recipe for Rice Krispie Nests and a Colouring Page, plus a short story illustrated by Secundus. The board game was just the right length and perfect to play after my birthday tea. 

The chocolate cake you see here was the King's creation. Yes, that's the kinda guy I married. It's decorated with miniature Smarties and Twirl bites, and is gigantic and delicious. 

An even bigger surprise was the hand-made chopping board the King had made in his workshop; he had brought it home for the children to oil and finish. And the cheerful red bird table, also made in secret, which now has pride of place in our garden.

We spent most of the day kicking leaves at Harlow Carr and eating a picnic in one of the summerhouses there. The sun was out and the weather was mild for October. All was well with the world. I had such a beautiful, simple birthday and felt truly blessed to have the King and the Evacuees in my life. 

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