Saturday, 28 December 2013

You say you want a resolution?

It's cold, it's dark, you've spent the last month forking out hard-earned cash for presents, and the last couple of days forking out leftovers onto your (already overfull) plate. Yet, January beckons. Time for a fresh start. There's no getting away from it, although all the odds are against us, many of us can't help but play the New Year's Resolution Game.

So, to paraphrase The Beatles, you say you want a resolution? Here are some helpful tools to aid you in your quest, whatever your timescale:

Image: Dailygreatness
In 90 Days...

How we START our days determines how we SPEND our days. How we spend each day determines our future. What, then, ask the creators of the Dailygreatness Journal, is more important than beginning and ending each day with clear intentions, a positive, focused mindset and conscious reflection? Like me, you've probably read a shelf-load of self-help books but how do you apply those ideas and make lasting changes?

The Dailygreatness Journal: A Practical Guide For Consciously Creating Your Days, combines a yearly diary, goal and appointment planner, and daily tools for self-mastery. Designed to be used daily throughout the year - and you can start on any date -  the undated pages will guide you to form great habits through the 8 daily steps of meditation and visualisation, intentions, dream journalling, gratitude, evening self-awareness questions, exercise, inspired actions and inspiration.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Fabby Shabby Wreath

I've never made my own Christmas wreath before and this one is so easy - no holly scratches either.

I used scraps of fabric, mainly cotton, cut with pinking shears to approx 1/2" by 5". 

Take a florist's wire wreath ( I got mine on amazon) and start knotting your fabric strips onto the wire. One knot will do but you can knot it twice if you want. I cut about twenty strips, knotted them on, and then cut twenty more, continuing that process until the frame was full.

This wreath took about an hour in total and cost about 50p. It doesn't take too much concentration so you can simultaneously explain the plot of the musical Oliver! to your children ("Why does Nancy love Bill, mummy?", "How can you sell a boy?")

Friday, 20 December 2013

Fun Outdoor Activities for Kids This Winter

It might be a little chilly, but there is no reason for our children to be sat indoors, when there is so much to see and do. Winter is a beautiful season with many fantastic sights to see, and some awesome activities to do that can only be done in the cold winter. Here are some activities that will not only educate and excite your children, but will fill your otherwise boring days in the run up to Christmas.

Fun in the snow
Building a snowman not only encourages your child’s motor skills and creativity, but it will sate even the most competitive youngsters in the race against the neighbours to build the best snowman ever. Get the other kids in the street involved, or invite their little friends over.

Other fun to be had in the snow is making snow angels. Less to learn here, but it is really good fun, and mum and dad can join in too!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Poldark's Spicy Grilled Chicken Breast

This week's recipe is from Robin Ellis's new book, Healthy Eating For Life: Over 100 Simple and Tasty Recipes. Robin, who is best known for his lead role in the classic BBC Poldark serial, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and has managed his condition without medication for six years by following the Mediterranean approach to cooking.

Healthy Eating for Life (£6.99, Right Way) contains such tasty recipes that you'll find it hard to believe they are so good for you. The focus is on a balanced way of eating, avoiding extremes and short-term diets, and instead making cooking an integral part of family life.

The Spicy Grilled Chicken Breast recipe below, which serves 4-6, is an extract from Healthy Eating for Life and is featured in Mumtopia by kind permission of the publisher. Over to Robin: 

This is adapted from the Indian actress and cookery writer Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe, whose spicy green beans (see page 73 of Healthy Eating For Life) would be a good accompaniment. I’ve cooked from her BBC series cookbook Indian Cookery for many years. It may be out-of-print but is worth seeking out.

In the introduction she recalls her mother telling her that Madhur’s passion for food dates back to the hour of her birth, when her grandmother wrote the sacred syllable “Om” (“I am”) on her tongue with a finger dipped in honey. She was observed smacking her lips loudly. Something we do regularly after eating from one of her recipes!

An overnight marinade in this delicious blend of familiar spices and a quick turn on a griddle makes these strips of chicken breast a handy lunch option. (You could also cook these in a hot oven – 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7 for 10–15 minutes, depending on their thickness.)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Strength of Adventurous Families

Guest post by Nick Williams

I just had to write about this story because it made me smile. It’s appearing on the inside pages of some the regular suspects. It began with the Daily Mail, was pursued by the Telegraph and who knows what will happen in the future: publishing deals and a slot on CBBC perhaps. It’s a young family from Nottingham, Kerry and Tim Meek, both teachers, and their two girls Amy and Ella, who chose to switch off the TV more often (and do something less boring instead). Their website is inspiring, full of ideas from ‘going on a reptile ramble’ to cooking with snow. Yes, adventures don’t have to be epics.   

Over the past two decades, outdoor activities have seen bad press. Landmark events, like the Lyme Bay kayaking accident of 1993 or the death of Alison Hargreaves on K2 in 1995, helped form public perception that our waters and mountains were dangerous. Regulatory boards sprung into existence. The qualifications industry burgeoned. Proposed school trips were canned. Lord Baden-Powell tussled in his Kenyan grave while our culture forgot that pursuits in the wild are healthy, engaging and developmental.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Pretty Nostalgic Pledge

Pretty Nostalgic - the magazine for creative and sustainable living

Welcome to the final edition of the Creative Home and Garden hop.

The featured post today is Baby It's Cold Outside by A Vintage Green

Thanks so much to everyone for linking up over the past few months, and sharing all your expertise and inspiring ideas. The other co-hosts and I really appreciate your support and commitment to the blog hop.

While you're here, why not take the Pretty Nostalgic pledge? Feel free to substitute British for your homeland. I know a lot of you who visit Mumtopia are from the States. The main message is to spend wisely, waste less and appreciate more!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

DIY Child's Annual

This is an extremely simple idea which I have only just thought of. It was inspired by a bundle of tatty magazines and comics which Prima had bought with her own money, but was not really making the most of, partly because some of the projects had been done and templates had been cut out. Often it wasn't clear what was worth reading and what could be recycled.

To reduce the amount of paper cluttering up Prima's desk, we decided to put together an "annual".

We used an A4 display album (the type with transparent pockets) and decorated the front cover with stickers that had been free gifts with some of the magazines. 

After labelling the spine of the album (which had forty pages), we piled up all the magazines and went through each one. Any page that was worth keeping, with a recipe Prima wanted to try, a Sylvanian Families story, or a plausible craft idea, was torn out. The remaining pages were recycled. The number of left-over pages from each publication showed Prima that some magazines were better value for money than others.

Each page was placed in a pocket, creating a collection of magazine articles Prima actually wanted to read - and no adverts!

Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

My Daily Greatness Marathon

When I saw one of my closest friends, Cagey, cross the finishing line of the York Marathon this Autumn, knowing the hours and days she had invested in training, knowing she was in pain, and knowing she was raising money for a children's hospice, I was overwhelmed by pride for her. But I also thought "I want some of that." That sense of achievement, of purpose, of euphoria. 

Cagey is a woman who sets herself challenges and thrives when she has a goal to achieve. Me? Not so much. I spent most of the first thirty years of my life achieving goals other people had set; so much so, that any ambitions I might have had began to dwindle in my teens. 

To begin the Daily Greatness journal project, then, was a tough one for me. A different kind of marathon. This beautiful book with its bright cover, abstract illustrations, luxurious pages and ribbon bookmarks belies the challenges that are contained within. There's no quick fix and you have to actually take action, not just read about it. The idea is that it is used every day to help you focus on what you really want (something I find difficult to pinpoint), overcome negative thought patterns, build discipline and move from being "the victim of your life, to being the powerful creator of your life". 

The first step is to forgive. So far, so Twelve Point Plan. But this is all on paper. "Others don't need to know that you're forgiving them for this to be effective. Forgiveness happens inside you." No shouting from the rooftops then. Keen to stop "holding the pain in (my) mind and body" and knowing that this was an integral part of claiming back my power, I completed the forgiveness section. 

My achievements was the title of the next page. Having been brought up not to blow my own trumpet, I found it difficult to list my life's achievements, especially as most of them didn't bring me contentment. And the greatness thing? Life had been a matter of simply surviving. 

Having got this far with the Daily Greatness Journal, I was beginning to feel "got at". In addition, I had to carve out a lot of quiet time to do this deep thinking and writing. Would it be worth it? However, the work I did in identifying what really matters to me, what my values are, and - eventually - my goals, started to feel like the foundation for a long term plan. 

Broken into colour-coded sections of 90 days, the Daily Greatness Journal helps you see what's missing in your life and what you want to change. It can be started at any time of year, since the pages aren't dated (and I don't recommend starting it necessarily in January) which means you can pick the right time for you and set yourself goals for a three-month period. 

The weekly check-ins, and sections to complete on a daily basis, continually refer you back to what you are trying to change,and there is a strong focus on the positive. We're talking project management for health and body, emotional, spiritual and personal growth, intimate relationship,social and fun, in fact all aspects of life in the 21st Century. 

Since writing in the Journal every day for the past week, I have kick-started a number of good habits, such as daily guided meditation (a Paul McKenna CD), following the Motivated Moms' Chore Planner and charting my PMT symptoms again so that I know it's just my hormones and the world is, in fact, not ending.Thrive @ Home ThursdayAll too often mums like us devote no time at all to this kind of personal growth work, not when the the stove top needs sandblasting and there are previously unknown life-forms at the back of the fridge. The Daily Greatness Journal won't let you get away with self-neglect. It's not too late to start the good habits that really make a difference. Because our lives matter too.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Creative Home and Garden Hop #21

It's week 21 and 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. 

Before you link up, if you would like to write a guest post for Mumtopia, please get in touch! There's a contact form at the bottom right hand side of the page and more information here.

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.


Week 20's featured post is Darlene Nemeth's You Can't Live a Positive Life with a Negative Mind 

Don't worry if you don't get picked this time. Each host will share her own features each week. This means you have an even better chance of being picked! Be sure to visit all of our hosts to see if your post was featured! The Creative Home and Garden Hop hosts are: Mary from Back to the Basics and Mary’s Kitchen, Alison (that's me) from Mumtopia,  and Lisa Lynn from Little Homestead on Hill. We'd love it if you would like to follow us!

If you were featured, feel free to grab the "Featured Post" button above and share it on your blog with a link back to here! 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Show Housework Who's Boss with Motivated Moms

Thrive @ Home ThursdayEveryone approaches housework in their own way. For some, like Tracy, mother of two, it's a matter of "lists, lists and more lists!". Valerie's strategy is as follows: "I like to go through the house on a Monday, tidying and giving everywhere a quick wipe over, bathrooms, kitchen; sweeping floors and hoovering so everywhere looks ok and the proper cleaning is not overwhelming! Then I spend the rest of the week doing several jobs a day, kitchen, bathrooms, dusting, mopping floors, cleaning mirrors/windows etc."

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Frugal Crafty Birthday Party

We always celebrate Prima's birthday a little early. It falls on 19th December, by which time we are nearing the end of school term, everyone has a cold, and Christmas is at the forefront of the nation's mind. So not only did the Evacuees open their advent calendars on the morning of 1st December this year, they also helped us get ready for a party. 

The theme for the party this time was "craft" and it has taken some preparation, beginning first with hand-made party bags. I used an old duvet cover to make four small bags, using the same pattern as for the Going Underground shopping bag a few weeks ago. 

Each was labelled with a small gift tag tied on with string, and each was large enough to contain all the things that would be made at the party itself, plus a lavender bag I had sewn for each guest, using lavender from our front garden and cut-up cushion covers and school dresses. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Lunchbox Police

It's often difficult to put together a packed lunch that caters for your child's tastes and passes the healthy test. "I can understand parents' frustrations over packed lunches", says Tracy, who has an eight year-old. "I'm fortunate that my child is easy to cater for as she eats most things. However, children can be very fickle and selective over what they eat. Trying to attain a happy medium between providing a healthy lunch and ensuring it's something the child will eat, is a constant balancing act."

I'm keen to provide the Evacuees with packed lunches that fill them up, are nutritious, and actually get eaten, but, as Tracy says, "it's unfortunate that the healthy options are often the most expensive, prohibitively so if you have more than one child."

Here are some ideas for how to ensure your kids' lunch packs a punch (in a good way):

Buy Healthy Snacks to Go eBook Recipes Online1. I err on the side of what Prima and Secundus will eat. An example of this is the fact that school policy is to only allow cold water to be drunk at school. I know that, if I provide them with a bottle of cold water, the Evacuees will not drink it. Instead I provide a fruit squash drink, in an opaque bottle, and they don't go thirsty. 

In addition, I have no qualms about providing them with treats like a chocolate biscuit or homemade cake. Mum of two, Leanne says " Put what they like in! They deserve a treat at lunch after working hard all morning. I don't stress and don't give a second thought to what people think to my daughters' pack lunches". If they do not eat their sandwich and fruit, I will start removing the treat from the packed lunch. Many mums like Leanne and Tracy "understand schools wanting to promote healthy eating and governmental drive to head off the so-called obesity time bomb but it has to be taken in context". For some excellent recipes and inspiration, including her super-popular granola bars, take a look at Healthy Snacks to Go by Katie Kimball. 

Monday, 2 December 2013

What can you do in twenty minutes?

“Is your blog regularly updated while your laundry is way behind?” asks Jacinda Vandenberg in How to Grow Your Blog and Manage Your Home. I mutter to myself and head upstairs where a pile of clean laundry taller than my husband has been nagging me for the past week. 

“This is going to take AGES to put away”, I think to myself. “Maybe I should find the speakers, bring my laptop onto the landing and play some tunes while I’m at it.” Realising I don’t know where the portable speakers are, after the King's most recent merciless tidying up extravaganza, I decide against this music interlude, recognising it as just one more desperate attempt to avoid this laundry chore. It took about twenty minutes to get the job done. I’ve spent more time than that just THINKING about it, over the last seven days. 

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