Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Good news.

I feel I've been a bit whingy and neglectful recently. Neglectful because I've not been here (obviously), and whingy when I have.

And actually (at the risk of tempting fate, the pessimist inside me says), it's not been all bad. 

In no particular order:


This is M's weight chart as at today:


I've had a lovely weekend with lovely friends and now they've gone and I've washed all the sheets (they're all sitting around in damp bundles now, but we're concentrating on the positive here).


These are my babies: 

On an actual book! (Now I've just got to work out how to get them to let me write the words next time....)


Tomorrow night we're heading down South for a manic weekend filled with lots of friends, lots of food, and an actual cup of coffee with an actual blogger (eek!)


I've booked my Brit Mums Live ticket! Nervous now.


The sun shone all day today and the daffodils are popping up all over the place.  And it was still light at 5.45 pm.


L's teacher thinks that L is going to sail through the transition to Primary 1.  That's not really news.  What is news is that L is lovely to teach.


The builders have, finally, still not quite finished.


My children can still make me laugh harder than pretty much anyone else.  Even when I'm grumpy:

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Why do the bad bits feel worse than the good bits feel good?

Today started with the mother of a child in L's class, someone I have known for maybe four weeks but who I had been surprised and delighted to find was treating me as a friend, undermining all the fragile confidence I had in that friendship by asking to borrow money.

Ten hours later and three of my children are upstairs wailing, where they have been banished for fighting, while I sit on the floor, nursing the sore elbow I thumped into the worktop, rather than any one of the girls, and waiting angrily to see what half an hour in the microwave does to a really beautiful and expensive bit of beef that is unaccountably still frozen solid despite eight hours in the warmth of the kitchen.

B is out rehearsing. I am home alone wishing I was anywhere else.

And in between we have been for a bike ride, watched a film, played pirates on the ship in the park, and generally muddled through with a minimum of shouting and a decent number of smiles, giggles and, at the risk of sounding cringy, love.

So not a bad day, really. None of the bad bits were that bad, and some of the good bits - S has really mastered balancing on her bike - were truly special.

So why, sitting on the floor, with A, now, cuddled up next to me, does it feel like such a bad day? Why do the bad bits linger and the good bits get forgotten?

And how do I turn that around?

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Great Flapjack Challenge (part 2)

Now these ones are good. Very, very good. Squidgy and chewy and properly tooth-rottingly sweet.

Which is not to say that the Moiderer's weren't good too, but these were better.

So good actually, that we've already made them twice.

Amy's recipe this time:

300g butter
340g Demerara sugar
4 tablespoons golden syrup (Amy says heaped, but the first time I didn't read that bit and actually I thought they were slightly better like that - the more syrupy version were a bit too gooey. Which I never thought possible.)

Melt that lot, gently.

Then add the secret ingredient:

Yup. Condensed milk. Half a can. Small child's hair an optional extra.

Stir into your (500g of) oats.

Now this is where I might not have been entirely fair. Because the oats were different this time.

It's B's fault. I sent him to the supermarket without explicit instructions, so instead of getting generic own-brand, probably value, mushed up porridge oats, he came back with super duper hand rolled organic ones that were probably harvested at moonlight by flapjack-making-fairies.

The difference is noticeable:

In a spirit of fairness, I did use the rubbish ones I had left too, but there weren't enough (500g is quite a lot) so about half of that was lovely ones. How much that is responsible for the quality of the finished flapjack I can't say. Or not yet anyway. Further experiments may follow.

Anyway, mix it in,ignoring the slightly concerning greenish colour,

put it in a (larger than last time) tin. Stick in oven (160) for half an hour or so until golden brown.

Leave a good ten minutes (the Moiderer's tip there and she's absolutely right) before slicing. Then leave to cool fully (ideally overnight) before attempting to remove or the squidge will out-squidge you and they'll collapse.  I say this from experience, although they do squidge back together again quite nicely in extremis.  They are, as I may have already mentioned, pretty squidgy.

This week's guest depressed rugby fan was called Stuart. He was jolly impressed. He's less effusive than Hamish by nature so he limited himself to:

"They're goodActually, they're very good".

But he ate four, so I'm taking that as a good sign. Not to mention the fact that he carefully decanted the leftovers into a tin before giving me my empty box back...

You're left, of course, with half a tin of condensed milk sitting in your fridge. So I had a second attempt.  This lot I took to a playgroup with a bunch of dieting women.

They might now all hate me. But they want the recipe, so it's not entirely bad news. And they reckon the search is over.

I'm not so sure. I've got at least one more recipe (and and idea) to try. Reports to follow...

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Five miles south (1)

If I stepped out of my front door, strolled through next door's garden, (and the one beyond that), swam across the river (not recommended) and kept walking for about five miles, I'd be in England.

If I got in the car and went by a recommended route, it'd take about eight.  Or ten, if I went the long way round.

But either way,  it's not very far.  It doesn't have to be a very clear day for me to see it, either.

It's nearly two years (21 months actually) since we moved here.  And most days, living in Scotland, or at least this particular part of it, feels pretty much like living anywhere else in the UK (or at least those bits of it I have lived in).  And on those days I wonder what all the fuss is about Scotland and England being different (don't worry, that's as political as this particular post is going to get).

And then every now and then, something happens and I think:


And up until now, I've sat on those thoughts, because I've felt as though I haven't lived here long enough to comment, or that maybe it's not here, it's me.

But, you know what, I think it's ok.  I've come to the conclusion that I can point out the stuff that's different without people thinking it's patronising, or getting snippy (not that anyone has, of course, but that doesn't stop me worrying), or that I don't love those differences.  Because I do, they just surprise me.

Like today.  Because L came back from nursery full of the story of Jack and the Beanstalk*. And we all know what the Giant says, don't we?

That's right:

Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman.

Only apparently he doesn't. Of course he doesn't.  Why would he, here?  That's not very scary if you're not English is it?

Apparently, he says

Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of a boy.

Which, doesn't, to me, at least, have quite the same ring. Not to mention that it won't scan at all with the next line:

Be he alive, or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread.

but that apparently didn't feature either.

I didn't tell L that wasn't the version I knew, but it got me thinking. Is this just a sanitised version for the under 5's (that we'd also have got in Hammersmith) and do older Scots get the gruesome (but nationally inappropriate) version?  Or is this the one that's been handed down north of the Border since giants really did walk the earth?

And are there other fairy stories out there that are going to surprise me?  I've just about got used to calling Father Christmas Santa. Is there anything else I should know about?


*Actually it turns out that Jack and the Beanstalk is, according to Wikipedia (from which I've also taken the Arthur Rackham image) an English folk tale. Which explains the version I remember. But then if that's the case, why not just stick with that?

And a ps.  Apparently (thank you Wikipedia) there is a French rock musical called Jack et le haricot magique.  Unaccountably it hasn't yet had its British premiere, but click the link to find out what we're missing.

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Great Flapjack challenge (part one)

So I asked for flapjack recipes.

I got, wait for it, two.

Which is probably a good thing, as serial flapjack making will inevitably lead to serial flapjack eating which will lead, equally inevitably, to muffin (flapjack?) tops and wobbly bottoms (she says, as though she doesn't have both already).

Hey ho.

Anyway, the Moiderer's recipe. You can find it here but it didn't seem to be doing anything unexpected: butter, golden syrup, oats, Demerara sugar (hmmm, I usually use dark brown, maybe that's it).

I got my sous-chefs involved too - if they're going to eat, they can jolly well cook too.

And after some light melting and stirring, they (the flapjacks, not the children) were in the oven:

timer set for precisely 20 minutes as instructed.

Out they came, were cooled for five minutes and cut into squares:

before being subjected to the acid test: Edinburgh on Calcutta cup day and a very cold and disappointed man called Hamish.

His verdict? "Perfect".

Quest over? Well, maybe, but maybe not. Because while Hamish approved, I thought they still lacked a bit of squidge, and were possibly (sorry, Moiderer) a wee bit greasy (they're half butter, grease is perhaps inevitable).

So I'm not giving up yet. Amy's recipe to come. With condensed milk, which is different. And if I still think I can do better, be warned, I will start mugging mothers-in-law.

Craft Market Update

Well, craft-lovers, Christmas is over, but so is January, so things are looking up, and it was a beautiful, beautiful day here.  Spring feels like it's just around the corner (although I realise it might not if you're shivering under snow: you should move to Scotland, clearly) and we've got some new stalls in the Craft Market.  As ever, check them out, visit their sites, say hello, and say I sent you.

Highlyunlikelyhousewife makes silver fingerprint impression charms and keepsakes (she sends you the stuff and you do it in your own home!).

Tracy Glover makes beautiful dolls

Kerry Goodman makes amazing photo albums and wedding stationery as well as bespoke items

she also hosts crafting parties in West Sussex and Hampshire.

Tracy T makes artisan jewellery and crafts in silver, beads, paper and fabric

Fee makes really beautiful solid wood decoupage blocks which she sells through Notonthehighstreet.com.

Alyson makes pretty much anything with words on it: clothes, canvases, signs, wall art, name art, table plans...

Heidi-Elizabeth Storer makes all sorts of beautiful things in her Beehive 

Becky at Hazel and Blue is a thrifty Kiwi who loves sewing and ribbons

Aimi Rowe makes various toys, soft furnishings, wall hangings, decorative door hangings and bags. all out of your childs clothing


Nicky makes stunning handmade paper products which she sells under the name of Gooseberry Moon

The Butterfly Experience 's bespoke online jewellery shop: Lunar Moth Jewellery appears still to be in development.  Keep checking to be there when it opens...

Zoe Grant is inspired by the seaside with products for you, your home and your Summer holiday (and Christmas too!)

Viv Smith makes jewellery and accessories including mummy necklaces and birthstone jewellery.  She also creates ribbon flower corsages, available as brooches or hair accessories, including in school colours

Melisa Moody is originally a textile designer but now makes delicious looking jewellery and accessories.

Helen runs icklebabe.com  producing all sorts of beautiful hand made things for babies, boys and girls, their mummies and daddies...

Amanda loves making shabby chic and primitive sewn items.

Fiona makes stunning personalised children's artworks:

Helen Rawlinson  has two shops.  One on Etsy, selling beautiful fabrics, mugs, bags, cushions and more fabulous stuff:

 as well as her own website of lighting and textile design

Claire Mackaness also has a shop on Folksy, in her case selling vintage inspired gifts:

She also makes beautiful cards and occasionally runs classes in Brentwood, so pop by her website for more information.

Helen McIntyre also makes hand-made gifts for beautiful girls of all ages.  She also sells crafting supplies if you're feeling inspired!

Janice Thomson makes baby gifts

Hilary Pullen makes little purses and beadkits for children

Harriet McAlonan makes bespoke children's jewellery for boys and girls  Click the link for lovely pictures

Grit doesn't sell her playbags, she gives them away to local toy libraries.  What a star.  The playbag blog is here.

Louise Horler makes funky bibs, tooth fairy cushions, baking bags, activity bags, buggy blankets, aprons and more!

She is also the UK co-ordinator for Dress a Girl Around the World, a charity which asks crafty types to make a dress for sending to a girl who hasn't got a pretty dress.  She's always looking for more sewers so get in touch if you think you can help!  (Louise, you've got me inspired for one...) 
Aingeal at Mum's Survival Guide creates unique one of a kind pieces of jewellery (and cards)

 Tola Popoola makes personalised chocolate bars

Maggy Woodley paints children's pop art and greetings cards 

Kim at Four Teens and a Teabag makes beautiful bespoke bunting

Fanciful Alice makes handbags, brooches, children's toys and anything else she fancies

 Petra Hoschtitsky (and a friend) make jewellery, knit, sew, embroider, crochet and work with many different materials (textiles often recycled/upcycled). They also organise jewellery making parties for children and adults, as well as art and craft or sewing parties in the Manchester/Cheshire area.

(No picture because the links never stay live to this one, I don't know why, but click the link to have a look)

Sew Mental Mama makes children's (and adults') clothes


Steffi loves to knit, make cards and has recently explored felting

You can also buy her book, A Hat in Time which contains 37 patterns for hats to knit and crochet and from which all profits go to Save the Children.

Jude specialises in creating personalised nursery art (including canvases and framed, boxed Christening prints)

she also turns your children's artwork into masterpieces for your wall ....

Suzanne Harulow is a freelance textile artist.  She makes bespoke wall hangings and lots of other stuff

Mummy Mad at the Madhouse makes all sorts of wonderful crafty things with (and without) her children.  She's also been known to sell them from time to time.

And then there's me.  I make personalised children's stuff.  T-shirts, towels, bedclothes. Anything you like really... 

And I'm also a trained milliner.  So if you need something special for a wedding, Ascot or just running round the park, let me know: