Thursday, 23 December 2010


A sad cake story, a stained glass window, and a table runner and napkins...

A sad cake story
I was very proud of my Christmas cake.  Little C helped me make it by eating all the fruit as I stirred it in, and I only stopped him helping once I had added the 6 eggs to the mixture - I thought six raw eggs might be pushing it a bit. 

Anyway, last Friday I iced it and I think it looked beautiful.  It was only as I put on the icing that I remembered that last year, while it tasted very nice, I had thought it a little dry and planned to try a new recipe this year.  Nevermind, too late now.  Big C and I had a slice each in our comfy hour.  It was good.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

"White", and eggs and a couple of crafty clues

Little C and I went to the theatre on Tuesday with our local Toddler group.  We went to see a show called White at the MacRobert arts centre at Stirling University.  Here are the relevant websites, and please bear in mind that all pictures that are about to follow are from one or other of the websites here:
MacRobert Arts Centre
Catherine Wheels Theatre Company

The show, by the Catherine Wheels Theatre company, was a little odd, but perfectly suited to the 2-4 age bracket.  Little C, only 16 months, was entranced the entire way through. 

They had a low stage, with lots of white bird boxes and a white teepee on it, and the entire set was white. 

For the audience they had three rows of benches, graduated in height from those comfortable for adults to sit on at the back, to little ones that Little C was very comfortable on at the front, and in front of those were lots of white rugs for children to sit or crawl on.  Little C sat happily on his bench the entire way through the show (about 45 minutes I think), with only one crawl on to my lap briefly, and one wander over to the stage (I retrieved him).

White Image  by Paul Watt 2

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Christmas Cracker alternatives

My latest bout of creativity.

I found the Jean Greenhowe website when I posted about my knitted dolls and while on there spotted a free pattern for mini Christmas stockings.  I had a moment of inspiration. 

This year we are having family over for Christmas (a rare occurence as we are usually the ones doing the visiting) so I want to make things nice.  I'll post about my tablecloth and napkins another time - when they are finished...

I hate Christmas crackers, I think they are a colossal waste of money and packaging.  But I do like the idea of having a nice little surprise on the table.

So here's what I've done:

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Playdough, and writing and snow update

I made playdough!  First of all I got out the playdough that had been hanging around in the back of the toy cupboard at Toddlers, and to my delight Little C played with it without trying to eat it - result!

Here's the recipe I used.  I mixed 1 cup plain flour, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup salt, 2 tbsp vegetable oil and 2tbsp cream of tartare, and quite a bit of green food colouring (I just kept adding and stirring until it looked ok).  I put them all into a saucepan over a medium heat and stirred until it stopped being liquid and started to form into a dryish doughy mix, which scraped off the pan into a ball.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

A touch of winter

I usually define winter as December, January and February.  I think it defined it's own beginning this year, and it definitely arrived a few days before December!

It snowed a little bit on Friday while we were out with the waggy-tailed one.

It snowed a bit more overnight, and on Saturday morning we were hesitating about whether to attempt the trip to Edinburgh (we did).

Friday, 26 November 2010

Feeding little ones

Small children need food.  That's one of the facts of life.

It also seems to be a very contentious issue.  The parenting forum that I am a member of had long debates and discussions about when to wean, what to feed, how hot or cold or lumpy it should be.  There were posts seeking ideas for what to make them.  Others debating whether or not it was ok to give them sweets, or tomato ketchup or....  Now our babies are toddlers with their own minds, the debates have moved on to how to get the child to eat who is refusing everything.  Should they be offered something else?  Is it ok to just give them what you know they will eat?  Why do they keep batting the spoon away?  There are guilt trippers out there who want "to give their children the healthiest start" so will no way ever be giving their child chocolate, or McDonalds, or anything from the potato smiles/fishfingers/chicken nuggets/waffles selection.

Here's my take on feeding a baby and toddler:
  • Start the weaning process as late as possible, and as much as possible allow them to feed themselves.  I read the Baby Led Weaning book by Gill Rapley and I liked a lot of what was written, it does make a lot of sense.  Practically though, while I felt that the "Food is for fun, until they are one" mantra, along with allowing them to explore food and play with it, and not worry whether they ate anything at all for a few months seemed like great advice, it sat much more easily with mothers who planned to respond at any time during the night to their child and to breast-feed until the baby wanted to stop.  I got to a point after he was about 8 months old where I was being woken for a feed every hour and a half in the night, and decided that we needed to do some sleep training.  As a result I wanted to make sure that he ate well during the day (both breast feeding which we did until his first birthday, and food) so that I would be reassured that he wasn't waking hungry.  I've never pureed anything for him though, and have never bought anything from the baby food aisle in the supermarket.  He has always eaten the same food as us right from the start.  It just meant that I would ensure there was at least something in the meal which either he could eat easily, or we could spoon in to help him. 

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


FlyLady's FlyToon

Aaahhhh, at last.  A moment to sit down and wiggle my fingers on the keyboard!  This week a combination of my writing assignment and a sudden flurry of tasks and a training course for my role as Assistant District Commissioner (Adult Training) for The Scout Association has left me without much breathing room!  I'm not complaining - I'm one of those scary people who relish being busy and who thrive on a deadline.  I'm also one of those people who likes to make lists and have timetables and routines, but also likes to be flexible and go with the flow.  I like to be relaxed about housework, but also find that if it isn't done and I can see mess beginning to pile up around me then I get stressed and start to feel overwhelmed and a bit of a failure.

So... in view of that last sentence... I'd like to introduce you to FlyLady!

FlyLady is a website: with all the tools you need to take back control of the domestic part of your life.  It's completely free, though there are books and other bits and pieces that you can buy from the shop.

Here are the general themes of FlyLady:
  • Basically she recommends that you take "baby steps" to gradually build very simple routines into your daily life, starting with keeping the sink shiny and clean, then building in setting out your clothes the night before, and then getting completely ready first thing in the morning.  
  • For the first month you are given a task to do every day, some of which are new habits, which you try to do every day.  
  • She also advocates the use of a timer.  Do as much work as you can for a limited time and then stop.  
  • Don't rush around in the first week trying to get your house into a palace, when it took a lot longer than that for the clutter to build up, and all you end up doing is wearing yourself out, getting despondent and giving up.  

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Rock Buns

Little C and I made rock buns together.  I'd let you have a taste, but I'm afraid that there aren't any left - a combination of Little C, Big C and me, well... they didn't last all that long.  I was brave enough to offer one to a guest though, even though I did feel the need to warn them that a toddler had had his paws in the mixture all the way through the process.  Actually, I didn't mind him grabbing at the margarine and raisins/sultanas all covered in flour, but I was a teensy bit concerned at munching on the mixture once I'd added the egg.  I decided though that I had licked out enough baking bowls and spoons in my childhood, many with raw egg in, and I'm pretty sure I came out OK at the end of it - debatable I know!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Knitted cardigan for toddler

I am very proud of myself.  Up until Little C was born a year and a bit ago I think I had only once had a go at following a knitting pattern.  Since then I have gradually started doing more, from little booties and a hat, to a tank top, then two knitted dolls (see earlier post) and now I have completed a hooded cardigan for Little C!

Here is the finished article:

Sunday, 7 November 2010

A writing assignment! A family autumn weekend and a long to-do list.

Yippee!  A writing assignment!  I get them sporadically.  I'll be honest, I do nothing pro-active to go out and get them because I find myself so busy with Little C, the garden and the house.  When I get them land on my plate though I am always delighted, and so far have never turned one down.  Partly because it stimulates my grey cells, gets me thinking and writing and creative within a given brief and time scale, partly it's nice to feel wanted and partly because there's the prospect of a little injection of cash at the end of it!  This one is for Sainsburys and The Scout Association.  Sainsburys give Active Kids vouchers when you spend money at their store, shoppers collect them and donate them to registered schools or youth groups, including The Scout Association.  The collecting group then gets to spend the vouchers on sports or cooking equipment and much much more.  The two organisations produce a resource pack, full of activity ideas for getting kids active and eating healthily.  This will be the fourth year in a row that I have written the Scout and Explorer Scout resource pack.  Watch this space to see how I'm getting on, but this year it's more amendments and additions than a full scale creation, and the time scale is short, so I should be finished within about 10 days.  Here's a link to last year's resource:

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Cooking up a stew

I watched the delightful "Julie and Julia" last night.  A Nora Ephron film starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.

It reminded me how much I enjoy cooking.  It tends to be one of those activities that I just get on with, usually while also involving Little C as much as possible, which doesn't make it any easier.  Watching this film reminded me that the process of creating something delicious in the kitchen, while sometimes stressful, is also immensely satisfying.  Getting Little C involved is teaching him a huge range of skills, as well as eventually nurturing his own creative outlet.

Yesterday we made Liver and Bacon Casserole (which by the way was delicious!).  Here's how we went about it:

Recipe for creating Liver and Bacon Casserole with mashed potatoes and carrots (with a small person)

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Our Season Box - Autumn

A "Treasure Box" can be whatever you make it.  Up until quite recently ours has been filled with bits and pieces and odds and ends from around the house for Little C to explore and play with whenever he feels the inclination. From a padlock and keys and scented cushions through to ribbons and pastry cutters.  Every few weeks I've tidied out the box and changed the contents.  This time around I thought I'd go for an "autumn box" to celebrate the bounty and beauty of the season.
We filled it with a large collection of conkers, some autumnal magazine images and a stuffed robin to begin with.  Since then Little C. has been busy collecting leaves, acorns, twigs and other bits and pieces from the outdoors while we have been out walking the waggy-tailed one!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Things to do with a young toddler - indoors part 3!

These are the ones that set you apart from the other mummies, the ones your children will remember and treasure and ultimately the ones that will unlock your toddler's creative side...

  • Sand and water play – This is fairly self-explanatory.  We have a home-made sand tray (from two grow-bag trays) which is under cover but outdoors so that it can be used in any weather, and for water play we either use the paddling pool on the lawn or the bath.  He's also now big enough that he can reach the kitchen sink with his steps and is quite happy splashing about in there for 15 minutes.  I sometimes give him his cups and bowls to wash at the same time.
  • Messy play – You can't go wrong with a bit of mess - in moderation!  I like to get out the messy stuff and either put it out in the garden or on the kitchen floor (weather dependent), remove most of Little C's clothes and let him get on with it for a short time, then I transfer him straight to the bath for some "water play"!  I tend to put the messy stuff in the redundant baby bath, and give him some spoons, jugs, cups, funnels and so on.  Things I have used are porridge oats (with or without water), dry or cooked rice, dry or cooked pasta, jelly, flour and water, cornflour and water and a little food colouring.  I always tell him whether it's okay to eat whatever he is playing with.
  • Noisy play - You could let them play with drums, maracas, shakers and other noisy toys all day long.  If, however, this is more than your nerves can take, then keep the noisy things separate in their own basket and bring them out for a half hour "noisy play" session every day or two.  The novelty will make your children enjoy the toys more; and knowing that there's a time limit will help your sanity and make you more likely to interact positively and join in with the fun!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Indoor activities to do with a young toddler - Part 2

There's a third part still to come on this post.  These suggestions are the ones for cosy afternoons when you need a breather and can just sit down and enjoy being with your toddler.

  • Looking at books – We go to the library every couple of weeks and also have our own collection of books.  We have a couple of books in most rooms in the house and the rest are in Little C’s bedroom.  He'll wander through there, pull all the books off the shelf to find the one he wants, then sit down in a big pile of books and peruse to his heart's content.  Occasionally he'll want to read a book with us, or he'll show us what he's looking at.
  • Playing with toys – We don't have that many compared to other young families we know, but considerably more than we need!  We have a few out in the sitting room, and the rest in boxes or baskets in Little C's bedroom and we rotate them around to maintain interest.  I'll occasionally get something out and set it out in an interesting way so that when he gets up from his nap he gets a surprise and is inspired to play.
  • Drawing – We have wax crayons and a drawing book.  He is beginning to figure out how to make marks with the crayons but still prefers to eat them or throw them on the floor.  Still, it's nice to get them out for half an hour every day or two.
  • Watching TV – Here in the UK we are lucky to have CBeebies, a BBC channel specially designed for pre-schoolers and with no commercials!  We actually don't watch much TV in the day, we are too busy.  Little C does have a favourite DVD which we watch for 10 minutes a couple of times a week.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Improving the blog

I was looking at this new blog and wondering how to improve it.  I have come up with the following, which should improve the quality of the blog, and then once I've developed that a bit better, I can look at how to increase the traffic visiting the blog.

What do I want out of this blog?

  • be a kind of writing exercise book - we all know that any skill improves with constant practice.  I've thought about doing writing exercises, but with a toddler and a house and a garden and a pregnancy and so many other things to think about, without some sort of deadline it's easy to let that slip by.  Having a commitment to write regularly on a blog should help keep me writing regularly.

    • showcase my writing so that any potential publishers or clients who see the link to it on the bottom of my e-mail, or who happen upon it, get a realistic idea of the standard of my writing.
    • share inspirations and creative ideas with other like-minded individuals.  Once the blog starts to get more traffic, and I work out how to get "searched" then I'll also hopefully appear on search engines when people are searching for information or ideas.
    How to improve the blog:
    • Keep it brief.  Work to a word limit - I'm thinking 350 words to keep things succinct and stop myself waffling.
    • Stick to a time limit.  I don't want to spend all my time preparing and writing posts either, so I'll stick to a time limit of 30 minutes per day to read, prepare, find images, write and edit posts.
    • Include four images with each post.
    • Read through at least once before "preview" and again at least once before "publish".
    • Try not to write too much about us, though family and friends might be interested I guess - but I should try to be more informative instead.
    Any more ideas on how I can improve things please do add a comment!

    Thursday, 14 October 2010

    Things to do with a young toddler - indoors

    Following on from my post the other day about things to do with your toddler out and about, here are some ideas of things to do indoors.  I see the question posted up quite often on the parenting forum that I'm a member of, usually from mums who usually work and are spending a week of holiday with their little one, and can't fathom how to keep them occupied all day long... are a few ideas (in fact I have so many that I'm going to split this post in half and put the rest on next time):

    • Sleep - don't underestimate the power of regular scheduled nap times.  A well rested toddler is much more likely to settle to an activity, much less likely to moan and groan and demand and fuss, and much less likely to whirl around the house like a hyperactive poltergeist.  Somewhere between 12 and 18 months toddlers will drop their morning nap, but nearly all will be sleeping for at least an hour in the early afternoon.
    • Eating - allow plenty of time to feed and clean up a toddler and make meal times as relaxing as possible.  Little tummies empty quite quickly, so as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner, you'll want to offer snacks mid-morning and mid-afternoon (once they get up from their nap is a good time).  Include them in the meal preparation if possible, get them to sit down to eat and drink and at least at meal times, sit down to eat with them at a table.
    • Cooking – I'm planning to come back to this one in a future post, but I have a mini-stepladder which Little C climbs up while I'm cooking.  I stand behind him so he won't fall and I keep sharp knives and hot things well clear.  He gets to help with any mixing, sorting, shaking etc. and in the meantime have a good look, smell and feel of the food we are preparing.
    • Housework – This may sound odd, many mums are wondering how to get the housework done when they have a toddler following them around all day, but I've found that giving Little C a small dustpan and brush, duster, broom etc. and encouraging him to "help" I actually get things done.  Granted, sometimes it takes a lot longer to clean the windows when he is helping, but at least I'm getting it done, and giving him some good training for the future into the bargain!
    • Baking – Much like cooking but as I am not aiming for a particular meal I am in less hurry, so he gets to play with the food and utensils more.  I sit him in his high-chair and we work at the kitchen table.
    • Painting – We started off doing our painting on the kitchen floor with big sheets of paper, but have also tried the kitchen table and have recently bought an easel.  Regardless of how you do it, there will be mess.  Little C either tries to eat the paint, or decides halfway through that he needs a cuddle instantly - with paintbrush in hand, or wanders off and if the kitchen door is left open there could be paint anywhere!  I don't expect this activity to last for long, he wears a long sleeved apron over his vest (or just a nappy), and I wear something that I don't mind getting paint on which is due a wash.  Everything is ready so that as soon as he gets bored we can move him straight into the bath.
    • Pottering in the garden – I love this activity and so does Little C.  We dress for the weather, so he is either naked or in splash suit and wellies, and occasionally something in between.  First I make sure I have cleared up any dog mess, then I get on with whatever job I am doing in the garden and Little C potters about splashing in buckets of water, playing with soil and mud, moving around my plant labels, pulling flowers off plants and so on while I keep one eye on what I am doing and one eye on him to make sure he isn't eating anything I don't think he should.  I do bring a couple of his toys out as well, but mostly he prefers to play with the garden.

    Monday, 11 October 2010

    "Little Women" by Louisa M. Alcott

    Little Women has rated for a long time now as my favourite film, the one with Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon, but I hadn’t read the book for quite a long time.  Knowing what a favourite it was with me, C. bought me a nice hardback edition for my birthday.

    Firstly, here’s a quick synopsis of the story:
    Set against the distant backdrop of the American Civil War, the March family used to have money but have fallen on hard times.  The four March girls are: Meg, the eldest, wishing to be grown up and to have fine things; Jo, a creative and vivacious tom-boy who craves adventure and aspires to be a writer; Beth, a quiet and loving home-bird who values the family and the comforts of home above everything; and Amy, an ambitious and vain young thing.  The story follows these four girls as they grow into adulthood, exploring the challenges they face as they overcome a character flaw on their way to becoming women.

    The book has a bit more God in than the film, and there are plenty of references to placing your faith in the "friend" who will always be there to support you.  At first you wonder whether this has much relevance in such a secular society as we live in today, but it is done in such a gentle way that you don't feel preached at.  Instead I found the book resonating with me.  It isn't at all about being perfect, but about doing your best to improve yourself, about the importance of a loving home and family, about being valued for who you are and not what you have.  In my opinion these are messages we could all do with hearing a bit more often to lessen the effect of the constant bombardment of television commercials telling us that we need this item or that, or to look this way or that in order to achieve success and happiness.

    Friday, 8 October 2010

    Things to do with a young toddler - out and about...

    So you have a young toddler... the weather is closing in and you are beginning to feel like hibernating... a whole day indoors and your home becomes a wreck as a whirling dervish of a toddler creates mayhem, just out of boredom.  Toddlers need activity and stimulation.  

    So what can you do with them to get out of the house?  We try to get out of the house at least once every day, even if only for an hour or two.  In the morning we go swimming or shopping or to a class or on a trip, either before the morning nap (he sleeps in the car on the way) or straight after it.  In the afternoon we have a longer nap and then walk the dog and sometimes do a bit of grocery shopping before getting dinner ready.  Here are some ideas:

    1.     Swimming - we go once a week.  You don't have to pay for an expensive class, just go and have fun with your toddler in the water and build up their confidence.

    2.  Library - here in the UK libraries are great places for little ones.  As well as allowing you to borrow a good selection of books for your children, many also offer "story sacks" to borrow and run free rhyme time or story time sessions for little ones.  some also have a selection of toys and some cushions for playing or a story.

    Sunday, 3 October 2010

    Knitted dolls

    Yes, I'm very proud of these two dolls.  

    The one on the left is Knitted Bert.  I made him, three different outfits of clothes and a coat, hat, scarf and gloves for my Little C's 1st birthday this summer.

    The one on the right is Knitted Roberta.  She went, with just the one outfit, to my niece Baby B for her 1st birthday.  I've just realised that my newest niece is also a baby B, so I'll have to come up with a way of telling them apart on this blog... how about Baby B for the one year old, and Little B for the very newest one?

    Anyway, so far Bert is occasionally man-handled by Little C, but no interest in changing his clothes or anything yet.  Apparently Roberta is on top of Baby B's wardrobe for fear of small hands damaging her hair... I do hope they get played with!

    Saturday, 2 October 2010

    What do you NEED to buy for a baby?

    I'm a member of a parenting web forum.  One recent thread asked this question and I couldn't resist answering it, as there is so much stuff out there to buy.  Parenthood is big business!  I feel very strongly that you can get by on a lot less than the shops will try to convince you.  Here is my quite long reply to the thread!
    Firstly - hold off buying much until after Christmas, as by then you'll have more of an idea what people are planning to buy for you, hand down, lend you etc. and whatever you do need you can get in the sales.
    Secondly - and importantly... there is an absolute mountain of stuff out there being marketed for new mums and believe me you don't need most of it.  Just because they sell it, doesn't mean it is necessary!  Don't be too proud to get second hand and hand-me-downs, or to make do, make creatively or borrow - most of the stuff you need in the early days you won't use for very long and your baby really doesn't care that it was used by his/her cousin first or was from a second hand shop.
    Travel - you need something to transport your baby in.  A decent car seat - new is important here (and I recommend 0+1 stage as it lasts from newborn to 4 so you don't need another one for a while), and something to walk around with, I used a Maclaren pushchair which fully reclines (so again will last newborn until it's no longer required as they are walking) and a ring sling.
    Sleeping - a moses basket or similar is good for when they are in your room with you (don't buy one new - either borrow or go second hand) and then a cot.  A new mattress for the cot is important.  At least 2 cellular blankets and at least 2 sheets.  You don't need different blankets for the moses basket and cot - just get the big ones and fold or drape over the sides of the basket.  Also pillow cases make good sheets for moses basket, and old unused adult sheets can be cut down and hemmed for use in cot.  You don't need to go mad decorating the nursery - baby won't care as long as it is warm and there is somewhere safe and comfy to sleep.  Home made mobiles and decorations will save you a fortune and are a good way to spend time while waiting for baby to arrive!