Get the Kettle On

Stop. collaborate and visit. My new blog that is.

Get a cup of tea and check it out here

Tea is the Answer

All the old stuff is over there, promise.

Update your bookmarks and I promise to find out how you can sign up for an RSS feed or use BlogLovin to follow me soon. I’ll get on that asap. If only this family of mine didn’t need to eat stuff and wear clean clothes I’d be a blogging ninja. And work out how to include a search box. But it is real pretty the new blog, you should definitely go over there right now. And tell people about it. They’ll love it. OK, that’s all for now, if you need me I’ll be over there, you know AT THE OTHER BLOG

MillaMia Debut

My Debut, not MillaMia’s. MillaMia believe you can ‘combine a love of knitting with a love of modern contemporary design and quality’. And when I read that I thought, me too! That’s me. I’m modern and I love knitting. Modernish anyway.
I came across a book of their patterns shopping in John Lewis over Christmas and I had to have it. I really love vintagey knits on babies but I’d been looking for something for Brodie which was a bit different. And when I found these Scandicool patterns it was love at first sight.
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I took me a while to decide on which pattern to knit first but I decided on the ‘Alexander’ jacket. The MillaMia yarn itself is a dream. I think it must be spun by unicorns from the silky tufts of Truffula trees. Just kidding it’s 100% extra fine Merino wool. It is indeed supersoft and is really satisfying to knit with. It also makes the finished garment look dreamy. But as you can imagine it comes at a price. A fairly high price, but my first-born is worth it and really if it takes me a month to knit something why would I use cheap wool? In for a penny, in for a pound I say. So I added balls of the ‘claret’ and ‘snow’ to my basket and awaited the delivery of my lovely wool. I ordered from here taking advantage of a first customer 10% off deal with free delivery and the yarn arrived quickly and sweetly wrapped in a chiffon bag – I would definitely order from them again.
The pattern was ridiculously easy to follow, I didn’t go wrong once so it must be. There were none of the ambiguous instructions which normally trip me up so that’s good. I actually had a ball of claret left so I’m not sure what’s going on there? But I’m planning to knit a hat to match. When the jacket itself was finished I actually considered not knitting up the patches and button tabs as I was ready to move onto something new but I realised that was a bit silly. I’d chosen the pattern because it had these details to set it apart so I gave myself a talking too and got on with knitting lots of (tedious) little rectangles and sewing them all on.

And I have to say, it is my favourite thing I’ve knitted, like, ever. It’s so soft and I think it looks brilliant on. It helps that Brodie thinks it’s the bees knees.
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Alexander 5

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And then (really I wish I could insert dramatic music here) disaster struck. I washed the jacket for the first time and the patches came out pink. Really, really pink. The dye from the claret yarn had bled into the light patches. I immediately hid it from Brodie because can you imagine how happy he would have been to have a jacket with pink patches, deliriously, that’s how happy.
I tried to strip the dye from the patches with no luck. The only solution was to knit some more (tedious) patches which I did. I had to alter the size of them though as I didn’t have enough leftover yarn to repeat them exactly as they were. And then I sewed them in place. And then Brodie wore his jacket again. And then I was too afraid to wash it. But a garment for a child that can’t be washed? Not ideal.
So I gave it another go. This time I handwashed for about 30 seconds – seriously, I dipped it in and out, then a gentle spin in the machine and it looks good. No pink and a quick wash is fine for something worn but not soiled I guess.

So, I really, really love the yarn. The pattern was great. But if you pay this much for yarn shouldn’t you expect to be able to wash and wear it? I chose the same colour combination as shown in the pattern pictures so I’m assuming MillaMia encourage you to use these colours together. I followed the washing instructions on the ball band.

So in summing up. Full marks for luxury feel and no points for practicality. I would use the yarn again but wouldn’t mix light and dark colours again.

But look what I found. The same jacket in Daddy sizes! Ridiculously excited.

Cooking doesn’t get any tougher than this

I think Gregg and John should devise something really hard to test those Masterchef contestants. Cooking with some random collection of ingredients? I do that every day.
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Cooking in a busy kitchen under the watchful eye of a shouty, bad-tempered chef with ridiculously high standards?
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Cooking while a small child clings to your right leg?
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Sneaking frozen spinach into the ‘asagne before anyone realises?
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Cooking while a bunch of ‘judges’ wait impatiently?
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But at least I get paid in kisses and cuddles from full tummied littles.

Illusion

Spending a bit of time each day browsing blogs each day is a simple indulgence. With a cup of tea in hand and a minute or two of quiet it is a restorative practice, good for the soul.
Sometimes I marvel at the crafts or the baking. Sometimes I agree or disagree with the commentary. Often I come away with an idea for something to try or something to think about.
When I read a magazine, that too is a treasured little sliver of me time. But I’m media savvy enough to know that the models are airbrushed, the celebrities are groomed by professionals and the food is styled to look better perhaps than it tastes.
But when I read blogs I assume because I’m reading about real people that it’s all real life. That this bloggers home always looks pristine, that all her meals look this delicious, that the light which dapples her artfully aged refectory table as she photographs perfect projects just happens like that. How media savvy am I? Not at all it appears.
I read a post last week by a mum blogger. One whose blog I very much enjoy as it features beautiful craft projects and recipes and a home decorated with exquisite taste and an apparent disregard for the sticky fingers of her two toddlers. And I always assumed that she was like me, at home during day, up to her elbows looking after two children. But in the post the author mentioned that her children were on holiday from their normal full-time childcare. And the penny dropped for me. The blog I devour for its picture perfect portrayal of family life is actually written while the authors children are cared for outside the home. Of course it is, is there a human being on the planet who could orchestrate a back garden photo shoot of water coloured quails eggs while a couple of littles bomb about?
And why not? This woman is making a living by selling me this beautifully packaged image. She is media savvy and knows that readers want to see carefully considered images for a dash of escapism in a busy day. But doing so is her job and requires that her full attention is given to it.
I blog too, but I’m not making money. This here, is not my family’s livelihood, and no longer will I compare my own less artfully styled ‘real life’ to another’s.
PS this is what my living room looks like as I blog, lest you believe this house is not strewn with sticky finger prints. And I like it this way. This is my wild.
reality

DIY Brooch Bouquets

diy brooch bouquet
My new sister in law Fiona asked me if I would make her a brooch bouquet similar to ideas we’d seen on Pinterest and while I was delighted to be asked and always up for a challenge I was a bit daunted at where to start. I hemmed and hawed about how to collect enough pieces to make a bouquet and where on earth I would get them without paying the earth. I followed a few lots of vintage brooches on eBay but I didn’t really get going on collecting until I was shopping just after Christmas and noticed that lots of shops had their costume jewellery on sale. So I went on a mission to find bits of jewellery I could use. In fact, most of the pieces I used were not brooches but earrings or necklaces and bracelets which I took apart, hair accessories and some rings. I was lucky that Fiona wanted her bouquet to be colourful so anything went colourwise and I tried to get as many bigger pieces as I could with some little filler pieces as well. I wiped out the sale bin in Primark and got some great bits in New Look, Dorothy Perkins and Accessorize. BHS was also good and Morag picked up a few bits from Claire’s. Fiona’s mum also gave me a vintage dogwood ceramic brooch to use which I made sure could be seen well in the bouquet.
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When I felt I had a good amount of pieces I started to wire them. I actually used thinner guage wire than I used for the Kusudama bouquet because with most pieces I threaded a wire through the piece and then twisted the ends together so each piece had a ‘stem’ made of double thickness wire to work with. For some pieces which were very heavy I used 2 pieces of thin wire, to give them more stability – you don’t want anything flopping around. The easiest things to wire were those with gaps or holes so I could poke the wire through to the front and then over and back through again. Some things had no backing, like a brooch pin or earring back to work with and I just had to abandon using them as I couldn’t get a wire securely fastened to them. Lesson learned – if I ever make another one of these I’ll know exactly what to look for when choosing pieces. I then wrapped the wire in green floral tape which made everything seem a bit more secure and put together but you could totally skip this step if you’re pushed for time.

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bouquet 3

bouquet 1
The next part was the trickiest and took me a few attempt to get right. I’d seen a few online tutorials using fake flowers as a base for a brooch bouquet so I tried method out. Getting the stems attached around the fake blooms was difficult and I didn’t like the petals showing through so I gave up on that idea. In the end I settled for making mini bouquets of 3 stems, using one large piece and two smaller pieces and then I attached lots of these little bouquets together to make a big one. It took trial and error and unwrapping and rearranging but in the end I had something i was happy with. I used poundshop electrical tape which is sticky enough to hold everything together but very easy to unwrap and alter. The bouquet was very heavy, and as you can see it wasn’t huge so I can only imagine how heavy the bigger versions must be. The bridesmaids were smaller but made the same way. I made not attempt to match anything or used a pattern in terms of colour other than to avoid putting two very similar pieces together, totally random but I think it worked.

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Using fake blooms as a base didn’t work for me.

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bouquet 5

I then used the same technique as with the paper bouquets, wrapping the stems in craft foam. I wrapped the foam with double-sided tape which I covered by winding around a strip of cream silk. I made a collar for the bouquets using a tube of silk which I gathered around the base of the stems and hand sewed in place. I used some small buttons and brooches – leopard print for Fiona of course – to stick on the bottom of the handle with Gorilla glue to finish them off.

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bouquet 8
It wasn’t difficult to make them and I think they held up well on the day itself. A specific colour scheme would have been trickier or if Fiona had wanted a larger bouquet it would have been harder to manage. If you want to DIY a brooch bouquet I would advise you to go for it. Give yourself plenty of time to collect the pieces you want to use and you may have to change and alter as you go along. For guidance I used about 50 pieces for Fiona’s bouquet and 30 for the bridesmaids.
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Brodie complained it was very heavy but he looks good with a bit of sparkle wouldn’t you say?
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Looking at the finished result makes all that wiring worthwhile! Any questions please ask and I’ll try to give help if I can.

What Brodie Said Part 6

Brodie has been saying a lot recently – nothing new there. But some of these are absolute crackers

‘Mum, do you know any cheetahs?’
‘No, why?’
‘Because I’d like to have a race with one’.

‘Mum, I’m hungry’
‘Are you genuinely hungry Brodie, or are you just bored?
‘Mmmmm’
5 minutes later ‘Mum, I’m honestly january hungry’

‘Who is that knitting for Mum?’
‘It’s for Auntie Louisa’s baby’
‘Luigi? I know him!’

I’m driving along the dual carriageway -
‘Mum, what speed temperature is the car at?’

Greig has a Pac-man game on his phone that Brodie likes to play, but he calls Pac-man ‘Pickidot’ which is a way better name than Pac-man because he ‘picks the dots’ geddit? I hereby declare Pac-man should henceforth be known as Pickidot. He also has developed a taste for creme caramel but calls them carousels which is funny.

The best for last….

‘Mum, you might be boss but I’m King of the Universe
king

The King of the Universe ready for bed.

And here is my totes stylish fashionista working a transeasonal look. Floral vest, double stuffed nappy, Hello Kitty sunhat and this seasons wellington boots. Avant garde no?

fashionista

Fancy hat

When I look at this photo I can kind of see where Grier gets her repertoire of ‘looks’ from. Ahem.
(Credit for photo to David Cameron)
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While I can’t claim to have made this hat, I did fancy it up a little for the wedding and add a touch of my own. Although I would love to make hats. Milliner might be one of my top 5 fantasy jobs after hollywood casting director, haberdashery tester, epidemiological geneticist and Eddie Redmayne’s hair stylist – you know to make sure he always has good hair Greig.
I knew when I bought my red dress that I fancied a pink hat, red and pink clash so good wouldn’t you say?
And secretly I’ve always wanted a hat with merry widow veiling so after a good online search I realised making my own was probably easy enough. I considered a fascinator but I was quite taken with images of vintage hats so a had it had to be. I searched again online for a felt hat and found one I loved on eBay. It cost me £20 which I think is a steal for a Filippo Catarzi hat (he’s a big deal in the hat world – who knew?) and I was chuffed when it arrived. The colour is gorgeous, it’s finished beautifully and it’s a statement without being over the top. I am absolutely confident I will wear it again. I have no idea when, but I will and then I will provide you with evidence.
It’s worn with elastic – like a hairband which I was worried you might see in my short hair but no problems there.
I ordered some red dotty veiling for pennies from a millinery supply store online and set to work attaching it to my hat leaving a little bit down at the front as a veil. I just went about randomly sewing it onto the underside of the hat, making sure it wasn’t too tight and was reasonably even making almost like a little cage for the hat. About half way through doing this I realised my dress had come with a fabric bow brooch so I pinned that over the original grosgrain bow on that hat and congratulated myself on such a good idea.
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Here she is in her unaltered state. Sigh, if only more events in life necessitated the wearing of hats.

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Little Seedlings

Getting your kids to grow stuff is good fun. That’s why we do it. But also it helps develop a sense of environmental responsibility, an understanding of the natural world and also means you can make lots of mess. I also completely buy into the idea that growing their own encourages children to eat and try new kinds of fruit and veg. It doesn’t make them enthusiastic about leafy greens overnight but it’s a step in the right direction. A tomato (unwashed) straight from the greenhouse – a certain kind of heaven.
I try to keep planting activities outside but you know I didn’t fancy freezing my bahookey off yet again so we did it in the kitchen. And Grier summed it up when she said ‘uh oh, dirty’ as she stuffed Cheerio 984132 into her dainty little mouth. She was mostly a cheerleader rather than planter this year.
Grier and I had eggs for lunch for about a week in order to collect eggshells to use as planters. You just carefully crack them so you’re left with a little container and then wash them out and boil for a minute or two to get rid of any nasties. The best thing about using eggshells means that when it comes time to plant our seedlings out we can crush the shells slightly and then plan the whole thing without disturbing the roots. This means Brodie can do it all and hopefully some should survive to yield! Huzzah.
We planted Lorax sunflowers, tomato, cucumber, beetroot, carrot, cauliflower, broccoli and spring onions. I’ll also try to plant some from seed outside later this month, weather permitting. I gave the boy a container of compost and a teaspoon and I labelled the eggshells as we went so we can keep track of what’s growing. There was a little bit of seed mixing up though so who knows what we’ll get?
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A week or so of watering gets you this?
Amazing.

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Bodies

I had dinner with an old friend over the weekend. She is a mum too, so she understands that even when you’re off ‘mum’ duty you’ll most likely end up talking about your kids. We indulged in decent plates of pasta cooked by someone else and our conversation meandered from work to homelife to cosmetic surgery via genetic mapping. We touched upon raising our kids as – whisper it – feminists. And by that I mean as an equal with their opposite gender. An equal in everything – education, sport, life. And by our kids I mean them all, the girls and the boy. And I started to think again about how I’m going to show these children how to feel happy in the bodies they have and not long for someone elses.
And it got me thinking about my own teenage years. And how I felt about my own body as a teenager and how I pretty much feel the same about it now. And how my Dad probably did me the biggest favour ever and probably had no idea he was doing it.
When I was 10 my Dad was involved in a road traffic accident in which he lost the lower portion of his right leg, below the knee. And the accident shifted everything and our perception of everything.
It taught me that bodies can survive a lot of trauma. They can heal and compensate for missing bits and even with serious deficits can still perform what we need them to.
That I, as the owner of a perfect body – with all limbs intact, all systems going, was lottery winner lucky. My body will work with me to do anything I can dream up. It’s capable of remarkable feats, every single day. Sure bits of it could work better – perfect vision would be nice. Bits of it are ageing but for the most part it’s in tip-top condition despite a poor maintenance record.
This body might not look perfect – but then again who decides? But I’m damn lucky to have it and were I to wake with a leaner, tanned and more attractive version who’s to say it would work as well as this one? So I’ll keep it, (literally) warts and all. Thanks Dad.

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