Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Staying Cycle Safe This Winter

Image courtesy of Surachai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cycle safety is a hot topic in my household. Neither myself or my husband drive so when we moved out of London and were faced with Jon getting to work by unreliable, expensive, public transport (never complain about London buses again!), we decided it was more economical, healthier and easier for him to cycle to work instead. His first job in the area was about five miles away, his new job is about three miles away. So in the last eight months he has cycled about 1600 miles (Wow!). A recent service on his bike revealed that he had snapped the back axle in half due to overuse!

My father-in-law also cycles to work, about seven miles away, out of town along the A20. It's a dark, country road, notorious for traffic accidents. He's been clipped by cars a couple of times, however is pretty adamant that the lights on his bike are sufficient and there is no need to burden himself with an extra high visibility layer.

So when Jon got kitted out for his job - also in a neighbouring village along the A20 - I ensured that he had all the gear: helmet, lights, reflectors, high-vis vest etc. If you could find it in the 'cycle safety' section at our local bike shop, I bought it! (Hey, I was about to give birth, I wasn't having my husband in any accidents!). In Jon's new job he gets to work using cycle paths on the pavement so he has relaxed a bit on the safety front - much to my displeasure - and chooses to leave his high-vis vest at home. (Never mind the fact that he has to cross roads on his journey).

So, when the nice people at Eversure Insurance approached me to write a post on cycle safety, I was more than happy to help in raising awareness for the importance of staying safe on the roads. As we approach the shortest, darkest days of the year, it is vital that you remain seen on the roads - whether you're walking, cycling or running. I now find myself even more aware of the dangers as I walk with my buggy at 4pm - it's pitch dark and as I attempt to cross the roads - pushing the buggy out in front of me first - I realise that cars need to see me and my baby and I might consider fitting some high-vis strips to my buggy!

There's been plenty in the news of late about the number of cyclists dying on the roads, but if you're still not convinced, check out these stats:
  • The number of cyclists killed on the roads increased by 10% from 107 in 2011 to 118 in 2012
  • The number of cyclists reported to have been seriously injured increased by 4% from 3,085 in 2011 to 3,222 in 2012
  • Pedal cyclist traffic levels are estimated to have risen by 1.2% over the same period
  • Most (92%) of these accidents involve another vehicle
(Stats from: Think!)

So how do we stay safe? Eversure gave me the following tips for cycling in low visibility:
  • Wear a properly fitting crash helmet.
  • Don't cycle on the pavement (unless marked for cyclists).
  • Always cycle with traffic, on the correct side of the road, never cycle into traffic, even if the roads are quiet.
  • Always have front and rear lights fitted to your bike, and check that these work before setting off.
  • You should wear light coloured clothes and high-vis, reflective clothing when cycling in low visibility, not just at night.
  • Don’t overload a rucksack or backpack, you could reduce your ability to maintain your balance.
  • Ride predictably, decisively, in a straight line, and well clear of the kerb. 
  • Always look and signal clearly – you can get electronic signals reasonably cheaply.
  • Don't use a mobile phone or earphones.
  • Consider fitting a bike horn or bell to alert road users to your presence – you can get specialist electronic horns that can cut through most background noise.
  • Make eye contact where possible so you know drivers have seen you.
***

I wasn't paid to write this post, I'm writing it because I think we all need to take road safety a little more seriously. Thanks to Eversure Insurance for the tips, and also for the High-Vis vests you sent me - I'm tucking them into my husband's backpack in the hope that he decides to wear them on these long, dark nights... maybe my Father-in-Law might appreciate one too?!
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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Breastfeeding: A Public Debate

If there's one topic that seems to provoke a totally disproportionate amount of rage from some people, it's breastfeeding in public.

This isn't a debate on breastfeeding vs bottle feeding - that's an entirely different issue (and I say, everyone has a right to choose without fear of condemnation either way). This is about whether it is right or wrong for a mother to feed her child - a human being - in the presence of other human beings.

I am profoundly grateful that I had a child in a decade where it is mostly acceptable to discreetly breastfeed in a public place (and why any new mum would intentionally flop a whole breast, nipple and all, out of her top in full view of any Tom, Dick or Harry is beyond me - there's always a place for discretion!).

Quite frankly, I would not have stayed sane in those early days if I had not been able to leave the house and visit a coffee shop where I would feed Ruby. In those early days when you really are breastfeeding on demand every. single. hour. it's pretty impossible NOT to breastfeed in public unless you want to put yourself under house arrest for three months.

I've breastfed Ruby in coffee shops. In restaurants. On park benches. In the car (not moving, of course!). In the doctors' surgery. At the train station. On the train. I've even fed her during an interview with the bank manager!

I've sat on the front row in church and fed her. And I'm pretty sure that last week, if she had decided to cry all the way through my sermon, I probably would have just sat on a stool up the front and fed her while I preached (whether you think that's appropriate or not is an entirely different debate!).

Because you know what? It's not that big a deal!

Never have I felt uncomfortable discreetly settling Ruby with a little drink.

Never have I felt the need to go and hide in a toilet cubicle (yuck!).

Never have I experienced any negative attitudes towards my actions, and aside from the odd averted eyes when it's dawned on somebody what I'm actually doing (shock, horror!), I honestly don't believe many people have even realised, let alone had a problem with it!

I'm pretty sure more people would have something to say if I just let her scream incessantly because I'm not fulfilling her needs.

Now that we're in the process of weaning, and I'm beginning to realise that my breastfeeding days with Ruby are numbered, I will cherish each and every moment. Because for the time being, in my body, I possess everything that she needs. Only I can fulfill that need. And that is precious.

So when it's time for a little snack, even when she's had her fill of purees and finger foods at lunch and she still decides to nuzzle into my chest and tug at my top, I will gladly oblige! I don't care if you cop an eye-ful. I don't care if you're embarrassed that you saw. I would rather satisfy my daughter's hunger, thirst or need for comfort than spare your blushes.

Because this time is precious.

These days are numbered.

I will never be able to claw back these moments in my daughter's life.

Before you know it, she'll be on solids. She won't need me in the same way anymore. And other people will have the ability to fulfill all of her needs (though not quite how I'm able to).

These moments, just me and her, quietly minding our own business in the corner of a coffee shop, but equally enjoying every second of being together. Me and her. Her and me. These moments are to be treasured. For they will not last forever. In the blink of an eye, they'll be gone.

So I will carry on, despite what you may or may not think. Despite what the media says. Despite what stupid, ridiculous, fame-hungry Katie Hopkins says.

Because you know what?

It's not about you.

It never was.

It's about her.

My baby.

Her needs.

Not yours.

Not even mine.

Hers.
Read More »

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

How to be AWESOME at Public Speaking

Yesterday I wrote about my first speaking engagement in about 10 years. I was petrified! Public speaking is definitely not my comfort zone, let me concentrate on written communications any day! And if that's not possible, I can just about manage sitting in a small group and facilitating a discussion. But force me to stand in front of a bunch of seated observers and my knees wobble, my palms sweat and my breathing becomes short and shallow. So, how did I fair?

Actually, it went very well. But that semi-confident exterior was the result of a lot of preparation and a few coping mechanisms to boot. In fact, just making a few tweaks in your preparation, I think, can be the difference between a blithering mess and a calm, collected voice of authority. I thought I would share what worked for me - so next time you have a big work presentation, job interview or speaking engagement, follow these golden rules!

The Week Before...

1. Preparation, preparation, preparation
This speaking engagement might be your worst nightmare. You might be dreading it and wishing the day never arrives. But don't leave it too late to prepare, because if you're fully prepared you'll be much more confident. Here was how I prepared:

  • Two weeks before I spoke, I had already recorded my message off the top of my head twice on my dictaphone and scribbled down some notes. 
  • The week before, I listened back to my recordings and tried to get it down on paper.
  •  A couple of days beforehand I took these notes, grouped them together, filled in the gaps and finalised the main points and structure. 
  • I then re-recorded myself before doing a practice run in front my husband.
So by the time I came to speak, I had already spoken it out loud a number of times.


2. Know your topic
It seems obvious, but know your topic really well. I was privileged to speak on something I'm particularly passionate about. Before I've ever spoken on my topic, I've lived it. To the point where it's already a part of my life's philosophy. It was already ingrained in my psyche so talking about it in an engaging, exciting, passionate manner was pretty easy. When you know your topic inside out, you won't be fumbling through your notes trying to work out what to say. So rather than worrying whether I sound knowledgeable, I just needed to worry on communicating effectively.

3. Exude passion
Similar to above, but be passionate! If you're not passionate about your topic, how can you expect people to engage with you? Even if it's boring facts and figures, interpreting those facts and figures must be a little bit exciting in your field of expertise, right? When you're passionate about something, it's not hard to get other people excited too. 

On the Day...

4. Look the part
Think back to the last time you looked in the mirror, applied some lipstick and then went to conquer the world. Now compare to the last time you looked in the mirror and thought 'Oh God. I look terrible.' How would you want to look speaking in front of a room full of people? If you feel confident in the way you look, you'll speak confidently, whatever the topic.

So get a hair cut, don some killer heels (my preaching shoes were red patent), apply some lippy, accessorise and go get 'em!

5. Know the running order
Make sure you know when you'll be called on to speak and by whom. The worst thing would be if you felt rushed or sprung upon so check with the MC or leader beforehand to find out at what point you will speak, whether you need to pick up a microphone, whether it needs turning on, whether someone's going to introduce you or will you just jump up. And if you have a Powerpoint presentation or any other media, try and hook it all up beforehand so you're not caught off guard with techie problems!

While You're Speaking...

6. Occupy your hands
When speaking publicly, the common dilemma is what do you do with your hands? You need to do something otherwise you'll end up biting your nails, wringing your palms or just shaking like a leaf. But if your hands are occupied, they will channel all that nervous energy. If you're holding a microphone then, great. If not, decide what you're going to do with your hands before you begin; that way, you'll have all the right props with you. I gave myself three options so that I could alternate between each one - then it wouldn't be so obvious. Here's mine:

  • Have a glass of water handy so you can take a sip to pause and slow down, or simply just hold the glass when you start fiddling.
  • Rest your hands on the table as you turn the pages in your notes.
  • Wear a simply piece of non-jangly jewellery. I had a long chunky necklace on and found myself just holding the pendant every now and again. (Don't fiddle with it constantly, though, it's distracting!)


7. Break the ice
When you get up to speak, don't launch straight into your talk. Break the ice with a joke or a funny story about your journey there or your preparation. I commented on how lengthy my notes were. That introduction just gives you a chance to get used to the sound of your own voice and allows you to calm your nerves before getting to the important stuff.

8. Bring focus
Once you've introduced your talk but before you launch into the key points, do something that intentionally brings your focus back to the task at hand. It helps to take a moment to pause and slow down before rushing into the important stuff. I took a moment to pray out loud - just asking God to help me to speak His words (I was preaching in Church ~ maybe don't try this in a job interview situation!).

9. Pick out your supporters
As you speak, work out who in the crowd are your biggest supporters. They're normally on the edge of their seats, smiling, nodding and generally looking engaged. Hopefully you'll see a few! Then make sure you look directly at those people when you look out at your audience. Their encouragement will help you to feel like you're winning.

10. Be awesome
Know that you're there for a purpose and that you wouldn't be there if you were totally incapable. So just relax and enjoy the ride. Laugh at your mistakes, make jokes along the way and enjoy it!
Read More »

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Don't Send Me, God!

Since joining the leadership team of our church this summer, I knew the day would come where I would be asked to preach.

That day was Sunday.

Me, standing at the front, speaking to a room of people. And not just blabbering on about any old crap, but attempting to speak knowledgeably and articulately about the Bible. The Word of God.

Wow.

See, I don't know how much you know about the Bible and the characters within, but allow me to explain. There are a couple of protagonists often cited as examples of unworthy people who God decided to use anyway.

1. Moses
God told Moses to go before Pharaoh and ask for the people of Israel to be released from Egypt. Moses' response? 'Don't send me, God, send someone else. I am rubbish at public speaking.'

I am Moses. I love communicating. I have lots to say. I believe that good communication can change lives. But give me a pen and paper or a laptop over a speaking engagement any day!

2. Gideon
Gideon was asked by God to rescue his people from the Midianites who were treating them very cruelly. God actually found him hiding in a wine press (as if you can hide from God!). Gideon's response? 'Don't send me God. Send someone else. I'm so small and insignificant. I am the least of the least. Why would anyone listen to me?'

I am Gideon. I'm the small, awkward, kind of shy girl that would rather hide at the back than live on the front row. There are bigger, stronger, more exciting people who could do a much better job.

3. Timothy
Timothy was Paul's protégé. Paul wrote much of the New Testament and was responsible for spreading Christianity across much of the known world. Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy 'Don't let anyone think less of you because you're young.'

I am Timothy. We don't know his specific set of circumstances, but we know he was young and he was feeling insecure about it. Aside from the children, I am actually the youngest member of our congregation. I lack experience. I lack wisdom. I lack formal training. I'm definitely not a theologian or bible scholar!

BUT (and with God there's always a But!) God used all of these people significantly. All of these people became history makers because ultimately they were obedient to the call of God. They weren't perfect (Moses was a murderer for a start!), but they loved God and were obedient to his call.

So on Sunday I got up, having done no public speaking since school, and, with hands shaking and shallow breath, I began to speak. I was obedient to what God had placed on my heart. After a few minutes I started to breathe. I stopped shaking. It began to feel like the most natural thing in the world. I ended up speaking for 30 minutes. I actually enjoyed it. I think other people enjoyed it. And may I say it went well?

Lesson learnt: When God calls you to something, as scary as it may be, step into it. He will meet you there. Where your abilities end, he will come with His abilities and bridge the gap. Take that step of faith! Who knows, you could make history!

***

Got a work presentation, speaking engagement or interview coming up? Come back tomorrow for some practical tips on public speaking that I found helpful.
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Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Baby Diaries: 7 months


You're seven months. Where's my baby gone?!

You're moving around like a whizz kid, crawling everywhere, never staying in one place! If I'm out by the washing machine, you'll come and find me. You can't be trusted to stay and play with your toys, I'll always come back to you chewing on a cable, or screwing up a magazine (definitely time we baby proofed this house!).


You've totally skipped learning to sit and it seems you would much rather get about by crawling. You occasionally go from all fours onto your bottom with your hands out on the floor at the side, but you haven't shown any inclination for proper sitting!

You can however pull yourself up on your knees and sit quite comfortably like that. Yesterday you even pulled yourself up onto your feet... for a very brief moment! I'm sure it won't be long before you're toddling about!

You weigh 12lb 13oz. Still mini, but perfect in every way and the health visitors are finally happy to leave us to it rather than checking up on you every fortnight!


You've been loving your food! We've been giving you purees and you'll eat pretty much everything and every flavour. You now sit in highchairs whenever we go out. You're still a bit small for them and because you can't sit up properly we have to prop you up sometimes but you're getting the hang of it! All the coffee baristas in town know you and enjoy getting lots of smiles while you're meant to be eating!

Our breastfeeding days are definitely numbered. Of course, you now have two bottom teeth which took a bit of getting used to, but also you can go a lot longer without breastfeeding now, and with the introduction of a beaker, you just don't need me as much. Still, we still have lots of snuggles to make up for it.


We had some success sitting you in your inflatable do-nut and leaving you to watch CBeebies while I have a shower each morning. But now you're bored by all that sitting and you have worked out how to tip yourself out of it!


You love mirrors and are fascinated by your reflection! We have lots of fun making silly faces and smiles.

You love visiting your Grandparents round the corner and give lots of smiles and giggles when Nana comes to play. She looks after you while Mummy works and you have a brilliant time.

We've also started you in your big buggy now which you seem to enjoy. You get to see a lot more of the world that way!


We're enjoying the transition into winter too because you can wear lots of cute dresses and tights!

I feel like we're entering a new era where you're much less little baby and more pre-toddler. I am very quickly learning that babies don't stay babies for long! But hopefully we can keep you small for a little while longer!
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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Success: How to Achieve it and Keep it

I have a new philosophy on success. I've applied this philosophy to my freelance career but it works in every area of life. You might say that I've had an epiphany. A revelation, in fact. And had I had this revelation sooner, and recognised this law of success at work in my own life, then maybe I would be somewhere very, very different right now.

My discovery is the law of Just. One. Thing.

Life is made up of an accumulation of One Things. Your success is dependent on you doing Just One Thing. And if you do enough One Things, and you do them well, then probability dictates that some of them will succeed and change will occur.

For years I dreamed of being a freelance writer. For years I poured all my time, talents and efforts into working for somebody else, wishing I could just work for myself, create my own destiny, build my own success rather than the success of a corporation which sees me as valuable but replaceable.

I never had the guts to go freelance. I didn't have the confidence, I didn't see the value in my own skills or experience and I definitely didn't have the time or the financial security to quit my day job.

However, when I had my baby girl, circumstances and finance finally dictated that it made more sense for me to have a go at freelancing than get a new job which would fit around our new family. So this year I took the plunge into building a freelance career.

I remember my first day. I took Ruby to my mum's house and sat up in my parent's bedroom, drafting out query emails while Mum looked after Ruby downstairs. I wasn't expecting a response. I was prepared for there to be a period of time before I was commissioned. A period of building, researching, introducing, querying. It would be a while before I saw the fruits of my labour.

Less than 24 hours later, I had a proofreading commission with a major book publisher.

You would think that this initial success spurred me on to generate more work. It didn't. I completed this commission successfully, I got paid, I received good feedback. Then I stopped.

Why?

Because it had been too easy. I convinced myself that never again would I be able to get a commission in that fashion and somehow that stopped me from trying.

Then came the epiphany.

I had sent one email. I had one response. Which resulted in one job and generated one paycheck.

Just one!

It just takes One thing. And an accumulation of Ones will create a whole.

Some Ones won't generate results. But if you do enough Ones, then probability dictates that some of them will generate success. And those successes will hopefully generate more success in the form of repeat business.

It only takes One thing.

If I could repeat this pattern, then surely I would generate more work. And since then, that is what has happened. I jumped back on the horse and every day that I have set aside for queries has resulted in a job. From now on, I am committed to doing Just One Thing every day to further my freelance career. Whether that be sending an email, writing a blog post, generating ideas or researching an article.

And what I am terming The Law of One can translate into every area of life. Whatever your goal - whether that be writing, exercising, job-hunting or knitting - just do One thing each day and over the course of time, you'll see success.

What One Thing can you do today to generate success in your life?
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Monday, 28 October 2013

6 Breastfeeding Myths Busted

Breastfeeding. We've been doing it for centuries. The survival of the human race has depended on it since the beginning of time. Whether you've done it, plan on doing it, chosen not to do it, or just observed other people doing it, it seems that everyone has an opinion or a snippet of advice when it comes to feeding your baby.

We're now over six months into our breastfeeding journey. This by no means makes me an expert on the science behind it, but generally it's been a good experience and my baby has survived and thrived! It has, however, shocked me how much of people's (including my GP's) well-meaning advice is rooted in mis-information, twisted logic or general old-wives tales.

So, in a bid to set the record straight and to encourage you in your breastfeeding journey, I thought I would address some common misconceptions here.

1. "You're feeding her again?!"
Yes. I am. Because she needs it. 

It's common in the early days, or even later on during a growth spurt, for baby to feed for long periods of time and often. Sometimes it felt like all we did was breastfeed! But that's good. Your baby grows an awful lot in those first few weeks and she needs food. Lots of food.

2. "She's not hungry. You've only just fed her. She's got you wrapped round her little finger!"
I do not believe that a two week old baby has the mental capacity to manipulate you into giving her a comfort feed. If she's crying and all her other needs are met, feed her. It's not necessarily always because she's hungry. Your body produces milk according to how much your baby feeds. It responds to the suckling action, so even if you've only just fed her, it might be that she's getting your body ready to produce more milk. 

I also don't believe that there's anything wrong with comfort feeding (I know many would disagree). I've never deprived Ruby of a feed when she wants it - whether it's because she's hungry, tired, upset or sick. She's grown into a very confident, content baby who is happy to be passed round other people but who also knows that all of her needs will always be met. It also makes for a happy mum because her baby is very happy and healthy and doesn't cry.

3. "You should feed for 10 minutes on one side and 10 minutes on the other to avoid being lopsided."
No. The first milk that your baby gets from the breast is known as the fore milk. It isn't as high in fat content as the later hind milk. It could be considered to be a nice drink or starter before the main course. And who wants to go through life always eating starters and skipping the main course? No one! When you breastfeed, empty the breast before switching sides. This ensures that baby gets to the hind milk and has a nice, big, calorific meal.

4. "She's being sick a lot. She obviously doesn't need all the feeds you're giving her."
Babies' are sick sometimes. It's just reflux. Their digestive system is still developing, they're learning how to digest food. It's not a reason to withhold feeds. 

5. "Express milk so that you know how much baby is getting"
This was one from the GP. Ruby's weight gain has always been slow (but steady) so to be cautious the health visitor told me to visit the GP. Her advice was flawed. 

I told her that despite feeding every 2-3 hours for up to an hour that Ruby wasn't gaining weight as we would like. She told me that obviously the breastfeeding wasn't effective so I should give Ruby solely expressed milk from then on because at least I would know how much she was getting.

First of all, if your baby is having plenty of wet nappies and is satisfied after each feed (Ruby regularly falls asleep with milk dribbling down her face) and if, once you're well practiced, it's not a painful experience, then rest assured you are feeding effectively.

Secondly, feeding baby solely expressed milk will only tell you that at each feed she's drinking 4oz. It won't tell you how much your baby actually wants. It won't tell you how much your body is producing. And even with the best pump that money can buy, it might end up affecting your milk supply because no pump can perfectly mimic the action of a suckling baby.

It's worth mentioning that after my appointment I ignored this GP's advice before feeding it back to the health visitor who laughed at the absurdity of it. 

6. "She's three months old now, she should be feeding four hourly."
Breastfed babies will often settle into a four hourly routine when they're ready to. But they're not born with an internal clock that tells them when it's time to feed. They cry when they're hungry, I'm pretty sure they haven't checked the time! 

Yes, it's nice when they're in routine and they can then fit in around our personal schedules. If they're a bit older and you're trying to stretch out the feeds then check all other options - are they bored? Can they be distracted with something else for a while? Do they just want a change of scenery, a nap or a walk? If yes, great. If no, feed them! There's a reason why mothers produce milk - because it's in constant supply! It's there on demand so babies will demand it and expect to be given it - whether it fits into your routine or not.

***

So there you have it, six myths that I was presented with. Busted.

At the end of the day, I love breastfeeding. I haven't got any plans to stop at the moment. I know that there are many reasons to formula feed and for some people it's a personal choice, and all power to you! Whatever works! 

However, I absolutely believe in breastfeeding and with a family history of eczema, asthma and allergies I am committed to breastfeeding to prevent Ruby from suffering the same. I do think that every mum should be supported in breastfeeding if that's what they wish to do and myths like these only cause stress and worry to a first-time mum. If there's one piece of advice I could give to first time breastfeeders it would be this:
  • You are the mum. You know what your baby needs. Trust your instincts.
  • You can never over feed your baby and no harm will come to him. When he's full, he'll stop.
  • In those early days when you're both learning how to do it, when your nipples are cracked and bleeding, when you're dreading it because it's so painful, when you're sobbing through the feed and everything within you wants to give up, push through! It doesn't last forever, it's so short lived in the grand scheme of things and it will get easier. You'll be glad you did it and when you stop it will be your choice.
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Friday, 25 October 2013

Follow Friday: Two Craft Blogs You Simply Must Read

I love craft blogs.

Sometimes, however, it seems that craft blogs don't receive the standing they deserve in the blogging world. So when two of my good, real life, friends launched their own crafty corners of cyber space I was very excited! Not just because it means that craft blogging has infiltrated my Real Life and become something that Real People do... but also because I know these girls, and I know these blogs are going to be spectactular!

So without further ado... let me introduce you to my friends...

Made Peachy


Made Peachy is written by my old colleague / editor / friend, Laura. It's titled The Home of Daily Handmade Inspiration, and it doesn't disappoint!

But of course it wouldn't! Laura is a stitchy, knitty extraordinaire! I first met her when she was Deputy Editor of Let's Knit. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have a clue what amigurumi was and she was the first person I ever saw using DPNs (which at the time, as a g-stitch scarf knitter, seemed incredibly clever!).

I worked under her when she was Editor of Sew magazine, and remember her mostly sprawled on the office floor checking dress patterns whilst I piled copy on her desk for her to check in her 'spare' time. (Those were the days...).

Since then she's excitingly gone freelance, has written her own Sewing Manual, has another DIY wedding book in the pipeline and has now turned her hand to sharing her all round amazingness with the interweb.

And we're not just talking bog-standard inspiration, there's free patterns, downloads, quick makes, interviews, reviews, competitions and giveaways. Not to mention beautiful, professional photography and writing. In fact, this is more online magazine than blog, and it acts like it, with a post of loveliness every single day, like clockwork.

If you read one craft blog, make it Made Peachy (and as a thank you to me for letting you in on it, read this one too please!). On my list of things to make, is this lovely, autumnal cowel a la Laura, might have to be for next winter at this rate though!


Visit www.madepeachy.com, follow Laura on twitter +Laura Strutt and buy her book!

Dottie Does Craft



Last year the whirlwind of creativity that is Lucy Hopping started working in my office as a children's craft product developer. But that wasn't where her passion lay, and as she crocheted, stitched and knitted her way through each lunch hour, it quickly came to light that she was actually in the middle of writing a craft book! And by happy coincidence, her co-author and good friend was a designer I had worked with in my previous job (whether she would have been aware of this, I don't know!).

That book was handmade hit of the summer, Handmade Glamping by Charlotte Liddle and Lucy Hopping. And seeing as that collaboration worked so well, they've roped in another crafty friend, Michelle, and recently launched Dotty Does - a blog about their crafty, handmade exploits. 

It's early days and so far they've been busying themselves at various festivals and shows, but I'm sure that this blog will develop into a fabulous source of crafty inspiration so keep it bookmarked and check back often!

Visit www.dottydoescraft.wordpress.com, follow them on Twitter @DottyDoesCraft and on Pinterest.
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Thursday, 24 October 2013

How Not to Work The Knitting & Stitching Show

Last week I had the exciting job of heading off to the Knitting & Stitching show at Alexandra Palace! Hundreds of yarn and fabric shops under one beautiful roof. Money in the bank ripe for spending. Crafty friends to meet and greet. What more could you want?!

A PLAN would have been useful!

Let this be a lesson to all you crafty folks heading off to a huge show or fair.

Those who fail to plan, plan to fail!

It was a fantastic day out, don't get me wrong. But did I buy anything of note? No. I met some of my loveliest, craftiest friends. I had lengthy catch ups with people who I haven't seen in months, if not years. But in all honesty, I was far too reserved with the ol' bank card!

Here's the thing. I have a lot of craft stuff. You don't have a career in craft publishing without accumulating a fair amount of soft-to-touch yarn, reams of fabric, pretty papercraft products and jars upon jars of buttons and beads. So these days, I try to only buy with purpose. Which was the problem. I arrived at the show with no purpose whatsoever. Since the birth of Bubba, it's been so long since I had time to do any proper crafts that all I could think as I browsed the stalls was 'You'll never use it'. Or 'Order it online when you think you'll actually use it.'

So, in a last ditch, desperate attempt at shopping, as all the stalls packed up at the end of the day, I panic bought three balls of cheap, chunky yarn (hence the lack of amazing yarn pictures). In the hope, that one day, they might be cast onto some needles and turned into an amazing pair of mittens, or maybe a cowel.

Learn from my mistakes people - plan, plan and do more planning. Work out, pre-show, what you want to make and head directly for those products. Boring, I know. But otherwise you'll be like me and leave (almost) empty-handed or you'll spend a million pennies on a bunch of stuff that you'll never actually use!
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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Baby Diaries: 6 months

You're six months old! Half a year! Already?!

Where does the time go?!


You now weigh 12lb5oz. We finally managed to break the 12lb mark, it's taken you six months to put on a little over four pounds and when you think in these terms, it really does sound like slow progress! But you're perfect in every way so no-one's worried over it. You're just quite petite, that's all.

I'm still approached by strangers almost every day with lovely comments about your smile, how alert you are, how responsive, how beautiful. I know everyone loves all babies, but it's lovely to think that you bring so much joy to so many peoples' lives.

Just this week you have cut your first teeth, crawled forwards (you've been in reverse up to this point!) and started to pull yourself up onto furniture. It's amazing to see you concentrate so hard, working out your next movements and begin to understand that if you repeat certain actions you get certain results.


You seem to be growing up so fast. I know that before we know it we'll be celebrating your first birthday and then within a blink of an eye you'll be at school or leaving home! We're trying to treasure every moment.

This month you started to try different foods. We began with porridge, which you love, and moved onto purees at lunch time. Your favourite is pasta bolognese (you are your parents' daughter!). You were immediately very independent and wanting to feed yourself. You began by carefully holding the neck of the spoon, but this week just starting sliding your hand down the spoon and sucking the food off your hands! It's made for some very messy meal times!

Now that you're cutting teeth I'm thinking maybe our breastfeeding days are numbered. I thought that I was ok with that, but maybe I'm not.

When you're crawling you can sometimes look so tiny that it looks almost impossible that you should be doing these things! As if you're super advanced! It does, however, mean that we're having to start thinking a lot more about safety ~ it's incredible what small things can become hazardous when you have a baby on the move!  


This month we travelled to Norfolk so you could meet your Great Grandma & Grandpa for the first time! They very much enjoyed having you and it was lovely to watch Grandpa playing with you on his lap. You made him smile!

Daddy started a new job, and Mummy resigned from hers. We're now on an adventure which will see her becoming self employed and running her own business. I want you to grow up knowing that we worked really hard to provide for you and that ultimately, you can be anything you want to be, and that if you put your mind to something, it can be limitless. I hope I can model these values to you so that you grow up to be hard working and ambitious.

We went to your Chloe & Phoebe's first birthday party, and this week we're going to Sienna's. It's so lovely that you're getting to share these milestones together. I hope that that will continue well into the future!


We bought your first shoes, some cute pink high-tops. But you're more interested in eating them than wearing them!

You're sleeping much better in your cot now, although I'm beginning to wonder whether you'll ever sleep through the night! Let's just say it's a work in progress!

We're now starting to think about your first Christmas and have even bought you some presents (we're never that organised!). Here's hoping Santa will be kind this year!
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Saturday, 5 October 2013

Quick Make: Dry Wipe Memo Board


Everyone needs a sweet memo board in their house. Where else do you write reminders, shopping lists, messages or words of encouragement? I had an old picture frame that wasn't displaying anything in particular so I decided to turn it into a memo board.

1. Take one old picture frame.
2. Remove the back and insert some pretty patterned paper. If the pattern is quite busy, you may like to insert a piece of plain card so that your memos show up against the background.
3. Replace the back.
4. Use a dry wipe marker pen to create reminders, messages and lists.

Ours hangs by the front door. I like to write my favourite Bible verses on there so that when I leave the house I can remind myself of something encouraging. My verse at the moment is:

"Ask for anything in my [Jesus'] name... and I will do it!" 
~ John 14:14.

A great reminder that God is able to fulfill all of our needs and answer all of our prayers if we believe!
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Thursday, 3 October 2013

When God Tries to Tell You Something ~ Part 2

Last week we went to a party. There were lots of people there, most people we knew quite well. Others we have met on occasion and really hit it off, but we've never quite managed to break into that particular social circle, as much as we like and get on with those particular people.

As we were walking back I found myself lamenting to my husband: I wish we could be friends with these people. They're fun. Decent. They're at exactly the same stage in life. We get on. It would just be so nice if we could get in with that crowd.

Now, don't get me wrong. We have friends. We like our friends. But since moving from London we don't have many friends our age. And we don't have many friends who have just had babies. I'm not by any means lonely. And I'm so busy half the time I have no clue how I would fit more friends in! But something within me was sad that we weren't a part of this particular crowd.

During this conversation, I did have to remind myself that I had bumped into a lovely girl from our antenatal class at a craft fair and that we were meeting for coffee the following day. So, you know, not all was lost. At least our babies were the same age.

I then thought of another girl from our antenatal class. I had bumped into her at our local chippie a couple of months earlier. We had swapped numbers but apart from the odd text, we hadn't quite managed to meet up.

I'll text her tonight, I thought. Maybe she can come for coffee tomorrow.

We turned the corner and crossed the road. And who should be leaving a house with her partner and baby? But that second girl! [We live in a reasonably big town. That wasn't her house either. The chances of this happening and us being there at that particular moment are practically nil].

She was so happy to see us. We chatted for a long while. She was going away the next day so couldn't come for coffee, but could we go and weigh our babies together next week?

As we walked away something whispered into my spirit. These are the friends I've placed in your life. Stop wishing for those other friendships. You're in the right place.

***

I blogged a few days ago about how God spoke to me through a series of events and helped me make a difficult decision. As I said then, I don't normally blog about my faith. But people often ask me how I know God is speaking to me, and these are just two recent examples which might serve to help me explain. I hope in some way it might encourage you or help you to understand the realities of faith.
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Sunday, 29 September 2013

Life's Pleasures: Knitting

I'm a process knitter.

What I mean by that is that I'm not that bothered about the finished result. Which may explain why I very rarely have a finished result! I knit for the process. There's something so therapeutic about repetitive stitching, fingers moving swiftly, the juxtaposition between cool metal (or smooth bamboo) and soft yarn, counting silently to the rhythm of each stitch.

I used to while away long commutes with some kind of knitting project, rushing those last few stitches so that the row was complete before we arrived at my stop. I've struck up conversations with random strangers curious about that young(ish!) girl clicking away in the corner of the train. What are you making? Who's it for? I wish I could knit. Etc. etc.

Knitting takes your mind off things because it causes you to concentrate on the task at hand. You become so focused on the motions of your fingers that the cares and stresses of the world and all the busyness of life melt away into the background. It's just you. Your needles. And a ball of wool.

Since Ruby was born there's been very little time for such indulgent pleasures! Even if I started a project during naptime I would be waiting for her to wake up mid row, during a complicated stitch pattern. All kinds of stitchy disasters could ensue!


But then on my trip to DK Books, I was given this beautiful tome full of gorgeous, sweet, cute baby yarn goodness. How could I let this candy coloured book sit on the shelf collecting dust? And once again, I felt the urge to knit. I started the set of building blocks because surely I could knit 18 tiny squares in between naps and feeds! I've been working at a rate of one square per evening, and there are six stitch patterns to keep it interesting. What a fun project!

It's a gorgeous book with a great range of projects including clothing, toys and interiors. They would make beautiful gifts for the little people in your life or for that pregnant friend and each project is so achievable. If you've got a stash of baby soft DK yarn to get through then these projects are sure to make you want to pick up those needles!

And if you're a newbie knitter then the How to Knit section is among the best and most comprehensive I've seen, with clear illustrations and instructions for every stitch.

Check out the DK website for more information and to view sample pages.
Baby & Toddler Knits Made Easy, £16.99, Dorling Kindersley

***

Disclaimer: I wasn't paid to write these lovely things, I just wanted to share because I truly enjoyed the book. DK Books did kindly give me the book during an unrelated focus group but I chose to review it without being asked. Right! Glad we're all clear on that front!
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Friday, 27 September 2013

When God Wants to Tell You Something ~ Part 1

Recently I had a dilemma. It was an occasion where I had to make a choice and either option would have been a good option, but which option was the right option?

I was randomly chatting to a member of staff in New Look and it basically culminated in her practically guaranteeing me a part-time job. Ooooh, 50% discount in New Look? Guaranteed income to top up Jon's earnings (which we really need!)? Flexible hours? All seems like a good idea, right?

But here's the dilemma.

I'm in the process of building a freelance editing career. It's early days but I've already got some work and I'm confident I could get more but.... it's scary. There's no guarantees. I have to become self employed, deal with tax returns, and anything I do could potentially cause us to lose the few state benefits that we receive so it really needs to be worth it.

Which is why a nice little part time job was an attractive prospect. At first I was keen. Even an eight hour contract would garner me some cheap new clothes, an opportunity to meet new people and I could always do overtime if we were ever short on cash.

But then I started to think. Here I am, being a new mum, pastoring a church, making some great new friends and trying to build a freelance career. Throw part time work into the mix and surely something would have to give? And the first thing to suffer would definitely be the freelancing ~ after all, it's the thing that no one else is involved in.

I was torn. So, being a Christian, I prayed God, tell me what to do.

After which a series of events made it clear what the right decision was:

1. I had mindlessly thrown my dilemma out into the Twittersphere, not really wanting or expecting a response. But a good, very wise, real life friend tweeted me back {paraphrased}: 

"Don't look back in 10 years and realise you've wasted time building someone else's dream. Stick to your guns and build your own dream now. You won't regret it."

2. Our whole family was struck down with colds last weekend so we were absent from church. However, on bemoaning my dilemma to a friend afterwards she summarised the sermon for me into two points, saying that everything that was said was for me and my situation:
  • The root of all evil is not money, but the love of money.
  • HOWEVER, God has given you gifts. Use them to make money so you can sow that resource back into the Kingdom (ie. use it for good). You are blessed to be a blessing. 

3. I was watching How I Met Your Mother. Well, I wasn't really watching it, it was on while I was folding laundry and playing with Ruby. But through all the distraction, one line jumped out at me. It was the episode where Ted sets up his own architecture firm but spends all his time procrastinating rather than calling clients and pitching for work. He then explained his behaviour to Robyn {paraphrased}:

"I guess the longer I put off starting my own firm, the longer it can remain a dream. If I actually do it, then it might stop being a dream and begin to be just another thing I've failed at."



BOOM!

I then realised that was exactly what I was doing. I have been procrastinating. Picking up bits of work here and there, thinking that one day I could make a real go of it, but never actually getting around to doing it properly. And why? Because it's the dream! If I try then I could fail. 

I know that if I get a job in New Look I would be comfortable, I would even enjoy it, I would earn enough money to keep us afloat.

But it's not the dream.

The dream is still out there.

It hasn't been achieved. 

There's still so much to do.

And it's scary.

BUT, it's limitless. I can be whatever I want to be. I can set my own hours. I can do as much or as little as I want, depending on our circumstances. With the right projects, I can earn in one week what I would earn in New Look part time per month. 

Really, it's a no brainer! Just a scary, nothing's guaranteed no-brainer.

But when all these things happened over the course of one weekend, you could call it coincidence. But I have a hunch that Someone wanted to tell me something important. And so my decision is made, and I'm more determined than ever to make it a success because I am confident that, however scary, it is the right decision.

***

I don't often blog about my faith but I am often asked how I know God is speaking to me, which is quite hard to explain but when you have practical examples it makes much more sense. This is just one practical example. I have one more from this week so I think I will blog about that too. I hope that in some small way it might encourage you, boost your own faith, or help you to understand my own.
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Saturday, 21 September 2013

A Dose of Mamma's Guilt

This week, unusually, I was faced with a good ol' dose of Mamma's Guilt. 

Normally, I'm absolutely confident in my parenting choices. If you don't like our style, judge all you want, but at the end of the day everyone just does what it takes to get the family through the day sane and unharmed. So where did this sudden pang of the Guilt come from?

What was I feeling guilty about? Probably the age old issues that have plagued the minds of mums since the beginning of time!
  • Wanting to stop breastfeeding because sometimes I just want to go out by myself
  • Breastfeeding too much (ie. not teaching Ruby patience)
  • Starting to wean two weeks before the recommended time
  • Resorting to pre-packaged weaning jars & pouches rather than cooking up my own delicious purees
  • Taking her out of her bedtime routine
  • Skipping bath time because I was tired
  • Losing my temper with her when she woke up in the night and wouldn't settle back to sleep
  • Not realising that the reason she kept waking up in the night was probably that she was cold and it was me who hadn't supplied her with enough warmth
  • Resorting to Calpol too early
  • Leaving her to cry in pain and using Calpol as a last resort
  • Resorting to breastfeeding as a source of comfort rather than food
  • Co-sleeping because it's easier than teaching her to stay in her cot
  • Leaving her all alone in her cot
  • Wanting to spend time away from her to build my own career
  • Not making the most of the time spent away from her, thus rendering it time I could have spent with her
  • Not providing enough money for the family to ensure security in her future
  • Working too much so that I'm not there for her all the time
...And the list goes on! 

I don't know what came over me! I'm normally a very confident parent; I learnt very early on that you take a stand for how you want to do things or you allow others to steer you in all different directions, without any real purpose, to the detriment of your own child's wellbeing. Who cares what other people think! Who cares what Super Nanny says! Who cares how they did it in the old days or what the new fangdangled research tells us!

When it comes to parenting, nothing is ever the perfect decision. Everything comes with pros and cons. Every method or school of thought has an army of followers who are convinced they know best.

But, as the parent of your child, you do know best. You are responsible for that tiny life. Only you can know what is best for your own baby. Only you are with them 24/7, reading their signals and working out exactly what their needs are and how they are best fulfilled. 

So next time I get an attack of the Mamma's Guilt, shut it up, quick! Rise up! Be confident!

You're doing a good job, and it will all turn out alright in the end.

***

This weekend I have the privilege of featuring in Vicky Welton's Post, Comment, Love, (#PoCoLo) Newbie Showcase, hosted by Jaime Oliver; if you've come from there then welcome! If you haven't, I suggest you hot-foot it over there immediately to find a whole bunch of new blogs that you really should be reading!
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Friday, 20 September 2013

TRENDS: Cross Stitch

I'm no fashionista, and this is no fashion blog, but when crafts and mainstream fashion collide it's always worth a mention! Has anyone noticed the Autumn/Winter cross stitch trend? Everywhere I go there seems to be a penchant for the stitchy good stuff in the fashion world! Particularly in New Look & George @ Asda, but if you've seen others then do tell!


Cross stitch - often seen as the poor, frumpy cousin of more skilled past times such as embroidery or dressmaking, is actually one of my favourite crafts. Yes, it's time consuming and methodical rather than wildly creative with instant results - but that's the charm of it.


Here's 5 reasons everyone should have a go at this pixelated artform:

Anyone can do it!
Think you're not creative or crafty? But desperately want to jump on board the handmade, crafty train that's been picking up speed these past few years? Cross stitch should be top of your list! You need to be able to count squares, bring a needle up through a ready-made hole, and take it back down again through the next hole ~ and that is essentially it! Hard core cross stitch artists may disagree of course, and it could be argued that the skill is in perfecting a neat reverse - but no one looks at the reverse, so while you're getting good, it's all OK.

Quick to fix
I love knitting. Problem is, I can't correct mistakes. If I go wrong, I have to rip it all out and start again, which is why I have a zillion UFOs languishing in my craft corner waiting for the fixing fairy to come and work her magic. Go wrong in cross stitch and there's no need to worry!You just unpick the stitches back to where you made the mistake and carry on. There's no risk of anything unraveling, you haven't wasted any materials and as long as you notice quick enough, it doesn't waste too much time! Also, unlike knitting, it's really easy to come back to and know exactly where you left off which, in my experience, greatly reduces the risk of mistakes!

Typography is King
I love typography, quotes and words in all forms, and what better way to immortalise your favourite quote or lyric in thread than in a good ol' cross stitch sampler. The possibilities are endless!


Portable, cheap & requires virtually no storage
All these qualities are what, for me, places cross stitch above all other crafts. What other craft fulfills all three of these criteria? Knitting is certainly not cheap if you like quality wool (and whose yarn stash has outgrown under the bed?), papercraft has the potential to take over your house (and your bank balance!) and sewing requires some sort of desk if you're to use your machine on a regular basis. Cross stitch, on the other hand, requires Aida, needle, thread and hoop and off you go!

You're the artist!
Once you've mastered the basics of the craft, it's really easy to create your own designs (whereas in knitting I feel like you need a PhD in Advanced Mathematics!). Grab some graph paper or go freestyle, as long as you get the spacing right, you can pretty much create anything!



So, while the catwalk is acknowledging that cross stitch is cool (and we've known all along, of course!), maybe now is the time to give it a whirl. You'll be so on trend, dahhling, and the fash-pack will be banging at the door to get a piece of your skillz.

***

This weekend I have the privilege of featuring in Vicky Welton's Post, Comment, Love, (#PoCoLo) Newbie Showcase, hosted by Jaime Oliver; if you've come from there then welcome! If you haven't, I suggest you hot-foot it over there immediately to find a whole bunch of new blogs that you really should be reading!
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Monday, 2 September 2013

Back to School!

Don't you just love September?

It is one of my favourite months of the year. You have all the optimism of a new year ~ a throwback from our school days ~ woven with the last threads of Summer: a big hotchpotch of warmth, still light evenings, squished blackberries and new stationery.

If there's one thing in life that I'm notoriously bad at, it's keeping new year resolutions. There's something about January that is just full of darkness and dread. September resolutions, on the other hand, have held far more success for me.


Summer is waving us goodbye, it's time to get down to work. Time to achieve something. This is the (school) year that I will get good at XYZ or learn to do ABC. September is a definite starting point. We're back from our hol's, we have 113 days until Christmas (aren't you glad I told you that?), and we have to achieve 123 before then. Yes, September gives us the chance to make a last ditch attempt at making the current year count, before we start thinking about what we'll do in the following year.

So, what is it that I want to do to make 2013 count?

~ finish the craft projects that I currently have on the go (sounds simple, but you don't know how many there are, and I'm not sure I do either!)
~ practise my embroidery
~ make my Christmas presents, or at least a few of them
~ organise a big 30 birthday bash for my husband
~ get Ruby on solids, in a routine, sleeping through the night in her own cot (not asking for much, eh?)
~ take Ruby to visit my friend when she has her baby in October

That's achievable... right?

Well, now that I've got it down on paper (or screen) I'll have to do it won't I?! But let's look on the bright side, there's quite a bit of crafting included on that list. I better get started!

Do you make September resolutions? Please share!

***
I linked this post up at Sarah's Monday Club
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Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Baby Diaries: 5 months


You are 5 months!

That's nearly 6 months! Which is half a year!

I can not believe how fast time flies and that we've had you for such a significant period of time. But at the same time, I can't remember a life without you.

You've learnt to put your face to the side, so you no longer face-plant the carpet when trying to crawl. This makes for a much happier baby!

You can now spin yourself around in circles and are beginning to move backwards. I'm sure it won't be long before you're crawling. We can tell, you're desperate to get moving!

You weigh 11lb 5oz. Still a slow gainer, so much so that we have to take a trip to the doctors on Tuesday to get you checked out. I'm sure all will be fine though. They just need to look at your dad to see that you take after him!


We've managed to forge some semblance of a routine which has given me my evenings back! I'm looking forward to being able to sit and knit, or blog. But I do miss you upstairs and sometimes sit in my room listening to your baby monitor music so I'm still close by. It's quite relaxing actually!

You now sleep in your very own cot, which looks massive in comparison to your tiny frame! But you have settled in there fine, and are quite happy to sleep there so really it's just down to mummy to put you back after your night feed and you'll stay there all night (it doesn't always happen!).

You are getting very good at making happy sounds, and you have worked out that it is a good way of getting our attention and ensuring that we interact with you.

You're now starting to spend time away from me. I leave you with Nana for a few hours at a time so I can get back into a work schedule. I'm never far away but it still feels strange that I'm not looking after you. We just make sure I'm close by at feed time.

Next week we're going to start you on Rusks and Baby Rice. My breastfeeding days are numbered so I'm making the most of them while I can!

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Friday, 30 August 2013

An Epiphany

A little while ago, I had the privilege of going to the head office of DK Books in London to take part in a focus group on social media and crafts.

Blogging, social media, books and crafts ~ these are a few of my favourite things! And I got to sit and talk about them with other people who love them just as much!

Well!

It was only scheduled to last an hour but we could have talked for aaaages! (I realise I'm using a lot of !!!! ~ this is what is known as lazy writing ~ slap wrist for me!). If it weren't for the fact that Mum was waiting across the road in a coffee shop looking after Ruby, I would have lingered longer!

And you know what I realised? I know stuff!

I know things that other people don't know.

Us bloggers are a wealth of knowledge, on topics that other people don't know about. It's not geekery, it's expertise!

Isn't that funny? You go through life, just pottering away with your quirky little interests that no one else seems to understand. And then you get asked about them. And you end up sounding quite, well, knowledgeable!

Me? Knowledgeable? About crafts? And social media? And blogging? If you had asked me back when I graduated university with a journalism degree if this was the direction I saw my life taking, I would have looked at you in bewilderment! But now that I am here, I love it. I love that I am a crafts journalist. I used to think it was such a pain, that it was too niche, that I could never create a career out of crafts. But I now think I can. Because I know things that other people don't know!

What a lovely hour it was! Chatting with the likes of Miriam, Joanne, Holly and the DK Team.

Of course, they didn't allow us to go home empty handed, and we left laden with some beautiful new craft books to have a look at. I'll be posting about them soon ~ watch this space!


In the mean time, check out DK's Pinterest account ~ they have some lovely ideas on gifts, home decor and baking.
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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Typewriter Love: A Dream Fulfilled!

You may remember that I have been having a love affair with the vintage typewriter for a while. My business cards feature them and I wrote a post a while back about why I love them so.


Well, much to my glee and excitement, I found one! I was browsing the charity shops in Maidstone and this caught my eye from a window display. After, oh, a second of consideration on whether it was a worthwhile purchase (Ummm, yeah!), I rushed off to the nearest ATM to withdraw the £30 before someone else snuck in and got there before me.

After asking the man to retrieve it from the display I was thrilled to find it still had its original leather case and apart from needing a dust, was in pretty good nick.

"Don't you want to check it works?" asked the man.
"Nope!" I chirped. "It's for decoration." (Big grin from ear to ear).
"Okaaay..."
(Not sure said man fully understood the beauty of what I had just found!)

Once I left the shop, I realised just how heavy my new toy was! I mean, it has a case with a handle, did people actually walk around with them like we do laptops?! Or is that a ridiculous question?

I worked out a way to precariously balance the typewriter on the handle of my buggy (yes, I had a screaming baby in tow ~ I am ridiculous!) and trooped off to the train station to make my way home. I must have had so many weird looks! And then, as luck would have it, I got stopped by the local news team to do a vox-pop on why I breastfeed. Not sure they realised how exhausted I was and I managed to make an idiot of myself on local news. Go me!

Anyway, I digress.

The point is, I now own a vintage typewriter with its original leather case.

My life is complete.

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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Picture Perfect Thrifty Finds

I love rummaging around charity shops. I can spend hours having a wander around town in the (often vain) hope of finding some vintage treasure. The charity shops in my area, though numerous, are not often a source of great excitement but every so often they throw up a little surprise or two. So a few weeks ago I was thrilled to find these two prints for just £1.49 each. I have visions of Ruby's room being a girly, vintage style haven and these fitted the image perfectly!

Does anyone remember the name of these? When I was a child I had a duvet set with a similar series of illustrations on. I was wondering if they were very popular.


Obviously the mounts weren't particularly attractive so I invested in a pair of pretty vintage style frames. I'd love to say that my local charity shops provided a nice, vintage set that I upcycled but these were from Wilkinsons!


I did have big plans for upcycling the old ones but alas, they kind of broke apart when I tried to remove the prints from them!


Oh the romance!
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Monday, 5 August 2013

The Baby Diaries: 4 months


We missed our 3 month diary entry because July was such a busy month. But that didn't stop you from growing and learning new things!

You are now 4 months old. How time has flown! You are most definitely not a newborn any longer.

You weigh 10lb 110z - still on the very petite side and putting you in the 0.4th centile, but perfect in every way! How many times have I had to persuade the healthcare assistants at the clinic that there's really no need to be concerned by your slow weight gain? You just like to do things at your own pace!

You are, however, in the 50th centile for your length. Long and skinny... I wonder who you're taking after!

Your slow weight gain is pretty much the only slow thing about you though. Not long after you hit 3 months, you rolled over and not content to stop there you are already desperately trying to crawl! You get so frustrated with your nose buried in the carpet and your legs pumping furiously that I can't leave you alone for two minutes without you getting overly distressed. It doesn't stop you though, as soon as I flip you onto your back, you roll over to try again!

You have more hair now and most of the time it looks quite fair. Although every now and again we'll catch sight of that red tinge. Only time will tell.

You can now interact with everyone you meet. You like to show off with your beaming smile because you know it provokes quite a reaction from passers by!

You babble away to yourself and can hold a 'conversation' as we take it in turns to 'speak'. And you are just learning how to laugh.

Your grip is super strong and can be quite painful when you get some skin in your fingers!

You have learnt how to take Mummy and Daddy's glasses off their faces which you think is great fun! What you don't understand is when you do, it just means we can't see your beautiful smile. :0)

We moved out of Grandad and Grandma's house this month so you now have your own room. It's not quite ready for you yet though so for now you're in with us. But we like you there anyway!

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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Watch this space!

I unintentionally took a break from the digital world this month. It all started with moving house at the end of June and since then, well, life has happened. Which is good. Sometimes it's good to have a little holiday, refocus and come back excited, refreshed and ready for more. 

Not that I've been on holiday, you understand, far from it! I've moved house, visited family, got caught up going to lots of meetings and generally just haven't had the head space for blogging, tweeting and the like (oh, and being a mum takes up a fair bit of time!).

But I am back, I have renewed purpose and excitement and I'm ready to get down to some serious work, developing my blog, my self, my career - it's all systems go in the Davies household for August!

Watch this space!
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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

How to make the perfect latte at home

My Starbucks addiction habit has been going for about 10 years. It started when I was in college - not quite old enough to go to the pub (legally), but a bit too old for hanging out at McDonalds. It was also a pretty good place to bunk off a 9am English class when I bumped into a friend on my way there! Now, I'm a bit of a contradiction because I'm not a big coffee drinker, so I began with hot chocolates. Then about 6 years ago my friend introduced me to the wonders of the Chai Tea Latte, and that's when the habit kicked in - there have been periods when I would buy one on the way to work every day and at £3.35 a time, that's not cheap!

In the last two years I ventured into the world of coffee (one day, my local Starbucks ran out of Chai!) and now my special order is a Grande Half Shot Soya Vanilla Latte. Bliss.

Anyway... my Starbucks habit was getting expensive. Over the last 10 years I have probably given near on £7000 to that big corporation and so we decided that enough was enough! If I can't live without lattes, then we'll make them cheaper at home. Now it did require a bit of initial outlay, but in the long run I'm hoping to save millions. :)

So, off we went to John Lewis and we bought a DeLonghi ECO310.R Icona Espresso Coffee Machine in Red.

And because I know you're all dying to know how it works, I'm going to show you how to make the perfect latte!

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1. Once you've filled up the water tank at the back, switch the machine on and place your pretty mug on the mug warmer at the top (Mine's from Anthropologie). Apparently it's important to warm your mug first and I'm happy to oblige because I think it helps!


2. I'm a big vanilla fan, so I popped down to my local Starbucks and got some of their lovely syrup.

Funny story: A couple of years ago, we moved house within East London which meant I changed my local Starbucks. After about four months, I went in and a barista from my old Starbucks had started working shifts at my new Starbucks... she remembered me and my order! That gives you an idea of how much of a regular I was. I wonder if when I bought the syrup they realised they were losing one of their best customers!

Anyway, I find that you don't need a lot of syrup, (you know in Starbucks they do two pumps?) just pour a little bit in, enough to cover the bottom of your mug.


3. Scoop ground coffee into the filter. Don't overfill it, but make sure it's filled level to the top. On the side of the machine there's a disc that you can press it against to pack the coffee down. Again, don't pack it too tightly. Too tight and the water won't be able to get through, too loose and it will pour through without filtering through the coffee.


4. When the green light shows, press the button. The machine might grumble a bit but the coffee should come out. When you've got the desired amount, press the button again to make it stop.



5. Now's the fun part - frothing the milk. You'll need a stainless steel milk frothing jug for the best effect (I don't know the exact science behind it but it just doesn't work as well in a ceramic or plastic jug - plus it gets pretty hot as the steamer heats the milk as well.) You don't need a lot of milk, it triples in volume as it froths so don't fill up the jug to the top! 

A barista friend recommended for perfect latte milk, stick the nozzle right down to the bottom, as it froths up bang the jug on the sideboard - this pops the bigger bubbles and makes more room. Gradually move the jug up and down to make sure the froth gets heated too. When the jug is just a little bit too hot to touch (probably takes about 30 - 40 seconds) then the milk should be hot enough for your latte.


6. Pour the the frothed milk into your mug about two thirds of the way up. Then pour in your coffee and top up the drink with any leftover frothed milk.


7. Curl up on the sofa with a good book and your perfect latte!

The cost of a perfect latte:
Tesco Colombian Roast and Ground Coffee 227g £2.99 (lasts about 3 weeks)
Alpro Soya Milk £1.19 (lasts about 1 week)
Starbucks Vanilla Syrup £3.75 (lasts about 4 weeks)
Total: £138.04
(obviously once you've bought the machine it's pennies per latte!)

So, say I have to replace the machine once every 5 years (is that optimistic?), over 10 years I will spend:
Alpro Soya Milk £618.80
Starbucks Vanilla Syrup £450
Total: £1853.73
(Assuming the cost of milk doesn't drastically increase!)

Which makes a daily latte about 50p a time!
So over the course of 10 years I save... £5146.27

Cost of the early morning coffee spent with the husband... priceless.

**This post was originally posted on my old, redundant blog a while ago but was too good not to share here too**
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