The Birthday Party Plan - Reworked

My original plan was to have Toots' birthday party at my mum's house. She has recently landscaped the back garden and had a huge deck built. It was the ideal place to have a birthday party. We were going to barbecue, have lots of baked treats and a bouncy castle for Toots and her friends.

With the rising cost of everything and after I priced everything for the party, even sticking to the basics, I realised that the party was going to be quite expensive. I phoned around a few places we've been before for her friends' birthday parties and got a great deal with the Play Cafe.

The Play Cafe has a huge soft play area which the kids can play in for 90 minutes (30 minutes longer than anywhere else) and then we have the use of a birthday room for 45 minutes which is plenty of time. The viewing area also has a lovely coffee shop so the parents can all relax with a latte while the kids entertain themselves. The kids can have something to eat in the birthday room (which is fully decorated, apart from balloons), then we'll have time for a quick game or two of pass the parcel before blowing out the birthday candles and clearing up for the day.

I'm really pleased with this set up, partly because it means my mum and I don't have to scrape walked in cake off her new deck but also because the Play Cafe have thought of everything.

A full 90 minutes in that play area will mean that the kids will be starving enough to happily sit down and eat without putting up a fight. Plus because of the limited time in the birthday room, once the kids have finished eating we only need to entertain them for about 25 minutes before the party is over. Just time enough for a quick game, blow out the candles and hand out party bags.

The Play Cafe will provide party bags for an additional charge of £2 per child, but I've made my own up for the kids. They cost less than £2 plus I have more control over what goes in to them. Each kid gets a little pocket sized instrument, a balloon, a small bag of sugar free gummy sweets and a funsize bar of chocolate. I also have some cake boxes in case anyone wants to take their cake home.

Hopefully it will all go as planned.

All I really have to do is bring the birthday cake. I'm going to make a simple round sponge cake with the Pink Panther face above on top of he cake. Its a nice straight forward version of his face so I shouldn't have any trouble (famous last words) transferring it to the top of the cake.

Easy Craft for Kids - The Rain Stick

Rain sticks are a great, easy and cheap kid's craft project.

You'll need to gather together the following for a basic rain stick;

Cardboard tube
Scrapbook paper or wrapping paper.
Sticky tape
a piece of cardboard
rice or dried lentils

Start by cutting two strips of cardboard and two discs of card roughly the same size as the ends of your tube. The strips need to fit inside your cardboard tube, mine are about an inch wide. Concertina the strips of cardboard.

Place one card circle over the end of the tube and tape it firmly in place.

Turn the tube over and push the two strips of card into the tube and pour in the rice or lentils (the bigger the grains the bigger the "rain")

Place the other card circle over the open end and tape in place to close the tube.

Then cover the entire tube with pretty paper.

Fold the paper in over the ends and tape in place. Mine came up a little short. That's what I get for being too lazy to cut the tube down to fit the paper.

I had some craft foam stickers so I covered up the raggedy ends.

And that's you finished. Except we all know I'm all about the embellishments. While Toots busied herself covering the rain stick in balloon stickers, I made a little pompom wrist strap.

I threaded felt pompoms on to a length of embroidery thread using all six strands and then tied the two ends together.

I then threaded the ends of embroidery thread under a fold in the paper at one end of the tube and taped over it, adding a few feather to hold everything in place and covered up any little tears in the paper.

Then you're finished. And hopefully you have a happy child into the bargain.

If you want (or need, don't worry you're in understanding company) a great craft fix head over to Make and Tell Monday at The 6 o'clock Stitch.

Menu Plan Monday - 30/3 to 5/4

Menu Plan Monday again.

Last week went pretty well. I swapped a couple of my planned meals for veggie options, partly because I had a lot of veg to use and partly because there was a touch of the cold in our house although it seems to have passed now.

For lunches this week I'll be making use of any leftovers supplemented with soup, sandwiches and a few bready things.

Monday: (Irish stew in the crockpot) Sausage and baked bean pie with mashed potatoes.

Tuesday: Irish stew. I have a late dentist appointment today as well as a few other appointments during the day so I'll just have to heat this up for dinner. Second heat stew is always far better anyway.

Wednesday: Chili with rice and salad. Toots is with Nana for dinner tonight.

Thursday: Frittata and salad with homemade bread.

Friday: Cumberland sausage casserole made in the crockpot. We're going ice skating today.

Saturday: Barbecue. Its Toots' actual birthday today so we'll have some family over and a bit of a barbecue. Cross your fingers for good weather or we'll be cooking under the garage door again:) I also have to bake for her birthday party tomorrow.

Sunday: We'll be at the Play Cafe today for Toots's birthday party with her little friends. The Play Cafe will provide happy meals for all the kids. They have a healthy option of chicken goujons, carrot sticks, yogurt and fruit juice or an unhealthy option of burgers, fries, ice cream and fruit juice. Which the kids pick at least I know I'm sending them home with their parents fed. The party is from 3.30pm to 5.30pm and I know it can be a pain to get home around 6.00pm and have to figure out a meal for the kids before bedtime.

The party room has a kitchen so I'll cook some nibbly things like mini pizzas and sausage rolls so that the parents can have a nibble. I may make the husband some fajitas when we get home.


Fruit and Cherry scones.
Pink Panther birthday cake.
Vanilla cupcakes for the barbecue.
2 batches of bread.

Earth Hour

Last night I took part in Earth Hour.

I went around the house and switched off all the lights (not that many were on), turned off anything else I could think off and sat myself down in the living room with a glass of wine, a storm lantern and a good book.

I was a little distracted by the buzzing noise coming from the fish tank and it started me thinking about all the things around my home which I didn't switch off, which I didn't even think to switch off.

It made me feel a little pathetic for even trying.

But at least I tried.

I've lost count of how many times in the last few days I've heard "Sure, what's switching the lights off in my house going to? That'll hardly save the planet." or words to that effect.

Even my own mum didn't take part and apparently mine was the only household in my street taking part.

So what will it do? Will switching the lights off in our homes Save the Planet.


Well, if that's what you think, please allow me to let you in on a little secret.


The planet's fine.

Perfectly ok.

Nothing at all wrong with it.

Its been through much much worse in the past and it's still here, isn't it?

This planet which we merely rent space on is fantastic. And beautiful. And capable of cleaning up whatever crap is thrown at it time and time again.

If you actually believe that insignificant little specks of dirt such as human beings are capable of doing anything catastrophic enough to destroy an entire planet, kaboom, planet go bye bye, then you are a moron.

Think about it this way.

Go and find a mirror.

Now press your finger against it, see your little fingerprint?

Now wipe it off.

Do you see how easy that was. No trace of you left behind, whatsoever.

We are not destroying the planet.

We are simply destroying the things on this planet which we need to survive.

The planet doesn't need us to step in and be its saviour.

The planet doesn't need us at all.

And no trace of us will be left behind.


Yet Another Photoless Post

We had our last day of ballet class today and a recital.

It was just lovely to watch all the little pink ballerinas pointing their toes, twirling and waving their wands.

Of course, it was a little harder to get comfortable once my leg fell asleep under Toots who had parked herself firmly there after 15 seconds in the dance hall.

She crossed her arms, lowered her eyebrows and settled in for the inevitable conversation of

"Are you sure you don't want to dance with the other twinkles?"


"It looks like fun sweetie, why don't you give it a go"

"No I don't dance. I don't like to dance".

I beg your pardon.

I waited patiently through the rest of the recital and then spoke quietly with the instructor. She's a big fan of quietly.

You'll remember that parents aren't allowed to sit in on any of the classes and there simply isn't any time after the class to speak to the instructor before the next class is ushered in.

She explained that actually, no, Toots really didn't seem to enjoy the ballet (even though she arrives home after the class and immediately starts to do the little routine for us) and that while she'll join in with the warm up, she usually watches the other girls or does her own thing.

I'm sorry, but I really wish I'd known that through the course. It's really annoying me now that I wasted five hours of my daughter's life (she only gets the one) with something she really didn't enjoy doing.

And it bugs me even more that the instructor didn't think it was worth telling me any of this until after the course had finished (and then had the cheek to ask if I would be re-enrolling her for next term).

I don't think so, Kandi!

Yes, I know my daughter has been taking ballet lessons from an overgrown princess called Kandi, not only with a "K", but with an "I" thrown in for good measure.

Yes, I'm a little bitter.

Still, life goes on.

And that life will include preschool judo!

Oh, for the life of me...


Show and Tell Friday

I'm jumping feet first in to Kelli's Show and Tell Friday over at There is no place like home.

I've been admiring some of Janmary's beautiful things and I'd like to share a few of my own with you.
This is a plate. It is no ordinary plate. It was my mother in law's plate.

She bought it for herself many years ago and unfortunately never had the opportunity to hang it anywhere. It stayed wrapped in tissue paper in a box at the back of her wardrobe for years and when her condition worsened she asked me to visit and she gave me this plate.

She passed away shortly before my husband and I married and it pains me that she never met our beautiful daughter, but it also makes me smile that my daughter will occasionally point to the plate and say "that was my Granny Freda's, she was lovely".

Because she was and I'm glad that because of this simple plate and it's bright colours, my daughter knows about Freda and what a lovely and beautiful person she was.

Technically I did post today

I mean even without this one.

Because in my world, it only counts as being a new day if I fall asleep and wake up again.

I managed to get a teensy wee bit obsessed with a project at about 11.00pm last night and the next thing I knew it was 5.30am.

Still on the plus side I managed to get a ton of stuff done today. I finished projects, the house is cleaner than its ever been in a while, Toots was well fed and we played together, plus we had a nice long walk, even though its blowing a gale outside.

Maybe insomniacs are on to something.

WFMW - Flat Pack Tools

Its time again for Works for Me Wednesday over at We are THAT Family.

If you're anything like me and you love Ikea and all things flat pack, chances are you've gathered up a fair few of these little tools over the years.

And chances are that you will need them again at some point, especially for kids furniture.

You know the pieces I'm talking about.

That fantastic crib you bought which can have the mattress up nice and high to make it easier for you in the early days and then nice and low once your child seems ready to scale Everest stand on their own two feet and then, as if that wasn't enough, the crib finally can be changed into a toddler bed complete with low guard rails to stop them from rolling out of the bed.

So you're going to need to be able to find those tiny little tools at least twice, long after you've put the bed up in the first place, three if you count taking the thing down to get it out of the room once your child outgrows it. And all of this over the course of about five years.

So what's the easiest way to guarantee that you'll be able to find exactly the tiny little tool you're looking for three years after you last saw it.


Once you finish building your beautiful new piece of furniture and you've finished the bottle of wine necessary to build flat pack, just take a strip of packing tape or any kind of sticky tape and stick the tool underneath or to the back of the piece of furniture.

Only you will know its there, safe and sound, ready for the next time you need it.

Now won't you sleep better tonight.?

I know I will.

Pay it Forward

Isn't it nice to just be "nice".

I'm jumping in to the Pay it Forward Challenge. I saw this on this challenge on
Hip Chick's Home.

How it Works

The first three people to comment on this post (and this post only) will receive a handmade item from myself within three months, completely free of charge to you. Its just my way of being nice and rewarding a few of you for putting up with me. You don't get a set date, just know that some day in the next three months the postman may have something other than bills for you.

The Catch (isn't there always one)

You have to Pay it Forward and commit to doing the same thing. Send three things to three people within three months. The items should be handmade, by you (and in my book mix cd's count, you know who you are).

Mothers Day


Do you hear that?


Neither do I.

Complete silence.

Which is a little strange considering it was Mothers Day. Surely the whole point of Mothers Day is to be a Mother and spend uninterrupted time with my daughter.

Well not according to everyone else. My mum and husband both thought that on this Mother's Day I should relax, kick back and take it easy.

I woke on Sunday to find that the husband had snuck out of bed, woken Toots and was downstairs making breakfast. It was 8.00am. Pure bliss, I can't remember the last time I had a long lie in. While Toots is a great sleeper, I normally wake an hour or so before her to get some work done.

I had breakfast at the table with my little family, I caught up on my reader and then went to the park with Toots and my brother.

There they are halfway up a tree.

You'll notice how good I'm getting at the whole not standing below her with a catcher's mitt thing.

You'll also notice my brother's vice like grip around her ankle and slightly nervous expression.

He knows me too well and values his health. Wise move, oh brother of mine.

Then she was whisked away to spend the afternoon with her Nana and the husband disappeared off into the garden while I was left alone.

I spent the afternoon finishing off a few projects, starting a few new ones and committing to even more in the future.

This relaxing and kicking back lark is all well and good, but, you know...

Its just a little too quiet around here for my liking.

Menu Plan Monday 23/3 to 29/3

Menu Plan Monday again.

Its Love Beef Week here in Northern Ireland so I'll try to incorporate as much as I can. Luckily I still have some cuts of beef in the freezer so this shouldn't be a problem.

The weather has definitely been a lot kinder here lately so as usual Toots and I will get out of the house as often as possible, because of this a lot of our lunches will consist of sandwiches, soup and any leftovers which I can reheat on my mine gas stove while we're out. I'm hoping for a trip or two to the coast this week.


We'll have leftovers from the barbecue today. There's a mountain of salad and chicken, so we'll have that. No sense it going to waste.


Crockpot lasagna. Again I'm hoping to be out today so this is something I can put on in the morning and not have to worry about it.


Meatball subs. I'll make some mini meatballs and again throw them in the crockpot with tomato sauce and all I have to do tonight is add bread and cheese.


I'm going to try taco soup. I see recipes for it everywhere and it sounds interesting. The recipes seem to be a very personal thing, with everyone making it their own way, but I'm going to use Annie's recipe because I've never went wrong using her recipes before. The crockpot might get used again today (I'm being a bit lazy this week, but it just makes dinner too easy).


Steak and chips. A nice easy treat for the husband. There are definitely a couple of sirloins in the back of that freezer somewhere.


Ok I'm slightly embarrassed to admit this, but you'll see it come up again in the future, trust me. Plus I'm sure we've all done the same thing.

Mystery meat surprise. Yep, I've thrown something in the freezer at some point wrapped in foil in a freezer bag with no label on it whatsoever. I have no idea what is in there, so I'll defrost it on Friday night so that I can spend Saturday thinking about what the hell to do with it.


Pork fillet with potatoes and vegetables. I think I'll just roast the pork fillet but don't put it past me to just throw it in that crockpot.


Bread, but then you knew that.
Vanilla cupcakes using my simple sponge
Easter baskets. I'll post a recipe for this later in the week.

Mother's Day

It is Mother's Day here in Northern Ireland and to all the wonderful harding working mothers, mommies and mums I wish you a very...

I wish I'd seen more of the world

This isn't a problem for me.

If I popped my clogs tomorrow I'd be very happy that I had seen as much as I possibly could on my budget.

I travelled a fair bit when I was younger and before I had Toots. I wasn't single, but I usually travelled alone. I preferred it that way. I've been to Egypt and Vegas with the husband, but before that I went to Turkey.

I booked a holiday for four. It had previously been booked by a family who had to cancel at the last minute so I managed to get the whole thing for £119 per person for two weeks. I put a postcard in the window of my local newsagent and three weeks later I met the three girls at the airport I was going to spend the next fortnight with in Turkey. It was one of the best holidays I've ever been on.

I've been to Amsterdam as well as Gouda in Holland. I've visited Barcelona, Kos, Cyprus and Nice to name a few, all alone and they were some of the most enjoyable times of my life.

I loved to be able to just do my own thing every day. To not have to fall in line with what somebody else wanted to do. I could go anywhere I wanted or nowhere at all. I could eat whole roasted cloves of garlic in France and not concern myself with offending anyone.

Is was pure bliss.

On the other hand, the husband has been to Egypt and Vegas with me and to California, San Francisco and Vegas with his brother before he met me.

He's never been out of the country on is own.

In the past year, the husband changed company vehicles. He didn't notify the tax office and neither did his employer until last month and because of this he received a substantial rebate as well as having to pay no tax for two months until the new tax year begins in April.

I have been trying to convince him to use some of that money and take himself off alone for a couple of weekends. He loves his food and I think it would be great for him to spend a few days sipping wine and eating fresh seafood around some of the less touristy, coastal areas of Spain or Portugal or a week relaxing in Sicily.

Nothing would make me happier than for him to have some time to himself, to never look back and say "I wish I had...".

He thinks that he will feel guilty travelling without his family. He thinks that he will miss us and won't enjoy himself. I'm trying to explain to him that this is the point. This should be an opportunity and a time for him to be completely selfish and think only of himself. He spends so much time working for his family and doing everything to please us that I think its very important for him to have something which is just for him and him alone.

I fixed a lot of his wants over the years. He wanted to learn to fly and I arranged two lessons. Paying for him to get his license would have been a bit of a stretch but as it is he has spent two very happy hours flying over the Mourne mountains.

I never object when he buys something for himself whether its a good bottle of whiskey or a games console. In my mind he works hard and he deserves some down time and something to enjoy and look forward to.

However, I just don't seem to be able to talk him round to this idea at all and I can't understand why.

Who, given the opportunity to travel, wouldn't grab it with both hands and run.

I'd really like to know what everyone thinks about this.

Would you be happy for your husband to go on holiday by himself? Would you encourage him? If you're a man, would you go if your wife encouraged you?

And if you're a woman, would you be tempted to go and leave the hubs to fend for himself at home with the kids?

Bitsy Catchup

It has been a slightly hectic few days around here.

I keep finding myself sidetracked by something else and I haven't been able to concentrate on anything properly.

On Tuesday we spent the day at Belfast Zoo.

Isn't it uncanny how all the animals are able to stand with their backs to the visitors.

Toots really enjoyed herself, although we didn't quite make it all the way up to the big cats on the mountain walk.

We did get to see some elephants.

Along with a few zebra and giraffes.

We did see a lot of other animals but as I say, my mind has been wandering lately and I simply forgot to take any photographs.

We were thoroughly exhausted by the time we arrived home (seriously, who puts a zoo on the side of a mountain) and Toots, my mum and I fell asleep for an hour.

It has been far too long since I've enjoyed a sleep in the middle of the day. I've lost the art of the disco nap because I felt like death when I woke up.

Toots and I have have been out and about around our little town on Wednesday and Thursday and we're just about to head out again.

These are some typical views I see everyday. If I'm honest I don't tend to pay much attention until I get to our destination but because of Project 365 I've been carrying my camera a little more often these days.

Anyway, we're off out again to the duck pond.

I'll be back again later today, hopefully with a more focused mind.

See you all soon.

WFMW - 100% Biodegradeable Packing Peanuts

Truth be told this isn't my idea at all. But I will pilfer it to use at a later date.

At Christmas I received a gift of a beautiful box filled with Lush goodies. For those of you not familiar with Lush, they make and sell handmade bath, body and beauty products.

My mum always buys a bar of their Carmen Miranda soap for me on Mother's Day and occasionally at Christmas too but this year she opted for one of their handmade boxes.

The boxes cost £20 and are guaranteed to be filled with at least that value of products.

My box was filled with three large bars of soap, a bar of solid shampoo and four mini bath bombs each with a different fragrance. Toots got to use two of the bath bombs, one was filled with flower petals and the other was filled with sparkly stars which very slowly dissolve in the water.

The thing about these boxes which I thought was just brilliant was the packing material inside, used to stop any of the contents being battered or bruised before Christmas.


Pretty boring looking box once the gorgeous wrapping and ribbons are removed.


Popcorn. Complete genius.

The stuff is mostly air, it did a fantastic job of keeping everything neatly undamaged in the box and I can throw it in the bin without feeling guilty. I can even reuse it. The popcorn smells lovely after being packed up with all those bars of soap for so long and it would easily fragrance a small room, such as a bathroom.

Popcorn packing peanuts definitely work for me.

For more Works for me Wednesday tips, head over to We are THAT Family.

I'm just throwing it out there.

Ok, here's an idea.

Don't be afraid to tell me if you think its a daft idea, it just popped into my head and I thought I'd post about it before I forget.

I'm noticing a hell of a lot of Northern Ireland Bloggers out there.

Hi there.

To get straight to the point, would it be such a bad idea if we organised one huge get together. For everyone that can make it.

Say for talk sake somewhere really easy to get to by bus, train or car, with parking, maybe the last weekend in May or something like that. It would give us all time to get a new outfit and have the hair done so that we look like our profile pics.

We could bring the kids and have a great big picnic up at Stormont (have you taken your kids to their playground yet, it rocks).

Or we could abandon the kids at home with our respective others, a tin of baked beans and a tin opener and take over Avoca or Cafe Vaudeville.

Seriously, what does everybody think? Could we pull it off?

And if you're from Northern Ireland, you see this, and you think it is a good idea, pass it on.

Happy St Patrick's Day Everyone

We're off out today, but I'll be back again tomorrow.

Have a great day.

Menu Plan Monday March 16 to 22

Is it Monday already?

Last week's menu plan worked out pretty well.

This week I'm keeping it pretty simple. I'm determined to try to get through the huge amount of food in the freezer over the next few weeks with a few fresh meals chucked in to break it up a bit.

Lunch: leftover gammon sandwiches maybe with some salad.
Dinner: chicken fajitas with salad.

I'll also make a big pot of homemade vegetable soup tonight for tomorrow.

Just chop up some leaks, carrots, soup celery and curly parsley, throw it in a big pot along with a few handfuls of pearl barley, red & green lentils and yellow spilt peas, cover with chicken or vegetable stock and leave to simmer until barley and lentils are tender.

Lunch: We'll be out for much of today so I'll pack a lunch of some sandwiches, cake, tea and fruit juice perhaps with a few other bits and pieces thrown in for snacks.
Dinner: We'll have the vegetable soup with homemade wheaten bread to add a bit of stodge for the hard working husband.

Lunch: leftover wheaten bread with scrambled eggs and ham.
Dinner: Toots is with Nana so I'll throw some ribs in the crockpot in the morning for the hubs and I'll have either a salad or I'll just clean out the fridge. (Thanks to SciFi Dad and the beautiful google bubble I won't forget the ribs this time).

Lunch: Again, weather depending we'll be out and about. The plan is to head to Paint and Glaze in Bangor so we may have lunch at La Princess.
Dinner: Mushroom and cheese risotto with thick slices of toasted bread.

Lunch: Tomato and pasta soup with some cheese sticks.
Dinner: Pizza. I'm reverting back to my old habits.

Lunch: Ballet today so a quick lunch of leftovers or sandwiches. Maybe eggs?
Dinner: Grilled whole trout with salad and tomatoes.

We'll be barbecuing today so it will just be one long day of grazing. So much for that diet.


Soda bread
Wheaten bread
My regular homemade bread
Shillelagh cookies (which I will post at some stage this week)
And Scottish Shortbread

If you'd like to see more menu plans, head over to $5 Dinners.

St Paddy's Day Plans

Unfortunately our plans this year have been scuppered slightly by the fact that the husband won't have the day off. Normally I would get a bit miffed about the fact that somebody else made a pig's ear of their work leaving him to be the one to fix it, but not today.

Because he will have nine straight days off at Easter. Say it with me...

Woo Hoooo.

I'm still going to try and get Toots out to some of the festivities.

We're spoiled for choice this year with Downpatrick starting the St Patrick's Festival on 9 March and running right through to 17 March. I'm hoping to get a day at The Saint Patrick's Centre for some of the organised activities.

The husband will be home for the weekend so on Friday Toots and I will have a day of baking. Soda bread and barmbrack are both on the menu as well as some shillelagh cookies, which are really just sugar cookies cut into rectangles about 1in x 5in, then coated with chocolate icing and finally a little green ribbon tied around the middle and I'm still fiddling with those Guinness St Paddy's cupcakes, but they're not quite right yet.

We will be having our usual Spring barbecue again this year.

We try to have a barbecue about this time every year for the family to get together. Conveniently enough it always seems to be on Mother's Day weekend, which is always very close to my mum's birthday as well.

The men all stand together in the garden merrily cremating burgers and trying to get the kids to eat hotdogs which smell suspiciously like petrol.

The women all stand and cook edible food in the kitchen. If we didn't, trust me we'd go hungry.

The men have a few tins of Guinness and the husband has his Bushmills whiskey. They all invariably fall asleep somewhere.

The women talk for hours for play with the kids outside.

It has always been a great day and I'm really looking forward to it this year.

Do you have any plans for St Patrick's day?

If you do, or even if you don't but still want t join in, JanMary is having a lovely St Patrick's Day Blogging Carnival. She'll have a Mr Linky up on 17 March for everyone to add their posts, but that doesn't mean to say that you can't starting posting about your St Patrick's Day plans now.

Even if you don't have a post, you should head over and take a look on 17 March and read all the great posts.

The diet starts today

Or perhaps to be more accurate, the exercise regime starts today.

I don't know when it happened, but at some point in the last few years I've put down a layer of insulation.

I have a slightly odd metabolism. It doesn't really matter what I eat, healthy or junk, vast quantities or near starvation, I won't put on or lose any weight.

My body only seems to respond to exercise or more recently a lack of exercise.

I used to be really active. Into my early twenties, I swam regularly, played rugby and football and had weight training usually twice a week, but that all got knocked on the head while I was pregnant with Toots and I never really got back into a routine of regular exercise.

So I've decided to do something about it and by adding the little stats bar over there on the right hand side hopefully the accountability will motivate me.

You'll notice there isn't a weight listed and that is simply because I don't put an awful lot of stock or faith in my weight. I've been thin and weighed very little and frankly I looked terrible.

Nobody ever said "phwoar, would you look at the ribcage on that", put it that way.

So I'll be forcing myself to exercise every single day. I'll update the little bar thingy on the first of each month and I'll hopefully start to see an improvement.

Wish me luck?

To Wii or Not to Wii

I'll get one thing straight right away. My brother spoils Toots rotten.

He still lives at home, he isn't dating anyone at the minute, he doesn't have any kids of his own and he has a good job, so he has a lot of expendable income.

And he wants to buy Toots a Wii for her birthday.

At least I've managed to get him to ask first. He used to just go and buy whatever took his fancy and give it to her without bothering to check with me.

I'm still in two minds about whether to let him get it for her.

Her birthday is in April and it'll be much warmer at that stage and I would prefer that she played outside, but then I think of all those nasty days when it's raining and freezing cold and I think having a Wii around the house would be a good thing.

Then there's the fact that it's a Wii, for her birthday.

Is it just me or does that seem like far too big a present for a birthday regardless of her age.

I don't think it would bother me as much if it was a Christmas present.

Personally I'd love a Wii, if only for Wii Fit, but that's just me.

If I let him buy it for her birthday am I setting myself up for headaches come Christmas or her birthday next year?

I'm worried that she'll start to expect large expensive gifts all the time.

She remembers her birthday last year and a fair amount of the gifts she received and in some cases who she received them from.

What do you think? Good idea or not? Is it worth the headache?

Would it be better to just let him buy the Wii and then just try and phase it into the house, like it was always there and she just didn't notice it? Maybe that way she wouldn't think of it as a birthday present and it won't set a precedent for future gifts?

If you have a Wii, do you find your kids still want to play outside just as much?

I'm a bit stuck on this one.

Because sometimes they need a little reminder

So its been a little monotonous around here for the past couple of weeks.

We get up, the hubs goes to work, I clean the house (somebody sneaks in every night and dirties all my dishes, I swear) and play with Toots or go out on a few errands, the hubs comes home, we eat, you get the idea.

Same ol, same ol day in day out.

Which is kind of fine for me and Toots because it provides a bit of structure to the day and I think a (almost) 4 year old still needs a fair bit of structure.

But for the poor husband ... not so much.

I want more for him. I want him to feel loved and appreciated. I want him to know that I still love him for all the reasons I loved him and married him fahumina years ago.

Now I know there are many ways to show him how much he means to me. There are plenty on the "kiss your husband everyday" bandwagon which is lovely, but I do that every single day, always have.

There are also plenty of posts encouraging us to sleep with our poor neglected husbands every night for a whole week (seriously, just the one). Again, a great idea, but my husband would probably just think I'd got into the cosmo again and he just happened to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

I tell him I love him all the time. I tell him every morning and every night. The thing is I also brush my teeth and moisturise every morning and every night so there's a fair wee chance he has it in his head that it's just part of my routine.

I could pay him more attention, cook him beautiful meals, basically I could hint to the fact that he's still very important to me, but really, come on now. If he was any good at picking up on subtle hints I wouldn't count a waffle iron and model Dodge Viper among my collection of birthday presents, would I?

Husband I love you dearly, but it really isn't the same thing. Nor was it a "bit of fun". It sits there, tucked in under bed mocking me. It goes, "na na na na naaaa" every bloody time I reach under there to retrieve a misplaced sock or the super duper bouncy ball you kindly gave the daughter.

The waffle iron does not mock. The waffle iron knows better. The waffle iron lives in fear of the day I may try to use its royal wafflyness. The waffle iron knows I could take it in a fight.

Anyway, yes, the poor neglected husband.

You need to tell them, sit them down, turn off the TV (you might want to switch off the computer, tweeting about the whole thing might take something away from moment) and tell them.

I did and he's been strutting around here like cock of the walk for the last few days. It really is an amazing transformation.

I asked him first, if he knew why I loved him and if he knew, I mean really knew, that I still love him and how much I appreciate him.

I told him how much he means to me. I told him that I love how confident he is, that he's always in complete control of every situation. He never second guesses himself, once he makes a decision (and let me tell you it only takes him milliseconds) he sticks with it and makes it work.

I love the way he carries himself, everyone assumes he's the boss (whereas his boss is a weedy little streak of a man with girlish hands, ahem).

I love that he is such a perfectionist. He always gets the job done and then some and it's perfect. I love that I asked him for a utensil rack which comfortably holds up two cast iron frying pans.

I spent a good hour telling him everything I love about him and I could have went on a lot longer.

Then you can kiss him or....whatever.

And you can tell him why you want to ... whatever... while you're at it (just don't mention if you did get into the cosmo again).

And it doesn't hurt to take a few seconds to cop a feel, every time he happens to pass by.

Because have I mentioned, he's walking around here like he's the King.

And he is.

WFMW - Frozen Yogurt Pops

So you've bought two dozen yogurts for the kids.

Because the kids have been eating yogurts like they're going out of fashion for the last three weeks and you thought you'd take advantage of that huge pack of yogurts because they were only £1.99 and they'll last at least a week without you having to run out and buy more every night because the stash in the fridge has mysteriously disappeared.

Cut to a week later, you still have a fridge overflowing with yogurts, there's only three days left before they go out of date and your kids are eating grapes like they're going out of fashion.

What do you do?

You could eat every tiny pot yourself.

You could strap the kids down and force feed them yogurt through a funnel.


Besides a funnel probably wouldn't work. Its not like I tried or anything, I'm just guessing.

So what's the one thing that kids will eat without complaint?

Frozen treats

I don't know about your kids, but my daughter will eat iced lollies in the dead of winter.

So take your huge stash of yogurts, make a hole in the lid and stick in a handle. If you happen to have lolly pop sticks, then use those. The ones I have are for crafts and are coloured so I'm not really fussed on trying to use them for food.

I do have a stash of plastic spoons though...

Just stick a spoon through the lid and into the yogurt and stick them all in the freezer. These little yogurts are usually ready in about an hour or so.

So now you don't have to eat three squares of nothing but yogurt everyday and your kids will love* you for letting them have all the frozen goodies they can eat.

And it works well with that monster bunch of bananas too. I usually peel the banana (they're a bugger to peel after they're frozen), cut it in half and stick wooden skewer in the cut end. Pop a handful of banana pops in a freezer bag and throw them in the freezer for an hour or so. They're great for birthday parties or barbecues in the back garden. You can even get fancy and melt some chocolate before dipping the frozen bananas. The cold bananas set the chocolate almost straight away so that the kids can crack through the chocolate layer.

For more Works for me Wednesday tips, head over to We are THAT Family.

*Not that the love of a child can be bought with frozen dairy treats, it's just a figure of speech.

Bitty Birdy Fridge Magnet Tutorial

I wanted to make a few things to brighten the house up for spring. We actually have some sunshine here today, although its still very cold.

I love making little fridge magnets. I started to make them when Toots was little. Letters and numbers made from felt and craft foam. The fabric and foam is a lot more tactile and gentle on her little hands than the hard plastic variety.

This is a very simple project and once you have an idea of what you would like to make you can turn out one of these magnets every few minutes.

I used:

Scrap pieces of felt from another project,
Matching thread,
Small amount of polyfill or fiber fill.
Small amount of black embroidery floss.

You also need very basic notions, just a pair of scissors and a needle.

Begin by doodling a few pictures of things you would like to make and use these as templates to cut your felt. I made the birds slightly less than 1 inch across.

The little orange pieces at the bottom of the photo are wings, beak and feet.

Next position the wings, beak and feet on the reverse of the piece of fabric to be the front of the magnet and tack in place. Then embroider some eyes. I think this one would have looked a little better if the beak was slightly lower on the face. Still I'll know for the next one...

The place the second circle of felt behind the face piece and slip stitch using small stitches around the outside edge of both circles, leaving a small gap to stuff.

Stuff the birdy using a small pinch of polyfill.

Then carry on slip stitching over the opening to completely close.

Once the birdy is closed, glue a small magnet on the back of the birdy and leave to dry. I happen to have a bag of rare earth magnets which I prefer to use. I know then that I can make a slightly heavier magnet and it will still stay on the fridge. However, don't feel like you have to run out and buy something specific. Before I started using rare earth magnets I just went to my local pound shop (dollar store) and bought a huge bag of those plastic alphabet magnets and popped the magnets out of the back of them.

And there you have it, a bitty birdy fridge magnet.

And it isn't just birds either. You could have birds, butterflies, little fluffy white lambs and Easter eggs in spring, a swathe of flowers in summertime, beautiful rust coloured leaves, with pumpkins in autumn and then snowflakes made from craft foam and painted with clear glittery nail polish along with a little santa or two and snowmen.

You'll seem so organised and together with your seasonally coordinated fridge and I won't tell anyone it only took you a matter of minutes if you don't.

If you liked this tutorial and are craving more, please head over to Make and Tell Monday at the 6 o'clock stitch.

Because she really
has it together.

Menu Plan Monday - Mon 8/3 to Sun 14/3

I am absolutely beyond exhausted as I write this. We're just back from a slightly manic birthday party and I've never been so glad in my life that I planned my menu on Saturday during Toots ballet class. The very thought of having to prepare a cook one meal let alone seven and lunches and baking has me ready to run for my comfy bed.

But anyway...

Lunch: Risotto. I have two packets of smoked haddock and eggs, so smoked haddock risotto with a poached egg on top.
Dinner: Beef casserole. Its already made and in the freezer so I just have to defrost it and heat.

Lunch: Sandwiches. We'll be out and about today, so I may pack them with a flask of tea and take them with us.
Dinner: Fishcakes (using the rest of the smoked fish), salad and dips. The rocket I planted indoors is ready to use.

Lunch: Omelets with bacon and cheese.
Dinner: Beef pie and chips I'll use the leftover beef casserole because there's tons.

Lunch: Baked potatoes with beans. Nice and easy I can throw them in the oven for an hour and forget about them.
Dinner: Vegetable soup and homemade bread.

Lunch: Vegetable soup.
Dinner: The hubs and Toots will have venison and I'll have whatever leftovers are in the fridge. I don't particularly like venison but they love it.

Lunch: Toasties. Another quickie lunch because of ballet.
Dinner: Toots is with nana so I'll make Madras Chicken with chapatis and rice. Its a bit too spicy yet for Toots.

Lunch: Gammon, potatoes and veg.
Dinner: Homemade pizza fingers. I have a large part baked baguette to use in the freezer, I'll just top it with pasta sauce, cheese and salami.

I'm glad I already had this done or, seriously, the plan would have consisted of a lot of cheerios and rice krispies.

Need inspiration? Head over to Organizing Junkie.

Biting the (toy) bullet

We finally bit the bullet, ate the frog, call it what you will but we finally moved all of Toots' toys to her bedroom.


I know. For years now I have insisted that her bedroom is for sleeping only. It's the main reason I feel that she sleeps as well as she does (a good 11-12 hours every night). There aren't any distractions in there and I liked that her room was a very relaxing place.

But we gave in.

Or maybe I am just a little bit selfish.

I wanted my corners back.

I mean the corners of my living room. For years now, my corners have been non-existent. First filled with buggies and strollers and nappy bags, then toys. She doesn't have a huge amount of toys but boy do those things get everywhere.

We spent last weekend rearranging her room. We picked up a couple of under bed storage boxes from Ikea and put her toy chest in the corner of her room. If anything, are the moving of furniture and reorganising, she seems to actually have more room to play up there. And it looks a lot more like a child's room rather than a spare bedroom.

Best of all, she still gets her shower every night, dries her hair and swans off into bed like usual, completely ignoring all the toys. Occasionally she has climbed back out of bed, grabbed a stuffed toy and climbed back in again, but apart from that it hasn't affected her night's sleep one bit.

And I've got my corners back again. And I used the large wooden chest in the living room to stash all my knitting and crafting pruck, so I have my kitchen table back again.


Also, I've mentioned before how much I'm enjoying being at home. However, its kind of obvious, at least to me, that we can't really afford for me to be out of work in the long term. We're fine for a year or two, but after that if I'm still at home it may start to be a bit of a problem.

We've sat down and worked out that I may have to return to work at least part time once Toots started school. Now, that's fine in theory but that kid will get something like 15 weeks holiday a year and I can't imagine that I'll be able to find such a generous employer.

That is, unless I'm my own boss.

So wildly clutching at straws I opened a Folksy shop. Folksy is kind of like Etsy except its based in the UK. That's the button up there on the right.

Don't panic, You'll still get my usual run of rants, crafts, carnival whoring and anything else I find remotely interesting. I'm not going to turn into one of those blogs where I shamelessly self promote and only post pretty little pictures of the things I make.

Besides if I wanted to do that I could always just start another blog. Three and counting, sure what's another one, eh?

When did the scales tip?

A bit of background first.

I've always been considered by a lot of the people I know, friends, relatives, colleagues, to be a bit weird.

I decided early on that I wanted to breast feed Toots. Now that didn't work out and it still annoys me a little, but at the time my friends all thought I was a little strange. Why would I want to breast feed when formula was so good and so convenient. Umm, convenient, scrub, sterilise, rinse, measure, lose bloody count and start the whole faff all over again, I don't think so.

Even when I spent a full week luxuriating in hospital after having Toots a few of the midwives mentioned that they spend a lot of their time almost convincing women to give breast feeding a go. Nobody wanted to bother even trying.

Then there were the nappies. I wanted to use washables. I ended up going with the Motherease pre-shaped birth to toddler nappies (best nappies in the known galaxy btw) and again everyone thought I was a bit odd. They talked about how difficult it must be to use the nappies and what a headache it must be to clean them, like I was still having to schlep them down to the stream and beat them off a rock or something.

Even my own mother refused to see the point in them or respect my choice to use them, until one night about 11 weeks in I was tired and finally allowed her to keep Toots over night as the husband was away on business. My mum arrived at my house at 8.00pm, both Toots and her in floods of tears and completely inconsolable. My mum said she'd tried everything, the child just wouldn't stop crying and she sounded in pain. Thanks to a pampers nappy very kindly removing a layer of skin from the child's backside, my mum finally came round to my way of thinking regarding the washable nappies.

Then came the toy issue. I spent about two years feeling as though I had to justify the choices I made about toys for Toots. I knitted a lot of her soft toys mostly because shop bought ones come in pastel shades and babies in general aren't wild about the pastels. Then I moved on to wooden toys, blocks, little train sets that kind of thing and everyone wanted to know why a woman who practically lives in the next century as far as gadgets are concerned didn't have a toy room like a Tomy testing facility. I didn't see the point. I hated "one button wonder" toys.

I didn't want to watch my daughter's play time turn into a cycle of push button, make noise, push button, make noise, it just seemed....boring.

Again, my mum was my biggest competition. My point of view was that we didn't have electronic toys growing up and we turned out fine, my brother is one of the funniest and most charming people I know. He switches his mobile off so that his "face to face" conversations aren't interrupted. He knows how to disconnect.

My mum's opinion was that we didn't have those toys because we were poor and she was stuck with the thought that "poor kids don't have good toys".

I eventually gave up justifying my decisions and choices after about two years, merely stating that I preferred that Toots had to think about a toy and be imaginative and creative if anyone questioned those choices. I just didn't feel like explaining my reasoning anymore. Occasionally when I really couldn't be bothered I just said I liked the colour so I bought it.

The thing is, Toots had a play date during the week. We spent the afternoon at the play cafe where Toots ran circles around kids much older than her. I swear that kid is fast and agile, it was like watching the SAS duck and dive through all the obstacles and up to the top of a three storey climbing frame before hurling herself down a huge slide. The kid also has no fear, but I have enough for both of us so it kind of balances out.

After leaving the play cafe, the kids weren't quite ready to say goodbye yet, so we agreed that she could go to her friend's house for an hour but then we would have to go home.

On a related note her friend has been to our house a couple of times and played with all of Toots toys and really seemed to enjoy himself. His granny told me later that he had went home asking if he could have a set of poi, but after his mum googled to find out what they are she said no, because she felt they were too dangerous, which is fair enough I get that, but Toots has been using them so long she's really getting very good with them.

Anyway, we were having a cup of coffee and watching the kids play. I was only really half listening when I phased back into the conversation (I am a fab house guest) only to find what I was hearing all too familiar. She was justifying, almost apologising really about the toys her son owned. She explained that he wouldn't have half of them except they were all given to him by an older (spoiled, her words) cousin. He had electric guitars, a handful of leap pad learning systems, a Wii (Christmas present) amongst literally dozens of other toys and those ware just the ones downstairs. His bedroom is, by all accounts, completely filled with similar toys. She went on to say that the toys wouldn't be her first choice but at the same time she didn't want to turn down the very generous gifts from her brother. She actually seemed embarrased by the sheer amount of toys we were surrounded by.

My question is, did the scales finally tip in favour of parents who chose to buy their children less commercial toys, opting instead for more old fashioned or traditional toys or do all parents alike feel the need to justify ourselves, regardless of the end decision?

Are we just never really sure if we've made the right choice?

Processing Data Request - Please Await Response

We've been working on Toot's handwriting for a while and to be quite honest, she was getting a little bored.

Well bored enough to just get up and swan off into a different room.

So I took the hint (astute mummy that I am) and decided to try maths instead.

We started off with the really simple questions, "If you have one orange and I give you another orange, how many oranges do you have?"

Then I started to just ask her straight out "What's 4 +5?"

And do you know what, she got every last one of them right. Sometimes I held my fingers up to signify the numbers and sometimes I didn't. Sometimes she made a point of counting my fingers and sometimes she didn't even bother to look at me, she just answered.

Twenty minutes flat and she had it nailed.

Excuse me for a second...

Climb up onto the roof...

Hold curiously heavy preschooler aloft...

Quickly realise upper arms aren't quite up to the challenge and decide to get this over with as quickly as possible...

Clear throat...

"Attention everyone. I give you my daughter. It turns out numbers are her thing. She is a genius. Ask whatever you need of her and she will provide you with the answer and wisdom which you so desire"


Cut to the next day...

Nana called round for a visit after work and being the pain in the ass showoff proud mummy that I am, I decided to display my daughter's mathematical prowess.

"Toots, what's 4 + 5?"

*blank stare*


"Toots, what's 4 +5?"

"In a second, mummy"


It seems that the child has inherited my genetic defect.

My brain operates using a sort/store/file system. I wasn't born with a discard/delete/destroy feature built in. This means that while I remember almost everything (just ask the husband), instantaneous data retrieval is almost impossible.

It seems the child has inherited the same brain function.


Back on the roof, check...

Curiously heavy preschooler held aloft, check....

Bingo wings flapping gently in the wind, check...

Clear throat...

"Attention everyone. I give you my daughter. It turns out numbers are her thing. She is a genius.

Please note that a minor defect due in no small part to her mother's complete inability to dump junk and rubbish from her tiny little mind may cause a brief delay in my daughter providing a response to your request.

However, I hope you are somewhat placated by the fact that when my daughter is in her 30s she will recall the hot beverage drinking preferences of each and every person she has met.

Ask whatever you need of her and she will provide you with the answer and wisdom which you so desire.

But if you could just give her a wee second, that'd be great.


That is all"

Recycleable - Paper Doll House with Update

I originally posted this tutorial at the start of the year when the weather was miserable and I needed a quick fix for a bored preschooler. It seems the idea went down well and I wanted to post it again in honour of Kristen's "Best Of Theme". I have updated the tutorial at the end of the post and if you want to jump straight to the update, please feel free to do so

We were all set this morning, coats, gloves and hats on and ready to head out the door until...

Snow...and rain...and icy

So back inside and now I have a three year old who was desperately looking forward to a walk around the town this morning,

Because this morning we were supposed to be going to get her some new ballet pumps.

Ah well, such is life I guess. I'll measure her feet and run down tomorrow while she's with Nana, come hell or high water.

So I needed something to take her mind off the fact that she still wanted to go out regardless of the weather.

Hmm, crafts with nothing planned.

A paper doll house.

All you need to complete this very simple project are;
  • 2 pieces of stiff card (or a cardbox box will do).
  • A glue stick (or PVA or Mod Podge, whatever's within reaching distance)
  • Some sharp scissors (for you)
  • And the Ikea catalogue (or home inspiration magazines like Ideal Home).

You need to have a quick flick through the catalogue or magazines and tear out any pages with a room which pretty much covers the majority of the page (its easier to manage this with the Ikea book trust me, but then beautiful glossies don't have huge prices printed in the middle of the kitchen, so). Then with the scissors cut a very narrow slot halfway along the long side of the card and halfway through the card. Slot the two pieces together to look like this.

Then you want to give the three year old a glue stick and swan off into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. Now you'll need a damp sponge to quickly sponge the (hopefully) still wet glue off the carpet because you weren't intelligent enough to put a mat or drop cloth down first.

Or if you're that way inclined you can sit and watch to make sure she "stays within the lines".

It's much easier if you keep the two pieces of card slotted together and then lie the whole thing flat on the floor, that way all you have to do is make sure that the magazine pages you stick to the two facing sides are both of a kitchen, or bedroom or whatever.

Like this.

Carry on around all four sides (you'll need eight magazine pages in total) and it should wind up looking something like this.

Doesn;t she looked pleased with herself. I cut two small slots near the corners at each side of the "kitchen" and strung a length of silver cord across, before hanging up a little t-shirt and trousers I cut from some old fabric. I'd picked up those tiny clothes pegs to use for hanging cards at Christmas and I've been trying to think of something else to use them for.

If you're feeling particular inspired and creative you could always colour the pieces of card yourself, then cut out individual pieces of furniture, chairs lamps that kind of thing and have fun designing your very own rooms.

I'd love to know if anyone does this their child.

For more great WFMW tips and ideas, head over to We are THAT Family


The paper doll house went down so well in our house (it has become Toots "go to" toy) that we decided to make it more of a permanent fixture. We are still in the process of decorating her house but basically we replaced the pieces of cardboard with sheets of balsa wood. You could also use thin sheets of plywood or fibreboard (just make sure to seal all the cut edges and wear a dust mask while cutting). Best of all we're finally using up all the paint and wallpaper leftover from decorating our own home.

Oh yes, we're making her a mini version of our house, so she'll be able to play in her bedroom, in her bedroom.

I've wanted a doll's house for Toots for a long time now but just couldn't bear to part with around £100 to buy something sturdy enough to l ast, plus some of those things are a fair size and take up a lot of space while not in use. The real beauty of this house is that you can simply slide the pieces apart and slip them in under her bed.

Now THAT definitely works for me.

I'm also linking this post to the 6 o'clock stich's Make and Tell Monday carnival. You should head over there and check it out, there are some fantastic tutorials.