That's twenty ten by the way not two thousand and ten. You have to say it the first way, it's the law! But here we are again, the dawn of not only a new year but also a new decade. I'm very happy to say that this Christmas was by far better than last, but more about that later.

This year has been very strange for me and a lot of it has come with a pretty steep learning curve.

I started 2009 freshly unemployed with a four year old who, lets be completely honest here, I didn't know an awful lot about. I know that sounds rather odd, because I'm her mum and all but still up until January 2009 she spent ten hours a day, five days a week in childcare and she spent time at my mum's house most Saturdays and Sundays. Apart from when she was sick, a little tiny baby before I went back to work or over holidays we'd never spent more than a few awake hours together. We had our good days and we had our bad days. Though I'm happy to say, mostly good.

In March I finally decided that I'd give my own business a whirl and opened a shop on Folksy. I'm really rather pleased with how my first year has gone and I'm looking forward to next year.

My little girl started school this year too.

My little experiment (that you may or may not remember) failed miserably after some horrible weather. Well it was horrible for Northern Ireland anyway!

And then before we could say Bob's your uncle, along came Christmas and here we are at the New Year again.

As years go I'm very happy and overall I'll be popping 2009 into the good year pile.

All I wish for you this year is that you find and are able to hold onto whatever it is that makes you smile.

Happy New Year everybody.

Oh Christmas Tree

When my brother and I were little my mum had one simple rule about her Christmas tree, "If my kids made it, it goes on the tree!".

Simple as that. Now with two kids in a very large primary school which managed to get through a mountain of toilet paper every year that made for a lot of TP decorations on the tree, but she didn't care because we made them.

I have exactly the same rule, though because Chloe's only four years old we're still building a up to a decent amount of her little handmade decorations. Until the day when she can single handedly fill our huge tree to the point it's at risk of falling over I'll fill in the gaps with things that make her smile.

And yes that box of Christmas decorations does include a green paper fairy, hand print angels, golden paper stars and a slightly mad eclectic mix of giant glass m&ms, fruit fairies, Mickey Mouse stringing his own set of lights a big blue penguin with a light pushed inside, a set of really, really gaudy glass ornaments featuring a lion and a monkey nut of all things, cushions (it's a big tree) and even a rubber ducky.

I have coloured lights because Chloe likes them and Christmas belongs to her inside these fours walls, so she gets her way.

And as if that isn't enough, there's even some tinsel chucked in for good measure.

There is no question that a child lives in this house:)

Merry Christmas everybody and a very Happy and hopefully relaxing New Year!

So there you have it...

Christmas Day has been and gone though the festive period will hopefully continue for a few more days to come.

The few remaining Christmassy wares have been delisted and packed away. A good old tidy of the shelves in a manner of speaking:)

I've been pleasantly surprised and more than a little chuffed at how well this year has gone for See the Woods Designs. I've been told over and over again that all new businesses make a loss in their first year. I'm very pleased to say that mine didn't, not even close:)

Even discounting my sales in December I think this has been a pretty good year for a fledgling business. I now have all of my different little processes in order so it's no longer a case of pure panic and "where in all of feck did I put the sticky tape last time I used it" when a sale comes in, which is nice!

This year has really brought it home for me that in order for this business of mine to continue to do well and to grow from what it currently is, I really do need to put the work in. I need to make sure that I never miss a beat or an opportunity.

The sales in December came so thick and fast that I sometimes felt that I wasn't having the chance to do anything else. My shop lay forgotten for weeks in the run up to Christmas because of my need to fill orders locally and now it is looking a little depleted. Of course it would be all too easy to look upon December's sales and think "oh yay, happy days everyone has found me on Folksy. I've put in the work promoting and now I can sit back and relax" but of course that's not going to be the case. Sales in December are all too easy to come buy, especially when half the UK was snowed in but still in need of Christmas gifts.

I'm sure that the next month will be an altogether slower and much much more relaxed period and I'm hoping to spend the time listing a few things and working on some new ranges which you will see popping up in my shop over the next few weeks.

I hope that everyone's expectations for this year have been met or exceeded and I hope for an even bigger and better 2010 for each and every one of us.

What happened to providing a good service?

I'm very aware that my posts in the run up to Christmas have been, shall we say, less than festive. For that I apologise.

But I'm more than a little befuddled as to why I'm currently sitting here having to fix Chloe's "professionally" taken school photograph. I'm glad I asked for the jpeg on disk rather than having the photo printed, but I'm wondering just what exactly I paid £25 for the privilege of.

Correct me if I'm wrong but this...

dark and dreary little offering probably isn't the best job a "professional" photographer could have done.

Robert bought my mum a digital photo frame for my mum and has filled it with photos of Chloe. She's always complaining that she doesn't have enough and I really wanted to be able to add her school photo into the mix before wrapping it up.

The addition of a bit of light and a warming filter helped a lot I think...

And I have a bit of a thing for cropped photos like this one recently....

And taken just a little bit further ...

I love that the difference in colour between her two eyes is a lot more obvious in the last one. It's her thing, she loves that one is brown and one is blue.

Ten minutes, total!! So why couldn't the photographer have done that?

My Poor Mum

She's having a really rough time of it lately and nothing we do seems to lift her mood.

It started with a handbag that my brother was buying for his girlfriend. When it was delivered to my mum's office she couldn't help herself and had to have a look at it. Of course she didn't realise that she had a dot of ink on her thumb which very quickly transferred itself onto the stupid bag which very quickly sucked it up like a sponge. Quick side note, Radley handbags made from incredibly soft leather probably aren't the wisest choice for a bag, not if you plan on using it anyway. That little flumox cost her £75!

Then she received a letter from the very lovely people at Disability Living Allowance who are clearly trying to get some money together for the Christmas party this year. Basically my grandfather died two and a half years ago in the early hours of the morning on 22 May. From what we can gather from the letter because he had the absolute cheek to die before midnight on the 22nd, DLA would like their money back for the period 9th May to 22nd May because he wasn't alive for all of it!!! Well needless to say that didn't put her in good mood either.

Neither did the fact that because she was absolutely seething in work over it a woman managed to confuddle her and walk off £157 better off by managing to get away without paying for her electric bill and a postal order. Alright, that one was my mum's fault because she wasn't concentrating but keep in mind that this woman comes into my mum's post office at least twice a week and chats away asking after Chloe and my mum's family and when you consider that her actual change should have been nothing but a handful of coins instead of the handful of notes she ran off, it really makes you wonder what is it about this time of year that brings out the worst in some people!! That's another £157 that will have to come out of her pocket if she doesn't set eyes on the woman again this side of Christmas.

My mum has always had a hard time at Christmas. She gets so wrapped up in the money side of things, somehow convincing herself that the more money she spends the better Christmas will be when in actual fact it always turns out to be the complete opposite, at least for her.

When it comes right down to it, although shops and supermarkets and toy manufacturers would love you to think otherwise, Christmas and money don't really have anything to do with each other.

I'm trying to get across to my mum that Christmas dinner won't be any more special if she buys the huge turkey and cured ham instead of the roasting chicken and a couple of gammon slices at an eighth the price or that Chloe's going to any more over the moon with the £200 go kart instead of the £40 one. Alright, the child said she wanted a Ben 10 go kart because she saw it on tv but I can tell you know she won't give a toss if she gets the plain black one with the 79p sheet of Ben 10 stickers slapped on it and better than that, her day will be the bestest in the whole wide world ever if we let her put the stickers on herself.

Christmas shouldn't be about money, but my mum has a hard time getting past that because when my brother and I were kids we didn't have any money and my mum usually borrowed to make sure there was something under the tree. Ever since then she's never really been able to overcome what can only be described as her hatred of all things Christmas. She's already trying to put a brave face on at a time of the year she can't stand and the slightest little thing gone wrong can send her into the depths of despair.

It's a real shame that something like money has ruined almost the last 30 Christmases for my mum. If I could just get her round to realising what Christmas is really all about.

Now I know that everyone has different opinions on what Christmas is really about, but for me Christmas is that its that special time of year when everyone (including your boss) agrees that you should have a few days off work and be at home. With family. With friends. With loved ones.

Whether you spend it at home curled up under a blanket by the fire, getting fat and merry, or driving clear across the country to be with ones you love. What it all boils down to is having a few days to just be together and no amount of pears covered in gold leaf and used as place settings on your table is enhance Christmas any more than it already is, just by having the people you care most about near to you.
So, is everybody ready for Christmas? Pressies wrapped, stockings stuffed?

That bit I've managed, though food is another matter altogether. I tried exactly the same method of organising the food for Christmas last year and it didn't work then either. Pity I didn't remember that it didn't work last year until I realised that it wasn't going to work this year either. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I did the same thing the year before that too.

Will I elaborate a bit, oh alright then. Its simple enough, at the beginning of December I set a day aside, head out to the shops and spend the day buying a colossal amount of food. I mean a monstrously huge amount of food. The reasoning behind this is that it should mean that come the end of December I still have loads of food in the house and only have to pop out before Christmas to pick up fresh bits and pieces locally like milk, fruit and veg.

Of course that isn't what actually ends up happening because what looks like a colossal amount at food at the beginning of December always seems to end up being the perfect amount of food for a month so I have to go again. On the 23rd of December!

So we're just going to have to bite the bullet and try and get through it in one piece. The plan is that we'll head into Bangor and I'll do the dreaded Asda thing by my lonesome while Robert and Chloe get to do the fun stuff like go to Spice and taste all the lovely cheeses, they're under very strict instructions that they must get brie for mummy and none of that pasteurised muck either, I'd enough of that when I was pregnant thank you very much. Then of course, they'll probably tottle over to Heatherlea under the pretence of picking up some bread but they'll actually sit themselves down with something gooey and delicious and a mug of hot chocolate and watch the madness outside. All the while I'll do battle with Asda.

You see I really don't like shopping for food this close to Christmas, I can manage if I have to get a few bits locally but I hate Asda and Tesco because you just can't get the idea across to some people that they're not stocking up for World War III, the shops will open again in a mere three days and it probably isn't necessary for them to wrestle in the aisles over a loaf of bread. I'll just have to put my head down and get it over with.

With a bit of luck I'll manage to get back out again in time to join the family for some of that yummy hot chocolate.

In other news, it has finally snowed here in Ards

Which has made me feel really Christmassy but it also means that tomorrow I will have to walk Chloe down to school in the snow which means that I will slip and land on my arse, likely in the playground beside the P7s who will laugh and laugh and then Chloe will spend the day telling everyone that didn't see it happen while I spend the morning in work sitting on a radiator trying to dry my bum.

Merry Christmas everyone.

The road to hell is not paved with legos

It's paved with beads!!

Thousands upon thousands of brightly coloured pieces of shrapnel cleverly disguised under the rather innocuous name, beads! They get everywhere and my fancy, newfangled, bag lessvacuum cleaner sounds like a machine gun. No matter how many times I empty that thing, there always seems to be a sneaky handful that manage to hang around.

This is pretty much been my life for the last few weeks, ever since I made my mum a bracelet as a gift, using up my rather modest stash of recycled beads and she mistook my generosity to mean "here's a bracelet, sell as many of them as you can".

And she did, bless her, the woman missed her calling! I've been completely blown away by how many orders I've had to fill for bracelets. I'm finally coming around to them as well and I'm enjoying making them rather than trying to fight it. I'm telling it's no easy task making jewellery with a little voice in your head telling you "you're not a jeweller, where's your knitting needles".

Purple, oh don't even talk to me about purple. I'm telling you, if you make any kind of jewellery at the minute and it ain't purple, then it's the wrong colour because after 18 purple bracelets and 4 rings I can finally say that there is not one single purple bead left in this house. Well, there might be in the vacuum cleaner or buried deep with the carpet fibres ready to jump out and attack me at any minute.

And I'm still not done. I still have to turn over orders for 14 more before Christmas and 6 more rings making a grand total of......wait for it.....

58 bracelets and 17 rings!!

I'm gobsmacked and I'm a knitter, precious little throws us let me tell you.

But we still managed to fit in a little bit of baking this week to make us feel a little more festive and yesterday Chloe and I made a batch of Meringue Christmas Trees. That's a pile of them all wrapped and ready to go to her friend's at my mum's house. If you fancy the recipe, for all that it is (easiest make ever) then you can find it here.

Now, I'm off to stop being such an ungrateful brat and finish these bracelets:)

Out with the old

Bob gave his notice at work this morning.

He was offered a new position with a different company and in a slightly different field last week and we've just been waiting for all the loose ends to be tied up and contracts signed before he handed in his notice.

Astonishingly, they were actually surprised ever though you'll remember that he threw the head up a few weeks ago and told them he was planning on leaving. Though employers often do suffer a selective memory so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that they are surprised.

This new position will be enough of a change that he won't automatically be labelled the "fixer" as he so often has been in the past. The new place have told him that they already have a bunch of completely new sites for him to get stuck into in the New Year which means that for the first time, in a long time he'll actually have the chance to see a job completed from start to finish rather than just spending his days fixing everyone else's dumb mistakes. He can't wait. Neither can I!!

This is the point were I'll be completely honest and you can call me a selfish cow if you like, but these past few months have been exhausting.

Don't get me wrong, I love my husband and I'd do anything for him (scratch that, almost anything - you can never put a thing like that down in writing) but there really are only so many of another person's bad days that I can deal with. Now I know you're not supposed to say that, but sometimes I've had a bad day myself and I'm tired and can't be bothered but because I know he'll have had a bad day, I have to brush my day under the carpet, swallow it or just not think about it because we can't both have had bad days. One has to be there for the other and all that.

Hopefully though, a fair amount of that will be put behind us now. I've sat him down and given him a good talking to and reminded him that this job may not be the answer to all his prayers, that mythical company that only exists in rumours, whispered in office corridors and cubicles. "They only work a half day on Friday you know!" "I heard they give their staff huge Christmas bonuses", "I know a woman, and her friend's sister works there and apparently they're brilliant to work for if you have kids, so understanding!"

That company isn't real and he's been told that, but I have to admit that this weekend has seen him in the best mood he's been in, in a very long time.

Long may it continue!!

So this is what my blog looks like!!

We're hopefully now in the gentle slide down to Christmas and almost two weeks of blissful relaxation and cake eating.

We're all still here, including Chloe

Note to self, Leanne your phone is so old you might as well still be calling an operator and asking to be patched through. Stop using it to take photos!!!

I wrapped a few of Chloe's presents this morning and popped them under the tree. Obviously that's just asking for a whole world of pain but it had to be done eventually. A presentless tree is a sad looking sight indeed.

Chloe decided a few months ago that she doesn't like Play Doh any more. She packed it all into it's carry case, handed it to me and told me to give it away. Being the clever mummy that I am, I put it out in the garage instead. Usually when she decides that she doesn't like something, she's asking for it again in a week or so. I put the stuff out there almost three months ago now.

Anyway, I dug it out again last night and made a bunch of these little fellas. Hopefully the Play Doh will see a bit more action for a while.

They remind of me that Stretch Armstrong thingy from years ago. You can stretch them and squeeze them and pull them out of shape and they spring right back again, a bit like little stress balls only for a stress free four year old.

I've seen a ton of tutorials for these all over the place, but basically you just use Play Doh to stuff balloons and then draw little faces on them and top them with a pom pom for hair. You could use googly eyes too, if you happen to have them lying around.

Here they are all packed up inside the bag I got her from Nicsknots.

We have some good news too, but that'll have to wait until tomorrow.