Thursday 28 April 2011

A guy that really delivers

It's confessional time.

I'm a little bit in love with another guy.  His name's Paul.  I've never seen him or spoken to him in person, but he's so wonderful to me.

This relationship's been going on for a couple of months.  He's never let me down.  He leaves little presents at my door.  Sweet little gestures that show he cares.  He makes me feel youthful, bringing back memories of when I was younger.  He cares about the environment and is big on recycling and reusing.

I send him little messages over the internet at night. When I'm feeling fed up, he'll bring me Jaffa cakes the next morning.  When I'm busy and can't get out, he'll bring me bread for my toast.  Hell he even worries about my back and has offered to drop round big bags of compost for the veg patch.

He doesn't have the smartest car in the world, but he has a cute little float.  Oh, I've given the game away now haven't I?

Ok, ok, he's my milkman.  But the rest of it's all true.

I couldn't be happier with the service I've had from Milk and More.  You can change or add to your order right up to 9pm the night before - I've tried it a few times and have never been let down.

You can stock up on groceries if you don't have time to get to the shops, or your child's poorly or you have a busy day.

Yes, the prices are a little higher than the supermarket, but I've found them comparable to my local convenience store - and they get delivered free of charge to your doorstep.  They have over 250 daily essentials from eggs and cereal, to pet food and loo rolls.

The best thing about having a milkman? Real milk bottles!  Proper glass ones that you rinse out and leave on your doorstep to be used again.  Pushing your thumb into the foil top to open a fresh pint.  Hearing them clink when you open the fridge door.  I love it!!

We used a milkman a while ago, but I stopped. We drink organic milk and at the time the organic milk all came in plastic bottles.  Cutting down on our plastic usage was one of the main reasons we wanted a milkman, and I'm pleased to say our milkman now delivers proper pints of organic semi-skimmed milk in glass bottles.

If you key in your postcode here you can find out if you can get your very own Paul (not my Paul obviously, I'm keeping him!).  Best of all, if you start using Milk & More before end of May, you can get £10 off your first invoice 

Disclosure: Milk and More provided me with a credited account in order to trial their delivery and grocery shopping service.  All views expressed here are my own and are honest and unbiased.

Lace doilies just got cool

Sitting in a waiting room yesterday, flicking through a magazine I spotted a 'how to' make gorgeous lace bowls from old doilies.

For a change I was seen super-quick so I didn't have time to take in all the details, so re-creating it at home was a bit of a challenge. I think I did ok though.

You need:

  • Fabric doily (lace or crochet)
  • Fabric dye (optional)
  • PVA glue
  • Clingfilm

I headed straight off to the charity shops, and came away gleeful at finding these for 25p each.

If you have delicate lace ones, then I think they'd look best left white, but as I had thicker crocheted ones, and they were a bit dingy I decided to dye mine a funky colour.  I used Dylon's Burlesque Red machine dye which was super-easy.

Leave to dry. Lovin' the colour!

Once dyed and dried, mix up a solution of 50/50 water and PVA in a bowl.  Submerge your doily in the mixture and leave for around 10 minutes to soak fully into the fabric.

Meanwhile, cover the outside of a suitably sized bowl with cling film.  Smooth out the creases - for finer fabric this will be more important.

Squeeze out your doily to remove the excess gloop.

Place centrally over your upturned, covered bowl and smooth into shape.  You can pinch a fluted shape to the edges.

Leave overnight to dry.

I love these - I have delicate looking decorative bowls which (so far) appear to be toddler-proof!  The do look much nicer than my photographs suggest - both the shape and the colour are extremely difficult to capture accurately.

Oooh, get me - I've done some 'upcycling'.

Head on over to White Lily Green's blog to check out the other Handmade Thursday entries.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

The Great Royal Wedding Fundraiser - The Children's Trust

Many of us will be celebrating the wedding of William and Kate on Friday. Maybe you are having a street party; baking red white & blue cupcakes; hanging out the bunting; organising a knees-up with family or watching it on the telly down the pub.

Maybe you're not all that into Royal Weddings but are just happy to get an extra bank holiday!

Whatever you do, please consider making a donation of £2 (or more if you can afford it) to the Children's Trust latest fundraising effort.  Think of it as your wedding gift - after all what could be more appropriate as a present for people who do (in the case of William) and will do (in the case of Kate) so much work for charities and good causes.

The Children's Trust are planning a big party on Friday so all the children, staff and families can celebrate the happy day.  They even made a wedding card and sent it to William and Kate wishing them all the best for their wedding day, and were lucky enough to receive a thank you back from the palace.

The Trust provides care, education, therapy and rehabilitation to children with multiple disabilities, complex health needs and acquired brain injury.  Their services include the UK's largest paediatric brain injury rehabilitation centre, support in the community for children and young people with acquired brain injury, The School for Profound Education for pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties, short breaks, transitional, palliative and long-term nursing care.

They are truly an amazing organisation with hugely dedicated staff.  I'm very proud to support them, and hope that you might be able to also.  Can you spare £2 for their Just Giving Page?  Can you write a blog post like this or share on Facebook - the more people who see the campaign, the quicker they will reach their target.

  • Every day over 75 children in the UK are born or diagnosed with a severe disability or rare syndrome.

  • Every year The Children's Trust cares for over 250 of the UK's most severely disabled children.

  • There is nowhere else like The Children's Trust in the UK.  Their specialist combination of care, therapy and education for children with acquired serious brain injuries is unique. 

  • Over 3,000 children a year acquire a significant disability because of traumatic brain injury.
  • Tuesday 26 April 2011

    Something fishy going on at the veg patch

    Inspired by Red Ted Art's latest carnival of crafts celebrating all things water related, I wanted to come up with a crafty idea to do with Ruby, but one that would serve a practical use.  We've currently got our house on the market, and much as it pains me, I've had to put away the vast majority of her 'creations'.

    Remembering when we were allotmenteers and used old CDs to hang as bird scarers, I wanted to come up with a fishy alternative, and something that looked slightly more attractive than...well, old CDs hanging everywhere!

    Lo and behold, I found some CD fish crafts on the web, and adapting one I found here this is what we came up with...

    We decided to use 2 CDs glued together, so both sides showed the reflective shiny surface and rather than use paper or card for the fins I used fun foam.  I know they're not going to be totally weatherproof, but I'm hoping they will at least survice a few April showers and give our seedlings a fighting chance.

    You will need:

    Old recycled CDs
    Funky Foam
    Sequins (optional)
    Googly eyes (optional)

    1. I'm not very confident (read 'good') at drawing, so first I laid a CD on some blank paper and drew some shapes until I was happy with the mouth, fin and tail - note how I decided against the 'Jaws fin look'.  Once you are happy with your shapes - which can be as fantastical as you like - carry the lines through at the point where it meets the circle of the CD so you have a 'stem'.  This is because you are going to sandwich the tail etc between the 2 CDs.

    2. Transfer the shapes to your fun foam - here's a great advantage of using this material.  You can simply trace over your outline with a sharp pencil and leave an imprint on the foam for you to cut out.

    3. Lay one CD with the printed label side facing upwards, and cover with glue.

    4. Put the tail, fin and mouth in position and lay the 2nd CD on top - with the printed label side facing in.  You may need to put more glue on the 2nd CD to ensure a firm fix.

    5. Ruby then decided she wanted to jazz her fishies up a bit, so we stuck some sequins on.  You will need to weigh the CDs down while they are drying.  Hmm what could I find that's heavy and round...

    6. Ok, Ok before you go calling Social Services, I realised that a bottle of Pinot Noir probably wasn't entirely appropriate.  So instead, I came up with this:

    7.  Leave to dry fully (we left ours overnight).  You could then add googly eyes, but I decided against it - I wanted the hole in the middle to act as the 'eye'. 

    8. Hang in your garden and watch the pesky little veg seed eating birds quake in their tiny boots.

    What do you think? They're quite cute huh?

    Click here to go over to the Get Crafty carnival for loads more great watery, fishy etc ideas.

    Also linking up over at Thinly Spread and Chris' lovely gardening with kids linky.

    Monday 25 April 2011

    Magpie Monday - Jurassic Fantastic

    Last week we visited the preview of the Age of Dinosaurs exhibition at the Natural History Museum.

    This has sparked a new enthusiasm in Ruby who appears to be doing everything she can not to be a typical girly.  On the way home from the station we walked through town and popped into a couple of charity shops.

    After honing her fossil hunting skills on the interactive museum exhibits, she soon sniffed out some dinosaur-tastic bargains.  Over several different shops, she unearthed these plastic figures which cost us between 50p and £1.75.

    Then we scanned the bookshelves.  Ruby's head was turned by an unusually large amount of Thomas the Tank Engine books.  Despite her new passion for dinosaurs, her first love is for Thomas.

    We has a little debate about what we could buy - there's only so many books I can lug home, plus I'd already spent a fortune in the Museum gift shop.  I picked out these two, which she agreed would be great.

    Then she settled down on the floor to read some Thomas books - much to the amusement of the shop assistants, and annoyance of a grumpy old bloke who was trying to look at the stamp collections.  The debate became a little more heated as we couldn't agree whether she should get (yet another) Thomas book, or I'd get to choose a new dinosaur book.  And then...we spotted it.  The perfect solution.

    Everyone's a winner! Oh, and if you remember last week's post - do not fear, all these purchases fit into my handbag.

    So what's everyone else been thrifting?  Please grab the badge and link up to share your second-hand finds, and please do take the opportunity to visit new blogs on the linky - you might just find a new favourite x

    Me and My Shadow
    Grab my button
    and link to my blog

    Sunday 24 April 2011

    Dinosaurs Rock - The Age of the Dinosaur, Natural History Museum

    Last week we managed to secure the hottest tickets of the Easter holidays!  We got into the press launch of the new fantastic exhibition at the Natural History Museum - The Age of The Dinosaur which opened to the public on Friday 22nd April. It was great to be there with some fabulous bloggers and tweeters - @zooarchaeologis @superamazingmum and @dadtalk.

    The exhibition runs right through to the end of the Summer holidays and closes on 4th September so there's plenty of time to catch it.

    Ruby had an amazing time, and although she was interested in dinosaurs, it has awakened a new passion in her.  She's learning the names of some, and I'm pretty impressed at only just 3 years old she can say 'Tyranasaurus Rex'; 'Stegasaurus'; 'Diplodocus' and 'Triceratops'.

    Whilst I was marvelling at the beauty of the giant ammonites,

    Ruby was enjoying the interactive computer screens ("like a big iphone Mummy!").

    There was virtual fossil digging, facts and figures and her personal favourite - examining dinosaur poo under a microscope!  What child isn't fascinated by poo after all!

    Some of the exhibits were mind-blowing.  Sadly, when you are trying to keep tabs on a toddler, there's not much time for taking in all the science.  I'd love to come back another day with Daddy in tow, so I can really take my time and hopefully learn something!  For example, I can't remember what this was.  Ruby was knee-high to a...

    Then we moved on to the stars of the show - the animatronics.  I really should have taken videos of these, because the movement and sound effects were amazing - however I was a bit unsure how Ruby would react coming face-to-face with life size moving dinosaurs!

    She was absolutely fine and totally fascinated by them.  She watched to see what they were eating, and pointed out characteristics.  She was fine until we met the Tarbosaurus - cousin (or possibly even the same species) as the T Rex.  When he turned and ROARED directly at us, she was completely terrified and even 'did a little wee in her pants'!!!  Bless her. 

    The solution?  We hit the shops.  Well, the gift shop to be precise.

    Here she was in her element at all the things she could buy to fuel her new-found passion for dinosaurs, and we came away with a new cup, a cuddly dinosaur and some chocolate and postcards for her equally obsessed cousin.

    Before leaving there was time to scan in the barcode from our tickets and load up an interactive scrapbook.  We haven't had chance to log on the website yet, but I'm sure it's going to be a fabulous rainy-day activity and will let us re-live our visit.

    If you fancy meeting the dinosaurs, the exhibition is on at the Natural History Museum with tickets costing adult £10 per adult, £6 for child and concession tickets (under 4s go free) or £28 for a family.

    For futher information, check out

    Disclosure: We recieved a free invite to attend a pre-launch event, however no financial reward or expenses were recieved.  All views expressed are my own.

    Silent Sunday

    Silent Sunday

    Thursday 21 April 2011

    Handmade Thursday - Eggs-perimenting

    A month or so ago, I was at a craft fair and was drooling over some gorgeous papier mache type Easter eggs.  They were so tactile, fragile and delicate, full of texture and patterns.  But at nearly £9 each, way beyond my budget for seasonal decorations!

    I've been pondering how they were made, and recently saw some polystyrene eggs in my craft shop for pennies.  I bought a selection of different sizes, and thought I'd try out some different methods.

    Now, I'm no artist (I am however, queen of stating the bleedin' obvious!) so I had no real idea how different materials would work.

    I had great fun playing though, and experimenting with different effects and techniques.  Some I simply criss-crossed with embroidery thread dipped in PVA.  Others I 'papier-mached' with tissue paper.  Some I wrapped with lace and painted over with glue, and others I used both tissue paper and cut-outs of lace.

    All of them I then painted with artists acrylic paint.  I wanted a lime green colour to match the decor in our living room - and the handmade bowl made many moons ago at pottery class.

    Whilst the colour was great, the finish was very matt and dull.  So I decided to varnish them.  This was very time consuming - being egg shaped, you can't paint the whole thing in one go - they have to have something to stand on to dry.  Two coats of paint and one of varnish, doing each egg half at a time took several evenings.  In hindsight, the ones I covered with tissue paper looked great as they were with no paint, so if you want to have a go, find your desired colour of tissue paper first and save a whole lot of aggro!  Also, the ones which had bare polystyrene reacted with the varnish.  It sort of 'ate' into it, leaving an unexpected (and unwanted!) honeycomb effect.

    When they were all finally dry, I rolled them over a gold ink stamp pad to highlight the raised areas.  This worked really nicely - particularly on the lace ones.

    Now I've had a play, and know what works well I shall be looking out for other polystyrene shapes.  Spheres could be used to great effect for Christmas baubles, and as they are so light, you can simply pin on a ribbon loop for hanging.

    Despite the disasters, I quite like the finished effect - kind of dinosaur-eggy - or, as my other half said of the tissue paper ones - "oh they look like wrinkly old testicles"!!  I'll leave you with that mental image, but hey fellas, perhaps adding some gilded highlights to your assets might make them more appealing to your lady-folk...?

    I'm liking up with White Lily Green's Handmade Thursday - head on over there to see what 'proper' crafters have been making...

    Inspire Me Beautiful

    Tuesday 19 April 2011

    Balancing work and your family finances

    Philips Avent has just released the results of a survey they comissioned about mums returning to work post baby.

    Their research shows that:

    • eight out of ten new mums headed back to the office because they were ‘in desperate need of money’, while only one in five returned to work because they loved their job.
    • 43 per cent of mums said they cannot afford to pay for childcare despite being back at work.  This is why nearly half of them, 46 per cent, rely on their mum to care for their child, while friends and grandparents are also called upon regularly.
    • One in six mothers will not return to work, with two thirds saying they want to stay with their child and be more involved with their upbringing. Four in ten said it is not financially worth it because it ends up more expensive hiring a nanny or forking out on childcare costs averaging £4,280 a year. 
    So, if like me you decide not to return to work, but become a full-time stay-at-home mum, how do you manage the drop in income?

    Becky Goddard-Hill has some great tips in her book "How to afford time off with your baby".  She also features in this video sharing some of her money-saving tips:

    Do you have any other great money-saving tips you'd like to share?

    Kids Craft - Tissue Box Basket for Easter

    I think this is a nice simple craft for kids and great for this time of year - of course you can adapt it to suit the occasion or season, but these baskets would be perfect for Easter egg hunts.

    Take one empty cube-shaped tissue box and cut down to required depth of basket.  We had a pretty patterned one, and nowadays they come in a huge variety of designs.

    Retain the off-cut part to make a handle.  Trim a strip for the basket handle and secure to the sides.  You could staple it on, glue it or tape it, but I used split pin paperclips - mainly because I have hundreds of them left over from our Spot the Dog and Easter Chick crafts, but also because this makes a nice 'swingy' handle.  Use some blu-tac and a pencil to punch the holes through the card first.

    Then I asked Ruby to decorate the basket.  Here's where their imagination comes in.  Stupidly I'd told her that we were making cakes to go in the basket, so she was keen just to get on to that part.  Usually given free reign with glue and bits and bobs, this would have come out covered in feathers, glitter, paint, name it!  She reluctantly agreed to stick a few sequins on it and a sticky gem on the handle, but that's fine - it was a pretty box to begin with.

    When dry I filled it with shredded tissue that I had left over from a gift box, and we're using it to take some cakes round to a friend today.  Much nicer than transporting them in an old ice-cream tub don't you think? As it's Easter, they are of course the ubiquitous chocolate cereal nest cakes, resplendent with eggs and fluffy chicks.

    I wonder why she was so keen to get on to the cake making part?

    Monday 18 April 2011

    Magpie Monday - I've been told!

    We have finally put our house on the market.

    This meant two solid days of tidying, clearing, cleaning, de-cluttering, tip-runs and jamming things in cupboards.

    That inevitable conversation happened.  To be fair, he puts up with a lot and I'm surprised it didn't come sooner.  I shall re-create it here for you:

    What I heard: "Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah..."

    What he probably said: "The house is finally looking like a normal home. Can we please try not to let it get to Steptoe's yard again.  Please don't buy any more stuff".

    How I interpreted it: Don't buy anything that requires a taxi to get it home.  Only buy things that you can sneak in the house without him noticing.  As a rule of thumb, try to only purchase things that will fit in  (cavernous) handbag.

    So, I have been trying very hard.  I've had a measly week.  All I've bought is one thing. If you don't count the bag full of books I bought Ruby.  But they're educational right?  Surely he doesn't mean for our daughter's development to suffer?

    One of the biggest upheavals I've had to endure to get this house on the market, is agreeing to his persistent mutterings that we should switch our living rooms around.  We used to have our sitting room in the back and dining room at the front.  I was very happy with this arrangement thank you very much.  It meant nobody could see me if they came a-calling.  If I chose not to answer the door, then I could get away with it.  If I chose to remain in my pyjamas until lunchtime then nobody was any the wiser.

    However, according to the other half - who I suspect thinks of himself as some kind of Phil Spencer - the rooms are much better suited the other way round.

    My conditions for this life-changing upheaval?  That he get my beloved dinner service down from the loft, buy me a display cabinet, and I get to finally admire my Meakin tureens.

    Meakin Stag Design

    So far he's found one box.  There is another up there somewhere in the black-hole that is our attic.  I have a whole tea service too - cups, saucers, plates, milk jug, sugar bowl...

    The entire service was bought as a job-lot at our local auction years ago.  It's been languishing in newspaper in the attic ever since.  I'm so excited to finally have it in it's rightful place.

    Meakin Stag Design Tureen

    Sadly, a couple of pieces didn't make it.  I've been on the lookout for bits to add to it for years.  The occasional saucer comes up on eBay, but nothing worth writing home about.  Besides, I hate buying china on eBay.  The postage and packing costs are always massive and there's no guarantee it will arrive in one piece - Royal Mail doesn't insure china.

    Last week I put a plea out on Twitter, that if anyone ever spots any Meakin Stag on their travels to please buy it for me, and I will reimburse costs and postage.  This seemed the only way.  I have NEVER seen any for sale in a charity shop.

    That is until two days ago.  How bizarre to send that tweet out, and then to spot this:

    Meakin Stag Design Bowl

    It has a couple of chips, but they don't show in the cabinet.  A large serving bowl, and a piece I don't have.  I was rapturous at finding it for £3.99.  Even better - it fit in my handbag so I didn't break the rules! If anyone does ever spot this design called Stag by Alfred Meakin, please please tweet me, or if I'm not around and you can afford it, please buy it for me.  I'll love you forever and send you cash money to cover the costs.  Plus, you'd be buying it so he can't moan at that, right??!

    So my little magpies.  What have you been up to?  Please grab the badge and link-up.  I may as well get delight from your lovely purchases and live my life vicariously through your 2nd-hand joys.

    Me and My Shadow
    Grab my button
    and link to my blog