Thursday, 19 May 2016

Birds of a feather - easy egg carton craft

I'm really fond of these little birds, and they're easy to make.

You'll need:
1 egg box
Small feathers
PVA/craft glue
Nail scissors (to make holes)
fine black felt tip pen

1. First, roughly cut a cone from the egg box - this makes it easier to work with. We measured 3cm from the top and marked each side (make it any size you want though). Join the marks and cut along the line. Measuring helps keep the cone base nice and even.

2.  Paint the cone any colour you like.
Putting it on your finger is a handy way to paint the bottom edges.

3. When dry, choose the side you want for the front and with a fine black felt-tip or gel pen draw eyes close to the top.

4. Use the nail scissors to make a small hole in the top and one at the back (about 1cm from the bottom). Keep the scissors closed, press down and twist carefully from side to side. If you're making the birds with kids, always supervise this part, or make the holes yourself.

5. Dab some glue behind the holes and push a suitable feather in each one - small and fluffy for the head plume and a little longer and showy for the tail feathers. We got these lovely colourful speckled ones from The Works, but you can buy them online too.

6. For the wings, you'll need 2 little fluffy feathers or if none are small enough, cut pieces from the top of a larger one. Brush a very thin layer of glue on the sides (so it doesn't stick through the features) and stick them down.

7. Just below the eyes dot a small but thick blob of yellow paint with a fine paintbrush, and leave to dry.

OR, if you'd like a sticky-out beak, cut a thin strip of cereal box card, colour it with a yellow felt tip, snip a V at one end and cut off about a cm.
Make a horizontal slot below the eyes with the nails scissors (keep closed, press and twist gently). Dab a little glue behind the slot and push the beak into place.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Hay workshops and a hungry giraffe...

I got a bit carried away and promised someone I'd make a giant giraffe out of loo rolls...
It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

Now of course I am sort of regretting it, as I'm not totally sure what I'm doing. Really hadn't thought it through. But that's what happens when you get caught up in a wave excitement - and I was - I was proper surfing that wave, because the toddler-sized giraffe is for the Hay Festival. THE Hay Festival!

I love the Hay Festival, and this year I'm going to be there, not just visiting, but actually doing Make Your Own Zoo workshops, like the one I did before Christmas. Such an amazing opportunity.

We're lucky enough to live fairly close to Hay, so the 2 week Literary Festival has always been an easy option for us, and it's a great way to spend a day. Such a relaxed event; just wander in - you only need tickets for the talks, which you can book in advance online, or on the day, if there are any spaces left. Always such an interesting, diverse range of writers - serious, funny, thought-provoking, informative, quirky, illuminating - a long list and a packed programme. Don't really want to say there's something for everyone; such a cliche, but there probably is. The rest of the time you can amble around the stalls, check out the food hall, do a spot of people/celeb watching and then maybe enjoy a glass of something lovely as you sit in the sun (hopefully) reading a book you've just bought. Or snoozing.

Obviously this would be a perfect... if you managed to go without kids. If that's not possible, during Half Term week they lay on loads of activities - talks by well known kids' authors and all kinds of workshops, like the one I'm doing.

I'm going to be in the Make and Take tent on the 2nd June, and there'll be 4 free sessions throughout the day. My plan is a different animal per session, so now I have to work out which ones and how much prep to do, based on what I learnt from the workshops last year. Need to keep things moving along - definitely learnt that.

But I can't properly think about the workshops until I finish the giant giraffe, which is by no means a quick make...

I've used pieces of cereal box card and newspaper to slot tubes together - it is surprisingly sturdy.

Different sized tubes helped a lot with the head.

I've still not completely sure about the body, or how it's all going to come together, and I keep running out of tubes! I've been on the scrounge for weeks, but it is a bit awkward to keep asking, and this giraffe is just gobbling them up.

I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, 29 April 2016

More 70's stuff and a spot of upcycling

No major surprises for my husband when he got home from Afghanistan this time - no vintage campervan in the garage or wrought iron spiral staircase in hundreds of pieces (both good eBay buys in my opinion..) In fact not much retail therapy at all - the only thing I've had my eye on is a cordless vacuum cleaner. Pretty boring really. So he got off lightly.

We have been looking for a large mirror for the sitting room since he's been back though, and took a trip up to Leominister last week to potter round the large number of secondhand/vintage shops there. Didn't find a mirror, but we did buy a lovely antique fold up bench for outside, and a footstool/ottoman for the sitting room. I'm not a fan of footstools, but my husband is, and I'm telling myself it's only fair, as he puts up with all my vintage stuff, plus he's been stuck in Kabul for 9 months. A secondhand footstool is a small price to pay. Also a lot cheaper than buying one new.

The only other thing I bought were these 70's jar labels, still in their original packaging.

They look very familiar to me, I'm pretty sure my Mum had them. Anyway, I'm hoping they'll push me in the direction of making some apple chutney this autumn. We have one very productive apple tree in the garden, but there's only so much stewed apple the kids will eat, so I feel a lot of guilt about the apples that get left behind. And as Herefordshire is awash with apple orchards, you can't give them away here. I have tried.

One thing I have done over the last 9 months is slowly work my way through the cupboards, piling any potential car boot/charity shop stuff on the sitting room floor. When it's just me and the kids we tend to live in the kitchen, which meant it was easy enough to shut the sitting room door and forget about the mess.

The pile was bonfire size by the time my husband got back, so we packed up and headed to a car boot near Hereford last Sunday. A very civilised affair I've got to say - doesn't start until 2pm. We arrived at 12 and there were already at least 50 cars all around the perimeter of the field. I thought we mightn't do that well as there were so many sellers - hard to know where to look, but we managed to shift way more than half of our clobber. Probably because we were selling everything cheap.

Before the crowds descended (kept behind barriers until the dot of 2. You can imagine), I did manage a quick dash round. Saw a lovely welsh blanket for a tenner, but dithered and it was gone by the time I went back. The only thing I ended up buying was this vintage vacuum flask, still in it's original box. Catchy name too...
Think I'd have preferred a red one, but still pleased, and it only cost a pound.

Having some help with the school run has freed up a fair bit of time which is lovely. I've managed to get round to things I've put off for ages. At last making headway with my giant loo roll animal... more about that soon, and I upcycled this sweet little house-shaped trinket shelf bought in a car boot in France last year for 50c.

The paper is from Tiger which is possibly my favourite shop ever, and spent a bit of time measuring carefully before sticking the pieces down on a thin layer of PVA glue. Quick coat of clear water-based varnish and that was it.

No shortage of trinkets to go on the shelves obviously...

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Moth Menace (Tineola bisselliella)

Getty images

Small with shiny, dusty wings, moths look completely harmless,
but if they find your woolies drawer, they'll leave your jumpers armless.

What's worse the little blighters seem to have discerning taste,
so it's not the chunky hand knits that's their favourite nesting place,
No, it's cashmere that's the yarn of choice, CASHMERE if you please!
and when I shook mine out last week it looked like holey cheese.

That wasn't all, they'd had a ball! Made me feel quite queasy,
so I googled how to shift them.

Turns out it isn't easy.

Moth Balls work though not just moths who think the things are lethal,
what's the point in using them if all your clothes smell evil?

But we were well past the prevention stage; way too late, for sure;
can't hot wash my best jumpers, I need another cure.

So I stick them in the freezer, a few items at a time,
and pray it kills the pesky eggs and larva in its prime.

Then I buy a cotton zip-up bag to fill my woolies drawer
and every time it's opened there's a waft of lavender.

Now I smell like Yardley's soap, and finding jumpers is a bore,
But moths I've got your number,
touch my cashmere and it's WAR.

(And if you doubt me at all
just count the smudges on the wall...)

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Wrong Trousers

So, we drove over an hour from where we were staying to the thermal baths at Casteljaloux, only to be told the boys weren’t allowed into the pool in their baggy trunks. 

A raised eyebrow and a sharp ‘Non’ every time a pair was presented for inspection. 

The French can be funny about mens’ swimmers, but we should have known, we have been caught out before. Of course they had some skimpy tight black nylon types for sale - probably mainly for the Brits - but at 25 Euros a pair, we were the ones who looked horrified.  

Not a totally wasted trip though, because the youngest and I had sensible costumes and passed the inspection. My husband couldn't stop himself asking if our towels had to be a certain size too. She looked at him as if he was a bit simple and shook her head.  

And you know what? I thought for about the hundredth time since Friday how good it was to have him back. Him and his wonky old sense of humour.

Nine months away on tour (with a couple of trips home). Not the longest, nor the shortest, but definitely the last.

I know I’ve made the mistake of saying that before, but this time I’m confident I’m not tempting fate - partly because he’s getting on a bit and hasn’t got that long left in the army, but mainly because I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it again. Ever.

There has’t been a lot to laugh about over the last nine months. This one really knocked the stuffing out of me. I’m not completely sure why - he’s been away for longer and to more risky places. Maybe it’s because I’m older and the kids are older (and more challenging I think); maybe it’s been a slow build up over the years of tours and weekly commuting until there simply wasn’t room left to deal with more. Anyway, I reached my limit. Hit the wall. Whatever you want to call it. Just didn’t cope so well.

It felt like such an effort sometimes not to show the anxiety and despair bubbling up inside; to keep the routine going; keep the kids happy. Keep it normal. There were many days when April seemed impossibly far away. The end of a rainbow. 

But here we are! Somehow we made it. Though I do feel as if I kind of rolled across the finish line, a bit broken and spent, like the snail in Turbo.

France was a great idea - a sort of buffer - time to get used to each other, away from the pressures of home, because as much as it’s lovely to have him back, it does take a while for things to slot into place. A chance to breathe before I give him a to-do list as long as your arm. 

And it does feel good to share again; to have a laugh; to start letting go. 

Good to have my best friend back.

Sunday, 3 April 2016


Back to the beach where we played in the sand,
time didn't matter and nothing was planned.

Back to the sea that made us squeal from the cold,
laughing and splashing, no care in the world.

Back to those rocks that are made for adventure,
hands dipped in pools, just never quite sure...

Back to the place with the pockets of treasure,
so many shells all tumbled together.

Back to the beach to watch my kids play
next to the shadows of yesterday.

Linking up with Photolife's My Sunday Photo and Victoria's Prose for Thought

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Shelf life - Sunday photo

Believe it or not the rest of our house is relatively clutter free - but I made up for it here...

It's sort of like the old me escaped and went on a trinket/toy/tat gathering binge.

To be fair, many of the toys are ones I've made and can't face selling, and there's a lot of stuff rescued from my 8 year old daughter's room. She doesn't like ANYTHING on surfaces (what's wrong with her??) - I'll often find a small pile of unwanted nicknacks outside her bedroom door. Can't bear to get rid of them, so I shuffle things along.... and make a space.

Linking up with Photalife's My Sunday Photo