...seen through a slightly smudged, secondhand pair of rose-tinted glasses

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Would you?….The Charity Challenge returns

It's almost that time again, when the kids make a fair bit of fuss… yep, it's the good old £12 Charity Challenge! When I slash the weekly shop to just a few pounds a day for 7 days. Not just for the hell of it, but for charity. The rest of the money usually spent on groceries will be going to Comic Relief.

Now, last year, it all went quiet when I asked if anyone fancied joining me…Very quiet. And because I never learn, I thought I'd try again - but give a bit more notice this time (the Challenge week starts on 7th March and ends on the 13th, Red Nose Day), AND increase the amount from £12 to £15, to see if that might encourage a few takers?


Ah, go on…

Can I just say though, if you don't fancy the £15 bit, then please, don't be put off - any cutback in the shop that week and a small donation, would be fantastic. At the end of the day it's all for a great cause.

And if you do fancy the Challenge bit, don't feel you have to jump in at the deep end. Why not look at it as a perfect week to use up food that's been lurking in the dark recesses of your kitchen cupboard, or an opportunity to make a bit of space in the freezer?

But I'm a right old stickler for my made up, totally self imposed, slightly bonkers rules. So, no freezer/cupboard dipping here, and only a few cupboard basics allowed, if I have them - otherwise the 4 of us (5 at weekends) really do live on the £15 shop for that week. And as weird as this might possibly sound, I do almost enjoy it. It appeals to my frugal side: the side that likes making do, using up leftovers and inventing meals from not very much. Some of my meal inventions haven't been great mind you, but when they work, well that's a good feeling.

Remember though, NO ONE'S LOOKING. So, if you're interested in the Challenge, do what suits you. It's primarily about raising money for charity, not raising stress levels!

This is our 4th year, so if you'd like to have a look at some of our past shopping lists or menus, there's some herehere and here. Last time we went veggie for the week too, which was totally fine for me, but not that brilliant for the kids. Fussy little blighters. Anyway, back to making a few meals from a roast chicken, which is always a good one, but I'm also going to try to vary our menu a bit more this time. The challenge for me isn't just to survive the week, but to feed us well too.

And that's another of the things I like about this Challenge: it slaps me around the face and makes me think. About how easy it is to take food for granted.

It makes me think on a micro level, because the key to cracking the Challenge is planning: planning what to buy right down to the last penny. I'd like to tell you I'm now a zealous meal planner, but that would be a lie, because I'm not.  For the rest of the year I slip back into a rather slap-dash approach to meal planning; I'm also a total sucker for offers, and rarely stick to my list. If I make a list at all. Having said that I'm not an extravagant shopper, just a disorganised one.

But as well as being a sort of trolley detox, it makes me think on a wider level too: what would it be like if it wasn't a challenge, but a necessity? And if it wasn't just for 7 days but for good. Most of us never, ever have to go hungry. The Challenge makes me think about people who do.

So, the long and short of it is, I've been an optimistic fool and set up a Red Nose Day team page - yes a team page…which is, at the moment, a team of one.


I'm fully aware it'll probably stay that way. But if you thought you might fancy it at all….in any shape or form...?

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Making my mind up

We're just home from a lovely few days in Cornwall.  A much needed blast of sea air and some February sunshine. We stayed on the Roseland Peninsula, which isn't a part of Cornwall I've visited before.

I spent a few summers during my student days, working at a hotel in North Cornwall - mainly doing breakfasts, because my silver service skills weren't the best….rarely let loose on evening diners. I remember there being a bit of a buzz about an up and coming chef over in Padstow - Rick Stein had just made his first TV appearance - yes, it really was that long ago! Happy memories though, and I can hardly believe our break last week was the first time I've been back since then.

We managed to pack a fair bit into our short stay. A day at the Eden Project got the thumbs up from everyone, though I whinged more than the kids in the steamy Rainforest dome. Blimey it was hot, but what was I expecting?? I was a right sweaty heap by the end, so here's the eldest instead, looking remarkably cool. Think it's the first picture I've taken of him that he actually likes.

Pretty clever putting an ice-cream stall next to the door.

Much happier in the Mediterranean biome, and the crispy squid I had at the restaurant there was seriously good. In fact everything looked good. Surprisingly good. I think I've come to expect food at major attractions like this to be tasteless and overpriced, so I always, always make sandwiches. But my eyes are bigger than my stomach, and like I say, it looked good!
Although it wasn't cheap, I reckon what we had was worth the money. Plus the sandwiches didn't go to waste.

Quite a few food highlights for me actually - a fabulous meal out -  sea bass in a creamy lemon and dill sauce; and the best fish and chips I've ever tasted from The Watch Out by the harbour front in St Mawes. They were crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside perfection. So good we went back twice!

Great boat trip too, from St Mawes to Falmouth - everyone got pink cheeks and wild hair sitting up on the top deck.

We were staying near The Hidden Hut, a top foodie spot I've read a bit about, right by Porthcurnick beach. I went to have a look one morning. It really is a hut; all closed up until April, but what a spot! Easy to imagine why it's so popular. Sitting there on one of the long benches, gazing out to sea, I got carried away with a bit of a romantic notion about running a place like this through the summer…..catch of the day, simple tasty dishes...just a fleeting romantic notion though, I'm not daft. My lovely Granny ran a cafe with a group of friends that was quite ground-breaking in its day. She was always making soup, or cakes or quiche. I know she had very happy memories of that time, but the cooking was relentless.

Away from the daydreaming, my plan was to use the time to come up with a good, catchy crafty name. Whether I like it or not I've got to get more organised about what I do online…which is basically blogging, because I don't do much else! So, now I'm lucky enough to be writing a kids craft book, I've got to up my game a bit. My blog has always been a mish-mash of things, which is a pretty accurate reflection of me, but anyone looking for a kids craft site is going to be mighty disappointed.

I'm going to start a new, purely craft blog, and have had a bit of a nightmare trying to work out what to call it. The problem is any name with 'craft' or 'art' appears to be taken. I liked Arty Pants or Arty Time - but quite obviously, so did a lot of other people.

I've started looking at more random names instead. The one that's top of the list at the moment is Jumble Tree. I'd love to know what you think? Jumble ties in with my Jumble Betty toys, and it also represents the recycling/make-do side of my craft stuff. The tree bit could be about growth and learning.
Banana Stew was another one, just because it was slightly bonkers.
It's been a lot harder than I imagined, for sure!

Friday, 13 February 2015

Cosy Valentine

At one of the craft fairs before Christmas, I spotted some cards with lovely little knitted festive finger puppets attached to the front, and thought what a great idea…being fond of teeny tiny things, as I am.  My mini knits and tinsy decorations tend to get lost amongst all the other stuff I sell, on my menagerie of a stall, so, I'm thinking, putting a few on cards might help get them noticed. Surely a card that doubles up as a gift has got to be a bit of a winner?

So, I'm trying it out on family first, and have come up with this Valentine's idea, that sort of works, I hope! No finger puppets though, wasted on my husband - I went for an egg cosy option. Not completely convinced anyone really uses egg cosies these days, still, I like making them. This one's rather gaudy, but clashing red and pink felt right for Valentine's Day.

For the card bit, I cut an egg cup shape out of felt, making sure it was as wide as the egg cosy opening, and glued it down - then drew an egg shape sitting in the cup, pierced the card and cut along this line, so the cosy could be pulled, snuggly, over the top. Needed just a few stitches behind to hold the cosy down.
Think I could do with working on my writing…a bit scruffy looking, and quite a few smudges that I've tried to magic away. But on the whole, I'm happy.

Maybe it would work for Easter cards too?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

New chapter, new book

Sorry this is all a bit short on detail; there'll be more to tell soon I hope, but I have news! Well, sort of a headline without an actual story…. I'm in the throws of writing a craft book, which is massively exciting and terrifying, and when the time's right, I will fill in the gaps. When I'm allowed.

It's been full on - the blog's not the only thing that's been neglected - the house is a tip (not looking); the kids eat surrounded by mountains of cardboard and paint; my eldest's trouser hems are swinging way above his ankles, and there's admin stuff sitting by the toaster that's been gathering dust since Christmas.

But that's all okay (trousers have been ordered), because I'm being pushed and challenged, and I sort of remember thinking when I started this blog that that was what I wanted.
It's been scary though; such a steep learning curve, and my confidence comes and goes like shadows.

I agreed to pretty tight deadlines too, partly because I wanted to be seen to be keen, but also because I've only ever worked to deadlines. Thing is, when I worked as a tv reporter, I didn't have 3 kids and a husband who was only home at weekends. Know your limits…think I've found mine.

Anyway, I worked flat out and just managed to get everything ready for a recent photo shoot. It was an intense few days; challenging, interesting, exhausting, and a total and utter change - like stepping into someone else's life. It's weird only being responsible for yourself when you haven't done it for a while. Weird and lovely.

I stayed with an old school friend I don't see enough; the only downer was the daily commute - the misery of squeezing onto trains, pressed up against someone's armpit. I couldn't do that day in day out, not anymore. Too old for that malarky. Still, it did put the hellish school run in a better light.

We went out for a meal one night to a really hip club. It certainly felt pretty cool, but was so fashionably moody and dark, you couldn't actually see much. What's that all about? Am I showing my age again? Everything was a shade of brown, including the food. It was so murky, one friend walked straight past us and spent 10 minutes searching various rooms, even managing to stumble into Russell Brand in the dingy gloom. She said he looked scuzzy. Such a great word.

Our table was booked for 9.30. 9.30 on a Thursday night! Nothing much is open around me at 9.30 on a Thursday night. As far as I know anyway. I'm usually getting my knitting out around about then.

And now I'm back to the knitting, frosty school runs, grumpy kids, homework, mess, and thankfully the return of the glorious GB Sewing Bee. It's like I've never been away, except the book is happening. It really is.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Out in the cold….

That's where my poor old blog's been for the last few months - right out in the cold, tapping feebly on the window; neglected and unloved. But there's a good (happy) reason why my normal routine has gone out that same window... And I promise, promise, promise as soon as I get my act together, I'll tell you as much as I can.
But in the meantime, as I was having a guilty scroll through my blog list, I noticed the theme for the Photo Gallery this week was 'Cold', and felt a need to post… 
Honestly, I've been holding onto these pictures FOR EVER, waiting for the right moment. This one was taken a few years ago, on a trip to London. Lordy, it was cold. I don't think the fountain in Trafalgar Square freezes that often. It was just a few months into my husband's year long tour of Afghanistan; I'd taken the kids down on the train to stay with a friend, and we managed to pack such a lot in a short space of time. It was just what I needed - a bit of a breather, and some grown up chat. Even wrote my first silly poem about the trip; the first of many silly poems as it turned out.

This one was taken almost a year later - my husband was home, we were snowed in, but it really didn't matter. It reminds me of the relief - the lifting of that weight of worry and responsibility -  a sense of fun creeping back. 
We'd made it.

A perfectly timed sort of snowy high five.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Sunday, 28 December 2014

'Present' Danger

I came across this when I was clearing out my half finished posts from ages back - a timely find really, but feel sort of mean, because I got brilliant Christmas presents this year... 

'Hope you like it!' he says and I smile politely,
thinking that's probably very unlikely,
and bless him, because I know he tries,
but when it comes to clothes they're never my size...
Jewellery's dodgy,
music's okay,
though I'm more Stereophonics
and he likes Doris Day.

I open my present. There's a torch inside.
'You just wind it with the handle.'
I almost cried
'So useful sweetheart, hope you like yours',
it's Rick Stein's India,
there's a pregnant pause...

'Wow…that looks just great…' He never cooks.
But he does like spice
and he does like books.

He starts fiddling with the torch and I flick through Rick Stein,
everyone's happy, it's all turned out fine.

So, I buy what I want, it's simply stress free
when a gift's from me
to you
to me.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Jumbling along

You know what I've probably had the most comments about at Craft Fairs?
My cardboard letters.
The only things that aren't for flipping sale!
Lost count of the number of times I've had to explain they actually spell my name.

A few people have asked if I'll make them to order, and I didn't exactly say no, because I find it REALLY hard to say no when I'm selling, which can be a bit of a nightmare. But I don't want to make more letters, because covering them took me ages and I'm not that great at it. A close inspection of a B, or any of the rest, and you'd see what I mean. And what would I charge? I'm rubbish at pricing - the one thing I'm learning is, getting it right has got a lot to do with how confident you sound. I started off being almost apologetic about my prices, but think I'm getting better...

Apart from trying to dodge letter enquiries, the Fairs have been going pretty well - it all feels a little easier now, and lovely when there's positive feedback. A lot of the bigger toys sold at the last one in Monmouth, which was brilliant….and strangely alarming, because as I said in my last grumpy post, I don't appear to have time to brush my hair at the moment.

This is especially worrying as I've a two day Christmas Craft Fair this weekend and very little stock. So I've been trawling through the house looking for anything I've ever made, including a little plundering in the kids' rooms. Feeling guilty about that.. I've also been gathering up any charity shop/car boot bits and bobs that might sell, sort of stretching the 'Jumble' part as far as it will go.

Haven't managed to shift the decoupage mirror yet, but to be honest it's useful for hanging stuff, and fills a sizeable space on the stall….maybe I should just keep hold of it.

Hope you're feeling a little Christmassy?…even the merest tinselly bit? Shame when it all gets smothered by mountains of festive prep, but I haven't worked out how to stop that happening. Still, I'm trying very hard to hold on to at least a holly leaf of Christmas cheer - just have to see what a weekend of customers, carols and hopefully the odd glass of mulled wine does for my festive mood.

It could go either way.