Saturday, 31 January 2015

five great makes for 2015

This January is seriously kicking my arse; in my last post, I mentioned that we'd all had a horrible flu virus, but were on the mend - two days later I came down with a kidney infection, and Ben got conjunctivitis in both eyes. We've done pretty much nothing all month, so I spent a bit of time curled up on the sofa, falling asleep to the gentle sounds of Radio 3 trawling through Pinterest, Ravelry and The Purl Bee for lovely things to make. My usual approach to making is to get excited about an idea, start it enthusiastically, get bored a week later and abandon it in The Basket of Doom, which is a bit like a work-in-progress graveyard - this year, I'm determined to actually finish things, so I came up with a list of five projects that are (hopefully) fairly quick and easy, and won't give me enough time to get bored!

A Knitted Scarf
I pinned this scarf tutorial from Maker Land ages ago, when knitting was still something that left me confused and cross. Over the new year, I had a look at it, googled a few of the stitches, and just got stuck in - I was casting on! I was knitting rows! I was increasing by knitting the same stitch twice - and better yet, I understood what that meant! Admittedly, I have undone some of the rows three times because I haven't quite mastered keeping my tension the same, but it's already about half finished (you can see early progress in this post, towards the bottom) so I've got high hopes for this one. (Artemis of Junkaholique has made a couple as well - one for her and one for her lovely daughter Pehr. I don't think mine are going to turn out even nearly as neat as hers!)

A Tablet Case
We don't have an iPad or a Kindle (long live books!) but we do have a Nexus, which until now has been wrapped in a pillow case before being shoved in my bag when we go out. It's pretty well travelled, and goes most places with us because it helps Ben sit still when we're in public (children with ASD tend to fidget and have a really short attention span, and obviously some people get irritated...), so I've decided it's high time it had a proper case. I was going to make a fabric one, but as we all know I'm not the most patient person when it comes to sewing (and I've got two other stitch-y projects lined up), so I thought it'd be a better idea to stick to what I know and go for crochet. I found the amazing bobble case at Lutter Idyll above via Pinterest; it doesn't lead to a pattern but it should be pretty easy to work out, and I do like a bobble or two - I'm thinking maybe a nice soft grey mixed with mustard or teal (surprise, eh?!)

Lemon Bundt Cake with Rosewater Glaze
A few weeks ago when we were in Southsea Coffee, I started reading a magazine called Chickpea, which covers vegan food and living. I'm not vegan, but I do like vegan and vegetarian food, so when I spied a recipe for a lemon bundt cake, I decided to make a note of it; I've bought my bundt tin (probably more excited about making a cake in a fun shape than anything else....) and got the ingredients, so I just need to find the time to actually make it. The pictures above are of another lemon cake from the incredible Carnets Parisiens blog (which is full of seriously amazing photography, I highly recommend spending a bit of time over there), which is almost certainly not going to resemble mine in any way, shape or form. But I can dream.

Simple Summer Tops
In the summer I tend to go a bit hippy-ish; floaty skirts, flat sandals, and loose smock-type-tunic-top-things (technical term right there), but I can never find simple, plain ones that aren't covered in flowers or finished with elasticated necklines or aren't designed to be 'fitted', so I decided this year to sew my own. I'm definitely going to have a go at the one on the left, which I found at the Sanaeishida blog, and is taken from this Japanese sewing book - I've found loads of others that look great as well, but I think I'm just going to stick with one at a time! I'm thinking about the ones on the right as well, but I'm put off a bit by the pleats to be honest - anything that involves technical instructions makes me a bit nervous to be honest!

My last project is another sewing one (God help me), and is for Daisy - I kind of despair at the clothes available for toddler girls once they get past the age of two; everything seems to be covered in slogans, cartoon characters, glitter and loud patterns, and nothing seems to last very long either. I found this pattern on Etsy, which is an instant download, and I love that it can be a short or long sleeved top (or sleeveless, I guess?), or a little tunic dress. I've already got loads of nice fabric and in my eyes, that makes it half finished!

Friday, 23 January 2015

the year of no fear

We were lying on the sofa last week, wrapped in blankets and coughing into our lemsips, when the Husband and I started talking about travel, and where we'd love to take the kiddos. He said Japan, and I countered that I want to get back to New Zealand one day (I honestly can't think of a better place for children to visit; the history, the landscape, the general way of life...). Then we started talking about getting passports organised, and that's when a little knot of fear started to unravel in the pit of my stomach - one thing I've never really talked about on here is that I suffer from terrible anxiety; it doesn't necessarily stop me from doing things, but I do tend to get in a flap quite often.
This is a fairly comprehensive list of the things I worry about daily:

The Kiddos - particularly Ben, who is on the Autism spectrum, and struggles with social skills, concentration and focus at school. His behaviour is better than it used to be, thanks to his paediatrician and the local speech therapy service, but he has so many quirks that make him stand apart from his peers; he used to have an acute phobia of buttons, which I thought was fairly odd, but according to this survey from Benenden, there are a whole world of strange fears that haunt people (bellybuttons! Cotton wool! Beards!).

My Parents - my dad has Alzheimers, which is worrying enough; on bad days he doesn't know who we are, and thinks his home is where he works (he retired a few years ago), and he seems to have developed an odd form of narcolepsy as well. I worry that the stress is too much for my mum, who also has her own health problems. *Wrings hands*

Travelling - I haven't been all over the world, but I have been to the other side of the world, and a few places in between; New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Venice, France, Wales and, err, Dorset. I'm desperate to take the Kiddos to see the world, experience new things and other cultures, but by heck, the thought of spending hours on a multitude of buses, trains and planes, and then days or weeks in a strange place makes me proper nervous.

They say that actually, fear is good for you, because it drives you to experience things and push your boundaries, but I guess I've just let my nerves get the better of me. I've stopped living a bit lately, and just resorted to existing - and this is something I want to change this year. I started the other day by finally getting hold of the forms for our passports, and I found a few great blogs about travelling with kids (and in particular those with Autism) - and if anyone has any tips, they'd be gratefully received! I'm always going to worry about my family, and ultimately, I think I'm lucky to have such a wonderful one to fret about, but I want this year to be lived as fully as possible - I want 2015 to be the year with no fear.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

This is a collaborative post. 


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

january in pictures

Cor, it's been a while since the last post! I hadn't meant to leave such a mahoosive gap of emptiness, but we were all struck down with that horrible flu virus that seems to be doing the rounds; we've all spent the last couple of weeks shivering into our hot water bottles and wrapping ourselves in blankets, and to be honest, the last thing I felt like doing was blogging. So I didn't! But we're on the mend now (touch wood), and I've got the laptop on for the first time in ages, so I thought I'd do a little catch-up post.

We've spent most of January (apart from the bit where we were riddled with illness!) eating good food, discovering new local shops and having some ace success on Gumtree. We took a trip to Make and the Craft Kitchen, which moved premises a while ago from a small shop to an amazing open-plan warehouse, which basically means that there's more space, more amazing craft supplies and even more cake (triple win!). We also squeezed in a wonderful child-free trip to our old favourite, Southsea Coffee, where I discovered new magazines Chickpea (a vegan and eco-friendly biannual) and Hole and Corner (crafts and generally interesting articles); the Husband and I spent a peaceful hour drinking tea, eating banana bread and reading, which was a great antidote to the grey January weather.

We had some great luck with Gumtree as well; not only did I get a lovely solid wood table to use as a desk for £20, but we also found a barely used pine table and chairs for the princely sum of £25. I love Gumtree and all it's preloved-second-hand goodness; it's like eBay but without the hassle of having to remember to bid. The desk has beautifully solid legs which don't wobble (the last one did, and it was REALLY annoying) and is the perfect size, and I just love it - and it was a total bargain; the previous owner said that if we hadn't bought it, it would have been chopped up for firewood! Sacrilege! On our way back from picking it up, we stopped in Chichester and found a brilliant shop (which I can't remember the name of now) which sold all kinds of oils, condiments and pasta; the oils were mounted on the wall in great drums, and you just filled and refilled as you like. They also sold retro and vintage style reclaimed glass jars and beakers, and load of little glass bottles designed to take your oil home in - I bought a pretty nice one for a tiny £2,99, but it's going to hold stray flowers in summer rather than fancy oils!

Apart from that, I've been knitting, planning some sewing projects (they rarely get beyond the planning stage!) and just generally hibernating. I hate, hate, hate the winter, and if I could I'd go absolutely nowhere between October and March!


Friday, 2 January 2015

Bloggers at Home: Lulastic and the Hippyshake (and an exciting announcement!)

For my first post of the new year, I've got the next installment of the Bloggers at Home series - and this time it's something a little bit different. I met the lovely Lucy of Lulastic and the Hippyshake over Twitter and blogland a few years ago, and was drawn to her thrifty, eco-friendly, natural-parenting way of living immensely; we finally met in London for tea and cake, and have been friends ever since. Her blog Lulastic is one of my favourites; full of helpful gentle parenting advice, beautiful photographs and pieces on activism, it's a constant source of inspiration and reassurance. Last year, Lucy and her lovely family moved all the way around the world to New Zealand, where they now live in an amazing yurt - and today I'm lucky enough to be able to give you a mini-tour of their beautiful home. 

We have lived in a yurt for ten months now. I heard last night that the mind is a 'discounting muscle' - it's a survival technique, that we minimalise big things over time in order to cope. For example, when we used to live in the treacherous jungle, if we spent our whole time being blown away by the incredible fragrance of the blossom, we would be less aware of the lions stalking us.

So in theory, we should have spent about a week going, "Ooohh! Wow! We live in a beautiful yurt!" Then another week going, "Ahh, yeah, the yurt is pretty cool." And then, by the third week, it should be, "Blablala, yurt shmurt."

But do you know what? Every morning that I wake up in our crazy harem bed (see our bed here > and see the sun oozing in through the canvas, and feel the fresh air on my cheeks I think, "Oooohh! Wow, we live in a beautiful yurt!"

Here are some things we like about it:

Our yurt is plonked in the middle of an orange orchard, and it really feels like we're living in the midst of nature. This comes with a fair share of bugs in the bed - I woke up with a praying mantis on my face last summer. (Read more on the insect life here >  But it means we spend a lot of time high on natures endorphins.

The roundness of the yurt makes it feel kind of sacred. Tthere must be information about this, and if I was a less lazy person, I'd look it up, but I can't be bothered. Living in round spaces must connect with some deep, intuitive part of our minds. Sounds weird, I know. But it's how I feel. DON'T DENY ME MY FEELINGS, GODAMMIT.

I read about this idea of 'democratic architecture' the other day. Inner city, three-bedroom, brick houses (why yes, we did used to own one just like that!) are out of reach for soooo many people. A simple wood and canvas structure like the yurt is the opposite - a very affordable option. I love that changing our lifestyle means we can spend so much time with our children, we explore so much more than we used to, and we all talk each others heads off.

We are off the grid. We do have solar but it isn't the same as having an overabundance of electricity. No WiFi means I am spending an inordinate amount of time reading novels and crafting. It is insane, I am cranking through a book every two days at the moment. (Yet I still don't have a good system of returning them to the library in time. They love me and my fines. I'm basically keeping them afloat. What an act of public service.)

People often think of living in a yurt being a really simple sort of life. And yes, in some ways it is. It would be more so if I wasn't still completely addicted to charity shopping. Ah, more porcelain birds? Sure, we have room for them! Another set of dominos? Why, certainly! A massive Victorian typewriter? HAUL IT IN, BABY!

So yes, it is a pretty magical, cheap and simple way of life. We love it. Insects on our faces is the small price we pay for a life under canvas.

Huge thanks to Lucy for taking the time to photograph her lovely home and send over her thoughts. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter, and check out Lulastic and the Hippyshake here.

I did mention in the title of this post that there was going to be an exciting announcement; for anyone who already knows Lucy, you'll know that as well as working on Lulastic, she also writes a second blog called Wonderthrift. Just as well written and photographed as the first, Wonderthrift is a daily lifestyle blog packed full of tips and inspiration on ways to live more ethically, sustainably and frugally, and covers topics such as crafts, food and beauty - and I'm incredibly excited and honoured to announce that Lucy and I have joined forces and are now going to co-write the blog together. Eeeek! To read more (and to see a rather large picture of my smiling face) head over to Wonderthrift now. Watch this space!
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