Friday, October 31, 2014

The joy of kids being messy

A few weeks ago I spotted that Mum In The Mad House was running a competition with Two Little Fleas asking bloggers to write about the fun their children have being messy. I think that one of the greatest joys of being a child is not caring if your clothes get covered in dirt or your face is smeared in food. Throwing yourself with gusto into all that you do.

Whilst we don't seem to do a lot of messy play at home (somehow we just never get round to it!) Theo has a family who love food and we seem to have an awful lot of pictures of him getting messy whilst helping cook or when eating the results, always with a big smile on his face!

So for my entry to the competition I thought I'd put together a little compilation of some of my favourite messy moments with him. I promise he doesn't spend ALL his time eating ice-cream, no matter if the evidence seems to say otherwise!

Two Little Fleas

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Inside my She-Shed

There can't be a woman anywhere who doesn't fancy the idea of a She-Shed. A little place to escape from the whir of the washing machine and the unrelenting calls of "Mummy!"

Well mine is finally starting to take shape! Over the last few weeks as I've caught up on sewing projects, I've also begun to sort out the cabin in the garden, transforming it from it's first life as a sleeping space during our building works, into it's new role as my studio. 

There's still a long way to go before it looks anything like the pictures of perfect sewing rooms that you see in magazines. (I probably need to iron all my fat quarters and stack them perfectly just to begin with) but already it's a place I love to retreat to if I can steal a couple of hours while Theo is at nursery.

Part of its beauty is that because it's detached from the house, none of the day to day house clutter invades my sewing space and likewise my sewing doesn't take over the living space.

At the moment it is being used solely for quilting, but longterm I also want to have a photography backdrop on one wall which can be rolled up and down when needed. The cabin faces south and the light in it is lovely, even at this time of the year.

Many of the things inside are bits I had acquired over the years which have traveled through a few countries to get here, but I also bought a few bits just for this space.

The pine table my sewing machine is on came from eBay. It was very cheap because it was far too low for practical use. We raised it up by several inches to make it useable again and when I have actually got round to painting the feet, I'll explain the whole process we did.  It was actually very easy and salvaged an otherwise lovely but unusable table.

This magnetic noticeboard came from Canada and is called an Everyday Display. It is supposed to be used for scrapbook pages (oh yes, I used to be a scrapbooker!) but has lots of photos and magnets on it at the moment. The smaller magnets are from Picstick who are currently doing a 25% off deal for readers of this blog if you use the code 'MAYB25' until November 5th.

My sister (the antiques hunter!) bought me the Dr Pepper tray last Christmas. The various quilts on the walls are either made by me or by other lovely quilters as part of swaps on Flickr. The one in the photo above was made by Liz.

This sweetheart display cabinet was given to me by the dotcomgiftshop and is brilliant for storing precious bits and pieces that Theo is not supposed to get his hands on.

Amongst the things on the shelves are a collection of champagne corks marking various significant points in our lives (from four countries) a very old toy truck marked up as British Forces Broadcasting (my former employers) the "&" sign from the table plan at our wedding (The C and J have vanished!) and a pin cushion made for me as part of a swap.

If you could have a She-Shed what would use it for? Many of these outside buildings have been turned into artist studios or libraries.One person even has an extra large one with a swimming pool in it!

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Living Arrows : 43/52

ISO 400, 35mm, F/2.2, 1/125

It's Halloween week so how could I possibly resist a photograph with pumpkins in it (I'm trying hard not to say "and my little pumpkin") we bought these on an expedition last week to a quirky Sussex pumpkin event which you can read about in this post. They look too good to carve, so I'm procrastinating and leaving them on the kitchen table at the moment.

Last year Theo was invited out by the neighbour's children to go trick or treating, but was too young to really understand it or to stay up late enough. This year I think he'll get it, but I have no idea if the invitation will be forthcoming again! So do I buy a fancy dress outfit? I feel like I'll be jinxing things for him if I do, but then I might be caught short if I don't! 

In Canada everybody dressed up on Halloween including the grown-ups and those who just stayed at home to answer the door to trick or treaters. After several years away we returned to the UK to find that trick or treating was now a thing here, but we still hold back a little from being too enthusiastic! Though Jim did say this weekend that he'd love to fly back to Alberta and fill a trolly with Halloween stuff in the supermarket and bring it all back home. But is Sussex ready for mechanical gravestones and inflatable giant pumpkins? I think possibly not...

living arrows

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Friday, October 24, 2014

English eccentricity and pumpkins galore


Whenever I read American blogs at this time of year, I am always slightly envious of their beautiful photos of pumpkin farm visits. Rightly or wrongly this season is not something we embrace with such fervour in the UK. However I made a little discovery this week which satisfied my hunger for some Autumnal celebration.

I have been vaguely aware that the village of Slindon had something to do with pumpkins every year,  but I wasn't quite sure what it was. I had variously heard it called a 'fair' a 'festival' and simply a 'display.' Then earlier this week photos started appearing on my IG feed of pumpkins in Slindon and so I decided to investigate.


To be entirely accurate, the pumpkins in Slindon are a one man venture. A local farmer who sets up a display in the drive of his house. This week is half-term for some schools, but the place wasn't beseiged by families. There were about half a dozen cars parked in the road and a couple of families looking at the display. Partly this is because it is quite a quick visit. 15 minutes would be pushing it if I'm entirely honest, but that's not to say it's not worth the trip. The feature display of the spitfire made from pumpkins is unlike anything I have seen before and there are an amazing selection of pumpkins on sale in every size, shape and colour. Theo was fascinated by it.


Fellow local blogger Caroline takes her kids there every year to pick their pumpkin for Halloween which I think is a lovely idea and I rather enjoyed the fact that Slindon Pumpkins is typical of that crazy eccentric English thing that we do so well. One elderly gentleman rigging up a huge art display (on scaffolding!) in his front garden, whilst his neighbours probably curse him for turning a normally quiet village into a tourist attraction for two weeks a year.

In the end we came away with four different small pumpkins (one of which looks like a starfish from Octonauts.) It wasn't particularly cheap (I loathe to say it, but the supermarkets undercut him for large pumpkins) but it was great fun. I'm not sure quite what I'll do with our haul, they do look rather lovely just in a collection on the kitchen table together.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dog walking with Doddle and a giveaway...

A few weeks ago we were offered an intriguing new pet product to review. The Doddle is a dog collar with a lead built in to it.

We have two quite different dogs in our family and we were very keen to try the Doddle out on our Beagle Bella, who with all the crazy scent driven characteristics of her breed, is the dog we spend the most time putting on and off the lead during a walk. Usually to avoid traffic, rabbits and deer!

The lead is perfect for those who, like us, need a lead for short periods of time and then spend the rest of the walk carrying it. Doddle comes in two sizes and is suitable for dogs up to 27kg.

We've been using it for a couple of weeks and we thought that rather than writing up a long wordy review for you, we'd just do a short video during the morning dog walk which explains what the Doddle is and how we use it. Don't forget to scroll down for your chance to win a Doddle for your pet too.

PS - (26/10/14) We have realised that the end of the Doddle lead (where the T shape grip is) also opens up to a loop, so you can hold the lead in a more conventional manner.

So do you fancy winning a Doddle? If so enter via the Rafflecopter below.

Family Fever

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

7 great Instagram inspired gifts to give for Christmas

I feel I should probably start by apologising a little for using the word 'Christmas' in a post I am writing in October. In my defence I would say that for a few years, a large number of my Christmas gifts have been photo based and in order for the process of making them to be enjoyable and not a mad rush to the Christmas printing deadline, I do generally start preparing them at about this time of year.

Like many people, I find a lot of my photos are taken in the square format for instagram and finding the right way to print and display them can take a bit of research. So I wanted to share with you a few of what I think are the best ideas...

Buy a series of canvases

I confess I haven't bought a canvas for a few years cause I got a little bored with them, but Canvas Pop have managed to refresh the idea by displaying multiple canvases together with characteristic Instagram rounded corners or frames making them look very contemporary. The website allows you to import directly from Instagram and their inspiration gallery of customers prints will make you want to order staright away.

Make a Blurb book

I have been printing photo books with Blurb since 2006 and I have never found anyone to rival their quality and printing options. They aren't the cheapest, but they are worth every penny. With Blurb you can import your Instagram photos directly into the online editor and create a 60 page square book for £13.79 (plus P&P)

Design a cushion

We did one of these last year as a bit of a joke gift for my father with a photo of his dog on it (he is rather obsessed with the dog!) but you don't have to have a photo of a family member grinning at you from the sofa. Take inspiration from these cushions and do your own plant prints. You can buy photo cushions from a  range of places online, or you can buy printer transfer paper and make your own at home.

Create Coasters

I know coasters aren't terribly rock n' roll, but they are a really useful way of using your photos to decorate your home and crucially they are square too. I've been using my own photos for coasters for years usually from PhotoBox. You can chose personal pictures or images that are more obscure like landscapes or close ups.

Do some prints and create a multi-aperture photo frame

This is really two ideas in one, but as I doubt you'd just give prints on their own as a gift, I thought I'd list them together. My favourite place to do Instagram square prints is Polargram. They do both polaroid style prints (with a wide white border at the bottom) and 4 inch square prints which fit the Umbra multi-aperture frame (above) from Red Candy perfectly. I reviewed this frame back in April  and it's still one of my favourite things on the walls of our house.

Fridge magnets

These might not be the most expensive or big gift, but they do always go down well. Sticky 9 do sheets of 9 square magnets for £9.99 or you can get them in the more conventional photo dimensions from for £9.50. (you can 25% off picstick using the code 'MAYB25' until November 5th) Also if you are making for close friends or family it might be worth asking their partners if you can arrange a time to raid their photos so you can print their images on the magnets.

Ixxi Collage

This is a new discovery I have made. Ixxi consists of various size square cards that can be fixed together using x's. They look absolutely awesome on the wall and I love the potential to start a display that can be added to (or refreshed) every year.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Living Arrows : 42/52

ISO 400, 35mm, f/2.5, 1/3200

Forgive the scowl on Theo's face this week. We had all had a late night at our neighbour's before this was taken. He had stayed up a few hours past his bedtime playing with older kids (I had to laugh when a 9 year-old fell asleep on his shoulder watching a film) and we parents over-indulged on cheese and wine (we paid the price the next day)

There were more grumpy faces last week when we finally persuaded him to have a hair cut! It was every bit as traumatic as we had feared despite days of mental preparation, an appointment at our local children's salon (where they sit in cars and eat lollipops) and the promise of a trip to the sweet shop for good behaviour.

I don't know what it is, but he hates the whole experience! We have tried my sister cutting it, we have tried the salon cutting it, bribes, threats, promises, persuasion and explanations, but no progress. So tell me, when do they grow out of it?

living arrows

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

#CraftTheParcel with In Post

A few weeks ago I was asked if I'd like to take part in a collaborative craft project to promote a new postal service. It was one of those occasions when I had to sit on my hands to avoid replying indecently quickly. Combining my loves of quilting and blogging and getting a small incentive to do so? How could I possibly say no!?

The project is called #CraftTheParcel (like pass the parcel, but errr with crafters!) Over the next two months, 18 creative bloggers in two teams are going to create a fabric square (quilted, crocheted or knitted) and post it on to the next blogger in the chain. When they receive it they attach it to their own square and then the chain carries on. At the end we should have two blankets that are approximately 36 inches square which will be gifted to charity.


I was first in the chain for team two so I made my quilted square earlier this week and it was collected by the InPost courier to be forwarded on to Kim at The Triplet Diaries. As I was first and have no idea what others later on are planning, I chose to do something very simple in a modern geometric design. I think subliminally I was also thinking about those who crochet in our team who may be considering making Granny Squares!

InPost operate a series of parcel lockers up and down the country, so my quilted square should arrive at Kim's nearest locker tomorrow. She will then get a text to let her know it's arrived and she can go and collect it at a time that suits her (even if that's 2am!) The text contains a link to a QR code which when scanned by the on site computer will open her parcel locker door. It's very clever!

The whole #CraftTheParcel project is being promoted across social media, so you can follow the progress by checking the hashtag on Twitter. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the other talented ladies produce.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

An autumn half square triangle quilt

My quilt turnover may be a little slow at the moment, but it hasn't stopped entirely. Whilst I had a five week break from university work over September I made this quilt for my mum. You wouldn't believe it, but we still haven't reached quilt saturation point in my family. It doesn't seem to matter how many I make, there's always a need for another!

This one is going on their new sofa to protect it from a rather indulged Border Terrier called Bullitt. The squares are 5 inches when cut and 4 inches finished. It's 14 squares by 14 squares so 56 inches long and wide. I think I counted up that I used 9 fabrics in total. A bunch of Kona solids with four patterned fabrics mixed in.

I had a bit of a wadding disaster when making this. Once again I have faffed and not got round to buying a replacement bolt of my usual Cotton wadding, so I went to the Eternal Maker and due to a bit of confusion over widths, I swapped the wadding I was going to buy whilst I was standing at the till and then bought some of their Eco wadding which I personally find is a little uneven in its thickness. To cut a very long story short, I then ended up doubling up the wadding which made it a little thicker than I would have liked. Moral to this story? Just order the bolt of wadding!!!

The backing fabric is from Ikea. I have seen this fabric used by lots of people as a quilt backing, but it's actually the first time I've used it and despite the fact it doesn't match any of the colours on the top (I'm a bit obsessive like that) I love it!

It's also got me wondering about doing a black and white quilt, or perhaps a black and white quilt with a few bits of bold colour (teal? yellow?)

This is the fourth half square triangle quilt I have made this year, I need a change for my next quilt! But before that I'll be catching up with my bee blocks and then a little later in the week I'll tell you about a great collaborative craft project I'm taking part in with eight fellow creative bloggers. More on that in the next few days...

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Living Arrows : 41/52

ISO 400, 50mm, f/2.0, 1/6400

Blackberry season has only just finished, but we are already looking ahead to next September. This week a letter arrived from the council asking us to express our preferences for Theo's primary schooling. Only a few weeks ago he was still a two year-old, so this landmark moment has come quicker to us than to some others.

Fortunately we have good choices of schools locally and completing the form was a five minute process. We have in the past debated holding him back to start school when he is five, but increasingly I have noticed how he holds his own with the older children he mixes with and I believe he has the confidence and strength of character to get along well when he starts next autumn. 

The next challenge is a diplomacy one for me. Our local primary is almost visible from our house, just the other side of two fields. There is a track between the school and our lane with a warning sign that forbids trespassers. My challenge is going to be persuading the farmer to allow us access along this track before school starts or face walking three sides of a square along a main road. Apparently that could be a bit of a challenge. But if you don't ask...

living arrows

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

An awesome eighties movie soundtrack

Movies have played a big part in our lives over the last few years. When we were posted to Canada just after we got married we discovered our military quarter had an enormous basement which was just crying out to be turned into a cinema room. So shortly after we arrived we purchased a leather sofa, a projector and a surround sound system so powerful that it used to make the walls of the house vibrate. In the midst of the Albertan winter whilst snowdrifts piled up at our windows we would head to our basement and escape to another world. Whether it was the soundtrack of a tropical rainforest or the thundering vibrations of a helicopter flying overhead, safely entombed in our cinema room the sounds and sights of the movies took us to another location.

When we moved from Canada two years later, region and voltage incompatibility meant we had to be parted from our cinema set-up and our home movie nights with a TV and only one speaker have never been quite the same since.

So when Currys recently invited us to to name our favourite movie soundtrack, it got us thinking about all those great films we used to watch. The comedies, the war films, the classics and the romances and after a heated debate we finally settled on one film whose soundtrack we both loved... The Lost Boys.

The Lost Boys was a vampire movie made before vampire movies were cool. With leather jackets, motorbikes and big 1980s hair it was accompanied by a diverse soundtrack of songs from INXS, Echo and The Bunnymen, Run DMC and Elton John with a few relative unknowns thrown into the mix.

One of my personal favourites is performed by Tim Capello a saxophonist who wears impossibly tight trousers and performs bare chested at a beach concert in the film. The scene is one bristling with sexual tension as lead character Michael catches a glimpse of "good" vampire Star for the first time. As their eyes meet across the crowd it sets into motion a chain of events which will lead to the film's climax.

In complete contrast fifteen year-old Corey Haim takes his turn in the spotlight similarly under-dressed, but this time performing in the bath, complete with bubble bath mohican singing the brilliantly quirky Aint Got A Home. Happy and care-free he is blissfully unaware that his vampire brother is outside the bathroom feeling thirsty (but don't worry the dog saves him) Corey's singing in this scene made teenage girls everywhere swoon and fall in love with him!

The film's title track, Cry Little Sister, is performed by Gerard McMann. It's a track laced with tension, a bass line that sounds like a heartbeat, a church organ and a choir in the background singing "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Even listen to it now after all these years it still sends shivers down my spine!

And then there's Lou Gramm, lead vocalist of Foreigner and a man with hair bigger than all of the characters in this movie combined. His rock ballad Lost In The Shadows is a tribute to  those who "must hide when the sun gets higher" although confusingly they also "go to bed with the light on" which perhaps isn't quite as sexy!

Listening to the soundtrack of Lost Boys brought back so many great memories we decided to recreate the iconic movie poster for ourselves. The original plan had been to get Theo to pose for the part of Michael, but despite relentless coercion, bribery and badgering he absolutely refused to put the wig on (it was a "luxury wig" from Poundland) so my sister stepped in to the role at the last minute.

We had a lot of fun putting it together and great difficulty keeping straight faces for the picture!

This blog post is an entry to the #CurrysMovieNight competition. You can find out more about the competition here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Love The Little Things, week 41

I'm linking up with Morgana again for a short round up of my week. It's finally got colder this week which was a great time to discover the central heating wasn't working! We have survived with the log burner, but it's meant some rather cold (and restless) nights and a general reluctance to sit in front of the computer in the rather cold study!


Despite loving my Kindle, sometimes you just can't beat a hardback with a lovely shiny cover, particularly when it's a present. Jim gave me this one for my birthday. I'm not a horsey person, but this story of a Zimbabwean family brutally evicted from their home and their quest to save their own and their friends horses is a compelling read.


We went for a walk along the shore on Sunday morning and watched this stunning scene over Chichester Hrabour. The glass like stillness of the water was only fleeting, by the time we walked back past the same spot the wind had picked up.


My autumn wardrobe isn't terribly exciting at the moment.  All our spare cash is going on tthings like curtain material and paint and my next purchase is going to have to be a new pair of wellies. I had my first pair of Hunters for about 15 years and they survived everything. This pair I have had for only a couple of years and I think they have a leak already. I'm not impressed.


A friend of mine sent me a link to this beautiful short film and I love the song it is set to, which I think is by an unsigned artist. One listen and it was stuck in my head all day!

I have been making raisin spelt buns today. Can anyone spot who got to the cookery book before me? #baking #cooking

I tried out a recipe from Scandinavian Baking by Trine Hahneman this week. It was the raisin and spelt rolls. The resulting rolls were great (Theo can't stop eating them) but the dough requires a LOT of water (twice as much as I normally use for bread) which made it very hard to handle and the perfect rounded rolls in the book seem unachievable. I actually wonder if it's a misprint as the extra water seems to add nothing to the flavour or consistency. I'm going to try my own version next week.

And Lastly

I start back doing my university work next week after five weeks off (yes only five). I'm distance learning so I don't have to physically go anywhere, but I'm slightly apprehensive about the thought of returning to 20 hours study a week. However, this is my fourth semester of the first year (I know, slightly strange) and by January I will have my first level of qualification, so the first goal is in sight.


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