If you follow me on Facebook (click here if you aren’t and don’t want to miss out!) then you’ll probably have seen me sharing posts by the wonderful Knickers Model’s Own. In memory of her late mother, Caroline is challenging herself to wear a new outfit a day based only on things she can buy in a Cancer Research UK shop. She’s doing amazingly well and has also attracted a lot of media attention in doing so.

Inspired by her I’ve been shopping myself in the charity shops of St Albans…

In so many ways Little Miss C is such a girly girl – a huge fan of princesses, pink and anything sparkly. It’s funny in a way as I’m not sure I can remember having that sort of phase myself, but it’s what really seems to make her happy right now. She was therefore delighted when the latest review book from Parragon turned up – Glitterbelle  The Sparkliest Princess Ever!

Glitterbelle lives in a palace at the top of a hill with her Mum, The Queen, and her Dad, The King. She’s not exactly a fan of a typical fairy tale princess life though and Glitterbelle much prefers to whizz round on her scooter and climb trees with her friends than to kiss lots of frogs in the hope of finding a prince. The other thing about Glitterbelle is that she’s the great great great great granddaughter of the princess who got to marry a prince after a bad night’s sleep due to a pea under her mattress.

Glitterbelle The Sparkliest Princess Ever is a lovely introduction to Glitterbelle and her friends Dazzlina and Angel and we also see how Glitterbelle manages to overcome her hatred of peas.

Little Miss C loved meeting Glitterbelle and was incredibly excited to discover that she had already read about her great great great great grandmamma in another book (The Princess and the Pea). She also related to the scooter riding and tree climbing that the girls got up to.

Glitterbelle

In addition to the story book we were also sent Glitterbelle Doodle, Dazzle, Create! which is the perfect accompaniment for craft loving Glitterbelle fans. This book comes with a sparkly tin covered notebook which LMC and Master C are currently fighting over as they both love it so much. The book contains loads of activities and LMC has really been getting stuck into them. There are pictures to draw, invitations to write, smoothies to make, dresses to design and games to play and LMC absolutely loves it. It’s always good to see a story book encouraging children to craft or make things and this Doodle, Dazzle, Create book is therefore a perfect companion book.

Disclaimer: We were sent both Glitterbelle books as part of our role as Parragon Book Buddies. All opinions are our own. This post contains affiliate links.

Knitted cardigan

I’m trying so so hard in 2015 not to start new craft projects without finishing off ones that are already in progress. I have to admit to being one of those crafters who starts lots of things with great enthusiasm, but struggles to actually finish them. Hopefully this year will be different and I’m trying to start as I mean to go on.

This blog provides a great record of projects that I’ve started over the years, but it can also be a bit scary when I then look back and realise just how long they have been going on for!

Knitted cardigan Knitted cardigan

 

LMC rocks the hoodie look!

Back in March 2012 my world looked very different. I was about three months pregnant with Master C and had just finished the first part of this particular project – the Top-down Baby and Child’s Cable Yoke Jacket designed by the wonderful Cotton & Cloud. As recommended I’m knitted it in Jamieson’s Shetland Heather in shade 517 Mantilla. Little Miss C wasn’t even 2 at the time, but realising that I wasn’t always that fast at knitting I went for the age 4-5 size to be on the safe side. I even finished my blog post at the time with the words:

The plan is that it should be finished by next winter so LMC can wear it to keep warm them. Surely that should leave enough time, even for me!

Oh how funny!

Knitted cardigan

But, the good news is that nearly three years later I am finished and I’m rather pleased with the end result. Even LMC likes it and has declared it as her “Little Red Riding Hood cardigan”.

Knitted cardigan Knitted cardigan

In this pattern you knitted cable yoke first and then pick up stitches on one edge of it to knit up and form the hood, and then pick up stitches along the opposite edge to knit the body of the cardigan. A ribbed edge is then added that goes all around the edges and bottom of the cardigan as well as round the hood. Finally the sleeves are added with a ribbed cuff.

I’m delighted with the finished result, and more determined than ever that more of my projects need to reach completion this year!

Ladybird Coin Collecting

Is it possible for there to be a hobby that makes stamp collecting look sexy? If so then coin collecting probably fits the bill.

I kind of understand stamp collecting – all the different pictures, shapes and sizes, plus the old fashioned romantic idea of letters bearing these stamps travelling round the world in the days before email. But, to me, coin collecting just seems somewhat dull in comparison.

Ladybird Coin Collecting

The Ladybird Coin Collecting book was first published in 1976 and therefore covered British coins up to the then new decimal currency. As well as detailing lots of British coins up to decimal the book also talks about coin collecting as a hobby. There is talk about the different grades and conditions of coins and how to care for and store the coins that you collect.

Ladybird Coin Collecting

Coin Collecting also talks a bit about the history of coins and the concept of money instead of bartering for good and services. The book also looks at what coins can tells us about a country in terms of who the king or ruler was at different points in history, and also what items (famous people, animals, plants or birds) may be important to that country and they often also show emblems that are particular to that country too.

Ladybird Coin Collecting

I find it fascinating to look back at some of these old Ladybird books on hobbies, from the Learnabout series in particular, and wonder if they look as old fashioned when they were published. It would certainly take a certain kind of a geeky child to go for a book like this today, but I wonder if that’s just the effect of all the modern day distractions that our children have and if it would have been more popular back in the 1970s when first published. Or maybe coin collecting was just as dull then as it appears to me now!

If you have a collection of old Ladybird books then please feel free to join in with Ladybird Tuesday. There are no formal rules to follow, just leave a link to any post you write in the comments below and if you’re feeling kind link back to my Ladybird Tuesday index page here on Being Mrs C. Thanks!

Super+Super Banner Workshop Drink Shop Do

I had quite simply the most brilliant time at the Super+Super workshop at Drink, Shop & Do last week. I’m under absolutely no obligation to blog about it again, but I came home absolutely buzzing from it and therefore want tell you all about it.

Super+Super Banner Workshop Drink Shop Do

Firstly, the workshop itself.

As I said last week it was put on by the publishers GMC to promote the two new books by Super+Super: Embroidery and Printmaking, and a review of both books will be coming soon. The aim of the workshop was for everyone to make their own banner on the night – either embroidering it or printing a design on to it. Both books contain a banner project which use the same simple plain tote bag as the base so it was up to participants to choose on the night as to what they wanted to make and there was inspiration hung up around the room to help us choose. Each table was laden with craft supplies making the whole event a craft addicts dream.

Super+Super Banner Workshop Drink Shop Do Super+Super Banner Workshop Drink Shop Do

I’d gone with the aim of having a go at printmaking, quite simply because it’s something I hadn’t done since school art lessons, but in the end I was inspired by one of the embroidered examples hung up and decided to go with that route instead.

Super+Super Banner Workshop Drink Shop Do

Taking more inspiration from the wonderful Karin at Embrace Happy I knew that I wanted to create something with the phrase “Today is a good day” on it and I used an alphabet print out that Super+Super had brought along with them to trace the letters onto my plain banner in pencil before starting to embroider around the letters.

The example embroidered banners had just a simple running stitch around the letters, but as the ones I had traced were quite small and I wanted them to stand out a bit more I decided to go with backstitch around the edges instead and I also opted for a different colour for each line, ending with the darkest colour for the final line which reads “good day”.

Super+Super Banner Workshop Drink Shop Do

Again, to make the letters stand out I decided to use all six strands of embroidery thread which worked well in terms of the stitches standing out, but they did keep getting a little tangled. It also may have been a bit easier if I’d had an embroidery hoop to use as instead I was scrunching the fabric up in my hand as I went along, but a good press with an iron once home sorted out some of the creasing.

Super+Super Banner Workshop Drink Shop Do

I’m rather pleased with the finished banner which is now hanging by my front door. It certainly makes me smile every morning as I go out of the house.

Super+Super Banner Workshop Drink Shop Do

I’m also definitely inspired to have a go at a printed version too. The woman I sat next to at the workshop (a doctor so handy with a scalpel!) went with a printed pineapple design, but it took her quite a long time to cut out the design to print though it. I’m wondering though if I can use my newly acquired Cricut Explore to help with that stage though and use a photograph of one of the pineapple prints to design and cut a template on the Cricut. Watch this space for that one!

I can’t finish this post though without talking about our wonderful venue and the whole workshop experience. Drink, Shop & Do is quiet simply my dream venue. Not only is it less than ten minutes walk from St Pancras station which is my route into London, but it just has one of the nicest vibes of anywhere I’ve been lately. The bar staff were excellent, the drink menu was vast and completely my style (lots of teas and cocktails) and I also saw some gorgeous vintage crockery in use. Their events calendar has some brilliant stuff in it and the Play with Clay night where people had to make their own Dolly Partons to celebrate her birthday was just inspired. I met some lovely people on the workshop and everyone I spoke to was just happy to chat to everyone else and hare what they were up to. Now I’ve discovered the place there is no doubt that I’ll be back! After all – how can you not fall in love with somewhere that has this childhood memory on the wall.

Super+Super Banner Workshop Drink Shop Do

Disclaimer: I was invited to this free workshop by GMC, the publishers of Super+Super’s books. I was under no obligation to blog about the workshop at all, or the venue. All views and opinions are my own.

Cricut Explore

I dropped some pretty unsubtle hints to Mr C for what I wanted for Christmas last year. Ever since I went to the Handmade Fair back in September I’ve been longing to get my hands on a Cricut Explore. I saw Jen from Mum in The Mad House demonstrating one on the Cricut stand and I was completely blown away by what it was possible to do with it.

Luckily for me, Mr C responds rather well to unsubtle hints (even if I did go as far as emailing him a link to one on the Hobbycraft website and an email containing a discount code too!) and come Christmas morning there was one very large box wrapped up under the tree with a Cricut Explore waiting in it for me.

As is always the way at Christmas if you have small children, it was a good few days before I had chance to actually unbox the Explore and get it set up. The Explore comes nicely packaged and is physically very easy to get out and set up, but I found myself feeling somewhat overwhelmed by all the possible things I could do with it and wasn’t therefore sure exactly where to start.

The key things about the Cricut Explore are that it is capable of cutting a huge number of different materials and is incredibly easy to use via the Cricut Design Space software. Everything is run through through your web browser so you don’t actually have to install any software on your computer, but you do need to have an internet connection to use your machine.

Users can either download projects or pictures to cut direct from the design space, or they can also upload their own pictures. There are some free pictures and projects in the design space, but many do come with a charge attached. It is possible to buy an annual Cricut subscription here in the UK which gives you access to most of these for free, but the monthly subscription that US users enjoy isn’t yet available over here which is disappointing. A whole year’s worth is a lot of shell out for in one go straight after Christmas. When you connect your machine up for the first time you do get a two week subscription for free, but when you’re just getting to grips with a new machine that doesn’t seem like very long to me.

Cricut Explore Thank You Card

I decided to make a start with one of the free projects in the Design Space to make a simple Thank You card. This project requires two different materials – card for the main body of the project, and also some coloured paper that goes inside the card. It also demonstrated one of the other things that the Cricut can do – drawing and writing with a pen. The Design Space software takes you step by step through what you need to do and it’s so simple that I put together this video showing how you can complete the project.

It really is that simple.

With that first project under my belt I’ve then been trying to decide what to make next. I took advantage of my free subscription period to cut out a few other shapes which I then just played about with and made some simple, but cute little cards.

Cricut Explore Elephant Cricut Explore Toadstool

One thing that I’ve struggled with a bit with my Explore is the cutting mat. This is sticky so that the materials you are cutting stick to it and don’t move around during the cutting process, but I’ve discovered that this stickiness can mean that if you’re using certain materials (like cheap paper for instance – as I’ve sadly discovered through experience) it can be almost impossible to get them off the mat and I’ve ended up with fibres stuck all over it. There seem to be plenty of blog posts and YouTube videos out there about cleaning your Cricut mat and making it sticky again and I guess that’s something I’m going to be trying out for myself fairly soon!

The other thing that I’ve started playing about with is uploading my own pictures and creating a project using them. I’ll write a whole separate blog post about how to do this, but after a lot of trying to get my head around how it all worked, I’m rather pleased with these Mister Maker Shapes that I managed to make from a picture I found on Google Images. My two year old son seems to love them too!

Cricut Explore Mister Maker Shapes

I feel like I’ve got lots to understand and learn with my Cricut before I can call myself any sort of a proficient user, let alone an expert. I’ve only tried cutting paper and cardstock with it so far, and I’m not sure I yet understand how to use some vinyl that I won from Cricut just before Christmas. I’m discovering lots of useful blog posts and also pulling together useful YouTube videos that I’m finding into one big playlist. A search on Facebook has also revealed a couple of friendly groups for UK Cricut owners and I’m busy reading up on threads in there to try to work out what I should be trying my hand at next.

It’s certainly exciting finally being a Cricut owner, but I’m still feeling a bit nervous too right now!

This is one of those subjects that I don’t really like to put too much thought into. Many years of commuting on public transport and spending time with my nose in a stranger’s armpit tells me that not everyone is a shower a day person like me sadly. Those people at LateRooms.com have done their research though and some of the results are rather shocking!

I mean, who knew that the average Yorkshireman has 7 and a half times more baths in a year than most people? Or is that just because shower technology hasn’t reached Yorkshire yet?

Brazen_LateRoomscomStats3

Disclaimer: This post was brought to you in association with LateRooms.com

I don’t know about you, but after Christmas here it seemed like the kids went more than a little bit loopy. I’m not sure if it was all to do with life being really busy with lots of friends and family to see over the holiday, or going away, or the influx of new toys for them both, but this year it’s really taken a while for life to get back to normal.

I’ve often found that the only time of the day that’s been more predictable was just before bed. That nice bit of time when all the stress of getting them upstairs for a bath is behind you, and all that is left is a good old bedtime story and a cuddle before kissing them goodnight. For us books have always been a key part of our bedtime routine and they often seem to be the part of the day that both Little Miss C and Master C look forward to the most.

Both children absolutely love books and they are both lucky enough to have full bookshelves in their rooms – partly thanks to lots of lovely gifts, partly due to my charity shop book obsession and partly due to my work in reviewing lots of children’s books here on the blog. We seem to have kids books covering almost every topic under the sun, and it seems funny to think back and realise that 5 years ago, before we had children, I don’t think there was a single children’s book in the house!

Topsy and Tim

What I do notice is how both of them gravitate back to some of the more old-fashioned classics in their collections. Master C is currently obsessed with reading Topsy and Tim, and is particularly keen on a vintage copy of Topsy and Tim go swimming that we found somewhere. It may be related to the fact that just before Christmas he started swimming lessons, or maybe it’s just the stage he’s at right now as I seem to recall LMC having a Topsy and Tim obsession at a similar age.

Little Miss C is really enjoying learning to read at school so we often alternate at bedtime between books she can read out loud to us and stories that we read to her. A copy of Hairy Maclary came home from school yesterday, which she loves, but after a recent trip to the Buckinghamshire County Museum and their Roald Dahl Gallery, she’s also been really enjoying Fantastic Mr Fox and Revolting Rhymes – in which she particularly loves the Jack and the Beanstalk one, as she saw a version of that at the local panto just before Christmas. I’m really enjoying rediscovering some of these books from my own childhood, but I’m also realising how few of the typical children’s classics I’ve actually read.

As we went round the Roald Dahl Gallery there were all these display cases full of objects and signs saying “which Roald Dahl book is this from?” It was embarrassing how few I could answer, and the only one that I’m completely sure I got right was the one featuring a Wonka Golden Ticket! I’m therefore looking to compile a list of classic children’s books so that I can make sure I read them all with the kids – and tick off all those ones that I missed from my own childhood.

So please help me here: which children’s books do you think should be on a must read list for kids? Leave your answers in the comments below and I’ll try to compile my own list and share it in a future blog post.

Disclaimer: This post was brought to you in association with Tesco.

Football Pamper Parcel

When I told Mr C that Betfair had asked me to write about being a sports widow he laughed. Or more accurately, he laughed, told me I wasn’t a sports widow and then put on his trainers and then headed out for a 10km run!

In the nearly 12 years that I’ve known Mr C he’s always been quite sporty. When we first met he ran regularly, had competed in a 10km race, played regular badminton and tennis with work colleagues and also a fair bit of football. It’s running that is his main focus now though.

When I was younger I used to be incredibly sporty. I played lacrosse regularly, as well as lots of other sports and for a while I was out about 4 nights a week swimming and doing various classes at the local gym. That’s dropped off over the years and to be honest when I was pregnant and doing aquanatal and pregnancy yoga classes I was probably in the best physical shape I’d been in for years.

I’ve always loved taking part in team games, and there’s something about a class to music that I’ve also always loved, but for years running never did it for me. In fact, I’d even go as far as saying I hated running. I just found it dull, hard work and never got to the stage that I enjoyed it. I just spent the whole time concentrating on trying to breathe. I did therefore really struggle to understand Mr C’s time out running, especially as in these latter years it always meant more time when I was stuck at home with two children instead.

St Albans Half Marathon 5k race

All this changed though last year when I was inspired to make a start on the Couch to 5k programme. It was tough at first. Really tough. But then suddenly it all just clicked and I actually started enjoying myself. I looked forward to my next run, felt better for them, and even went as far as calling myself a runner. Suddenly I actually understood why Mr C had been pulling on his trainers and heading out for all these years. I understand how running isn’t just about physical fitness, but also helps to make you feel more mentally in balance with the rest of life.

This winter has seen a bit of a lapse though in my running. Injury took me out for a while and now the weather and early darkness means I just can’t get out there often enough. Spurred on by my actions though Mr C has been upping his game and increasing the distances he’s been running, but I’m struggling to find enough hours of daylight to fit in a run often, and to be honest I don’t feel all that comfortable running round the streets in the dark.

This year I’m determined though to try to get more of a balance back. I can’t magic up more hours of daylight – as much as I’d like to – but I am trying to get more of a balance in my life. I need to get out there running again, especially as I have the Comic Relief Danceathon in early March to be fit for, and I need to regain that headspace and also do something that makes me feel less jealous when Mr C heads out of the door for a run.

Pamper Parcel

I also need to make a real effort to look after myself more, and pamper myself a bit more. Since the kids went back to school I seem to be busier than ever, with work, family stuff and voluntary commitments, and after a couple of crashes I need to get myself in better physical and mental shape to cope with it all. I need to balance my time better so that I can make the time in daylight hours to head out for a run. I also need to give myself some downtime. As I’ve learnt on many a parenting course, you just can’t keep running on empty forever and it’s very true. Time to set aside some time with the wonderful Pamper Parcel that Betfair sent me and actually put myself first for once. Just as soon as the housework is finished for the day…

Disclaimer: Betfair sent me a wonderful Pamper Parcel in exchange for writing this post.

Super+Super at Drink, Shop, Do

I’ve always said that things in life are cyclic and trends certainly seem to go that way. Years and years ago women (and it was mainly women back then) used to gather together and craft as a group. This wasn’t only done for social reasons, but so that skills could be shared between generations, as well as the practical issues like sharing childcare and saving fuel by only heating the one venue where people were meeting.

After years in which crafters seemed to work at home on their own it now appears to me to have gone full circle with more and more people (of all ages, and both male and female) coming together to craft, either informally in knitting groups or sewing bees, but also in slightly more formal workshops.

As someone self employed, who juggles working at home with looking after young children, I personally love the fact that my main social activities involve meeting friends whilst also crafting with them. Both my weekly knitting group and my monthly WI meetings are highlights in my diary and I feel that I have gained so much learning from and working alongside people who share my crafting passions, as well as having a huge amount of fun and making some great friends. I also love the fact that venues are popping up around the country that allow people to gather and have a drink, be it a cuppa or a cocktail, and do something whilst meeting with friends. To be honest it would be my absolute dream to have somewhere like that locally here in St Albans.

 

Super+Super is one such place in Brighton; a space for craft and co-working. But, to take their crafting message further afield they have also produced two new books which I am dying to get my hands on: embroidery and printmaking. If that’s not exciting enough, Claire and Amy from Super+Super are also heading to London next week where they are going to be hosting a free workshop at Drink, Shop & Do where you will learn how to make a colourful wall hanging using a cotton tote bag, and either printing or embroidery. You’ll also be able to buy copies of their books on the evening too.

I am so looking forward to going along to this – not only to learn, but also to meet likeminded crafters. The full details of the event are below, but please let me know if you’re going as I’d love to say hello.

Super+Super at Drink, Shop & Do, Kings Cross, London

Monday 19th January at 7pm

You can book a space by contacting Drink, Shop & Do (mail@drinkshopdo.com / 020 7278 4335) or you can just turn up on the night.

Hopefully see some of you there!

Disclaimer: No compensation has been received for this post, but I will be attending this free workshop. This post contains affiliate links – after all I have a mortgage to pay and kids to feed!