Sunday, June 30, 2013

take along mouse house

Rebe has been invited to a wee friend's birthday party tomorrow. We put our heads together and came up with a present she will hopefully like:
A take along mouse house :-)
it folds up and buttons with a little wooden button like a handbag

the mouse house and Katie's mouse

cooking in the kitchen

relaxing in the living room

running a nice hot bath
mouse bliss
tucked up in bed :-)

 I probably had way too much fun making this gift. I used lots of scraps of felt and fabric. The mouse herself is white felt stuffed with a little sheep's wool. I designed each room on paper then found the right pieces of fabric and machined them all together. The whole thing is backed on a firmer weave fabric to give it a bit of strength and durability.
I hope the birthday girl will get much joy and pleasure from it :-)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

r & r

We are finally on summer holidays. The last weeks of term were just so busy and full. Both of the boys had their birthdays and Benny had his first Birthday party to which he had invited 5 little friends.
sugar armadillo's, top hats and rice crispy cakes for the party
Benny's birthday cake
 On top of that Benny had his last day ever at pre-school and there was a little celebration for that. Rebe had her last day of school, Benny had a trial visit to big school. I also had to take the car to be tested for it's NCT and Benny had a follow up appointment at the hospital to check his hearing (which has vastly improved since he had grommets inserted before Christmas).

All of this really took it's toll on me and I burnt out feeling very tired and very lonely. We had planned to go camping for a few nights in west cork, taking in an open air theater show and the sculpture garden we so love, but it felt way too much for me and although the kids were very disappointed we decided that I really couldn't manage it. So instead we have been resting and relaxing.
a picture Rebe took of one of her adventure kits
 There have been 'adventure' games at home. These involve a lot of planing and packing and very little actual adventuring, but I guess the fun is all in the planning.

And we have spent the last 3 days on the beach. The weather has been wonderful and we have packed lunches and buckets and spades, I have taken my knitting and a good book and we have luxuriated in the sunshine, gentle breezes and open space to play.
freshly baked focaccia eaten warm in the sunshine

I feel so much better, happy and peaceful and well rested. We have nothing more planned for the whole week, until Thursday when we are travelling to the UK for a 2 week holiday. Thank goodness for sunshine and holidays and the beach!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Benny's 5th Birthday

started at 5.15 am (eeek!)

 the morning sunlight was streaming in through the window as I lit 5 candles on the birthday ring and we sang Happy Birthday.
 He opened his presents from me, a much desired scooter that we picked out a few weeks ago and has been waiting for him on top of the cupboard. He was climbing up on chairs to peek at it everyday in feverish anticipation.
 A book, The Wildest Brother, that he had been longing to read

a very sweet picture painted for him by his little brother.
He scootered to pre-school this morning where they sang for him too and celebrated with little cakes we had made. Andy picked him up and brought him back for a birthday tea party lunch and more presents.
 Rebe decorated this ice cream cake for him (he is having a wee party on Saturday and I am making a proper cake for that, and what with Joa's birthday cake on Monday, I just couldn't face making another, so this was a great compromise...)
 perfect to have with Benny's jelly
 The afternoon was all about playing with new toys and when we were all dropping with tiredness we watched some Wallace and Gromit sent by a dear special lady.
Oh my dear Benny, my wise little guru boy. How much you have grown this year. You are tall and strong in your body, but you are brimming with yourself. A new confidence. You introduce yourself so sweetly to new play mates, you are so kind and will give anything you have. You are very thoughtful and like to make sure you understand everything. If you ask me a questions and I answer 'u-huh', you say quietly to yourself 'u-huh, that means yes'. Or if Rebe says' forever', you say 'that means loads of days and loads of nights'. My heart is so full of you, you are light and peace for me. You have this very special gift of being able to give a 'calm down cuddle' and it really works. You give yourself completely to me when I need a hug, content to just be and to hug. You still love green and you really love armadillo's. You love being outside and I often watch you without you knowing it, sneaking into the greenhouse and nibbling away at lettuces and rocket and peas. This next year will be a big one for you, it will be demanding being a school boy, and I hope for you that it is filled with joy and laughter and friendship. I love you Benny x x

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

tutorial: a wee tie

Benny loves wearing ties. I started making them for him last summer (blog post here) and I promised then that I would make a tutorial.
I made Benny 2 new ties for his birthday tomorrow and took picture of the process, so here is the promised tutorial :-)

First make your template. If you have a tie at home, just draw around this. If it is a small child's tie then give yourself a 1/2 inch all around it for seam allowance and if it is an adult tie, just draw around it. 
 If you don't have a tie to draw around you can draw one out for yourself.
Draw a line 3 inches across. In the center of this line measure down 1.5 inches. Draw a straight line from the centre point to each edge. At the edge points measure 13 inches along, tapered in slightly so that you have a tie shape, like in the picture above.
 Cut around your tie. Double your fabric over right side in and then pin your template onto the wrong side of your fabric. draw and cut around this.
 remove template but leave pins in place
 starting at the top sew all the way around the outside of the tie (still on the wrong side)
 clip the edges

turn the tie right side out. I use a knitting needle to make sure that all of the edges are pushed out then iron to get the lovely pointed edges.
 about 4 inches down from the top, fold the tie fabric behind the tie like this.
 then fold the rest of that across the front of the tie leaving enough to tuck behind to make a neat pretend knot.
 before you sew up the back, you need about 14 inches of elastic. Insert one end of elastic about 1/2 inch into the tie and making sure the elastic is not twisted place the other end of the elastic into the other side of the tie. Pin into place
 Stitch along the top of the tie, firmly stitching the elastic into place,
 then stitch down all of the fabric folds.
And that's it, a wee boy's tie.

Happy sewing :-)

Monday, June 17, 2013

happy birthday dear joa

big brother birthday hugs

morning birthday table

joa's pumkin hat, knitted with a gorgeous soft organic cotton

balloons on bamboo

den building


happy birthday dear sweet boy, you have brought so much sunshine, joy and laughter into my life. I love every little scrap of you. your curly hair, your love for motorbikes and the colour pumpkin. I love how you recognise shapes everywhere, i love that you are discovering jokes 'lock, lock', I love how you snore when you're asleep, I love how you say 'i love you', I love how you miss rebe and benny when they are school, i love how strong you are, I love how gentle you are, and I love how completely batty you are. I love every little scrap of you Jo x x

Sunday, June 16, 2013

putting my money where my mouth is ~ the household

Before I started on this wee adventure, changing the way we ate and what we eat, I used to say that I would love to eat only organic whole foods, but I simply can't afford it. 
And this is true for so many people. Eating organically, locally produced and whole foods can be more expensive.
 I realized that I had to jiggle things around a little to make it work for us. I am a single parent on a very low income, but I am making this work. 
As I have already blogged about I make all my meals from scratch, so this is a huge saving, ready made food is so expensive.
I am also trying to supplement what I buy with what I am growing or what I am given from friend's gardens. This means not eating what I want, but eating what we have. 
So far, I'm not sure how exactly the finances are working out. I have just started on this journey so I have just had a good few weeks in which I have spent more than usual because I made bulk orders.
 But apart from that this week I spent around 90 euro on food that was locally grown, organic and whole foods and this definitely is comparable (if not cheaper) to what I would have spent on a weekly Lidl (supermarket) shop.
But, 90 euro is only on food, there are other household expenses and I am finding ways to save on them too...
 I am making all of my own cleaning products. Using varying quantities of vinegar, bread soda, washing soda, castille soap, borax and essential oils I make my own dish washing detergent, laundry detergent, all purpose cleaner and dishwasher soap and window cleaner.
No extra packaging, no nasty chemicals, cheap and easy!

 For the dishes, I use a loofah and a good bristled brush along with:
Dish washing detergent:
2 tbsp washing soda
2tbsp apple cider/ white vinegar
2tbsp liquid castile soap
10 drops of tea tree essential oil
Fill a jug with warm water, stir in washing soda crystals until dissolved. Add other ingredients, stir. This makes about 1ltr of detergent, I store mine in 2 old washing up liquid bottles and use as normal. There are no bubbles, but once you get over that I am so pleased with it, it cleans really well and is infinitely cheaper than any eco brand out there!
 Laundry detergent.
My dear friend Mel sent me her mother's laundry soap recipe a couple of years ago when Benny was still in cloth nappies and I have been making and using it ever since. I store it in a big old water container, a little goes a long way so it lasts for ages and works really well.

equal parts Borax and Bicarb of Soda...this is shockingly good, I've tried other recipes etc before but the glass always came out misty, everything is washed well with this recipe and sparkling!
For the floors I have a steam cleaner, it washes and santises the floors with steam. I also use this for really dirty things, the chairs, the shower, deep cleaning, carpets and beds. There is also an attachment for windows.
Windows/ glass
My favourite is just vinegar and water, wipe on with a cloth, wipe off with a clean dry cloth :-)

My best tip for keeping cleaning expenses to a minimum...keep cleaning to a minimum (there now you have an excuse to do less!)

Other household items:
I recently found a really great Irish company that sell bulk eco products. They have super products for a great price and I am so pleased to have been able to buy things like unbleached 100% recycled toilet paper and recycled writing paper. I also bought compost able bin liners (did you know a bin liner takes 250 years to break down once it's buried in a rubbish heap eeek!)

 As for toiletries, this will perhaps be my next thing to learn how to make for myself, but I few months ago I made a bulk order of the natural toothpastes and shampoo's that I use, and I got a large supply of handmade soap in exchange for a doll. So I think they will last the rest of the year at least. Again my old motto, just do it less (the kids are delighted about that lol).
In terms of other expenses I spend very little, we buy few 'luxury' items on a weekly basis.

 I always accept handed down clothes for me and the kids and have them here, in this very organised way in the cupboard on the landing waiting for people to grow into them. So apart from the odd pair of knickers and shoes (I do like to spend money on good, well fitting, well made shoes) I don't spend money on clothing,

and I am getting better at repairing what we have (before the person out-grows it)

I recently heard someone remark that if they are going to spend their money it should be, above all else, on good food. Surely little else matters as much?

Hope some of these tips might be handy :-)