Good things on the Internet

I am always reading blogs and articles that I think need sharing, but then I don’t get around to writing a post and the moment passes and I never end up sharing the good. Mostly, I am always so pleased that the Internet is full of intelligent women, writing about their lives. The term Mummy Blogger has become a media caricature of someone bragging about their kids, blagging free stuff and writing dull and boring posts. In my experience Mums who blog are opinionated, well informed, funny, multi faceted and all of them fantastic communicators, as my recommendations will show. So, grab a cuppa and get clicking….

  

Did you know that Barbie has had a revamp? You can’t have missed it. She’s now like a real woman, apparently. Even more shocking is that two women wrote blogs about it from opposing points of view and as far as I know, didn’t fall out. I know! Two people on the Internet, disagreeing and remaining respectful. It’s a miracle. You can read all about what Alison and Sarah think about Barbie and her 21st Century update on their blogs, which, incidentally are also in my shiny, new blogroll, over there ========>

On a similar note, Kate at A Playful Day and Lucy at Lulastic have been talking about gender roles and their princess loving daughters. First, I read Kate’s piece, Rebranding Pink explaining how the death of David Bowie had highlighted how she could explore gender, make up and dressing up with her three year old, without the shadow of Disney Princesses. Lucy is always an interesting read and challenges me to think about the way I parent, in a way that is both funny and completely non-judgemental. Her piece, Who’s afraid of the big, bad princess, fits perfectly with Kate’s as she writes about making the princess obesession less ‘evil’ by the way we think about it and handle it. As someone who is still getting used to parenting a girl, I totally loved it.

 
Head in book is one of my favourite bloggers and I urge you to check out her archives, as I promise you that every post you read will be intelligent and well argued. She articulates what I am thinking so often, but far better than I could and sometimes before I’ve even realised I care about the subject!  She has recently gone back to work full time, after being a stay at home mum for years and so has a foot in both ‘camps’, if indeed there are camps. Her recent post on not wanting to be called a busy, working mum, even though she clearly is one, is particularly amazing.    

You must have been under a rock this week, if you haven’t heard about the uproar around the Facebook Motherhood Challenge and there have been many posts on it, both in traditional media and blogs. Some hate it, Loose Women (Boooooo!) even referred to those taking part at ‘mum-shaming’ others, some love it. The best post I read on the subject was on Mother’s Always Right. Molly comes down somewhere in the middle of the argument, or at least she did at first. If you just read one post on this subject, make it this one. 

So, there you go, just some of the many interesting and entertaining posts I’ve come across in the last couple of week and I even managed to include the links!

A Year of Organising

I’ve finally shaken off the January blues. I’ve spent the month thinking and hibernating, being lazy and keeping warm. It’s been needed to fight the darkness that is now lifting, as the days get longer and the nights start to move to nighttime, rather than afternoon.

My word for 2015 was ‘Rest’. My hope was that between the allotment and the parenting and the renovation of our home, we would find periods of rest. That we would somehow be able to carve out time for ourselves and our family. There were times when we did this. Holidays, of course, but times when the to-do list would simply be left to do other, more enjoyable things. Mostly though, I felt too busy, too squeezed and like we weren’t really getting much achieved. I have concluded that the idea of ‘rest’ was over ambitious for where we are at the moment. We have three, still young children and that in itself is a full life. Even at quiet times there is food to prepare, washing to be done, oh, do much washing, five people’s needs and commitments to juggle and five people’s mess to put away.

As my thoughts turned to 2016 and what I hope for, I kept coming back to the same topic; to get organised. I kept pushing it aside. Organising is not aspirational or exciting, but my brain kept returning to it. I kept thinking about Christmas. I was so organised this year and it was lovely. It actually didn’t feel boring, it felt a huge relief and I know that I enjoyed November and especially December much more as a result. I keep thinking how much of a weight it would be to have this attitude in other areas. How much better would our lives be if I am not shouting to get out of the house each morning or stressing that I have forgotten something important that needed to be paid/done/finished? Would I feel lighter or would I simply feel busier?

Mckdaddy and I have a phrase that we like to keep in mind when we are being too lazy to take the bins out or sort the new utility deal out “It’s the grown up thing to do”. It is the final push we need to just get on with the boring bits of life. Being a grown up sounds dull and boring and sometimes it is, but I suspect by just accepting this fact, we can actually carve ourselves more time, money and a nicer home and so subsequently be much happier.

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We could really benefit from having a more organised home, from being more organised in terms of food, technology and finances, even my sleep needs some attention. We need to build our home into something that we all love and that is fit for purpose for a family of five. I am really excited and intrigued with how being more organised and more of a ‘grown up’ will impact on my state of mind and the happiness of my family.

Of course, I’d intend to share it here, on the blog and I will be using the hashtag #ayearoforganising. I will share which areas I am tackling, what works, what doesn’t and whether it has made a difference. I hope to inspire you to organising areas in your life too and please feel free to tag me, @emilyandmore with your efforts and use the hashtag to let me know what you’re up to.

Thoughts on a Sunday #5

I do love blogging. Just the act of writing my thoughts and putting them out there gives me clarity. After my last post I’ve been finding the balance between hibernation and activity so much easier. 

I’ve finally spruced up the blog, updated my phone and cleared the photos. I’ve decluttered my food cupboards and tidied the linen cupboard, leaving me wondering where all our white pillowcases go, because I know I buy them. I suspect at least one has been gobbled up by a fancy  dress costume. We tackled the toy cupboard last week, although I still need to sneak some stuff out of the house and into the charity shop. I’ve had another tidy up of my clothes. About six months ago I ‘Kon-maried’ them and while I’ve kept things pretty tidy, I’ve noticed a few things that I never wear, so I repeated the process and everything looks amazing again. 

In terms of hibernation, I was lucky enough to get a child free day on Friday and made sure I took some time to have a daytime bath, surely one of the most decadent pleasures known to anyone with kids and curled up by the fire until the children returned. I’ve rediscovered some old embroidery and started a new crochet project to keep my hands busy and I’ve been indulging in all the fantastic January tele and a new boxset on Netflix. (Once Upon a Time on Netflix and War & Peace, Jericho and Shetland  on TV, for those of you who like the details) 

  
Last Sunday I finally attempted marmalade making. Lots of chopping, followed by the long slow simmering of peel and juice, filling the house with the most delicious aroma. It has to be the very definition of the balance between activity and hibernation and the results taste amazing. I may never buy marmalade again. 

  
This weekend the weather has been beautiful. Cold, so so cold,but bright and blue. We have made sure that we’ve got out for a walk both mornings, for duck feeding and the boys new obsession, ice breaking/throwing/eating. It feels as though, finally, winter is here. I hope it continues, although you can keep your snow, unless it’s enough for the schools to close, so that we don’t need to leave the house. 

I’ve had a strange week of generally wanting to cook food this week too. That hasn’t happened for months. Mckdad and I would both like to reduce the amount of meat we eat and I guess the kids will inevitably too. I usually find it a real struggle to think of appealing and easy alternatives, but a couple of new meals and some old favourites has really helped. Of course it’s not always easy to introduce new foods to small children, especially at that tired, grumpy time of day, but I find myself being more relaxed about it all and just enjoying what I’m eating. My greatest triumph is the air punches that met my vegetarian sausage rolls, obviously on this occasion they don’t know the veggie bit and let’s not tell them, huh?! 

  
Have a fab week xx

Musings on January 

So, January Blues are pretty rubbish, huh? I don’t normally get them. I usually find the new year to be quite invigorating. I want to do things better than the year before, to change things and of course declutter and lose ten pounds. There are still flickers of all that going on, but mostly I just feel too tired for all the get up and go it needs. 

I have, at least, three started and abandoned blog posts on this topic, none of which will get anywhere near a publish button. I seem to be stuck, unable to move forward with anything really and it’s all manifesting itself as general grumpiness and being hard to live with. I’m weary of all the ‘doing’ that needs to be done, simply to keep things bumbling along, never mind the achingly long list of other things we need to tackle. I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve never read so many blog posts or seen so many social media updates bemoaning how unmotivated and fed up everyone is. 

  
I have thoughts about 2016. I have things I want to do and a word I want to carry with me throughout the year, but I’m not quite ready to embrace it yet. Perhaps I simply need a little more downtime, some physical and mental hibernation if you like. Generally it’s the right thing to follow your instincts, but I do wonder if it’s hibernation or simply wallowing and if it’s the latter does it naturally end as easily as it began. Do you need to shock yourself out of the grey stupor by forcing yourself to be productive, even when you don’t feel like it? Or is that just as likely to make you feel worse? 

Maybe, as with most things a fine balance is what’s needed. Add some ‘doing’ into the day while still treating yourself gently, with a good dollop of hibernation.  The lack of routine over the festive break was so needed and so good that I am craving more of the same, while still yearning for more routine and order. Again, some fine tuning is needed. 

  
Maybe the answer is to start the New Year verve in February. Take January to quietly recharge. If only we could take a month off from all the ‘doing’. How about you? Are you stuck in the January blues or grasping the New Year with vigour and vim? How do you banish the glums? Got with it or fight against it? 

  

2015 – A retrospective

Back in January, when I was a little out of love with my blog, I wrote a really quick post about the things that had happened in 2014 and it was so enjoyable to write and read back, I knew it would become an annual thing. So, here are some of things that have happened in 2015. Some of them big, some small, all important. 

  • Lady Mck started walking
  • Mini Mck joined a proper football team and played his first real match
  • The loft conversion was finished
  • The decorating was not finished
  • Nano started school
  • Lady Mck learned to talk
  • I went to a blogging conference
  • Mckdaddy started a new job and it changed our day to day lives in good and bad ways
  • We got a new car
  • Lady Mck finally got her own bedroom
  • We got a second car
  • The boys moved into their new bedrooms
  • We finally went to Legoland
  • Nano went to a football match for the first time
  • The boys fell in love with Star Wars
  • Nano started enjoying chapter books
  • We cooked bread on a campfire
  • Lady Mck started sleeping through the night in her cot
  • Mini Mck discovered the Harry Potter books
  • I crocheted an actual wearable item of clothing
  • We went to Somerset for the first time and loved it
  • I spent my first night away from Lady Mck
  • The children suddenly started loving roast dinners
  • Mini Mck did his first performance on a proper stage with lights and music, that wasn’t his school
  • We discovered the children love eating at Yo Sushi
  • Nano went to his first birthday party without us
  • Mini Mck went to his best friend’s for a sleepover
  • I fell out of love with Twitter and in love with Instagram
  • Mini Mck had visits from the tooth fairy
  • I made Elderflower cordial
  • We survived our first child general anesthetic
  • I joined a WI
  • I finally made an Advent wreath
  • I started blogging regularly again
  • Mini Mck got a new bike
  • Lady Mck and I mastered the baby wearing ‘backwrap’ (Thank goodness!)
  • I made videos on my iphone
  • Mini Mck made a movie on the ipad
  • Nano was in his first Nativity 
  • Lady Mck learnt to get out of her pushchair
  • Mini Mck saw his first 12A film. The new Star Wars, obviously

   
   

 
  NB: I had planned to just have nine pics, but obviously impossible. xx

The process 

Sometimes things have to be about the process, rather than the finished project and that’s no bad thing. After I’d finished Lady Mck’s beautiful knitwear, which has, this week flown off to it’s next owner, I was desperate to add a garment to my own wardrobe. I had been searching for just the right cardigan on the high street for months, to no avail. Chunky, beige, cables, one button. In fact exactly like the one featured in my crochet magazine. It took a while to dawn on me that I should make it. My very first, needs to fit properly,  piece of clothing.

So, I made it. Well, I made some of it realised it was wonky and wrong, pulled it out and started again. It took me most of the summer, but was a dream to work on. I enjoyed it all. I blocked it, sewed the button on and wore it……and hated it. Actually I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t satisfied with it. Basically it was too big. Too big in the shoulders and far far too long.

But then I started to think about why this had happened. It was obvious really. I’d taken the size measurement from the chest size, which is proportionally the biggest part of me, but the style of the garment didn’t need a perfect fit at this point. That together with the fact I’m quite short and despite swatching plumped for a slightly too big hook meant I looked swamped and in particular the cardigan was too long and totally unflattering.

I happened to be listening to a podcast from Kate at A Playful Day. A lovely, chatty episode where she was talking about leaving out a pattern repeat and  I started thinking “I could do that”. I really started looking and thinking about where the garment didn’t fit. Shorten it a little, make the shoulder area smaller by reducing the stitches in this section, measure and block as I go and it could be perfect.

At first I was disheartened and needed a different project as a sort of palette cleanser, if you like, but now I’ve started again. A smaller hook, a smaller size and a couple of pattern repeats removed and I’m motivated again.

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It made me realise the process is important. The learning and skill practice is part of the challenge. It’s not simply about the finished garment. By picking apart the pattern, metaphorically and literally, I am really thinking about how it will look once complete and next time I face a new pattern I will really consider the fit and how that relates to my shape. Doing things that stretch us is good for us, even ordinary everyday things and when those things fail, that’s good too. It all lights up those parts of our brains that so often lay dormant.

So much of life is about the end result, it’s soothing sometimes to simply focus on the process.

Having said all that, I know the designer and if it doesn’t fit this time, I shall be travelling to Scotland and shall sit by Aga and watch her make it for me. Actually, Kat, that sounds quite lovely.

Styling the Season – December

Styling the Seasons, by Apartment Apothecary and Lotts and Lots :“Reflect the change of seasons and show those changes in your own home, by styling any surface (shelf, dining table, mantelpiece) with something you like to reflect the new month and what it means to you”

I have wanted to make my own wreath for years. I am not an early Christmas decorator and a wreath seems like the perfect advent adornment to gently welcome in the festive season. It’s just always been one of those things that I’ve had to put to one side and just haven’t had enough time. I always vow to book a workshop, but as well as being ouchingly expensive I just haven’t managed to fit it in.

I’ve recently joined a new WI and so was delighted when December’s meeting was a wreath making demonstration and a chance to make your own. We all bought our materials with us and then shared whatever was left. Add to that some Christmas nibbles and it was the perfect evening.

I toyed with many ideas for what I wanted my wreath to include, orange slices, cinnamon sticks, gold pine cones, berries, but as the evening drew nearer and my Pinterest searches more frequent I decided I wanted a really simple, green design.

I insisted on a family foraging trip to our local woods, an awesome little advent activity too, where the two smaller children collected pine cones and MM, armed with his knife and I collected fir, pine and holly offcuts. I then bought half a bunch of eucalyptus and some Rosemary as I knew I wanted both to feature.

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Getting started was the hardest part, but once I got going I found more confidence and love the end result. There are a few pine cones, some larger holly leaves and lots of pine. I think I could have done with adding a little more, in fact I still could, but I love the paired down green and silver look to it. I want to stop everyone who comes to the house and say “I made that!”

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This is definitely going to be an annual thing, especially now I know how easy and effective it is.