Makings - currently on my hook

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

It's been a few weeks since I shared my current makings with you all, and as a result there are several to show. A couple are completed and a couple are works in progress.

Firstly there is Calum's ripple blanket. If you cast your minds back to the end of last year you might remember me sharing the beginning of this blanket. Calum (12) chose the colours himself and asked for a ripple pattern. I made a start and then got sidetracked by my Cosy Blanket, see here, which since it was for everyone, I decided to finish first.

I promised him that I would get started on it in earnest again after the summer, and once I'd got a few more projects out of the way I picked it up again. I think it's nearly half way there, and by my rough calculations, if I do four colours a day it will definitely be finished by the end of October.

The trouble is that he has asked for it to be so wide that it takes about 20 minutes to complete one colour! The blues and green are two rows each, the cream is one

He has asked if it can please be ready by the time the weather gets cold, so I think late October to mid November is a good target.

Aren't the colours he chose lovely? Really fresh and cheerful.

One of my competed projects is one that I can't share too much of at the moment until it is gifted. I took part in an Autumn Shawl Swap on Instagram and here is a peek at my completed shawl.

The rules of the swap stated that the shawls had to be made of 4ply or sock yarn, something I don't use very often as it takes longer to work up! I found this beautiful soft cashmere and silk mix yarn though, and it only took me about 3 weeks working on and off to complete the shawl.

I'll share the full thing once it has been received.

Another completed make is my Autumn wreath. I never did get around to making a summer one and so my daffodil Spring wreath has been hanging in our living room all summer. Since it doesn't feel like we had a proper summer anyway, maybe that's not such a big deal!

I did think that the daffodils were long past their season though, and so I wanted to get the Autumn wreath up quickly. Instead of crocheting around the wreath I wrapped the yarn around it. It still took quite a while to cover the wreath with yarn but not as long as it would have done to crochet.

Then I found a few patterns for leaves and acorns in a crochet magazine and crocheted up a bunch of them in various autumn colours.

I used Stylecraft Special DK and the colours used are: parchment for the wreath, copper, gold and khaki.

I love how cosy it looks but don't look too closely at it, as in my haste to hang it up I didn't quite get around to sewing all the leaves on so some are held on by pins! Perhaps I should disguise those pins as Autumn berries until I get them sewn on properly!

Finally my other incomplete project. 

The deadline I have given myself for this one is the beginning of December as it's a Christmas decoration.

When I saw the Christmas Character Graphgan on Repeat Crafter Me I just knew I had to have a go. It's a blanket made up of squares of cute Christmas characters

The squares are made using the corner to corner (c2c) technique, something I had never tried before, and for the pattern you just follow the graph, again something I had never tried before. 

Since I loved the idea of the blanket so much I decided a few weeks ago just to jump in and see how it went with the Santa square.

As you can see it actually went pretty well. Working from a graph is not at all as scary as it sounds and the c2c technique is indeed as simple as everywhere online says it is! It does take a little bit of thinking to decide if you need to carry your yarn across a few squares or just drop it and pick up a new section of the same colour but this isn't as complicated as it sounds and is the sort of thing that you can't work out until you are actually working on the square.

The other beauty of working on squares like this from picture graphs is that as the picture begins to show in your crochet it becomes very addictive and you are eager to keep going to reveal more of the picture.

After completing Santa, and working on a few more rows of Calum's blanket, I worked up the candy cane square.

Next up, and started in the sunshine yesterday, is the Christmas stocking.

Sarah has shared her completed blanket on her blog and it includes a top and bottom banner, worked in the same c2c graph technique, that reads Merry Christmas. I'm under absolutely no illusions that I will have time to add that to my blanket though! In fact, when I first decided to try this blanket I thought I would only work up a selection of the characters and alternate them with solid coloured squares which would work up much quicker. Now that I've made more than one character though, I've caught the bug and am keen to get most, if not all, of them made.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see how many I manage to get done in time!

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Looking for Autumn

Monday, 21 September 2015

We went in search of autumn in our local woods at the weekend.

The duck pond was looking lovely, surrounded by a mixture of late summer greens and the early signs of autumn colour.

Mostly, the boys didn't so much look out for signs of autumn, but rather just enjoyed larking about in the woods.

Calum (12), did try and get a few photos though, as he wanted to enter some into a competition.

'Mam, come and see where James is!'

Whenever anyone ventured even the tiniest bit off the path, there was a little someone following in their footsteps!

Knock, knock.


We decided we were still a little early to find any major signs of autumn. Although there were lots of berries around, and the trees are beginning to change, we couldn't see any conkers yet and the brambles were mostly still green.

We'll just have to keep going back regularly so that we can get first choice of the new seasons conkers when they fall! But when the local wood is as pretty as it is then that's no bad thing.

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Disclaimer - not quite super mum

Thursday, 17 September 2015

It has been brought to my attention that yesterday's post may have portrayed me as some sort of highly efficient super mum.

This was not what I intended at all!

The average daily running of our house could probably best be described as organised chaos. The keyword being 'organised', and not just chaos, and that was the point I was trying to share yesterday. 

When you first get married and become a mum, there are plenty books and articles out there about caring for your newborn, for helping you establish feeding routines, for getting to grips with weaning, for tips about helping your baby to sleep, for how to deal with your toddler's behaviour, right through to how best to deal with teenagers.

What there is a lot less of is how to manage your house. Nobody, unless you are very fortunate, sits you down and gives you advice about the best way to try and keep your house in order and get dinner on the table. Throw one or more children into the mix and there is even more to juggle. Add a part time or full time working mum into the equation and, well, it just gets even harder and I admire those of you who are able to do so.

It's nearly 16 years since I first became a mum, at the age of 22, and 18 months into our married life. I soon found that even with one child it's quite a challenge fitting everything that needs to be done into one day. Add baby number 2 and instead of everything being twice as hard, somehow it's 20 times as hard! In many ways, actually, babies no 4 and 5 resulted in the least amount of changes in our house as by the time they were born the older boys were older and able to help more.

I didn't share my family organiser in order to say, 'look at how organised I am' but rather as a means to help others. I would absolutely hate for anyone to think that I think of myself as someone who has everything all together. 

Far from it.

And I would equally as much hate for anyone to feel in any way inferior by anything I post.

My aim with yesterday's post was to encourage and to pass on some tips that I have learned over the years. It's been a large amount of trial and error with what works best for our family, and what works best for you may not be the same as for us. 

By writing out our weekly schedule I am able to make sure that we never miss any of the boys' regular hospital appointments, I can keep track of what is on at which school, I can see when I need to be at toddlers early, I know well in advance what needs to be done for dinner in case I have a super clingy toddler who needs me more than usual and I can follow when my husband is working locally and when he needs to be in another city with work (which places the morning school run as my responsibility).

What it doesn't guarantee is that there won't be dirty socks on my teenager's bedroom floor, there won't be dishes left in the sink overnight, the ironing basket won't be overflowing and that my kitchen floor will be cleaned as regularly as it probably should.

I don't share the mundane mess in our daily lives as I don't think people really want to see my teenagers dirty socks. 

What I do share is what I hope can encourage others, and the happier more fun parts of being a family. Not because I think that we are the perfect family and that I want to boast about us, but rather because when I am older and the nest is empty it's these moments that I want to sit back and remember.

I hope you do too.

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Getting Organised

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

When you have a large family people automatically put you into one of two camps - either super highly organised, or at the other extreme, completely disorganised and overwhelmed with things to do.

I like to think of myself as somewhere between the two.

I wouldn't describe myself as highly organised, but on the other hand I know that I couldn't cope with the chaos of being disorganised. My personality type would struggle with that a lot!

I've used some sort of family organiser for a number of years now, but to be honest, the ones I have had in the past have tended to have too much in them and so they haven't been as useful as they could be.

I recently gave my family organiser an overhaul and stripped it down to just the essentials, without all the extras that I just didn't look at, and since it was all free I thought I'd share the resources with you all.

The main pages in the binder are free printables which you can find here.

In the first section I have our weekly calendar. Other calendars I have used in the past have had a column for each person to keep track of their comings and goings, but after using them for a while I have found that it just results in a lot of wasted space as rarely do several people have lots of different things on at the same time. I also find it harder to see at a glance what is happening each day using that sort of calendar, so I have gone back to using one space per day for all of us.

What I really like about this printable is that there is a to-do list beside each day. Again, at a glance I can see what is on my to-do list while it sits beside the diary for the day, rather than have it completely separate.

Next up is our meal plan. I'm a big advocate of menu planning, It keeps things organised, stops you spending more by having to pop to the shops at 4pm when you realise that you don't know what to make for dinner and then buying some extras too! Or having a meal in mind and then realising when you go to make it that you don't have everything you need in for it. The big weekly shop is more planned out and so you are less likely to spend extra on things you don't need. You get the idea.

I write out our menu on a Monday for the week ahead, although sometimes I write it for two weeks. It's good to have it written down as a reference so that you don't find yourself eating the same thing week in week out - although you can spy sausage casserole on our Menu below two weeks in a row, the result of a special offer on sausages!

If you are new to menu planning, you might find it useful to make a list of your family's 21 meals and keep it in the section with your menus. Apparently we all have around 21 meals that we make regularly and it's good to have them all written down to refer to when your mind goes blank while writing out a menu!

I also like to go through my cookbooks and food magazines from time to time, and make a list of new things I would like to make from them. Not all books at the same time, just the occasional book now and then to freshen things up. I keep a copy of this in my meal planning section too.

Next up is my blogging section. No more post ideas floating around in my head, only for them to disappear when I sit down to type them out!

The next section is one that I find essential for our house - a medication list. I can use this to keep track of all the regular creams and medications for the four boys that need them. I can see when they last needed to re-order them and keep track of the expiry dates for things like Epi-pens, both those that we have in the house and those that are kept at school. With three lots of epi-pens for three boys kept in the house, and another two sets each for them to be kept at school, it's great to have that sort of info all in one place!

I found this printable here.

My final section is a new one that I am quite excited about - a craft project planner. I can use this to keep track of any projects I want to work on, what supplies are needed, where to find the patterns etc. 

The project planner printable is from Craftsy and can be found here.

I'll probably end up adding another section or two to my planner, but for now it's perfect.

And now that it's just how I want it it's time to face the next item waiting to be organised nicely...

That heap of papers above is my recipe file where I keep hand written recipes, those torn out of magazines, or printed out from the internet. It's needing a bit of a sort out and I've got the perfect set of printables to get those recipes nice and organised..

If you too have a bundle of recipes in need of a little TLC then the free printable is available here.
And one final organising help that I've just printed out is, well perhaps I should whisper it as it's still September, but I'm putting together a new Christmas Organiser. In order to spread the cost and busyness of the festive season I like to start planning things round about now!
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Birthday Weekend Round-up

Monday, 14 September 2015

On Friday morning I was awoken by some eager boys, excited to give me the birthday presents they had chosen for me a couple of nights earlier when dad had taken them all shopping.

I must say they did a great job of choosing and I received some really lovely gifts, as well as an assortment of hand drawn cards.

One of the presents was the new Bake-Off book.

Later on in the day, just before dinner, there was a delivery of some beautiful flowers and a couple of gifts from my mum and dad.

While I sat flicking through my new book, and the older boys were busy making dinner with dad, the younger boys had a great time playing with the big box my flowers came in!

The birthday table was set by David (9), and my setting was complete with some jewels, party poppers and mini bubbles.

Dinner - made by James (15) and dad - was a very delicious spaghetti bolognese.

Birthday cake, which was gluten & dairy free, was made by Calum (12) and the candles were added by James.

After a relaxed evening on Friday we were out of the door early-ish on Saturday morning for shinty training, which this week also included an end of season bbq and prize-giving. The official shinty season finishes around about the end of September, but the kids' training will continue throughout the winter. Unless the weather is particularly atrocious, that is. A normal amount of wind and rain won't stop them, which is just as well as the weather was decidedly autumnal on Saturday for the bbq!

We had a good spot under a big tree for the bbq, so at least we stayed reasonably dry.

Once the food was eaten and the prizes were given out, there was an exciting match between the adults and children. It was a closely fought battle, with a final score of 5-4 to the adults. 

It was a little chilly for those of us watching, although constantly running after Fraser (1) who kept dashing onto the pitch and trying to join in the game, did keep me warmed up!

Now to finish off the birthday weekend round-up, we had the draw for the yarn wrapped wreath giveaway. Thanks to everyone who entered, and who left birthday messages. Calum and Fraser were given the task of drawing the winner...

Congratulations Danica!

My birthday starts off a run of birthdays in our house. In a few weeks it will be Calum's, followed a few weeks later by Fraser's, which is followed a few weeks later by David's. Then exactly six weeks after his birthday it's Christmas! 

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