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Category Archives: Whoops didn’t tag these puppies

Alternative Advent Calendar – Recycled Christmas Link -Up

My sister’s chocolate advent calendar wasn’t long on our mantelpiece before I worked out you could undo the bottom flap and slip the whole tray out. She’d open the odd window and be like “THEY FORGOT TO PUT DAY 16’s MORSEL IN!!!”

It was a few year’s before my beautiful Nana caught on to the fact that her grandchildren would rather have meaningless, Christmassy Bartman themed but delicious edible advent calendars, rather than little windows depicting the arrival of Baby Jesus.  I suspect  in her wisdom she knew exactly what kind of festive angst it could cause between greedy siblings!

For a 14 year old, I was pretty self controlled, and only ate a few of my sisters, but my whole tray was gone by Day 6. “WELL! CHECK MINE OUT! THEY HAVE FORGOTTEN EVERY SINGLE DAY! OUTRAGEOUS!!!”

I am not opposed to traditional or chocolatey advent calendars one bit but as part of my drive to instill some precious rituals in our family’s life, I have opted to make our advent a bit of a bigger deal. There are some gorgeous, crafty ideas out there, and I gathered a few, mixed it up with the thing I always do involving scrabble letters, and came up with this:


Instead of numbers, I have 25 pockets, with Joy, Love, Hope, Peace (for me these sum up the Christmas message) and Christmas spelled out on them. The pockets are held onto string with decorated pegs, and are meant to be in a bit of a Christmas Tree-ish shape. I found the pegs in a charity shop, the scrabble letters at a jumble sale, and the fabric is part of a vintage bundle that I have held onto for a while, waiting for the perfect moment to use it.

There were some lovely suggestions on the Lulastic Facebook Page, of how other people do advent, and I am totally pinching the ideas, like leaving little notes in the pockets for family members.

This week I am going to fill the pockets with things that will hopefully delight each of us – some sweets, a poem, a prayer, a task like “Make Ginger bread house” or “dance to The Boy Least Likely To‘s Christmas album”  – a brand new album I am loving by the way, like a festive, twee Pulp.

Christmas sometimes weighs on me. That we have this season, rooted in a story about a life of love, but yet it splays out in excessive consumption. It leaves the earth groaning with waste and debt.

This year, rather than getting ranty about it, I would rather celebrate how people are doing Christmas in an exemplary fashion! So here is a link up, a blog hop, for Recycled Christmas. A little spot where people can promote their blog posts on crafts they are making, gifts they have bought, decorations they are pulling out, all with a recycled theme. It will stay open until Christmas so keep adding anything you have! And then we can use it as inspiration for ever. Until the internet ends, anyway.
Link Up your posts here – click box below to see them. Please remember to visit other people’s blogs and leave a comment!


PS- As if this post isn’t jampacked enough, I have just ONE more tiny, little thing to mention. Another way to have an angelic Christmas. For five years now I have run an ethical Christmas Fayre in London – this year we have two! Over the coming weekends, the 1st December, on Oxford Street, and then the 8th & 9th December, at the Horniman Museum. There you will be able to buy fairtrade, eco, vintage, handmade and upcycled gifts for every single person on your list, all under one roof. I would LOVE to see you there! More info here. Please help me spread the word!

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Birth Story of Ramona Lily

Two year ago this very day my darling, precious daughter was born. And now here is the story of her birth , for what other thing could I post today?!

I share it because I love to read birth stories. When I was pregnant, I would read story after story on HomebirthUk every lunchbreak, weeping hot, happy tears on my desk.

And I share it because it is a chance for me to reflect on it, and imagine what this coming baby’s entry to the world will be like.

So here it is. Be warned though, it is more mucous plug than modge podge recipe. So walk away now if you are in search of thrifty craft, walk away.

12th November 2010

It was my due date, hurrah! What better way to spend it then on a two hour bus journey  through south London to eat lunch at Ikea with my nephews (my sister had to pick up a Swedish trinket) and then with my best friends and their kids for a big party for a small two year old. At the party my mucus plug began falling out and I was able to share this gross but fabulous detail with my lovely chums.

On the way home I approached the train station just before mine, and one part of my brain said “Get off the train early and march home, EVERYONE says you need to get moving to get Wrigglewriggle (our nephew name the womb-baby) wriggling on down.” My heart, a deep down instinct, though, said “STOP! Stay on the train, and then catch the bus straight to your door, you need to relax.” It was a 3 second dilemma and I opted for what seemed most rational and hot stepped it 3 miles home.

In hindsight, I will always question if choosing logic over intuition in that moment led to me having the labour and birth that didn’t match up to my home waterbirth ideal.

That evening I was so excited that even 3 hours of googling “mucous plug fall out” and “signs of labour” and the information that mucous plugs could loosen weeks before birth, could not quell my surety that babe was on the way.

Early the next morning, at 6am, I went to the loo and felt very wet in my pyjamas, I knew this was my waters breaking but tried to tell myself that I just wet my pants a little bit (as you do). I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I woke up at 8, read the Guardian and had a cuppa then got up to, well, go to the loo again. As I stood up an almighty gush of water poured out and just kept pouring, I felt like Mary Poppin’s hanbag – how could this much water possibly fit inside of me???!!! I delved into Wrigglewriggle’s awaiting pile of washable nappies and stuffed the liners into my undies and awaited our midwife and friend, Nikki.

Nikki had a coffee with us, heard that my waters were clear and not pink (or another colour which would be bad) and left us to it.  She talked us through the NHS guidelines on waters breaking- you should go in to the hospital after 12 hours. However the “doubled risk” of infection only goes from 0.5% to 1% so we wanted to stay at home as long as possible. She was fully supportive. We were told to call when contractions begin.

The day passed by, cake with friends and a takeaway curry in the evening, delivered by a man who was the spitting image of Lionel Ritchie.  It was that evening that my twinges turned into surges (hypnospeak for contractions) we had turned our lounge into a love cave with saris hung all over it, candles and my American hypnobirthing lady on the ipod. “Totally loooose and totalllly limp”. I will never again be able to hear the words totally, loose or limp again without her voice bursting in to my mind! I rocked on the birth ball, did some yoga moves, and thought about welcoming a baby in to the world – we reckoned on being parents by dawn.

My surges grew in their intensity but didn’t get closer together for some time.  I was torn between doing a lot of physical activity to keep them coming and resting in order to conserve my energy for the real deal. It was probably the hardest part of labour- not knowing which to do. When I put the effort in the surges got faster and stronger, so much so that we even blew up the pool. However at 5am I went for a sleep at which point they slowed down from three every ten minutes to one every ten minutes.  They then didn’t pick up again for some time.

At 10:00am on Sunday Nikki popped over again and had a feel.  My waters were pink now, meaning my cervix was on the move a little but we were gutted to hear that I was only 1cm dilated. I was not even going to have vaginal examinations but curiosity just got the better of me. I thought the baby would be out in my arms by now, not still snuggled happily up there! Nikki was calm though and told us to keep doing what we were doing.

All of  Sunday  I had the Black Eyed Peas song going through my mind “tonight’s gonna be a good night!” We were once again certain that we’d be parents by dawn. We walked, slept, rocked, ate ice cream, wrote a letter to Wrigglewriggle inviting her out, and one to each other- to make sure there was no hidden anxiety keeping me all closed up. Those were special, if frustrating moments. We had chance to reflect on life and each other, but we were impatient to meet our new family member!

At about 1am on Monday morning I went to bed to try and rest. I was missing a whole night of sleep. But I couldn’t sleep- the surges were strong enough for me to have to leap out of bed and spiral my hips (!) – a brilliant move that we nicknamed the Circle of Life.  At about 3am I got out of bed on all fours, these surges were serious now. About an hour later I woke Tim up- I needed some light touch massage, thank you darling.  I was really using my hypno breathing techniques now, I had to preempt each surge, prepare for it. They got closer and closer,  every two minutes, eeep!  We called Nikki at about 6am.

Nikki arrived and had an exploration- 4cms dilated: woopie!  Nikki reckoned babe’d be here by lunchtime. Tim filled the pool. I got shouty. I was so in the zone. Making growly OOHs really helped my focus and breathing. The love cave we had set up downstairs was neglected, it was here in the bedroom, leaning on the end of the bed, that I wanted to be. I was finished with the American too, her and her rainbow relaxation. I was working with something innate now.

At 10 am I jumped in the pool, so delicious. Sadly it was so relaxing that my surges really settled down, from one a minute to one every 2-3. I got out and Nikki had a check. I was only 5 cm dilated and what was more she could feel Wriggles head and it was at a funny angle. Nikki wondered if my babe was a bit back to back, and my surges not strong enough to push head through my cervix. The word “Hospital” came up for the first time. We thought we’d give it a couple more hours.

However the next three monitors of the babes heart rate showed it was rising. With me being three days past my broken waters, Nikki felt this was a worrying sign of infection. Nikki called the ambulance, I put on a ridiculous purple beret – it was a freezing, snowy day and it was all Tim could find. We flung together a hospital bag (so certain of my homebirth were we that we flouted the advice to prepare one just in case) and we left. Tim was feeling sad at this stage, I was just still so focused on the job.

It was 1pm when we arrived. They immediately hooked me up to a monitor for the surges and the baby’s heart rate. They felt that I should get some antibiotics and also some fake oxytocin to give my surges that extra boost.  It was 4pm when this started coming through the drip.  Because my surges had been so strong before there wasn’t a clear change, I was still able to totally get on top of them still and breath through each one.  I was really drawing on visualisation at this stage, with every breath in I imagined my cervix opening up like a flower and with every breath out I imagined Wrigglewriggle moving down and turning into the right position.  I was very purpose filled so the pain wasn’t overwhelming at all but at one stage I did have to ask for paracetamol.

In between contractions I tried to take control of the environment a bit more, the hospital responded with strange looks perhaps at requests of lights being dimmed and staff coming in small numbers and with low voices.  It was as if it was preposterous that I might try an establish a cosy, intimate environment at a hospital. I had to really assert myself at times, but I was like a bold, purposeful lioness at this stage and felt confident making sure my voice was heard.

I refused to wear their hospital gown, but the midwife responded with “Well, you may need a C section so we need you in the gown”. Manipulated, I gave in. But then my next emboldening surge came and with it I cast off the gown and did the whole thing Butt Naked. HA!

Someone came into discuss epidurals. I tried to be clear that I would like to avoid one, that I’d use the gas and air if I needed pain relief. As she left the room she rolled her eyes at my midwife and said “If it gets too much she is going for the big guns.”

I was leaning on the side of the bed on my knees.  At 6pm they checked me and Hurrah! The baby had changed into the right position and I was 7cm dilated.

By now the growly oooh’s I was making before had turned into full blown primal roars.  They came from the depths and really helped me feel in touch with my body.  I didn’t feel any urge to scream or swear out of pain, these vocals were something else altogether, as natural as a cat purring!

At about 7pm my body flipped a switch, the ejection button, and my contractions were suddenly pushing this baby out.  It was incredible. Shortly after this an obstetrician came in and told me that they would check me again at 10pm, and I exclaimed “Not on your nelly, this baby is going to be out well before then.”

This was where it got hard- my body was totally pushing this baby but the midwife wanted me to restrain myself as she could see that I hadn’t fully “blossomed”.  My hypnobreathing came in so useful here as I just really kept in control of it and tried to imagine blossoming.  This stage is really compressed in my mind, it just feels like moments.  Before I knew it my midwife just said “Let go to the feeling now”.  It was brilliant just being able to let my body do its thing.

Within moments Tim was looking at the top of Wrigglewriggle’s head, a hairy little thing, and with 5 or 6 long pushes Ramona Lily unfurled out of me and gave a yell to rival her mothers.  I grabbed her through my legs and at the sound of my voice she stopped crying and nuzzled in for a bit of nipple.

Welcome, Ramona Lily!

She nestled into my arms, born to be right there.

Gosh. Birth eh? What an experience. There was some pain, and I was surprised by it so convinced was I by all the orgasmic births I had been reading about. But dished out in equal measure was purpose and exhilaration. It isn’t my perfect birth story-  I was gutted not to have a home waterbirth, gutted to have oxytocin and antibiotics, but throughout the time I was completely confident of my body’s ability to do this.  Of me being designed perfectly to give birth to Ramona.  It was a long and tiring three days, but I would do it 10 times over to have this beautiful little girl in our life.

At the end, as I held Ramona, my midwife called me a superwoman.  In 7 years of midwifery at Kings College Hospital I was the only woman she had seen have synthetic oxytocin without an epidural, let alone no gas or air or other pain relief. I don’t think that speaks of me being tough and brave, but more of us being quite out of touch, as a society, of how birth should be. Women are designed to have babies but we have got into a crippling cycle of fear, that is perpetuated constantly.

I can not WAIT to go through it all again for this little treasure inside me now. Despite Ramona’s pleas for it to “wake up! Come soon baby!”, I have 5 months to spend listening to the American and her limpy, loose Rainbows….

Happy 2nd BirthDay Ramona!


PS Read all about The Mule’s Positive Birth Movement…

Second hand glad rags

Do you remember all those many, many months ago, voting for me in the MAD blog awards? And me getting through in the categories of Thrift and Craft? I know. I can barely believe it, even now. How awesome are you all, for doing that?

So awesome.

The awards ceremony is this Friday night, a swanky do at a posh hotel. So fancy is it all that brands have dolled up nominees and are sending them to the awards in gorgeous frocks. I haven’t bought a single new item of clothing in 7 years (I don’t mean to sound smug, I just love the pre-loved life), so tempted as I was, it didn’t feel right to take up the offer of being given new stuff to wear. Even if freeeee.

When the opportunity came up (er, I asked them) to get styled up by the Oxfam Fashion team, I JUMPED at it. Oxfam is my absolute favourite charity shop by a million miles. I have the BEST shop just next to my work and I would say a good 75% of my wardrobe is Oxfam-sourced.  Today was a massive treat, visiting their Notting Hill boutique store and having their beautiful stylist chose some stunning items for me. I was not too fussy myself – I loved just about every single thing on the shelves. It would be really hard to search for a a party gown in there and walk away empty handed.

I came away with 3 options for the awards ceremony.

Colonel Mustard

Check. Out. These. Troooosers. They are the softiest, silky, smart trousers I have ever worn. And they match perfectly my previously Oxfam- bought mustard heels. They are paired up with a versatile black lace top. I love this look but my only hesitation is that it is slightly on the casual side and I kind of like glamming it up a little bit when the twice yearly chance arises. But still. Delish and a total possibility, no?

Princess Royal

Funnily enough this was a dark horse number, completely overlooked until I noticed that it’s shape could be a winner. Once I had it on I fell in love with it. It is short enough to be a bit fun, whilst also being super classic. When I looked in the mirror I honestly, and bizarely, thought “HELLOOO! Princess Kaaaate”  –  sure enough it is by one of Kate Middleton’s go-to designers, Rebecca Taylor.  So now, despite it being sooo comfortable and nice, now I think it is a bit, kind, of, er, comfortable and, er, nice. In a “my-mum-in-law-is-the-Queen kind of way. (But maybe some crazy bling might sort that out?)

The Loveboat

How blinking outrageous is this dress? Seriously? I look like a saucy singer from an 80’s cruise ship.

I love it.

I love the green, the shape, the complete flamboyoncy of it. My slight worry is that everyone will be frightened to speak to me because it is just so startingly BOLD. Also. I would be very, very worried about my boobies flouncing out all night.

So. For real. What should I wear???!!! What are YOU wearing? And would you ever go for secondhand glamour?

PS Don’t look at how my drawers are open and have all my garments just thrust inside in a jumble, okay? My drawers, drawers. In the picture.

DIY placemats with HomeMade Chalkboard Paint

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One of my favourite blogging chums is Lakota over on Faith, Hope and Charity Shopping. I love her hilarious, thrifty, crafty and chazza shop loving ways. Almost in the same week we posted about chalk board paint – me with my revolutionary home made coloured chalkboard paint recipe, and Lakota with a thrifty take on a snazzy placemat. Together we thought they would make a COMPLETE MAXIMUS GENIUS BLOGGING COLLABORATION! 

So here is her post about that: 
A little while ago the Not on the High Street catalogue dropped through my letterbox, and whilst it is a lovely treasure trove of independent makers of stuff – erm, that isn’t on the high street, what it isn’t is cheap. Look at these chalkboard placemats – great fun, but a set of six is £64.99! Yes, you read that correctly. If you want matching coasters, the total would be £91. Blimey. Clearly ‘Claire’ moves in more exalted circles than I.

This is not just any strawberry cheesecake…
photo credit: Not on the High Street.com

Anyway, last week I found these at the bottom of the kitchen drawer – I used to use them all the time but as you can see they’ve got a bit battered and scratched over the years so they were relegated for visiting toddler use and then forgotten about. However, if you don’t have any mats ripe for a makeover you quite often see hideous ones at your Granny’s house charity shops or car boot sales, you know, nasty ones with scenes of fox-hunting or twee thatched cottages.

I used a tester pot of Annie Sloan chalk paint in ‘graphite’ and gave each mat a few coats. It dries very quickly so didn’t take very long at all. A quick scribble with my pastel pencils – I know, posh – and I had my own version ready to wow my guests. (Ed. Only meeee!  Forget Annie Sloan and make your own with a dash of acrylic and some tile grout WOOPIEE.)

 

Of course, if you’re not a gastronomic wizard like myself, you can just use them for playing hangman between courses, writing instructions for your butler, shopping lists, or perhaps improving slogans for the benefit of your offspring.

What would you doodle?

How wicked is that? We are cut from the same cloth, Lakota and I. Looking at expensive things and going home and doing a version on the cheap! Imagine making these in different colours with the homemade recipe? Next Level.  Every Tuesday Lakota hosts Ta-Dah Tuesday where bloggers can show off thrifty finds, craft magic, anything really. Do get involved 😀

Happy

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In Ramona’s mind the song Happy Birthday and the Upsy Daisy tune from In the Night Garden occupy the same place. She will yell “AAAAAAppyyyy” and if you respond with either of those two things she will be STOKED. That is a tip for you, for winning her heart.

Do you know what makes me happy?

Seeing Ramona learn to jump. She has been working on this for a month or so, and still hasn’t quite nailed the two-feet-off-the-ground-at-the-same-time angle. I love to watch her do this, she throws EVERY molecule of energy into this movement, crouches low, thrusts her body up, arms in the air. To all effect and purpose she is failing at jumping, but actually she is having a brilliant time and I am laughing my socks off with joy – success is so overrated. It is a lesson for life.

Making makes me happy. I am sure we are all made to make. Not in a capitalist, industrious way but in a weaving beauty kind of a way. Creating stuff gives us purpose and life and connects our souls to mystery and meaning. Sometimes I feel a bit in a fug, emotionally dry and also sometimes slightly drained by the spectatorship of the internet – whipping something up, even just a 5 minute number, injects me with energy again. Like steroids, pretty much. I love beautiful fabric in my hands, the pounding crank of my old sewing machine, cutting out pictures and words, giving old stuff a new lease, seeing something come together.

People, people make me happy. (Apart from the ones that really annoy me BAHAHA. Like the ones that let their dog take a dump in the park and don’t clean it up and then your toddler thinks about eating it. Or even just colleagues who don’t do a “courtesy flush” – you know the flush you do a millisecond after your poo so that the smell doesn’t fill the communal loo? You don’t do that? You need to sort that right out.) So. Nice people. Yesterday our neighbours bought us round a pizza. Who does that? Our neighbours do. They are three ancient sisters from Tobago who have all lived together there for fifty years and they always drop in with random items- strawberries, half a bag of donuts, a beanie for Ramona. Is that the most happy-making thing in the world or what? I honestly just think people are brilliant and I hope my heart (often cynical by default) never hardens to them. Having neighbours like this helps with that.

Read the rest of this post over at the scrumpcious Shiney Pigeon where I am guest blogging today!

What makes you happy, my friends? Would love to hear the things that warm your heart.

PS – Thanks again to Jenny Hardy for these beaut shots.

When life lives you rather than you living life

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Life this week has been in HD. Everything has felt extreme. I don’t know if this is because I am in a state of malnourished-guru-in-the-desert-style hallucination (it’s this Live Below the Line business– ha, you probably don’t even know I’m doing it! I’ve hardly mentioned it at all!) or if it is classic “it doesn’t rain, it pours” life.

I feel like life is a ship, forging it’s way through great crashing waves of joy, incompetence,  sorrow, bafflement and I am just clinging to a mangy little bit of canvas sail, wondering where the steering wheel thingy is.

(Partly because I want to know who’s captaining this puppy but also because, flipping heck, wouldn’t one of those vintage, rusting, wooden ship wheel thingys look BRILLIANT on the wall of the lounge????)

Here is what is happening:

We had the supremely STUNNING new vintage lifestyle mag Pretty Nostalgic come to our weird little recycled home for a photoshoot and interview. Jo and Jenny came, such lovely characters, and we just chatted and hung out and laughed and they left the first issue and it inspired my soul.

Due to that we have been putting in body achingly long hours tidying and DIYing those leftover jobs. Evenings spent dusting (first time since we moved in I think?), spare moments spent sanding and sewing and screwing (screws into walls, yeah? Filthy, you are. ) We are SO HAPPY having this tidy, clean, house just the way we like it! HURRAH!

Ramona is a sick little sausage, an ear infection and a hacking old flem cough. She nurses all night, and all day at the moment. But she is still a comedic, gorgous, little madam, just one that keeps me up all night snuggling in for more “BAPS!”

My 9-5 work is off the scale busy and at this moment I feel a little breathless with exactly how many balls I am juggling with that. I feel a bit exasperated that I can’t do justice to everything required of me. But I love the work, I love my colleagues, I just wish it didn’t eat into my brain as I try to sleep.

I got through to the finals of the MAD blog awards in TWO categories, Craft and Thrift- thank you SO, SO, SO much for voting for me. I am gobsmackedly chuffed but also, well, a little embarrassed to see Lulastic up against so many incredible, behemothic blogs. Even though I know, I just know, I would be a bit upset not to have gotten through. When you love to blog and pour your heart in, I guess that kind of comes with some high hopes for it.  How weird is that: how weird am I.

As I type my Nana, Betty Tribble, is living her last few days, losing consciousness. She has been slowly wilting over years, this most wonderful, WONDERFUL specimen of womankind. Love bursting, laughter sparkling, snack pushing Nana – “Stick these biscuits in your pocket as you go love, you’re WASTING AWAY I tell you!”- full of wit and all the patience and grace in the world.

*heaving sob*

*pulls self together*

And then this back drop of Below the Line fuelled stomach- angst. We are getting through okay. We are not starving. We are just missing food. We have realised just how much we use food to celebrate and to commiserate. When anything even slightly brilliant happens we say “COR, that’s gotta be worth some cake, eh?!” or if we are tired and feeling sorry for ourselves we bury our faces into a splendid Thai takeaway. This week food has just been about filling a gaping hole in our tummies and nothing more. How we miss it.

Hopefully next week will be back to normal and I can spend my days crafting away and wandering whimsically amongst charity shop shelves packed high with jumble.

See you on the other side…

The Sickness and Sympathy Pains

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Beware all who travel these parts, behold the red cross upon our door. Do not enter here. We have The Sickness. The red spotty, itchy very contagious one currently doing the rounds and otherwise known as Poxy Chickens. Well, officially only one of us has it and unfortunately it’s little Ramona, with one limb in a plaster cast. Ramona is coping brilliantly, a constant sunbeam. (Well, apart from yesterday morning when I took Dr Google’s advice and decided an oatmeal bath was in order. But instead of a bath (due to non waterproof cast) more an oatmeal wipe down. Which basically involved Tim and I covering the little darling head to toe in porridge. Ramona was not a fan.)

While Ramona is being stoic, Tim and I are not. We have a Sympathy Sickness. I have come out in itchy spots, dizziness, pins and needles, aches and shakes, fever and Tim has come down with a severe form of that unmentionable condition effecting ones bowels.

Ever since Ramona was born I have seen her as a little part of me, it has always come as a shock when she flashes such independence as she does, but this, THIS, is ridiculous. As if my body refuses to believe we are different entitities or if out of some deep sense of responsibility my body wants to share her pain. IT’S OKAY BODY, SERIOUSLY, IT’S BETTER FOR ALL INVOLVED IF WE KEEP IT TOGETHER.

So, here we are, all three of us, moping around the house, opening the fridge, shutting the fridge empty handed, trying to nap, going to the loo, moping, watching Sesame Street.

If only we were as tough as Ramona.

Not impressed, mum. NOT IMPRESSED.

PS: Britmums have some blogging awards happening at the mo and if you enjoy reading this mix of parenting/ crafting/ thrifting, or if I have inspired you to get thriftier or greener, I would LOVE you to nominate Lulastic and the Hippyshake! It closes in TWO DAYS though (EEK) but it is quite easy to nominate, and you can chose from a few categories. *awkward smile*