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Halloween – Painting And Pumpkins

20 Nov

Ok, I know Halloween was nearly three weeks ago but that’s how long it’s taken to get this post written. Things have been difficult with my son not being himself and I’ve been too tired to write at night like I usually do. One day, maybe I’ll be able to write about why things are so difficult but, for now, pretending it’s all not happening seems to be working just fine.

I’ve already deleted several draft posts as I thought that they were ‘too late’ to post and now I feel sad, like those times have been lost somehow. Well, not any more. I still want a record of what my son and I have been up to together and if that means writing about things weeks after they happen then so be it.

*                    *                    *

I love Halloween. I love dressing up and playing tricks on each other and making spooky food and watching scary movies and carving pumpkins and, oh, you know, everything really. Plans started at the beginning of October and I had some brilliant ideas. As some of the decorations would need time to dry in between different parts, we started making them a week early and my nephew joined in too.

First we made some spiders. These are really easy to make with toddlers as they are just handprints with the palms overlapping. Don’t put paint on the thumb though, or your spiders will have too many legs. When they have dried, add some googly eyes and cut around the edge. We made quite a few of these and son insisted we have a mammy spider too!

Next, we made some spooky tree pictures. I think these would look great stuck onto card as an invitation to a Halloween party. We used some blue paper, cut it to the size we wanted and stuck on a moon cut from white paper. We mixed some black ready-mix paint with about the same amount of water and painted a tree trunk. We put a blob of the watery paint onto the top of the trunk and blew through a straw to spread the paint out for the branches, adding another blob of paint when needed. The boys needed a little help directing the straw, but had fun blowing the paint around. They were to be finished off with sequin bats for an extra spooky touch.

I don’t like to finish decorations completely too long before putting them up. If they have been finished and put away in a box for a week, they seem to lose a bit of their magic. I think it’s much more satisfying to finish it and stick it up straight away, with a definite ‘I made that’. So I left all of the finishing touches for Halloween morning; the googly eyes for the spiders, the bats for the pictures and, of course, the pumpkin carving.

I also made some gingerbread biscuits cut into ghosts and bats, and some fab chocolatey treats with rice krispies. They were a bit of a last minute idea and I had no idea if they would work but I think they turned out brilliantly. I’m so pleased with them that I’m going to make something similar for Christmas but with little trees or snowflakes perhaps.

Unfortunately, that was about it for our Halloween. The weekend before Halloween, son had a rough time; it took him almost a week to get over the worst of it and he’s still not right. It’s a shame because he’d really been looking forward to putting up decorations and getting dressed up, but all he wanted to do was lay on the sofa and watch a bit of tv. As you can see, he didn’t even want to finish off the decorations he’d taken such care making or try on his costume. He did help me choose a picture to carve onto our pumpkin, although it was a day late. He said he wanted ‘pumpkins on a pumpkin’ so this is what we ended up with:

If you’d like to see some more pumpkin creations, have a look at this linky over at The Boy And Me, there are some brilliant pumpkins linked up.

Hope you all had a fabulously spooky Halloween!

2011 – Turned Out Brilliant In The End

11 Jan

Here we are again, the start of another year. Around this time last year, I wrote this post about ‘my decision to make 2011 blooming brilliant’. I followed it up with a post about why I no longer make new year’s resolutions, and a list of goals to complete in the next 1001 days.

Looking back over the year, my head and my heart don’t seem to be able to agree on how the year turned out. My heart feels like I could simply copy and paste that first post here, just giving the years a +1. My heart feels like nothing has changed, I have failed, last year was not brilliant. My heart feels sad.

My head, however, can see things quite differently. I don’t mean the part of my head that worries, that tries to find solutions to the impossible or goes over what might have happened if I’d done things differently. I mean the logical part of my head, the part that can step back and look from another point of view. The part that tells me to forget all the crap for a minute and look at all the things that I did do. The places we visited, the things I achieved, the fun that we had.

I have completed eight goals off my Day Zero list and made progress on at least twenty eight others. I have learnt to swim. I have carved most of a rocking horse. I have gained a little confidence in my photography and got myself a nice digital SLR. I took my son on his first trip to the theatre and to his first festival. We ate home grown tomatoes in the sunshine. We went puddle jumping in the rain. We raised £130 for Tommy’s doing our swimming lesson in pyjamas. I met up with old friends.

If I looked through all my photo’s I could list a whole page of things we did that were fun, so why is it that the year feels as if it didn’t go well? If someone asks me, ‘How was your week?’, why is it that all the bad things spring to mind first? Why not the good things that we’ve done? So that’s what I’m going to concentrate on this year. Remembering the good and trying not to dwell on the bad.

Regular readers will recognise these pictures, but here’s a gallery of some of the things we did in 2011.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like…

18 Dec

Don’t say it. I don’t need reminding how much I have to do, how little time I have and how unprepared I am. Why is it that the more you want time to slow down, the faster it goes? Certain events over the last few weeks have left us a bit stunned and it’s proving difficult trying to get on as normal. Posts are half drafted, orders are half completed, plans are half carried out. I know I have to get on and do stuff but I feel as if I’m standing back, watching my life go on in front of me, but can’t actually do anything about it.

I had such wonderful plans for Christmas. I still have I suppose, they’re just not the plans I had planned, if you see what I mean. Rocking horse? Ain’t gonna happen. No point in even trying now. It’ll be ready when it’s ready and if that’s the middle of February, so be it. Doesn’t stop me kicking myself for not working just that little bit faster, harder, longer, when I had the chance.

I tried to get myself into the festive spirit by attending a wreath making workshop at Newham Grange Country Farm. I should probably apologise to them as I didn’t realise until after the event when I checked their Facebook page that you were supposed to book a place and so I just turned up. And I was late. Sorry about that.

The wreaths were made from willow, cut from the maze that my son loved running around in during the summer. My first attempt wasn’t too bad. There wasn’t much ivy and holly left by the time I got there, but it wouldn’t have lasted anyway after the wind we’ve had over the last few days. That’s why it looks so tatty – it was the wind, not my complete lack of wreath making skills. I’m going to take off what’s left of the ivy and add some new bits so (hopefully) it looks nice for Christmas.

We have made a start on our Christmas cards. Some of the ideas I had didn’t really turn out too well, so everyone will be getting reindeer cards. I say everyone, but I mean about five people really as that is all I managed to get my son to do before he got fed up and started causing mayhem. The rest of everyone will have to make do with last minute shop bought tat. If they’re lucky, he might even add an affectionate scribble.

My Gran’s flat was going to be decorated with all the wonderful things my son had made over the last few weeks. Those wonderful things turned out to be a couple of curly paper things and a loo roll snowman. We did also cut some stars and baubles out of card, glue shiny things to them, and add a loop of ribbon to hang on the tree. But I couldn’t find the gloopy glue so we had to make do with pritt stick. All the shiny things fell off so my Gran now has some card with suspicious looking sticky marks on it hanging off her tree, and a selection of shiny things scattered about the floor, table, sofa…

Then, there’s the advent calendar. I fell in love with the Maileg pixy (but we call him elf) advent calendars the first time I saw them. They have always been a bit out of my price range, but last year I found one in a sale and couldn’t resist. There was supposed to be a little treat each day along with a message from the elf giving my son something to do, such as making cards, baking gingerbread or a special day out. By midnight on November 30th, I had written out precisely no messages.

Luckily, my slackness has worked to my advantage. Each message can now be tailored to comment on the events of the previous day. This was working well until, after a few problems with son’s temper, I found myself talking to a fabric elf, instructing him not to bring any treats tomorrow. I didn’t realise what I’d done until later that night. Should I follow through and not leave a treat? Nothing at all? If I do put one out, surely that’s saying it’s ok to be naughty because you’ll get a treat anyway?

Inspiration woke me around 3am and I quickly wrote a note. Elf was very disappointed with his behaviour and when he reported back to Santa that night, Santa said no treats today. However, on the way home he bumped into Frosty the Snowman (who son had been dancing with the night before) and Frosty sent him some socks with a snowman on. I must be mad.

Hopefully, everything will fall into place. Decorations are going up slowly, a bit here, a bit there. I have a few things planned for this week, but I’m not going to tempt fate by mentioning what they are. As long as I’m not up until 4.30am wrapping presents on Christmas morning (again), then I shall fix a smile and be happy.

Half Term Fun – Tuesday

2 Nov

Several weeks ago, I saw an advert for Halloween crafts at Newham Grange Country Farm. We have been to other events there before and always had a great time so this was pencilled straight in the diary. After a very long and busy day on Monday, we almost didn’t make it out of the house. I’m so glad we did though as it was even better than expected.

We arrived a little late as someone decided to have a nap 10 minutes before we were due to leave the house so I was expecting it to be really busy, but when we arrived at the activity room there was nobody there. Just a man tying willow sticks together ready for the crafts. I thought we had the wrong time but it turned out that everyone else was out doing a Halloween trail. All around the farm were hidden skulls with letters printed on them. Once you had found all the letters, you had to rearrange them to spell a spooky word. Then you could start the crafts.

Little man did a great job of spotting the skulls, telling me what the letters were and checking that I wrote them down properly. Then we had a little break from hunting for letters to ride a pony. I hope this doesn’t mean he will be disappointed with his rocking horse after he has ridden a real one. We didn’t actually manage to find all the letters, I guess the wind must have blown them away. *cough* Luckily, I could still work out what the spooky word was so off we went to do the crafts.

We had a choice of things to make including masks, door hangers and pictures to colour. It was the mobiles that caught my son’s eye though, so we made one of those first. They were, quite simply, two sticks of willow tied together in a cross, with a piece of wool tied to the end of each stick. We drew and cut out Halloween shapes (bat, ghost, pumpkin, witches hat) from card, punched a hole in them, then tied them onto the end of the wool. Easy peasy but very effective. We still had some time left before the session finished so we made a pumpkin mask too. The man in charge of the crafts very kindly gave us the other crafty bits to take away and do at home.

We had a brilliant afternoon. The trail was unexpected but such a good idea. It meant we had to explore areas around the farm that we usually miss, like the duck pond, and we made sure that we said hello to every animal. Yes, son insisted, every animal. As well as the usual farm animals like goats, pigs, cows, sheep etc, there is a petting area with rabbits and guinea pigs, as well as some more unusual animals like alpacas and wallabies.

We have visited Newham Grange Country Farm quite a few times now and it is one of those places that my son and I never seem to tire of, so I’m now considering buying a season ticket to try to save us a few pennies throughout the year. We will definitely be visiting again in a few weeks as I have just heard that the Christmas Extravaganza will be held on Sunday 11th December. If you are thinking of going, keep an eye on their events page for more information and maybe I’ll see you there.

This is not a sponsored post, I chose to visit and paid my own entry fee.

This post is an entry into the Tots100 Best Western School Holiday competition.

Half Term Fun – Monday

31 Oct

I tried to make this week as much fun as possible for my son and I, as I knew the days that followed were going to be difficult to say the least. I was not wrong, but that’s a whole other story. I had a list of places I wanted to visit, mostly leftovers from what I didn’t do in the summer, which all remained on my to-do list as my plans went out the window.

On Monday, we did not have a picnic in the woods, we went on a trip to Flamingo Land with one of my friends and her little boy. Normally I would need to plan well in advance for a day out like this, but on Sunday I saw that Star Radio had an offer on for a family ticket for £30. Our kids are still young enough to get in for free, but as one adult ticket is usually £27, this was still an offer too good to miss.

The sun was shining and we didn’t have to queue anywhere for more than ten minutes – practically a miracle. We saw a great selection of animals; we were face to face with tigers (literally – just a sheet of glass between us), other favourites were rhino’s (son’s new favourite animal) and the sea lions.

I had wondered if there would be enough to keep a couple of 2 1/2 year old boys amused as they wouldn’t be able to go on any of the big rides, but I needn’t have worried as there was plenty for them to do. In fact, we are going to have to go back again as there was still more to see.

We travelled around the park by train and monorail, we had a go on the balloons, tractors and helicopters. We went on the galloping horses and the boys got their first taste of a (children’s) rollercoaster. I guess they are both going to grow up loving the big rides as we had to drag them off to screams of “Nooooo! Again! Again!”

We all had a much needed dose of fun and spent most of the day laughing. It was one of the best days out I’ve had in a long time and I can’t wait to go back. Sadly, the park is now closed for the winter so I will have to wait until it reopens in April.

Goodbye Summer

10 Sep

So it appears that Summer has come to a rather abrupt end, even though there only seemed to be about three days of it anyway. I thought the weather was supposed to be brilliant the first week of September, that’s how I remember it from when I was a kid. Rubbish at the end of the holiday then glorious sunshine while I was stuck in a classroom, daydreaming into a clear blue sky and wishing the holidays lasted just one more week.

I had loads of plans for this summer but, as best-laid plans often do, they went a bit awry. Illness and the weather were probably the main reasons (or excuses) as to why I didn’t do all the things I had planned. Add to that the fact that whoever keeps the world ticking over appears to have over-wound it and time is now going far too fast, what chance did I have fitting it all in?

As I look back over my list, I feel like I’ve failed. Places I didn’t visit, events I didn’t attend; I have a summer of things crossed out and I don’t like it. This year was supposed to be blooming brilliant but I’m letting other people get the better of me again and it’s dragging me down. I dwell on the bad things until they cast such big shadows that I can’t see the good things anymore.

Yes, there were lots of things we didn’t get around to doing but, thinking about it, we still had some fantastic days out and made the most of the good days. It’s just difficult trying to remember that when I spend so much time worrying about everything else.

But we did have a good summer, and I have the photo’s to prove it 🙂

Waking Words

26 Jul

You know when you first wake up and things can be a little fuzzy? Perhaps you’re still half in dreamland and reality hasn’t quite kicked in yet. Perhaps you’re aged 2 and this kind of thing is just normal for you…

Son: I’m full.

Me: Full of what?

Son: Butter.

Me: Butter? Are you sure?

Son: Yes, and blueberries.

Me: Blueberries too?

Son: Yes, and cheese.

Me: Ok…

Son: And Sticks.

Me: …………

Son: (opens his eyes) Hello mammy!

A Visit From A Friend

19 Jul

I don’t even know where to begin talking about the last few weeks. My little world has been turned on its head so many times, I’m not quite sure which way is up anymore. I decided to take a short break from the blog as the posts I had in draft were getting a bit shouty and I thought a little time off would clear my head. I had an old friend coming to stay for a week so I deleted the shouty drafts and closed the laptop, thinking I would come back with fresh ideas and lots to tell about my week’s holiday. Well, that’s sort of what happened.

I did have a lovely week. It was great to see my friend after nearly eighteen months and we had some fun days out. My son had a great time too. So much so that when my friend left, my son declared that he loved him. My son has never said the L-word unprompted, not even to me. I was so surprised that I had to double check. “Yes, love him” was my son’s teary response as he patted his chest. Wow. I’m actually speechless.

My son (I really need a nickname for him) really enjoyed our days out, but in a different way to when we go out with my parents or other mums. He looked more than just happy, he looked pleased. He still talks about my friend’s visit, which was two months ago. When we go out in my car, he points to the passenger seat and reminds me that’s where my friend sat. He asks me to call him on the phone and uses his toy phone to have pretend conversations with him.

I have always believed that being a single parent would not have any kind of negative effect on my son. I can even think of several reasons why being a single parent is better. He is not without male role models as my dad and brother are close by. That week with my friend, however, has made me reconsider my entire belief and I don’t like what I’m thinking. Does my little boy really need a dad? Not a grandad or an uncle, but someone he can call daddy, someone to be there for him whenever he’s needed, someone to be part of our little family.

His own father visits, but that is about it and I am not about to go looking for a bloke just so my son has a dad. But how much is he missing out on? Would he be happier with another parent? What about when he goes to school and realises that most of the other kids have a dad? Am I reading too much into the whole thing? Is it the ‘family’ situation that he misses or did he just take an instant liking to my friend and only misses him? If there are any single parents reading this, I would love to hear from you about your own experience or thoughts on this.

As if that wasn’t enough for my already frazzled brain to cope with, there have been a series of other things which I am unable to write about…yet. I am absolutely exhausted with it all, even though it is mostly all mental stuff it is spilling over into the physical and wearing me out. The days seem to be going by faster than ever and I can’t keep up. Can someone hit the pause button please?

Kreativ Blogger Award

15 Apr

I am very pleased to announce that I have been given an award! I have been tagged by the lovely Jayne over at Mum’s The Word for a Kreativ Blogger Award, and here it is.

It does, however, come with some rules attached:

1. Link to 10 Blogs
2. Let the 10 bloggers know they’ve been awarded
3. List 10 facts about you

So, here we go. Ten facts you really wanted to know about me.

1. I really do have to wear swimming goggles while chopping onions. You have never seen eyes go so red and puffy so quickly as when I forget to put them on. Even someone else chopping onions in the next room can make my eyes water.

2. I love chocolate, but I hate chocolate flavoured things.

3. Several years ago, I had Guillaine-Barre Syndrome which left me paralysed in intensive care. It took months to recover and I still wonder if it is responsible for some of the weird things that happen to me today. It was predicted by a palm reader about six years before it happened.

4. I am a British champion, I have a gold medal and everything.

5. Music is so important to my life, it’s right up there with food and oxygen. I play a few instruments, not brilliantly, but well enough to survive by busking when money was non-existent. My violin cost more than my car.

6. I was bullied quite badly at school and, although at the time it was devastating, I am now almost glad that it happened. It prepared me for what was to come at my workplace and in several relationships. I’m not sure I would have coped with the adult bullies had it not been for those kids at school. I’d still like to hunt them down and poke them with pointy sticks though.

7. Seven by James was the first album I bought on CD. It was, in fact, my only CD for a long time.

8. I love taking photo’s and at one point considered it as a career. I still use an old camera that takes film, when I can afford to. I am saving for a nice digital SLR because all the photo’s on my blog were taken with my mobile phone. Oh the shame.

9. I’d love another baby, a little brother or sister for my son. I have no idea how I could make this happen in the next five or six years.

10. That advert, the one that appears on TV in March every year, the one with that frog singing about his weedy grass, it makes me want to rip my ears off and nail them to the bottom of a ship destined for Australia. Please, someone, make it stop.

That’s it, that’s my ten. I’ve now got to choose ten more lucky recipients, hopefully one or two of them won’t have been tagged yet. In no particular order

@NEDayCrafts @Dawnie_Brown @kateab @fromthebelly @Sarh

@HerMelness @liveotherwise @MrsTeepot @imperfectpages @tiddlyompompom

Tag – you’re it.

Changing My World, One Smile At A Time

4 Apr

Have you ever noticed how one tiny little action can influence your entire day? Let me give you an example.

I have just finished shopping and I am about to leave the shop with a couple of bags. As I reach the door, the person in front of me lets go of it in my face. This means I have to struggle to open the door myself and puts me in a bad mood. This mood stays with me as I drive home, I curse the drivers that pull out in front of me and my mood gets worse. I get home and stomp around, I slam the fresh fruit into the bowl. I now have bruised bananas and I want to cry.


I have just finished shopping and I am about to leave the shop with a couple of bags. As I reach the door, the person in front of me holds it open with a smile. This means I don’t have to struggle to open the door myself and puts me in a good mood. This mood stays with me as I drive home, I stop to let cars pull out in front of me and I am greeted with a grateful smile or nod and my mood gets better. I get home and put my shopping away, I make a nice display of fresh fruit in the bowl. My bananas are fine and I feel pretty happy.

Well, sort of, but you get the idea, right? I wonder if the person who held the door open (or not) had any idea of the impact that one small gesture could have on not only my day (and my bananas), but the day of everyone I then came into contact with. Be it good or bad, one little thing can spark a mood which can then be passed on to everyone you interact with then they, in turn, pass it on… Pretty soon you can have an awful lot of people feeling and acting either very good or, well, not so good. 

This got me thinking. Instead of getting caught up in someone else’s chain of events, what if I was the person to start the chain and make it a good one. It really doesn’t take much to brighten someones day or, at the very least, stop it getting any worse. If someone has just been shown some kindness are they not more likely to then show kindness to others? I like to think that the people I waved through in their cars all went on to do something similar for someone else on their way home.

So I am putting this into practice and I would like you to do the same. Not only will you end up making a whole bunch of people happy, but you will feel quite good about it too and score some good karma points along the way. In the last week I have held open some doors (obviously), shared chocolate with a stranger, sent an anonymous gift and complimented people who looked a bit down. I have to say, I think every one of those people walked away with a smile on their face. I can’t be sure about the gift, but I believe it had the desired effect!

I would absolutely love it if you made someone smile and then left me a comment to say what you did. Or write a blog post yourself and leave a link in the comments. If enough people are interested, I will set up a linky list of smiles to share. 

Be the person to start a chain of smiles and make your world a nicer place to live. 🙂