Thursday, 31 January 2013

Crafting Christmas & Co.

The craft some for Christmas (and birthdays).

crafting can be a money saver,
gifts can be personalised,
crafted gifts can bulk-out bought gifts,
I enjoy crafting and have umpteen supplies to hand and
Christmas gifts can be created throughout the year as and when I have time since I'm starting so early in the year, (negating any time-pressure element to crafting).

crafts are certainly not time-savers, they take a lot of man hours,
I'm not the world's greatest crafter and have very limited skills, (read I can knit squares and rectangles - ta-da and cannot cut a straight-line to save my life),
not everyone likes handmade, (unless you bought someone else's handmade goods) and
despite the long year ahead that I have in which to craft, I could easily leave it all until the last minute if I'm not careful.

I've actually already started, I've knitted a scarf for my niece and a matching one for her dolly Anna and am part-way through another for my friend's daughter and another for her son, (I keep switching between these as the wool for the wee girl's scarf is quite hard on your hands). I need to embroider a tractor design or similar onto the boy's scarf once it's been knit and I'll do another matching scarf for the wee girl's dolly and a second matching scarf for my niece's other dolly - Holly.

Plans are also afoot for crafts over the next three weeks, for my Hubby for Valentine's, which include framed wedding vows which I've already completed.

The rest of my plans are as follows:
Hubby's Valentine's - framed wedding vows and a matching Valentine's card,
Hubby's birthday - a brag book of Bundle,
Hubby - a wedding album (finally), tree skirt with our family's handprints,
Bundle's bday - play kitchen, chef's hat and apron,
Bundle - his own photobook, scarf and tyre swing,
Mum's bday (mine) - homemade massage oil in upcycled bottle,
Mum (mine) - tree skirt of all the grandchildren's handprints,
Mum's bday (his) - homemade peanut butter fudge and coconut and chocolate fudge wrapped up in a pretty jewellery box (used),
Mum (his) - tree skirt of both granchildren's handprints,
Mothers' Day (x2) - handprint artwork from Bundle,
Dad's bday (his) - homemade fudge (chocolate and coconut - as requested),
SportySis - fancy wool scarf and tree skirt of her boys' handprints,
SportySis' birthday (Feb 14) - mr and mrs stencilled cushions,
BERM boys - surname and no. stencilled pillowcases (one/two each),
Mr and Mrs Thing - mr and mrs stencilled pillowcases,
SIL - fancy wool scarf, tree skirt of family handprints,
SIL's bday (June 13)- homemade cake/cookie mix and mr and mrs stencilled pillowcases,
BIL - homemade hot chocolate mix,
La-la - scarf, matching ones for Anna Doll and Holly Dolly and an apron for her tea-shop,
Angel's bday (Jan 14) - fancy wool scarf and homemade hot chocolate mix,
Angel's girl - scarf and matching one for her doll,
Gerta - fancy-ish scarf,
Gerta's Girl - scarf and matching one for her doll,
Gerta's Boy - scarf with plain design embroidered on,
Belle - scarf and matching one for her doll and
I'll also be crafting my Christmas cards through recycling last year's received cards as well as composing the Chrismas letter and including a family photo/one of Bundle.


N.B. The play kitchen and tyre swing shouldn't entirely be on the list as my Dad will make the tyre swing with Hubby's help and though I'll plan the play kitchen, the making will be down to Hubby and the two grandfathers.

Seasonal Storage

I've always had some seasonal storage and as the years have progressed it has grown...but this week it has exploded...intentionally.

I know I should declutter more but the fact is we have many lovely things I just have no desire to cull.

We received many beautiful gifts for our wedding, and since for birthdays, Christmases etc. and have many kitchen towels, candles, candlesticks, ornaments, not to mention photograph frames and all those little bits 'n' bobs that we've purchased for ourselves.

So now we have boxes upon boxes of seasonal storage: *smile*
Christmas blends into Winter,
Winter blends into Valentine's,
Valentine's is packed away when Spring-cum-Easter bursts out,
Spring-cum-Easter disappears and reappears as Summer,
Summer fades into Autumn and
Autumn morphs into Christmas once more.

Boxes include decorations, art, kitchen towels and oven gloves, candles and tablecloths - a season in a box (or two, or three...), delight.

Mapped out storage, of course!

Joy, joy, indeed!

Tax Joy

The joy of the end of January, since I never do it any earlier, is the dreaded tax return - this year less dreaded as I only worked until October (maternity leave - yay), but still a pain.

Fast forward a couple of days and I still have done none of my own return, but have helped both my mother and eldest sister with their's. Why don't I just do it, since I keep telling everyone else it is really a doddle to complete?

Fast forward another couple of days and the baby gets up extraordinarily early - I have a bit of a rant but I'm up and going and he needs to go down for a very early first nap - so I get stuck in! Baby's up and down like a yo-yo but I perservere with both tasks - getting him to nap and getting the return, returned.

Bundle naps and I'm almost done when he wakes so I press on, even with my little (big and getting bigger) distraction at my feet.

Okay return, returned and I know there isn't enough in the account to cover the bill (small as it is) and the wee one needs another nap so a plan is formulated - woo-hoo, brain having an "on" day for once! Head into town and put some of my hard-earned cash into the account before the bank closes and also grab up some measuring spoons I've been hankering after, using up some more of that leftover wedding voucher (we're only married 3 1/2 years after all) and on the way home if Bundle *decides* to fall asleep in the car, that's okay with me! *chuckle chuckle*

All set for town we head off and manage to find a handier-than-handy parking spot - we are just an obese lady in a pink anorak with a head popping out of the front of it (raining a little and Bundle in the sling), we garner more than one smile from passers-by. Errands done we have filled up the national-insurance-dwindled account and purchased a magnetic set of measuring spoons that aren't labelled, or rather are, but very oddly so.

E.g. two spoons are labelled exactly the same despite one being half the size of the other and they are labelled things such as 1/16 ML??? an amount that could certainly not be seen by the naked eye - bizarre to say the least - but the only other ones available were heart-shaped (for Valentine's) and wouldn't fit into jars etc. These 'ere spoons are gonna take some figuring out mister!

I take the long and circuitous route home and Bundle nods off into oblivion and transfers beautifully out of the car. Online once again the bill is paid, the mama is happy and so shall the papa be (since he set me an earlier-than-the-government deadline of the following day). The day continues productively and delightfully as I make a delicious dinner and we head out for the evening (in a definite state of tax-joy) to a friend's self-hosted birthday party - full of chocolate yumminess...mmmm

Friday, 25 January 2013

Art Addict

I have a complete excess of art in my home - a huge pile of pictures that haven't even made it to the walls! or have but were then bumped off by more favoured items.

I love my art!

I REALLY love my art!

I don't want to declutter, donate or've made other plans...

Downstairs in our barn/storage space we have our chest freezer side-by-side with my parents' chest freezer with a big blank wall behind them. Hmmm...a blank wall!

So here's my plan - a nailed up plank of wall-colour-painted wood for use as a picture rail for all our extra pictures - until such time as I can hang them in our home, or bear to part with them. In the meantime though, everyone gets to enjoy their beauty and they don't just sit in boxes gathering dust.

Joy, joy!

UPDATE: Joy, joy indeed as I edit to add that due to "Seasonal Storage," I have an alternative that doesn't even involve any adding-planks-to-the-wall work. As you'll see from the linked-to-post, some art is stored with my seasonal decorations to be brought out to fill two (or more) spots in the lounge and thus the art in these spots is changed seasonally. Also downstairs some empty plate shelving has become the art display area without any additional work - yay for alternative, alternatives.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Honey-do Happenings

The Hubby and I have set ourselves a wee list of goals for the time period up to Valentine's Day, we wrote some for each other and for ourselves as well as a joint "goal."

His reads very much as a honey-do list with two house to home endeavours:
1. Replace missing glass panel in my craft cupboard door
2. Paint the top of our chest freezer with blackboard paint (so as to be able to list the inventory on the lid)
3. It is his personal goal to exercise (usually in the form of running) twice a week

Our goal is to use a Christmas voucher to arrange a cinema trip for our date day (since I don't like to leave the baby at night).

My goals are:
1.a) Email my (estranged) sister re visiting with her and her family
1.b) Email my eldest niece for her birthday (remembering time difference) *UPDATE - DONE*
2. Complete my tax return by the 29th of January *UPDATE - DONE*
3. Declutter my CDs and DVDs *UPDATE - DONE*
4. My Hubby requested I do daily exercise and get fresh air everyday
5. My final one is a treat for my Hubby for Valentine's so it's listed on our "goal board" as simply Valentine's prep (see below)

For Love Day I have plans for:
A lovely list in my (homemade) Hubby's card detailing just a handful of the wonderful things I ppreciate about him
Decorating the house - duh!
Creating a little artwork corner in our bedroom for "our love," including a beautiful rose engraved frame (if it ever arrives from zulily) containing a wedding photo, the letters L-O-V-E, a print out of our (self-written) wedding vows and maybe a picture of where we got engaged (and also had a mini-honeymoon), though I still have a few kinks to work out for this and I suppose I 'll have to figure out a menu too - definitely not my forte.

Do you have plans for Love Day?
Do you write your honey, honey-do lists?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Baby-friendly Beautifying

A bare windowsill, without hanging decorations or ornaments - why? - because that's where he likes to sit and admire the view (especially the current snowy landscape), a spot from which he can wave Daddy off to work and enjoy the returned smiles and waves or where he can bang on cold glass and enjoy the noise and feel or just look out at the weathers or goings-on, such as they may be.

A coffee table, recently covered in "stuff," now almost bare, as he often reaches up to it to steady himself on his journeys around living room land.

A coffee table with storage shelf underneath, storing boxes of this and that but also housing a couple of beloved toys (an executive toy message block game, no longer Daddy's now claimed as Bundle's), a phone with the battery run down (deliberately) and a bright pink plastic rattle (one of a pair of maracas). Bliss to a baby.

Moving an oft-admired (by the baby as well as others) wedding-gift vase to an out-of-reach spot to aid him on his explorations by removing breakable temptations that can so easily house blocks and shapes.

Like With Like

It's the basic rule of organising and it's a gem!

Baby toy organisation - blocks with blocks, cars with cars, board books all together - eh voila!

Books - travel books together, poetry books together, atlases together, Bibles together, etcetera - check.

CDs together, DVDs together, candles, candlesticks, lighters and matches together, tablecloths together, napkins together, board games together, jigsaws together, gifts together, crafting supplies together etcetera etcetera - check.

Except for when this rule falls very short, because sometimes, as my Dad likes to put it, we need things "handy."

A small tape dispenser and scissors in the kitchen, the regular tape dispenser and a set of scissors with the gift wrapping supplies and the rest of the scissors and extra rolls of tape in the stationery/craft cupboard.

The cough sweets in the medicine drawer except for a couple beside my bed.

All the extra bottles of shampoo, shower gel etc. sorted into boxes in the bathroom cupboards except for an always stocked and ready to go toiletries' bag set aside for weekenders.

A box full of musical instruments except for one of the maracas because Bundle loves to play with it.

A packet of wipes beside the sofa in the lounge for those whoopsie moments.

Boxes of tissues all over the house because this mama is forever needing a tissue.

Sometimes you can be too much of a neat freak after all.

Laundry Loveliness

My utility area was dirty, messy and cramped, with a temporary room divider between my washer and dryer.
It had a lack of space to set Bundle down as I worked.
In short, it was not my favourite space and allowed little wiggle room, especially when carrying both an infant and a full basket of laundry.

Argh...was my thought when this room came to mind.

Then it hit me - why did we still have the temporary room divider up?
We had no plans to use the entertaining space in the future, near or otherwise, and since it was temporary it could always be put back up if needed - duh!

A screwdriver and some elbow grease later I had added space (removed the divider) and with the addition of a standing frame toy (Bundle's spot) and a bit of grunt work (shelf sorting and shelf, sink and appliance scrubbing) and I had some of the will-do-me-just-fine laundry loveliness that I had craved.

Laundry loveliness for me equals:
a washer and dryer almost beside one another,
the "spare" basket/basin-like items stacked on top of the cleaned-off washing machine,
shelving that's organised and only contains laundry-necessary items,
a cleaned and cleared Belfast sink with only hand-washing items atop it,
a spot for the wee-ist man in my life,
space to manouever,
and just for fun, a badly-nailed-up prettiness-personified peg-bag a friend had bought me - yay for pretty and practical!

Joy, joy!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Building Baby's Focus

In baby jail...ahem...I mean the playpen, only give the wee one either a couple of related toys (a few cars, a small pile of building blocks), or one larger toy (shape sorter, musical toy) at a time.

That's the basics of it. Engage his interest in the toy(s), showing off to him how he could play with it/them - though he'll be more creative in how he plays with it than you could ever be - and leave him with just that group/item for a couple of days, until his interest seems to wane, then replace it/them with another group/item.

Rotating the toys, as such, keeps the wee one from getting bored, as the toys seem fresh and new each time they are re-introduced. It also prevents baby from being overwhelmed by too much choice. Being faced with a huge pile of toys is as irritating to their senses as it is to ours to see such a huge pile - we see clutter and disarray and they also see chaos and no one learns contentment and focus in bedlam, unless they zone out - not something you want to encourage in baby or yourself.

;) One item/group at a time also cuts down on the clear-up ;)

Decluttering and Alphabetising

Today was spent in decluttering and alphabetising the CDs and DVDs and many were culled - hallelujah!

Why decluttering?
Well the baby had been knocking over CDs and pulling DVDs out of the cupboard for the last few months and it's been driving me crazy!
Not that it's his fault exactly, with so many CDs piled up in front of the shelves (cos there wasn't any room for them) there was just a little too much temptation.
Oh and every time he happily pulled the door open on the DVD cupboard well they came a-tumbling out - oopsie!
So less CDs mean they fit the shelves, and less DVDs means they fit in their cupboard - ta-da!

Why alphabetised?
I think it's fair to say I've an A-type personality and it just plain makes it easier to find things - duh?!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Photo Clues for the Clueless

Can you remember which bowl goes inside which other bowl, or which dishes should go where, in order for everything to fit into your cupboards?
I can't! - even though I decide everything's "place" and if I can't - my husband's got no mission.

Enter the humble photograph (and printer of course).

Simply put everything into the cupboard, in its proper place, photograph the positioning (take a couple of close-up photos if needed), print said photograph(s) and stick up inside the cupboard door or to the side of your shelves.


Photo clues also work well for how to decorate each area/room for Christmas etcetera, so you can recreate the "magic" each year.

Mapping Out Storage

I love storage.
I don't love trying to find things from anonymous boxes, piled up in cupboards or from drawers or cute containers containing goodness knows what!

Labels are wonderful!
The cuter the better but practical address labels scrawled on with the details of the contents work just as well.

Labels however are not enough.
When the cupboard is three boxes deep and full to bursting, labels alone just don't cut it.

What I need is a map.

With all boxes filled and labelled individually I then scribble a quick map of which box is where, stick the scribble to the inside of the door or side of the shelf and hey presto - I have a map to my stuff - hurray!

Winter Wonderland

Replacing the bright reds, greens and golds of Christmas in our lounge (blues in the dining room) with whites, silvers candles everywhere and lots of glassware for our own little snowy winter wonderland.

Charity shop decanters, lanterns, simple glass tealight holders, crystal candlesticks, vases filled with pearlised baubles and large candle jars with sparkly white and silver wired ribbons wound in and out.

Snowmen, white and silver tree decorations, a simple silver menorah and the wonderful wintery-ness of the snow globe collection, baubles of white and silver and mini-disco-balls gathered into silver star shaped dishes and snow falling outside to complete the scene.

Book Storage for the Baby

Reusing an old crate with painted stencilled letters on its side reading...
...GLASSES Star Catering Co.

A beautiful shabby-chic piece sat between two lamps on an antique games table.

Filled full with forward facing board books, ready to lift and read at any given moment.

Delightful, open, but pretty, storage and a mental hug for this Mama.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Packing Away Christmas

I don't like to rush these things so it's the middle of January before I start...

Step 1 - Christmas Cards:
Take down all the Christmas cards,
Go through the cards with our Christmas card list, recycling card backs and un-up-cycle-able ones,
Update the card list for next year,
Cut out up-cycle-able details (from this year's cards to make next year's cards) into a box, recycle/bin leftovers,
Put away Christmas card cut-outs' box into craft cupboard.

Step 2 - Choose a Tree/Area to undecorate:
Gather storage boxes, bubble wrap, step ladder and any non-Christmas decs to be put back into place, etcetera,
Set up a temporary pile spot for those decs etc. that are stored elsewhere from the rest,
Set to (stay on task) and gather everything into the boxes,
Put boxes away once filled into their designated spot (ensuring they're labelled),
Re-stage area as it usually is or as it will be for "winter,"
Dust, brush up as you go.

Step 3 - Repeat Step 2 for each tree/area

Enjoy the new season!

You what? I mean...ahem...pardon?

I love my home but it's exasperating, stuff seems to breed more stuff, it doesn't clean itself or do the laundry and there are boxes everywhere (barn, attic, underbeds, in cupboards, in corners, under tables....etcetera). Little "fix-its" need fixed and the dust just lies there mocking me.

A little step forward everyday...or you know two forward and one back...

I want a haven for my Hubby, a den for my baby and a home for myself.