31 Dec 2015

Easy Drink - New Years Eve Skittles Vodka

For Christmas I like to make something for someone else (sorry for experimenting on you family) and this year we had a bottle of vodka that kept calling me into doing something with.

Perhaps not the most obvious of things but I went with Skittles Vodka as I thought it might be a nice drink for New Years Eve for my brother and sister in law...(and my brother and sister in law if I ever deliver it in time)!

So the most technical bit is dividing up the skittles and managing to not eat them before they make it into the bottles. After a bit of research I found out that the green (lime) and the purple (blackcurrant) aren't the best to add to vodka because of the taste or colour - so I promptly ate both lots of those. The most difficult bit about that was hiding it from the children as I didn't want to share (full of good cheer I am!).
The first batch of strawberry I started to dissolve the skittles in a small amount of vodka and it went a lovely shade of red immediately. It's a good idea to shake the bottle regularly so after a while I decanted the whole lot into my new bottles and gave it a gently swill every now and again.


The next bottle I just added the skittles directly to the bottle and then vodka on top, it's such a gratifying process to watch the colour drain out of them and then the skittles eventually disappear. It's best to leave this at least 24hrs and give it a gently shake to help them dissolve but then it's ready to drink.  I found my glass bottles in a local shop and I thought they made it look a little bit more special but equally a mason jar would work well or some other online resources even suggest using old water bottles to shake the mixtures before decanting.

A sweet little shot for a toast to a new year.



29 Dec 2015

Post Christmas Craft Activity

This year we got what seemed like hundreds of cards from nursery and school and they seemed to litter every surface. Always falling down or one of the kids would casually swipe the cupboard top and knock a mass of precariously balanced tiny cards over!

I love Christmas but tire quickly of it all once it's over, I like to declutter and look forward to the rest of the year. I like the feeling of space that gets created, my daughter doesn't...getting rid of anything is her idea of 'the worst day ever mummy' (in her own words).

So this year we tried a craft that I remember my mum doing with us, Christmas card collages. It meant I lost the tiresome cards and she didn't feel like she was missing anything - it had just changed into something else.

I cut out randomly pictures from the cards and then set the kids up with glue, bits of card and some tissue paper.

We then had a lovely half hour gluing and sticking.

The finished pictures are going to be laminated maybe brought out again next year and stuck on the wall.


18 Dec 2015

I Believe....

So I may no longer believe in Father Christmas and my girl is getting very suspicious of the whole thing with questions such as "why does each father Christmas look different" "he can't go to all the houses" "the elf on the shelf isn't real, I can see his label...he is a toy!"

She wants to believe and still does but it will only take one or two other children to knock that faith and belief. I find it so sad, not that she could be a non believer...lets face it, as an adult we all know there is no possibility that he's real. But I'm sad because of the magic of belief and the fun you have when you go into it only thinking of the fun and the sparkle.

As I say, I don't believe in Father Christmas and I can't remember when or how I found out so I'm not particularly scarred by that little white lie but I miss believing. I guess it's the god equivalent for some people, it's the sense of belonging that we all cling onto when we live in such an unpredictable world.

So with out further ado I will let you into a little secret....I believe....In fairies. I always have and know I always will. Before you call in the men in white coats, hear me out, I know they can't be real and I'm a sensible young(ish) woman but I like believing, I love the magic of it all and the childlike feelings it provokes.

I think it all started when my mum used to bribe me to go to Brownies, I didn't hate going but didn't like leaving my mum so she used to put fairy dust in my purse and said if I got worried then sprinkle some fairy dust. It soon became a family joke and I owned quite a few pairs of fairy wings (I'm down to one pair now and Bubba has the rest).

The best bit is that when I used to feel sad, I'd pop my wings on and you can't feel sad with wings on, try it, you really can't.

So I hope my girl keeps her belief for a few more years and not because of the 'if you don't believe then you don't get presents' but more because it's lovely to keep that magic alive inside your brain, it's fab to wonder and dream and belong to something bigger than yourself.

“Do you believe in fairies?...If you believe, clap your hands!”
  J.M. Barrie

I believe....

14 Dec 2015

Christmas - Our Style

So I've always had this romantic view of Christmas, snow and everything, an elegant tree with handmade decorations, a roaring fire and mulled wine (which I don't really like in real life!) and all rooms in our house decorated in a different style.

The reality is totally different with a toddler and exacting nearly five year old, our tree is over populated in some areas with a load of tatty decorations (I would go as far as to say gaudy at times but that's the four year old's eclectic style). The lower half of the tree is sparse to say the least as my boy tries his hardest to get at the decorations, he lunges and if lucky manages to pull off the lonely bauble and then proceeds to lob it across the room without a backwards glance.

My girl likes amassing all decorations from around the room into little clusters and playing families with them. So we have lots of groups that make no sense and are easy to tread on. I am forever moving things back to where they started off and then watch as the boy just swipes things of the top of every available surfaces.

Don't get me started on the tinsel....this was shredded between the children whilst they had an impromptu tug of war in a fit of giggles. I was the only one not giggling whilst picking it all up off the floor after they had moved on to terrorising another part of our house. No other rooms now have decorations as I'm finding it too stressful to maintain and return and tidy up after they whirlwind past.

Presents won't make it under our tree as they will be unwrapped as soon as I put them down. The advent calendar barely makes it throught the day as well. My toddler cannot grasp the idea you get one chocolae a day, so each day both advent calendars have to be hidden back in the cupboard until the next day when we go through the whole ruse once more.

Bubba trawls through the Argos catalogue like a forensic scientist, eager not to miss even the smallest of toys and ticks almost everything on every page. The day is punctuated by shouts of "I want that...and that...mummy I want that one in pink...I also want that" as she sees adverts on tv but yet when we sat down to write a letter to Father Christmas this week she couldn't think of one thing that she really wanted and said she would come back to writing it....it still sits lonely on the table waiting.

We will be still wrapping presents at midnight on Christmas eve and realise that we don't have enough wrapping paper...only to watch it all ripped off and littering the floor by 5.30am at the very latest.

Most of Christmas morning will be spent cooking and tag teaming the making of presents and separating the children as they each attempt to play with the others toys, eat chocolate directly from the wrapper and have meltdowns because it's all too overwhelming and they are tired from waking at 3am, 4am and 5am to see if father christmas has arrived.

There will be a general cry for crisps and chocolate at every turn as they race up and down the room from all the E numbers already consumed in the first 15 minutes of the day. But at the end of the day once they are tucked up in bed we will fondly look back at the day we've just had, ready to repeat it exactly the same next year.

Merry Christmas all xx

8 Dec 2015

Small Business Saturday - Meet the Mum #3

I've found this little questionnaire so interesting so I'll hopefully be continuing with the series either monthly or just as and when.

Onto our next lovely 'Meet the Mum'...

Joanne works on most arty projects, commissions. Please get in touch through her page and she can help you.

What's the best thing about working for yourself?  
I love that I can schedule work around my three children, who are aged 7, 4 and 2 (the youngest two being boys).  If I need to slow down one particular month, I can choose how much work to take on.  And on the other hand, during the Christmas period, I tend to take on more to help towards pressies etc; last year my earnings helped pay for this plus a summer holiday the following year!  The children attend a school just around the corner and its comforting to know I can be there in no time should they need me.  I also get to take breaks from my work when I'm at home if I need to do some chores, pop to the shops, go to the doctors etc.  It's very flexible!

What made you decide to take the plunge?
When my eldest child - my daughter - was 8 months old, I went to work as a Teaching Assistant at a local primary school.  I was there for a year before deciding to leave as I missed spending time with her.  But at the same time, I wanted to be doing something for me, that I enjoyed, and that I could possibly earn from.  Art has always been my thing; I got top grades at school, have taught myself how to use many different media over the years, and have built up my experience by trying my hand at anything creative.  I even did a couple of painting demonstrations at my local Hobbycraft store, and have had my work featured a few times in an art society members' magazine.  So it made sense to carry this on - I don't think I could ever give up my art.  I also had great encouragement from friends and family and this made me more determined!  I am a strong believer in doing what you love for a living, and working hard to make that a reality.
Biggest challenge you face?
Time!  There never seems to be enough time in the day.  More often than not I'll find myself working at the kitchen table or art board late at night when the kids have gone to bed and suffer with a sore neck the next day!  But its worth it.  I'd rather work 'after hours' than miss doing things with the children when they are around.  Luckily I have a very supportive husband who helps take the children to school or out for a few hours to the park etc, so I can have some uninterrupted time to work if I need it.  I've had a few instances of this lately as Christmas is close - my busiest time of year!

What's the biggest misconception people have about what you do?
I don't know if its true necessarily, but I do wonder if people think that anything to do with art isn't a real job.  In fact, over the years I've made quite a handy income from portrait commissions, tutoring, personalised gifts, a few cakes for close friends plus painting murals!  The work is never consistent, of course, and I use this time to work on personal projects...or just to take a breather!  Even though art is probably seen as being 'fun' and not very serious, its still hard work and I consider it a real job even if others don't!  I like to think that the work I create will stay with people for years to come so that makes me feel good.

What one tip you you give to someone who is just starting out?
What helped me to get work initially was getting the word out there; I spoke to people about my work which generated interest (and orders), I created a Facebook page, got business cards and leaflets printed out and took part in demonstrations at art stores and even had a stall at the school fair!  My Facebook page actually started as a platform to share anything creative I've done (and still is, in a way), but now its developed into more of 'shop' where I can add examples of my makes that are for sale, or can be specially commissioned.  So, in short, once you've decided what you want to do, let people know about it!  Of course, there may be other people out there doing something the same or similar, but its all about putting your unique 'stamp' on it.  No one person holds the exclusive rights to a specific line of business, so don't be put off by the fact that there are similar businesses out there; do what makes you happy.

Where do you see yourself this time next year?
This time next year my youngest will be at preschool every morning, so I'll definitely have more time to do more!  I have so many plans for my art business.  I hope I'm not seen as a 'Jack of all Trades', but I do truly love trying out a bit of everything - and being the best I can at it!  I would love to take on more portrait commissions for example, people or pets, and I have lots of other materials such as mosaic tiles and clay that I purchased a few months back that are crying out for attention!  The cake decorating was never really a serious pursuit in my art business -  just another creative thing I liked doing for close friends and family - so this will make way for larger-scale projects such as wall murals and larger paintings.  I have too many ideas and not enough time to put them into action!  But its good to know I have a good supply of possibilities to draw from - springboards into a whole host of other areas.  I have also recently started up my own adult dance fitness classes - a mix of Ballroom, Latin and Salsa - and hope this class (plus a few more styles I hope to add to the timetable) will have taken off.  I used to teach dance a while back, before having children, and have recently rediscovered my passion for it.  Dancing has a very calming, but also uplifting effect on me.
How do you juggle motherhood, work and your own business?
I have to admit, it's not perfect!  I personally don't know anyone who has an easy time juggling these things.  For me, the stress and worry is the main thing; I worry about not having enough time, I worry that I'm neglecting the kids if I work when they are around, I worry that I worry too much!  And this in turn causes the stress.  I know I put an awful lot of pressure on myself, but I've become better at making time for myself, usually when my youngest is napping.  I'll grab a cup of tea and read!  I find having a day-to-day routine helps also; it helps me and the kids know what's expected and keeps things running smoothly.  I guess not having a full- or part-time job aswell as my own businesses helps, as I don't have to arrange childcare or rush to catch a train first thing in the morning etc.  And as I said before, I have a wonderfully supportive (or is that long-suffering!) husband who will take the children and give me some space if I need it.  I do feel very strongly about having time to oneself, even if it is just to sit and reflect on things, not to necessarily work.  

What one thing do you want your children to take away from seeing you busting your groove?
My daughter is very aware of the fact that I work from home, and that people pay me for my creative services!  She is following in my footsteps with her art, and I think she has dreams of doing something similar one day!  The boys aren't as clued up on what I do, but I guess I'd love for them all to see that following your passion is possible and that you can make a living from it.  I never would have thought years ago, sitting in my school art lessons, that one day people would pay me to make artwork for them.  It really is such a lovely feeling.

How did you get into what you do?
I've loved art since a very early age, and the love for it will always be there.  When I was about 11 or 12 I sent some illustrations to a greeting card company, and completely unexpectedly they replied and asked me to design some mugs for them!  I think my mum still has them in a cupboard somewhere.  I remember getting the cheque to pay for my services and being completely overwhelmed!  I was amazed that even someone as young as me could make money from something I loved doing every hour of the day.  I'd spend hours in my room drawing and painting - many of my friends and family own a few works of mine!  Over the years I've spent hours drawing, painting, reading art books, attending exhibitions, even tutoring young children - I like to absorb as much creativity as possible.  I am a naturally creative person and it would be difficult to do anything else that didn't require that trait.

Brief description of what you do.....
Self-taught artist with many years experience that works in a wide variety of media across a vide variety of genres!!  And a dance teacher on the side - I am quite into my fitness

5 Dec 2015

Small Business Saturday - Meet the Mum #2

It's small business Saturday and our second meet the mum feature. So this is me...Babble Books

What's the best thing about working for yourself?

The fact that I can do as much or as little as I want and it fits around my other commitments at home and work. It's also my achievement at the end of the day, everything I get back from it is directly a result of what I've done. There is no bigger buzz

What made you decide to take the plunge?

I saw a picture on IG of a beautifully set up book stall. I kept getting drawn back to it and thought I would love to visit that stall. From there the idea was sewn, it was a no brainer for me, I love reading and combine that with books for children, I was sold.

Biggest challenge you face?

Not comparing myself to others who are on different circumstances. I can only work as hard as I can with my limited time and need to remember it isn't a competition. Slowly slowly catchy monkey.

What's the biggest misconception people have about what you do?

It's a pyramid scheme and there is a catch. The only catch is that you have to put effort in to reap the rewards. Usborne at home have been around for years and years and I hope I am also with them a long time.

What one tip you you give to someone who is just starting out?

Do your best, that's the best you can do at any time. Also just enjoy it, it does take effort but it's also not what I'd call work. I love the books and if you have a passion then you really can't go wrong.

Where do you see yourself this time next year?

Well I became a team leader (with a team of 10) within 12 weeks of joining so I'm aiming to get a wider team all over and continue to be a group leader, I want to stay at Usborne.

How do you juggle motherhood, work and your own business?

It takes a lot of effort to juggle it all sometimes. Other times it's the easiest job in the world. I have a big wall planner that I write everything on and I take a diary out everywhere with me to keep up with all our commitments. I also write lists...I love lists and I have lots of them.

What one thing do you want your children to take away from seeing you busting your groove?

I know it sounds rather melodramatic but I want them to know I changed the world a little bit. Even if it's just one children's book at a time. I want them to be proud of me and to realise that I'm not 'just' a mum but a better mum because I'm busting my groove trying lots of different things. Bubba already gets how important it all is to me and she helps me and I love that she sees its ok to try your hardest at something you are passionate about.

How did you get into what you do?

I've always read and loved books, no matter what type of book...I love it. I enjoy writing too and find the link between the two fascinating, anything that comes from a book has essentially started in someone's brain. So when I realised I could share my passion for reading with the next generation and help them also get a buzz from it...I couldn't wait to start.

Brief description of what you do.....

I share Usborne children's books with families, friends, schools and nurseries...basically anywhere that will have me. I'm hoping to do some sponsored reads in schools soon and help them get free books.

If you are interested in joining my team or ordering books I'd love to hear from you.


4 Dec 2015

Small Business Saturday - Meet the mum - Diamond Beauty Boutique

Saturday 5th December is small business Saturday in the UK so I thought I would showcase some lovely businesses and being a mum (and newly in business) I decided to highlight the mums out there doing it and working their business like a #bossmum.

So first up is my lovely friend and small business owner who has been working her business for over a year now as well as a part time job and being mum to two lovely little people.

What's the best thing about working for yourself?

I love that I am my own boss, I can work when I want so I can fit it around my family, and I like that I have control over how my business grows.

What made you decide to take the plunge?
I've never really known what I wanted to do with my life, I never wanted to be in an office job and now I want more time with my children so I thought 'Why not, I've got nothing to lose'.

Biggest challenge you face?
I'm not the loudest person and I've never had a team before so it's all very new to me when it comes to training people and being in charge.

What's the biggest misconception people have about what you do?
That it's a pyramid scheme and that you don't have to actually work hard for it to succeed.

What one tip you you give to someone who is just starting out?
Be enthusiastic, love what you're doing and people will pick up on that.

Where do you see yourself this time next year?
Hopefully with a team 3 times the size it is now and song this full time so I can spend more time supporting them.

How do you juggle motherhood, work and your own business? No idea haha, I try not to work when I'm with the children so I'll do a bit before they get up and then when they've gone to bed. My children do like to get involved with my business which is fantastic so that really helps.

What one thing do you want your children to take away from seeing you busting your groove?
I want my children to know that if you work hard then you can achieve anything.

How did you get into what you do?
I joined another company originally and it just wasn't for me. I kept seeing things about Younique and in the end realised that it was a sign that I had to give it a go.

Brief description of what you do.....
I have a business with a US cosmetic company called Younique, I sell amazing cosmetics but it's more than that it's being able to support a team of ladies and see lives start to change as we all become more confident and grow our businesses.

So if you'd like to know more then please head over to Gill's facebook page and give her a like and see some of her wonderful products

2 Dec 2015

The 'Mumship' - Playground Rules

When you are four, it's easy to make and break friendships - one week you will be happily playing and the next you declare you have a new best friend and waltz into the playground hand in hand.

Us mums watch and listen to the dramatic changes and wonder what the following week will bring and we all stand in the playground making polite conversation. You see the same mums (or dads or grandparents) every day and for 15 minutes your lives are lived in parallel. You all have to turn up in time and wait and then watch as the children file out and get assigned to their parent/carer, we all then get the same book bags thrust upon us and head on our way.

You get the sense that you know the people around you but you don't really know them much at all, there are the long standing mums...the ones who have been there from before time began. This is their second or third child going through the system and they stand with their comrades and new mums rarely break into the ranks as they stand in a semi circle, cackling over a shared joke. They ignore the kids as they are sent on their way and finish their conversation when they are good and ready whilst the kids kick holes in the front of their shoes on the hard gravel playground.

Next and near the front are the new mums - we are the nervous newbies, our first born has started school and we are new enough to still miss them when they are at school. We wait expectantly with whatever snack our lovely little people have requested, crane our necks and wave as soon as they are lined up waiting to be sent off to their parents.  We stick together and ask if everyone received the nit letter and whether they've seen the school photo yet. We usually have a pram with a smaller person in and we half apologise, half barge as we struggle our way out with the book bag that has been off loaded onto us whilst grilling our child on what they ate, who they played with and did they do a wee!

The late arrivals slink around at the back of the crowd and try and catch the teachers eye because their child was first in the queue and had to then stand to one side as all the other children get matched up with a parent and the fact they were late is something they want to keep under wraps.

The inbetweeners - these mums neither care about rank systems, being late or making sure their child missed them. They simple exist in the middle somewhere, milling around, talking to the odd other mum but never standing with the same group two days in a row. They could be part time picker upers and don't do this often enough to have made a group or they are too busy to care.

It's often difficult to know who with and where to stand but if you are lucky you will meet some lovely mums and have a 'mumship' where for 15 minutes a day you feel like no one else in the world knows you or your child better. It's a great feeling and hopefully develops into a great friendship that will develop as your children grow.
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