Thursday, 28 February 2019

Who Should I Be

Who Should I be?

I have had a thought in my mind about what I should do with my life. I am waiting for some great answer and I feel it won’t come. The thing is, my career I would say is now very loose. Really I could drop all the writing idea and just work in a supermarket. The pay would be good and constant and I could work great hours around family. It could be easy but I know it wouldn’t be truly for me, it would be to just bring money home. Should I be more pressing with emailing brands and seeking self-employed work, sometimes I don’t even know where that starts.
I know that maybe I need to do something though and I feel like I am waiting for a sign from God to let me know but really I know there will be no answer.
He won’t just tell me what to do; life isn’t like that. Nothing is handed on a plate and if it is those actions really compromise your soul.
But what if this is the wrong question to ask God, what if I should really be focusing on something else. Maybe it's not what should I be doing?’ more ‘what should I be?’. You see, as Lt. Judy Hopps says at the end of Zootropolis: “....try to make the world a better place. Look inside yourself and recognise that change starts with you.”
No matter where I am in thinking “what should I be doing?” I need to be focusing and listening in for “How I should be behaving”. The greatest change in my life can only be in trying to make me a better person. Someone more compassionate, giving, understanding; I could give you a list, but that is just it. Maybe in working on myself I see how the paths open up and I find my confidence in my place in life.
Our questioning of what we should be doing should not be at the forefront, our questioning of how should we be behaving maybe should and that is what will give us our answers.


Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Our INSTAX Family

 Our Instax collection has grown and I couldn't be happier. 

I mean, this is no new thing and in no way is this a post telling you to purchase these instax products, but I just want to highlight why I have really fallen in love with the traditional Polaroid and how having instax at home has really brought a realness of taking pictures to the kids.

Last spring I was lucky enough to be gifted a Instax mini printer at a press event. Now this little printer brought instant joy as I was able to send pictures directly from my phone to this tiny box and have it produce a retro print for me. Not only was it perfectly cute and kept as a picture but it was a perfect picture because I was able to choose what was printed rather than risking an average one.
This was a game changer in printing photos for me. I have been quite happy to keep buying the films, even though they are pricey, because the end product is really special.

In the run up to Christmas I decided that I wanted to get the kids a Polaroid camera. They needed something that wasn’t a toy and also something that wouldn’t just sit in a cupboard, so a camera it was and as I had a Polaroid when I was younger it made sense to get them one. It is the instant gratification I love so I knew for them, taking a picture then holding it physically would be really enjoyable.  However the full price of the newest Instax is probably to only be spent when you can guarantee the child is going to use it, after all, they are just that, children and I wasn’t prepared to spend my money on cool tech that wasn’t really required.

So ebay became my best friend again and mid-October I started searching Instax Mini cameras. Now these have not lost their price if you ask me. Plenty of people are selling hardly used ones for £50 and over but I was after a real bargain, and I had no worry that it would have been used. As long as it looked good and was working then I was happy.

It is a classic thing you see when someone was bought one and they didn’t use it, so there are plenty of them available, it is just about looking for the right one. After a week or so of consciously looking I came across a Hello Kitty limited edition camera that, at £10, was a perfect gift for Etta. I mean, really, that is practically getting a camera for free so I knew that one was perfect for what we wanted. Raph's white Instax mini 8 was £28 and had a missing battery cover but you can buy these for a few pounds off ebay too. I was expecting to pay £30 for each but didn’t really want to be spending more than that because it would make it an expensive present that I had no idea that they would like.
In the end the bargain hunting helped out and when the cameras arrived I was really pleased with their condition. After a bit of a clean up (baby wipes and nail varnish remover) they looked new and wrapped in a nice box they became a great present.

Having had them over a month now I wouldn’t say they were over used. We have been able to talk about the importance of not just photographing everything and looking for good things to take pictures of. They got it. They understood they had 10 shots per film and that at the moment we had x amount of films. They were both really good at classing these as precious things and not wanting to waste a shot. That has also led to some really great photos and for them and moments that they can treasure.

I am now filling our photo box with the pictures printed off my printer so I know we have high quality images to keep and for the kids it means that they can take a picture and have ownership over it which seems to mean more to them than I had realised. Digital is easy for me and they can play with a digital camera, but then the photos stay on it and you forget to print them off. This has really opened the children up to understanding (basic) photography and how they themselves can capture little moments and memories.


Balancing All The Cleaning

Sometimes when life takes over cleaning can be really hard. Here is how I am trying to deal with it.

I wrote a post about how important it is for me to get our dining table clear as it gives me clarity, but what about the rest of the house?
Do you feel like cleaning gets you down. I used to be so good at sprucing the house and when the kids were young it was very much part of our Monday routine. Rob would go off to work and I would deal with single parenting by cleaning. Not crazy cleaning but it would keep us busy and the kids would walk about with dusters not doing much but just enjoying the activities. The TV would be on and I remember it was an easy thing to do. It was routine and that really helped but as soon as Raph went to school, I think that's where my down spiral in life came from. I am not a fretful mother; what will be will be, but when Raph went to school I became more and more anxious. Anxious about time especially and being available to get to school if I needed to. I became so obsessive about my movements that slowly I just ended up always deciding to stay at home or only go places local. It was fine, Etta and I had the best time but inevitably we got used to being in all the time. Now with being in all the time you get to a point where you can only do so much pottering. It was easy to keep a tidy house then because my time was laid out and I just fit it into our 'at home’ schedule. But then I got bored or maybe depressed, but either way, it almost turned on me and just became this momentousness chore. I mean, we haven't got that big a space so it was never unbearable but the cycle of clean, put away, clean, put away was suddenly a burden and something I was tired of doing. I have never been the same about cleaning since.

Part of me cares as our downstairs is really easy to straighten; whip round it with the hoover and it looks new. Everything has a place and can be put away and it is easy to make it look really nice. Upstairs however brings me dread and it is always the end of the day, when I am tired, and have done the picking up downstairs that the walk of doom upstairs gives me this mental, “just leave it” block. The thing is, there is always washing to be put away, always beds to be made, always clothes to be picked up off the floor. Where as downstairs you can have days in between having to clean properly; upstairs is more of a daily task and therefore more like a daily struggle.
And that struggle is real!

I feel it, oh boy, I get one parcel put on my desk and then that's it, you just can’t see my desk for weeks. Hence why I need my dining table clear so I have somewhere to work!
I know that there is a solution. I just need to practise it more but I also don’t want be indebted to the solution because that equally makes me obsessive about everything being perfectly tidy.
If I spent just 30 minutes blitzing upstairs before I even came downstairs on a morning my life would change. My mental attitude would change and I know I would feel so much better about the nightly walk up the stairs.

The thing I am worst at; putting my own clothes away, but when you have had the fire on all day and tea flowing freely I don’t want to be up in our bedroom in the attic sorting my clothes. I don’t think I do anyway but I know that really, 5-10 minutes is nothing and is certainly not an inconvenience to daily life.
Balancing out between downstairs and upstairs is now key to me. I want to enjoy our upstairs as much as our down and it is such a nice space that is only lost because it needs a hoover, a pillow fluff and clothes to be in their right baskets. Really the kids are at a perfect age for learning to help so much more and from this morning I am going to have them make their bed everyday. They can sort most of their things anyway so really it is just me keeping on top of putting the things upstairs in their place just like I do the things downstairs.
Also, key is getting off my phone and social media and using that time for me and my family. I need to be more present in that way which actually would balance me out a lot more. Instead of a morning scroll I need to take a morning stroll, around the house, and start my day with family at the focus. I know that will give me balance.


Monday, 11 February 2019

Homemade Valentine's Bento Bags

We never shy away from Valentine's day and have always marked it in some way. Whether it is with a dinner out or in, gifts or just flowers, I like to do something to mark the day and celebrate who we love!

I get it, for some, having a day, which in theory celebrates you appreciation for the love of your life can be quite difficult when you find your life without one. I know plenty of single girls and they all deal with Valentine's day a bit differently. Some rush to find a date, with a partner or just friends to "occupy" themselves, some sit at home and debate what a horrible day it is to have to celebrate, others forget it even exists and some do just accept that it is a day that isn't about celebrating a partner at all, they know that in reality, tradition would say it is for lovers but really, Valentine's day is just another time to realign yourself and be thankful for all the loved ones in your life. 

This is how I feel, especially now with my parents and the kids. Rob and I can go out for dinner whenever we want to celebrate our relationship, we don't need to do it on one night of the year quite specifically! And actually, as Valentine's is more likely on a week night it means in recent years, we have kids activities and other general life things that completely take over. That's not to say it is not marked, I make sure to do that but it means that often it happens on days that aren't actually Valentine's days.

For me, it's all about breakfast to be honest. For the kids, for us all, an opportunity to open cards and usually a bag of treats. I love to mark it with a few gifts, the kids will always know they are loved on Valentine's day because I am prepared to always be their Valentine! We also make sure that the kids know about it too and since Raph's very first Valentine, they have always delivered balloons and cards to their grandparents, another action to just enforce that Valentine's is not always just about letting one person know they are loved but really, reminding a few special ones they are also loved. 

This last Christmas you may remember that I spoke about wrapping gifts in fabric {READ HERE} and working on from that theme I want to share with you some BENTO BAGS which take into consideration Japanese style of wrapping in fabric and makes it more like a gift bag.

For Valentine's day it is perfect as I like to get bits and bobs for the kids, mainly sweet treats so having a more secure pouch is a perfect gift bag idea.

Making the bag is based on origami folding: not too much stitching is needed either!

Now I took all my examples from Pinterest, a great place to do research because more often than not, someone has already made whatever it is you are thinking about!
Pinterest had loads of examples and after a few reads on different websites, I figured out what I had to do. 

BETWEEN THE LINES BLOG is a great example, I just didn't join the handles to make a handbag. Also SEW DIY BLOG has a great example which helps you visualise what you have to do.

Let's make a bento bag

The basic rule is, you have a rectangle, you fold it in a way, you sew it, and it's done. It is simple but you just have to work on your sizing.

To start off cut a rectangle which whatever the length, x3 for the width, e.g mine are 25cm by 75cm. You need to plan in a 1/4 inch seem allowance, this is usually on the base plate on a sewing machine, or just make sure however far in you sew your hems, you do that consistently.

Anyway, to help highlight the folds, I have ironed mine, you do not need to do this though, it is simply so you can see where you fold your fabric.

You simply start with folding the top left corner down and the bottom right corner up.

This is the more problematic fold but you take the top right corner and pull it down and across letting it sit with a diagonal middle seam.

Spin round so the points are facing up.

This is your bento bag. All that needs to happen now is sewing.

I am using a JUKI DX7. I love my machine, it is so easy to use and handles small sewing projects like this with ease. Really it is built for the big projects, dress making, quilting but its speed and precision make little projects like this easy.

Next you need to pin along the joins:

These are your side seams, one on each side. Sew a straight line of stitching {I did mine 1/4 inch in} to seal the join. Repeat on the other side.

Once that is done you will begin to see the shape of the bag.

Now we want to actually give our bag a better base. We are going to sew the corners and cut them off giving us a rectangular base instead.

Flatten the bag making sure the top two corners of the bag join on top of each other and the bottom two, where the base is, also join on each other.

It is the base corners that you will be cutting.
I measure 3 inchs in from the point of the corners.

Do it one at a time as it is easier.

Draw a line from the top to bottom. A straight line cutting off the point equally on both sides of an imaginary centre line running vertically from the point.
When you are happy, simply chop it off.

Now sew up the two holes you now have in the base. Straight line stitching 1/4 of an inch in.

You should have a shape similar to this now. If you open it up again it should sit with a flat bottom and a more rectangular shape.

Now depending on your fabric and if you want to, before turning it the right way round I would zigzag hem all the edges. This stops the fabric fraying and gives the seams more strength.

The base and the sides of the bag are now finished. Again, it is up to you but as my fabric was fraying as I made this I also put a hem on the top half of the bag, what would be the handles or ties.

I simply made a small fold and sewed from all around the bare edges. 

This was also zigzag stitched to prevent further fraying.

And all of a sudden, you have your BENTO BAG. Now I am no professional, just a girl who likes to try and this process is pretty much how it played out. You may be more experienced than me and know a quicker way to do it, leave me a comment of your ideas, they would help me out too!

I made a couple for our kids and popped to the shops and got a bag full of treats!

Packing the Valentine's Bento Bags

I actually found most of the Valentine's items at Home Bargains and they were not expensive; heart chocolates, biscuits and sweets were all available at not inflated prices. I also picked up some cheap rainbow crayons, stationary boxes {mini sellotape, etc.} and hair clips to also put in the Bento Bags and some mini jars of strawberry jam, a really sweet treat!

Filling the bags was fun, there is a large sugar content but we don't allow the children to gorge, it will take them weeks and weeks to eat!

The end results look like an absolute bountiful bag of happiness which for a child opening it, will cause a huge amount of excitement. The bag shape also comes in very handy to keep the contents contained which is why I didn't want to just wrap the gifts but make a bag. 

Using the two tabs left simply pull across and tie.

Tying up your Bento Bag

This is pretty simple, as you would anything, a simple tie, pulling the two tabs as tight as you can to secure them and keep all the treats contained!

These bags are absolutely perfect for Valentine's day. A real treat bag ready to be opened Valentine's morning as part of the days celebrations.

What do you think? Could you have a go at making them? Do you like the idea of creating a gift bag this way?

Whatever your answer, I love having a go at making something that we can keep and use over and over again, a bit like a Christmas stocking, you get them out each year and the kids begin to develop fond memories of the moments when they are used.

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