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The Teacher Appreciation Society

22 Jul

Our teachers do an amazing job.

Just keeping control over a class of 25+ children, let alone being able to to teach them anything takes super human levels of skill and patience.

Over the past week my friends have been posting some of their beautiful homemade gifts. I thought it would be really nice to do a round up of these offerings.

First up is Lucy, who created a fantastic personalised shopper. Her son wrote on the bag and she embroidered over the top. I think you’ll agree it is a little cracker.

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She also made some little sweet bags from brown paper and filled them with Jelly Beans

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Aida upcylced some tiles using blackboard paint to create these lovely coasters.



Emma Re-purposed some plastic pop bottles to create an apple for teacher. She popped homemade necklaces inside.



Cholpon made some lovely crochet bookmarks which she popped into cards made by her son.


And as for us? We upcycled some old clipboards that I had found in the bottom of the cupboard.

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There is something here for everyone to have a go at. Get the children involved, they’ll really enjoy helping to make gifts for their teachers 🙂


The Trip of a Lifetime

7 Jul

Getting information about school, trips, parties or anything is like getting blood from a stone with my children.

I am fascinated by their prioritization of certain details and omissions of important facts.

It took some coaxing, but this is a true and accurate account of the school safari park trip. As told to me by Liv, aged 4 (nearly 5).

Liv explained her excitement of going on her first school trip.

Apples were distributed on arrival, before going around the park in the coach.

A Monkey caused much excitement by jumping on their vehicle.

She spotted elephants and giraffes. “They were this big” she said as she stretched her arms as wide as possible.

They had lunch on the grass.

Chickens joined them.

“One chicken tried to eat another chicken” She told me in her completely deadpan style.

They finished their lunch and left these clucky abominations of nature behind.

Next up were the penguins. “They were quite stinky”.

When I asked what they did, she proceeded to demonstrate by standing with her back to me, arms by her side and utterly still. “They were quite boring” she said, still with her back to me.

So on the Orangutans. They appeared to have had as much energy as my children.

“One jumped over Miss M”.

I have not quite got to the bottom of why this particular teacher had been put in the orangutan enclosure, but it does seem like a cruel and unusual punishment.

Lastly they went to see the bird man. He had a red bird and a yellow bird which was called Yoyo.

The bird man had taught his feathered friends to put their rubbish in the bin.

I wonder if he does private tutorials?


Half Term Holiday

2 Jun

As children our holidays were always in Britain. There were certain things that were compulsory in order to make a memorable trip away.

1. Cooked breakfasts. Always a great start to the day

2. At least one minor injury or illness. We’ve had thumbs shut in car doors, normal toast being accidentally fed to the coeliac of the family, an iron pole thrown at my head by  a brother who also got a bad headache from sniffing a dead worm.. you know who you are!

3. Lugging huge amounts of stuff miles across a beach in order to get a quiet spot.

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4. Wearing shorts, even when it is not really quite shorts temperature. But the sun is out, so that is all that counts.

5. Take jumper off,  put jumper on and repeat every time the sun goes in or out.

6. Picnics in a car park

7.  A pick and mix bag of rain. Fine rain, sheeting rain, sideways rain, big fat rain and heavy drizzle. To name but a few.

8. Illusive sunshine, resulting in a mad dash for the beach

9. Following a tiny piece of blue sky for at least forty minutes, before giving in and  finding a car park in order to re-group and actually look at the map.

10. Fish and chips at least once, possibly even twice 😉

11. A steam train. There’s always a steam train



So last week we were in beautiful North Norfolk with the Grandparents.

My Father in-laws awesome cooked breakfasts (second breakfast as my children like to call them) were pretty much compulsory most days, .

The minor injury was all mine this year. My husband managed to bring the car boot down on my nose. How I managed not to scream profanities in front of my in-laws I will never know. Instead I petulantly threw a packet of hand wipes into the boot and loudly accused my husband of not being able to put his shoes on like a normal person (don’t ask).

I spent our journey to the beach pouting and holding an ice pack to my face, fully expecting two black eyes, but  disappointingly getting just a slightly sunburnt nose.

On a day when the weather was particularly bad featuring with every type of rain from the pick and mix bag, we decided to take the children to the local splash pool.

Aiming to keep things quick and simple, we put our swimming costumes on under our clothes and got in the car. However on arrival in the pouring, big, fat rain we found that the que outside was at least 30 strong. Much to the disappointment of the children we decided that it was not worth waiting for, what was likely to be a crowded and disappointing experience.

So off we headed in search of blue sky, or at least a let up in the rain.

No such luck.

We ended up sitting in a National Trust car park watching the rain hammer down on the windscreen.

I realised that a full undressing would be necessary for Liv and I when we next needed the little ladies room. We still had our swimmers on.

So there was no picnic in a car park this year. Although  a full family wardrobe change in the car  thoroughly makes up for it.

We are now blacklisted by the National Trust.

Lastly we managed the obligatory train ride . Taking a half hour,  open top journey from Wells to Walsingham.

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Train rides are very family friendly.  All children love a train ride. So it is a slightly surprising thing that such a family friendly attraction should have such an un-child friendly destination.

Walsingham is a very pretty and interesting place. A Mecca for pilgrims. But child friendly it is not.

It is an incredibly quiet village with very little to it,  other than relic shops and one tea room with very suspect hygiene levels.

Also, on studying a macabre sculpture of an angel grinding his sandal into the face of a demon, my daughter started asking very philosophical questions about the nature of the Devil.

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We managed a couple of very sunny days at the beach where the children ventured waist deep in the sea. Rather them than me!

My daughter buried a frisby and then forgot about it, until we got home.

We created a three-piece suite out of sand including foot stall for the children to eat their lunch from.

The men burnt their feet.

The females had mastered the use of sun cream and so women and children left the beach unscathed.

I think we did well and managed to tick most of the things on the list.

We all had a wonderful time and made many fond memories.

I especially enjoyed my father in-laws extra strong gin and tonics at the end of every day 😉





Upcyled Bunting

23 May

Choosing fabrics, whether it be for curtains, table cloths, cushions, clothing or just for sewing is a very personal thing.

It says so much about our tastes and personality and can leave an indelible mark others.

In the last twelve months our family has suffered the loss of three grandmothers. All very different and extraordinary women with their own remarkable and unique stories.

I have been lucky enough to collect some of their old fabrics, which I have kept with the idea of giving new life to these seemingly mundane objects.

So when my mother in law asked me to make some bunting for her little summer-house, I had a rifle through my fabrics and found a piece that had belonged to her mother.

It turned out to be perfect for garden themed bunting, the pattern being a mix of summer flowers and summer fruits.

I got to work cutting the triangles using my trusty Kellogg’s template.



I lined the back with a simple cream cotton and chose a bold cherry red bias binding  to bring the whole thing together.


I was quite pleased with the result and my lovely in-laws sent me photo of it in situ. I think it looks pretty good.

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(I’ll skim over the part where I made it slightly too short, simple arithmetic was never my strong point).

I have another couple of upcycling projects coming up using some of my own Grandmothers fabrics. I am still toying with ideas, but I think one may be a cathedral window quilt and the other may involve Suffolk puffs. These two techniques would be great for showcasing many of her fabric choices without needing large quantities of any one pattern. Plus this involves hand stitching which I love 🙂

I’d better get cracking then!


Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb!

21 May


I was recently given a bundle of home-grown rhubarb and couldn’t decide what to do with it.

A friend reminded me of a cream tea we had taken recently which involved rhubarb and ginger jam.

We had enjoyed it so much I thought I would give it a go myself.

Here is what I did –

480 g rhubarb washed and cut into 1cm ish pieces

480 g jam sugar

1/2 lemon zest and juice

25 g stem ginger

2cm fresh ginger peeled and grated


Sterilise around three small jars and put a saucer in the freezer.

Add all your ingredients together and give it a good stir.


And then leave for covered for an hour or so to let the sugar dissolve into the juices.


Transfer to a pan and on a medium heat stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Turn up the heat and boiled rapidly until you a have reached the setting point. Do this by putting a blob on your saucer and leaving  it for a couple of minutes. Run a finger through the blob and if it wrinkles and doesn’t run back into the clearing that your finger has left,  it is done.

transfer into sterilised jars and screw on the lid immediately.

I decided to use some friends as guinea pigs.

Mrs W made the most beautiful scones.

I was slightly concerned I might ruin them with my concoction.



The result was tasty but could have done with a little more ginger to give it a bigger kick, but I guess that is down to personal taste and trial and error.

It was as easy as any jam to make and makes a bit of a change from strawberry jam on scones.


Mrs B’s Emporium

23 Apr

Mrs B’s Emporium is a little treasure trove of kitsch trinkets and vintage style gifts.

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I needed to pick up a couple of birthday cards and some gift wrap, so it was a perfect opportunity to walk round the corner and check out the latest little shop to open in Wolverton.

It is full to the brim with great little gift ideas for the young and the not so young. There are toys and games to keep small people entertained and wonderfully kitsch cards and gift wrap. There are some great stocking filler ideas too!

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There is trim and rick rac and bunting and hanging hearts enough here to keep vintage lovers and crafters happy too.

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There are note books and pretty paper clips for the stationary lover and ideas for the bakers of cupcakes.

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I picked up some really retro gift wrap for my two pressies,  a couple of fun cards and a note-book for me. All of which came to £7.50, which I thought was pretty good value.

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If you happen to be passing by, a visit to Mrs B’s is definitely worth while. It is full of great ideas and it won’t break the bank 🙂

Junior Crafters

16 Apr

Trying to find things to entertain the children during school holidays can be challenging at times and often expensive.

By the time you add in the petrol,  cost per child and the obligatory coffee and cake, then you are looking at a £20 plus afternoon.

Our craft group decided that we could do it just as well, if not better ourselves.

Our venue was a church hall that doubles up as a pre-school, so the facilities were perfect, with a great kitchen and lots of tables and chairs. It cost us only £30 to have it for the whole morning and we split the cost (£3 per family).

We had several different craft tables set up, each one was hosted by a different parent, so there was something to entertain everyone.


There was cake decorating,

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Paper plane making, with a target board for target practise!

bunny whiskers,


beaded butterflies,


homemade play dough and lots of sticking and cutting.


The children decorated their own bags to take their crafts and cakes home in.


And there was a good supply of tea, coffee, squash, beautiful home-made cakes and a fruit platter.

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It was a bit of an experiment, but it seemed to pay off.

Everyone got stuck in and many hands made very light work.

All of the children had a fantastic morning, and there was something to suit every age.

And all for the princely sum of £3 per family.

We are already thinking about the next one!



Pin It

8 Apr

After the high jinx of last weeks post, it is time to get back to reality  😉

This week (instead of meeting Jane Garvey),  I was in Ikea on the hunt for some pinboards.

The children like to collect mementos of everything from postcards to bus tickets to leaflets and photo’s.

They have a their mothers hoarding tendencies, so I thought it would be nice for them to have somewhere to put their treasures as a reminder of fun times.

Ikea had some perfect pinboards for under £5, so I picked a couple up with the idea of personalizing them.


Armed with my current weapons of choice (Glue and staple guns + bog standard PVA glue) I set to work.

Using some pretty butterfly paper we decoupaged the frame of the Livster’s using good old-fashioned PVA glue.


Once that was dry and trimmed I dug up an old net curtain with a fetching check pattern on it.

Cutting it to the size of the cork surface, I then staple gunned it on.

It was very satisfying.


To tidy up those raw edges,  I chose baby pink ribbon and using a glue gun stuck in as a border between the frame and the main part of the board.


And voila! A place for all of Livs memories  to be pinned.


With the Bo’s we left the frame alone. I found some fun spaceman fabric amongst the junk in my trunk 😉 . I used that to cover the cork.

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A really simple, quick make.


Mrs B BC2

1 Apr

I have had to keep this information very tightly under wraps, even from my closest friends and family, but I can now reveal some very exciting news.

I shall keep it brief as it is a long and winding story. But the long and the short of it is that I have been approached by BBC 2 to be a judge on their newest prime time weekday project.

Having read my blog with interest, they felt that my passion for thriftiness and upcycling would be perfect for their flagship show The Great British Upcycle.

Like The Great British Bake Off and The Sewing Bee,  the object of the show is to bring together some very talented amateurs and pit them against each other in a series of upcycle challenges.

William Morris, Kirsty Allsop and Martha Stewart are lined up as fellow judges. Each of us representing one of the following. Someone old, someone new, someone borrowed and someone with glue. I’ll leave you to guess who’s who 😉

The comedy duo Trevor and Simon (Of Live and Kicking fame) will present the show and lend support to the contestants as they face moral, emotional and mental melt downs.

This promises to be the most brutal show aired since Bill Oddy had a pop at Kate Humble on Spring Watch.

Filming starts late April at Bullring in Birmingham, but in the meantime I have a whirlwind of interviews to do in order to promote the show.

On Woman’s Hour tomorrow I will be talking to Jane Garvey about my views on the 2014 Woman’s Hour Power list.

After this I will be whizzing over to Look East, where I will be talking about Milton Keynes and it’s place on the international stage.

Bruce Lee the wise once said “showing off is the fool’s idea of glory” , and with that in mind I shall say no more,  other than….. Watch this space 😉

Silhouette Portraits

30 Mar

I stole this idea from my friend, who in turn had stolen it from another friend and so I shall pass it on for you to steal at your leisure.

Silhouette portraits have been around for thousands of years and they seem to be having a revival.

I found a really interesting history of the silhoutte here if you would like to know more.

The great thing about a silhouette is that it creates  touching memento of someones likeness with very little artistic skill involved (always a bonus).

I thought it would be a nice gift for Mum to create a portrait of her Grandchildren.

Here is what I did.

Firstly, and trickiest of all, I took a profile picture of each child.

I made sure my daughter’s hair was tied back to get a good clean outline, and that their chins were up so as to show some neck.

Next I printed of the pictures and the traced the outline onto some plain paper.


Once that was done, I broke out the black poster paint and filled in the picture, being carefull not to go over the lines. It would probably be easier just to use black card, but I didn’t have any, so I improvised.


Whilst that was drying I dug out a couple of old white picture frames that had seen better days.


I gave them a new lease of life by decoupaging some pretty paper over the surface and leaving it to dry on the door handle.


Once once my silhouette was dry I very carefully cut it out using a Stanley knife, attached it to some white card and popped it into my newly upcycled frame.

And there we have it.


This was such an easy make, in fact the most tricky thing about it was getting the children to stand still for long enough to get a profile picture of them.


Happy Mothers Day xx

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