Surviving Kitchen Renovation – A Trifle Stifling

It’s going to be some time before I stifle or do anything else remotely trifle-related in my kitchen. Not just because I’m sadly on a strict diet which doesn’t include trifle, but because I have no kitchen. Actually, that’s not strictly true. I do have a kitchen. But it looks like this:

Missing everything except the kitchen sink, which is circa 1955.

Enough to make anyone weep. It’s been uninhabitable since early July. It all began last December when the relic we’d been cooking on died. Him Indoors started having all sorts of bright ideas about taking advantage of the situation and renovating the kitchen. My eyes widened in horror. We had a 6 month old baby and had only just lived through Conservatory Building and Bathroom Renovation. So easy for a man to have a bright idea. We bought a mini oven to “tide us over” and started hunting out a structural engineer to cast a critical eye over the bits we wanted to knock down.

Fast forward 7 months and typically, the very weekend the kitchen had to be cleared for the builders, I was in bed bravely fighting off a potentially fatal bout of tonsillitis. You’d think this was a wonderful convenience, but it meant that Him Indoors and my DIY Dad packed everything……and now I completely understand why my mum has spent 38 years grumbling that she cannot find anything.

I cannot find ANYTHING. All our food is packed into wire baskets and although I can see things, I can’t reach most of them due to the weight of other baskets piled on top. This has proved to be a marvellous diet aid as I can see the Reeces Peanut Butter Cups (mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!) but I’m damned if I can get at them.

Can someone come round urgently to help me liberate the peanut butter cups? (In the orange box in the bottom left basket)

My sewing crates have been relegated to a distant windowsill with larger crates of pans and other heavy stuff plonked in front. I can see them, but should I wish to reach them, I must negotiate a bike, a chair, a mini stereo system and a slow cooker. My sewing machine lives on the tumble dryer. Thank goodness for rubber feet, that’s all I can say.

Only accessible with qualified climbing instructors and safety equipment present.

We are slowly smashing everything we own. We have no worktop, only a sink unit in the middle of the floor and a washing machine next to it. This means that items abandoned on top of the machine get vibrated off onto the floor (Him Indoors is still being educated on this matter). Poor washing up stacking has also resulted in fatalities as precious items slide off the drainer and meet their end on the bare concrete. The only bowls left in our house belong to our cats. We have one glass. DIY Dad (who has been staying with us for three weeks now working on the kitchen) got so fed up of eating his bran flakes out of the weighing scales bowl that he brought his own plastic picnicware.

So, how to survive a kitchen renovation? Well I haven’t yet. It may still finish me off. But I’d recommend a prescription from your doctor or leaving the country for somewhere sunny for the duration. Failing that, an enormous readymade trifle should do it.

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The Spontaneous Cord Skirt (and birthday)

Limited blogging action today as I’m a birthday girl embarking on the wrong end of my thirties and I need time to be depressed  be taken out and treated by Him Indoors. I just wanted to share with you a cute little corduroy skirt I whipped up last week.

Flippy floppy flirty skirty

I’d like to say I made the pattern up myself but I kind of did and kind of didn’t. It’s not tricky to make a little skirt like this. It’s basically a tube, elasticated at the top and hemmed at the bottom. I hadn’t planned to offer cord skirts on my Facebook page, but my most prolific customer requested one and there’s no way I’d let her down!

The photo isn’t a true representation of colour. It’s cerise pink cord, but I’d got new daylight LED bulbs in my kitchen and it was a toss up between full-on-glare and near-blue-darkness in the conservatory (plus I quite like talking about my lovely new daylight LEDs – bright, they are.)

Flipping flower-tastic!

The flower embellishment was one I made myself. I did a google search for fabric flowers and found a quick tutorial. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t bookmark it, but perhaps I can give a quick run-through another time. The centre is a self-covered button, which was extremely fiddly to cover in corduroy as it’s a bit thick, but I was very pleased with the result.

As an extra nice touch, I made another flower and attached it to an alligator clip so it can be used as a hairslide or a corsage. I never fail to be aware of how important ultimate co-ordination is to mothers of girls and in particular, Most Prolific Customer. (Actually the hair clip was meant to be a surprise so if she reads this before the Posty delivers, I’m in trouble).

I’m off for some cake and a glass of something silly-inducing. Until next week….

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Every home should have a mannequin.

I’ve talked before in earlier posts about the wonderful, enigmatic Rosie. But who is she? And why does she deserve a spectacular cinderella dress?

Rosie bombed into our lives when I realised that I needed some sort of display effort for my first ever craft fair. I needed a model who wouldn’t whinge or dash off somewhere, or leave inexplicable stains on my clothes. I spent weeks scouring the web looking for a mannequin who fit my budget. The budget being critically defined as “the less the better”.

Mannequins are not cheap!! Even those of the baby variety command more wonga than I was prepared to part with, so eBay it was. After a few weeks and sore, itchy, dry laptop-boggled eyes, I found her. Only a fiver plus delivery. The photo was a bit unflattering (I’m being polite) but at that price, well, she had to be mine.

Working the run-over-by-a-truck look

Following a few courier issues, two weeks later she arrived. In a big cardboard box. With two children almost as excited as me, I ripped into the lid and revealed……..well it looked like the aftermath of an horrific murder minus the blood. As my friend put it: “Oh my god, call an ambulance!!!”. Poor Rosie had been horribly bent in all manner of ways to fit in the box and it hadn’t done her any favours.

"Dial 999!!!"

Once liberated and roughly straightened out, I came face-to-neck-stump with my new charge. She had the appearance of one who might have been repeatedly run over by a truck. From that moment on, she was Roadkill Rosie.

“Hmmm” said my 7-yr-old, “Where’s her head?”

This was set to become a recurring question. We had numerous attempts at cranium recreation but I think she does just fine without. After all, I didn’t buy her for her brains.

A touch unrealistic...

Him Indoors became unnaturally fixated with her rather grubby appearance. It’s true that she was well in need of being introduced to the washing machine, but with less than a week to go until the craft fair, I was reluctant to dismantle her for fear of something going hideously wrong. Despite my reservations, Him Indoors set about unstuffing Rosie (I have photos of this but have been issued with strict instructions that they are not for public display!).

Too realistic......and freaky....

She was promptly washed and reassembled whilst I peered anxiously through my fingers. Quite how he managed to get her looking the same as she did before with a carrier bag full of stuffing left over I’ll never know, but we’ll call the experience a success nonetheless.

What lurks in your playhouse??

Now she sits patiently waiting for her cinderella dress and freaks me out by lurking in the corner of the room. At least she can’t give me the evil eye.

Headless children should be strictly supervised on climbing frames.

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Corduroy, how I love/loathe thee…

Corduroy – currently the bane of my life for repeatedly bending or snapping sewing machine needles at crucial moments. But, for the time of year when we’re plunging rapidly into autumn (and some days, downright wintery climes), you just can’t beat a nice corduroy for keeping small people warm and snuggly. A good cord is soft, strokeable, hard wearing and almost shimmers like velvet in the right light. For my first autumn/winter sewing for other people, I’ve got red, navy, purple and two different shades of pink to be going along with and plumped to start with cord trousers.

During the summer, ruffled bottoms have been a hot favourite. Frilly knickers look incredibly cute on little girls. I actually don’t see why boys couldn’t wear ruffles in a masculine sort of a way, but then I’m a mum only to girls, so what the heck would I know?? (Maybe it’s a new trend I need to instigate next summer….mwah ha ha haaaaa!). So, with the frilly knickers and ruffled bottoms in mind, I wanted to create a trouser which complemented my summer outfits.

Pirate Butt - oooaaarrrr!

I’ve been using the Big Butt Pants pattern by Rae Hoekstra and I love it. I’ve done it with frills, contrasting patches, plain, with pockets, long and short and various different cuffs. However, it didn’t lend itself to the design I had in mind for my girly cords. Then I came across Anna Maria Horner’s Quick Change Trousers, from her book Handmade Beginnings, which had the basic design I felt I could build on.

The frilliest butt....

It’s never simple adapting someone else’s pattern, and I’m not quite at the point in my sewing abilities where I have the confidence or skill to create my own patterns from scratch just yet. But actually, I think I’ve got this one cracked. I added two rows of ruffles to the bum and a contrasting trim around the leg cuffs. The original pattern is reversible, but I changed it so that my cords are not. I think it worked out well. It’s frilly, it’s silly, it’s a fashion statement, but I have fallen in love with them!

So here they are – girly, frilly-bottomed cords (and a boy’s version too). I’m quite pleased. Apologies for the rough photography. I like to put my clothes on children to show how they hang and wear but this brings it’s own issues! So here they are, my girly ruffled cords and some cute boy cords too!

Offsetting the lack of trouser ruffles with a ruffled skirt.

Not a ruffle in sight.

Working the stawberry ruffle!

Bum ruffles - so hip it hurts.

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Shoes! (Not sewing-related at all, but just as interesting)

I’m a big shoe fan. My 7-year-old equally adores shoes and has nearly as many as me. Between us, we appreciate a pretty shoe, a bargainous shoe and reluctantly, a necessary shoe. It’s that time of year to shop for necessary shoes. Shoe shops dust down their ticket machines and brace themselves for the onslaught. After six weeks of slumming it in (gorgeous flower-embellished) flip-flops, the kids need shoes. For School. And now our Tiddler is toddling, she needs shoes too. But she can have pretty impractically coloured ones.

Despite the knowledge that we were shopping for necessary shoes, my shoeaholic child was true to her genetics and hopelessly excited about the trip. She revelled in the measuring process, marvelled at how her feet had grown……and then was disappointed when presented with a very limited, very boring selection of shoes. She’d hoped for a lovely shiny patent with pretty embellishment but it wasn’t to be. Saying that, it was better than our Clarks experience two years ago when we patiently waited for 45 minutes to be served, had her feet measured and were presented with the ugliest pair of shoes known to man. Whoever designed them had not an ounce of taste. Both of us verging on tears, we hurried from the shop and have never returned. Since we discovered Junior Choice in Rushden, we’ve never looked back and generally won’t shop anywhere else.

So it was to Junior Choice we headed with the Tiddler. She was fed. She was napped. She had a dummy to hand. There was nothing more she could require. What happened next, I can only imagine, must be down to her not sharing an enthusiasm for shoes with her sister and I. Poor child must get that from her father. Oh well.

There was minor grumbling as the shop assistant began to attempt measuring her feet. This was followed by persistent foot wiggling and then full-on kicking. The assistant retreated and called reinforcements. An older lady approached with a much more no-nonsence approach and the Tiddler eyed her with suspicion. A foot was grabbed, a stuffed squirrel brandished. A full blown tantrum was born. It took her sister and I to fully restrain her, one shop assistant to hold a leg and the other to measure.  Meltdown ensued. Other shoppers averted their gaze. I laughed nervously. The shop assistants scurried off to find suitable shoes (with the only criteria being “cute”).

As a perfect pair of red patent beauties emerged from the first box, my eyes lit up and I knew we’d found The Ones. Tiddler had other ideas and just as her foot-measuring tantrum began to subside, so began the shoe-wearing tantrum. Employing earlier techniques, the shoes were fitted……and she refused to walk.

“Er…does she walk all the time…?” enquired the shop assistant of my rebellious, screaming child, whose face was almost the same colour as the beautiful shoes.

Please ignore carpet. We inherited it and it won't die. Honestly.

And with a nervous laugh, I paid for the shoes (as much as I’d pay for a pair for myself!) and we hastily left.

Worth as much as a weekly shop between them

Upon our arrival at home, Tiddler could not wait to get the shoe box out the bag. She threw off the lid, plucked a shiny red shoe from amid the tissue paper wrapping and proclaimed “Ooooooo!” as she turned it over in her hands. She then attempted to put it on herself. Pfffft.

Can't keep her mits off them now!

(The cinderella dress is coming on a treat in case you were wondering….)

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Fit for a princess?

There’s been a jumble of ideas running through my poor sleep-deprived brain this last week. A flurry of stuff, mainly junk, but finally my brain farted and the Centrepiece Dress was born. This dress will be (as you might imagine) the centrepiece of my stall at the christmas craft fair. It needs to fulfill just two criteria: 1) It must be Amazing 2) It must command attention.

With that in mind, I put in some significant hours searching for a pattern. Eventually, I happened upon a rather wonderful designer by the name of Benita, whose simple yet stunning creations struck me right away. Her website is well worth a visit.

But which fabric to choose? Again, I scoured the web and settled on a Kokka fabric, the not-to0-shabby-very-pricey Cinderella.

Expensive, but sooooooo worth it.

Judging by the amount of hard-earned cash I’ve parted with to buy the materials for this dress, it would be hopelessly impractical to make more to sell (unless anyone’s willing to remortgage?). But that was never the intention with Cinderella dress. She is meant to be an eye-catcher!

The dress will be made to fit my mannequin Rosie (more on her another time) and will be my biggest challenge yet. So if you don’t hear anything more on this project and this post mysteriously disappears, you’ll know that it all went horribly wrong and I’ve gone into hiding.

Twirly, swirly, frothy and girly...

Fingers crossed then!

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Craft Fair Mistakes (or It Shouldn’t Happen To a Crafter)

Last Saturday was my first ever craft fair. For weeks I prepared for popping my crafty cherry by trawling the web, looking for advice. There’s not an awful lot about, so I winged it.

Mistake number 1): Deciding to share a table with a crafty friend and doing the practise table set up the night before the fair. With less than 24 hours to go, we found that the combined volume of our stock added to the enormity of the clothes rack I’d purchased at the last minute just wouldn’t fit. Panic ensued. Well, actually, I went to work and left my friend to sort the problem out. After a swift bit of Facebooking, it transpired we could take an additional table. Which leads me on to :

Mistake number 2): Don’t buy a clothes rack in a panic. It will look crap. And it did. It’s part of a rose arch that I “cleverly” adapted. Then wrapped it with foil wrapping paper to disguise it’s rose-archiness and added ribbons. Oh dear. Judge for yourselves:

Poor excuse for a clothes rack - excuse the trampoline backdrop.

Mistake number 3): Don’t work a nightshift the night before the fair (or organise your diary!). After a 12 hour shift, I raced home, threw coffee and an egg down my neck and had a right royal panic packing the car, although with some good foresight, I had packed all my outfits in a wheeled suitcase the night before.

Mistake number 4): Sticky-backed velcro will not hold your business sign onto a brushed cotton table covering for 6 hours. Not even if assisted by parcel tape. Any suggestions for future anchorage gratefully received.

More cheese than a fromage factory. Jumble sale chic at it's best.

But mistakes aside, in the absence of our children and the presence of great volumes of free coffee, my friend and I had a marvellous time. We chatted, we mingled, we networked, hell we even sold a few things! Our business cards disappeared, mostly collected by dozens of little girls (or so it seemed). To my delight, a pair of duck-patterned trousers I’d been hoping wouldn’t sell actually didn’t sell and have been paraded by my smallest, who has just this week started taking her first tottering steps.

Cute ducky pants

Next time, I’ll know what to expect. Next time, I’ll be totally prepared. Next time, I’ll spend more time shopping for a decent clothes rack. When is next time? 4th December. Better get cracking then.

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