Thursday, 29 December 2016

2016 Resolutions - Results

Work, keep it simple
To do lists were kept short and focused. I made a plan for the year and stuck to it. I even recognised the need to stop making kimonos in the summer so that I could work on new stock ready for the autumn. Resisting the urge to keep up with demand is something I've usually struggled with. I would keep on saying yes ultimately biting off more than I could chew.

Time with Alessi, make it count
Meh. Sort of.
By the time summer rolled up. She was over it. Over nursery, the games she used to love playing, her toys. The lot. Those last few months were a struggle. I do think we made the most of it, but in the end it looked closer to making the most of a bad situation than the rose tinted images I had in my head! 

Accept myself
NAILED this one. 
From my post pregnancy body, slowly aging face, constant need for solitude and finally accepting that I just don't like wine, I'm more at ease with it all than I ever have been. 

Big. Fat. Fail.
I don't think I've read a single book. Well not for myself. I've read hundreds of children's books over the year though. It doesn't quite count, but seeing as the whole point was to keep Alessi interested in books (and she is), I'm not losing too much sleep over this one.

Celebrate my accomplishments
Hit and miss.
Ok I'm a little annoyed about this one as I did (and still do) believe that it's important for people to do. I achieved a lot this year and in some cases, surpassed my own targets, but often failed to celebrate them. Reasons included not having enough money (to treat myself), not making the time and just generally not organising myself properly. 
I still feel the same as I did this time last year in that I believe this is an important habit to get in to so I'm going to carry this resolution over to 2017 and hopefully with practice, it will become something that comes a little more naturally.

What about you? Did you make any resolutions at the start of the year and if so, how did you do?

Thursday, 22 December 2016

I hate DIY

Not long after my last post, Dan and I decided that the house needed some work. Two months before Christmas. I wouldn't recommend it .

And now with two days left until Christmas we have finally finished it all. The relief I feel is immense and all I want for Christmas now is an uninterrupted nights sleep, a lie in and some cheese.

So here's to not seeing abandoned paint brushes dotted around the house, paint smells, touching wet paint, cursing and having to do it again, measuring, cutting, more cursing and just generally wondering what the hell we thought we were doing.

Here's to sleep, pickles and cheese. Watching Alessi's face light up when she opens her presents and going to see the Nutcracker on Christmas Eve. And here's to surviving 2016!

Whatever you decide to do with it, I hope you all have a restful and happy holiday.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Garden tidy up

Lately I've been slowly getting the garden winter ready. Progress has been slow as we are still in the process of giving the house a good clear out too (which is taking forever), and our DIY list continues to demand attention. 
Wet weather and old houses don't mix well, and it doesn't do chicken coops any good either. I'm kicking myself for not getting the coop painted when the weather was dry and sunny. Pink or not, the wood is old and needs weather proofing. So I went out yesterday with the intentions of finishing the job off only to find that the pink paint has disappeared. Now admittedly, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, good riddance. May I never be that stupid again. On the other hand, damn it. Now I may have to buy more paint right at a time that I'm trying to save, not spend. That will teach me.
So the coop remains unfinished for now, but at least the chicken run is up and being enjoyed.

I still need to add some kind of supports as although it's pretty sturdy, it's a bit bowed in the middle. Other than that, the idea to make a long and narrow run over the flower bed to keep cats off and the weeds down seemed like a great idea. However I can already see the ground looking a little compacted since I moved the chickens there and while they are only little and compaction won't be too severe, it won't help next years plants one bit so now I'm thinking of moving the coop and run AGAIN. Always with the tinkering! But they need a little more cover from the wind and rain too. Also, I need to put something down to protect their feathered feet from the mud and wet. I've got a few ideas up my sleeve, one involves pallets which will thrill Dan no end, but I do love a good pallet project!

Another thing I finally got around to doing was putting up some conker garlands in the shed windows. The amount of spiders and webs we get in there is ridiculous and while not everyone believes that conkers deter spiders, I personally think they do. Until the conkers get old and dried up at least. Either way, they look pretty and make the shed look more interesting from the kitchen window so I'm happy spiders, or no spiders.

Alessi got really excited about making a bug hotel and wanted to make one out of bricks like the one at her school. I had initially just planned to drill a bunch of holes in the existing tree stump so in the end we made two. She also wanted to put up a sign and her wind mill toy, (anyone know what those things are actually called?) so the bugs would know where to go. Seriously that kid kills me everyday with how her mind works. Take the tree stump for instance, have you seen its grumpy face?

See? You can't miss it. She decided that it was grumpy because it didn't have a hat. So now he has a hat. And apparently it's only pretending to be grumpy now to scare away the bad bugs. It's things like this that make me forgive that poptart for getting up before 6am most mornings. Seriously, those of you commenting on about how you love the school holidays because of the lie ins you get? They make my face go a little bit like our stumpy friend here. I jest of course. As long as there is coffee all is good in my world! 

Early morning grumps aside, I still get to be a little bit productive in the day once the caffeine has kicked in. Yesterday I also managed to fix my little portable greenhouse with the help of some duct tape. Those bars no longer keep clanging to the floor and the roof actually stays up now! For how long is anyone's guess and I suspect that the winter winds will have some fun with this, but it's worth a go. I want to try and get through winter without losing all of my strawberry plants this time. Fingers crossed.

Speaking of which, here are said strawberries. I'm loving the autumnal colours of those leaves.

And as rain and mud is a given in our garden during the wetter and colder months I thought it would be a good idea to give Alessi's mud kitchen a bit of a revamp. I brought it up for under the shade of the apple tree, (no more hot sun to hide from now) so now it's on the patio next to the house, making it easier for her to nip in and out as she pleases and as such, more inclined to play there. It's also right next to the water butt which she loves. No more carrying her watering can up and down the garden! And you see what I mean about my love of pallets? They may not look pretty, but you can do so much with them!

And last, but not least I finally got around to mulching the potted fruit trees and honeysuckle. First with a thin layer of compost, followed by a layer of leaves from the lawn.

Followed by newspaper and straw. I gave the whole lot a good watering and bish, bash, bosh, they're done. Hopefully that will help protect the roots this winter and put a bit more roughage back into the soil. I only did this for my apple tree last year and unsurprisingly, it was the one that grew the most and produced the best fruit. So no laziness this year, I did it properly and I did it to all of them this time.

Oh, and Alessi added her own finishing touch. 

So the garden's autumn clear up is over for another year and now I'm toying with the idea of making a little winter fire pit out there somewhere. Realistically, I'm not sure how often we'd get to use it, this is Britain after all and winter usually just means rain. But on the off chance that it does stay dry, some days out in the garden baking potatoes on a fire pit does sound pretty awesome don't you think?

And it'll be a good way to use up all that left over pallet wood I'm going to have lying around! 
Sorry Dan.

Monday, 10 October 2016

October my heart

Oh am I glad it's October! If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed that I was struggling with Alessi's settling in days at school last month. And so was she. Having her routine change from one week to the next confused her no end and while I had initially thought that I would be able to get stuff done around these hours, it quickly became obvious that wasn't going to happen.
No matter. She's finally started her full hours and we've all settled in to the new routine without too many hiccups.*

And so now I find myself looking forward again.

My winter clothes have come down from the attic while my kimonos, strappy dresses, sandals and shorts went back up. I've been reunited with my favourite tartan scarf!

Along with my winter clothes came my box of winter projects. A crochet blanket that needs fixing, the fabric from my ill fated tweed coat (I will make that one day) and two of my favourite jumpers that were ruined by being stretched out of shape. One by Alessi, then a toddler and the other by the washing machine. I'm in the process of upcycling them in to cardigans. It's a slow process because I LOVE those jumpers and I'm afraid of ruining them for good, but I'll get there.

Last month I bought Alessi a book of things to make and do in autumn. The idea was to give us some ideas to fill the afternoons after her settling in mornings at school. As she was too angry/upset/tired/filled with murderous intent to do them then, we're only just making use of the book now. The first activity she picked was making baked apples which she LOVED. Seriously, it was like some kind of crack for kids. She ate hers and polished off mine because I'm a soft touch. I had to promise we'd make them again this week.
The book also comes with a weather chart which you can change daily. It's a lovely little book and I can't recommend it enough. Happily, we haven't had to change it for a little while. Sunny and golden appears to be the order of the day. And long may it last.

*I have yet to get her to school on time, I forgot her PE kit and the homework she's already getting is making me give the education system serious side eye, but apart from that, we're all settled.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Harvest time

I love this time of year, but parts of it are so fleeting. Like the period of spring when the blossom trees bloom and for a short time pink petals turn trees in to candy floss clouds and sprinkle the pavements with nature's confetti. Autumn also has it's fleeting beauty, apple trees weighed down with fruit, conker collecting, catching the best of the autumn colours as the leaves turn and fall. They all happen so quickly that sometimes I'm scared I'll miss it all. There is always something so stop and appreciate at this time of year. And right now for me it's the harvesting phase.

I used to do so much with my little garden. I was having a good old trip down memory lane the other night reading old blog posts and I found this photo of me sitting at the bottom of the garden, feeling very sick and sorry for myself while pregnant with Alessi. But look at the garden!

There's not much in the way of lawn. The majority of the garden was dedicated to the chickens and my vegetable patch. Fast forward four years and the landscape has changed dramatically. The chicken run has gone, the vegetable patch has been pushed back and the garden is almost entirely lawn again. And this is exactly as it should be. The garden is and will continue to be for years to come, Alessi's domain. Also, since she was born and even more so since I started the business, gardening has been right on the bottom of any to do lists, if included at all.
So it's with some pride that this year, despite not having spent much time out there and the slugs and snails eating the shit out of my sunflowers, I still have a healthy, albeit small, garden harvest of apples, sunflower seeds and strawberries from the hanging baskets. Which FYI, is a brilliant way to grow strawberries if you're pushed for space, as well as making it a lot easier to keep slimy critters off the fruit!
And although I've never tried it before, I harvested the seeds from one of the strawberries too. Fingers crossed these will grow in to lots of little strawberry babies next spring because I have another project in mind involving a pallet. My husband is THRILLED. 

So we are in full autumn mode here in Casa Bliss and I'm loving these moments of calm because in all other areas, things are pretty chaotic! We have one more week of Alessi's settling in hours (her school does them for a whole month) and the lack of a consistent routine has been challenging for all of us. Autumn has been our consistent and steady anchor.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Winter List 2016

It's kind of ridiculous how excited I get about putting together these lists. I tend to start thinking about them in late summer and they really help ease me in to the new season.

(stopping draughts, deterring spiders and generally just getting cosy)
Wash windows
Collect conkers to deter the spiders who want to make this house their winter home
Make door curtains for the front door and living room archway
Draught excluder for the living room door
Fix conservatory roof seals to stop the leaks when it rains
Check attic roof for leaks while we're at it
Dig out the fairy lights and candles
Get blankets down from attic 
Draught proof living room floor
Rug for living room

(the big autumn tidy up and preparing the chickens and garden wildlife)
Collect conkers for shed to keep the spiders at bay
Weather proof the chicken coop and add things to keep them entertained
Check fences and fix where necessary
Paint new fence panel
Mulch flower bed and pots
Prune trees
Pull up weeds from the front of the house and tidy. It currently looks a right state
Rake up leaves and add to flower bed
Put the bird feeders back up
Make an insect hotel with Alessi
Harvest sunflower seeds and store for spring
Move tender plants undercover

(getting an old car ready for the elements)
Put together a winter box for the car (torch, blanket, deicer, ice scraper etc)
Check lights, tyres, windscreen wipers, screen washers and heaters. Important as my car is old.

(keeping us warm during the colder, wetter months ahead)
Pack away summer clothes (which I barely used) and get winter clothes down from attic
Stock up on winter socks and jumpers
Buy a good pair of slippers

(crafting and other cold month pleasures)
Fix granny square blanket
Make a hot water bottle cover
Finish Alessi's blanket
Dare I attempt to make that winter coat this year??
Dig out the autumn decorations
Help Alessi make up her autumn nature table


Previous Winter Lists

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Our camping trip. Or proof that lists are a force for good

We're back from our latest trip to Wales which was both exhausting and relaxing in equal measure. Choosing the busiest weekend of the summer holidays was probably our first mistake. Camping always catches me out in that it seems like such a laid back and easy way to holiday. In reality, it takes a fair amount of organising to do it well and forgetting this was definitely our second mistake.
We left everything to the last minute. The morning before we left, Dan dropped Alessi off at nursery before heading off to work, leaving me at home to get everything together. If we had put together a list first, this point of the process would have been very straight forward. Instead it was basically me running around the house, remembering things as I went along and hoping I didn't forget anything. Which of course I did.
I have no idea why we were so rubbish this time around. I can only think it's because we've been juggling other things at home too. DIY and an attic clear out have left the house (and our thoughts) in a bit of a muddle. I guess trying to organise anything when our minds were so jumbled was always going to be a struggle.

All that said, we were back home surrounded by trees, hills and sea so in between the odd pocket of stress, we both had moments where we were able to breathe it all in.

And looking on the bright side, as I said to Dan, each time you go camping, you learn something new which will make future trips easier. This time our lesson has been to plan well in advance! Actually, you can add avoiding bank holidays, meal planning and if you value your sanity at all, remembering to bring along toys to keep kids entertained, to the list of things we learnt from this trip.

But oh, Wales. 

I wouldn't have thought it possible to feel so connected to a place if I didn't feel it myself. It’s home and I miss it. Unfortunately though I can't see us moving back any time soon.  Dan and I are very different people in terms of what we need. I like the quiet life and countryside. He likes people, stuff to do and reliable internet access. To be fair, I'm with him on that last one. And of course there's Alessi and what is ultimately best for her. 

Who knows, maybe one day we'll return to the motherland, but for now at least there will be more trips like this one (well, not too much like this one I hope), and more posts with pictures like these..

The tent is now lying in the garden drying. And so endeth the camping spam. 

Monday, 22 August 2016

Time flies

Well hello there.
It never ceases to amaze me how much I miss writing this blog when life gets too busy to update it. I can't believe the last post I wrote was about the chicken swap. That feels like a long time ago now.
So I guess this will be another update post, with the hope that I can get back in to updating more regularly again.

Obviously one of the things that's new here is that we now have Titch back with two new chickens. Although they no longer feel new. Meet Tufty Sue and Snowball. I don't think I need to point out which one is which.

Since getting these hens the change in Titch (the original chicken) has been amazing. She had been at the bottom of the pecking order and bullied by the other two. Now though, she is the leader of the gang and a proper cheeky little boot she is too. Snowball is a little fluffy dream. She's so friendly and will often creep in to the conservatory while I'm working and fall asleep on my lap (or feet if I push her off). She's even jumped up on my shoulder and settled down happily. Not so happily for me though as each time I'd start to relax she would peck my ear. Not that it hurt, but it would give me a start if I was concentrating on something! And then there's dear Tufty Sue. She's at the bottom of the pecking order, but not bullied. She's just cautious and follows the example of the other two. If they are relaxed so is she. If they aren't however, then even if she doesn't know why she's not ok, she'll carry on not being ok along with them. Divvy thing.

They've all settled in brilliantly and it's amazing to see the difference bantams make to a small garden as opposed to regular sized chickens. For a start, they're not big enough to scratch up the grass or dig holes. Sometimes I move their coop to give them fresh grass to peck at, but mostly just leave it where it is and let them roam the garden when we're home. They like to hang out by the house which means the patio gets covered in poop if I don't clean it every day. Sometimes it feels like a faff, but then if I had a dog or a cat I'd be cleaning up after them too, so really not so much. Especially as I can just hose it off or throw the droppings on to the vegetable patch. I say vegetable patch, the slugs ate everything a long time ago so really, it's just a patch.
And that's them.

In other news we finally got around to sanding the living room floor after pulling up the fugly old carpet. I had thought that the wood had previously been treated as it was so dark. Nope. Just years and years of grime. It also had that horrible tar-like paint that old floors have around the walls. Luckily though, it wasn't too much of a nightmare to sand down. Here's a before pic.

And this was it after Dan and my brother had spent the a whole day sanding.

I've wanted wooden floorboards in my house for as long as I can remember so I am head over heels in love with it as you can imagine. Of course it will get cold in the winter. This is the problem with old houses. The space underneath the floorboards and ventilation bricks in the walls means that we're going to have some wicked drafts in the winter if we don't draft proof it. That will happen though, but we have to wax them first. We're getting there. Slowly.

What else? I've put myself on the waiting list for an allotment. The garden is really Alessi's domain now and other than flowers, there's not really room to grown veggies without taking away some of her space so I thought, why not? Not to mention that any veggies wouldn't last long with the chickens around. The waiting lists are over a year long and I may not get one at all, but I figured it couldn't hurt to at least try. And in the meantime I can keep growing the odd thing in pots. I'll figure out the chicken proofing next year!

Work wise, things continue to grow which fills me with pride, but this summer I really struggled to stick to my 'keep things simple' resolution. Although unlike previous years I quickly recognised the signs that lead up to burn out and took my foot of the gas a bit. As a result, I got back on track. I finished the autumn stock last week and I'm now enjoying a well earned holiday. I say "holiday" although the shop is still open, but not having to worry about the sewing part feels like such a luxury right now. And I really wanted to clear the decks so that I could focus on Alessi before she starts school next month.

Oddly, I'm not feeling the way I thought I would be over Alessi starting school. I was expecting to feel sad, but I'm actually really looking forward to it.
I'm nervous for her. I want her to enjoy school so I do worry about that a fair bit, but otherwise, I'm not sad that my baby has grown up or that she will soon be at school instead of here with me. That's not to say I didn't have a wobble though.
It was in the lead up to finding out which school she would get in to. Most people I know were excited or nervous to find out, but I just ignored it and didn't even bother to look on the day. It was Dan who looked during his lunch break and let me know. And then came the tears! So I did have a wobble. Maybe I've just had it early? Since then I've come to feeling that it's the next natural step for her and if weren't time that led me to feeling that way, then it was Alessi herself.
She is so done with nursery now. My bouncy little girl who used look forward to going and would run off without giving us a second look, now no longer wants to go. It's boring and babyish she told me one morning. And it's not just nursery either. I'm finding it harder to keep her entertained at home at the moment too. She's outgrowing her old games, toys and the things she used to like to do. She's ready for new challenges and realising that has made me a lot more laid back about the whole thing. If anything, I'm looking forward to seeing what the latest version of my daughter will look like. What things will catch her imagination and interest. Where her spark will lie this time. Watching her grow up is by far one of the most fun things about being her mum and yes, sometimes it's also heartbreaking. Thankfully though, right now it's mostly just the former.

So that's pretty much where we're at at the moment.
A mixture of enjoying the last of the summer and preparing for the next season and all that it will bring.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Chicken update

It's been a while since I've updated about the chickens and a lot has gone on since I last introduced them.

The chicken coop is currently empty as all three of my girls have gone back to the breeder so I am henless. The reason being, the two silkie hybrids that were supposed to be bantams, turned out not to be. They got pretty big, pretty fast and it became clear to us last month that they were too big for the current coop we have. Also, they both kept rounded up on Titch a fair bit so something had to be done.

I don't have the space for a coop large enough to accommodate all three chickens and I chose bantams as I wanted to avoid the destruction the previous ones made to the garden. It's not just the grass you lose. They dig! The wonderful thing about Titch is that she's small enough to scratch away at the grass to her heart's content, but she's not big enough to scratch it all up to the dirt and then keep going. And she's certainly not big enough to hold her own against two larger chickens who don't have enough space.

So. They're back with the breeder who happily offered to rehome them. We're going to get two more chickens to replace the silkies, actual bantams this time! And that's why Titch has gone back too. The breeder is going to introduce her to two new friends and watch them for the next week to make sure they settle in well together. If they're happy we'll be pick them up again this weekend.

I'm sad that we had to say goodbye to Elvis and ChickyMcChickface, (Alessi renamed Gertie almost immediately after my last post) but I know they'll be better off for going back. And Titch will be home soon with two new friends who won't keep pecking her everyday.
I'll introduce you to the new chickens again next week once they've settled in.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

A Resolutions Check Up

This photo has nothing to do with my resolutions, but I love it. Alessi took it and I think she really has an eye for composition! ..Blurry photos of the floor aside.

We're half way through the year and I thought it would be useful/amusing to see how I'm doing with the resolutions I set myself at the start of the year.

Work, keep it simple
I'm doing really well with this one. To do lists are kept short and focused only on the most important things I need to do. I've been careful not to take on more than I can handle and no longer work weekends. I worked in to the evenings for a week earlier this month, but I consider that a one off. It left me feeling rough enough to remind me why I made this a resolution in the first place!

Time with Alessi, make it count
I'm doing ok with this one, although there are days when things are tough going. When I'm tired of being tugged/shouted at and I feel that we're far from making the most of these remaining pre-school days. But even on those days, when she's in bed I can look back and see logically that all in all, we're going just fine. Over the past couple of months Alessi has had a growth spurt personality-wise. The games and toys she was drawn to earlier this year are now branded as 'boring'. This made keeping her entertained difficult at first, but then I twigged what was happening and things are much easier going again. I'm throwing new things at her to see what sticks, where her spark now lies. Dancing is something she seems drawn to in a big way at the moment and not a day goes by when she doesn't ask to see "that little girl in the video who does the splits". She's referring to Sia's Chandelier video with Maddie Ziegler. We want to take her to a dance class to see if she likes it, but I want to find one that doesn't take itself too seriously. I want her to have fun with whatever she does so I don't want anything to be too structured at this stage. I'll just have to keep watching her and following her lead. So yeah, I think we're doing alright on this one.

Accept myself
Yup. All accepted and happy. Except my skin's bastard habit of breaking out in spots twice a month. That I will never accept. Cheers hormones. But the swearing, wibble wobble body and social awkwardness? I'm ok with it.

Read actual books
If sewing magazines count, then I am totally nailing this. If they don't (they don't), then I'm not, (I'm not).

Celebrate my accomplishments
I got off to a good start with this one, but I've since become rubbish again. I am really annoyed at myself about it. I even have a list at the front of my notebook of things I'd consider to be accomplishments (I am that bad at recognising them when they happen) and having just looked at it, I can see that I've achieved two of them without so much as a "well done me". This one needs some serious work.

So. In a nutshell, I'm doing really well at keeping my work load simple, making my time with Alessi count and accepting myself, but reading actual books and celebrating my accomplishments need some work!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

EU - the aftermath

Well. We royally fucked that up didn't we?

I woke up at 5am and usually when I wake up at some stupid hour, I simply roll over and go back to sleep. But I remembered that it was results day so I reached for my phone. When I was met with the sweaty and manically grinning face of Nigel Farage over the heading "Britain votes to leave the EU" I had a surge of adrenalin that went right down to my legs. It that moment, my primal fight or flight instinct kicked in and told me to run.

I knew I wouldn't get to sleep again after that so I went downstairs and sat by the window, coffee in hand feeling utterly betrayed by the country I've called home my entire life.

So what now?

Will there be redundancies at Dan's work? Will his job be safe if so? Is this the start of the end for my shop? Are our plans to move now shot to pieces? And don't even get me started on what this will mean for Alessi's future.

One of the worst things about this is the not knowing. The limbo we now find ourselves in, regardless of which way we voted.
I keep reading the news and that seems to be a mistake. It's just more opinions, more questions. The petition I and millions of others signed, now appears to have been 'hijacked' by well meaning non-British citizens. I'm sure their intention was good, but all they've managed to do is undermine what could have been a powerful message for Parliament from the British people. Maybe it was a long shot anyway, but it was one that gave me hope.

One thing that does make me very happy is that Alessi is too young to understand all this. Last Friday was no different from any other Friday and her biggest annoyance at the moment is that it's raining and she wants to let the chickens out.

So for now the answer to all my questions is the same. Wait and see.

And in the meantime I will endeavour to carry on as normal.

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