Monday, 31 March 2014

Cross Mondays week #2

Here I am on week 2 of Cross Mondays.  

So far this cross stitch is progressing very differently to how they usually do because I'm wanting to extend the pattern - something I haven't done before!

Usually you start a pattern in the middle.  The patterns themselves have the middle marked on them, so all you need to do is find the middle of the fabric and get started.

But not for me as I don't know where the middle of my pattern is!  The original design would measure at 52cm x 46cm.  My design won't be any wider but ignoring the top and bottom border, my design will be a third longer.  I don't know how wide the border is so I am over estimating my design at being 70cm x 46cm.  

The lovely folk at the Historical Sampler Company sent me a piece of fabric measuring 107cm x 70cm.  I decided that I would start my pattern in the top left hand corner and work around the outside and then in to the middle, where my changes will be.  This meant I had to measure 18cm down and 12cm in from the edge to find my starting point!

So that's where I started nearly two weeks ago!  I started with the dark red which creates a single line of crosses around the whole edge of the design.  I would be impossible to accurately count the correct number of stitches needed for this border so I just stitched far enough to reach the first flower which also contained this red.  When this thread ran out, I swapped to mild gold which formed the stem of all the flowers around the border.  It was quite a hard pattern to follow not helped by the pale colour so after a couple of strands I swapped to the bright green which was not only easier to see but also had a much simpler pattern to follow meaning that once I had done a few I could copy what I had stitched and didn't need to look at the pattern until I reached the corner.

The pattern has 11 of these flowers along the top and bottom edges, and 13 flowers going down either side.  The flowers repeat in a pattern of 4 so this is where I am able to gain the extra length for my design, meaning I will have 17 flowers on each side.

Its a long slow process doing the border.  I'm usually buoyed on by the fact that I have nearly finished the piece and its the final touches which makes it look ace.  I will be strange to have a frame which I am filling in and I must admit the novelty is beginning to wear off!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Tis the season to be a Maths Teacher!

Tis the season to be a maths teacher tra lalalalalalala

Thinking back to last summer when I first took a step off of the teaching treadmill in search of something more flexible, I was nervous. Would I find work?  Would there be enough work for me?

Well it turns out there is!

There is a national shortage of maths teachers, really there always has been, but at the moment, with teachers leaving the profession in large numbers, this has been made far worse.

It is not unheard of, in these unhappy times, for a whole department to leave a school at the end of a term.

This gave me a long term placement from September through to Christmas. Over Christmas I began to get nervous again but as term started, the phone calls began and I found myself on 'day to day' supply - one of those placements could have been long term if I hadn't been going to India. I could have been working 5 days a week if wanted.

Back from India and I found myself in another long term placement, hopefully until mid-June when the GCSE exam is.  I've been brought in as one of two extra teachers enabling the school to have class sizes as low as 5 for their year 11s - they really do want them to pass!

I also managed to bag myself a bit of teaching at a 6th form college - one of Gove's ideas is for kids to carry on studying maths until they are 18. Colleges aren't set up for this so are having to pull in extra staff.  Unfortunately the kids weren't so keen on Gove's plan, and low turn out meant that my classes got cancelled and I was officially made redundant after just 3 weeks!

But that's not all - I've been given some tutoring work through the Supply Agency too.  School's get extra money to support kids who are in care, one school locally have decided to spend that money on tutors.  I've got one kid at the moment, but there has been talk of a second.

Last summer, I went through some training to do online tutoring.  That company stopped trading but one of the tutors has set up on his own and got in contact to see if I could run a course for some year 6 students.  I had to say no as it was at a time I was already working.

So at the moment work is all good.  I am definately employed up until mid-June when the exams are but I suspect there will be less call for supply after that and obviously nothing in August!  A couple of exam boards have been in touch though, I've got a contract with one (but no guaranteed work), and waiting to hear from the other, so hopefully I'll make it through to September and I can start all over again!

I haven't written this post to show off or anything like that.  Supply teaching doesn't pay anywhere near as well as a permanent job.  If I was working full time I would be £6000 worse off a year doing supply.  Plus I don't get any benefits from agency work.  But teachers are choosing this route as the only way to get a work life balance that works.  As their only option to keep healthy.  A friend told me recently that she was going to take early retirement and work as supply.  She is leaving her 'proper' job because, well, for the same reason everyone else is - its just a bit shit at the moment in teaching.  Apparently, reading my personal posts on Facebook was part of her decision process.  

So that's why I wrote this post. I'm not showing off.  I'm not saying the grass is greener.  But I am saying its ok out here!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Little Owl @ 23 months

Still no sightings of those pesky back molars although they are giving Little Owl some gip!  She has however, had her first visit to the dentist!

Signs and Speech
Little Owl is still using signs to communicate, but as the words come through the signs are slowly dropping off - although she has started doing all the signs and actions along to songs now which is really cute!  And the words really are coming now - new this month is Grandma but Granddad is still a sign.  An "oooh" sound has been discovered which gives us "poo" and "bool" (ball).  "Peas" and "please" has been developed to give us "pee".  "Pear" and "bear" are new too.  Its like Little Owl is learning to spell at the same time as talk!   

What's new?
Well the new words might give you a clue - pee and poo are becoming quite dominant!  Little Owl has started wearing pants when we are at home!  I've even been brave a couple of times and taken her out in Totsbots training pants but only when I've known we won't be long!  Will she be dry by her birthday? Watch this space!
Something I have begun to notice with Little Owl is that she is beginning to get shy when meeting new people.  She'll hide behind my legs and take a while to make sure of things before coming out.  I guess I'm finding it strange as she has always been so confident, but until recently, when she met new people or went into a strange room, she would have always been in my arms.  Now she is more independent, she is looking for safety in me - it is very sweet!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Cross Mondays Week #1

I've missed doing Knitting Fridays, I guess I have missed working on a project but I have also missed having a weekly post to write where I could just say a little bit about what I have been up to that week without worrying if it could be a whole post on its own.

So what's with Cross Mondays?  I love cross-stitch.  It was the first craft that I discovered for myself at 13, it doesn't require too much skill (it really is just stitching crosses) so I didn't need to be taught, and the patterns are all coded and are like little puzzles which appealed to me.  I remember doing lots of teddy-bears at that age but lots of cross-stitch is a bit cutezie  and old ladyish and I slowly stopped doing them.

Along came my first niece in 2003, and I stitched a large Victorian sampler for her baptism.  My parents celebrated their Ruby Anniversary in 2005 and again a Victorian sampler was stitched.  Then my nephew appeared in 2006 and I stitched again, this time a Noah's Ark as I wasn't sure he'd be so keen on the Victorian samplers as he grew!  Niece number 2 came along in 2009 and another Victorian sampler was stitched.

Little Owl arrived in 2012, and I haven't stitched.  The reason is that my Mum thought she might have a go.  So I gave her a year to get started, the whole of 2013!  Nothing happened.  It's not a surprise.  My Mum is a great knitter but she really doesn't like sewing.  She has many knitting projects that have been sat waiting to be sewn together for years.  Things she was making for me as a child.  

I knew Little Owl's cross stitch was going to be mine to do.  But by waiting a year it has taken off the pressure.  Every now and again, I would browse the internet and add to my Pinterest board, knowing that a decision wouldn't need to be made yet.

As the end of 2013 approached, I started to get excited about the prospect of stitching again.  I kept looking but I couldn't find 'the one'.  There was one I really liked, but it didn't have the space to write Little Owl's name or date of birth.  There was some that did, but I didn't like them nearly as much.

Really, I had made up my mind.  So last week when I visited the Knitting and Stitching Show I was really looking for the Historical Sampler Company as it was their Pot Sampler that I had fallen in love with.

The lovely ladies on the stand not only gave me advice on how to extend the pattern but said they would send me a kit with a bigger piece of fabric so that there was space for my design. That was on Sunday, and I had my kit by Wednesday!

And I got started straight away!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

How to crack a coconut!

For a recent recipe I had to use a fresh coconut.  All was good until I was about to start... faced with this hard nut, I wasn't even sure where to start!

Luckily my brother had some wise words!

 A coconut has a face - two eyes and a mouth.

 The mouth is softer so you can uses a skewer to create a hole...

 ...and drain the liquid.

 I grabbed a selection of tools from Papa Owl's tool box...

 I found the big heavy one worked best!

So there you have it!

How to crack a coconut in a few simple steps!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Canvas Design Review & Competition

I was really excited to be given the opportunity to review a canvas from Canvas Design.  I love taking photographs and have many photos from my travels on the walls, but I hadn't got round to putting any of Little Owl up.

That then became an issue - only just back from India I had some lovely shots of her there, but I also had some older photos which I loved too... I just couldn't decide.  So I didn't.  Instead I opted to have a Photo Collage.
Having (finally) chosen my photos, I emailed them to Canvas Design and waited. I didn't have to wait long, the next day I received an email with 3 different options for my collage.  It was really nice to think that someone had taken the time and effort to edit and arrange my photos and all the options looked great.  I made my selection and waited.

The canvas was delivered by Interlink which meant I received two texts, the first telling me which day the my parcel would come, and the second on the morning of delivery giving me a one hour time slot - perfect!
 The canvass arrived well packaged in bubble wrap and corrugated cardboard.
Little Owl was as excited as me to open the package!

And here it is!
I love it!

And Little Owl?
She loved the cardboard!

The canvas I received was 22x18 inches in size, it is printed on 100% cotton canvas and stretched by hand onto a wooden pine frame.  I am very impressed with the quality, the back of the frame looks almost as perfect as the front!

I'm delighted to be able to offer one lucky reader a chance to win a photo canvas for themselves.  You can have a photograph of your choice printed on a standard canvas of any size.  Entry is via the Rafflecopter below and is for UK residents only.

If you aren't lucky enough to win you can still get 15% off your first order using the code BLOG15.  This is a great offer,  as the canvas prints start at just £5.99 for a 6"x6" frame.  Be sure to take a look!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was sent one free canvas for the purpose of this review but all opinions are my own. 
Family Fever

Friday, 14 March 2014

Backwards Meal

When I imagined parenthood, I somehow thought that I was going to magically turn into a domestic goddess, with healthy home cooked meals made from fresh ingredients every night.

But life doesn't always work out like that.

Tonight, I arrived home with Little Owl at 6 o'clock from a long day at work. I was starving as my current school has lunch at 11:30 (and again at 1:30 but by that time you have eaten all your lunch and aren't really hungry anyway), and Little Owl was tired.

We try to eat at 6o'clock but that blatantly wasn't going to happen tonight, and with Papa Owl out at another meeting, I had to come up with something quick!

The trouble was that Little Owl was so tired and hungry, she just wanted Mummy cuddles.  Not very easy to do when you are trying to cook food.

This was where the backwards meal started...

I sat Little Owl at the table with a cup of milk, some flapjack and an orange.
 Meanwhile I was then able to put some fish fingers, a pizza and garlic in the oven - a bit random and not terribly healthy but it was all we had in the freezer that could be cooked from frozen in the shortest time!

Little Owl then said she wanted peas although she then said "no" when I got them out of the freezer. She pointed instead at the mixed veg.

By this time Little Owl had finished her pudding and was beginning to get restless, asking for cuddles again (it is so very cute when she signs cuddle).  So I popped the mixed veg in the microwave...

A second course of mixed veg begins...

Finally the food in the oven was finished and we could complete our meal as we should have begun!

The true reality of modern parenting!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

So sorry if I was rude

This week is our busiest in the year. Papa Owl is on the organising team of a Scout event that happens at the end of March which involves 200 Scouts and about as many adult volunteers.  This is the week each year when he has to have face to face meetings with lots of people.

On Monday he had two meetings out of town and I had a meeting to go to too so Little Owl had a very late night out with me and the Trefoil Guild. Tuesday night's meeting was at our house so that made things easier, as was Wednesday night's meeting but I had to go out to Rangers.

So it was a busy evening in the Owl household. Knowing that time was tight, I thought I would try explaining to Little Owl that Mummy was going out and Daddy would be putting her to bed tonight. Her little face fell, and the bottom lip stuck out and this sad little voice said "mummy" followed by the sign for "milk" and "bed".

Bless her.

I figured we might just have time to get her in her pjs, I could give her a quick cuddle and then she could climb into bed with her bottle and lie down and Papa Owl could sit with her while I dashed out.

It worked, sort of, but in her sleepy state she realised it was Papa Owl with her, to which she was initially amused but then upset as she realised I wasn't there as well. I could hear cries of "mummy" as I dashed around the house, getting into my uniform and grabbing the things I needed...


It felt like someone was gripping my heart, it always does. She loves her Daddy but when she is tired and needing comfort she just wants her mummy, and her mummy should be there.

Suddenly the doorbell goes.


It must be someone for the meeting. They are nearly an hour early! Panic sets in.  I'm going to have to let them in, then swap with Papa Owl, calm Little Owl down, then bring her down to Papa Owl and try and sneak out of the door, and I was going to be late...

With the plan forming in my head, I opened the door...

"Good evening, I'm from..."

Oh no - not a friend but either a sales person, charity collector, politician or Jehovah Witness. The young man continued in a clear but slightly mono-tonal eastern European accent which made it hard to follow.  I didn't catch who is was from, he showed me an ID badge but as I didn't recognise the company, this didn't help.

He continued with his speel until he got to "are you a tenant or the owner?"

Still unsure who this man was, conscious of the mayhem that continued in the house, I seised my opportunity!

"That's not really any of your business" I said before stepping backward and shutting the door.

I don't think the man really understood what I said as he just continued to talk again and it wasn't until the door clicked shut, I heard the words "there's no need to be rude"

NO NEED TO BE RUDE?!!! You think that was rude? You come to my house, disturb my evening, while we were in the crucial stages of getting the baby to bed and YOU THINK I'M RUDE?!!!

Trust me, I could have been rude, I could have been F-ing rude - I could have told him where to go and then slammed the door in his face.

I could have shouted at him. I could have sworn, I didn't, I just told a stranger who approached my house uninvited to mind his own business.

How bloody dare he accuse ME of being rude!

How dare he come to MY house, interrupt MY evening and then accuse ME of being rude!

So angry.


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Little Owl visits the dentist

Little Owl had her first visit to the dentist this week.  

She spent the morning practising showing  her teeth.

Little Owl wasn't booked in for a full appointment, 
she was accompanying me to mine to see what was happens.

But she also got a turn sitting in the chair.
Although she wasn't so keen on showing her teeth off!

Best of all....

Little Owl got a sticker for being a good girl!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Thank you

This evening I was driving home to my baby.

I set off about 4 o'clock and had to stop for fuel quite soon after.

I thought it would be a good idea to use the facilities while I was there so I didn't need to stop again.

They weren't pleasant.

Hidden round the back of the garage

Tiles knocked off the wall


Strong smelling

I smiled to myself, thinking of how the conversation all day had been about India, how this would be a brilliant public loo if it was there.

However, I wasn't going to hang around.

That was when I saw it.


It was lying on the floor by the door.

"see a penny pick it up all day long you have good luck"

I always like luck.

And 20p must be a lot of luck.

But this loo was grim.

I thought how I could put it in a charity box, I wouldn't keep it.

But I decided in my haste to leave, it could remain where it was - perhaps someone would come along who needed it...

I drove.

I wanted to get home.

If I kept going I might be home in just over 3 hours.

Little Owl might still be up.

I drove.




The QE2 bridge

OH NO!!!

I had no money.

I was already on the bridge.

The tolls were on the other side.

Perhaps they take card?

I got in line and waited my turn, scrabbling around for what I could find

It was my turn

"I don't think I have enough cash - do you take card?"

"No - you'll have to go back"

"How do I do that?"

"A car will escort you"

Seriously?  Back to Essex, I'd have to find an ATM at Thurrock and then come back - this detour could surely take an hour and Little Owl would definitely be in bed.

"Is there anywhere I can pull over to search for coins?"

"No - you can do it here"

"I've found £1.70"

No response.  No eye contact was made in all of the time.

For the sake of 30 pence I wasn't going to see my daughter.

For the first time in her life, I was going to go a whole day without seeing her.

Conscious of the queue forming behind, I began to search.

I found some more pennies, I dug around in every nook and cranny, I switched on the light to search my school bag but it was empty.  I didn't have a handbag with me so no hope of loose coins there.


No response.

If only I had picked up that twenty pence in the toilet.

I didn't realise I was the one who needed luck.

I looked a gift horse in the mouth.

I was about to get out of the car to look under the seats when I heard a voice of an angel

"how much do you need luv?" said a womans voice

I turned to see a blonde angel approaching with a handful of coins in her outstretched hand


She added a 20p to my handful of coins and I passed it straight to the silent attendant.

Without a word he took the money and raised the barrier.

He didn't even check the coins I gave him.

I yelled my thanks and drove off, only later realising I didn't have my belt on!

I was off!

Thank you to my blonde angel.  Thank you for helping me.  Thank you for the money.  Thank you for saving my embarrassment.  Thank you for not showing your impatience.  Thank you for getting me home in time for cuddles with my baby.

Thank you.

Thank you to everyone who has shared this post, I know it is unlikely that the lady who helped me will read it but if enough people share it then who knows?  Meanwhile all of those who have read it might be inspired to help someone else who finds themselves in a predicament! 

Pay it forward folks!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Missing my baby

Last night I wasn't at home.

I had travelled 200 miles to go to a meeting

I had waved goodbye to Little Owl early in the morning

She thought I was just going to work as usual

She didn't know I wouldn't be home that night

Or the next day

Not til late

I had tried to tell her but at 22 months I'm not sure she understood

That Dada would be putting her to bed that night

I didn't know what I felt as I drove to work.

A little choked, a little teary, a little overwhelmed...

I got to work and was immediately busy

with teachers off sick and others on courses my day was full.

I was checking my phone at break and lunch - asking for photos, I was missing my baby already and I hadn't gone anywhere yet!

After school I drove, my challenge was to get on the M25 before the traffic built up too much

But this meant I was driving west, away from my baby.

A tightness in my chest, an anxious feeling...

all of which I coped with by eating.

I wasn't hungry but I could feel my anxious hand keep dipping into the bag of sweets...

Soon there was none left

This anxious feeling stayed until I heard that Little Owl was fast asleep in bed

I realised then that my anxiety was that she would get upset going to bed

and I wouldn't be there for her

As her mother, I should be there.


Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Shrove Tuesday

As a child my Grandma without fail would make me pancakes when I returned from school on Shrove Tuesday.  Always with sugar and lemon.  I remember it being a real treat, they were never made at any other time and never spoken about before hand either so I would come home wondering if any adults would even know it was Shrove Tuesday.
So now its my turn to start making those magical memories for Little Owl.
Here is my basic idiot guide to making pancakes - no pancake mix necessary or even any measuring of ingredients.  I like my pancakes thick, not like American pancakes but as thin as French crepes.
First you need to wash your hands!
You need eggs! Each egg probably makes 2-3 pancakes.

Add flour - best if sieved.


Keep adding flour until the mixture all comes together

Add milk and stir until you have a smooth pourable liquid
You can't ruin pancakes.  Too much flour or not enough milk and they'll just be thicker - hardly the end of the world!

If you have time, leave the mixture to 'rest' somewhere cool - the fridge is perfect but I didn't have space so it went in the pantry.

Little Owl was hungry when we got home from our group this afternoon and as Papa Owl was going to be late home we decided it was time for pancakes!

Make sure the pan is nice and hot, I always use butter but careful not to burn it!

I failed to flip it but at least I caught it!

We had Nutella on ours!

Little Owl loved it


Monday, 3 March 2014

Little Owl @ 22 Months

Teething has started again and those last 4 molars are beginning to move.  Its so hard to see them though, so although I'm pretty sure none of them have come through yet, I'm not too confident that I will know when they do!
Signs and Speech
Little Owl is still using lots of new signs even though her speech is starting to develop too.  She's actually started to make up some signs as well which is making life pretty confusing!  The phrase of the month is "and me" and the new words are "eyes" and "nose".  Her favourite new word (and sign) is "play".  She's starting to connect words with names, so you often hear "play dada", "no babbies" (the cats are still called babbies) or "mummy nose".  I can't remember if I have mentioned it before, but my current favourite sign is cuddle - how can I refuse Little Owl?
What's New?
The big news is that we have taken the side off of Little Owl's cot! I'm not sure why we waited so long.  She has NEVER liked going in the cot, and after she slept so well in a bed in India, I began to question why I was pushing it.  So far it has been a success but I will keep you posted!
We've also been doing a lot more nappy free time.  Little Owl has been clean since she turned one, but I haven't been that great at giving her nappy free time and I suspect she could with a bit of guidance, be nappy free quite soon.  I'm not pushing it though, like everything else so far in her short life, I'm letting Little Owl lead the way - I'm just providing the opportunity!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

A day out at Knockhatch

I hadn't been to Knockhatch, near Hailsham in East Sussex, since I was 21.  On that visit I was taking a group of Girl Guides who were all over the age of 10 and quite happy to entertain themselves.  It was also summer.
So I wasn't sure what to expect of Knockhatch on a wet February with a gaggle of toddlers (what is the collective name for a group of toddlers?).
It took a while to get inside because Little Owl was loving playing in the puddles in the car park!  Talking of the car park - plenty of space for cars.  Bays weren't marked out which meant you were able to give yourself space to get toddlers out (we had two in our car). 
Its free for under 2s to visit Knockhatch, and as today was classified as a 'Yellow Day' the adult entrance was just £1.99 - what a bargain!  Yellow days are the cheapest, Green are next and Orange are the most expensive, but also the days with the most going on.   The website has a calendar clearing showing the colour for each day right up until April 2015 - so plenty of opportunity to plan!

We arrived in a gap between rain showers and had time to take a quick looks at the animals.   There was an area for petting animals - where a guinea pig and rabbit sat apparently quite happy to be stroked by our toddlers! I was impressed that there was an area to wash our hands afterwards!
Next we went in the barn where there was lots of different animals.  Its easy to forget how exciting animals are to toddlers, they kept moving from pen to pen, looking at the different ones but leaping backwards when the goats came for a closer look!  It would have been nice if there were signs telling us what the animals are - one of the mum's thought the reindeer was a 'baby cow' and I must admit to not knowing the difference between alpaca and llamas!
We had lunch in the big barn where the soft play area is too.  I was impressed with the prices - £2 for a sandwich or £3 if you wanted it toasted.  Homemade pizzas and jacket potatoes were on the menu too.

The highlight of the day was definitely the soft play!  It is one of the largest, and nicest soft plays that I have visited.  There was a completely separate area for little ones and another area for toddlers with a small slide.  The only fault I found was that the slope to climb up to reach the toddler slide was far too difficult for any toddler.  Meanwhile the slope to get up to the massive slide was easily scaled in no time at all by Little Owl!

Being term time, the soft play was very quiet, and over half of the kids had parents running along behind them which made for a very pleasant atmosphere. I was really impressed with Little Owls ability to climb, and also surprised by her no fear attitude!  The soft play was big enough, with plenty that the toddlers could access to keep them entertained for hours!
I think soft plays are a fantastic opportunity for kids to test their skills and even as toddlers, start to make their own risk assessments in a safe environment.  I also think they are a good workout for parents and can't understand why someone hasn't introduced them to the adult fitness industry!

Before we left, we had just enough time between rain showers to take another quick peek at the animals and even have a go on the 'Quadapillar Barrel Ride' - we sat in a barrel on wheels (in the photo above) and were dragged along on a bumpy ride by a quad bike,  it was better than it sounds and Little Owl thought it was hilarious! 
We had a great day at Knockhatch and can't wait to go back again!  I know there is lots more to the park which we didn't get to see and given that its such great value for money I'm sure we'll be back lots!  Little Owl had a great day, in fact the only time she looked unhappy was when I told her we had to go home!

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