Friday, 31 October 2014

Remember Remember

This is a guest post by Papa Owl.

The 5th of November is celebrated with passion in the Laughing Owl Household. Across the country bonfire and firework displays takes place to commemorate the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot. Most people will have heard of Guy Fawkes but what was so significant about this attempted act of terrorism that it is still remembered today?  

Here in Sussex there is a great and long Bonfire tradition that is as strong today as ever. But what is this tradition? Why is it still so strong in Sussex you may ask yourself? The answer to this question goes back over 400 years to a time when Henry VIII ruled England. As with many monarchs over the years Henry wished for a son that would follow his reign. His marriage to Catherine of Aragon had failed to produce the son that he so desired, the only successful pregnancy yielding a daughter, who was to become ‘Bloody’ Queen Mary. As Catherine aged and become less likely to bear the much longed for son, Henry looked to have his marriage annulled by the Roman Catholic Church. Henry attempted to persuade the then Pope, Clement VII to annul the marriage in order that he could marry a young Anne Boleyn, but Clement would not do this. So was set in motion a series of events that culminated in a man from York being found with ‘3 scores barrels of powder’ laid below the Houses of Parliament on 5th November 1605.

Henry could not persuade Pope Clement and England broke away from the Church of Rome and papal authority. Henry did in fact marry Anne Boleyn who bore him a daughter later to be crowned Queen Elizabeth I.  Anne fell out of favour with Henry and eventually ended up with her head on the execution block in the Tower of London. Henry went on to marry Jane Seymour who bore him the much longed for son, Edward but unfortunately died in childbirth. Henry died in 1547 having taken 3 more wives none of which bore him any children. Henry’s successor was his only son who was crowned King Edward VI at the age of 9. His reign was short and much influenced by a ‘council of executors’ who took many of the important decisions. This led to Protestantism becoming firmly established in England. Edward was succeeded by his sister, the Roman Catholic, Mary following his death at the age of 15.

Mary’s reign was but a mere 5 years, however it was remembered as a bloody one. Mary was the daughter of Catherine of Aragon and as such was a Roman Catholic. She attempted to restore the power of Rome to England through bloody means. During her reign over 280 people were burnt at the stake for their refusal to recount their protestant faith. And so the link with the strength of Sussex Bonfire celebrations was born in the flames of religious intolerance. Forty-one martyrs died in Sussex during this time, seventeen in Lewes, the others spread between Mayfield and Chichester.  

Protestantism was firmly re-established by Queen Elizabeth I following Mary’s death in 1558 and thrived throughout her long reign of 45 years. Elizabeth, often referred to as the ‘Virgin Queen’ failed to produce an heir and on her death was succeeded by King James I the son of Elizabeth’s cousin, Mary Queen of Scots.

King James was a Catholic and many Catholics hoped that England would once again look to Rome for its religion. This was not the case however and James looked to maintain England as a protestant country. Many Catholics felt let down and betrayed by him and a group of plotters formed with the intention of blowing up the King and his parliament at the State Opening of Parliament in November 1605. Their discovery, consequent trial and execution was used as propaganda by the Robert Cecil the Lord Privy Seal to fan the anti-Catholic feelings in England. The discovery of what was to be a terrorist bombing still resonates in the Houses of Parliament when the Yeoman of the Guard checks the cellars before each State opening.

The anti-catholic feelings in the country were further strengthened by the passing of an act of parliament in January 1606 entitled ‘An Acte for a publique Thancksgiving to Almighty God everie yeere of the discovery of the Fifte day of November’. The 5th of November became a public holiday which was marked with special church services and the ringing of church bells.  The echoes of this early commemoration can be heard during our event as the bells of All Saints Church in the Old Town are rung as the procession passes. As well as the more formal church services, large bonfires were lit in celebration in the streets, a practise that continued until the early twentieth century before the authorities enforced a move to more suitable sites on the outskirts of towns following a number of houses being burnt down! Some Sussex Bonfire Societies still maintain the tradition of a raging bonfire in the streets as anyone who has attended the Battle celebrations in recent years will know.
Hastings Bonfire 2014 by Mark Duncan
There are many bonfires and firework displays around Great Britain but it is only in Sussex that they are so elaborate. The procession of torch bearing bonfire society members, the burning tar barrels, the ‘enemies of bonfire’ are not the stuff of a genteel municipal firework display. Most societies will burn an ‘effigy’ or ‘tableaux’ which often depict local, national or international people or events which have upset the members. The anti-establishment overtones of this act to may be an indicator of why the celebration of the discovery of the gunpowder plot has remained so strong in Sussex. The people of Sussex have long been known to be independent of mind and spirit.

Many villages and towns hold their own celebrations between the start of September and the end of November, with the County town of Lewes holding theirs on the 5th November. This is far from a dying tradition with new societies springing up each year. Here in Hastings we choose to hold our celebrations on the Saturday closest to the Battle of Hastings, another significant landmark in British history.  To many these months of celebration may be an extended pub crawl across rural Sussex, to others a chance to celebrate freedom of expression in Great Britain. Each Society will invite the other Sussex Bonfire Societies to attend their event adding to the spectacle by wearing a variety of costumes. If you visit Sussex during the Bonfire season you may see a mixture of Vikings from Lewes, Saxons from Battle, Aztecs from Burgess Hill and many more besides.

Many thanks to Papa Owl for this post, and to Mark Duncan for allowing us to use his photo.  If you look closely, you will see Little Owl in the middle of the procession.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Owlfit of the Week

Raaaah!!!!  This was a bit of an accidental outfit which I actually quite like!  My mum came home with this funky Bear top from Boots (£7) a couple of weeks ago and I wasn't sure as it was a 'boys' top.  I don't mind dressing Little Owl in unisex or boys clothes but I have found that some boys clothes are just a bit too wide for my skinny girl, but as you can see, the fit is great! 
I've teamed it up with some cute cub gloves from Mothercare, for £5, which I was disappointed to find were labeled 'boys'. Little Owl's fingers do just fit and she's very excited to own them!

The trousers are hand-me-downs and the labels have all been cut out so I've no idea where there came from, but I do quite like them!  The shoes as ever are Livie and Luca... which brings me to my next thing...  I want to get Little Owl so new boots for the winter, I've kinda fallen for these lovely boots from Livie and Luca
Aren't they the most beautiful things you have ever seen?  The only problem is which ones should I get?  I was thinking of the blue ones but I made the mistake of showing Little Owl and she wants the pink ones!  I'm gutted, I thought I had at least another year until Little Owl discovered pink, but maybe it is just because these pink boots are actually gorgeous? 

Pink or Blue?

Blue would go better with the oranges and yellows in Little Owls wardrobe maybe?  But the pink is just fun and bright...

Pink or Blue?

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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Gro Clock Review

The GroClock or the Gro"miracle"Clock as we call it, has to be one of the best purchases we have made!  Little Owl has always been a bit of a rubbish sleeper, completely unable to self settle until she was nearly two and always much happier in our bed!

The first major break through with her sleep came when we took the side off of her cot.  Over the space of a few short weeks we went from needing to lie with her until she fell into a deep sleep before transferring her to her cot, to letting her climb into her 'bed', tucking her up, giving her a kiss goodnight and leaving the room.

That was the first miracle.  We were so delighted to have our evenings back that we didn't mind if Little Owl woke early.  She would never resettle, so once awake was back in our bed but that was ok.  It was huge progress.  But eventually Little Owl got into a habit of waking at 5:45 and then wouldn't go back to sleep even in our bed.  

Over time this took its toll so I decided it was time to try a GroClock.  I did worry that at two and a quarter Little Owl was too young for this but anything was worth a go!
The clock was quite a bit smaller than I thought it would be, comes with a user guide, a plug and a small story book.  It was easy to set up, we needed to tell the clock what the time was, and what time we wanted the sun to come up.  We decided to set the sun for 6am on the first morning as that would give us an extra 15 minutes sleep but not push it too far with Little Owl.

We tucked Little Owl into bed with the sun still shining on her clock, she was very excited.  I read her the story of Percy Pig, of how he was so boring because he got up before the sun.  Part way through the story the book tells you to press the button on the clock to make the stars come out.  The story continues to say how Percy Pig's friends bought him a GroClock and because he doesn't get up until the sun, he is now full of fun!

Little Owl woke us at 6:20am with the words  "THE SUNS OUT!". Wow. That was over half an hour later than we had had in weeks!  So the next morning we set it for 6:05am and Little Owl didn't wake until 6:50!!!  

The third night we didn't get to bed until late as we had been to the Bike Race so I set the clock for 7am full of hope.  Little Owl woke us at 5:45.  I was gutted.  As I staggered into her room half asleep, I found Laural Cat in there looking shifty.  Little Owl told me "the suns not out" and laid back down and didn't wake up again until after 7! 

And so it has continued.  When Papa Owl went away climbing for a week, I set the clock for 8am and it works!  We do that on the weekends too and its great to get a little extra sleep.  The GroClock has been a real miracle!

After a few weeks, I felt brave enough to try the clock with day time naps too.  Little Owl has never been convinced these are a good idea, and they have always involved me lying with her until she slept. I can't say that she is too over the moon at the idea but it has worked.  

My only 'room for improvement' on the clock is that the naps also work on times, which means, if like me, you don't live your life by the clock, there's lots of fiddling to do at the time when your toddler is running around shouting "I dont wanna sleep".  I would like to see the day time nap setting have the ability to set for a length of time for example an hour, rather than a specific time.

Actually, I do have one more suggestion - a remote control or the ability to make the sun rise via an app on your phone because sometimes you realise that you have messed up and if you wait for the sun to rise, there isn't time for breakfast before swimming!
Family Fever

Monday, 27 October 2014

Cross Monday Week 32

Argh!  I've made a mistake!  Can you spot it?  Not sure if you will in the photo but it might become obvious when more of the pattern is added... I won't say where it is just yet in case I leave it like that but if you can spot it do say!  If I can't live with it then I'll have to undo and restitch, probably only take an evening but oh how frustrating!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Owlfit of the Week

I can't tell you how long I have waited to share this dress with you!  Actually I can and I will!  I bought this fabulous Me&i dress at The Baby Show in February 2013!  Little Owl was just 9 months old but I fell in love with it and the smallest size they had was 98/104!  There's a range of opinion as to what age 98 is, some say age 2 while others say 3.  Little Owl is two and a half next week and I'd say she is a 98 currently and is growing out of her size 92s.

I've teamed it up with a pair of orange tights which matches the neck as well as the stems in the apples, and her mustard shoes from Livie and Luca.  This is definitely one of my favourite Owlfits of the moment!

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Work Life Parenting Balance

Just over a year ago I made the big decision to leave my permanent job in order to find something more flexible to allow me to parent little owl.
I had a great first year as a supply teacher although I always seemed to be working on Fridays when my mummy friends were off.  But I did manage to pack in lots to the 3 days Little Owl and I would spend together.

However, the money wasn't great, and because I only worked two days a week, it took me nearly the whole year to do my 12 week probation period and for my money to go up to a more reasonable amount.

September came around and the work didn't. Not until October. So now we were really skint. Finally a job came in. It could be a permanent job too if I want it to be (and I guess if they like me).  But its lots of hours.  The money really is great but my weeks aren't.

For the last 3 weeks I have worked for a couple of hours on a Monday lunchtime, Tuesday afternoons, Wednesday & Thursday all day leaving me with only Fridays off.  By the time I have got to Friday on the first week I was shattered and had had a lazy day with Little Owl.  A whole week gone and we'd done nothing special, no little outings, no friends seen, to trips to the swings, no baking or craft at home.

I felt very much like it on the second week too but I had plans, Little Owl and I had a mammoth 6 hour drive to get to Lancashire for the Friends of Sangam Gathering.  I was tired but it was great to spend some quality time with Little Owl and by the time I was driving home, I made the decision that the Monday lunchtimes had to stop.  Its a rush to get from swimming, drop Little Owl with my mum and then get to work.  At first I thought I would have the afternoons to catch up with friends but if I skipped lunch the earliest I could meet people was 2 o'clock.  It really wasn't going to work.
Little Owl is nearly two and a half.  That's two and a half years of fun we have had together.  This time next year I will be filling in her school applications and the following year she will start school.  Our adventures will be even more limited.  I don't want to loose a year of this precious time together.  I might work longer days on the days I am working, but until Little Owl goes to school, I'm not planning on working more than 3 days a week.

I realise that I am in a very lucky position to have that as an option, it has come at a financial cost, but one that we can cope with.  I'm also pleased that I have had these few weeks of working so much, I think it will make me appreciate what time I get with Little Owl.

So now I have plans to make!  Its time to sign Little Owl up for a playgroup or nursery for the days I work.  I think she will love it - just got to find the right one!  And then I need to find some new groups or activities for us to go to on the other days.  Exciting times ahead!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Cross Monday Week 31

Gosh - panic yesterday as I realised that I hadn't actually stitched all week!  Haha!  So what you see this week is progress made while friends visited, Little Owl did colouring, and when she finally went to bed!  

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Owlfit of the Week

Orange is happiness!  Seriously - is there a better colour?  Or is it just my dutch roots talking?  I bought this lovely outfit in India (surprise surprise) and I love it!  Both the top and the leggings are from a department store called Westside and are aged 3-4 as Indian children tend to be a bit smaller, especially across the shoulders where Little Owl is quite broad.  

The kurta or top fits perfectly and has lots of pretty detailing in pink, the opening of the neck is lined with pink and there is a pink tab which buttons up the sleeve (unfortunately this had been pulled down by Little Owl before I could take the photos).  The leggings are very baggy around the ankle which is the fashion in India but with the elasticated waist, it also means there is PLENTY of growing room - at least 6 inches in height!  The leggings were a complete bargain at Rs250, about £2.50 so I bought 4 pairs in different colours - look out for the others over the coming weeks!

Finally, the shoes are from Livie and Luca, and her socks are from M&S.

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Sangam Dal

Sangam World Centre is my Indian home, its where I lived for 7 months on my first trip to India, its where I have returned to time and time again, on my own, with my rangers, my parents, Papa Owl and it is where I took Little Owl to visit earlier this year.  Sangam is one of the World Centres run by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and is based in Pune, India. Today, 16th October, marks the 48th Birthday of Sangam and to celebrate I thought I would share with you one of my favourite recipes from the Sangam Cook Book.  I have adapted the recipe to use ingredients readily available in the UK.

½ pint of red split lentils (200g)
½ tsp tumeric
¼ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
large onion
½ bulb garlic
¼ tsp hing (asafoetida)
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp ground coriander seed
tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp jaggery (unrefined sugar)
6 tbsp coconut milk powder

  1. wash the lentils thoroughly until the water runs clear.  Place in a saucepan with a pint of water.  Add a tsp of oil and ½ tsp of ground turmeric.  Cook slowly until soft.
  2. Meanwhile add 3 tbsp of oil to a second saucepan, ¼ tsp of mustard seeds and ½ a tsp of cumin seeds until they splutter.
  3. Finely chop the onion and add to the saucepan, fry for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Finely chop half a bulb of garlic and add to the saucepan along with ¼ tsp of hing, 2 tsp of chilli powder, 1 tsp of garam masala and ½ tsp of ground coriander seed
  5. Add the cooked lentils, the tin of chopped tomatoes, a tbsp of sugar and 6 tbsp of coconut milk powder
  6. Stir well and simmer for 10 minutes.

Part of the reason that I love this dish so much, is how versatile it is.  We often eat it as a main, served with rice and chapatis, but it can also been eaten on its own as a soup or as a side dish to a larger Indian meal.

Notes on Ingredients
Hing is a pungent smelling spice that really makes Indian recipes come to life.  I bought a tub of hing when I was in India which I expect to last me for years as it is to be used sparingly.  I believe the spice asafoetida is the same thing, and this is commonly available in supermarkets.  Garlic - feel free to cheat and use the pre-prepared stuff, although it can get expensive.  I often do a bit of both or add some garlic powder to top it up.  Jaggery is completely unrefined sugar which I have yet to find in a supermarket.  I tend to use unrefined brown sugar or just normal granulated sugar, however the BBC website suggests muscovado sugar as a good alternative.  Coconut,  the original recipe asks for 6 tbsp of grated coconut, feel free to do that but in reality, that's far too much work for me.  I've tried various coconut milk products and I really like the coconut milk powder as it gives you more versatility.  Coconut is a natural thickener and so I use this powder in many recipes instead of cornflour. 

This recipe has been reproduced with the kind permission of Jen Barron, World Centre Manager, Sangam.


Monday, 13 October 2014

Cross Monday Week 30

What a busy week!  I'm currently working on 4 days in a week (although not full days) and I was away at the weekend so I probably haven't done any stitching since last Tuesday.  I was quite relieved when I got it out of the bag to take today's photo to see that I had actually done some!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Owlfit of the Week

Pinch Punch its Bonfire Month!

I know its early for most people, but here in Sussex we take Bonfire seriously (notice the capital B?). Every Saturday from the end of September to the end of November you can find at least one bonfire taking place in Sussex, usually 2 or 3!

Eastbourne Bonfire took place last weekend, and this was as usual the first bonfire of the season for Little Owl and I.  We are members of Hastings Borough Bonfire Society and wear stripes in the Hastings colours of red, blue and yellow.  The jumper in the picture is the one I knitted last year and is much too short for Little Owl now but the one my mum is knitting wasn't finished in time!  The leg warmers are also the ones I knitted last year, while the hat is one from Little Owl's first bonfire season!

The trousers are from H&M and I guess are jeggings - but they are much softer than normal jeggings.  Little Owl is also wearing a black long sleeved t-shirt under the jumper which is from H&M.  The boots are new and are from Mothercare.  I really like the detailing with the buckle and zip on the outside and suspect they are going to go with lots of Little Owls autumn and winter clothing!

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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Five Little Ghosts - a book review

With the rain at the weekend it finally feels like autumn is here! As Little Owl is only two, I still feel like every season and holiday is new to her each year, we've had our first bonfire of the season and will be going to a few more over the coming weeks.  One of my favourites is Staplecross as it falls on the nearest Saturday to Halloween, meaning all the local kids dress up for the event.

I was really excited when the folk at Little Tiger sent me a copy of Five Little Ghosts to review.  Five Little Ghosts is a cute rhyming tale.  I wasn't sure how a Halloween themed book aimed at toddlers would work, but its great.  There are ghosts and spiders and bats and cats, but the only time it gets a bit spooky is when the ghosts are scared by a little white mouse (and so they run back into their house).
The first thing I notice about this book is the quality of the cover.  Its sort of squidgy which I think means over time, will stop the book from getting that worn look around the edges.  Its also a great size.  Little Owl has taken to sleeping with her favourite books recently which makes this square board book perfect for night time cuddles!
We have been counting things recently, and for some reason Little Owl likes to go "one two three four seven eight nine ten!" so anything to encourage the number five is great! All five ghosts feature on every page giving lots of counting opportunities.  Something I look for in books for Little Owl is a recurring image for her to look for on each page and this book has 3!  There's a frog, spider and cat that are hidden on each page, which I use to encourage Little Owl to look at the book herself. 

This is a fun book, that is good quality and will bring joy to any toddler.
Family Fever
I was sent a copy of Five Little Ghosts for the purpose of this review.  However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Cross Monday Week 29

I'm so glad that I created the boarder first, normally you work from the inside out but its great to have a space that I am filling.  This top section is actually quite small so I feel it is growing quickly.  Exciting!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Owlfit of the Week

Here's another fun owlfit from last spring that (just about) fits.  The trousers are slightly flared cord which makes Little Owl's legs look even longer than normal!  They were hand me downs from a friend and I don't know where they came from.  

The top is one of 3 long sleeved t-shirts that I bought in M&S last winter - I'm pretty sure that they were the last in her size when I ordered them online.  I'm now wishing that I had bought them in the next size up and Little Owl wears them loads but they are getting a bit short for her!

The mustard cardigan from M&S and the mustard shoes from Livie & Luca you may recognise from last week's Owlfit, and are firm favourites!

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