playing at railway children

20140504_115133“The Railway Children” by E. Nesbitt is one of those books that out lasts my childhood and still captures my heart and imagination.  Its a children’s book whose depth of feeling and emotion only adults can truly appreciate (Laura Ingalls Wilder books fall into this category too.)   I’m sure the book is one of the reasons I do love the opportunity to take a steam train trip, (although I’d always say we’re doing it for the children.)  We took a steam train from Cape Town to Simon’s Town last February and we took a short trip on a train from Aviemore two years ago.  And last weekend we took a trip on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. It was a great day out.  One of the best bits was playing hide and seek in the engine shed when we arrived at the station, scrambling up onto the foot plates of the great, greasy iron locomotives or squeezing in behind a wheel taller than a five year old boy.  It was magical too, standing on the footbridge as the locomotive got up steam and slowly whooshed underneath us, swallowing us up in a cloud of steam and smoke.  20140504_114832

little K

IMG_1246Some how, in the new routine that our family life is falling into this January, I have had more moments of making things with my little K.  I realise with a new sense of clarity, just how much she loves creating, drawing, sticking, cutting and making.  Without a doubt its when I see her at her happiest: she laughs, smiles, chats and glows with pleasure.  She applies herself to these activities with a remarkable level of concentration, patience and care.IMG_0481

This is in total contrast to D: for him art (drawing, colouring, sticking, painting) has never been something he would choose to do.  I can count on the fingers of one hand the pieces of art he brought home from playgroup at the same stage.  In the past, I have been tempted to blame this difference on gender (girls like colouring, boys don’t) but I think it goes further than that with these two children of mine:  this is about recognising who they are individually, how they are function and what energises and excites them.IMG_0474

In the last couple of weeks, K and I have made stained glass windows with book film; used fabric paint to stamp designs onto white t-shirts; and painted pottery at Ferry Potty.  I am so grateful for this point of connection with my daughter and I am relishing the prospect of some lovely times with K where we can make, create and draw together.

made by me

I made a few gifts this Christmas and they all required a lot less time and skill than the ones I received.  Still, getting anything made this year was a challenge (I’ll blame it on the baby) so I was happy with the pleasure I got from producing one or two home made gifts.  IMG_0240This knitted corsage was the result of a craft morning at our church.  It was a pleasure to give it to my sister along with the instructions and materials so she can start to make her own.IMG_0255This idea, the instructions plus dry ingredients for making a cake in a mug in a microwave, come from katescreativespace as did the idea for making firelighters out of tea-lights and pinecones.  I love Kate’s ideas and the stylish way she presents everything.  I highly recommend her blog for clever ideas which always come with lovely helpful instructions.

IMG_0251IMG_0257Finally, I made a few Christmas cards from this pretty washi tape – I love the little birds in the Christmas tree.  So that was Christmas – doesn’t it seem like a long time ago already?

made for me

I was given some lovely Christmas presents this year and I want to take a moment to celebrate the hand made and home made that I received.  Firstly, this special bag of treats, all made by the amazing Chrissie and Jamie.  How good does this look?IMG_0267And hidden inside – jelly, tablet, elderberry juice, christmas tree oatcakes and glittery shortbread stars.  So beautiful and so delicious.IMG_0264Next up, three presents from the skilled fingers of my clever sister: a hand knitted wash cloth so delicate its too pretty for washing dishes; a cross stitch initial for baby E; and a jar of apple jelly – see how it glows!IMG_0428 IMG_0423 IMG_0437Last by not least, this jar of chutney came from my brother-in-law – its very good.  (He actually gave us two, but one has already been devoured.)  Present giving: what a great opportunity to celebrate creativity.  Thank you, all!IMG_0436

jingle bells and biscuit smells


We have been getting ready for Christmas in a hop, skip and a jump chaotic kind of way.  This morning Daniel and Kirsten were able to take boxes of biscuits to school and playgroup to distribute to all their friends.IMG_0184

We baked the biscuits together and then I discovered the fun of letting them both type the labels on the computer (I’m amazed by how much D has learned about how to use a computer in one term at schoool).  They love racing upstairs to get the result from the printer.IMG_0178I did find myself wondering why I do things like this?  The most honest reasons I came up with:  it gives us a constructive and purposeful activity to do together after school; I can’t get my head round sitting down and writing cards to every child in the class (how to find out the names in the first place?); it gives me a high level of satisfaction to complete a small and effective project.  What about the recipients?  Well, they might love our biscuits or they might just eat the icing.  My sweet little packets will be torn up by breaktime, but we don’t mind!  Happy 13th of December!


felt food

IMG_9804I like to think that I will make my children a present for birthdays and Christmas.  Last year, I made K two little mice from Martha Stewart.  This year, I decided on felt lollipops, sweets and ice-cream.  I drew round some ice-lolly moulds, cut out two pieces, sewed them together, stuck the ice-lolly sticks in and stuffed them.  Ta da!  Ice-cream cones were made from a semi-circle of felt sewed onto a piece of card-board to stiffen them then simply stuck together into a cone shape.  Large pompoms make ice-cream.  Sweets I simply made from two strips of felt glued and rolled up.  (I could have sewn where I used glue but I was making this late at night before K’s birthday.)  IMG_9438

We also bought Kirsten a cash register.  So we were all set for a play shop.  Beads wrapped in tissue paper, plasticine lollipops, bars of chocolate (wooden bricks wrapped in foil and paper wrappers) and some cupcakes we already had completed the stock.  Buttons seem to make the best money.  A bag for shopping and “What would you like from my shop today, Mrs Bey?” (That’s what my kids say when we’re playing shops.)SONY DSC

butterflies and fairies

IMG_5398So little K’s birthday party happened last Saturday.  I imagine that it involved everything that a little girl could want: wings, a treasure hunt, cake, pink heart biscuits (thank you, Sarah!), bubbles, friends and family and lots of butterflies.  We even had a Tinkerbell cake, complete with glitter (thank you, Great!).  The guests were sweet: lovely and enthusiastic about all the activities. The sun shone and our tent in the garden was pretty and warm (thank you for putting it up, the two Mr M’s – it was the canvas from our gazebo, draped over our washing line).  I think the tent was an inspiration: it looked pretty and gave the girls a place to play.  We did face-painting there (thank you, Hannah!) and butterfly tattoos (thank you, Han-Marie!).  We even read a story there at the end of the morning.IMG_5362 IMG_5380 IMG_9203 IMG_5422 IMG_5392 IMG_5302

The party started with decorating their wings with sparkly stickers and ribbons.  Next, looking suitably pretty, it was out to the garden to hunt for butterflies (thank you granny) and marbles (they sparkled beautifully in the wet grass).  We only played a three games: musical statues, sleeping butterflies and pass the parcel.  As they opened the parcel, each girl got a packet of beads and some elastic to make a bracelet.   We blew bubbles and played on the climbing frame.   We ate the cake half way through.  The party finished with sausages and sausage rolls and jelly.  There were plenty of adults around to help (granny, grandpa, two uncles, two aunties, one great-granny and a couple of mums).  I couldn’t help but notice that, unlike at my boys party last month, there were moments of complete quiet.  The girls were busy sticking or making or eating or sleeping (yes, in our equivalent of sleeping lions).  Ahhhhhhh… lovely.


IMG_93138X1D4Is this a word? Inspired by my friend Brie when I came  across this on her blog, I started to spot palets everywhere: common and grubby industrial palets and expensive, designer ones, like this one at fcuk home.  I liked the idea, but soon realised that a 9ft square palet was not going to add anything to our smallish rooms, however much I embellished it.  And that’s when I spotted this little beauty outside a welder’s workshop in Forfar.

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Of course he said I could have it so I brought it home and set to work.  Thankfully I got some help with the sanding, painting and attaching of castors rom Mr M.  Little K also wielded a paint brush.  We stuck a sheet of plywood on the bottom to create a lower shelf.  The castors we used were an old set removed from a chest of drawers (they seemed quite similar to the fcuk ones).  The end result is pleasing and is proving quite useful for playing lego on.  A nice little adventure in diy and right on trend: have you heard of ‘rustic utilitarian’?  I read it about it here.  Oh yes, rustic utilitarian, that’s us, right there.

its show time

I remember taking these photos of our local village flower show last year.  Its come round again and I managed two entries: in Class 134 – An item of Handmade Jewellery and Class 140 – Felt Brooch (Novice).  Both produced at the Last Minute (8 o’clock at night  to be handed in before 10 o’clock).

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The whole thing is presided over by a painting of the Queen Mother as a young woman who opened the show in 1919.  The cake section was extensive and the six foot long leeks  quite impressive.  Someone had produced prize begonias bigger than a fist that looked like they were made of silk.  My results? Third prize out of three for my felt brooch (Novice) – oh dear!  At least it came with some helpful advice in beautiful hand-writing and I’m glad I participated.  Next year I will do more: I should have entered some of our apples which are every bit as good as the ones exhibited.


In this house, the start of a new school term, means we have just celebrated a little boy’s birthday.  This year we chose an underwater theme, strongly influenced by the Octonauts. I had lots of fun preparing for it.

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My best buy was a six strings of paper fish, designed to be hung as decorations – we removed them from the strings and used them as props through-out the party.  I also bought two metres of plastic material from Dunelm Mill, decorated with a tropical underwater scene.  We used half as a table cloth and the rest I cut up into table mats for each child – they took them home with them at the end of the party.


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The party started with at treasure hunt for fish in the garden – there were at least 50 to find.  Next, we played ‘Octonauts’ – like ‘Captains coming’, but instructions included ‘sound the Octoalert’, ‘Octonauts to the HQ’ and ‘Creature Report’.  Musical gups was next with pieces of cardboard as the gups.  Break for cake and pass the parcel.  Meanwhile, we set up a treasure hunt for plastic gold coins in the sand pit; sweets to fish for – tied to the washing line; magnetic fishing; and feed the shark with wet sponges.  The kids were free to enjoy that however they wanted to.   We stopped about 12 for lunch, party ended at 12.30.  We only had ten children.  They seemed to leave happy.