Back to School Rite of Passage

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We’re nearly at the end of week one of the new school year here and I’ve been really surprised at how much I can’t stop thinking about my eldest, who started Secondary school for the first time this week. It’s such a strange feeling – are we allowed to feel like this now that they’re the grand age of 11 and off on their next adventure?

I sort of thought I should be really cool about it and just accept that he’s growing up, but inside the mummy in me is screaming “Oh no – what will happen to my boy out in the world of big school?!” Will he miss the bus, will he get picked on for being the smallest (only turned 11 in August), will he make too much effort trying to make people laugh and get in trouble, or come across as a total nutter? Will he even tell me ANYTHING about what he’s doing and what it’s like? Considering how little I used to get out of him about Primary school, there isn’t much hope in this department.

Anyway, the point of my rambling is just that we go through various ‘Rites of Passage’ in our lives, and starting Secondary school is definitely up there. I guess it’s not only a Rite of Passage for the kids though, it’s also one for us mums and dads!

sian-jack-beth-at-izzies-weddingI’m bursting with pride at the fact that he has taken it all in his stride (and it’s just me attempting to hide my wibbly wobbly worried feelings rather than him). Funnily enough, that’s exactly how I felt when he started Primary school!

I’ve realised now that, as parents, we watch them go off to their new adventures with those same feelings no matter how old they are. There will definitely be a few more ‘moments’ to get through in the future. So, to all the others out there feeling like I do – maybe we’ll get better at it, more ‘cool’ and less wobbly, but in my case, probably not!

 

(Any and all advice happily received to help deal with the looming changes from parent of boy to parent of teenager -arghhhhhh!).

Now Dr. Who is back…..

Now that the summer holidays are well and truly a blurred memory and we all feel like we are back to normal, I may just share a bit about the costumes I made for my family to dress up as Doctor Who characters last June! I know, that was ages ago, but anyway…. I trawled the internet, and You Tube to find tips etc to get these costumes together. I also spent a lot of time on Ebay looking for bargains. Here are the costumes we ended up in, and the ‘how I did it’ will follow……very soon….whooshhhhh whooshhhhh whooooshhhhh (That’s me disappearing in a virtual tardis)!

FAmily dr who pic  Bethan weeping angel best

No Lemons Allowed!

Easter hols are coming to a close as we approach Easter in Cornwall, and we have tried to reserve the sweet treats for nearer the big day. So, today we made an Easter cake, in place of the chocolate nests we tend to do every year. Not such a dramatic thing to do with a 5 and 8 year old you’d think, but not so in our house! For some reason I lost it and put the sugar and flour in together at the start,(should have been the marg and sugar)  and so ended up just bunging all the ingredients in and crossing fingers! Well now, since the last blog regarding baking I have had the good fortune to have been bought a new oven by my lovely in-laws! I think this may have been more out of concern at the prospect of me poisoning their grandchildren with under-cooked food…it’s ….so….SHINY!!!

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Look, you can see through the door and everything. Who needs TV when you can watch muffins rising through pristine glass? It’s a bit of a dream come true as now I have the chance to keep my very own oven clean, rather than struggle to keep an old one clean. Sad to be so excited about that I know!

Anyway, the cake was fine, probably due to the miraculously efficient oven. Once it was cooled we moved on to decorating it and my 8 year old son and I settled quickly on some yummy lemon icing to go on the chocolate sponge. Well, this prompted the most unusual over-reaction from my 5 year old daughter. Her first attempt to stop me making the icing was to write out several prohibition signs and sick them all around the kitchen!

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“Mum says no lemon allowed”.

Well, actually, mum said “I’m making lemon icing as it’s gorgeous” – my son and I just laughed and carried on as normal. However, she then saw me adding the lemon zest and hit the roof! (sorry, I laughed again). She stormed upstairs saying she was leaving and we’d never see her again. “I won’t miss you, bye” chimes in my son, as we wait to see what will happen next. I finished the icing and called several times to my daughter to stop being silly & come and help us with the cake. She did come down eventually, with three big bags packed for ‘leaving home’ . One bag contained a swimming float and plastic ball. One contained a bracelet and hair clip, another had her favourite toy and her bicycle helmet, along with a lipbalm stick. The last bag was her school PE kit! “Wow, are you going to need all this?” said I, “Why not just taste this terrible lemon icing?”. To her credit she tasted it, and smiled. She admitted straight away that it was very nice, and so decided not to leave home! Lucky for her, as the cake turned out to look very tempting, even though the icing is too runny (in my determination to make the lemon icing I put too much juice in). My son added three white mini eggs as fangs sticking out of the middle of the cake – maybe to represent the ‘monster’ element!

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Anyone who’s read my previous blogs will recognise my son’s slowly disintegrating toy leopard, once again getting in on the photo. I should also point out, my daughter models her butterfly tabard, which she uses for cooking and painting alike as it’s a lovely wipe-clean PVC, available from my bug shop here:

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http://www.onestopbugshop.co.uk/ourshop/prod_2843260-Fab-BUGGZ-Butterfly-Tabard-Age-36-Great-Gift.html

Hope you and your little monsters have a fantastic Easter!

 

A Box!!!!!!

ImageOur long-awaited shoe cupboard arrived recently with much excitement from all of us. At last my plan for a clutter-free zone in the hallway had a chance of taking shape. As I signed for the cupboard the delivery man joked with the kids that this was something they would have to learn to use, and probably wouldn’t even though it was right there in the hallway (how very dare he!). My 8 year old son, however, had a far away look in his eyes and a cheeky grin as he stared at the large box standing in our hallway. As the delivery man asked him why he was so happy he just said “That’s a BRILLIANT box! I want that box!”

So, as I unravelled my beautiful oak solver of shoe-related problems, my son impatiently jumped up and down waiting for the box. His sister then caught on and was just as impatient, standing ready with pens to colour it in. For once, they worked well together in creating a den of sorts, with lots of peep holes for Sooty and friends. It was a joy to behold such camaraderie, though this was short-lived when they realised that it was a real squash to both go in at the same time. Cue more half-term squabbles and the suggestion of a box rota!

So, I bet you all know what I mean when I say that kids really do prefer the box to the contents, even at age 8. I wonder how long I have before this fabulously simple and creative little bit of fun becomes less interesting. I hope I have years to come as I love it!

 

Birthday Cake – Done!

Well, I promised an update on the whole Birthday cake story, as last time I wrote about it it was just an idea in my head, and scribbled on a scrap of paper. So, here you go, this is what I did – the story of the cake (duh duh duuuuhhhhhhh!).

The request was for a Tinkerbell cake, so I quickly came to the conclusion that I was not going to attempt to create Tink’s delicate features in fondant icing – oh no, I didn’t want the birthday girl to end up screaming in horror at a bendy, wobbly version of her fave fairy. So, sticking within my abilities, I bought some cake topper fairies and made them a lovely fairy garden with toadstool to play in!

I started by doubling my madeira cake recipe and plopping the mixture into two oven-proof dishes.

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Now, I’m not going to pretend this all went like clockwork. The first problem encountered was that even though I’d thought about baking for longer due to my ailing oven, I’d not banked on it taking 2 hours!! I’m sure someone with a fully-functioning oven wouldn’t have this problem though. Now behind on time I realised I had one egg too few and not enough caster sugar for the second part of this extravaganza – the chocolate ‘garden’. So I raced off to buy these, and made the next cakes at speed. Substituting 1oz of flour for cocoa made it nice and chocolatey, but I had no idea if it would work. I bunged the two square tins in the oven on different shelves with less than 1 hour until school pick up time.  Half way through the nervous wait, I changed the cakes over, at which point I saw how wobbly they still were – yikes!! They were not fully cooked by the time I had to race off to school so I did the only thing I could, switched the oven off and hoped the residual heat would finish the job!

Luckily when I came home the damage was not so bad. The middles of the cakes were cooked, if a little softer than they ought to be, and less risen, but ok! So I had the cakey building blocks!

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The next day was the big decorate. I shut the kitchen door and got going. Luckily I’d coloured some coconut green the previous day while I waited for the cakes to bake. This took almost a whole bottle of green food colouring (for a whole pack of coconut) and STILL it wasn’t completely green. Anyway, I made choc icing (mud) and smothered that on the chocolate cake, then added the green ‘grass’. No problems there :0)

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Then came the part I’d worried about. Time to see if two bowl-shaped madeira cakes will sit one on top of the other and stay that way! I added some wooden skewers inside to help them out – and to give me peace of mind, and it worked! Then I got going with the fondant – just red and white. I cut out white circles for the toadstool using a bottle lid, and made the ‘stalk’ and underside of the ‘umbrella’ with the white, before getting the red out. I think that’s a good tip. Get your white done first!!

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Anyway, apart from having to make a bit of my own red icing as I didn’t have enough, I managed it. I then scattered sweeties around the garden, added the fairies and gave it a generous sprinkle of edible glitter, and hey presto, bibbety bobbety boo, a cake for my 5 year old! Here it is before its big moment:

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Luckily she loved it :0)

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Phew! 

Is it sad that stationery shops & catalogues excite me?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I think this must be a hangover from childhood. My total and utter love of lovely new sharp pencils, coloured pens, gel pens or tiny-nibbed pens that write beautifully has never waned since I was a child! Back then it was the excitement of shopping for the longest possible set of felt-tips, like a giant rainbow, all organised by colour in a well-known high-street stationers (one of two in my town in those days). My colouring would be that bit neater for a while to honour the new pens. They’d be kept in pristine order, and it would be so sad when they finally dried up – mind you then came the chance to buy MORE -yipeee!

I still have a set of pens, in their black plastic holder, in order, with my name (as was) written neatly in in my cursive writing (which means we’re talking Primary school or early Secondary school, because I changed my writing to suit me as soon as it wasn’t expected to be totally joined up and in ink pen).

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Actually, one thing I never got that excited about, the exception to the rule, was cartridge ink pens! I dabbled with Calligraphy for a while, using turquoise ink and a posh pen I’d had for my birthday. My dad was all into that too. Having to use them at school was a pain, but also a right of passage. You had to be in the top year at Primary school to be allowed!

During secondary school years, outside of school, I wrote important things in a mixture of grey & pink (very ’80s). This was pretty time-consuming as I alternated, doing one letter of each colour as I wrote! On to Uni, and I favoured a sharp pencil for ALL writing, apart from work to be handed in of course. I even wrote reams of pages as letters to my family, friends and boyfriend in pencil, using normal, lined A4 paper. I obviously wasn’t at all bothered about the paper, though being a poor student doesn’t really allow for luxuries such as posh writing paper.

Anyway, the point of these ramblings is just that I have just opened my new Rymans Business account, a benefit of winning the #SBS award from Theo Paphitis for my bug-filled online shop ( http://www.onestopbugshop.co.uk ) . A gigantic catalogue has plopped onto the doormat and an equally generous credit is waiting to be spent!

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So, the problem I’m struggling with is do I buy what I need (printer ink cartridges etc yawn) or what grabs my eye (multicoloured mechanical pencils, beautiful sets of pens, colourful organising bit & bobs)? I keep finding more & more possibilities! I promise I’ll make the right decision, but for now, I’m in a stationery wonderland & I am going to enjoy looking!

I’m Planning a Birthday Cake!

I do love a home-made birthday cake, though I don’t agree at all with any peer-pressure amongst mums to all attempt the creation of a tower of sugary fabulousness for the birthday boy or girl to match up to what little Johnny or Delilah had at THEIR party. Just don’t do it if you don’t want to! There are so many wonderful people out there making a living from taking this particular stress away from you, and it’s amazing what they can do. Failing that, there’s always the old supermarket cake – yes I have used them too! Also, another great cheat is to buy a plain cake and get yourself a rice paper cake-topper. These are great value and can be found on Ebay easily. I bought a ‘Johnny Test’ one once, as there was no way I could recreate that particular cartoon character! All you have to do then is stick it on with icing.

However, I LOVE the challenge of making a cake for my kids, even though I spend hours planning it and making it, and it never ever turns out as pristine & amazing as a professional could make it. The reason behind this is that it’s a tradition in my family. Every birthday that my sister and I had would prompt baking from mum, and handing over of the decorating to my dad! Yes, he loved doing this too! Back then, *ahem* years ago, there was a ‘Children’s Cakes’ book, which a lot of parents owned. In it were such delights as a gypsy caravan, a train, a hedgehog, etc etc. My dad even made me a Zebidee for my 18th birthday!

Anyway, I’ve somehow succeeded in past years in making a Tardis, a Peppa Pig, Very Hungry Caterpillar, Butterfly, Minnie Mouse, and most recently, Agent P from Phineas & Ferb.

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I’m now planning the next one, and I’m hoping it’ll be easier! I’m not going to tell you now what it’ll be, but the idea has taken shape and keeps getting more complicated as I think of more things. I’m looking forward to taking to the kitchen and hubby keeping the kids away for the (usually 2) hours I need to turn cake into *mystery thing*. Up goes the music, on goes the apron & off I go. Coloured fondant everywhere, lots of cursing & fiddling about, and hopefully, hey presto, something resembling what it was supposed to be in the first place! 

If it makes anyone feel better, all of my slightly wobbly, slightly cracked, baked from scratch previous attempts are here on Pinterest.

I just love doing it and I know I’m not very good, but that’s not going to stop me! I can highly recommend giving it a go. Have a back-up plan so that you don’t get stressed, get into the kitchen and get creative! All you need do when you have an idea is to search the internet for images of cakes other fabulous people have posted, and you can find one there that suits you. I’d recommend looking for something that doesn’t involve too much ‘building work’ – the last thing you need is a ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ effect. If you’re going to build a shape of any kind you could go with madeira cake rather than normal sponge as it is more ‘sturdy’. With all the helpful pre-coloured fondant icing you can buy, and pre-made cake toppers, you will find you can take baby-steps & work up to the full baking & creating experience. It’s easier than you think!

I’ll update when this next one is done. I have two weeks to go. Wish me luck! :0)

 

Theo Paphitis’ #SBS Event 2013 – Buggie in Brum!

Well, the day finally came last week when I travelled to Birmingham to attend the #SBS Winners Event, and meet Theo himself! Excited doesn’t cover it! I was allowed to take a guest, and as hubby had to stay home looking after the kids (mwahahahaha), I choose my local friend and #SBS winner-in-waiting, Joy Bassett from AP Bassetts, Lostwitihiel (@apbassetts). Joy bravely decided to drive us there and we made it in good time to our hotel, The Hampton by Hilton, Broad Street.

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Buggie was very comfy there.

I could go on and on here about our first night in Brum, suffice to say, we met up with wonderful Twitter friends and lots of squealing, eating and drinking ensued. We did manage to get to bed before 1am though….well some of us did,

Theo had graciously started the event at the lovely time of 11am, which meant a leisurely breakfast and stroll en-mass up the road towards the ICC, excitement building!

Walking in we saw the first sign, and yes, over-excitement got the better of me and I did a silly pose!

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After collecting badges we wandered into the conference room and started right away to meet other #SBS winners, some of whom we ‘knew’ from Twitter, and plenty of new contacts too. It was wonderful to put faces to names! Trying to find each other was fun, but we soon saw that all the screens had the twitter feed for #SBSEvent2013 showing. So, what else would you expect, but everyone, standing in the same room, still tweeting furiously to each other, trying to find people. I had to laugh -it was the funniest thing, heads buried in phones everywhere! Mind you, I also HAD to see my own tweet up on that screen, so did a couple myself :0)

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I soon found another way to find people, the shifty-over-someone’s-shoulder-look at their name badge (rather than the more embarrassing walk-right-up-looking-at-their-chest kind). Numbered tables around the room helped too of course. I did manage to find a few fellow Cornish businesses (of the 10 who have won #SBS since it began). Here are lovely Fiona from @CoombeMill and Karen from @JustBunting . I also saw @MrsCassieKemp from Cake Top Characters, and there’s a photo of us together somewhere.

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The main event began with Kypros Kyprianou, CEO of Ryman Stationary, telling us about the new sponsors of #SBS. More sponsors have joined forces with Ryman to support this fab Small Businesses group. I had a seat quite far over to one side at this point and could see the main man – Mr. Paphitis – sliding about in the wings, having a sneaky peak at Kypros during his speech!

Then, on he came, to great applause from all of us.

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I don’t think the grin left my face from start to finish to be honest, I must have looked a bit of a wally, though I suspect others may have done the same! Theo spoke with humour and honesty, and made us all feel 10 feet tall for getting the award. At one point he showed a short presentation of a few winner’s stories, and I was suddenly looking at the photo of me and the kids and newspaper headline which resulted from my Press Release when I won – cue the odd squeal from the audience, including me! Eeek that was a HUGE screen, and a HUGE surprise! I still have the music in my head too, it’s the one the used for the walking along the corridor slowly in Kill Bill! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJlu_xo79k8

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We heard some exciting new developments for the #SBS family, including pending improvements to our very own website  http://www.theopaphitissbs.com, run by fellow #SBS winner Chris Wheeler (@MetalsFrogst) and his team at Metal Frog Studios. Chris was brought on stage and gave us a run-down on the changes coming up – all of which were going to be done ‘Monday’ :0). Then came the main announcement from Theo; the arrival of the #SBS Angels. These are a group of successful business people, who were invested in by Theo via Dragon’s Den, coming together to choose one #SBS winner to receive a £50,000 investment. #SBS winners were invited to pitch to the #SBS Angels for this, in a Dragon’s Den style!

There was so much discussed, and I could go on and on. I think we were all struck by what a good speaker Theo is, and were very impressed with how long he took at the end of the presentation to answer questions from the audience (going way over the allocated time). Questions ranged from sensible to crazy, with continued golden nuggets of business advice from Mr. P throughout. He made one lady’s day with an on-the-spot decision to have the Buying Manager from his most recently acquired business, Robert Dyas, meet her to discuss featuring her British-Made cookware. This was prompted by her telling him she was banging down doors trying to spread the word of her products, but many places didn’t even bother to reply to her. When she said she had felt a bit shy asking a question, he responded with “I know, I noticed you put your hand up about four times and then put it down again”.

After this, we went straight into a huge queue to have our certificates presented and meet Theo. Every lady got out her make-up & mirror! So, here is an unofficial snap of my moment with Mr. P. Of course, Buggie made it into the picture too. Theo was pleased I brought him along!

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We left, Rymans goody bags in hands, feeling buoyed up by being part of such a fantastic group. Members of #SBS have the benefit of advice from all sorts of different business people, from around the country, with expertise in a huge variety of areas. For me, relatively at the beginning of my journey, this is invaluable. The possibility of mentors offering their services to #SBS members is exciting, and this support is something most Small Business owners cannot find. I would advise anyone who has thought about entering #SBS (on a Sunday between 5 – 7.30pm on Twitter) to do it! Have a read of this http://www.theopaphitissbs.com/about/ to find out more. Twitter itself is a great network, and #SBS a wonderful group of people. Long may it continue to grow and inspire people – Thanks Theo!

#SBS Award-winning  http://www.onestopbugshop.co.uk For the most fabulous Bug-Themed gifts, clothes & toys. Bright, fun & funky. Have a buzz around!!

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A Very Special Leopard

Most special toys seems to have been owned from birth, not so ‘Leopard’, the imaginatively-named BFF of my number one son Jack. I do remember the pre-leopard year, when Jack made no particular connection to anything fluffy or cuddly. He had just taken to a floppy lion, and brought him with us to Scotland, when POW, my Auntie gives him a new, spotty friend, and the love-affair starts.

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Floppy lion was unceremoniously dumped in favour of the spotty wonder. He was named ‘Leopard’ straight away. I always thought he may develop a real name as the years went by, but apart from the ‘Munnee’ phase (no idea, don’t ask), he has always been known by this simple moniker. Within a few days we realised, horror of horrors, that leopard was, in fact, a Cheetah! There was no way the name ‘Leopard’ was going anywhere by this time, so it stuck. Leopard has been part of the family ever since. He used to come EVERYWHERE with us. I know what you’re thinking, what if the worst ever happened and Leopard went walkabout? Well we thought that too, as soon as we realised how special he was to Jack. After searching high & low there was no identical leopards/cheetah’s to be found, except in the USA via Ebay for silly money. Jack was given various ‘relatives’ for leopard, which had spots, but were not the same, just in case the main guy ever got lost.

Luckily for us the only time our precious Leopard ever got lost was when he was left at the doctor’s surgery. We retrieved him, and had the talk about not taking him everywhere. I guess he outings have reduced now, 8 years later, but he is still a permanent fixture when Jack is at home. There is no way he can ever be replaced. Gone are the days when I could safely scrub him with antibacterial soap & a nail brush, his fur has gone to nothing on his back. He’s had so many repairs that his waist is tiny and he has no stuffing in his middle, making him a Leopard of two halves. We’re beyond any chance of extra fur or repairs being made, as then Leopard would not be Leopard. So, the solution has been a thick sock, made into a polo-necked jumper for the poor floppy beast!

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Leopard has a very distinct personality (and smell), and I hope he survives for many more years. He features in many pictures, as he’s always around!

If you have, or remember a special toy, or your child does, why not write a little about them and enter this competition? http://tattooedmummy.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/a-special-toy-blog-competition.html

The prize is a stunning Hide-Away Rabbit puppet with mini-beast friends from http://www.onestopbugshop.co.uk. You have until 9pm on 30th November to get your entries in!