Back to School Rite of Passage

jack-first-days-primary-and-secondary

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!).

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Theo Paphitis’ #SBS Event 2015 – Birmingham

In September 2013 I was honoured to be chosen by Theo Paphitis for his Small Business Sunday Award, and got a retweet of my business, http://www.onestopbugshop.co.uk .

Not only this, I became part of a wonderful group of small businesses who have also won this accolade. This group of people are so supportive, being from all different sized businesses at different stages of development. There is so much to be learned from them. We all look forward to the annual networking event, where we also receive gems of wisdom from top business people, including Theo himself, who have been through setting up a business.

I’m just back from the 2015 event in Birmingham, where once again I’ve had a fantastic couple of days. It has to be said that, on my second trip to Birmingham for this, I have realised that the event itself, although it’s the main part, is not the only thing I look forward to. Arriving the night before and meeting up with dear twitter friends is also high on the agenda! We have several characters who are well known by most #SBS winners for being extremely supportive, and in my case, we share great banter on twitter too! So, after a night of socialising we got a rallying speech from our Kim ( @Welshroyalcrystal ), encouraging us all to be on the look-out for anyone nervous or unsure of themselves and to bring them into the ‘fold’. Also of course to make the most of this wonderful opportunity. Hear hear!

Kims speech thur night

Event day was great. A lot of us had already found each other and once we had our badges we were off into the hall for networking. I found lots of people I’ve known on twitter for a while, but not met yet. I was also really pleased to meet Jen from @Grippyleads who had only just won her #SBS and managed to get to Birmingham with barely any time to organise it! Not only that, she lives down the road from me! It’s fantastic to have another #SBS winner so close.

Hubi Jen grippyleads & me

We took our seats as the excitement built.

Joy me selfie in seats

Kypros from Rymans started us off and then introduced the main man onto the stage.

Theo just arrived

Theo speaks very well, and keeps us all laughing. He’s not beyond a little chat with people in the audience. Bubblegum Balloons had the right idea, bring three beautiful balloons that hung above their heads, prompting Theo to HAVE to ask who they were, mid-speech! He also was a pretty good sport as a few of us interrupted his speech with big “ooooooo”s at the sight of the giant picture of last year’s macaroons on the screen behind him! “She nearly swooned at his macaroons”, he joked!

He buoyed everyone up and gave us all some great advice. He said you won’t get anywhere with out a lot of hard work, and there will be some very tough times. He also mentioned that most people, when they become a success, are not on the their first business, but have moved on. We all need to shout about our businesses until we have bored everyone about it, then shout about it some more!

Chris Wheeler from Metalfrog then introduced us to our new-look #SBS website, which has been made super-search-engine-friendly! Just what I need as such as small business ‘fish’ in a very large internet pond. The moment came where Theo was about to reveal the new website by pressing the refresh button, and he made us all wait to build the tension!

Theo pressing button with Chris

All went well of course. Chris has done a great job for us and we will be able to find other #SBS businesses on the site too. Anyone can search the site, using the new search criteria, so pop over and have a look. There are some great businesses in this special group! http://www.theopaphitissbs.com

Panel - Rob Gandys flip flopf Julienne Callede made.com Judy st tropez TP

Next we had the panel of experts telling us the stories of their businesses and the pitfalls and successes they went through to get where they are today. We heard some truly inspirational speakers: Judy Naake, who brought St. Tropez to the UK,explained how she used to drive around and pick up a few salons a day on her client list, until she was at the stage where she decided to offer celebrities free tanning on the understanding she could advertise their endorsement of her product. This helped the business take off, and went on to sell it for £70 million!  It wasn’t her first business, and she was 47 when she started it, so it’s never too late.

Julienne Callede set up made.com , not by having a new original idea, but by choosing a new way to do it, bringing great designs of furniture to the public at much lower prices than others. Also, as he put it, “by doing it better than anyone else!” They were online only, but took a risk (the only one that required the board to vote) by adding a showroom in their offices. This gave the company a huge boost and on it went from there.

Rob Forkan from Gandys Flip Flops set up his business with his brother after a terrible tragedy in this family. He chose to raise money to buy children’s orphanages and, to begin with, did this without using the story of his motivation. Eventually they decided to reveal what had happened and have shown that a strong belief in what you are doing, and never giving up, are strengths we should all learn from. See more here for their incredible story here

The panel took a lot of questions from the #SBS winners, providing insights into how they have made a success of their businesses.

The other aspect of the day was the networking. Hubi, my cheeky ladybird puppet, made a lot of new friends. Here are just a few people he met!

Hubi Julienne Callede Julienne Callede!

Hubi and kim Hubi alison batman PilHubi and Miki Hubi & MattHubi Kim Ruth fancy dress meHubi Chiara (hoobynoo) & me

Just as he left the stage, Joy from @apbassetts (my guest) raced off and managed to catch Theo to present him with a bag of liquorice allsorts (as Bassetts are the sweetest law firm in town!). She’s definitely going to be an #SBS winner by next year!

Joy handing over allsorts to Mr P

The new winners then queued up for their photos with Theo. He must have stood there for a good couple of hours with his “best cheesy grin” as he put it! I think everyone went away feeling like a VIP, with a goody bag from the sponsors and lots of new ideas to take their businesses to the next stage. I’m certainly very proud to be a member of this wonderful group.

If you would like a chance to win #SBS , tweet @Theopaphitis about your business between 5-7.30pm on a Sunday evening using the hashtag #SBS. You never know, you could be with us at the next event!

Hubi the ladybird is available here:

http://www.onestopbugshop.co.uk/ourshop/prod_3605273-Hubi-the-Ladybird-Ladybug-Puppet-from-Living-Puppets.html

How To Cobble Together A Child’s Dr. Who Weeping Angel Costume

Happy New Year all and welcome to 2015, when I catch up on things I was going to blog about last year! Ok, as promised, and lost in the time vortex of my life, here is how I got these costumes together using a lot of cheating and a bit of ‘making’ .

Dr. Who Fancy Dress Costumes

Dr. Who Fancy Dress Costumes

Today I’m starting with our little Weeping Angel. Don’t blink!

The first thing you need is a little girl who wants to scare people. Believe me, ours was really scary! The cheat part was to not try and make a replica dress, but to search Ebay for a grey dress and buy it for a couple of pounds. There were loads of dresses available. This one caught my attention because of the wafty layers.

grey dress

Even though the real Weeping Angels have stiff, much plainer dresses, I liked this wafty look. To hide the sequins at the top I got an old grey T-shirt (donated by a friend – one her son grew out of). I turned it inside out and then cut the arms off. Then I cut the bottom half of the T-shirt into strips, stopping in the middle-ish. I then folded the strips up and stitched the ends to the neckline of the T-shirt, so they looked like the folds in the weeping angel dresses.

Grey t shirt

I was lucky that this T-shirt had had buttons down the (original) front of it, which was now the back, allowing access for the wings. I tied the two loose bits you see sticking out around the back under the wings.

As for those wings, I bought a pair of feathered wings – this is the laziness factor taking over from the creative! I know lots of people have crafted the wings from cardboard and grey sponge bits for feathers. On You Tube you will find a lot of advice on making these.  So, with my ready-made wings, I only had to get some grey stone-effect spray (available in craft shops, on ebay etc – I got mine from Hobbycraft). It took the whole can to spray the wings. It has to be done very carefully as the spray can clog the feathers badly. I just wanted them to stay looking like feathers, but stone feathers are less ‘fluffy’ so a little clogging was fine.

Angel wings

Again, for the hair, there is a lot of advice out there. I steered clear of a hard, helmet-like ‘wig’ due to comfort levels for my little girl, she’d never put up with that! Instead I made a wool wig, which was surprisingly easy. I followed a very clear You Tube video on making a wool wig.  http://youtu.be/P4ZypMCg_Lo

Basically you get your ball of wool, measure the length of a whole strand going from one side over to the other side of the head, then pass the wool between two chair backs, or your hands, until all of it is divided up into these lengths. Then you cut the ends to get rid of the loops. To hold it all together you just have a thick strip of grey felt (also from Hobbycraft). Measure from the front to the back of the head, excactly the length of the parting if you were doing bunches. Cut the felt to this length and it becomes the ‘under-structure’ / under-parting bit you sew the wool to. The video points you to using a sewing machine, but I didn’t have one so I did it by hand, using small stitches and lots of patience! Once I had a head of long grey hair I shaped it into a kind of weeping angel style by rolling the front round from the parting and securing with some stitches and pins. I added some left over felt as the hairband. I also made a scull-cap out of the gusset of a pair of tights and sewed the wig onto it so that I could keep it on her head. This was fiddly, but I think it was more secure this way.

Before putting it all on, we did her face paint. Again I used a You Tube tutorial. There are loads to choose from, but I really liked this one & found it easy to follow and get a good result http://youtu.be/yOX_iezbysU

Final touches not mentioned yet were: a long sleeved grey top to go under the whole thing and cover arms (rather than painting arms grey) and a pair of cheap grey gloves. The final little treat was to give her two Black Jack chews, which did a great job of making her mouth that lovely scary black colour!

Bethan weeping angel best

And an even more scary ‘re-touched versionBeth scary angel pic

My little Weeping Angel got plenty of compliments for this, but she stayed in character for the whole parade and scared lots of people!

Stay tuned for the Dalek info, coming soon!

BugBlog brought to you by http://www.onestopbugshop.co.uk

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! 

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)