Cute Animal Brooches

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These brooches were supposed to be Valentine’s Day gifts, but they finally made their way to their recipients about 2 weeks ago! One is for my mum and one is for her friend who loves foxes. I just free-formed them, but they were small and easy.

I wasn’t as enamoured with the cat as I was the fox, it looked a bit sinister rather than cute, so I tried again and came up with this little grey one.

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Feeling inspired I have now splashed out on a whole bunch of cottons to make more cute little brooches. It’s hard to find nice, brightly coloured, non-mercerised cotton but this Rico Aran from Cucumber Patch was available in a wide range of colours and came super quickly.

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Our Common Ground Exhibition

The motley crew of teen artists
The motley crew of teen artists

Last Tuesday I went to an art exhibition. I didn’t want to go actually, it was so cold, and I had been at work all day. But the facilitator of the exhibition was my friend Jacqui of Creative Solutions, a husband and wife team who run community based art projects. I felt like I should go along to support Jacqui, so I dragged myself out into freezing temperatures to Cheltenham’s Garden Gallery. And I am so glad I did. What I found was an inspiring exhibition of art by local teenagers.

The exhibition was called Our Common Ground, and bought together teenagers from two very diverse areas of the town. For a year they have been experimenting and collaborating on creative enterprises, exploring their own dreams and aspirations, and those of their communities. I tried to take some pictures, but they really don’t do the work justice.

Our Common Ground Exhition
This caption says “This project has somehow changed my life, but I don’t know how!”

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“This project has opened my eyes – we really do have common ground”

I had the privilege of speaking to some of the young artists. They had a great time though found it challenging. One of them said he felt like he wanted to quit at times as things weren’t turning out how he wanted. It seems like they learned a lot about themselves and about each other. The artists come from very different backgrounds but ultimately they discovered that they really do have a lot in common. A good life lesson for us all.

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UPDATE: if you want to see the lovely video made by the group check out this link

The one where I get free stuff and admit I don’t really like sewing that much

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I was really excited to be contacted a few weeks ago by Dotcomgiftshop to tell me they had included my blog in an article on upcycled furniture. I was pleased to see I was in good company, along with some of my other favourite bloggers such as Mum Of All Trades and Meme Rose. They described my blog as “Honest, funny and real, this is a craft blog with a difference.” and with that I was sold!

They have asked me to be part of their blog network, and offered to send me things to review. This just gets better and better! In reality though, I’m not very good at that sort of thing, and dithered over asking to review something. Only when they sent me a prompting email basically saying “no really, pick something” did I finally bite the bullet.

For a long time now I have been planning to make a Happy Birthday banner. I’d really like to crochet one, but haven’t got round to it so far, and realistically never am. Ordinary bunting is actually really easy to make too, but again, it’s something I’ll never get round to doing, especially with the dawning realisation that <whispers> I like the idea of sewing more that I actually enjoy doing it. So, I picked out a Happy Birthday bunting banner, which arrived pretty speedily.

We didn’t have to wait long for a birthday to try it out. It was my birthday on Thursday, and with a gentle reminder, DH put the banner up for me ready for when I got up.

It looked fab (we’ve only just taken it down – I like to celebrate my birth-week!) and I am really pleased with it. It’ll be dragged out for every birthday for years to come. The only thing is it’s huge! Despite the dimensions being clearly stated on the website, I didn’t realise it would be so long! Still, I think it looks pretty cool, and far preferable to balloons as decorations .

With it’s immense length, at £12.95 it’s pretty reasonable. Yeah you could knock one up for cheaper with scraps of material, but really, are you going to?

The Birds

I’m not usually one for making a fuss at Easter. The holiday usually passes me by. I’m grateful for the 2 days off, and for the chocolate eggs which I tend to buy cheaply after Easter when the supermarkets just want rid of them.

But having kids tends to make you see things in a new light, and Betty has cottoned onto all the supermarket crap and has embraced Easter as a holiday to be celebrated.

I must admit Easter brings a plethora of crafting opportunities, which this year I have actually taken advantage of. About time really, given this started out as a craft blog!

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First up is this Easter chick, scratching about on my bird table. I had visions of making these in all kinds of pretty pastel colours, but, well, it didn’t happen. This one’s pretty cute anyway, and if you want to make one the pattern is a simple free one from Lion Brand

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Next up are these chicken bean bags which I saw on Red Ted Art . They are so quick and easy to make, even by hand. One is destined for my mother in law (random, I know, but DH insisted she’d like one) and the other two are Easter gifts for Betty and Iris. Given that Iris is in a delightful throwing stage, hopefully this will be a pain free alternative to a plastic cup or the iPad.

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If you want more grown up craft, this lovely wreath was made for a pound by Mum of All Trades!

Happy Easter everyone!

The contrariness of motherhood

On the nights when I put Iris to bed, which is most nights, as she prefers me and Betty prefers DH, after finishing her bottle of milk she turns to me and says “Can I have a cuddle?”. Pinned securely into a sleeping bag (a necessity as she is both a stripper and a climber) she turns to face me. Sometimes she doesn’t want to go to sleep or really have a cuddle, she just wants a chat, about the things we have done, the things we are going to do and the important things in her life, like Betty, Grandma and doggies. On the nights like tonight, when she is exhausted, she curls up on my lap, her head on my upper arm, knees tucked into her chest, and her tiny arms wrapped around my waist. These nights actually bode the worst, as infant logic dictates that the more tired they are the more unsettled their sleep will be.

Sometimes this tableau occurs at 7pm, sometimes 8, sometimes 3am. Even at 3am, tired, and anxious about getting up for work soon, I soon succumb to the star nightlight speckled darkness, and bury my face into the nape of her neck. I inhale the smell of sweat and jam sandwiches. I relish the weight of the heavy head in my arms. I feel the rise and fall of the little chest filling with air, and exhaling with faint snores. When I am feeling frustrated at this being our third visit of the night, or desperate to go downstairs and have some grown up time, I tell myself it won’t be long before she no longer wants cuddles, or is too big to curl up on my lap.

As I nuzzle the warm body on my lap I think about its future. I wonder what sort of woman she will become, I worry I am not doing a good enough job for her to reach her potential, I worry about the dangers of the world, and pray she will outlive me in it. I want to cry a little for the future me, who has no 2 year old to snuggle, and for the future Iris, and the time when a mother’s cuddle is no longer enough to make her feel secure.

Eventually, the draw of freedom and personal space force me to relinquish my charge and put her in her cot. Tonight she was out like the proverbial light, but most nights she drowsily clutches Luke, her bear, and turns over with a sleepy “Night night mummy”.

No longer weighed down with a warm infant, I step lightly out of the room and head downstairs where long-awaited freedom awaits. Earlier today, frustrated and exhausted, I wanted my house free of my children, or wished for them to be old enough to be more self-sufficient. Each night I sink on to the sofa with relief that I have survived another day. But for the few minutes after I have released the sleeping toddler from my arms I feel bereft.

Foam party

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I won’t lay claim to this genius idea; that credit goes to Something With The Kid. But this is definitely one worth stealing. Using shapes cut out from craft foam and a pot of water and a paint brush kids can make pictures on patio doors, or even bathroom tiles. Give the older ones some scissors and the foam and they can cut their own shapes out which extends the life of this activity.  The foam sticks to the wet glass, and makes surprisingly little mess, assuming your patio doors are usually as smeared as mine anyway. This is a great rainy day activity and the shapes can be used over and over again.

Yes, those are my little darlings in the picture, and yes one of them is wearing pajamas, and the other a baggy bottomed leotard with a yellow cap. We’re a classy household.

Catholic women speak out and say “Not in my name”

So, Cardinal O’Brien has admitted that his behaviour over the years has “fallen beneath the standards expected of me”. It is unclear what this euphemism really means, as Catholic views on sexual standards don’t seem allied with those of the mainstream i.e. sex is not ok if you are not married, gay, or a member of the clergy. Suffice to say it is not clear that O’Brien has broken any laws, just some stupid internal rules, so I won’t dwell on the nature of the offences.

This blog post is not simply the rantings of a disinterested atheist. I have my own beef with the Catholic Church. Those who know me might be surprised to know I am actually a Catholic, at least I think I am, I’m a bit hazy on the rules. My parents are lapsed Catholics and both sets of grandparents were fervent Catholics. I was baptised in the Catholic Church. Apparently despite being an atheist now the event of my baptism makes me a Catholic for life, and beyond presumably. Like I said I’m not clear on the rules of membership, so I am happy to be corrected, but it seems to me that being a Catholic is a bit like being signed into to a spam newsletter, you don’t remember signing up, and despite looking around the website you can’t find the instructions for how to leave. They make it deliberately difficult, requiring a written request to take you off their mailing list, which quite frankly you are never going to get around to. You can put them in your spam folder but somehow they keep getting through the filter.

I said my grandparents were Catholics, so you can imagine how it went down when my 19 year old unwed parents announced my impending arrival. My paternal grandparents refused to acknowledge my existence until I was about 10 or 11. That is not the only negative impact the church has had on my life and that of my family. The Catholic Church and its hypocritical dogmatics have wronged my family in other devastating ways, so my disenchantment goes beyond my feminist and moral principles.

But I can’t really claim to be an insider in the Church. When insiders start to question the value and morals of their own long supported organisation it is a sign that institution is really in danger. Joanna Moorhead is a journalist and long time member of the Catholic Church, about as much an insider as a woman can get in the Church. She has written and edited religious publications, and today she has publicly professed her dissatisfaction with the leaders of her faith. You can read the full article here but I wanted to pick out some of what I think are the most important points:

…our church has come to be seen entirely in terms of the men who run it. That, of course, is understandable: not only do they hold resolutely on to the reins of power, but they are also the ones who have perpetrated the crimes. One of the more unsettling moments of the pope’s UK visit in 2010, for me, was when he called on “the whole church” to atone for its crimes. But those were not my crimes, Pope Benedict: I am not one of the ordained men who has abused children or helped cover up their abhorrent behaviour, and I resent being treated as one.

In fact, all around me I increasingly hear these words from my fellow Catholics: not in my name. These crimes that have been committed, this power that has been abused, this trust that has been betrayed: not in our name, Your Holiness, has it happened. Guilt has dogged my church through the centuries, and it’s a guilt that has often been planted most deeply among the lay people: every week at mass for many years I have heard the priest in the pulpit reminding and cajoling and persuading us to go to confession, to repent, to bathe in our guilt and be freed from it. Well, not this time: this guilt is not mine; this is the guilt of the hierarchy, the guilt of the priests, the guilt of the ordained men who run my church and who have been determined for centuries that they would not share the running of the church with anyone who was not one of them.

Lay women, the biggest group within the church, are the most silent of all silent majorities…They are also, I believe, its wisdom, its common sense and its conscience. If the Catholic church had done as most institutions have done over the last 30 or so years, and invited women to become its leaders alongside men, it would have discovered – as institution after institution has discovered, the world over – that it could not run itself properly without them.

There is not much left for me to say, Joanna has made her eloquent plea to the Church. I don’t expect them to listen to me but I can only hope they start listening to their members and make radical changes than mean that people’s lives are no longer devastated by the acts of men who abuse the power they hold.