Thursday, 24 September 2009

A green, clean house

This is me. I've just put my feet up and I think I deserve to as it is nearly midnight.

I had some very disappointing news today and rather than preparing for the Macmillan Coffee Morning tomorrow and the Craft Cafe I really wanted to chuck it all in but then I remembered that a lot of people need help and support through Macmillan so on I went. I did get some support myself from my dear friend C who knocked on my door late tonight (in her pyjamas!) to give me a hand but rather than scrubbing we sat down with tea and cakes. It is just so fabulous to have friends like her but I won't name her, she'd be too embarrassed!

I've had a very productive day though with the green surprise parcel I received yesterday! There was plenty to get going and I am pleased to say that I did finish my challenge.

First up were the window cleaners and it was an easy choice for me to make. They both did the job but the Ecover product smells lovely and the other was just horrible. In principle Ecover products win it every time for me. For a while I was worried that they weren't produced in this country but just having read that the distance from Belgium and France where the ecological factories are, to London is about the same as the distance from sunny Manchester to London so all in all that's not bad. I have tried just about every other green window cleaners and none of them did the job. You might ask what's with the scrunched up newspaper. Well, this is recycling at it's best. Several balls of newspaper were used as support in the trug of cleaning products, which is good in itself but as newspaper produces the best streak-free windows I got them out of the trug and recycled them again!

I got to test the Ecover multi surface cleaner versus the Flash one in both the normal containers and the spray. I've never really been a fan of sprays as I feel it gets everywhere and I can't really control where the drops land but was quite using it in the bathroom. I did read it was safe to use around food as well so I needn't have worried. I do think that both products do the job equally but again I would choose Ecover any time purely for the green credentials.
I didn't think I was going to test the heavy duty products but girl monkey got quite excited. Until recently she's never seen any ads on TV but since a few weeks has been telling me I need to use Bang because it does the job! Now there's brainwashing for you. She's also picked up on the fact that some supermarkets sell most products for under £1 and she's seen a cream on telly used by a lady that is 43 (Linda Evangelista) but looks 26 due to the cream. When I jokingly said : "Oh just like me then" I got a very dismissive "NOoo"! Anyway after all my cake baking tonight (Dutch Spice Cake and Butter Cake) I did have the pleasure of spraying some Ecover Power Cleaner and it worked like a dream. Wouldn't use Bang ever again, the chemicals got me very worried! Please everyone try to save our planet and consider the health of all in the house and switch to greener products. For the cynics amongst us, really every little bit that we can do will help! I could go on about the need to think green but my brain is turning to mushy peas and I need to get some energy for tomorrow.

My house now smells lovely thanks to Ecover and the cake baking and am all ready for some fundraising. I should be going to Urbis afterwards for the Buy Art Fair but might give it a miss, there is always a 'tomorrow'.
Sleep tight everyone, I am going to try my best but think the monster next door might wake me up several times......

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A green surprise!

Apologies as I haven't been a busy blogger lately but it seems that my life had been taken over by the monkeys' social life and girl monkey's ballet performances. Apart from that I have been sewing all hours to get my stock up for this Sunday's Didsbury Craft Cafe. I am really excited about this event and will hopefully get some pictures together to show you all after the weekend. Amongst many other things I will be taking these :

.... Busy Betsy's Busy Lizzies. With quite a few pre-orders for Christmas these little girls will keep me busy for some weeks to come.

I had a little surprise today: a lovely green surprise!

Occasionally British Mummy Bloggers get asked to do some product testing and I am really excited about this one. I do this a couple of times a year but usually am asked just to fill in a testing form and am often fairly underwhelmed with the product so I do not see the need to tell the world about it but this time it is different as I got sent a fabulous trug with Ecover products. I know that some of you will stop reading now as you totally disagree with writing about products but because it is Ecover and I am a green queen I am delighted to give them some column inches. I'd like to be as eco-friendly as I possibly can and am normally not a fan of plastics but the trug the products came in is made from those recycled bottle tops that did not end up in my recycled Christmas Wreaths and will come in handy for storing some of the monkeys treasures.

I will be doing a lot of product testing tomorrow as I am taking part in Macmillan's World's Biggest Coffee morning on Friday, hoping to raise some valuable funds for this very worthwhile cause. I would like my house to look spic and span, in all it's glory. A challenge at the best of times, but with my new goodie bag full of Ecover products I hope it is going to be a breeze!

Well, there will be an update tomorrow, wish me luck!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Cupcake party

Today was the day that girl monkey had been looking forward to for a while. It was the day of her CUPCAKE PARTY! Because her birthday falls around the August bankholiday weekend it is a difficult time to organise a birthday party. This year however she had friends round on the day and a party for her school friends.
I absolutely love parties at home. My all time favourite was boy monkey's pirate party last year but the one today is now sharing the top position.

It was very easy to come up with a plan; we were going to have 12 girls all aged between 7 - 8 and they are all easy to please. These little things love everything that glitters and sparkles and know their top 40's better than I do! Girl monkey loves baking and make-up and High School Musical and Hannah Montana and.... just about anything really. So we came up with cake decorating and some girlie activities. Over the past few weeks I found some sweet decorations and some lovely plates, cups, napkins, etc with cupcakes on them.

The trickiest thing was to come up with a good cake. As it was going to be a cupcake party I was hoping to make a giant cupcake. There used to be several fabulous tins on the market, two halves (length ways) put together but I couldn't find these. I did find another one but thought it a bit pricey especially as it might only be used for one party. And then one day on the way to boy monkey's sports coaching I stumbled upon Spreadborough's in Cheadle, which happened to be the place where my friend Jo had bought some super glitter for a cake she made some time ago. This place is a real treasure trove! It looks like a florist but has an extensive cake and craft department as well.

The result is this : a moist Nigella chocolate cake with glittery purple butter icing, edible sparkly flakes, flowers and butterflies. The fairy was the only non-edible decoration. Girl monkey loved it!

Upon arrival all the girls got a glass of "champagne" (sparkling grape juice) with a fancy cocktail stick with a strawberry; they thought it so grown up! They even behaved like grown ups, all standing around, chatting about this and that and enjoying the music.

Then we got some unusual beads and waxed string out in shades of blue/green/red and made necklaces and bracelets and the girls sat down in turn to have their nails and hair done. We got some very funky colours, sparkly ones (of course) and even French Manicure. There was glitter and braids for their hair. Oh, how they enjoyed that!

When they were all "ready" they played musical statues whilst proper food was being prepared (I made sure they all good some carrot sticks and cucumber on their plates just in case!). And instead of the usual party pudding of jelly and ice cream, I made a cupcake "bar". I made 48 plain, chocolate and lemon cupcakes this morning (the house still smells lovely) and purple butter, strawberry and lemon icing and there were loads of decorations. I couldn't guarantee they were without e-numbers (and it probably wouldn't have been that much fun!) We had all sorts of sparkles, diamonds, rainbow drops, love hearts, smarties, blueberries; just about any colour of the rainbow was available. They all had a lot of fun and so did I.

The 2 hours flew by and they weren't keen to go; there is always the anticipation of the party favours. I have never really been a fan of party bags. Not because they can get quite competitive (and I am sure I am to blame in this department... ) but because they are usually full of rubbish. Loads of sweets and cheap plastic toys and I am not in favour of either of them. I am also not keen on the plastic bags they come in although I have found many uses for them (sandwich bags, disposable bags). I do realise though that a kids party of humous and carrot sticks and tulip bulbs isn't the way to go either so I try to opt for something in the middle. For today's party favour I chose a cupcake cookbook, a cupcake lipgloss and a flump (they seem to go in the party bags every year as the only sweet). As the book was too big for a bag I wrapped the whole lot nicely in some colourful gift wrap and it just looked lovely.

It seemed that everyone really enjoyed the party. I better put my thinking cap on for next year's as I am sure that will be discussed sooner or later.

Friday, 4 September 2009

New family members

You win some, you lose some and today we are getting two new family members : Bubbles and Dream.
Girl monkey got a small fish tank for her birthday and as it had to be up and running for a week before the fish were allowed we are (finally!) going to get them today. In anticipation she has decorated the tank with some nice pink ribbon and a sweet note saying "Welcome Home fishes". Bubbles is going to be a silver goldfish (yep that does sound funny but is true) chosen by boy monkey and Dream is a yellow one. I thought they'd go for the lovely orange ones with the nice fins.....

Meanwhile before they arrive I will make some more of these brooches to take to Craft Cafe.

I think the next new member of the family is going to be a cat. We are not worried about the fish as the tank has got a lid. In my younger years it was just a glass bowl and every other week or so I noticed changes on the fish : different spots, slightly different colours and it wasn't until years later that my mum confessed that our lovely cat fished out the goldfish on a regular basis and she had to run into town before I got back from school to get me new ones. That's not going to happen in my household!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The joys of Manchester

The monkeys went back to school today. I was a little sad, facing a day without all the banter and laughter but I had planned a morning of hard work so that I could quickly set aside my tears. However that was not to be. Since Mr B moved to London he's parked his car on the road here and on the way back from school I noticed something different on it : some undoubtedly hooded asbo's had pulled off the grill and on closer inspection I realised they'd smashed a window (an attempt to force it open with a sharp instrument had clearly failed) and had climbed inside to open up the boot. To their annoyance they'd only found an old bottle of coke and two broken straws from the little ones.
Instead of being sad and trying to make up some new items I now had to call police, insurance, body shops etc. Oh the joys of living in Manchester. I am seriously considering a move down South. London seems to be a safer place to be and at least there's a nice flat available. There's nothing about the house here to keep me and with no prospect of getting something else I might as well....

I managed to cheer myself up with this lovely bookmark though. I am going to curl up with "The Visible World" and carefully place the cute toadstool between it's pages.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

"W"hat's it gonna be?

Some time ago I read about the "Knit a Poem" project on the website of Manchester Libraries. I was intrigued; I had read several articles about music and knitting collaborations over the years and am aware of all the groups meeting up everywhere but wasn't quite sure what this was about.
It turned out to be a project organised by the Poetry Society to create the world's first giant knitted poem to celebrate the centenary and obviously I wanted to sign up for this.
I got assigned the letter "W" of the yet secret poem. The words are going to be stitched up over the next few weeks and the poem will slowly be revealed.

The idea was to knit up your odds and ends but the sample had to be knitted using 100% DK wool only. I've got all sorts of lovely fun fair colours in my stash but all acrylics (used for toys and decorations, not for clothing I hasten to say!). However no lovely bright woollies. Now some time ago my friend Jo brought me a bag of brown, beige and bottle green yarn from her grandma's old shop and wondered if I could do anything with it. Never one to say no to craft materials I tried to come up with a project. I could see myself using the green ones for some Christmas decorations but so far they'd stayed in the bag. Luckily as they were the required 100% DK wool I could used them for the "W". The nice coincidence is that grandma's grandson Adam was poet in residence at the Wordsworth Trust last year. The colours may not have been the juiciest ones for the project but the yarn has got an interesting story to it.

I am looking forward to the find out the whole poem and to see the final result.