Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Raccoon Scarf/Stole By A Sewing-Competent Mum

I've been a busy(ish) girl. I can now announce that I am competent on my (what was intimidating,) sewing machine!

I should have overcome this fear many years ago. It's my mother's trade, after all; dressmaking, craft, embroidery... but I always avoided the loud stuff and opted for peaceful creativity instead.

As my profile says, I love to crochet, especially now that I have a little one to give my creations to. 'Friendly Floppy Fox', my own design, accompanies little man's various trips in the pram, and occasionally takes a trip to the woods. Here he is slumped nonchalantly, at his favorite spot:

Living in Cyprus, the weather reaches some crazy-hot highs. I love it, always have. However, this creates a teeny tiny problem when it comes to baby-wearing, which I also love... a lot. Obscure items are not readily available in this country, such as baby slings made from swim wear material, so I knew it was time for me to grow a pair and run to Mum for some sewing lessons. An easy mini-cushion, with plenty of help. Then a baby bib, a bit of advice along the way. Then I felt overwhelmed, so I took a break and went back to crochet... until a couple of weeks ago, while organizing my craft project folders, something jumped out at me...

This fox scarf by Prudent Baby

 It was a project I fell in love with many months ago, at the time just a wishful dream; "I can't really sew, but I'll print it out anyway". I didn't want to forget it, but I also must have had some belief in myself, somewhere, that I'd one day be capable of creating such a cute creature (although in my mind I saw him as a raccoon).

It's funny how things work out. Before becoming a mum, I'd always imagined myself as a mature, sensible parent, a true nurturing type. An earth mother, in natural, bohemian clothing. One who perhaps used organic, cloth nappies. A woman who tended to her vegetable plot but who also pruned her roses, complete with sage green gardening gloves protecting her clean soft hands. In the oven, a hearty casserole, the smell of 'home' radiating from the kitchen. The cook wearing a floral apron with a lace trim. As I write this, I realise I'm mostly describing my Grandma and my Mum. It's what I recognize as home. Although when I became pregnant, I didn't really feel like I was any of these things. Definitely not maternal. I also strongly believed that I wasn't going to try and change, it had to come naturally (I didn't think it would at all). But slowly, beyond my control, things ARE changing.

So there it was, now with a baby boy by my side, this strong urge to create a friendly animal to cuddle his delicate little neck in the winter months. The times when we'll take trips to the forest in our wellies.

Out came the material I had set aside, including the faux fur from a gorgeous coat. A coat too hot for Cyprus, but too sentimental for a second-hand shop. The coat that got me the nickname 'Eskimo' at school, as I paired it with a pair of black Dr.Martins (I was more influenced by styles from 8 years before, than I was by the modern time's fashion - my older siblings are to blame - I idolised them all). And I just dived into the deep end and got on with it!

Tracing patterns, adapting from a fox to a raccoon, cutting out, forgetting to account for seam allowance, trying to sew too many layers of thick fabric together, googling 'sewing machine tension problems', fixing problem by re-threading machine too many times to count, sewing the tail on backwards, unpicking, re-sewing...

... This, in my opinion is the best way to learn, getting lost in unknown territory and finding your way out, so to speak. I believe I'll never forget how to thread a sewing machine again. The below phrase comes to mind (it adorns my positivity board):

So, here he is, in all his imperfect glory (he is yet to be named), adorning my wall of stuff!:

Sleeping on the bed head:

Hangin' around:

Showing off his lighter underside:

I have Prudent Baby to thank for this, although I've made some changes. I suggest you head over to her, then if you like the raccoon look, let me know and I'll upload the additional pieces. What now? Now I'm in the mood to make a floral apron with a lace trim. Hmmm...

Monday, 7 July 2014

Mental Cleaning Rota - It's Totally Mental

Balancing cleaning and being a fun mum is a fine art. At the moment, as my little boy is so young (5 months old), there is never a time I have to be serious with him. It's all play, giggle, play. He's also not on the move yet, other than a few minutes in his baby walker (you don't want to find yourself in his path when he's piloting that thing!). So we're just having a ball most of the time, even when I'm dusting and scrubbing, he finds it hilarious. This enables me to keep most chores in check. Although I plan to keep cleaning a fun part of the day, I'm also thinking realistically and I'm quite sure he'll cotton on eventually that this cleaning malarkey is a bit too repetitive to be an exciting activity. Not only that but in a few months he'll be 'go! go! go!' and obviously I prioritize his safety and happiness over a spick & span abode.

I don't know how long this phenomena called 'baby brain' is supposed to last, but it's showing no signs of departing any time soon. In fact I believe I'll be suffering from 'toddler-brain' to 'teenager-brain'. One side effect of this condition is me cleaning the same things twice and leaving others for far too long. Plus I'll always opt to do anything over cleaning the floors (after all, it's much easier to just keep cleaning my feet - am I the only skank that does this?!). With the likelihood of having less cleaning time in future months, something had to change. 'What are the minimum cleaning jobs during the week?' I pondered. I do laundry all throughout the week and the kitchen almost everyday anyway, so those aren't a worry.

Everyone does things differently, but I chose the following:
Main Bedroom (everything inc. changing sheets)
The Nursery (same as above)
Outdoor jobs (hosing balconies down etc)
Sofas (vacuuming & replacing throws)

I once had a cleaning rota. I had a checklist for each day and specified colours for different jobs. I even laminated it. Yep, laminated it... whiteboard markers were purchased to tick off jobs as I went. It lasted a week. The truth is, even the ticking felt like a waste of time. I'm now really determined to find a way that works for me, to have all jobs covered each week, so, staring at my new list... hmm, there are 7 there... 7 days in a week. I know, I'll assign 1 job to each day of the week. How will I remember? A play around with letters and words would definitely work for me.
Ok, Floors on a Friday.
Main bedroom begins with M. That's a Monday job.
The Nursery. Th. Thursday for sure.
Bathroom can be called Toilet instead and become Tuesday's task.
What's left? Dusting. Outdoor jobs. Sofas. Wednesday. Saturday. Sunday.
Well with allocating Saturday for Sofa duty, I'll play with the 'sun' of Sunday to remind me to get outside and pick up the hose. That goes well with my lifestyle too, as I was brought up in a home of outdoorsy Sundays; tea parties with teddy bears in the shade of a tree, the smell of freshly cut grass filling the air while my parents tended to the garden around me... I digress... There is no ring to 'Wednesday Dusting' so I swapped Wipe Down for Dusting.

Monday Main Bedroom
Tuesday Toilet
Wednesday Wipe Down
Thursday The Nursery
Friday Floors
Saturday Sofas
Sunday Sun

It's been a week of following this routine now and it's going extremely well, mainly because rather than pottering-about-cleaning in the morning, I have a specific task to crack on with. I used to let my eye catch a bit of dust from afar, which I'd then go and wipe down even though I was already half way through something else. But that has stopped now. My jobs are complete by lunch time, freeing up the rest of the day for other things, be they extra cleaning or meeting friends. 

So now it's just a case of remembering which day of the week it is. Hmmm.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Mottos To Live By (Part 1)

Along the journey of making positive changes in my life, I have picked up a few 'mottos' that when I've applied them to my situations, I have seen vast improvements in my well-being. In fact it wasn't until writing this blog post that I realized how many I actually have! So these are a selection of many. I will start with a quote from one of my favorite films, 'Our Idiot Brother', said by the main character, Ned:

1) "I live my life a certain way. And that is, I like to think if you put your trust out there, I mean you give people the benefit of the doubt, see their best intentions, they'll want to live up to it. It doesn't always work out, clearly, but I think that if you do people will rise to the occasion."

I have chosen this one first, as I had completely forgotten about it until recently, yet it is the most important to me. I've had people in my life who's seemingly kind actions usually had ulterior motives behind them. Although I'm distancing myself from those with this insincere trait, I had definitely got into a bad habit of assuming that every kind gesture of theirs was to get some kind of personal gain. As Eckhart Tolle (author of my favorite book, 'A New Earth') says:
"When you pronounce judgment upon someone, you confuse those conditioned mind patterns with who they are. To do that is in itself a deeply conditioned and unconscious pattern. You give them a conceptual identity, and that false identity becomes a prison not only for the other person but also for yourself."
So if you notice yourself groaning or mentally saying "oh here we go" as someone approaches you, nip it in the bud and open your mind to them.

2) "If you haven't got anything good to say, (you're probably not thinking hard enough, however it's still best that you...) don't say anything at all."

This one is generally for strangers and acquaintances. I'm a strong believer in being completely open and honest (even if it will upset the listener) however with unfamiliar folk, I'd rather leave them with good vibes. I like to think I help my good friends pursue hopes so a bit of constructive criticism could help them go a long way. Also, I'm sure the friendly morning jogger is only being polite when he asks "hi, you alright?" as he runs past. I'd definitely choose to respond with a smile and a "good thanks" over stopping him in his tracks so he can hear a brief low down of a terrible day.

3) "If it's not your story to tell, don't tell it."

Enough said.

4) "Disarm guilt as a weapon"

The defense's lawyer would have no chance in the courtroom if some folk I've encountered took to the stand. They could make anyone break down with guilt, even the innocent. I'm happy to have known people who do this, as I've learned to recognize the behaviour and can turn it around. If you've ever made a change in your life, that you feel is the right decision, there's a chance you too, have left one or two sullen people in your wake. You're not quite living your life how they want you to, so the attempt of taking you along for a ride of guilt transpires and suddenly, your life decisions are in their hands. Disarm guilt as a weapon and regain control.

5) "It always seems impossible until it is done." - Nelson Mandela

When I was pregnant, I made a positivity board. The idea behind it was, that if I ever had to pace up and down with a crying baby, close to tears myself, I'd glance at board of uplifting (but not patronizing) quotes and pictures and feel better. Although "imagine babies with mustaches" was a good one, it was trumped by "It always seems impossible until it is done". Thankfully I've never had to use it for the way I intended, but the words still stuck in my mind. It has been repeated so many times now, that there's even a tune for it. While out and about, trying to figure out the best way to calm a grizzly little one, I've almost gotten a little stressed. Then I would start thinking "I'll just pack up and go home". A few minutes later, the baby boy is asleep and it seems like it wasn't such a big deal after all.

So have you got any phrases you apply when you find yourself needing a bit of a boost? If you have, I'd love to hear them!