Oh, how life has changed.

It’s been exactly one month since my life changed, and I’ve been trying to work out exactly what I was going to write to update you all.

My hubby was offered a full-time job to start on 10 July, and if we were both to be in work, there would be problems with childcare.  Yes, we had the option to put the kids in to a private nursery, but even with both of our wages, this would leave us out of pocket.  So there was a decision to be made, and quickly.

On 7 July, I worked my last day with the DWP.  I am now a “full-time, stay at home mummy”.  I am now one of the people who I either envied… Or slated.

I was envious because they got to stay at home with their children.  They got to watch their children take their first steps.  They got to hear their children say their first words.  As a full-time working mum, I missed those moments.  I would never have them again, and it ruined me.

I slated the other “full-time, SAHMs” because they had no interest in working.  Their kids were in full-time school, and all they did was sit on their arses all day, watching Jeremy Kyle, or spending their dole money on alcohol and tobacco.  I am positive that most of the mums that fell in to this category were “baby boomers” – only interested in popping out another sproglet because they got more money…

Yes, I am one of those people who turns my nose up at the “minions”.  Yes, I do think I am better than all of the SAHMs that fall in to the latter category.

So now I can hear the comments, “what gives her the right to say that?”

Well, allow me to explain.

Today marks one month since I last worked for anyone.

Since then, I had enrolled on to an online course, and completed a new qualification.  I received my PDF certificate just a couple of days ago, and I am waiting for the “hard copy” to come through.  The certificate confirms that I had passed the final assessment with a “Higher Distinction”.  I have purchased various equipment that I will need to take my qualification further, started a Facebook page with my new “job”, created a Twitter feed, and built a website from scratch.  I am now “up and ready to go”.  My new career will allow me to choose my own hours; and means that I can do something that I have always wanted to do.

Meanwhile, it’s the summer holidays; so Gning is off school for 6 weeks.  I’ve had my two boys with me 24/7 (almost) since I left the DWP – we have had days out, here, there and everywhere…

Gning has been off for 2 full weeks so far (we’re just in to week 3), and so far we have been to:

Acorn Venture Farm (Kirkby)

Gulliver’s World (Warrington)

Treetops (soft play centre in Golborne)

Heysham, Morecambe, Knotts End and Sunderland point (all one journey – Lancashire)

Martin Mere (Bursough)

Windmill Animal Farm (Burscough)

Speke Hall (Speke, Liverpool)

I don’t think the boys have done too badly so far, and there are still (almost) 4 weeks left!

I’ve started a scrapbook for them, so they can keep track of what they’ve been up to, in the summer of 2017.

So what else have I been doing?  I’ve kept on top of the front garden – mowing, raking and strimming.  The back garden is much to be desired, and I really need to get out there, but the weather has been so bad recently, it’d just be like walking in a swamp.  I’ve also scrubbed the kitchen; got on top of all the washing; cleaned the front room – several times; and kept on top of the bookings over at the village hall.

I’ve got lots of other plans, but I need a bit of a rest first of all.  These past 4 weeks that I’ve been off work have been a bit of a whirlwind…  The first 2 weeks, I practically did nothing.  My brain was set to “holiday” mode, lol.

Here’s me, Gning and Donut – I took the selfie yesterday…  I think being a full-time SAHM suits me…

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Lemon Drizzle

A great recipe that costs pennies to make.

I made a bit of a booboo with the recipe, but overall, it turned out great.  Afterall, making mistakes when baking makes some of the best recipes known to man.  I also burned my finger rather badly when taking the tin out of the oven, so please, please, please, be careful!

Ingredients

2 eggs

3oz self-raising flour

3oz caster sugar

3oz butter

1/2 tsp baking powder

Lemon zest from 1/2 lemon

For the drizzle

2oz caster sugar

Juice from 1/2 lemon

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C / 160C for fan assisted ovens.
  2. Line your loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  3. Combine the eggs, flour, sugar, butter, baking powder and lemon zest in a large bowl, until creamy.
  4. Pour in to your lined tin.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown and springy to the touch.
  6. Remove from the oven, and whilst it’s cooling, measure out your sugar for the drizzle, and stir thoroughly with the juice from 1/2 a lemon, until the sugar is fully dissolved.
  7. As soon as the sugar is dissolved, pour the mixture over the top of the still warm cake, and spread all over with the back of a metal spoon.
  8. Allow to cool completely before removing from the tin.
  9. Slice up and enjoy!

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Weird days to celebrate with the kids

This is a great calendar to work with your kids on…  Other than the usual “National” days, these are something a little different that will guarantee to put a smile on your little one(s) face(s).

8 January – Bubble bath day

14 January – Rubber ducky day

18 January – Winnie the Pooh day

19 January – Popcorn day

24 January – Pay a compliment day

31 January – Backwards day

6 February – Eat ice cream for breakfast day

11 February – Make a new friend day

17 February – Random act of kindness day

26 February – Tell a Fairy Tale day

5 March – Learn what your name means day

20 March – International story telling day

2 April – International children’s book day

10 April – International siblings day

14 April – Laugh out loud day

18 April – International juggler’s day

25 April – International penguin day

30 April – Honesty day

1 May – Mother Goose day

4 May – “May the 4th be with you” day

10 May – Clean your bedroom day

11 May – Eat what you want day (within reason)

12 May – Limerick day

13 May – Frog jumping day

14 May – Dance like a chicken day

24 May – Scavenger hunt day

1 June – Say something nice day

6 June – Yo-yo day

7 June – Chocolate ice cream day

8 June – Best friends day

14 June – Act like a monkey day

17 June – Eat all your veggies day

26 June – Forgiveness day

29 June – International jump in a muddy puddle day

1 July – International joke day

2 July – UFO day

10 July – Teddy bears picnic day

20 July – Moon day

3 August – Watermelon day

7 August – Visit a lighthouse day

19 August – Photograph day

30 August – Frankenstein day

13 September – Positive thinking day

15 September – Make a hat day

19 September – Talk like a pirate day

22 September – Elephant appreciation day

1 October – Burst a balloon day

6 October – Mad Hatters tea party day

7 October – International smile day

14 October – International dessert day

16 October – Learn a new word!  It’s dictionary day

4 November – Pharaoh day

6 November – Saxophone day

13 November – Kindness day

17 November – Go for a walk day

21 November – International “hello” day; say “hello” to a stranger (with adult supervision)

9 December – Make a Christmas card day

20 December – Carol singing day

24 December – North Pole breakfast day

How to single-handedly run a cocaine lab

I have always enjoyed gaming – occasionally collecting the rings with Sonic; bouncing crazily around, with no point to the game, with “Thing on a Spring” (Amstrad game); and even building beautiful houses with The Sims; however my passion for the gaming world really started when my hubby came along.

I’ve had an Amstrad, where you had to hook up the cassette player to the system to load a game on a tape; an Atari (which I still have somewhere); a Sega Megadrive, 16-bit; PSOne; and a PS2.  I dabbled, but never really took it seriously.

It was 2008, and my (now) husband introduced me to the xbox 360.  Mainly I just played the poker game – “Texas Hold ’em”, and I often lost my temper with the “pussycat” who always made me raise, then fold, only for me to lose out to an “orange”.  Of course, I’m talking about AI characters here, and no matter how often you lost your rag with them, you’d still end up in the same situation – shouting at the TV.

I was heavily pregnant with Donut when I thought I would give Grand Theft Auto V a try.  I must have been about 7 months gone, and I felt like I had been sentenced to bed rest by my midwife and high risk consultant.  I had just finished work, on maternity leave, and I was already bored with poker, Minecraft and Fallout: New Vegas (yeah, really), when hubby dearest suggested I give GTAV a try.

I loaded the game, had several attempts of the first mission, where Trevor, Michael and a couple of others robbed a bank (spoiler alert!), and already I was getting frustrated with it.  I wasn’t interested in the actual story – I just wanted to play the open world.  Hubby said that I had to complete the first mission to be able to unlock the open world, so I sighed, and went back to it.  It took a lot of patience and tries, but eventually I cracked it.

Once I finally got in the open world, I cheated immediately by buying a few of those ‘Shark Cards’, where it fills your account up with cash.  I then bought my high end apartment, a couple of cars, and enhanced the performance of them before taking part in random races and missions with the hubby.

Almost 18 months down the line, and I’m still playing it now – although I am only a level 63 (still good, but when you see other players in their level 400’s+, then you realise you’re still a bottom feeder), I’m just starting to get the hang of the game.

A few months ago, Rockstar introduced a new expansion pack – “Motorcycle Club”, and I bit.  My best asset in the game had been my bike – a Dinka Double T, and I was a rather dab hand at riding it.  I had millions of (deliberate) near-misses, and after I supped it up to the maximum enhancements, it was a pretty smooth and speedy ride.  Very few outrun me, and I was always guaranteed to lose a 5-star wanted level from the police.  Granted, it took me a long time to be able to do it, but I got there.

Anyway, I digress…

I jumped straight in to the stunt races that were now available, as I realised they (along with solo missions) were the easiest way to raise a bit of cash.  Once I got enough funding, I went to the foreclosure site (on the internet, in the game) and purchased a clubhouse.  It wasn’t great, and I couldn’t afford any upgrades, but I didn’t care.  I had my clubhouse, and I was now president of my own motorcycle club.

Only I wasn’t.

Even though I had bought the club, I had to go in to the select menu to make myself the president (you have to do this in every session you enter, otherwise you are just a civilian).

I think I’ve had my own MC club for about 2 months now, and it was only this weekend (just gone) that I managed to save up enough of the cash (again!) to buy a sideline business.  I had a fair amount of cash, and a few different businesses to choose from.  I had the choice of buying a document forgery office, a weed farm, counterfeit cash, a meth lab, or a cocaine lab.  I had just enough money to buy the smallest cocaine lab, as, through research, this was shown to be the best choice for generating income.

Of course, as with any business – real or virtual – you have to have supplies to be able to create any produce, so that had to be my number one priority.

When entering the black market, you have a two options.  You can either buy your supplies, or steal them – where you have to go and get them yourself.

I’ve noticed that if you choose the latter, the more you do, the harder it gets.

If you’re a player already, you know that you can see who else is in the world with you, by pressing down on the digipad.  Alongside the other players names, you will often see either a picture of a motorbike, or a triangle.  Sometimes, there will be no icon next to the name…  If there is no icon, this means that this player is not a part of a MC, or corporation.  The triangle represents ‘Securoserve’, and they are a CEO of a business, or working for one.  The motorbike represents their status as either being a MC president, or a biker – in that gang.

The more players that are in the game – especially if there are more MC players, the more risky your supply run can be.

There is a simple reasoning behind this.  When you collect the supplies, a “blip” is put out across the world to say exactly what you have done.  This is a warning to other players, telling them what you have done, and they have the opportunity to literally chase you to steal the supplies for their own uses.

It’s the same as when the final product is made, and you’re ready to sell – it’s all about timing your stealings and sellings appropriately.  You don’t know who else is around, and who you need to pass to be able to complete your business needs.

My timings surround just that.  If there are lots of players in the world, I buy my supplies.  If there are just a handful, I steal.

Let’s backtrack slightly – after the stealing / buying, yet before you do the drug run.

When you have your supplies at your warehouse, always try to upgrade your business as quickly as possible.  Obviously, you need a fair amount of cash to do this too, but with the adversary modes that are currently offering 2x cash and 2x RP, it’s well worth doing an hour or two of those first of all (personally, I find the Deadline adversary modes hilarious!).  When upgrading, security should be your main priority, followed by the staff, followed by your actual lab.  It may make more sense to you to do it the other way around, but when your fiddling the law, securing your business from any raids or thefts should be the way to go.

On entering your warehouse, you get two new bars showing at the bottom right of your screen.  The top bar is your product; the bottom is your supplies.  I tend to use the black market computer in the warehouse to give me my options, as I find this a lot easier to understand.

When I go in to the “Sell Stock” option, I get two options.  Both are to sell my produce, but one is ‘safer’ than the other.

There are two amounts offered.

The lower is based in Blaine County, and is a much less hazardous route to take.

The higher amount is based in Los Santos itself, and can be incredibly dangerous.  You run the risk of losing all your stock by being robbed, or by being killed…  Which you can respawn and try to get your stock back, but it all depends on how far away from your death-spot you are, and who it was who killed you.  Some other players who have business interests of their own could hunt you, take your stock, and you’re at a loss.  If you’re one of the lucky ones, you just get a wanted level, and perhaps shot by the police, and then when you respawn, you can go and claim your items again.  I’ve been killed once by the police, and they did not confiscate my stock, but I cannot comment that it will never happen…

If I’m being honest, I’ve got a bit of a greed on me, and I have never taken the lesser amount.

So far I have made approximately 10 supply runs, and just 3 deliveries.  From the deliveries, I have brought in a little over $630k.  I could have got a lot more, but I’m inpatient.

Do’s and Don’t’s for Dummies

  • Do make every effort to steal your supplies.
  • Do buy your supplies when the servers are full.
  • Don’t steal from the lone biker…  Chances are that they have no one else in their club (same as me), and it’s difficult enough for them to do the supply run, with the general bad guys on their tails, than having you hunt them down too.  Chances are if you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone too.
  • Don’t sell your produce at the lower level.  Take a chance, and it’ll be worth your time.
  • Do upgrade, but do it in order.  Security first, then staff, then the lab.
  • Do practice your flying skills.  There are a lot of selling opportunities that require you to fly a plane, or helicopter, so make sure you’re a bit of a dab hand to prevent crashing and losing your stock.
  • Don’t worry about the police being on your tail.  If you’ve outrun them before, you can outrun them now.
  • Do bare in mind that once you’re an MC president, you CANNOT go in to passive mode.
  • Don’t worry if no one accepts your invite for being a part of your MC.  No one ever accepts my invites (except for hubby, when he’s playing), and I’m doing pretty well for myself.
  • Do keep your eye on your map.  If you’re hunting for supplies / stock, look out for the red blips.  Also, if you’re the one being hunted, you can usually tell by the amount of players blips coming closer to your position.
  • Do make sure that you’re fully stocked up on your ammo…  Only got one homing missile left?  You need more…  You never know who’s coming after you in a fighter jet.

So, did I miss anything?  Probably, but I’m still learning myself.

20 ways kids make Christmas magical

It’s easy for Christmas BC (Before Children) to feel more about our hangovers and expanding waistlines (not to mention our overdrafts) than any real festive spirit. Then you have a child and all that changes. Not since you were a nipper, anxiously listening out for Father Christmas in your PJs, have you felt so infused with joy and enchantment.

Here are 20 ways that Christmas becomes magical when you’re a parent …

1. It used to drive you bonkers that Christmas started pretty much in October (oh, yes it did…) but now you can’t wait for the shops to bust out the Christmas lights and to hear Noddy Holder’s dulcet tones. Ooh, and the advent calendars, and the ads and the Christmas lists…  How many times have you rewritten yours?

2. Nothing can prepare you for the heart-melting sweetness of watching your little one in their very first Christmas nativity or school play, whether they have a starring role or not (it’s Gning’s first Nativity on 7 December).  Don’t forget your tissues!

Children's nativity play

3. Kids make it OK to sport clashing decorations and an OTT Christmas tree.  In fact, the more of mash-up of colours and styles of baubles, the better.

4. It’s FINALLY acceptable to buy chocolate decorations again. Just remember to leave a few for the kids, eh?

5. Their Christmas list to Santa reads like a stock-taking sheet of ToysRUs and Smyths combined.  But it’s the ‘and I’ve been soooo good’ line that really makes you smile.

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6. Thank goodness this year you’ve got a good excuse for the misshapen mince pies.  All your toddler’s own work, yes?

7. You love channelling your inner-storyteller with stories of Father Christmas and seeing your children’s eyes widen with delight.

8. Creating your very own traditions is something you’ll share for a lifetime.  Maybe you write a Christmas poem together, or put on a little festive play for the grandparents?  Or leave one more present in the garden to be discovered – “Oh look!  Santa must have dropped it!”

9. Leaving a glass or milk (or something stronger) for Father Christmas, and a carrot for Rudolph, never loses it’s charm.  And neither does…

10. …drinking that something stronger on Christmas Eve, when the wee ones are safely asleep.

11. Nothing beats that amazing feeling of satisfaction on Christmas Eve when everything is wrapped and ready for the next day.  Savour the scene – because the next day it’s carnage!  Hope your recycling bins are empty…

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12. Not to encourage your inner bah, humbug, but it’s a great time of year to dodge any tedious social engagements: honestly, babysitters are so unreliable…

13. Family films are no longer an indulgence, they’re mandatory.  From the Muppet’s Christmas Carol to Home Alone, it’s the perfect season to snuggle up on the sofa.

14. Talking of which, make your brood hot chocolate with marshmallows. And have one yourself.

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15. Place your bets on what time Christmas Day officially starts.  And yes, it feels magical even though it’s 5am.

16. As you watch them open their pressies, you remember the fizzy feeling of thrill and excitement you had as a child.  And seeing the joy your children bring to their grandparents is priceless.

17. Eating together as a family is something to take time over and savour.  Who cares if the potatoes are a tiny bit burnt, or the sprouts a bit hard?  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be appreciated.

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18. Snow is what dreams are made of when you’re five.  And snow at Christmas…  Cue delirious children and giggling parents!

19. The pleasure of tumbling back into a warm and cosy house after a good old stomp outside brings the colour to everyone’s cheeks.

20. Knowing at the close of Christmas day that the hard work is over for another year – and despite the odd flurry of tears and tantrums – they’ve had a pretty wonderful day.  Well done, you.  Only 365 days to go…

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A Crafty Parent Interview – Button & Bobbin

I am so pleased to have had two amazing parent crafters to have interviewed.  I do hope that you enjoyed reading my previous post – ‘Humming Bird Gems’ – and that you’ll enjoy this post just as much.

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11263062_10206892901746119_3239658561785716974_nHello! I’m Clara Rowland and I currently live in Aylestone, Leicester. I am the owner/creator of Button & Bobbin which started trading in January 2014, which is about the same time I started experimenting with my craft. My children are Thomas, 3 and a half, and Maxwell who is 2.
Up until April 2014, I managed a team of 20+ in a call centre. A very stressful job, but I thoroughly enjoyed it at the time. After having my boys and being spoilt with maternity leave, I realised I wanted to stay at home with my children. So I waved goodbye to office hours and overtime, and started making Christmas cards while my boys slept. In December 2013, we had some fun with salt dough, making handprints and gift tags, and so my clay crafting addiction began! Clay decorations were never my intention, but demand took over, so I’ve rolled with it.
My first creations were Christmas cards, but when my friends spotted my salt dough gift tags they encouraged me to sell them. I’ve come a long way since, and now make custom clay decorations for all sort of occasions. My favourite make is my clay kitchen tags. These were a big turning point for me. I made a set for myself and my Facebook followers went crazy for them. I’ve since made 100’s of them and they’ve remained a firm favourite with my lovely customers.
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As a Work At Home Mum, I am able to keep some control over my working hours, and work around my children. I am Tommy and Maxwell’s mummy first, and Button & Bobbin is all about me. It’s taken a long time, but with the help of my boys starting pre-school in September, I’m now finding my work/life balance. Although, I have to admit, I do pull a fair few very late nights when Button & Bobbin gets busy.
My children are fascinated when they watch me at work. They love to make their own creations with the help of play dough and little rolling pins. We make decorations together every Christmas now. I love that we now have this little tradition. Since the children are still very young, most of our creative play is messy play. A day with the paints out means I’m likely to end up with a mini Incredible Hulk as Maxwell likes to cover himself head to toe in paint which is seemingly always green!
If I were to host a dinner party, I’d definitely invite Nigella Lawson and Kirstie Allsopp. When I grow up, I want to have their apparent grace and elegance, and seemingly never ending talent to be able to make the most beautiful of things! I’ve always admired their passion and skills in their “crafts”. My third guest would be Tom Hardy…. Do I need to supply a reason for him?!
I’d serve goats cheese to start as it’s easy but delicious. I do an awesome Christmas lunch, so it’d be turkey and all the trimmings for our main course. I love to bake when I get the chance. I’d dish up a nice big fat chocolate fudge cake for dessert. I’m guessing they’ll be staying the night, as they won’t be able to move after that menu!
My top three pieces of advice for a new crafting business would be, patience, perseverance and confidence. It takes time to build up and retain your custom base. There are some very lucky crafters who just take off with what seems like little effort. This doesn’t happen for the majority of us, and that’s ok. Just have a clear plan in mind and go with it. Don’t give up! Keep chipping away, keep on crafting and showing off your skills. Confidence is a big one. Fake it until you make it, as they say. Don’t doubt yourself, don’t think you’re not good enough. Customer’s are  buying into you as well as your craft, so being confident and proud of your creations/pricing/brand is so important. Every order placed is still a massive boost of confidence for me. I am both humbled and filled with pride when I see a new liker join my Facebook page, or when I hear the Etsy “kerching!”.
You can visit Button & Bobbin here:  www.facebook.com/buttonandbobbin

‘Creeping’ in to an 18th birthday party

It’s my “baby” cousins’ 18th birthday party tomorrow.  I say “baby”, as she is the youngest “cousin” in my generation.  It’s shocking…  She’s certainly not a baba any more!!

Anyway, as she is an avid gamer, she’s hosting a fancy dress party with “gaming” as the theme.

My son (3 yrs old) wanted to go as one of the Avengers, which there are plenty of games that have the Avengers in them, but I wanted something a little more original. Buying a costume is always easier, so I set myself up with a HUGE challenge (well, it was for me…), to make him a costume of one of his favourite Minecraft characters.

The Creeper.

This is what he looks like in the game…

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This is what he looks like as a plush toy…

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And this is my personal take on one…

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So now I’m going to rightly “blow my own trumpet” and say that I am overly proud (isn’t that a Sin?) of my creation.  I made my own pattern, cut everything out, sewn everything together…  Eek!  I’m so chuffed, ha ha.

Now, some of you may be thinking “why is she so proud of that?”.  Well, let me tell you…  Before this little project, the most I have ever created on the sewing machine before, was a “traders’ apron”, and I thought that was fab!

Thoughts / comments welcome x

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