Making willow plant supports

Inspired by a recent trip to a garden centre I decided to have a bash at making willow plant supports saving myself five to ten quid a pop and using some of the willow I gathered on a recent walk with Joss. I think they look really rustic and I wanted to recreate this look in our own space.

Source unknown

We followed this tutorial and I have to say it was an enjoyable hours work while little miss played with her sandpit and water table.

diy willow plant support

This one is holding my lavender plant that took a bit of a battering with the recent heavy rain.

willow plant support

If I make more I’ll soak the withies (the long bendy flimsy willow branches) for a bit longer to make them more malleable, but hey, handmade never looks perfect, it’s knowing you made them for free and enjoyed the process that counts!


Entertaining a two year old with endless energy

Real Life

Toddler routine

If you have a toddler that literally runs headlong into life from 7am to 8pm you have to be prepared to run off A LOT of energy! Entertaining a two year old is easy in many respects, just get them out in all weathers, but challenging too, especially as they haven’t developed their listening skills and are adept at running off, hair-raising stuff!

Our local park and farm are godsends, she’s learned to monkey her way up ropes lately tackling some pretty challenging climbs in a way that’s so fearless I’m really impressed!

An average day now looks like this, makes me wish we had a PJ day occasionally but generally we like the routine!

7am – up and breakfast, bit of Sarah and Duck on Cbeebies

7:30am – we shower together

8am – we get ready to hit the park

8:10 – climbing frame and swings for half an hour then walk home

9am – play with toys at home

10am – snack whilst I wash up

11am – quiet time with books or head out to see friends/go to a group

12pm – lunch

12:30 – walk up to local shops home via Farm

1pm – Joss naps I work/blog/craft/study

3pm – I prep dinner whilst she plays

3:30 – park/library/go crazy running around

4pm – quiet play or reading whilst I cook, sometimes she ‘helps’

5pm/6pm – family meal, Cbeebies for 30 minutes, chat/listen to music

7pm – last trip to the climbing frame!

8pm – supper, night time nappy and bed

Crazy stuff seeing it written out but it makes for a tantrum-free, happy, healthy tot and by that extension a happy mama!

Blog Life

I really enjoyed crowd-sourcing this post with some fellow bloggers, it’s about visiting art galleries with kids and features the Daniel Buren exhibition at Baltic

catch as catch can buren baltic


This week I was really inspired by the parents I’ve been speaking to about the postnatal depression support group I’m getting off the ground, and also in some chats with fellow bloggers including Mums Day’s Hannah.

Life is really busy but in a good way!

I’m currently seeking inspiration for my next tattoo, this quote caught my eye so I drew up this little poster, haters gonna hate!

Nice girls get tattoos too

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Daniel Buren – The Function of The Studio? What about the Gallery?

This post is partly about a brilliant new exhibition, but also asks about Art Galleries as family spaces.

Daniel Buren at Baltic

‘Catch as catch can: works in situ’ by Daniel Buren is currently in installation at the Baltic in Gateshead, OK so we should have waited for the sunniest of sunny days to really see the light captured in this work but I was too excited after seeing the gallery front facade with its 20 diamonds on my way to work most days, even on a slightly dull Sunday it was like being in a kaleidoscope with mirrors and tinted windows there’s something sunny and joyful about standing on Level 4 bathed in coloured light.


Photo souvenir : Daniel Buren 20 Diamonds for the Façade: work in situ 2014 BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art Transparent vinyl, white opaque (blue, green, red, yellow) Photo: John McKenzie. © DB-ADAGP Paris

catch as catch can buren baltic

As a self confessed numbers geek I really enjoyed reading more about Buren’s work, his 8.7cm wide signature stripe features in many of his works and pops up at Baltic in the form of a border around the mirrors on Level 4, in an interview with The Journal he said“that was the dimension of the first linen I used when I did printing. I had some left and kept it for other things but it has a rhythm to it, one white stripe and then a coloured one, and it has become a visual tool.”

catch as catch can buren baltic 3

catch as catch can buren baltic 2

Daniel Buren – The Function of The Studio?

Having written about the function of the studio in an essay in 1971 I was interested to learn that he is an artist without a studio, working instead in a range of spaces including galleries like the Baltic itself. Concerned with the idea that a work of art conceived in a studio is compromised as once moved to a gallery we are seeing it out of place I understood the nature of this work ‘in situ’ better, and seeing how he has worked with the architecture of the Baltic to design the facade and window gels I feel really lucky to live where we do and get to see so many innovative projects.

Family art gallery visits

I’m not an art expert and am nervous about speaking up about what I understand of and like about works, but I do love design and having the chance to immerse myself in new experiences is something I really enjoy.

I wondered whether all this would stop once Joss arrived, but actually I probably visit Baltic more now than I did before.

So what of the function of the gallery? The preserve of artists and academics? Of adults alone? Or a family space to be enjoyed by all?

With a play space on Level 2 and an education strand to their work programme Baltic welcomes children and families. I took the time to read some of the literature in the education space and thought about whether there had been exhibitions I would avoid with a toddler. There have been exhibitions that have been very open and accessible and probably too tempting for tots, but I would still have taken Joss in the sling and been respectful of the space, if she is too noisy or too boisterous then we would play in the kids area and try the exhibition another day.

catch as catch can buren baltic 6

Developing creativity in children

Something I really liked was this life cycle of creativity development in children, it really made me think about getting the most out of our visits and convinced me of their value in Joss’ development; however under confident I feel in my own ‘understanding’ of the pieces we see, that ‘knowledge building’ happens without my intervention

catch as catch can buren baltic 5

So are art galleries generally family spaces?

I was interested to know whether we are alone in trying to get out to see new exhibitions as often as we can with a tot in tow, and so I asked fellow bloggers how they feel about taking little ones into gallery spaces, I think we’ve concluded that it has to be the right kind of space and the right kind of exhibit, but that where possible interaction with art is to be welcomed:

  • Louise from My Gorgeous Boys (and they are really gorgeous!) said “I take my boys aged 5 and 7, and have taken them since they were babies, generally to family orientated events at galleries. Always been successful – they love it and I think it does provoke them to think about things that perhaps wouldn’t come under their radar in everyday life though sometimes I think it does go bit over their heads. Good fun though!”
  • Gillian blogs at A Baby on Board and shared a brilliant post about her visit to Tate Modern with her little girl, though she agreed “some art galleries are probably more suitable than others” she has taken Eliza into art spaces since she was really little
  • Vai from Rambling Through Parenthood is looking forward to taking her three year old on his first gallery visit; “we are taking our 3 year old son to the National Art Gallery this year. Will be his first time at one. He has loved museums, so I remain hopeful. We shall see. “
  • Anne from Raisie Bay also shared a post with me, about a visit to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery seeing her children interacting with the work and drawing their own interpretations links to this top tip from her – “We love visiting the art gallery and generally take some art books and pencils so the kids can recreate some art” – a great idea to take materials with you so you can create as you go!
  • I love this post that Rachel from The Little Pip shared with me, Paul Klee’s work cropped up in my year 9 art classes at school and her description of Pip’s interactions really brought the pieces to life for me again, in a different way, I’m in full agreement with her that “it’s never too young to start thinking of different ways of expressing and also different ways of interpreting emotion / perspective”
  • Becky from The Mummy Adventure made me realise how lucky we are to have an interactive space just 30 minutes from home “I will take mine to a more interactive or hands on gallery but I do find that taking my nearly 18 month old and nearly 3 year old is like torture at the moment. We attempted it but they were not interested unless they could experience it and this gallery was not like that. Maybe they are just the wrong age?
  • And Faded Seaside Mama agreed “I’ve tried talking mine to a local one that is apparently uber family-friendly. The looks I got from staff when my two tried to ‘interact’ with the art has confirmed everything I ever thought about art galleries. We are not that sort of family it would seem. Beach it is then!

I agree, it has to be a welcoming space and appropriate for children too, that’s not to say that there shouldn’t be places and spaces that are not open to children, a friend of mine pointed out that some parents do have a sense of entitlement that all places should be family friendly but generally people are sensible; the art gallery world has responded to this demand with ‘family open days’ so families are increasingly being welcomed into these spaces and most people respect the spaces and the works.

We’ll continue in our Baltic visits being flexible about what we see and do when we are there!

Catch as catch can: works in situ, is at Baltic until October 12.

Eco-parenting: cloth bum birthdays and alternatives for new parents

Two things on my mind today, potty training Joss, and thinking about how new parents are introduced to eco alternatives.

Potty training is something we’re taking really slowly and it’s definitely easier now the nicer weather is here; we had a lovely day with the paddling pool out yesterday and she pootled in and out to use the potty and announced loudly all her movements, followed by “clever girl” and clapping herself!

I’d guess we’re not going to be using our cloth nappies for too much longer so what I’m about to share is lovely, but we won’t be indulging in more nappies anytime soon!

So, Happy First Birthday George! In honour of Prince George turning one Totsbots have released a super-duper new unlimited easyfit V4 print, Birthday! I don’t have one but I have seen one today, and it’s a beauty, here’s a sneak peek!

totsbots george birthday nappy

When I wrote this post about eco-parenting I guess it was aimed at folks who are already interested in the green and ethical route. It got me thinking about the information parents get in the early days and I suppose for most parents the Bounty Pack will have been one of their first experiences of marketing aimed at new parents. Given out at my first antenatal appointment I gratefully accepted my pack as a way to carry my hospital notes, by the time I got the forms for my last pack I didn’t collect it. The cynic in me finds the idea of this marketing route really interesting, especially as most mums I’ve spoken to have stories to tell about receiving theirs and a survey by Mumsnet last year of more than 1,000 mothers who gave birth since May 2012 found that over half – 56 per cent – thought that the Bounty rep invaded their privacy.

My own story is that I heard I wouldn’t be taking my baby home on the fourth day from the Bounty rep who said, “oh we’ll see you tomorrow as you’re staying another day or two” – it just felt like this person on the hospital wards had access to more information than I’d have liked.

Aside from my experiences, the contents of the Bounty Pack are highly commercial and in some ways a bit scary. As an anxious new parent all the antibacterial sprays, washes and stain removers fed my fears about cleanliness and most of the contents were highly chemical, stuff we just didn’t and don’t use.

This week I’ve reviewed a Mama Pack and I think it’s a brilliant alternative. A much nicer, less wasteful sample pack this is the pack I’d have liked to receive when Joss was born. I’ve seen some of the variations of these packs, priced at £1 (sometimes free with larger orders) and available from many cloth nappy or eco retailers they are a good introduction to eco and ethical alternatives and one I’d like to see rolled out locally including good quality local information for new parents.

The Mama Pack is a breath of fresh air in this respect, packed with goodies that get you thinking about green issues.

Mama pack

Water Wipes are a good crossover for parents who might be unsure about making the move to washable wipes but who want to avoid chemical nasties. They are a cotton wipe which contains 99.9% water and 0.1% grapefruit seed extract; I use these for long days out and they’re great for sensitive skin too.

Palmers is a brand I didn’t know as much about but I do like cocoa butter and they are a member of the World Cocoa Foundation so care about the origins and sustainability of their raw materials, I try to avoid parabens so it’s good to know this is paraben-free and is a nice treat alongside the Pregnacare cream for Mums and there’s a treat in here for new Dads too which is sweet!

Gin Gin sweeties were a godsend to me during pregnancy, both for morning sickness easing properties as the ginger kick is lovely, and later to pep me up when I was tired! A lovely addition to Mama Pack!

Caffeine free Tea Pigs are a real treat for mums, great if avoiding tea and coffee during pregnancy a good cuppa and feet up is definately a treat! I got green tea and berries which were really refreshing, good for those long night feeds, these are a really great quality tea and I was impressed to see them in here!

Pregnacare is a welcome addition too alongside Wellkid, it’s important to take care of yourself during pregnancy and as a busy working parent during pregnancy I found supplements gave me peace of mind. I’d also welcome more information on taking care of yourself in Mama Pack, great to see some health info in the form of this meningitis card but friends were asking whether there’s information on mental wellbeing in here for example, and that could be a great addition too

You can get yourself or a friend a Mama Pack (contents may vary) from Grow Up Green who kindly provided me with this Mama Pack sample – thanks Aggie! – (and you can also get yourself the lovely Totsbots Birthday print from Grow Up Green too!)

Make it Rust-oleum, upcycling jam jars!

Armed with a can of Rust-Oleum spraypaint and their rather lovely pink can of Painters Touch in Candy Pink I surveyed my collection of glass jars; hubby is convinced I only buy jam for the empty pots!

When I spotted these goodies in my bag from a recent blogging event I knew I’d try my skills on a mini project before trying a biggie, more on that later. Upcycling jam jars is becoming something of an obsession of mine!

I took a little kitten toy from a kinder egg and glued it to the lid of one jar, then sprayed with my can of gold paint.

I then tried swilling a little of the pink paint into one jar to give a lovely rosy glow.

The other I painted on the outside quite roughly to give a rustic look, then when it was dry I took a little wire brush to it to make it look old and chipped, I love the results and Joss is delighted with her little kitten jar that now holds her threading beads!

diy upcycled jars1

DIY Budget Wedding Anniversary Ideas

History Lesson!

You know that term, Hallmark Holiday meaning a commercially designed holiday or festival? Well the cynic in me doesn’t really ‘do’ them; but I am interested in marking our wedding anniversary (9th July dear readers!)

It got me wondering where anniversary celebrations originated from.

Anniversary Gifts

It seems the historic origins of wedding anniversaries date back to the Holy Roman Empire, husbands would crown their wives with a silver wreath on their twenty fifth anniversary and then with a gold wreath on the fiftieth.

Later in the twentieth century commercialism led to the addition of more anniversaries being represented by a named gift, I knew some of the traditional ones, but where do they come from? A spot of googling showed that the themes have expanded and adapted over time, diamond was always a well known symbol for the 75th anniversary, but this changed to the now more common 60th anniversary after Queen Vic’s 60 years on the throne was widely marked as her Diamond Jubilee.

In 1937, the American National Retail Jeweler Association introduced an expanded list of gifts (I bet they did!). The revamped list gave a gift for each year up to the 25th, and then for every fifth anniversary after that

[Source: Wikipedia, natch]

DIY Budget Wedding Anniversary Ideas

I’ve created a Pinterest board with ideas for DIY budget wedding anniversary gifts, I’ve done this for the modern list, but I’ve presented the traditional too, if you’re an old soul!

Follow Thereandbackagainamotherstale’s board DIY Budget Wedding Anniversary Ideas on Pinterest.

And finally here’s my own latest make for our third wedding anniversary (glass), a terrarium, he loved it!

Glass terrarium


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Stop and smell the roses mumslist

Real Life and blog life

This weekend we are doing really very little after a bit of a nuts week at work, note to self, do not plan six meetings in one day, and if you do, make sure you eat at the blogger breakfast!

This week I went to my first proper event for bloggers, OPR’s #Ocademy, it was lovely to see some familiar faces and great to meet some folks whose blogs I’ve read for years like Jen Walshaw from Mum in the Madhouse – returning to work with a fabulous goodie bag of treats was a really welcome surprise!

And then the meetings, oh the meetings, s0 many meetings! Time to chill this weekend, to stop and smell the roses, or the coffee, or just drink the gorgeous whisky from my goodie bag, whatever your poison!

Stop and smell the roses

We’re starting with a walk to the Farm at the end of the street this morning, we’ve been enjoying an evening stroll there too, and last week popped down in time for some celebrations; a rather amazing local photographer KJ Ranson was down there too, and I really love this shot she took of Joss tucking into her farm sausage sarnie!

Joss 2


This week I’ve been inspired by Joss to start slowing down! She’s so excited by the prospect of these toms ripening that we’ve popped out to the yarden a hundred times a day to enjoy them, she’s already pretty good at stopping to smell the roses so I’m taking a leaf from her book and having a lazy weekend!

toddler gardening

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Toddler Resist Art with 3M Scotch Magic Tape

I’ve always liked painting with Joss, she really throws herself into it, literally sometimes! When I heard about toddler resist art it took me back to my own childhood, using crayons as the resistant material to make aztec prints in the paint.

I liked the idea of trying this with tape, and when 3M Scotch sent me their guide to having a go with a toddler we took a roll of 3M Scotch Magic Tape, some paints, a brush and a canvas or sturdy card and a bit of imagination and away we went!

Joss cracked on with this activity whilst I was cooking our evening meal, her having fun and learning to do it her own way was a really good test of her independent play skills and she really enjoyed it. The concentration on her little face was amazing and the results were so effective!

toddler resist art 2

I marked out a rough heart shape on sturdy card and masked it with the tape, then Joss set to work! At this stage she started covering the tape (that’s exactly what you do, cover the whole piece tape and all) and said she was painting a pig! I was surprised by her brush control and clearly our frequent arty sessions are paying off!

toddler resist art 1

Then the ‘finger painting’ began, in purple and yellow, lovely!

toddler resist art 3

When she finished she got to work on another piece and we set this aside to dry.

After 30 minutes I took a sponge and some water and gently sponged the tape clean to reveal the tape heart, magic!

toddler resist art

We now have a really special card for Grandma and Grandad and I have lots of ideas for other tape resist art projects, next up I’m going to mask out a little house!

Disclaimer: Thanks to 3M for providing the materials and ideas for this project, all views are my own

Getting crafty with The Creation Station!

This is the first in a series of posts about getting crafty with your kids, and where better to start than getting crafty with The Creation Station’s founder Sarah Cressall!

As well as running a growing business Sarah is mum of three boys and so I’m very grateful to her for taking time out of her busy schedule to be interviewed about crafting with children; her passion for nurturing creativity and design shines through!

Sarah Cressall and family

Sarah Cressall and family

Offering children’s arts and craft classes and parties The Creation Station is all about encouraging children to have a go and to try out their own ideas encouraging sensory play, experimenting and interacting with others through art. With franchises nationwide there’s sure to be a class near you!

I asked Sarah five burning questions about craft with kids and here’s what she had to say:

1) Do you have any advice to offer mums and dads or carers who feel they’re not very creative in getting started with craft with their children?

It can feel overwhelming to know where to start. The best advice is really to just see creativity as a journey of learning. It’s really helpful to see creativity as just exploring and experimenting rather than focussing on a specific end product. That helps take pressure of trying to teach, and turn it more into enabling a fun opportunity to learn together though play. With some newspaper and old clothes and some creative materials it’s amazing to see what happens. A relaxed atmosphere really helps the ideas, creativity and giggles to flow.

2) What are your favourite ideas for summer themed craft activities?

Ooo! I’ve loads! I love children being able to enjoy doing creative stuff together. I love having friends round and letting the children get out all the painting tools and buckets of water and water painting the garden!

Chalk drawing on the patio is fun especially if they make a draughts board or hop skotch, or drawing a target to throw balls into.

As my boys have got bigger origami water bombs have gone down really well. Also letting the children paint each other faces – and the grown ups is great fun. Important to remember to wash your face if your popping out to the shop though! Really it’s about finding creative play opportunities that they can really get involved in and have fun. The magical thing about creative fun is it inspires all ages. We find our family fun sessions work really well for families who maybe have a 2yr old a 5 yr old and a 8 yr old cousin who’s visiting. Everyone does it in their own way – and that’s how true creativity is nurtured and developed.

Brilliant butterflies from Creation Station

Brilliant butterflies from Creation Station

3) I get really excited about all the possibilities for crafting with my daughter but sometimes feel she’s a little too young for them, what would you say is the best way to introduce babies and toddlers to craft and messy play that’s age appropriate?

What’s lovely is your passion and enthusiasm will come across – and that’s a wonderful way to play with babies, toddler and children of any age! The sensory development through hands on creative play is a wonderful way for babies and toddlers to learn about their world. So some ideas are to introduce a range of safe materials and textures. It’s helpful not to have any expectations of making things. Just sharing, talking about and exploring the different shapes, sounds, textures, colours, smells is a wonderful fun, bonding experience that you can both enjoy and grow through.

Fun for all ages with The Creation Station

Fun for all ages with The Creation Station

4) Many of my readers have children of different ages and at different stages, are there ways to involve children of different ages in the same activities?

That’s such a great question and one that many families naturally have to deal with. Our approach to nurturing creativity is a bit different to others. Instead of starting with the end in mind we encourage a journey of thinking. One of the magical aspects of arts and crafts is that every person can use materials in a way that inspires them. So a 2 year old could create with card board boxes and paper and glue in a completely different way to an 8 year old, and they both feel really proud of their creations.

5) And finally do you do any ‘grown up’ crafting in your spare time, and if so what do you like to do?

I love design and the arts and still love making things myself. As a family we are trying to build an outdoor cinema in the garden- well, the plan is a deck and roof and a projecter. We’ve had great fun knocking down the old shed, sawing and building the deck and roof and painting it. As far as smaller projects go I’m often inspired by what I see within our franchise network. We’ve been working on our favourite top tips and and ideas and are now writing them up and sharing them through our soon to launch Creative Sparks site (Ed.- sounds exciting, watch this space!)

Huge thanks to Sarah for sharing her crafting insights, she gave me real food for thought about a journey of thinking that I would extend into other areas of my parenting and our play and learning together.

I’d love to here from readers about the activities they try out with their little ones – what activities does your family enjoy?

Disclaimer: I interviewed Sarah to gain ideas for my readers, this is not a sponsored post but a post for the love of craft! All photos were supplied by The Creation Station

We Review Natural Sun Protection SPF30 Spray for Kids from Aubrey Organics

When I wrote this post about dressing a toddler for summer outdoors the sun’s harmful rays were in the forefront of my mind. Joss is often to be found outdoors, and her favourite activity is water play so I needed a sun protection that could offer an element of water-proofing too, the more natural the better.

toddler water sand play

Formulated for children’s more sensitive skin Natural Sun Protection SPF30 Spray for Kids from Aubrey Organics is an SPF 30 sunscreen offering full UVA/UVB ray protection in a convenient spray bottle for quick and easy applications. It’s water resistant for a full 40 minutes which is about the length of our water play sessions; paraben free and organic it meets my requirements and as it’s fragrance free I was happy to give it a go with our sensitive-skin toddler.

aubrey natural sun protection

I really liked the easy spray bottle and it added an element of fun for Joss, it had a pretty accurate spray for less mess! That it can be locked in transit with that little side button you can see under the spray cap means no spills so I was happy to keep it in the changing bag knowing it wouldn’t leak and it offered a really good coverage, a little harder to rub in than others we’ve tried but it meant I knew we were getting good coverage, it was perfect for her sensitive skin and wasn’t as ‘sticky’ as alternative brands.

Priced at £15.98 this is pretty close to the pricing of other brands that offer natural sun protection and I liked that they offer an SPF 45 coverage too as I’d want to use that level of protection should we holiday abroad; I’d recommend Aubrey as a great natural sun protection product for toddlers with sensitive skin

Disclaimer: We received this product to review, all views are my own