Making Notes: Halloween Ghost Lollies

In case you didn’t notice, it was Halloween this week.

I don’t quite know how I feel about the increasing popularity of this occasion. Most of the time I am just annoyed that all the Halloween stuff in the shops is taking up valuable space that could be given over to Christmas goodies. But my five-year-old son has been talking about Halloween for weeks now, so I felt obliged to make an effort in some way.

Which meant that 31st October found us setting off for the mean streets of South London to do a spot of Trick or Treating with some friends. And we took with us my contribution to the pot of treats on offer for callers to their house – Ghost Lollies.

Here’s what they are made from:
20121103-200126.jpg<a
(that's lollies, circles of white fabric cut from an old shirt, a pen, and some wool, with scissors to cut)

I'm not going to spell out how these elements are put together, I'm sure you can work it out!

And this is the finished product:
20121103-200148.jpg
I have to say, they went down a storm.

And I know I’m giving you this information a bit late, but if you file this away then maybe next year you too can have the most popular house in the street!

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A Dream of an Idea

I’m sure every parent is familiar with the phrase “I had a bad dream”.

We first encountered this problem about a year ago, when our little one was coming up to 4 years old.  Every so often, the patter of his little feet at 2am would announce his presence in our bedroom, where he would explain that he couldn’t sleep because of the bad dreams.

My solution was simple: give him good dreams instead.

And it worked.  All I had to do was tuck him back into his bed and reel off a short list of some of his favourite things to give him something to think about that would banish those bad dreams.  It was easy for the first couple of times – it took me no time at all to come up with Buzz Lightyear, a rollercoaster, ice cream, and a christmas tree.  But at 2am my brainpower is somewhat limited, and after a few nights of this I was running out of ideas.

So the “Dream Box” was born.

I typed up a list of as many of his favourite things as I could think of – TV characters, real people, food, places, and things.  I laminated the list and cut it up into individual words, which I put into a box that had once contained some kind of conference freebie and was waiting in my drawer for its opportunity to be reused.  Then I just decorated it with a few stickers.

Dream Box

It was a bit rough and ready, but it did the job.  And continues to do so.  Every night at bedtime we choose five dreams.  Sometimes we make up a little story with them.  This was last night’s selection:

Dreams

So now I have decided to share the dreams, by making Dream Boxes to sell in my Folksy Shop.  They are rather more attractive than the original, and I can personalise them to include the recipient’s favourite things.

Here’s the new improved Dream Box:

It’s available to order from www.folksy.com/shops/jumbleshell

Just don’t tell my son, or he’ll be wanting a new shiny one too!

Making Notes: Bath Bombs

I had seen instructions for making bath bombs before.  But I was always put off by the danger of premature fizzing – the part in the instructions where you have to spray on just enough water to make it all stick together but not enough to set off the reaction that should only happen in the privacy of your own bathroom.  So I was delighted to come across this variation.

Ingredients:
– 180g Bicarbonate of Soda
– 60g Citric Acid
– 3-5ml Essential oils
– (optional) flower petals
– (optional) a few drops of food colouring

Equipment:
– Ice Cube Tray – the bendy sort
– Mixing bowl (one you won’t want to use for food afterwards)
– Spoon (ditto)
– (optional) Plastic Dropper/Pipette

This makes enough to fill a normal sized square ice tray, with a little left over.  I mostly use one from IKEA which has 16 holes that are a flowery shape.   I’ve also done star shaped ones, although they were a bit trickier – it’s best to choose a shape without thin parts which could break off.

The ratio of bicarbonate to citric acid is a straightforward 3:1 so you can increase or decrease quantities to fit different size moulds so long as you retain that ratio.

And all you do is mix the two powders together before adding the essential oil and the food colouring, if desired, a little at a time (which is where the pipette comes in handy), stirring it in well.   You can also add dried flower petals such as lavender or rose, if that is appropriate for the oil you have chosen.

Then just press the mixture into the moulds, very firmly.  You will be surprised at how much you can fit into those tiny holes when you press it down really hard.

Leave it for a good few hours – I normally wait overnight – then carefully turn them out.   They will have taken on enough moisture from the air to make them stick together without starting to fizz.

I made loads of these for Christmas and can’t believe I don’t have a photo of any.  I made them in the shape of stars, with some cosmetic-grade glitter sprinkled into the moulds first so they came out sparkly.  Then I put them into a (clean) coffee jar, decorated it with gold glass painted stars, and added a ribbon and a label.    I used a ready made christmassy oil blend of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, orange and pine, which saved me having to work out the right mixture myself.

I’m not sure if this no-added-water method would work for big bath balls, but it’s certainly simple and effective for these smaller ones.  My four-year-old can even make his own, with just a little supervision and plenty of blue food colouring!

Who? What? Where? When?

Living with a four-year-old is fun and frustrating in equal measure.  My particular model never stops fidgeting, touching things and talking.  In particular, the questions never seem to end.

Today I made a note of all the questions that he asked over a six-hour period.  Bear in mind that this represents barely half of our normal day.  Plus I actually got about an hour’s peace while he was sitting in the shopping trolley and playing with his ipod.

This is how my day went (from about 9am to about 3pm)

Can I play Gator Golf?
Can I play Hungry Hippos?
When can we go to Cadbury World?
Who’s that man?
Can we do penguin dancing when we get home?
What is that lady doing out there?
Where’s my food?
What’s that?
Why does it have a picture of a house on it?
Did you see Tracey?
When can we watch Rio again?
Why do they have cheese potatoes?
Why is there a table for the workers?
Who’s that man?
What are we doing at the weekend?
Can I have my food first?
When can we go to Chessington again?
When can we go to Alton Towers again?
All houses are white aren’t they?
Why not?
What colour is our house?
What colour is brick colour?
Why did they choose that colour?
Why didn’t you live together in a flat?
Why?
Why is there a picture of that?
Why is there a picture of a kitkat?
What happened?
How old will I be when you’re dead?
How old do you think I’ll be?
Will you be sad when you’re dead?
Will you be sad when I’m dead?
Why will you be very sad?
How old can you stay alive for?
Do some people live to be a thousand?
How else can you stay alive for?
Has Betty got Snow White yet?
How do you know?
When did you see it?
What does psychic mean?
Is the flower shop next door?
Did you know penguins can hold their breath for twenty minutes?
What does my breath smell of?
And what else?
And what else?
What will Poppy’s first word be?
Will it be cheese?
Will it be chocolate?
Why is it difficult to say?
There’s twelve tables isn’t there?
Can we sing baa baa black sheep on the way?
Can I have a big bit of drink?
When is it the weekend?
When can we go on a seaside holiday again?
Please may I have pudding?
Can we go home?
Can we buy some flowers?
If someone steals our flowers can we get some?
Why aren’t we selling the house any more?
When’s all the paperwork going to be done?
Why are we stuck together?
Why are you walking slowly?
Can I play with my phone?
What did he say?
Why did he say that?
Why is he a Pirate?
When can we go on the 322?
Are we going straight to the supermarket?
How do you know?
Why don’t we have a gate anymore?
How are we going to get a fence again?
How do you know?
Have you been there before?
How do you like that?
Why are we going to the supermarket?
What are we having for lunch?
Is it Monday next week?
Can you do this for me?
Can I put this down now?
Is police cars faster than normal cars?
Why?
What’s criminals?
Why are they called criminals?
What kind of things?
And what else?
People who crash?
Why sometimes the police comes?
Why doesn’t it work in that one?
Can I have my phone now?
When can we go to Legoland?
Why is it called Legoland?
But why does it have Lego anyway?
Can we go to Morrisons?
Are we going there?
Can I have my phone in the supermarket?
Can I sit in the trolley?
Why did you choose one with two seats?
Why is that all they’ve got?
Can I have chocolate yoghurt?
Can I have a magazine?
Can I have chocolate?
How much shopping did we get?
What comes after 39?
What comes after 49?
Is it dark in here?
Can you see my Paulton’s Park map?
When I am Ruby’s age she will be 9 won’t she?
Why will she be 12?
Who are you sending a message to?
Can you turn the lights on?
Can I have the Jake music?
Can I have your wedding music?
Why did you let Sarah look after me instead of taking me yourself?
How much times have I had this?
When are we going to Sarah’s?
Did you ask Kate and Betty as well?
Can you ask Kate and Betty next time?
I’ll be five the next time we go to Alton towers won’t I?
Because it’s my birthday soon isn’t it?
Nor really soon but quite soon?
Can we go to that park this afternoon?
What did he call to say?
Post what things?
Who is our solicitor?
What’s her other name?
Where’s the post office?
Can I sit in the car while you go to the post office?
Can we park here?
Please can I have sweets?
Why did you say four?
When are we going home?
Can I have sweets?
What are we having for lunch?
Where is the map from Alice in Wonderland?
Why are we driving this way?
When can we go to that park?
Are you watching?
Shall I go and tell them it’s not a bench it’s a roundabout?
Can you push me really high?
Can you make it stop?
Can you reach me?
Can you get my foot out?
I went all the way round didn’t I?
Who can I hear shouting?
Is that learning?
Why have they got yellow?
Is there no such thing as superheroes in this world?
Can I call Nanny to tell her we’ve got 14 Disney cards?
When will lunch be ready?
Can we make a chocolate lolly?
What’s a mould?
Can we watch TV please?
Is lunch ready?
Where are my sausages?
Why have you given me four – I said five?
Didn’t you hear me?
What can we have for pudding?
Can you open it?
Did you have that when you were little?
Am I too big for it now?
Please can I have another pudding?
Can I have yoghurt?
Why do they put it in a strawberry?
Can I play on the computer?
How does this game work?
Can I have another pudding?
Can you get me a spoon?
Can we make these now?
This glue?
Why isn’t it coming out?
Why is it still not coming out?
How do you know?
Where’s the red one?
Is it finished?
Now what can we do?
Was that a police car on this programme?
What is this?
Can I have a go?
How does it work?
Please can I have a go?
How did you cut this off?
Can I rip it?
What begins with a c?

In case you weren’t counting, that is around 180 questions, which works out to be one every two minutes.  And of course every single one of these questions required an answer.

So I think it’s hardly surprising that by the end of the day I can barely string a sentence together, never mind write a blog post.

Camping: The Big Question

We recently returned from a weekend’s camping. And (not for the first time) I find myself asking, “Why do we do it?”

We own a perfectly decent and functional house. It’s great at protecting us from the  wind and the rain. It has central heating, and running water, including a flushing toilet. But still we choose to leave it all behind in order to go camping.

Having crammed every inch of the car full of stuff, we drive to a field and cart all our belongings to our chosen pitch. We put together our little shelter and hope it is strong enough to protect us from the elements. We sleep on the lumpy, hard floor and sit on folding chairs.

The nearest running water is 100m away (and cold). The closest toilet – a wooden hut built over a big hole in the ground – is only about 50m from the tent, but that means we sometimes get a whiff of its unpleasant odour. Cooking facilities are minimal, and when we get cold in the evening we have two choices: retire to a sleeping bag, or make a fire.

And after two days and nights of living like this, we take it all down and put it back in the car for the journey home. By which time everything, including us, is slightly damper, muddier, smelling of smoke, and more creased than before.

So why on earth do we do it? And more to the point, why do we keep doing it?  I have been thinking about this a lot. Not just over the past few days, but for years now. And it still makes no sense.

I’ve tried to focus on all the nice things that can happen on a camping trip.  The (occasionally) sunny weather, the toasted marshmallows, the bacon rolls, the rope swings, the slower pace of life. But I can’t find anything on that list which even comes close to compensating for the lack of comfort, the dirt, the sleepless nights, and the sheer bloody hard work of it all.

Which leads me to conclude that camping is a bit like childbirth; when it’s all over you somehow manage to persuade yourself that it can’t really have been as bad as it seemed at the time.  Or maybe I am just crazy.  Because although we only have one child, we are planning to acquire another tent – to replace the one that collapsed on top of us in a 3am windstorm.  That surely can’t be the behaviour of a sane person.

Especially one who can’t explain why.

The Things We Do For Love

In our house this evening there is a football match on the television.  It’s Wrexham vs Luton, and we have actually paid to subscribe to a channel for the night just so we can watch it.

I say “we”, but although the money comes out of an account with my name on it, I’m not taking advantage of this purchase.   My husband, brought up in North Wales, is the one glued to the box, groaning as his team seem to be losing quite badly.  I gather it’s some kind of playoff, but I can’t tell you what for.

There was a time when I made more of an effort to know these things.  When we were first dating, I did my best to get to grips with the different leagues and cups, and what they used to be called before it was all changed.  I knew the names of the Wrexham players and sort of understood the offside rule.  I even donned layers (and layers) of warm clothing and stood on the terraces to cheer on the team.

I admit that part of my motivation, for away games at least, was a night in a hotel, plus the promise of a pie at half time to help keep the cold out.  But clean sheets and warm pastry can’t be the full story.  I’m not *that* easily bought.

It certainly wasn’t a genuine love of the Beautiful Game (which I always felt was at least 30 minutes too long.)  I can only assume that it was a desire to share in the interests and passions of my not-yet-husband which provided the incentive for me to endure those cold, windy out-of-town football grounds.   What else but a wish to find common ground and experiences could have driven me to learn all those unsavoury anti-English football chants?

So does the fact that I no longer feel the need to watch the football – even from the comfort of my own sofa – say something about my relationship with my husband?  Do I feel less of a need to connect with him now we are married?  Have the incentives disappeared now I have his ring on my finger?

Or is it just that we now have other shared interests and experiences which help to bring us together?   Things like buying a house and having a child – events that are (dare I say it) even more important than a football match.

That’s my theory.  And I think it’s a good one.  Especially as it absolves me from having to watch Wrexham ever again.