Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A very bunny birthday

Today is a very special day. It’s one of those days that make you exclaim in clichés: “time flies when you’re having fun”, “blink and you’ll miss it.” It’s a day for looking back over the last year and asking in wonderous astonishment: look what we did, can you believe it? How did we get so lucky?

Today is Agatha’s first birthday.

On her due date (22/02/11) I started a tradition that I hope will last the rest of my life. I’m going to write a letter to Agatha on her birthday, to let her know how much I love her and to tell her of the many wonderful things that have happened during the year. Perhaps I’ll give them to her on her 18th or her 21st or just one sad Thursday in October when she really needs them.

A letter to Agatha, on your first birthday

To my darling Agatha,

Today is your first birthday. I know it’s a cliché but I am amazed at how quickly the time has passed. This time last year I held you in my arms for the first time. Gazed upon your beautiful, perfect face and felt my heart swell with love.

Now, one year later, that love has grown. Ridiculously so. You are amazing. You smile all the time and laugh with such joyous abandon that I laugh too – every time. Your beauty astounds me, as does your cleverness – you learn so quickly. This has been a year of milestones – first word (Dada), crawling, standing, cruising the furniture.

You can wave and point and clap your hands. You give cuddles and slimy kisses. You eat and feed and sleep well, except when new teeth come in, then we have difficult nights. We hate to see you in pain and do all we can to make things better, we always will, your Daddy and I, you can count on that.

I spend my days marvelling at you. If I am ever apart from you (in bed at night or on the one day a week you go to daycare) I think of you and smile. My heart aches if you are gone too long.

We call you ‘sausage” and “pickle” you’re so cheeky it’s hard not too!

You love peekaboo games, stacking cups, Miffy and making music. Everyone who meets you loves you, you have a happiness which is infectious and a smile that could melt the ice caps.

I’m waxing lyrical, I know. It’s a mother’s prerogative. Especially a mother with the world’s most amazing daughter!

Happy First Birthday darling girl, may all your dreams come true. Even the ones you haven’t dreamed yet.

I love you, always,

Mammy xxx

To add to the general ramped up levels of joy around the place we had Agatha’s first birthday party at our home on Saturday. We had a loosely themed "bunny party" and lots of lovely friends came to join in the fun and an atmosphere of happy carnage prevailed. Here are some photos from that special day:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Carefully crafted

The week without sugar is over. I can best sum it up as follows:

The Good: I lost 2kg just from cutting out sugar. How cool is that?

The Bad: I only actually lasted four full days sans the white stuff. On Friday I went to book club and partook of several sweet, sweet granules.

The Ugly: On days two to three I was really grumpy. This was not aided by a flu-afflicted husband who had kindly decided to support me by also giving up sugar. Tempers flared. My husband ate a biscuit.

The result: I shall forgo sugar for at least four days every week until I decide to either step it up or scale it back – I have no idea which way it will go at this stage.

In other news…

Making happy for me is very much linked to happy making and so this week I’m turning my attention to all things crafty. I’ll offer a disclaimer upfront: I’m not actually very good at crafting. But I enjoy it and everything I create is made with love. And maybe, if I spend more time on homemade and handmade pursuits, I’ll get good at it.

Well-chosen handmade gifts (knitted toilet roll covers in the shape of Spanish dancing ladies notwithstanding) can become unique and much-loved treasures and below is an idea I originally saw in the (sadly now defunct) Notebook magazine. These leather cases are perfect for cameras, mobile phones, passports and other stuff that needs a beautiful home.

The case at hand: create a leather case

Download a template that can be adjusted to size, here (PDF).

You will need:

Soft leather or soft faux leather; one piece of fabric for lining; fusible webbing;

One rivet; ruler; scissors; leather punch; hammer; pencil; iron; scalpel (all available from craft shops).

1. Use the template to cut the leather to size. Lay the leather flat as a diamond, with the suede side up. Place the relevant object, such as a camera, on its back so it lies along the horizontal line between the two side corners. Fold the sides in to the middle so they just overlap and mark with a pencil. Fold up the bottom and top corners so they also just overlap and mark. Rule a straight line between each of the four marks so you have either a square or rectangle, then cut to size.

2. Layer the lining fabric and the fusible webbing together then place the leather on top with the suede side up. Trace around the leather then cut the fabric and webbing together.

3. Place the leather flat with the suede side up. Layer the webbing and lining fabric, pattern side up, on top. With the iron set to a low heat, press the layered materials until the three layers have fused.

4. Place the sandwiched leather flat on the table and lay the relevant object on the centre of the square. The corners of the object should lie approximately halfway along each of the straight sides and slightly to the centre. Mark where each corner lies, use the ruler to draw a V from the corner point to the edges. Cut the V away − you should be left with an elongated cross.

5. Use the hammer and leather punch to place a hole in each of the four points. If you have used thicker leather, use the ruler and scalpel to mark a crease between each of the inner corners. Bring the two side corners in to the middle, and then fold up the bottom corner. Use a rivet fastener or prominent leather stud to secure the three points together. Place the object inside, then slide the hole in the top corner over the stud to close.

For my own project I have chosen a rather manly “distressed” brown faux leather and a vintage map print fabric and I’m going to make a passport holder. If that goes well, I’ll supersize the same design and create an A4 document holder.

Stay tuned for more crafts-worth-gifting!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The sweetest thing

A few days ago, Professors Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis (from the University of California at San Francisco) suggested that sugar is so harmful that it should be controlled in the same way as tobacco and alcohol. Their article, published in the science journal Nature (Volume: 482, Pages: 27–29 www.nature.com) pointed out that, far from being just “empty calories” sugar is in fact toxic and indirectly responsible for 35 million annual deaths worldwide due to lifestyle-related conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

While the idea of alcohol-like restrictions has been largely dismissed - the best argument I heard was from a sixty-something American lady who pointed out that nobody ever woke up with the wrong people after eating a chocolate cake - the Profs have a point.

Sugar is dangerous to the health and there is no doubt in my mind that it's addictive too. I should know; my name is Rachel and I'm a sugarholic. While my predilection for creme eggs is legendary and my love of cupcakes widely known, my genuine addiction to the white stuff is an embarrassing secret. If I don't have it I crave it, I get headaches, I feel irritable and I can't manage without it for more than a day or two.

It has to stop. Not only do I need to lose weight, I'm afraid that I'm putting myself at risk of serious health issues - cancer, heart disease and diabetes to name but a few - if I don't tackle this head-on.

So, from this very moment I am giving up sugar. My first goal is to make one week and then take it from there. I'm not looking forward to it. I know it will make me, superficially at least, "unhappy". But losing weight and drastically reducing my risk of the above mentioned diseases is surely one of the best things I can do for myself and my family.

Anybody want to join me?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Faking it

A dear friend recently told me of his difficulty getting motivated at work. He’s a smart and talented man but it seemed that the constraints of his role, office politics and the general nine-to- five grind were sapping his spirit. The timing wasn’t right for a job change and there wasn’t much he could do about the issues previously mentioned. So he came up with an interesting solution – he asked himself: “what would a person do who really cared about this?” And then he did it. He pretended to be a person who really cared about re-writing that document to someone else’s specifications, tackling the boring project taking up space on his desk and sitting in long, often unnecessary meetings.

The result? Well, he says he still doesn’t really care but by faking it he’s getting more done and he’s doing it with more energy. Meetings aside, he’s starting to enjoy his job just a little bit more.

This got me thinking: where in my life could I fake it in order to make it? What if I exercised like a fit person? Or gardened like someone who was really passionate about it? Or studied like an academic who knew they were capable of producing an impressive 80,000 word tome? The possibilities suddenly seem endless.

I’d like to do all those things but first I am going to cook like… well, a cook! I’m not brave enough in the kitchen and it can feel like a chore rather than a pleasure. I’m dusting off my many cookbooks and I’m going to make something a chef would eat. (Chefs eat sandwiches, right?)

I’d love to hear where you think you could fake it.

*Image from When Harry Met Sally