blessings · crafts · parenting · sunbeams

Hello!

Sunbeams are lovely little pockets of light, which illuminate anything they touch. I like to think of life as being full of sunbeams. It isn’t always sunny – thunder clouds can roll in when we least expect them; fog can engulf us; rain will lash down, making our feet soggy and heavy. 

But then a soft breeze will blow the clouds away, revealing rainbows and sunbeams – beautiful little pockets of colour and warmth. Love, laughter, moments in time forever carved in our memories. These vary in depth – from the birth of a baby to indulging in a favourite cake; climbing a mountain to snuggling under a soft blanket.

I’m Mags, SAHM to four wee rays of light. Being a SAHM is full of happy memories-in-the-making, although my feet do get soggy from time to time. I like to do crafty things, some with my children, some without. I was a teacher before I had my children, and I may teach again one day. For now though I’m embarking on the role of blogger. This blog is to be my log of sunbeams. With a pinch of sass! 

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#bpsewvember · crafts · finding yourself · sewing · social media · sunbeams · the simple things · WAHM

Living Craftily Ever After

I’ve spoken before about how I lost my crafting mojo when I was expecting my fourth baby. I’m slowly getting it back, but sometimes need a bit of a push. I know I make it sound like a chore, but it’s really not. I love crafting – be it sewing, knitting, crocheting, baking, or anything else that takes my fancy. My problem is believing in myself. (I’ve noticed that I’m pulling out all the clichĂ©s for my blog! Apologies! đŸ˜”) 

I’m a fairly capable crafter and I know I can produce some lovely makes, with more practice. I also break the number-one rule in the crafter’s handbook – I compare myself and my makes to all and sundry! I have some very talented friends and a very talented SIL. (Jo at The Crafty Wombat) It’s very hard to have confidence in yourself when you’re surrounded by like-minded people who also happen to be very good at what they do. 

That’s the way I used to think. After a very low week, where I managed to convince myself that I was rubbish at everything (yep, we’ve all been there) I realised that I was sucking the enjoyment out of it myself. With a bit of help (a LOT of help) from my lovely husband, I thought of things that will help me to stay motivated when those dips in mood occur.

First of all, we thought about where we could set up a permanent space for me to get creative. This was more difficult than it sounds, as space is something we don’t have a lot of. Our house has three bedrooms (for six people), a (tiny) bathroom, a (smallish) kitchen and a living room. The living room is used for family time, entertaining, homework, eating meals (at the table) and houses a small workspace for Mr Sunbeam in a corner. It can be tight, but we make it work for us. We finally settled on a space behind the dining table for my crafty corner. We’ve yet to set it up, but I’m already thinking about how I’m going to style it, along with all the lovely things I’m going to make.

Secondly, I decided to take part in #bpsewvember on Instagram, hosted by Bimble and Pimble. Every day you are given a prompt, and post your picture and blurb accordingly. My thinking is that it will keep me motivated, which in turn will result in more finished projects. It also means I get to connect with sewers from all around the world. The challenge started on November 1st, so today I caught up with a few of the prompts from previous days.

From bottom left anti-clockwise:

  1. HI, MY NAME IS Mags. 
  2. My HAPPY ACCIDENT was this pair of baby harems, which came about after I shrunk one of my own tops in the wash. The fabric was quite thin, so I lined them with an old t-shirt that belonged to my husband. Waste not, want not! My littlest ray looks adorable in them. 
  3. I currently have three MACHINES. First up is my trusty Toyota, which I received from my parents on my 21st birthday. It’s still going strong, thirteen years later. I also have a vintage manual Singer (circa 1930), which I purchased purely because I thought it was beautiful. I have used it a few times, but need to hone my technique a bit. My Brother overlocker is my latest addition, finishing my projects to a higher standard.
  4. Finally, today’s prompt is BARGAIN. I received these fabric clips free with a sewing magazine a few years ago. They are great for attaching the paper pattern pieces to fabric, particularly delicate material that would normally retain the pin holes.

Thirdly, I’ve decided that I’m going to use social media as my inspiration. I penned a post a while back about the effects social media can have on our mental health. I still stand by what I said, but feel it can be a good place to start when seeking out your muse. Instagram has an abundance of crafters, all happy to share their makes and stories behind them. I’m also a frequent visitor to Pinterest, the number one place to go to that will get those creative juices flowing!

My eventual aim is to set up a crafting business from home, so that I can be here for my children when they come home from school. It’s something I’ve thought about on and off for a few years now, but didn’t ever think I’d be good enough. Seeing so many mums already doing this has given me the push to start moving forward, with this objective in mind. It’s time to ditch the negative thinking and move towards living craftily ever after! 

finding yourself · sustainability · the simple things

The Lost Virtue

We all know the sayings:

” a watched pot never boils” “good things come to those who wait” “one step at a time”

They are, of course, all referring to that elusive virtue. Patience. 

As a mother of four, I am well aware that patience is something which comes in peaks and troughs. Peaking when playing with the building blocks with my littlest ray (she loves me building them up so that she can knock them down, over and over!) Then dipping down to the deepest depths, when I’ve told the children three times to put on their outdoor things and somehow they are wearing less clothes than they started with!! 

Although patience is something which most of us use on a daily basis, it is a quality that society as a whole is losing fast. 

As consumers, we want everything yesterday. Next day delivery is now the norm when shopping online. Should there be any delay, we demand and expect (at minimum) a full refund for having to wait a whole twelve hours extra. 

Gone are the days of having to save for things. Credit cards and loans are now a part of everyday life for most people. Why wait for that new kitchen appliance, when you can have it in your kitchen first thing tomorrow, interest free! Spend a bit more than you intended and you’ll receive a 10% discount!  If only people stopped to think, they would realise that by exercising patience, their debt could be zero. 

Of course, a huge part of wanting everything yesterday is because we are trying to keep up with our peers. However, if we all adopted the same principle of waiting, there would be no need to feel inferior because neighbour A has a new television. Are we really so driven by product envy that we’re willing to get ourselves into debt in order to match pace? 

As life in the fast lane rushes by, we begin to lose sight of the important things. People become faceless beings – so much so that we don’t even stop to apologise when we bump into someone. (I say we…I should note that I’m one of those people who apologises even when someone bumps into me!) 

Manners are becoming a rarity. This is something which irks me greatly. In a post about patience, I’m not afraid to admit that I am becoming less patient with the lack of manners which some people possess. This is a particular worry when said people have children. What are we teaching the future generations, if we can’t even teach them the basics of “please” and “thank you”? 

The future of our planet is also at risk, thanks to our dwindling patience. This seems like a rather hyperbolised statement to make, albeit a true one. Due to our fast-paced lives and our need for instant gratification, sustainable living has fallen by the wayside for many. Natural, sustainable, ethically produced items are snubbed, in favour of low-cost synthetics. Our fulfilment is brief, but the consequences for our planet are devastating. 

There are, however, a rising number of people fighting for our beloved Earth. Sustainable living can take time to adapt to, especially if it’s not something you are used to. Researching an eco-friendly life will take up time, but it is time well-spent. We need to reconnect with the lost virtue and put it to good use for society and for our planet.

In my pursuit for a more sustainable life, patience is my friend. Slowing down will allow me to assess what I really need, in terms of possessions, as well as helping me appreciate the little things. It’s also my greatest ally the next time I tell my children to put their shoes on…

finding yourself · spirituality

A Spiritual Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about spirituality recently. Perhaps it’s because of the changing season. Or maybe because Hallowe’en is just around the corner. In among all the costume planning, pumpkin carving and spooky story-telling, something deeper has been speaking to me.

I’ve always been interested in the powerful forces of nature, the signs of the zodiac and the spiritual world. Up until now though, I’ve only tentatively dabbled.

As a child, I was taught that Catholicism was the only true belief to have, as far as spirituality was concerned. Anything pertaining to other-worldliness that didn’t involve God or the Saints was looked upon as evil. Because of this, I’ve grown up with a slight fear of spirits – a fear that I desperately want to overcome. I’ve struggled with the Catholic faith for about sixteen years now, and I’m finally ready to admit to myself that it maybe just isn’t for me. I don’t presume that those who believe in it are wrong, just that it’s not for everyone.

I love the natural world and (without sounding like a clichĂ©) feel at home with the forces of nature. It ties in with the more sustainable, eco-friendly, kind-to-nature life that I’m trying to lead too. As a typical Piscean, I have a strong sixth sense/gut instinct, which I’m ready to explore more. 

I’m currently reading up on the Wiccan way of life, to see if it’s something that agrees with me. From what I’ve gleaned so far, it focuses on nature and the elements. Some say it is a religion, while others disagree. It also seems to have a few different branches; some follow a strict teaching, while others seem to go with the flow. I’m looking for something in line with the latter. I don’t want to follow another strict religion. I just want to be me, ebbing and flowing with the elements.

The journey to find me is an ongoing one. Feeling freed from the shackles of organised religion is a big step in this journey. Who knows where it will take me next!

birthday · eco · parenting · sustainability

Cocktails and Sustainability

Today is my biggest-middle ray’s birthday. Her seventh birthday, to be precise. Now, a bit about my little pixie (as she is known to us.) 

My beautiful girl is clever, sharp, sensitive, and has a wit that far exceeds her seven years. She worries about the small things (as well as the big) to the point where we joke she’ll make a great risk-assessment officer one day! She has an eye for detail and already has her own quirky style when it comes to fashion.

She is also (at the tender age of seven) a lover of cocktails! Or rather mocktails, before social work start knocking on my door! 

When I was pregnant with my littlest ray, my friends and family very kindly threw me a baby shower, complete with mocktails. My wee pixie was in her element. She loved trying out the different flavour combinations, along with the obligatory garnishes. Not so long ago she asked if she could have a mocktail in the bath, and some cucumber slices for her eyes! High maintenance? Perhaps. A lover of the finer things in life? Definitely.

For her birthday, she requested a Grimms rainbow and we were happy to oblige. I’ve spoken before about trying to live a more eco-friendly life, and how we’re encouraging the children to move away from the plastic toys that they see advertised.

Grimms toys are made using sustainable materials and are used to ignite imagination. In the same way that a set of wooden blocks can become a castle, or used for counting, a Grimms rainbow can be used for stacking, sorting or being made into a doll’s house.

Well. Our wee pixie took Grimms to a whole new level this morning. She made a cocktail bar for her Waldorf dwarfs. Complete with loos.

Her wee creation made me think about the things we enjoy versus sustainability. A lot of people (mistakenly) believe that it’s impossible to marry the two. There can be a sense of the martyr about some eco-warriors. Not all, but a fair few. 

This needn’t be the case. With more and more micro-businesses out there, it’s easier to buy local, ethical products. Cocktail lover? There are spirits aplenty that are locally and ethically produced, so no need to give up that well-earned raspberry mojito!

A sunbeam in a world of plastic and waste, the above picture goes to show that not only is imagination a wonderful thing, but that you don’t have to give up the finer things in life when you go eco! Especially if you’re a Waldorf dwarf, enjoying a tipple in a pastel cocktail bar! 

Cocktails and sustainability? Yes please!

finding yourself · social media

Who defines you?

Being ourselves is both easier and harder than it’s ever been before. Easier, because with the internet at our fingertips we can meet like-minded people, explore our creativity and find out what is ‘normal’ for us. Harder, because social media and propaganda dictate how we should live our lives, what we should aspire to be, what we should wear/think/eat.

Without sounding like a clichĂ©, I’ve been waiting to meet parts of myself for 34 years. 

I know little bits of myself; small fragments that I’m trying to piece together to make a whole. So much of my life is entwined with the lives of other people, that it’s sometimes hard to see where they end and I begin.

When I was young, I wanted to be liked. What child doesn’t? With a home life that wasn’t terrible, but not exactly happy, I sought solace in seeking out friends with whom I could confide in, or at least with whom I could pretend I had a happier life at home. But alas, I was the outsider, always on the fringes of the tight-knit friendships that little girls forge. I wish I could say that this made me a stronger person. It didn’t. It only served to push me harder to try and make others like me. Surely there must be someone out there who was as lonely as I was? 

At first I couldn’t understand why people didn’t want to stick around. I blamed social inequality. My family were poor. I didn’t wear the latest clothes from the fashionable shops. I didn’t watch the popular television shows, as we didn’t have cable. But not so long ago, it came to me: I was trying so hard to make people like me, that I wasn’t being me! I was merely trying to fit in.

Then I met Mr Sunbeam. From the start, I was myself with him. He knows me in ways that I don’t even know myself, and he tries every day to bring a little bit more of me out into the sunshine. 

It’s a slow process. Two steps forward, one step back. The biggest problem is that I’m still very much a people-pleaser. I find myself trying so hard to make sure others are happy, that I stress myself out. If no gratitude is shown (which is so often the case these days) I get annoyed at myself for letting someone make me feel so small and worthless. 

So why do we let others define us? I say “we”, because I know I’m not the only one guilty of this. Why do we need others to validate who we are and how we live our lives? The truth is we don’t. More precisely, we shouldn’t. The media, or more specifically, social media is largely to blame.

The media has been a strong influence on society for many years now. We’re given the chocolate box image of how our lives should be from a young age, and we’re bombarded with products that claim to help us achieve this dream life. 

Social media, though a more recent influence, is a more precarious one. Seen at first as a way of connecting with people, it is now used as a showcase for our seemingly perfect lives. Photos depict ‘snapshots’ of those special moments, although in reality most of these ‘snapshots’ are achieved on the tenth take and only published after being put through various filters. 

Trying to keep up with these images can hugely affect our mental health. Comparing our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel only adds fuel to any low mood/depression that may spring up occasionally.

It is for this reason that I came off social media a few years ago. When I realised the effect it was having on me, which in turn had an effect on my family, I decided enough was enough.

Recently, however, I delved once again into the realms of social media. I thought that perhaps things had changed. Perhaps this need to show how wonderful our lives are has begun to dissipate. 

It hasn’t.

What it has done, however, is made me realise that I don’t need to be a part of it. I already know that I have a great life, with beautiful, clever children and a loving, giving husband. I don’t need scores of ‘likes’ to give substance to this. I don’t claim to have a perfect life – in reality, who does? The quest to find me shouldn’t be a quest to seek validation from others -and I won’t let it be.

eco · social media · sustainability

A pretty green planet

Let’s face it – living an eco lifestyle is a very popular concept these days. Gone is the notion that only hippies recycle and care for the planet.

There are so many things that we can do to help take care of our planet; the catchphrase being reduce, reuse, recycle. The idea is that 

  1. we reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ that we purchase, therefore producing less waste
  2. before throwing anything away, see if it can be used by someone else, or if it can be used in a different way
  3. recycle everything that can be recycled!

This mantra helps to take care of all the stuff that already exists, but what about when we need to produce something new?

Ethically produced items are becoming more widely available, as a greater number of people strive to live a more eco-friendly life. This is especially true of children’s products, namely toys and clothes. Many parents today wish to instill an ethical mindset in their children, and do so by buying eco-friendly products for them. These items are sought after on the basis that both the way in which they are made and the materials used are natural and kind to the planet. 

At least that’s the official line.

A number of people source ethically produced items because they are unique, pretty, and for the ‘designer green’ status it carries. Being eco-friendly is fashionable. Some people are “green to be seen.” 

Now before all the eco-warriors run at me on their hemp shoes, waving their wooden pitchforks sourced from sustainable forests, let me be clear: this is not intended to insult anyone who is doing their bit for the planet (especially since the only reason I know about hemp shoes is because Mr Sunbeam once owned a pair!)

I admit that I too am drawn to the beautiful wooden toys for my children, and soft organic cotton clothes in funky prints. In fact, Mr Sunbeam and I have been speaking to our children about reducing our plastic use and being more eco-conscious. Imagine my delight then, when our biggest-middle ray requested one of said beautiful wooden toys for her upcoming birthday. Was I happy that she was clearly listening to our influential words? Of course! Was I excited at the thought of all the wonderful pictures I could take to show the world just how kind to the planet our family is? A bit…

I would love to take all of my children’s clothes (as well as mine and my husband’s) and swap them with ethically sourced, handmade ones. I would relish in replacing our plastic food storage boxes with gorgeous stainless steel substitutes. I would savour the satisfaction of getting rid of all the plastic toys in the house and swapping them for a Santa’s workshop of wooden wonders. 

However, I’m more of the reduce, reuse, recycle mindset. I’ll happily cut up my old clothes to make new threads for my children to wear. I’ll continue to use the ugly plastic food storage pots I have, instead of buying the stainless steel alternatives. My children can keep their lego and Sylvanian Families toys. Why? Because these items already exist. Throwing them away only adds to landfill. Yes, I could donate them to charity, but it doesn’t get rid of the problem. It would only serve to make my home look like it was eco-conscious. 

Now I’m not suggesting that every act of love for our beautiful Earth is a status symbol. Back when Mr Sunbeam and I first set up house together, we embarked on our eco-living adventure. Some people thought we were weird! We used Earth friendly cleaning products, bought organic food and began sourcing ethically made clothing (hence the aforementioned hemp shoes.) When we were expecting our firstborn, we decided to use cloth nappies, as a way of further reducing our waste. Our biggest ray’s first toys were wooden building blocks and a wooden train set. These items were well-made and well-played with (and still are), but weren’t as easy to find then as they are today. 

Our eco-living then fell by the wayside. We still recycled and used cloth nappies, but didn’t put all of our efforts into being as kind to our planet as we used to. It seemed  a monumental task, like we weren’t making a difference. Due to an increased awareness and a greater demand for ethically sourced products nowadays, however, going eco seemed more sustainable – surely a good thing!

So should being “green to be seen” be taken as a positive for the possible impact it will have on our planet?  Does it matter, if the potential outcome outweighs the intent? Either way, Earth benefits. If I happen to procure some lovely things along the way, then so be it…

Autumn · crochet · staying active

Embrace your inner Autumn

The season is changing and Autumn is almost upon us. My favourite time of year. Crisp days, warm layers and, of course, the obligatory crunching through leaves. 

Yesterday I embraced my inner Autumn in two ways: 

  1. a brisk exercise class in the park
  2. picking up my crochet hook to work on a cosy blanket 

Having had my fourth baby six months ago, I’m really not in the best of shapes. I thought about cutting out the bad foods, but realised my meals are usually healthy enough. Plus, Autumn is the season of hot chocolate and marshmallows! With all the will in the world, I couldn’t give that glorious concoction up! So exercise is the answer! 

I’ll be honest – I’m rubbish at exercising. On the few occasions when I actually have the will to do it, I’m never sure that I’m doing it properly. My coordination is zero, I have terrible posture, and my body just doesn’t bend in certain ways. What I need is someone showing me the best exercises and how to do them. Unfortunately I can’t afford a personal trainer, so an exercise class it had to be.

Not so easy when you have a six month old baby in tow.

A quick internet search pointed me in the direction of buggyfit. These classes take place in parks with a qualified instructor and are specially tailored for post-natal exercising. You can meet mums like yourself and get some fresh air, all whilst keeping fit and not needing to leave your baby with someone. Score! 

So off I trotted, dropping off my biggest wean (aka Mr Sunbeam) at work first. 

Instructor Claire was friendly, encouraging and knowledgeable. It was a crisp, cool morning, with the scent of Autumn approaching. Dogs were walked, children played on the swings, and joggers sped past, all whilst myself and four other mums were put through our paces. My littlest ray sat in her buggy, taking it all in, whilst throwing smiles at anyone who looked in her direction. Halfway through the session I wanted to lie down. Yaasss! That meant it was working. Peeling off my layers, I persuaded my poor body to keep going, and was rewarded at the end by wobbly legs and burning arms – the two key signs of a good workout! 

I walked smartly and smugly back through the park to my car, feeling energised and full of plans for the day. This lasted until I stepped through my front door. Then the wobbly legs persuaded me to sit down and that was the end of my plan to be productive.

When evening came, however, and my four wee rays were tucked in and dreaming, I did something I hadn’t done in about nine months. I pulled out a blanket I had begun to crochet back in November 2016.

Now, I’m fairly new to crochet, but I love it. It is so therapeutic and so satisfying to create something so beautiful. When I was pregnant with my littlest ray, I lost my crafting mojo. Not very helpful when I could have been whiling away the winter months making beautiful baby hats and cardigans.

The blanket is the cosy stripe, designed by Lucy at Attic24. The pattern is so simple, yet so beautiful; the colours so rich and warm – a perfect Autumnal project. Add in some GBBO and Tuesday evenings are sorted! Provided I don’t dribble all over my lovely yarn at the sight of all those tantalising baked goods!

So my plan is to skip off to buggyfit twice a week (thereby cancelling out any cake-eating mishaps), and to complete my cosy stripe blanket in time for Winter.  

Two worthy goals, I think. Stay tuned for progress…