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July 2015

A weekend away

by Clare Mansell

This weekend we had a fantastic but exhausting few days celebrating Jim’s sisters wedding in East Sussex. Theo didn’t perform his pageboy role, but did have a fantastic time playing with the other children and kept everyone amused by interrupting the groom mid-speech to take a photo of him with one of the disposable cameras. (I don’t know where he gets it from!)

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We stayed in a lovely B&B sandwiched between the English Wine Centre and Drusillas Zoo. It had a little sitting room and separate annexe for Theo. He was quite happy to sneak into our bed in the morning and watch Cbeebies till we were ready to get up (do you recognise that familiar spaced out children’s tv face?!) The B&B also did a great breakfast with homemade toast and jam, just what I need to start a day!

I mentioned already that it was exhausting, but I didn’t really realise quite how pregnancy depletes your stamina. 9 hours in heels is apparently not a brilliant idea! I’m looking forward to a quiet few days catching up with things and editing some of the photos I took. Fortunately there’s not too much in the diary this week.

I’ll share some photos in a post later this week, including one of Theo in his alternative outfit, which was fortunately a big hit with the Bride & Groom…

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My favourite sewing pattern for children’s shorts

You may have noticed this blog has been a little quiet for the last couple of weeks as I’ve been working hard to finish a quilt by this weekend and whilst I’m busy sewing I thought it would be a good chance to do a long overdue post about my favourite sewing pattern for children.

I see a lot of mother’s of girls making pretty skirts every summer, but it often seems that the options for boys are a little more limited or look harder to make and this doesn’t have to be the case. I have been making shorts for Theo ever since he was a baby using the Parsley Pants pattern by Made by Rae who has a brilliant blog and pattern shop.

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The pattern cost me $10 and has so far served me three years worth of growth, but it actually runs up to age 10, so I’ve got a lot of use left in it. Initially when I made Theo the original age 2 shorts (like the car design above) I could get away with using a fat quarter of fabric (costing £3 or £4) but now he’s older and I’m adding extra details like pockets I need a half metre. That does mean it is often more expensive than buying shorts in shops, but Theo loves choosing the material and watching the pattern come together and he gets a pair of shorts out of it that are different from anyone elses.

The most successful pair I ever made (top left) were actually cut from a vintage tablecloth, so you don’t need to be confined to buying expensive modern fabrics, you can upcycle or hunt around for cheaper options . I’ve also made a couple of pairs of trousers for him using the same Parsley Pants pattern, but it’s harder to get the length right with trousers and I also struggle to find the right winter weight fabrics.

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If you are a beginner sewer this pattern is totally within your grasp. You can start with the most basic shorts (no pockets) and after sewing two seams you will have something that actually looks like an item of clothing. Just add elastic for the waist and turn up the hems on the leg and you are there!

You can find the pattern here and the tutorial showing you the small adjustment needed to make shorts here.

Theo has already chosen his next half metre of fabric which features vintage cars all over it, so they’ll be no rest for me when the quilt is finished!

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Things I have offered as a bribe in return for this boy having a haircut…

(1) A trip to the sweetshop
(2) A new Thomas train from the toy shop
(3) A new Thomas train and a trip to the sweetshop
(4) His choice of anything he wants from the toy shop (getting desperate)
(5) A trip to Peppa Pig World (really really desperate)

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None of them have moved him.

We do have an amazing children’s hair salon in our local town. It has cars for the kids to sit in, cartoons to watch, patient staff and an endless supply of lollipops and last time we went, he sat on my lap and screamed like a banshee whilst I used all four of my limbs to anchor all four of his limbs down whilst the hairdresser cut his hair. We also have the option of my kind and patient sister who cuts hair for most of my family and whom he loves, but refuses to go near when the “h” word is mentioned.

He is supposed to be being a pageboy on Saturday, but I think that’s pretty unlikely to happen too as he refuses to contemplate even trying on the outfit. Some battles aren’t worth fighting, so for this most formal and significant of days I shall most likely be the mother of the disheveled looking boy who would not get his hair cut or wear a suit.

He does fortunately now have a back-up outfit which is part Prince George and part Surfer Boy and as he was there in the shop when I bought it (when frankly I should have been buying an outfit for myself) he has agreed to wear it…. All being well you might even get to see a photo of it next Monday. Wish me luck…

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How to increase the height of a table

Today I wanted to share a little known trick which you can use to add height to furniture.

Last summer when I was transforming the cabin into my sewing space, I spotted the perfect wooden table on eBay. There was just one problem with it, it was significantly too short. I actually couldn’t get my legs underneath it when I sat at it with a chair!

Fortunately I had checked the height before I agreed to buy it and I had a little plan I wanted to try. So I picked it up for a bargain price (everyone else having been put off by the height issue) and put my plan into action.

The table had obviously been hacked about a bit in the past and at one point had been on castors which is why now it was lower than standard height. My father-in-law filled in the holes on the bottom of the legs that the castors had left and I set about researching bun feet…

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Bun feet are the wooden feet made for ornate sofas, they come in a variety of different shapes and sizes and are made from different types of wood. I picked up a set of four for £18 which were about 4 inches high.



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The bun feet came pre-drilled with screws included, so all we had to do was attach them to the old filled legs of the table

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A quick lick of paint (which took me nearly a year to get round to applying – oops!) and you’d never know the table wasn’t this height all along!

How to increase the height of a table

Update June 2018…

This table is still in use in our house three years later. It’s now my son’s desk…

how to raise the height of a desk

If you liked this post you might also like…

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Celebrating Canada Day

Celebrating Canada Day

by Clare Mansell

Every year on the closest Saturday to July 1st, we celebrate Canada Day with a barbecue party in our garden. The tradition started (appropriately enough) when we lived in Canada between 2007-2009 and it’s become a great excuse to order in Canadian beer and try out a few North American recipes.

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This year the closest Saturday was 4th July, so we rolled Canada Day and Independence Day into one and enjoyed the opportunity for some combined maple leaf and stars and stripes themeing! Our party also provided an opportunity to christen our amazing Debenhams garden furniture which we won a few months ago and to try out the Be Bop water slide which we had been loaned for the weekend.

The weather wasn’t entirely perfect as it was rather windy, but it was dry and the sun shone for most of the day, which is good enough for me!

This year events conspired to mean none of our friends who we actually lived in Canada with could actually make it to be with us on the day (and two of them are actually emigrating back there at Christmas!) however we did have our Alberta-born dog and our friends Toronto-born daughter as our token Canadian representation!

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Jim who is a bit of a barbecue legend researched, shopped for and cooked the main course, picking up some beautiful Beef Flank at Borough market in London on Friday morning which he cooked with mango salsa, brined chicken kebabs, sausages, burgers and salads.

Meanwhile I was able to devote my time to playing with puddings which is a huge amount of fun when you haven’t got the pressure of savoury food to worry about! The American flag was something I spotted on Pinterest which looked amazing and simple to do. What I hadn’t anticipated is that kids also loved the skewers and getting the chance to make their own mix with the leftovers.

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By far the biggest hit with the puddings was the triple layer Nanaimo Bars which I made (which weren’t the most beautiful, but were the most tasty!) Everyone loved them and we ate the very small amount of leftovers with a cup of tea on Sunday afternoon. They will definitely be cooked again!

I also made a large custard and strawberry “Tim” Tart, triple layer Canadian flag jellies (the middle layer was made with evaporated milk and was a bit solid and flavourless, so I need to work on that) and finally with the leftover eggs there were some meringue nests filled with creme fraiche and blueberries, strawberries and raspberries

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Of course it wasn’t entirely about the food, there was also our Be Bop water slide which was on loan to us for the weekend and was a massive hit with all the kids.

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Of course bouncy castles in any shape or form are always popular, but none of the kids we invited had ever experienced anything like a 16ft inflatable water slide so the novelty factor was huge.

They played on it all day. We used it both with and without the water turned on and Theo had another really joyful session on it on Sunday afternoon on his own, before we broke the news that it had to be put back in its box and returned to Toyz World, at which point there were real hysterical three year-old tears and I felt really mean!

If you are wondering about recipes. They are all on my Canada Day Pinterest board, along with a couple which we didn’t get round to making this year, but might try next year.

Follow Maybush Studio – Family & Lifestyle Blog’s board Canada Day on Pinterest.

If you fancy trying one think, make it the Nanaimo bars, which were (I may have mentioned more than once) amazing.

Linking up with Em, Aby and Hayley…

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