Forest Quilt

My nephew Jasper made his way into this world earlier this year. My brother and his wife didn’t find if he would be boy or girl flavour before he arrived so I knew his quilt would have to be gender neutral. As his nursery was going to have woodland bedding and decor I had a colour palette of green and orange to work from and dived into the forest theme.

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My Pinterest research dug up too much brown for what I wanted to be a contemporary but jolly baby quilt. I decided to focus on a bright green and orange with yellow accents, as little brown as I could get away with and some cream to soften the whole look of it.

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I started it well in advance of the due date so had plenty of time to make some applique squares that would really tap into that forest theme. I took time planning these to make the pictures as clear and pleasing as possible. I settled for an owl, a fox, a badger, a toadstool, acorns with oak leaves and a hedgehog.

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I followed the same method as I did for the teal and yellow unisex baby quilt made for my friend’s babyshower in 2013. I will post about that separately but it was the traditional technique. I had learned lessons though.

1. Try to be as neat as you can when cutting the squares and sewing them together.
2. Jersey material feels soft but it’s a pain in the backside to sew in a straight line. Stick to good quality cotton.
3. Use more squares. I underestimated how much the surface area would shrink when I sewed the squares together so I used more squares for Jasper’s to make it the same size as a normal cot blanket.
4. Ironing the material for the border was fiddly and time consuming so I used ribbon for this one instead.

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Rather than use a plain cream fabric on the back of the quilt I treated this quilt to some lovely polka dot green cotton that I found in Hobbycraft.

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Some of my other favourite fabrics included the stag silhouettes on green and the woodland scene with bunting. See if you can spot them.

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HOORAY FOR THE THEATRE CRITICS OF WALES AWARDS

Last night I attended the Theatre Critics of Wales Awards. I wasn’t quite in the right frame of mind for it this, its second year. I was sober and moody, neither of which are conducive to networking around the Welsh arts community in the vacuous white foyer of Sherman Theatre in Cardiff.

I shan’t go into details but the bus replacement service timetable made me choose to drive. I needn’t have worried so much as it started at 7:30pm not 7pm as I had scheduled for. Annoyed doesn’t come close. I did however take full advantage of the deliciously delightful nibbles presented on slates by smiley young ladies in black. Scallops and bacon? Don’t mind if I do.

National Dance Company Wales had two nominations in the Large Scale Dance Production category and were named as a partner in one of the nominations for Small Scale Dance Production. We missed out to Earthfall’s Chelsea Hotel and Ballet Cymru’s Romeo a Juliet. Both very worthy winners and no surprise to me. As only our Deputy Director and I were in attendance I admit to being relieved not to have to go on stage to mutters of “who?”

A notable feature of the night was the epic 25 minute delay caused solely by the theatre audience failing to sit in their seats by 7:30pm. Can you imagine how some of those present would react if the same happened at a production they were staging/performing in? The mass exodus of the somewhat vocal theatre crowd during the opera awards was, quite frankly, rude. One or two people sneaking out for a jimmy riddle I could forgive but hordes escaping to the bar was embarrassing to witness.

Chief organiser Guy O’Donnell, the young critics and third age critics should be proud of themselves for orchestrating this beast of a night with the exceedingly charming Nicola Hayward Thomas at the helm. The photographer slowed things down and I would like to see film clips of the winners of each category. I predict that there are issues with quality and availability of film footage of live theatre, opera and dance but it would be an ideal platform to showcase the range of talent that took home the engraved slate awards. (Not the same slates on which the aforementioned tasty morsels were presented in the reception. I hope.)

Presenting awards for live performing arts across a country presents a geographical challenge. Happily, the nominations spanned North, West, South and Mid Wales. It did limit the number of productions I could have seen within the year and is another reason I’d like to have seen more than one still of each production.

As ever in Wales language is an issue. In the theatre categories there are separate nominations for English and Welsh, some of those collecting prizes and reading out nominations spoke Welsh. I am a fan of bilingualism but, while no means fluent, I do have a decent level of understanding. Not so for everyone present. I could tangibly sense some people zoning out during extended diatribes yn Gymreag.

The small non revenue funded companies triumphed in many categories against the behemoths of National Theatre Wales and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, a fact that didn’t go amiss at the podium. Silly Kings, Praxis Perfect and Y Bont demonstrated that the Nationals in theatre land in Wales are definitely delivering innovative, relevant and engaging work around the country but it was heartening to see the breadth of the other work sizzling and popping away too.

Gaynor Lougher and Richard Berry were a fitting and moving finale to the night when collecting their Special Recognition Award for founding Hijinx Theatre, a professional theatre company and advocate for the inclusion of people with learning difficulties in the arts. Hijinx recently launched The Academy providing professional performance training for actors with learning difficulties. The three cheers led by Gareth, a student of The Academy summed up perfectly the positive feelings in the room and the standing ovation demonstrated the level of respect held for the pair amongst their peers.

The awards are in their toddler years and I’m sure TCWA and the critical mass around them will develop over time. New categories were introduced this year but I still felt it was unfairly weighted towards the theatre sector leaving opera and dance the poorer cousins. In theatre one production could be nominated for several categories (production, playwright, male performance, female performance, director, music and sound, lighting, design and costume, digital/online content) and two other categories were dominated by theatre productions (productions for children and young people, ensemble). Opera had three (production, male in an opera, female in an opera), dance had two (small scale, large scale) and were both under represented in lighting, sound, design, children and digital categories.

Perhaps this is demonstrative of dance and opera in Wales needing to pull their socks up in these areas. Having seen a fair bit of dance in 2013 I would disagree. Rather than merely stomp into the typically theatre dominated categories I would love to see categories for best choreographer, best dancer, best solo dance production. I could go on.

As I was told at every primary school sports day (probably because I wasn’t very good at any races) it’s not the winning but the taking part that counts. I lack the ambition, competitive nature and winning streak to disagree with this sentiment. The joy of the TCWA is that it brings together project run, revenue funded, small scale, national, performers, creatives, freelancers, established and emerging organisations and individuals. In the words of Gareth “bip bip bip hooray!”

Full list of winners here: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/debut-stage-drama-rachel-trezise-6569903

ABOUT FACE

in which I probably offend you because you have one of these profile pictures on Facebook… (sorry)

Not a mum moan as such and more of an irritating niggle than a full on moan but I am finding it rather bothersome when people don’t use an image of their own face for their profile picture on Facebook. Maybe my brain is too tiny to compute such maverick avatars but it confuses me. The clue is in the name FACEbook. It’s supposed to be like a year book so use a headshot.

If your photo is of a child or a gaggle of sproglets I tend to assume it’s your offspring but it can verge on the inappropriate when that kiddie face appears on my newsfeed swearing or boasting about how much alcohol they’ve consumed.

Then there are those of you who use a photo with two, three or more faces in it. What is that? Who are you? Or is this myriad of faces representative of your multifaceted personality? Is it a test of how well I know you that I can rise to the challenge of picking you out of a line-up of your friends?! It is very unhelpful if I’m gossiping about you, spying on you or trying to set someone up on a date with you. It’s not mysterious, it’s annoying. You don’t need to do it to show off how many friends you’ve got, you can do that on your cover photo these days.

And while I’m at it, let’s just get this out there. What about those eternal bride girls (or women I suppose… how old will I be when I actually think of myself as a woman not a girl? Thirty and counting…) You Miss Havishams of social networking use a favourite wedding photograph of yourself for years after the event. You give the impression that it’s the only decent photo of you which indicates 1. pitifully low self-esteem, 2. little belief in your ability to do your own hair and makeup, 3. a potential smugness that you are not a lonely, miserable singleton. Bridal shots as a facebook profile photo are only acceptable if you are recently married or celebrating an anniversary.

Controversially I do rather have a penchant for the current trend for selfies. Favoured mainly by cocky celebs/older teens/young twenty-somethings who want to show off their outfit/figure/pout, I find them an equal measure of brave and cringe inducing. They’re not for me, partly because my nose always looks too large in self-portrait photographs but mainly because it’s the photographic equivalent to everyone you know walking in on you singing with gusto into your hairbrush in front of the mirror in your underwear. But at least they’re appropriate avatars for the book of face.

Trapped Part Time Workers

Today the Guardian published an article entitled “Part-time workers ‘trapped’ in jobs with no chance of promotion”. The article focuses on professionals and despite it seemingly assuming that all part time workers are office based it did speak to the frustrated part-time worker in me.

I work in the arts as an officer in a participation/education/creative learning/whatever-the-deuce-we’re-calling-it-this-week department. A potted history: I returned to work three days a week after my first maternity leave as part of a job share. Eventually I stopped job sharing and instead had a full time assistant. I returned after my second maternity leave to a situation where I have no job share and no assistant but am still working a three day week. Have I received a pay rise to acknowledge the fact that I’m delivering a full time position on part time hours? Hahaha! This is the arts darling, we do it for love.

I have tried finding other work. The part time opportunities that get advertised on the Arts Council Wales jobs list are short term, not well paid (which is saying something coming from me) or not in my area of expertise. I don’t want to jump from this particular frying pan into a fire that could only last 9 months and leave me in a worse situation than my current poorly paid stagnant career. This is what makes me feel trapped. There is nowhere to move in the organisation and no way to move out of it.

I know of at least three skilled and experienced female arts professionals who worked for well known arts organisations who were forced into leaving their roles through the utter inflexibility of their employers. I know another who was made redundant and is now struggling to find part time, relevant work. It’s such a waste of talent. Three of them are unemployed and the other is working in another sector. All have children under the age of 5. They are incredibly jaded, having been spat out and spat on by a sector that too many people see as people friendly and passionate.

In the final throws of my degree, with the big wide world looming, I did consider (and was approached with a recommendation that I pursue) training to be an actor. But then I thought about what was important in my life and my dream of a house, partner, children, dog and car was incongruous with the nomadic, penniless actor I could see myself becoming. So I went for a ‘proper job’ (full time, permanent) but in the arts. Now, at thirty years old I am content that I have achieved my big life goals but my career and pitiful income is a niggling little pain in my derrière. Maybe I should have followed my heart rather than my head back in 2004.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2013/jul/08/part-time-workers-trapped-jobs?INTCMP=SRCH

AWESOME GROWN UP DAY

in which I wrestle with the concept of ignoring Father’s Day.

My first three blog posts have been too darn long. I hereby declare that I will henceforth endeavour to be more succinct with my whinging, moaning and general ponderings. (But I’m not making any promises…)

Today’s brief topic is Father’s Day. I know I’m a little late to the party what with it having been yesterday but I’m a busy lady, give me a chance.

We all know Mothering Sunday goes way back but Father’s Day is a more recent addition to our lives and the more cynical amongst us might be of the opinion that it was invented by avaricious greetings card manufacturers. Mr Moodymum was more than happy with his homemade hand picture and card from the 6, 4 and 1 year olds in his life. No £3.99 card for him!

hands

My sons’ nursery and primary schools veer well clear of the handmade cards that all small people usually sneak home around Mother’s Day when it comes to Dad’s turn. Last year some parents asked nursery staff why this was the case. The simple answer was that there were too many children without fathers in their lives so it was not something they wanted to draw attention to in the classroom.

Last week it was reported on the BBC and in print media that there are a million children growing up without fathers. My husband grew up in a single parent family. His father lived in the same town but never bothered with him so he never bothered back. However, he had good role models around him and his mum’s lovely. He is a fantastic dad to our sons and his daughter who lives with her (single) mum. His daughter has a very different relationship with her father than he did with his. She stays with us twice a week in her own bedroom and is a main character in our little family, involved in every holiday, trip and party. She loves her dad in exactly the same way as her (half) brothers do.

I heard some very sad news last night about a lovely fella I had the pleasure of living next door to while we were in university. His wife, pregnant with their second child, had died and the baby had been delivered prematurely. Mother’s Day will come around every year with a bittersweet sting in the tail and Father’s Day will fall at the same time of year as his children lost their mum. But will their schools ignore Father’s Day just in case it upsets any children without a dad in their home or their lives?

I don’t want to get on a political high horse about parents and families but I think it’s a shame for those children without traditional family set ups to miss out on a chance to say thank you to their fathers (who could be widows or not live with the child) and talk about other positive role models in school.

Rather than cut off our noses to spite our faces, why don’t we have a more general ‘Awesome Grown Up’ day (with a far catchier name) for all children to thank an important and awesome adult in their life? Father, step father, care worker, lollypop man, rugby coach, whoever they may be.

STOP THE KIM BASHING

in which I tell everyone to BACK THE HECK OFF pregnant ladies  

kIM SHOULDkim heat

I’m not a Kim Kardashian fan. I don’t watch her programmes or follow her life through celebrity gossip. However, I do go into my local corner shop and haven’t failed to notice that she has a bun in her sexy oven. The celeb mags and websites are having a meltdown as they cannot compute that a ‘sexy’ woman is becoming a mother.

Unfortunately for Kim her style choices have been ripped to shreds. She is front page fodder for us mere mortals to point at and laugh: “Ha ha, look at her squeezing into a strapless babydoll dress!” “Try embracing that curve Kim!”

It’s cruel. It reflects a disappointing attitude about pregnant women. An idea that once a woman is pregnant we have the right to tell her how she ‘should dress’ and we’re not talking about fashion or trends here, we’re talking about ‘covering up’ and being demure. This is not Kim.

There are enough changes and rules when you’re pregnant – piles, bleeding gums, fatigue, nausea, no wine, no stilton, no roller coasters – why can’t we enjoy dressing in a way that reflects who we are?

It’s a worryingly misogynistic approach to how women are seen: the prostitute and the mother. You can be sexy or matronly. Not both. You can be attractive and confident in tight clothing and short skirts or you can be quiet, unassuming, caring and covered up. Thank you generation Heat magazine and your circle of shame for reinforcing this outdated and offensive view. I’m not denying that motherhood changes your life, your priorities, your body, your relationships but we need to remember that even with another being growing inside, a woman is still an individual human being.

According to the press the Duchess of Cambridge has apparently been dressing her pregnancy with style, grace and simplicity (she looks a bit boring to me). It’s unfair to compare her with Kim. If neither Kate nor Kim were pregnant they would have very different wardrobes. As a member of the Royal Family married to a future king Kate is expected to dress like a sensible 40 year old. Kim is a reality show ‘star’ in a relationship with a hip hop artist; of course she’ll be more outrageous.

Kim and Kate also have very different pre pregnancy shapes. If Kate wears something long and billowy she looks floaty and elegant. If Kim did, she’d be swamped. I’m closer to Kim in height and shape and found it hard to adapt to dressing in a way that wouldn’t use my waist to balance out my boobs and thighs. There were times that I felt like a big fat ball but nothing prepared me for the depressing attempts to dress post birth. Not only do all those lovely clingy outfits that flaunted your pregnant bump now just show a wobbling, empty belly but you can’t wear dresses to breastfeed in, or fitted shirts. It’s all about high waists and loose tops.

I hate that people feel some sort of public ownership over your body as soon as you announce your pregnancy. Even when I had no bump I had other people’s hands on my tummy. I’m not a naturally tactile person so this touching felt invasive. If you’d not touch my belly without a foetus in it, don’t touch it when there is one in there.

Just leave Kim alone. I know she has brought the media attention on herself and she has made her money by putting herself in the limelight but this pity at her inability to dress her new shape and the smug noting of her weight gain is bad news to all pregnant women. By all means, comment on the clothes and her body as you would pre pregnancy but not in a way that implies that there are an unspoken set of rules for pregnant women to follow.

FRENEMY PANTS

in which I moan about control briefs, discover toilet twinning and balk at Kirsty Wark’s carbohydrate avoidance

Last minute dinner invitations don’t often come my way but last week I had a text from my dad asking me to sub my mum at a dinner in the Mayor’s Parlour. Never one to turn down free grub I promptly put Mr MoodyMum on babysitting duties, shaved my armpits, tonged my hair, stuck on some fake lashes and slid a silk dress on over some sturdy control pants and a non-nursing bra. So delighted was I at finally having an opportunity to give my leopard print heels an outing and being in such a rush, I didn’t question my underwear choice.

My stomach has seen better days. I eat too much, exercise too little and have grown two babies in my belly so it’s hardly a surprise. The control brief is therefore my friend. Verging on the miraculous, it transforms my soft, rippling tummy into a firm and smooth surface. These pants give me the confidence to wear my fancy dresses (all bought in sales, mostly for weddings and from a period spanning 1999 – 2012), to show off my figure rather than hide in a muumuu. I don’t get out much but when I do I like to look my best.

Feeling pretty good about myself I arrived at the Mayor’s Parlour with my father and after some unexpectedly continental air kissing the twelve of us settled down to a delightfully fruit themed four course meal. Half way through my duck I was forced to turn down a wine top up. “Are you alright?” muttered my dad, perturbed by my uncharacteristic refusal of more wine “chauffeur duties tonight, is it?” guffawed the RAF guest to my right before spilling a glass of red down his shirt. Alas, my control briefs had turned on me and like the girdles and corsets that came before them they were squeezing my tummy making me feel nauseous and full. Facing the cheeseboard and wincing with disappointment at my underwear choice I excused myself and tottered off to the toilets where I admitted defeat, released the flab and folded the pants over. It was too late for the brie but I was able to resume the wine and port quaffing with a newfound enthusiasm albeit with a wobblier waist.

I will now briefly digress. In the toilets, while breathing a sigh of released relief I noticed a framed picture of an African toilet. The Mayor’s toilet was twinned! An amazing idea which does pretty much what it says on the tin: http://www.toilettwinning.org/

Back to the pants. My friend had become the enemy. I couldn’t believe how stupid I had been. This is not the first time a pair of tummy hugging pants has pooped on my party. A faint whisper of Caitlin Moran crept through my head: “are the boys doing this?” Probably not. I’m not au fait with men’s underwear but I’m pretty sure you won’t find any 30 year old men squeezing their guts into high waisted, constricting boxers. Am I doing the sisterhood a disservice by trying to make my body conform to the ideal female body shape? I don’t think so as my primary concern is to look good for me, I don’t give two hoots what the man thinks. I’m not one for celebrating stretch marks as I don’t like them, in the same way as I dislike my high forehead and wonky fingers, neither of which have any relevance to my gender.

I like my food. I like cooking, baking and eating. Unfortunately I’m too lazy and it’s too cold for me to jog much at the moment. As much as my belly gets me down though I would rather embrace the blubber than live like Kirsty Wark who in a recent interview with the Guardian declared “Baking is relaxing. I make bread, but I don’t eat it myself. I make homemade pasta, but I don’t eat it any more. When you get older, you have to be a bit more careful.” Where is the joy in that?! I can envision Kirsty sat in a posh designer outfit, surrounded by linguine and ciabatta, smugly stroking her toned stomach. She might not need the control briefs but a life without carbohydrates is not a happy one.

In the future, I think I’ll stick to hiding my tummy behind my massive (yet fabulous) bright yellow clutch bag.

 

yellow bag and shoes

NINE MONTHS IN (in my womb) NINE MONTHS OUT (to work)

in which I bemoan returning to work before my youngest turns one.

Having never been one for the ‘live to work not work to live’ mantra it will come as no surprise to learn that I was hardly cockahoop about returning to work following maternity leave.

While I’m sure some women delight in the chance to spend ten hours of their day commuting and in paid employ with no chance of being asked to wipe any bottoms (let’s assume I’m talking about office work before I hear the cries of “well, I’ll have you know that I wipe bottoms for a living and I’m BLOODY GOOD AT IT”) there are also some women who balk at the suggestion that they should have to work at all. “But who will bring up my children?”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not sitting on the proverbial fence here. I would far rather be caring for my children. Physically, emotionally and practically AT THIS STAGE in their lives it would be the most sensible situation. My youngest is 10 months old. I have been and still am breastfeeding him. On the plus side, when I am not in his company, my breasts magically grow to impressive proportions. On the down side this means that I must pump my milk out in a random tiny room. I am not and never have been a militant member of the breastapo. It’s free. I’m not one for making bottle feeders feel rubbish or defensive about themselves. Let’s not dwell.

So, physically my breasts are still in the ‘we are the mammaries of a mammal with an infant so we will produce milk’ zone and when I am with my amazing baby I am in the ‘I want to feed my baby for free’ zone. But the world of work says “you have done your time woman, put down the baby and get back to your desk.”

On the emotional side of things I don’t think I sound like a crazy banshee saying “I love my children”. I carried both of them inside me. INSIDE MY BODY. (It is still weird. You were once INSIDE someone. Not a random person, granted. But I digress.) We created these little people to be involved in their ever changing lives, and when they’re less than a year old they change more quickly than they ever will again. I don’t want to miss that. Maybe I can miss a bit if it makes me feel sane and worthwhile but sometimes work makes me feel a bit bonkers and pointless.

I work in an industry where I enable other people to LIVE THEIR DREAM. I never said “when I grow up I want to be a Participation Officer”. I didn’t know what one of those was. Most people still don’t. Which is embarrassing, deflating and devaluing. Wait. I must shake the You Should Have Done Teaching imp from my shoulder. “You would’ve been on thirty grand a year by now, imagine that, it’s the same as you earn as a couple now”. Shut up and bugger off Teaching Imp.

Maybe if I LOVED my job I’d feel differently but, quite frankly, I don’t. It’s a means to an end and the end is money. And I don’t earn much. Let’s just say I’m not paying back my student loan yet. I would like to love my job. I need to win some bread, sing for my supper and provide a positive, productive role model for my children. Just not yet. At ten months old neither son asked why mummy was a lazy Jezza Vile watching housewife while daddy worked his arse of at the docks. I can readjust that patriarchal rubbish when they’re both in school.

On a practical level, working is a logistical nightmare/challenge. My four year old and 10 monther have different schedules and needs. Granted, they’re not very complex at the moment and I’m lucky to have grandparent help for two days, more than that and I feel that I’m taking the mickey. They’ve done their time.

The current government has paid lip service to the notion that women are entitled to a year off from work after giving birth. Well I’ve got news for you Dave, those last three months of unpaid maternity leave do not and cannot work for most families’ finances in the current economic mess. Better maternity packages come higher up the ladder and in better paid industries, widening the gap between the women at the top and those struggling at the bottom. Statutory Maternity Pay, while utterly amazing compared to the seventies and America, is, to be blunt, rubbish. Forward thinking companies and those who give a monkeys arse about retaining staff have varying maternity policies better than SMP. Not where I work.

Babies aren’t expensive. Your income dropping from £355 per week to more like £117 (rough figures for my salary in 2008 when I had my first son) is what hits you hard. The Camerons’ annual income is approximately one thousand times more than that of my household. ONE THOUSAND! Out of touch with the needs of most families with young children? Probably.

Moody Mum

In the wake of the boom in ‘Mommy Blogs’ (bleurgh) which are overwhelmingly gushy in tone I’ve decided to start my own more realistic (i.e. grumpy) blog.

 

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