Sunday 28 February 2016

It's Not So Bad Really, Gardening

This weekend we've done a big clear up in the garden. During Autumn all our time was taken up with raking leaves and picking up fallen walnuts, so we never got round to tidying the garden before the weather got bad. 

The combination of a dry weekend and having no plans led to us deciding yesterday morning that we would attack the garden. Literally attack it. We have been hacking away at bushes and trees as well as burning off-cuts of heather and sage. 

I am no garden expert. I wouldn't even say that I particularly like gardening, but I do love being in the garden. And the work does give me feeling of having done something good and useful. 

Breaking for a cup of coffee to be drunk outdoors while reviewing the work done and to be done. Holding an impromptu picnic by the pond, wrapped up in our wellies and fleeces. It feels so good. It tastes so good.

The nest Number One built with bits
and pieces found in the garden today.
Yesterday while cutting back lavender and sage and ripping out dried up marjoram, I enjoyed the scent they gave off and left on my hands. Raking up walnut shells and leaves revealed vibrant green moss beneath. The clumps that got stuck in the prongs of the rake got set aside for decorating with and for the children to play with. 

That's another one of the things about the garden that makes me happy - us all being together, but doing our own thing. Working, playing, getting creative or just sitting down for a snack outside. Easy, unforced, old-fashioned family time.

As the Bavarian chopped branches off the kiwi tree in an attempt to tame it (it grows 4m long tentacles in summer), I gathered up the ones that had become intwined in one another and separated them, carefully twisting them apart and ending up with curly wurly lengths of branch, perfect for a wreath or some Easter decorations. 

Ah, full days outdoors, at last.  

I suppose it is not so bad after all, gardening. 


For more snaps and stories, follow me on Instagram (@three_sons_later)

Friday 26 February 2016

A Day For Making Plans

It is a day for making plans and lists. I have decided that just now. When things are going wrong, the best thing to do is try make them better. 

For weeks now, life just hasn't been right. It is never going to be perfect, even through there are perfect days now and again. But lately it hasn't even been particularly good.
There are the small things, like the weather being miserable. Not proper Winter and not proper Spring. Snow falling but not sticking. The sun coming out but disappearing before we get our shoes on to go outside. I can't change that. No one can. 

Then there are the bigger things. The worse than usual fights and arguments between the children. The struggles between us and the children. Not just the ordinary ones, like having to ask five times before they put their shoes on. I mean the struggles where you as a parent come across as the bad guy ALL the time and there seems to no logical explanation. 

The sulking kids, the crying, whingeing, complaining and storming off. The door slamming. The "I hate you" s and "You don't even like me" s. The "I'm not eating that" and the "I won't do what you tell me. I am the boss of me". 

It is tiring and draining and hurtful. I know they don't mean it to be. But it gets to you, you know?. 

So today is a day for plans and lists. We're looking at what we need to change to be happy again. A list for each of us and a family list. I'm hoping that there will be some easy fixes and I know there will be some big things too. 

Number One is getting older and more independent. He needs to feel he can choose things for himself and we have to find ways to let him do that. We are not prepared to push out the boundaries as far as he wants us too but hopefully we can compromise.

Number Two has grown so much so quickly that we easily forget he is only five. We expect too much of him and that has to change too. He still needs us a lot. He needs individual attention and more focus on him and what he wants.

Number Three is galloping towards little boyhood at an astounding rate. A Christmas he was still a baby. A walking, climbing, babbling baby, but a baby nonetheless. Now, turning 18 months old next week, he is most definitely a toddler, demanding attention, shouting out words and taking only one nap a day. We have to adapt to his changing needs also.

So, wallowing in self-pity is banned and positive, life-changing plans are getting made. Will they work? Who knows. Is it worth a try? Yes.

The Toddler's Guide To Successful Toddlering

If you are reading this, you are probably between 10 and 36 months old and are doubting your potential to be a successful toddler. 

Let me guess? You see other toddlers throw themselves on the ground and behave as if the end of the world is nigh only to be scooped up moments later by a parent or minder and given the thing they want? You want that too but you haven't been able to achieve it? You parents are not driven entirely crazy by your behaviour but all your friends' parents are losing the plot?

Don't worry. You can do it too. By following these simple rules, you can reach your potential before it is too late. 

1. There is no phase: We've all heard the muttering between parents when their toddlers seem impossible to manage, "It is just a phase". Don't let them fool you. There is no phase. YOU are in charge. YOU have the power to decide whether or not you get what you want out of todderhood.

2. Learn from your mistakes: Your first attempt at a tantrum was scuppered by a know-it-all mother who fooled you into calming down? So what? Learn from your mistakes. Now that you know her tricks, you just have to repeat the performance and stick to your guns. She has been lulled into a false sense of security and believes the same tricks will work on you again. Oh no, think again lady! 

3. Repetition is key: Remember, tantrums are not your only weapon. Repetition of what parents consider unsuitable behaviour is a powerful tool. Climbing onto the kitchen table when no one is looking, emptying the cupboards of their contents, playing with the toilet brush - these are all examples of easy-to-perform activities which, if repeated often enough, will drive your parents to the levels of frustration you always hoped to achieve. 

4. Trust your instincts: Don't listen to the contant cries of "No" and "Don't do that!". Remember that you were born to be a toddler. It is a natural progression from babyhood. All that lying around in your pram wasn't a waste of time. It allowed you to gather information, to soak up the behaviour of the adults and children around you. It has allowed you to learn which buttons to push to get your way. Trust your instincts and go with what you feel. If you can get near a phone or tablet, disable it in some way. Your mind will guide you and let you know the exact combination of buttons to press to set it to a foreign language or turn the screen sideways. 

Following these guidelines will set you on the path to becoming the kind of toddler that other mothers gossip about. Goody two shoes pre-schoolers may even look to you for inspiration. But don't underestimate the amount of work involved. At first it may seem not to be worth it, but once you get a taste of getting your way, you won't regret having put in the effort. 

Life Love and Dirty Dishes

Thursday 25 February 2016

Easy Peasy Easter Art for Toddlers

Toddlers love sticking their fingers into stuff and making a mess, so why not let them at it and make a bit of Easter art out of it? This is how easy it is.

You will need:
A small amount of water
At least one child
A waterproof fine point black marker pen

Step 1: Get out some paints (poster paints are good but even those little watercolur sets work too) and a little plastic cup of water. Put an apron or bib on your child to avoid them getting paint on their clothes when they inevitably wipe their hands on what they are wearing.

Step 2: Lay a few sheets of paper on the table. White or pastel colours show up the paint best, I find. 

Step 3: Have your child dip their index fingertip into the water then into the paint. If you are using poster paints it is a good idea to put a small amount onto a plate. If you are using watercolours, get the child to rub their wet finger on their chosen colour of paint until it is well coated with colour.

Step 4: Make fingerprints scattered all over the pages, reloading the fingers with fresh paint as needed.

Step 5: Leave the paint to dry. Wash the child's hands and put away the water and paints. 

Step 6:  For chicks - draw eyes, beaks and wings on the fingerprints
For bunnies - draw eyes, nose, mouth, ears and a fluffy tail on the fingerprints

Step 7: Now you can decide what to do with your little works of art. The ideas I like are:
- Hang the pages up as they are

- Cut out the best creatures and make Easter cards

 - Cut out some of your favourites and glue them to little paper bags. You can then fill these with chocolate eggs and give them as gifts at Easter. As an alternative, you can do the fingerprints straight onto the bag, as we did here:

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Projektschmiede Second Hand Wonderland

Last Friday, in my 5 under €5 post, I mentioned my new favourite second hand shop. Anyone who is a regular reader will know that 
anything old is my kind of thing. So, finding a new place where I can look at and buy old stuff is always a good thing. 

Projektschmiede in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany is not so much a shop as a warehouse. We have been in Rothenburg dozens of times over the past ten years but never noticed Projektschmiede until the weekend before last when we were in town to watch our nephew in a football tournament. 

Now, I am not a sports fan but I have never been happier to have been to a football match than I was that day! Having spotted the warehouse while stopped at the lights on the way to the sports hall, I waited till a gap in matches and snuck off with Number Three to check out Projektschmiede.

Before I even got in the door of the place, I was thrilled. Outside the entrance was shelf upon shelf of jars in all shapes and sizes. But when I turned around and saw all these plant pot holders arranged by colour, I knew I had found a special place.

Inside I was not disappointed. First of all, there was the building itself - huge arched windows letting in tons of natural light, a red brick vaulted ceiling and a maze of rooms. 

In the first couple of rooms the walls are lined with white shelving stacked with china and glassware of all kinds. From soup tureens to serving platters, sherry glasses to dinner plates, it is all there. 

I didn't buy this cute little tea set but I wish I had. €5! A steal.

There were more glasses than I have ever seen before in one place, and such pretty ones. I am definitely going to back. I simply could not decide which ones to buy.  

What I really liked about the place was that the staff seemed to enjoy working there and they cared about the way the goods were displayed. Just look at this coffee pot display. (I admit the photo is not the best, but I had a toddler struggling to get off my hip as I took it). 

The next room was bursting with furniture - a whole mix of stuff, a lot of it not my taste. But there were a few really nice pieces with potential - these wardrobes, a set of chairs with woven ratten backs (€24 each), a set of bedside lockers (€40 each).

There was even one room of toys, which included this gorgeous cot. It is actually a baby cot rather than a toy and, while the veneer was damaged in a few places, it had beautiful paintwork. €28 is all it cost. I had a difficult time not buying it, I can tell you. 

The book section was laid out like a library with aisles of shelves stuffed with books, sorted properly into categories. There was even a wood-burning stove lit to cosy the place up!

This bookshelf caught my eye. I can imagine that a few coats of chalk paint in a smokey blue-grey, it could be beautiful.

I am so pleased to have come across this place and am going to have to set aside a little budget for my next visit. 

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Sunday 21 February 2016

Heitmann Egg Decorating Set Giveaway

I woke up this morning feeling generous and decided I would hold a little Easter giveaway today! 

Having spent the past week thinking about Easter crafts and what new things to try this year, I thought I would share my favourite egg dye brand with you, because I will definitely be using it again this year. I have already bought several packs in preparation.

We have used Heitmann egg dye for years and years now and have always been really pleased with the results, not to mention the fun we have had deciding on the colours and techniques to use.

The set contains five dyes. All you need to do is dissolve the dye tabs in water and vinegar (the instructions are on the back of the pack in several languages) and then the fun starts. You can create all kinds of patterns and designs on your eggs using simple techniques.

So here is your chance to win! 

Just enter a comment on this post, letting me know your favourite Easter craft and you'll be in with a chance to win one of these little sets. Feel free to share the giveaway details on Facebook, Twitter, etc. 

If you want to leave a link to your own craft ideas, please do. 

I'll choose a winner on Monday 22nd. Good luck everyone! I am excited to hear about your crafts. 

Some of our favourites from last year

Click here for all our Easter posts.

[Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I bought and paid for the Heitmann set myself and the idea of the giveaway is all my own. All words, opinions and photos are my own too. I am just in a generous mood today.]

Friday 19 February 2016

Fionnuala's February Five For A Fiver Friday

...or 'How Many Fs Can You Put In A Blog Post Title'.

I have made a few really lovely purchases over the last week or so and that has motivated me to join in with Julia from Rainbeaubelle's linky 5 under 5. I'm working with Euro rather than GBP but the idea is the same.

So, here are my five:

A glass jar for holding bits and bobs, candles or for use as a vase, €1.50
Intricately painted real eggs, 80 cent each
A tea set for four, €5.00
Tulips, €1.98
A baking book, free in exchange for baking a cake

The glass jar, the eggs and the tea set were all finds from my latest discovery - a second hand warehouse not far from where my in-laws live. 

How I hadn't noticed it before, I do no know. Apparently it has been there for 18 years, but it seems to be a well kept secret. I have a feeling I will be a regular visitor.

The tulips were a treat to myself when doing the grocery shopping on Saturday. I adore tulips. They are one of my very favourite flowers and, at this time of year, I often buy myself a bunch as a little reward for doing the grocery shopping. 

The baking book - 1 Dough, 50 Cakes - was a present from our wonderful local independent bookshop. Every year the shop holds a bake sale in aid of a local charity. To encourage us to bake (as if I needed encouragement!), the shop offers a small range of baking books in exchange for a cake donation. I have taken part the last couple of years. I find it a really nice idea.

I've baked a few tray bakes from this book already (photos below) and they worked out perfectly. Tomorrow I will be handing over my cake donation and buying a few slices from the range on offer. I may even make tea in my new tea set to go with them.

Having My Political Say

This week I have been on The Irish Times website again, this time with an article on emigrant voting

You may or may not know that Ireland, unlike most European countries, does not allow emigrants to vote by postal vote. Emigrants are kept on the electoral register for, I believe, 18 months after leaving Ireland and may vote in elections in that period if they return to the country to do so. 

With the rise in emigration, particularly among young Irish people, since the end of the boom as well as the presidential election, general elections and the same-sex marriage referendum, there has been a lot of discussion in recent years on the subject of further extending the vote to emigrants.

I, as am emigrant, obviously have some thoughts on the issue and The Irish Times was kind enough to publish them this week

At the time of writing this post there were 96 comments on the article. My views are, apparently, not shared by many. But I'm happy to see such a discussion going on. I've even made it to 4th place on the "Most Discussed" articles on Thursday.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Upcycling A Metal Framed MIrror

Some time in the early 2000s, I bought what I considered at the time to be a pretty, metal-framed mirror with a candle holder at the front. I can no longer recall where I bought it or how much I paid. Several house moves later, it has found itself in the cellar, no longer a suitable match for any of our other belongings. 

A couple of times I almost donated it to the charity shop or brought it along to sell at a flea market. But something held me back. I thought I might spray it gold or change the beads. I just never had that aha moment.

That is, till now. Recently I signed up for a surprise parcel project. The other day I got the list of likes and dislikes of the person I am to send a parcel to. It turns out she likes shabby chic, white paint and crafts. 

After a little careful consideration, I decided to get my chalk paint out and see about giving the mirror frame a little makeover. It turned out to be incredibly quick and easy, but with a great result. Hopfully the lovely-sounding recipient will like it as much as I do. 

Step 1: Remove the mirror and wipe the frame clean to remove any dust or candle grease.

Step 2: Give the chalk paint a good stir and then apply one coat of paint to the front of the frame. Leave to dry. Rinse the paintbrush well.

Step 3: Apply one coat of paint to the back of the frame, being careful not to apply the paint too heavily. You want to avoid lumps and bumps of dried paint on the front. Leave to dry. Rinse the paintbrush well.

Step 4: Repeat step 2 and step 3 twice. It took at total of three coats of paint to cover the black metal frame completely.

Step 5: Using a small piece of medium grade sandpaper, sand the areas of the frame that would get most wear and tear. This will give the frame an aged, worn, shabby look. 

Stand back and look at the full piece a few times. Try to create a realistic pattern of wear, e.g. corners, edges, hinges would get most handing and would probably get worn sooner than the more decorative elements of the frame. 

Step 6: Dust the frame with a cotton cloth, such as a tea towel, to remove any dust from the sanding. 

Step 7: Polish the mirror and insert it into the frame.

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