Why I’m a Mumsnet Blogger

Mumsnet

Earlier this week, during one of my frequent occasional Mumsnet coffee breaks, I came across an interesting (and now deleted) thread.  It seems a Mumsnet blogger had received what she felt was unfair criticism from another Mumsnet member on one of her blog posts.,So the wounded blogger hit the forums to remonstrate with the culprit.  Being easily led, I clicked through to the offending commentary to see what had been said.

Well.  What struck me when I got there wasn’t the unnecessarily catty comment (which it was) on an inoffensive mum’s blog. I was more surprised by the blogger’s response:  “AIBU?  Never heard of it…”

Ok.  This is only an opinion.  But perhaps if you’re thinking of joining a blogging network, or attending and posting about their blogger’s events, maybe you might wish to familiarize yourself with the site beforehand.   You see, AIBU refers to “Am I Being Unreasonable?”, Mumsnet’s most highly trafficked, fast-paced and emotionally charged  board, contributing largely to the Mumsnet reputation as a “nest of vipers”.  Stripped of the sunny influence of avatars, tickers and hugs, posters evaluate the reasonable-ness of each other’s predicaments with a barrage of opinion, sarcasm, swearing and above all, grammar correction.

Grammar_Police_by_Rysis

Indeed, even on a national level Mumsnet posters have gained renown for not pulling their punches, whether challenging David Cameron on free nappy provision for children with disabilities or demanding an investigation into Gordon Brown’s biscuit preferences.  Although it’s open to anyone, this parenting site won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  So if you want to join the Mumsnet blogging network and stick one of their shiny badges on your sidebar, you should anticipate that Mumsnetters might stop by your blog, and bring their opinions with them.  They may hand you your grammar on a plate, and they won’t even ((hug)) you first.

So why join our project blog to this particular network?  For me, it’s because…

kiddiwinks

1.  We are mums–some of us, anyway.  Parenthood comes as part of our package, with all the funny and frustrating aspects of being a working mum.  Our work on the Re-Creations Project often happens with kids in tow, underfoot, mucking in and helping out, just like everybody else. And since we try to break down our projects for all ages and abilities, lots of our crafts and tutorials will be fun for crafty mums and kids to try.  It makes sense to belong to a network of parents whose interests may overlap to share info and ideas.

But there are plenty of parenting sites out there.  Why choose Mumsnet in particular?

2.  The Swearing.

I can’t actually remember what first led me to Mumsnet, but I do remember what made me decide to stay.  It was the unabashed and copious use of the F-word.  You see, I had put in time on  other popular parenting sites.  Bounty, MDC, Netmums, Babycentre, Kelllymom…  In the early days of no sleep and a desperate search for answers about reflux, PND, mastitis, weaning and potty training, I lived on parenting forums.  While on the surface, many were “nicer” than Mumsnet, underneath the “huns” and kisses were parents with equally strong opinions.

On one site I was told that the way I was feeding my 17 month old to sleep was inappropriate; that my husband should “remove me” from her evening routine. I was banned from another forum, having confessed that my 22 month old had “stolen” a juice box during a shopping expedition, while I was struggling with her newborn sister.

It wasn’t that they were all a bunch of big meanies, any more than Mumsnet is really a nest of vipers.  It’s just that parenting brings out some of people’s strongest opinions, and people get awfully defensive about the way they do things.  More than once, I fled in tears from message boards of “supportive parenting sites” under the cover of shiny profile photos and tickers celebrating years of co-sleeping.  The bans on swearing and insistence that everybody play nicely, gave me a false sense of security.   I was vulnerable and unprepared when I was told:  “How disappointing, hun.  Perhaps you should dig a hole and crawl inside it to meditate on how to become a better person.  HTH! xx”.

bite me

Ahh, the relief when I crash-landed on Mumsnet in the middle of a thread about a poo-covered-pouffe. These were human beings, who accidentally got naked at the swimming pool or farted on their pets (you know who you are) and sometimes even lost the plot and swore about life.  Instead of masking their derision under hugs and huns, Mumsnetters tell you exactly what they’re thinking with warts and all.  If they want to say “Screw you!”, they say “Screw you!”  Then they come up with a hundred new ways of saying it just so nobody gets bored.

lion belly

3.  The soft and fuzzy underbelly

Like any parenting site, Mumsnet can be a harsh and opinionated place.  Just ask Amanda Holden. Sadly, the same is true just about anywhere mums come together.  From baby cafes up to the school gates, mums will defend their way of child-rearing to the hilt.  But if you hang around the site for a while, listen to what everybody has to say and take some of it with a grain of salt, you’ll start to witness amazing things.

You’ll see that a mum at loggerheads with a poster on one thread will offer to drive 50 miles to help that same poster out in a crisis.  You’ll see a dozen parents working together to reunite a toddler with his precious cuddly toy.  On one thread, hundreds of mums flood Downing Street with letters in response to a familiar poster’s cry for help, while on another thread parents stay up late into the night looking for solutions when a taxi with a baby arrives unexpectedly at a poster’s home.  In my case, you’ll see hundreds of Mumsnetters raid their rubbish bins to find ring-pulls for our project.

Because in addition to their diverse and candid opinions, Mumsnetters also have compassion and the courage of their convictions.  When parents unite for a purpose, they can offer collective knowledge and support, and bring about real and positive change–which is what parenting sites are all about.

I’ll admit, I may have flounced from Mumsnet once or twice.  I’ve  disagreed with some very notable bans (you know who you are) and there are some posters with whom I’ll just never get along.  But if I’m going to have my arse handed to me on a plate by a parenting site, then for today I’ll have mine with a cup of tea, a biscuit, a few passive aggressive strikethroughs  and a smattering of creepy wee brackets.

<skulks off to await annihilation by Mumsnet grammar police>

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Tutorial: DIY Cheerleader Pom Poms

OK, you may have noticed an increasing amount of cool stuff populating our shops over recent weeks.    (If not, why not? What are you waiting for, an invitation from the Queen?  Sheesh!)  But there is one special creation of ours that you won’t be able to pick up online. You can’t even buy them in person at one of our craft stalls.  Nope.  None for you.  I’m talking about these beauties:

Shabby Chic pom poms“But, why?”, you ask. “I also wish to be a sweet and funky non-conformist type cheerleader person.”    Well, it’s because this particular piece of awesomeness was an extremely limited edition, designed especially for this sewing-machine-snogging-vixen.

We’re not here to judge.

But don’t worry.  We’re not entirely heartless.  (Actually, I am, but lucky for you Jacqui isn’t.) We won’t sell you any, but we will tell you how to make them yourself and delight any small munchkins who happen to share your home.

It all happened kind of like this:  It was late summer, and in the run up to #wedstival2012, me and the guys were churning out miles of bunting like this:

2

We worked around the clock, tying bunting until our hands were sore and eventually we were lashing together any random bits of fabric we encountered.  Every surface in my house was layered in piles of fabric strips, so much so that random cats were inviting themselves in to sleep on them.

bunting cat

Around that time, Sheri (our bloggy bff from Awesomesauce and Asshattery) sent us a “cheer up” package of personalized T-shirts with our logo (also by Sheri) and names (we already had those) in sparkly, bosom-enhancing print!

Behold:  The Sparkle Bosom.  (She really is going to kill me this time!)

Behold: The Sparkle Bosom.
(Jacqui really is going to kill me this time!)

I thought it was really amazing that we had happened across this Canadian expat powerhouse in Germany who was cheering us on with all the energy of a birthday party full of cake-high 4-year-olds.  I remember asking Sheri if they had cheerleaders in Germany, and being really disappointed when she said no.  In my sleep-deprived state, the idea of angry German-accented cheerleaders really tickled me.

Cheerleader:  “Und now you vill give me un ‘A’!”

Crowd:  “Yikes, ok.  A! Just stop yelling.”

And somewhere around my eleventeenth cup of coffee, my mission revealed itself:  There would be a cheerleader in Germany.  But how?  Luckily, my youngest was “helping Mummy” at the time.

silly kid

And I realized that we were already surrounded by the makings of a kick-arsch cheerleader set.  This is how we did it.

1.  Cut strips of fabric around 2 feet long. (or twice the length you want the finished pom poms to be.)  We used fabrics of different colours and textures for added sensory appeal.  Lay the strips together in a pile.

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2.  Use a thin ribbon to gather your fabric strips in the middle, and tie the ribbon in a knot.

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3.  Grab a nearby candlestick.

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4.  Make sure it is the kind that is hollow through the middle.

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5.  Thread the ribbon through the candlestick from bottom to top.

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6.  Thread the ribbon through some pretty beads, to prevent it slipping back through the candlestick.  Secure with a knot.

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7.  Submit the finished item to your quality control team for vigorous testing.

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8. Optional Wait until quality control team is sleeping before sneaking the finished product into a box and posting to Germany.

And there you have it:  a sweet surprise that will enchant budding cheerleaders everywhere.  And for extra fun, check out A Couple of Craft Addicts Scrap Skirt tutorial and make one of these to go with it:

Get Scrap Busting!  (Oh, and if  you see copies of these projects floating around Etsy in a few months time, do feel free to link to this post and taunt the vendors about their super-original ideas! Hee Hee Hee…)

Oh, it is SO on! (buttoneering website launch)

Say, remember in my previous posts I mentioned the upcoming buttoneering website launch?  Well…

Hallelujah, People!

The time has come!  Today is the day!   But what the heck are we talking about?

Buttoneering is what happens when you round-up Stacy & Jacqui’s wildly acclaimed* Upcycling and Sensory parties, The Re-Creations team who brought you Wedstival 2012, and the can-do attitude from Mel and Lou of The YouCan Hub…  And then shake them all up and stick a button on it.  (these guys really like buttons…)

Buttoneering means you can have events you want in the way you want, however far off the beaten track it may be.  (Keeping within the laws of physics and current UK legislation, of course!)

Fancy dress wedding, or bride & groom want to splash down the aisle on a slip and slide?  Seems Legit.  Need a Starship Enterprise shaped pinata for your baby shower?  Of course, why wouldn’t you?  Maybe you’ve got big ideas for your kid’s birthday, but you’re not sure how to pull it off? We have lots of coffee and few inhibitions–get in touch!

The best part (IMO) is that all the proceeds from these amazing shindigs will help fund the work of TheYouCanHub and Re-Creations Project.  So while you’re partying down, you’ll also be supporting social enterprise and helping others achieve their goals–everybody wins.

So, in addition to the awesome upcycling you’ve come to expect from Re-Creations Project, you can also check out the Buttoneering Blog for how-to’s and posts on how to make your events as awesome as is humanly possible.  I’ll be offering my two cents worth on “Tutorial  Tuesdays” full of caffeine and sometimes messy DIY.  So without further ado…

Go check it out.  Follow the group on twitter, Like it on facebook and enter the launch competition for a chance to win one of 4 bodacious prizes!

Why social media vacations stink.

OK, so the blog posts have been nonexistent thin on the ground for a couple of months while I focused on some real-life issues.  The assumption was that by devoting less time to social media, I could be more physically present and get stuff done.  I could see it all: my house would be cleaner, I’d make lots of stuff, generate more income, and become a model of efficiency.  The reality?  Yeah, not so much.

A cleaner house?  See, when I envisioned all the free time I would have available for housework, I failed to account for one thing:  Procrastination.  85% of my domestic chores are completed when I’m actually trying to come up with a blog post, compose an email or some other online task.  Take away that “thinking time” when I’m physically cleaning the house, organizing uniforms and packing lunches and the housework disappears with it.  Instead I’ll fill the time by “doing stuff” which generally creates more mess.

Making more stuff? A really awful thing happened as soon as I started my blog vacation.  Crafter’s Block.  It seems that if I’m not blogging, reading blogs, commenting and linking to other crafting blogs, the ideas just dry up.  I turn into Chandler when he had to make a Valentine’s present.  

Generate more income? Well, yes and no.  I have picked up more shift work, which is helpful.  But shop wise, less blogging and less crafting means less traffic and fewer sales.  Not cool.

So overall, the blog hiatus has not had the desired outcome.  But perhaps the worst effect has been psychological.  When something happens in my life, good or bad, it passes through a sort of positive mental filter as I post about it.

For example, say my eldest oversleeps and mopes about, is late for school and at pick-up time I get a meaningful look and a note home in her bookbag– This is the kind of thing that  leaves me stressed, frazzled, and generally sure that I’m the worst parent in Reception year.  Then I tweet: “Doh! Last in the school gate again #caseofthemondays”.  Then I can post to the reception year parent’s facebook page: “We were even later than XXXX (tag) today–Do you think Mrs D will give me lines or the cane?”  (comment, comment, etc).  And by the time I blog about it, I can reveal the full contents of the note:

“When the class changed for PE, we discovered that in her haste to get to school, A forgot to take off her pyjama bottoms before putting on her uniform.  Please find enclosed.  PS: she’s not the first and won’t be the last! 🙂 “

So by thinking and writing about it, I actually manage to lift my own perceptions of the event by finding the funny side.  I may make someone laugh and in return I get to connect with other stressed out mums who have been there.  My siblings get (another) excuse to poke fun at me, and as long as I’m posting my mom knows I’m ok.

So I’ve learned my lesson.  Instead of abstaining from social media, I’ll be gradually ramping up the tweets & posts until next week and <drumroll> the Buttoneering Launch

That’s right peeps.  In addition to blogging for Re-Creations Project, I’ll be bringing our awesome upcycling action to the team at Buttoneering, creating more awesome events like Wedstival 2012. So stay tuned and keep your eyes open for Tutorial Tuesdays, where I’ll be showing you how to re-create some of our awesome stuff at home!

Wedstival 2012 Photos!

I know, we’ve been teasing you with previews of the wedding for ages.  And now its finally time for some of the photos from Wedstival 2012 to emerge!  The ones with the bride and groom are going to have to wait until they come back from honeymoon, but in the meantime we can walk you through the setup and shamelessly boast about all the prettiful things we made. What we love about this whole celebration and all the decorations is that it’s handmade, eco-friendly, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.  The cost was more in terms of time and effort than money, so it’s an effect that anybody could achieve.

For starters, here’s the view as you walk up the drive towards the Pavillion:

Check out all that lovely bunting, courtesy of our very own nimble fingers!  As you reach  the top of the drive, you begin to encounter some funky signs put together by the bride and groom:And some helpful instructions about what you should be doing:

And then you might go inside to check out the Pavillion.  And wow.  The first thing to discover inside is the amazing catering display. I’m not sure which was more incredible–the smell of all the amazing tea and cakes or their collection of vintage teacups!

We had a few tables set up inside, complete with the group’s handmade chair garlands and table flowers.

upcycled fabric flowers

Each of the flowers was upcycled from the same scrap fabric as the bunting and garlands, then attached to a brooch back or hair clip so they could be worn away as favours–beautiful and eco-chic!   The Pavillion was also the place where guests could place their cards and presents.

But one of my favourite views from inside the Pavillion, was actually the ceremony spot where the bride and groom would look out over their assembled guests:

I love the picnic blanket seating for the ceremony, and the “altar” made from apple crates that were borrowed from the awesome Ruth of the YouCanBike  project fame.  Exiting the Pavillion, one of the most noticeable attractions was Andy’s beautiful vintage photo booth. 

It would have been churlish not to have a go! On the beautifully papered walls, you can spot a selection of frames that were sourced and revamped by the fine folk at the Wednesday group.  And next there was a Polaroid “guest book” table where visitors could take photos of themselves with all the available props and pin them up with their advice and wishes for the bride and groom.There was a great under-cover chillout space next door where you could lounge underneath the fabulous bike-tire chandelier, and even more miles of bunting!

From there, you could watch the other partygoers try out some fun carnival games.

Or sit down to watch the ceremony with a lovely cup of tea.

And here are some of my favourite views and details from the day:

The Ceremony Spot

Andy’s funky leg planters

The garden party in the sunshine

guitar pick buttonhole, plectrum flower

The guitar-pick flowers we made for the groomsmen to wear, and

The miles and miles of upcycled bunting!

If you’re planning a celebration of your own and like any of the decorations or ideas you see here, there’s good news!  Follow @buttoneering on Twitter or Pinterest for news about the launch of a spanking new wedding/events service with workshops, tutorials,  prop hire, and custom-made swag for a party that reflects your own personal style.  Keep watching–this is going to be good!

Pitfalls of upcycling at home

If you check out my right sidebar this week, you might notice a new “piece of flair”.  Yep.  A Mumsnet badge.  They finally let me join their blogging network.  It was the least they could do, given that their forums are the number one barrier to my productivity!  So just for the other Mumsnetters out there, here’s a post all about trying to work from home and some of the challenges  to getting the job done.

AIBU being my main challenge to getting the job done…

Even though Re-Creations main activity is helping people with disabilities through upcycling groups, sometimes (often) there is just more work than we can finish at group.  Which means Mummy gets to work from home.  And while I had visions of blissfully crafting away with the children, with a full pot of coffee on the go and maybe Pride and Prejudice on the DVD player, the reality falls somewhat short of expectations.

Children:  My last post illustrated exactly how my kids participate in the crafting process:

Taking mummy’s craft things and tipping them out on the floor is their main contribution.  This is especially helpful when everything has been pre-sorted by colour and size.  It does give me a warm glow when I hear them say things like,  “When I grow up, I’m having a hammer like mummy’s”.  (Take that, traditional gender roles!) But the glow tends to fade just a bit when you catch them “fixing” the TV with their toy mallets.  And Colin Firth on the telly?  Yeah, right.  With tots tumbling underfoot, the best you can look forward to is an endless loop of SpongeBob and Willy Wonka, which, lets face it, is one of Johnny Depp’s less fanciable roles.

Fuzzies:  In addition to the kiddiwinks, I’ve found that pets are also keen to join in the upcycling fun.  And not just mine.  Cats have been known to travel from 3 gardens over when there’s some scrap bunting afoot.

 

Cute, right?  Yeah, they’re not even my cats.  Mine is much worse.  He thinks he’s in charge of the proceedings, and has very strong opinions on how this bunting should be arranged.

Boomer, the frustrated bunting designer.

Storage: Every work-at-home mum has to deal with the issue of separating work-space from living-space.  With upcycling, this can become a challenge because almost any piece of trash has the potential to become your raw materials. If you train your brain to look at rubbish in terms of what you can make from it, it can get a little difficult to throw things out.  Sometimes, you might even seek out certain types of rubbish.

Like today, I bought some eggs at the supermarket.  No big deal, right?  Except I already had eggs.  I didn’t buy more just because of their super-low price or because I wanted to make hubby his favourite omlettes for tea.  (Shh, he doesn’t need to know that!)  I bought these eggs because they came in a green carton, which I wanted to make into flowers to add to my egg carton fairy lights.

upcycled flower lights

Totally worth it.  But it also means that storage becomes a major issue if you want to avoid being featured on Hoarders: Buried Alive.  There’s a whole other post coming on how to organize your crafting space, but a big part of the solution is to make use of all of your available storage space.  Last week that meant…

The Loft Hatch of Evil.  Some super-bulky and seldom-used items just have to be tucked up out of the way, where we keep the Christmas things and the spare spiders.  Entrance into the Loft Hatch of Evil is not to be taken lightly, as it requires climbing all the way up the stepladder onto the step that is not a step.    The spider-death ladder combination is a helpful deterrent to hoarding.  It forces me to ask myself the question:  “You want to keep that…enough to die for it?”

The Fridge:  Major occupational hazard when working from home.  Especially if you had something super tasty for dinner last night.  It’s crazy.  If I’m delivering workshops I’ll often skip lunch just to keep my rhythm going.  At home, I’ll find myself wandering over to the fridge just to see if any new food has grown there in the last half hour.  Luckily several of the guys in the group are skilled at taking very unflattering photos of my butt.  (No, I’m not posting them here)  But it’s helpful to stick them on the fridge as a reminder that I don’t really need any more junk in my trunk.

Housework:  I’m sure my other half would be happy to testify that housework isn’t one of my preferred occupations.  But give me some invoices or a funding application to work on, and I’ll be damned if my skirting boards don’t suddenly need a good polish.  And that kettle could really do with de-scaling and I’m sure it’s been ages since anybody thought to pair up the odd socks…  If the house is clean, it’s a pretty good indication that I’m putting off something super boring.

Spouse : Young couple just married  groom kiss his pretty bride after the wedding ceremony  she is blond and wearing a nice diadem  background red roses and foreground yellow bouquet roses

The Spouse:  For me, the biggest challenge to the work-life barriers when working from home is definitely the DH.  (Dear Husband, if you’re not up to speed on parenting forum lingo)  From his perspective, what I do when I’m working from home sometimes looks an awful lot like what he does when he’s “playing on the computer”.  So it shouldn’t be a big deal to stop what I’m doing and hang out some laundry, right?  Or take his dog to the vet?  “But why can’t you sort out my iTunes?  You’re home all day…”      At the end of a day when I’ve transformed 4 duvet covers into 20 metres of bunting with the help of 3 cats and two toddlers, through endless episodes of Spongebob Squarepants and while resisting the allure of a fresh packet of custard creams, the DH is duty-bound to ask “Why is it so messy in here?  Is there any dinner?”  At moments like those, the only thing that prevents me from introducing my spouse to the business end of my frying pan is the sure knowledge that upcycling at home is probably just a little easier than…

trying to upcycle in prison.  Happy Monday!

 

 

 

Women’s Social Leadership Awards 2012

With all the talk about awesomeness around here recently, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what’s happening tomorrow.  You see, at hub Westminster Central London, the 6th Annual Ogunte Women’s Social Leadership Awards will take place.  If you aren’t familiar with them, Ogunte is a Social Innovations Development Company that focuses on social ventures led by Women.  Each year, they host these awards to recognize and celebrate the achievements of women both in the UK and abroad whose leadership and innovation have made a positive social impact. In other words, these women are heavy hitters who take awesomeness to a whole other level!

There are 9 finalists in three areas:  Leader in the Workplace, Social Business Leader, and Campaign Leader.  In addition to the awards, there will be a number of inspiring speakers, including Melanie Stubbing of Weight Watchers Europe, Diane Verde Nieto of Positive Luxury.com, and Laura Haynes of Appetite, UN Women, UK National Committee and Design Business Association (DBA).  Phew!

But, why am I all fired up about this? (Apart from the fact that these are all just generally cool people doing great things?)  Because…   I get to go there!

It just goes to show, that when you associate with groups like The You Can Hub, cool things tend to happen to you.  And as a result is I’ll be travelling down to London with YouCan’s own Lou Shackelton to cover the event on Twitter, while Mel Findlater provides remote social media support.

So,  I get to:

  • a) work with the YouCan guys,
  • b)meet amazing, inspiring women, and
  • c) tweet the whole time without being considered rude.

If we could throw in an upcycled bike tire somewhere, I’d be in Nirvana.  (The state of profound peace, as opposed to the grunge band. Which would cool in a very different way.)

The only drawback to the event is that standing alongside such accomplished and talented people gives you an amplified opportunity for… appearing a doofus by comparison.  While I’m covering the proceedings and using all the right twitter handles and hashtags, a special part of my brain will focus on not falling down, spilling stuff or breaking things.  If you know me in real life, you know what a challenge that is!  Gravity, it would seem, has a rather special interest in me.

I urge you to take a look at Ogunte’s website and Scoopit to find out more about how they support and recognize socially innovative women.   Also, check out You Can’s Pinboard of all the WSLA Finalists.  I’ve been really inspired reading about  their accomplishments and wish them all a safe journey and good luck for tomorrow night.  Provided I escape any embarrassing catastrophes, you can watch events unfold by following @ogunte and #wsla12 on twitter.  With any luck, the people I meet will perceive me as a talented tweeter–instead of a twit!