Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Going potty

free printable potty chart

Potty training has begun in the Make Do household. I may live to regret saying this but it's all going very well with hardly any accidents. There has been the odd glitch... like at a friend's barbeque when I heard K shouting "POO POO". I saw she had something brown on her hand (guess what?!) and her knickers round her knees barely containing the offending item. Later the same day I found my friend's son splashing about in K's full potty.

I was in no hurry to get K potty trained and wanted to take her lead, we've had a cheap Ikea potty and stepping stool lurking about just in case she felt the desire to hop on but she never did. It was seeing her friend at the childminder's go from nappies to 'big girl pants' that seemed to be the catalyst.

The first time I watched K sit on her potty and wee it was amazing, like seeing her first steps. We've bought her some proper knickers – they are so tiny like dolls ones – but she's still in nappies at night. I also bought some cute stickers as rewards: a poo means she gets a BIG sticker! I'd heard of reward charts and seen a few downloadable ones online, but thought I'd knock up my own, personalised one. Help yourself if you'd like a copy :)

(Click to see full size)

Monday, 22 August 2011

Trust me... I'm a designer

Splendid example of bad design by Craig Keeling

I've never really thought of myself as a 'mumpreneur' but I do work as a freelance graphic designer and have been since 2006 (before that I was still a graphic designer but an employed one) so I felt like I could join in the Business Mums Blog Carnival at Baby Budgeting without being a fraud!

I got into freelancing when I arrived back in London after backpacking. It was the quickest way to get work and then, by a bit of a fluke, I ended up landing a contract for the BBC. I worked on lots of well known shows on long contracts that paid well. And of course being freelance means you can claim some expenses too. Unfortunately the hours were terrible – 7am to 7pm on a good day with no lunch break – even my commute was spent catching up on scripts.

Then I had K and my priorities changed. Now I prefer short stints of work with design agencies. That way I get to spend time with K and, if I'm working, I usually get home before she goes to bed. I don't earn nearly as much now, but for me it's a way of keeping my hand in (I get worried that I'll forget how to use the programmes otherwise) and having the freedom to go out and get a job done without the constant distractions that a toddler brings, even if I do usually notice a sticky hand print on my work clothes halfway through the day.

Becky wanted bloggers to share their knowledge, so I'm sharing some design tips. Some things might seem obvious but I know from experience that there is often room for improvement, there are still lots of things I'd change on my blog if I had the time!

Top ten tips for blog design...

  1. Make your text legible. Dark text on a light background is easiest on the eye. Try to keep decorative fonts just for headings and avoid using script fonts all in upper case. Likewise avoid body copy that is all bold or in upper case (reading upper case is like having someone shout at you) and be warned that if you use Comic Sans you will go straight to hell. Lots of free fonts are available here from Dafont.

  2. Don't be afraid to show your personality. I recently saw that a quirky, fun blog that I liked had done away with everything that made it visually unique. It just looked like any other blog. Don't feel the need to copy what others are doing, don't be a sheep.

  3. Use images. Pictures tell a thousand words and a blog post with an image is far more appealing than just a bunch of text. Make sure you use images with cleared copyright, you can search for these at Creative Commons and you usually need to provide a link back to the author like I've done above.

  4. Limited colour palettes work better than a load of random colours, less is more! Take a look here at Colour Lovers and here at Design Seeds for colour palette examples.

  5. Embrace negative space. Not every last pixel of your page needs to be crammed full. A little breathing space around images, text and headers makes a page easier to navigate.

  6. Flashing things are generally annoying and distracting. I was on a website the other day and I needed their phone number but it was flashing which made it very hard to read. If you use animated images do so sparingly.

  7. Wordart is just wrong. Pick a strong typeface instead, it will look a lot more classy. Same goes for clipart - avoid unless you want your design to look like a bad sales presentation.

  8. Our eyes get strained when we have to read long lines of text. The optimal amount of characters per line is apparently 50-75 characters (tut tut, mine is longer than that).

  9. Keep it simple. Do you really need that drop shadow/embossed effect/outer glow?

  10. Rules are there to be broken. It's your blog and it would be very boring if they all looked the same so experiment and have fun.

Blog Carnival - Pink

Friday, 12 August 2011

Interflora {review}

pink peonies and rosemary

I've never had flowers delivered before and chose to receive Interflora's cottage garden hand-tied bouquet because it has peonies in it, they are my favourite! The flowers arrived by courier in a large box and were wrapped in lilac tissue with an outer plastic wrap and ribbon. They were perfectly fresh with no brown edges and smelled fantastic thanks to the rosemary sprigs that complemented the roses and peonies. Even Mr commented on how good they smelled which says a lot!

The plan was to give my Mum the bouquet while she was visiting for K's birthday last Wednesday (I didn't want it delivered directly to her in case my blog was mentioned, she doesn't know about it and I'd like it to stay that way). But the flowers arrived on Friday – my fault for not specifying a date, which you can do when you order via the website – so I kept them. You can also choose the size of bouquet and the option to add a vase, unfortunately the vase I'd asked for didn't arrive.

I think the prices are acceptable for a special occasion, it would be so exciting to get a surprise delivery. It's also a handy resource for any last minute panics which is what happened with my wedding bouquet. I made mine myself, but could I find peonies anywhere? No. Interflora have a 'within 3 hours' delivery option which would have saved me a lot of time, petrol money and stress.

white rose and rosemary bouquet
You can also find Interlora on twitter and facebook:

I was sent the bouquet free of charge to review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Simple chalkboard {Magpie Monday}

I just found out that my favourite local, annual boot sale lands on the weekend of a wedding we are going to; I'm quite gutted. Last year we went as sellers and had a great time and got shot of loads of stuff. The best bit about it being local was that we had SO much stuff to take along that we couldn't fit K's car-seat in the car so me and K walked along with the buggy and met Mr there! The other thing I liked about this sale was that the proceeds went to the Samaritans rather than lining the pockets of dodgy wheeler-dealer types.

Not to worry, I'm sure we'll find another one, or maybe two given the amount of stuff we have to get rid of again.

Last week we went to a boot sale in Addington and I found something I was after for K's birthday: a push along trike. It was £4 and the seller wouldn't budge on the price so I tried walking away thinking he would call me back, but he didn't so I had to return, tail between my legs, and pay the full price, pah! I also got a gorgeous, although impractical as it's wool and will need hand-washing, Zara kids coat and some baby converse for a fiver, and a frame for the blackboard project that I mentioned in this post.

It was a pretty hideous dark wood frame, and the woman selling it clearly took me for an idiot when she told me that the picture in it was "really old" (it was a cheap reproduction print of some godawful Victorian scene) but the moulding was very nice and it was only £2.50.

I started by removing the backing and glass and gave the frame a quick sand and two coats of eggshell white paint. When it was dry I lightly sanded the edges of the moulding to bring through some of the wood underneath and give it a weather-beaten look. I'd planned to paint the backing with blackboard paint but it was too bumpy so Mr cut me an offcut of MDF to fit.

The finished item is hanging in the kitchen where I can write my shopping list or sarcastic messages as I see fit.

I've linked this post to Liz's Magpie Monday, its her blog birthday you know and she has a lovely giveaway too so do go and visit!

Me and My Shadow

Friday, 5 August 2011

The Boxer

Please don't let me be the only one that does this. Actually, I know for a fact that I'm not as my Mum does it too and that's probably where I've inherited the trait from...

I collect boxes. The box my mobile phone came in, boxes from baby gadgets and gizmos, electrical product boxes are a favourite. They all get squirreled away in the loft in the, possibly misguided, belief that when I come to resell the item it will be worth more money.

I blame the antiques roadshow in part, you know the bit when the evaluator tells the old dear that her heirloom would have been worth £10,000 if it was in it's original packaging, but only a tenner without. And I blame those Star Wars geeks who never played with their toys. Seriously, what kind of freakish kid resists tearing their new toy from the bubble pack and playing with it. The kind that retires at 30 after selling their stash of mint condition AT-ATs I expect.

Having our own house for the first time means I can indulge my box fetish; it was hard to store boxes when we lived in a flat. Although the box collecting could be viewed by some as a kind of OCD, I think that as long as it's not got to Robert Opie proportions (it's not like I'm keeping Shreddies packs) then it's nothing to worry about and I should embrace my inner hoarder.

Image of very cool stamped boxes by Lovelihood


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