Munchkin’s birthday isn’t for nine days, but her grandparents are here in Switzerland at the moment. So we decided to have a little party before the big one with friends next weekend. It just so happened to coincide with Australian Father’s Day, so we’ve had double the reason to celebrate!
I made a little gluten-free, organic, vanilla butter cake made with rapadura sugar and swiss meringue buttercream. Then I topped it with a Miffy plaque and candle I’d made out of modelling chocolate. Munchkin adores books and Miffy is currently one of her favourites.
For decoration I bought a couple of helium filled balloons and a cute little number one that were all anchored with some streamers.
So Munchkin, after her nap, was greeted with this… (along with four very excited family members)
She loved it!
After the prerequisite off-key singing, Munchkin was presented with her first ever piece of cake.
Devoured with almost no mess, I’m assuming this means it was liked!
Our little party was perfect and we’ve had a gorgeous day!
I’ve now got to get back to work for next weeks party!
One of Munchkin’s favourite toys, ever since we bought it for her when she was just 6 weeks old, is a soft ball made of cotton that has a bell in it. It was fabulous as all the seams are on the outside and she could grab, throw and play with it very easily. And as she’s grown, she’s continued to enjoy it. Almost every day it gets launched across the room or skittles over the floor, tinkling as it goes.
I’ve a couple of friends who are pregnant and so I went to buy some to give as gifts. Only to discover that they no longer make them. So I took this as a sign that I should change the pattern, make it a whole heap more colourful and get crocheting! The only down side is that Munchkin has discovered them and now thinks that they’re hers. It looks like I’ll be making some more!
I started this pattern in much the same way as I did the crochet baby noise makers. By filling a Kinder Surprise cylinder with popping corn kernels and taping it firmly closed. But you can use film canisters, small take away sauce tubs, anything that you can tape closed and that makes a good rattling noise. Or you could even recycle the rattle or bell out of an old baby toy.
Then you get crocheting! I used a 3.5mm hook and 100% cotton. Just check the hook size nominated on your yarn and adjust the hook size appropriately. You don’t want large holes in your work so that little fingers can’t pry out the stuffing.
Increase (2 single crochet in the same stitch) = inc
Cotton yarn in at least two colours
3.5mm crochet hook
Cotton wadding (using this instead of normal stuffing makes it much harder for little fingers to get at it, but either will work fine).
Plastic container insert from a Kinder Surprise or alternate small plastic container that you can seal.
Seeds, Grains etc
In yarn colour 1
Row 1: Create a Magic Ring and sc 10. Pull magic ring closed. Sl st in first dc, to join. (10)
Row 2: ch 2. dc inc 10. Sl st in second ch, to join. (20)
Row 3: ch 2. *dc 1, dc inc 1.* Repeat *to* 10 times. Sl st in second ch, to join. (30)
Change yarn to second highlight colour
Row 4: ch 2. *sc 2, dc inc 1.* Repeat *to* 10 times. Sl st in second ch, to join. Fasten off and sew in the ends. (40)
Repeat 12 times to make 12 circles.
Stitching below the last row of crochet using the holes in the crochet with a large needle. Stitch two circles together, using the increased stitches as a guide. Stitch between 2 sets of increased stitches as shown below.
Repeat with 4 following circles until your work looks like the image below. You need to stitch the sides together too, using the increased stitches as a guide again. Finish off and sew in your ends.
Repeat the above steps with your six remaining circles until you have two ball halves.
Taking the two ball halves, align the middle increased stitch on the open end of a circle with a seam on the opposing ball half. Sew together, leaving enough open to insert the filling.
Then, wrapping the shaker egg in wadding until it’s the size you want and push it in. This item is nice for younger children with less wadding making it softer and less likely to roll away. It also makes it much easier to grasp. For older children, you can make it firmer and the ball will roll if pushed.
Finally sew the remaining open portion together with the wadding and shaker inside. Finish of and sew in your ends.
I hope your little ones enjoy it as much as Munchkin!
My templates and tutorials are free for personal use only.
I thought I’d be shopping for publishers right about now. I didn’t tell anyone apart from my close friends and some family, but my grand plan for the first year after Munchkin was born was to put together a craft book.
I thought that every day I’d wander into the studio during Munchkin’s nap time and that by the end of a year I’d have a book.
We’re ten and a half months in, and I’m not even close.
What I do have is a pile of paper cut thank you cards for beautiful presents given to Munchkin. They’re so late that I’m not even sure I should bother sending them. She’s grown out of pretty much all she was given.
My gym/ pool/ spa membership has lapsed because I didn’t have the energy to go after my husband got home from work. There’s no point paying for something I wasn’t using.
My brain was mush. I had lists for lists for lists and I’d still forget things. Repeated trips to the grocery on the same day became regular.
The house was tidy (most of the time), Munchkin was clean, fed and clothed (most of the time), my husband and I were eating well (except for dodgy takeout Friday night). But in all other things, it felt like too much effort to tie my shoelaces.
I was more exhausted post baby than when I was carrying her.
“Baby brain”, They said.
“Motherhood”, They said.
I didn’t get depressed, but I got seriously concerned.
I decided to quit the blog. Then I got a commission for a magazine. It took every ounce of energy I could muster but completed it.
Where was the driven woman I used to be? Was this motherhood? Did I just have to adjust my expectations further? How was I going to stay sane?
It became clear that if we didn’t do something I would start to resent motherhood. The festering seeds of resentment had already started to sprout in other areas. Seeing DM leave for work each morning had me wishing I was getting dressed, eating breakfast and heading to work to do something productive.
We hired a baby sitter for two afternoons a week. Each time she and Munchkin walked out the front door, I made a beeline straight into the studio. After the 2 minute pity party when Munchkin stopped getting upset she was leaving me and instead waved goodbye with a big smile, I got to work. It felt great.
But then I got so exhausted that when they left, I went to bed.
I decided to put the blog on hold for a year. But then some of you gorgeous people wrote me encouraging emails, and I decided to stick with it a bit longer.
But still I had no energy.
I got frustrated. My fuse was short.
“Depression”, They hinted.
Maybe I wasn’t mum material? Was I aiming too high? Was it possible that our hopes of my continuing a part-time creative career whilst being a mum were just not possible?
“Rubbish**”, my brain said. There had to be something more wrong. If it was depression, I’d get treatment for it.
I finally took myself off to the doctor.
All it took was some iron infused and some vitamin B supplements.
The lights turned on.
Foggy brain started clearing within hours. Energy increased in the following days. Happiness levels rocketed. Creativity returned.
I hit the studio.
Then a slight bump in the road, the babysitter found full-time work and quit. But Munchkin was accepted into the daycare centre for two half days per week and she starts mid August.
I’m looking for a new gym membership. I’m back in the studio. I’m no closer to having a book, but I have some other collaborations and fun works in progress.
I’m giving myself an A for effort and a C for execution.
One of Munchkins favourite toys was this Pram Necklace from Littlephant that we bought her for her first Christmas. She adored the colours and the textures of the toy hanging over her pram. And apparently it tasted delicious too!
But as she’s gotten older it has fallen out of favour, she’s now showing preference for toys that make a noise or that we build towers out of and she knocks down. So I decided to make her a toy. One that combined the tactile nature of the Littlephant pram necklace along with a rattle and shake!
The fact that they’re also round and can roll a little way from her is also a good thing as we’re trying to encourage Munchkin to move. At present, she’ll just happily play with whatever she can reach or make big eyes and pout until her father gets the toy she accidentally just launched.
These are what I came up with. They use the plastic insert from a Kinder Surprise filled with various noisy items. For these I used whatever was handy in my kitchen cupboard. Popcorn kernels, quinoa, rock salt and sunflower seeds were put in the shakers and they were closed and taped up. Each has a very distinct sound in comparison to the others.
I then added some decorative embroidery with contrasting cotton. Stitching in and out of the holes between the crochet stitches. This has two benefits, it makes the cotton wadding surrounding the Kinder insert pretty much impossible to pry out by tiny fingers and it looks pretty!
I used some of my remaining cotton wadding from my quilt rather than normal cushion stuffing also because it’s nice and firm, making it hard for little fingers to get out and it makes crocheting the Kinder insert into the ball much easier as you’re less likely to get your hook caught up in tons of little fibres.
To start with, I put a small amount of my selected seed into the Kinder insert. I taped it up to make sure that it didn’t come open inside the toy and spill it’s contents. Mainly because this would stop it making a lovely rattle noise and as yet another safety precaution.
Increase (2 single crochet in the same stitch) = inc
Decrease (singe crochet decrease) = dec
Cotton yarn in at least two colours
3.5mm crochet hook
Plastic container insert from a Kinder Surprise or alternate small plastic container (the ones in the vending machines that kids love and parents loathe would probably work well for this project too)
Seeds, Grains etc
Row 1: Create a Magic Ring and sc 6. Pull magic ring closed and place marker at end of row. Move stitch marker at end of every row following.
Row 2: inc 6. (12)
Row 3: *sc 1, inc 1.* Repeat *to* 6 times. (18)
Row 4: *sc 2, inc 1.* Repeat *to* 6 times. (24)
Row 5: *sc 3, inc 1.* Repeat *to* 6 times. (30)
Row 6: *sc 4, inc 1.* Repeat *to* 6 times. (36)
Row 7: *sc 5, inc 1.* Repeat *to* 6 times. (42)
Rows 8 to 12: sc 42. (42)
Row 13: *sc 5, dec 1.* (36)
Row 14: *sc 4, dec 1.* (30)
Row 15: *sc 3, dec 1.* (24)
At this point I placed a piece of wadding into the bowl of the ball. Wrapped the shaker egg in wadding and pushed it in. I then used my crochet hook to stuff more wadding in until I had a nice full ball. Then placed another piece of wadding over the top of the shaker, tucked it in nice and firmly and continued crocheting the Noise Maker closed.
Row 16: *sc 2, dec 1.* (18)
Row 17: *sc 1, dec 1.* (12)
Row 18: dec 6 (6)
Row 19: dec 3 (3)
Finish off and sew in the ends. I did this by taking a large needle and pulling the cotton through to the other side of the egg, in between the shaker egg and the wadding, and then cutting of the remainder. This left the ends well out of reach of those cheeky inquisitive fingers.
I did the same thing with the ends of the embroidery I added.
To add the embroidery, merely fasten on, and sew in and out in the spaces between the crochet stitches.
Depending on how much wadding you add and how firmly you pull your embroidery stitches, you’ll either end up with a nice round ball shape (lots of wadding, stitches reasonably loose) or an oval shape (less wadding, firmer stitches). I did two of both as the ball shape are a little too large for Munchkin to hold easily at present, but the oval shape are perfect! And they don’t roll away so easily, encouraging her to move in small increments.
My templates and tutorials are free for personal use only.
I started it before Munchkin was born. Last Summer, my friend and quilter extraordinaire Lynne, went with me via ferry to Thonon les Bains in France to pick out fabric. It turned out to be one of the hottest days that Summer and neither of us was dealing very well with the heat. I was seven months pregnant and feeling every bit of it!
But I was determined to get a quilt finished for Munchkin to come home in. So I waddled around Thonon and we selected the fabrics. Then over the weeks that turned into months, Lynne taught me how to cut the fabric out, sew it together and quilt it.
I struggled though-out the pregnancy. It turns out I’m not one of those people who glows and feels fabulous and honestly, I didn’t like being pregnant at all. Probably because it felt like I was unwell for most of it.
My sewing machine even attempted to die before I’d completed the project! It threw out springs and twisted bits of metal in a cartoonish fashion, only missing the associated “SPROING!!”.
Thankfully we were able to get it working again. And poignantly, this quilt turned out to be the last project I’d do on this machine. My mother gave it to me about 10 years ago, it was second or third hand when I received it and it had survived being lugged halfway around the world when we moved to Switzerland. But I now own a beautiful new machine, given to me for Christmas by DM and Munchkin.
At some point I gave up on having the quilt done to bring Munchkin home in. Only digging it back out to give quilting it one more try the day before I was due to be induced. I’d been having regular contractions for 11 days by this point. I was exhausted… and scared. In an effort to distract ourselves, DM commenced painting a robot and I finished quilting my quilt.
Amusingly you can see when I had contractions in the quilting. In places it resembles the monitor they plugged me into frequently over the last weeks of my pregnancy! The stitching goes from lovely, straight and ‘in the ditch’, to off tangent quite badly, and then back ‘in the ditch’!
Finally I packed it away, a little disappointed that I’d not managed to complete it (I had the binding and hand sewing to do), and we went to the clinic to meet Munchkin.
Munchkin entered our lives in something of a rush as I eventually needed an emergency cesarean. And she came home almost a week later swaddled in a super soft Aden + Anais muslin square instead of in one of my creations. I didn’t have time to feel disappointed. We spent the next 6 months learning about each-other, falling head over heels in love, doing all we could to help her thrive and enjoying our beautiful little spirited sprite.
Then, Lynne came around for one final quilting lesson and, at one point with Munchkin looking on, we made and sewed on the binding using my new machine.
I did the hand sewing, a little at a time, over the following few weeks (I’m not great at hand sewing, particularly when tired! ;))
And it’s complete! Almost a year since it was started my darling little girl is sleeping under it.
I love it. It’s perfectly flawed and I feel it tells the start of our story wonderfully.
I’ve been told it’s traditional to name a quilt and have it embroidered on the back. But I’ve been struggling to come up with anything other than “Contraction Quilt” which isn’t very romantic.
What do you think I should call it?
Quilting details: I used the pattern created by See Kate Sew as a guide but made a few changes. Lynne made up an alternate pattern piece that allowed for the triangle to have seam allowances added, meaning that it was much easier to get the points closer to lining up. The quilt Lynne made up as a test had the points matching perfectly! And I put my quilt pieces together randomly, only ensuring that the same colour didn’t sit adjacent.
Many of you who have followed ‘next to nicx’ over the years have probably noticed that it’s not plastered with my photograph. In fact, I’ve actively avoided putting my face on the blog as I’ve rather liked hiding behind my creations. I’ve loved letting them do the talking and showing off, particularly as I’m not comfortable in front of a camera and have tended to prefer being behind it. I am something of an introvert.
I thought that if my ‘face’ didn’t match what you thought it would look like, you’d be disappointed. A little like when someone creates a movie adaption of a book you love and they put what you feel is entirely the wrong actor in the part. The book is forever tainted by the awful actor and the mental image you had created is slightly overwritten.
I didn’t feel like the face of this blog. I was pregnant and fat and I’m still not back to my ideal shape. I’m sleep deprived, tired and have struggled with an iron deficiency. I’ve used all these as my excuses for leaving my face off the blog and to keep hiding in relative obscurity.
But all that comfortable anonymity has recently been stripped away. I was asked to complete a project (rather a splediferous one I can share with you in August) and they wanted to put my photo on it. After the subsequent panic attack, I realised that I can no longer hide. And whilst I’ve no plans of plastering my face over every post, I probably do need to share a little more than I have been.
Thankfully I’ve recently become friends with lovely and insanely talented Hayley Hay. She’s amazing! Hayley came to my rescue and took some really great photos of the Munchkin and I. Many more than was needed for my project. And so I’ve decided to share some of them with you and to say;
“Hello, this is me. Nice to meet you”.
As well as; “Check out my greatest project of all time! Isn’t she adorable?!”
Because Munchkin is by far and away, my greatest creation/ project/ job.
She is a handful. Just like her father and I, she knows her own mind and makes sure we know it too. She is also gentle, generous and kind. I’m adoring the personality that is emerging every day and seeing just how excited she gets as she learns something new. Just last week she learned how to clap her hands and so clapped proudly whilst saying “Yaaaaay” for about a day and a half. She clapped even whilst crying!
I’m a firm believer in “Do it once. Do it well”. And I’m doing my utmost to do it well with Munchkin. We have our good and bad days, and I’m learning to go with the flow a lot more. My perfectionist self has had to learn to be happy with ‘Almost perfect’ and more often with ‘Good enough’. It has been a challenge.
Just minutes before we were to start this shoot, my daughter decorated her outfit so badly it had to be changed entirely. And it was washing day. So she end up wearing a t-shirt, baby Converse and spotty tights in this shoot instead of the pretty dress I’d planned. I was a little disappointed. But after seeing the end result, I’m so glad! They show every gorgeous little squishy baby roll and her beautifully chubby belly. She’s thinning out a little now as she’s starting to move around a bit more.
This beautiful little one has taken all of my days and a fair number of my nights. Any any spare time I’ve had, I’ve been making but haven’t had time to blog.
It was starting to get to me. I hated seeing the blog stagnant. Even though I told myself it was only ‘maternity leave’, I seriously considered giving up next to nicx. Being an expat and not having easy access to family had meant that I’d not had time alone to work etc. I couldn’t see a way to make it work.
But a couple of my friends and my husband gave me a serious taking to, I’ve decided to keep it going. And I saw a need for a little me time as I’d started to feel like I was losing myself. Consequently, we’ve made some lifestyle adjustments. My husband comes home early a couple of nights so I can get in a swim/ workout and we now have a sitter come to look after Munchkin a couple of half days a week so I can get back to ‘work’. Munchkin has made a new friend, and I’ve finally got time to bake/ blog/ make and create!
It has the added benefit of making me feel a whole heap better and therefore, I’m a much better mother.
Good news! This means that the blog is going to get busier than it has been. All those half finished projects are starting to be completed and photographed. And I’ve a whole heap of new ones. So you should start to see a craft/ GF baking blog post every week or so. And I’ve a list of splendiferous things I’ve found whilst wandering around this new world inhabited by little Munchkins, I’ll share a few of those with you too.
Thanks for following next to nicx and for being patient all these months!
So see you next week; right now I’ve a tiny skirt and post to finish!
I feel a bit like Alice. I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. I’ve met wonderful characters who have helped, sometimes hindered and oft times made my journey fun or just a little less stressful. Everything in my life is the same and different. And I am now slowly waking up to reality. But an adjusted reality. A reality that includes a little person who has no respect for sleeping hours or schedules. Like the little white rabbit, I’m always late (which those of you who know me ‘off blog’ understand is enough to give me a conniption!).
The cause of this adjusted reality, she’s perfectly gorgeous. I’m in love.
Before Munchkin arrived, I was certain that my life would get easier. After 12 days in the early stages of labour I was exhausted and ready for the next part. And after hearing from others who’d been able to do projects in the weeks following the birth of their children, I was certain that the 2/3rds completed projects and blogs I had would get completed and after a week or two my blog would continue. After all, newborns only eat and sleep right?! I’d get all of my projects done and the blog would continue much as it had been *insert unladylike snort here*.
I should have taken heed to what my pregnant friends who already have children were doing. They were all planning ‘maternity leave’ from their projects and blogs.
Unsurprisingly I was in for quite a bit of a shock. I’ve gone from having many hours alone, to struggling to find enough time to have a shower, let alone finish a tutorial and write a blog. And of an evening I usually resemble a zombie and anything I’ve written makes about as much sense as if it were written by the aforementioned brain-dead one.
So it’s over two months since Munchkins birth and I’m only just making my way back to the blog. The tutorials and templates are on their way. But it’s going a bit slower than I thought.
Thank you to all of you who wrote to ask for the little shoes templates and tutorial. I love that you’re all looking forward to making them! But I have to beg for a little patience. They’ll be done just as soon as I can. Hopefully next week; but don’t hold me to that. The Munchkin may have other plans she’s not informed me about.
I’m not on bed rest (thank goodness!) but I have been ordered by my doctor not to do anything more energetic than a walk. Maybe she knows me too well… she specifically told me I’m not allowed to clean the house or start emptying cupboards. So I’m all ironed up and feel like I should be bouncing off the walls. But at 37 weeks pregnant, I’m fighting a persistent head/ chest cold and playing the waiting game… I’m continually tired and carrying what feels like an energetic and very uncomfortable bundle of elbows and knees.
Munchkin is running out of room and I’m running out of patience with being pregnant. But we have managed to get some stuff done!
We set up Munchkin’s temporary nursery. The rest of her furniture will arrive in a couple of months. But for now, we have everything she needs to start life. All of her clothes are washed and ready and she finally has her own space in the house which feels nice.
The reason we’re not overly worried about her nursery is that she’ll be sleeping in with us for the first few months. We’ve her Leander cradle all ready and waiting for her arrival.
On the days my brain works, and when I’ve not been trying to get all the paperwork etc together for Munchkin’s citizenship and passport or finding her a paediatrician, I’ve been playing with felt; making little shoes for Munchkin and for some friends who have recently had babies. I think I’m finally happy with the design. I love them in coral and grey! I now just have to work out the different sizings.
I can’t decide if I like the bows on the front or on the side. So I’m making Munchkin a pair of both!
We had a small get together with some of our friends on Sunday on the deck of my favourite gluten-free café in Cully. It wasn’t a baby shower in the traditional sense, but we really wanted to see our friends before we temporarily slip even further off the social scene after Munchkin arrives.
I wasn’t allowed to go all ‘Nicola’ on it. Frustratingly, all I was allowed to do was to book the space and to send out email/ Facebook invites. So it was a decidedly un-Nicola-like event, not a hot air balloon to be seen, but it was delightful nonetheless (DM soothed my ruffled feathers by reminding me that I have many, many future Munchkin birthdays and unbirthday parties to organise). And I have to admit, it was quite a novel experience not to have to worry about anything more than just turning up.
Munchkin received some seriously splendid gifts from our lovely and very generous friends. She already has a toy collection and wardrobe I’m envious of!
Some of our crafty friends had got together to create a gorgeous present for Munchkin. They each knit or crochet some panels and made them up into a beautiful baby blanket. They’d been sneaky enough to get DM to send them the colours I wanted for the nursery and in amongst the pretty patterns, they included a couple of sneaky geeky panels. One of a Dalek and the other of a storm trooper. It’s perfect and suits DM’s and my style exactly. I’m really looking forward to seeing Munchkin wrapped up in it.
I spent yesterday with my feet above my heart trying to get my swollen feet back to a size that would fit inside my slip on shoes and worked out this little pattern for a crochet aviators hat/ helmet for the little nephew we’re expecting in a few weeks. I then made another one for DM’s cousin who just had a little baby boy. I’m waiting for Munchkin to arrive so that I can custom make her one that fits perfectly.
I’m now 34 weeks pregnant and I’m feeling it! I look like I’ve eaten ALL THE CAKES and I’m now getting tired a lot earlier than usual. My social calendar has taken another hit as I find I’m needing more and more down time. But the Doctors say this is all normal and that Munchkin is perfectly healthy. So I’m slowly but surely working through the remains of my to-do list before Munchkin arrives.
This week I’m making her a cot quilt and trying to get the design for her birth announcements done. As I’ve never quilted before, I enlisted the aid of the lovely Lynne who is quite possibly the most prolific and fabulous quilter I’ve ever encountered. Under her expert tutelage I’m making fairly good progress and currently have only had to unpick about half a dozen triangles. I’ll keep you updated as to it’s progress and shall blog the finished product.
I’m also discovering that I get fairly strange cravings. After a horrendous night wherein Munchkin ensured I slept less than I thought was humanly possible, I found I was craving carbs and sugar. In particular I found myself feeling rather partial to one of my childhood favourites, pikelets, and so quickly whipped up a batch. They’re delicious! I used the recipe from the Common Sense Cookery book and substituted gluten-free flour for the normal flour. Voilà! Deliciousness on a plate! They’re perfect covered in jam and cream or slathered in salty butter. I’ve had to promise DM that I’ll make him some soon as I ate the remainder of them this morning for breakfast. For those of you who want to try them, I’ve put the recipe at the bottom of this post.
It was around about this point in time that my trusty old Brother sewing machine started spitting out small parts at me. Literally.
A little investigation revealed that these are in fact the pieces that turn the lights and power to my machine on and off. I can’t complain. The machine was my mothers before it was mine. And I know for a fact she inherited it from someone else. So it’s definitely seen it’s fair share of work and has travelled halfway around the world without grumbling, until now. The machine still works, I just have to power it on and off at the wall. And on the plus side it looks like I’ll be getting a new machine for my birthday! Any recommendations?
Gluten Free Pikelet Recipe
150 grams of gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons of gluten-free baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bi carb of soda
1/2 cup of sour milk or fresh milk plus 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon of melted butter
Sift flour, salt and soda
Place egg, milk, sugar and butter in centre of flour
Beat until smooth and a thick pouring consistency
Place a dessertspoonful into a teflon coated pan – cook until they brown, turn over and cook other side.