Houghton Watermill

One sunny Saturday, the Craftyguider family plus Mother-in-Law needed a day out.   Mr Craftyguider found Houghton Mill, a National Trust property near Huntingdon, so we piled into the car and off we went.


The mill was almost demolished until the local villagers joined together to restore it to working order.   It is in a gorgeous position on the Great Ouse river, and many people were using the water around the mill for punting, kayaking, canoeing and swimming while we were there.



We arrived just before lunch and so had a lovely lunch in the tea room.   There were the usual jacket potato, sandwiches and kids lunchbox selection.   They made up sandwiches to order, and we went back later on for drinks and ice creams.

With the Craftyguidelets in tow, it was important to keep them amused, and there was a great booklet available to buy to do that.



The booklet gets you to look for the yellow rats which refers you to the relevant section of the booklet.   It was also useful for the grown ups to get extra information on a self guided tour around the mill.   There were also lots of other child oriented activities dotted around including a telescope to spot wildlife through.

A couple of the most popular activities for the Craftyguidelets were the model of the mill and making flour.

The mill model included tipping a jug of grain in one end, winding it through the mill using an auger, and tipping it out the other end.   There were also sacks to hoist up, and a working waterwheel.



Once we had dragged them away from the mill model, they then became addicted to the millstones where they ground their own flour.   I don’t think I’d be able to wait for them to grind enough flour to make a loaf of bread though.   Conveniently there was some for sale if you wanted to buy it.



As it is an old building, you have to negotiate low beams (not easy for a 6’4″ husband), uneven floors and stairs.

The mill also used to be a Youth Hostel.   I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed to stay there with all the rats around, and the beds don’t look that comfy.



The mill is still working, but unfortunately for us, it’s only on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays.



After walking round the mill, we went for a walk outside.   We could’ve done with a map as we took a wrong turn, but we just turned round and followed the path back past the swan and her cygnets.



The girls then got their bikes out and had a cycle round the grassy car park, before we went back home.

The wheat milled in Houghton Mill is grown at another National Trust property at the Wimpole Hall estate.   Perhaps that will be our next trip.

Clothkits Shift Dress

Very occasionally (ahem!) I visit Hobbycraft and buy essential (ahem ahem!) crafting supplies.   One essential purchase was a Clothkits shift dress kit in the sale section.



The price was reduced from £19.99 to £10 which was at a level where even a finished dress would be as expensive.   They had an age 4-6 pack in youngest Craftyguidelet’s favourite pink colour so into the basket it went.

Clothkits contain everything you need to make the dress.   In this one there were buttons, thread, lining fabric and printed fabric with all the pieces marked out in the three sizes.   The fabric was used as a pattern for cutting the lining, and the instructions were really clear.   Even after sewing one shoulder seam back to front and then inside out, I still managed to complete it in an afternoon (along with all the normal school runs, meal preparation etc.).

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I can’t believe how professional it looks!   Most importantly Craftyguidelet loves it and wore it the following day.   It survived a pretty hectic day in Legoland and is currently in the washing basket waiting for it’s next test.

The only criticism I have is the lack of size information to say what Clothkits consider the actual measurements of a 4-6 year old are.   Craftyguidelet is a slim 4 year old but I made the dress in a 5 year old size to give her room to grow into it.   I would say that it fits her now so perhaps I should have made it in age 6.

My only problem now is that my 6 year old wants me to make her a dress.   Back to the cutting table I go.

Linking to Handmade Harbour’s Handmade Monday as usual.   Pop over to see what other crafters are getting up to.    Also linking to Crafty Girl Linky Party on EverythingEtsy.com for the first time.

Meal Planning Monday 20.5 13

Last week’s menu went well and most things went to plan.   I even made a veggie chilli which I batched up for the freezer for the days when the meat eaters are having the main meal.

What didn’t go to plan was my diet.   One of my Rainbows moved up to Brownies and presented me with a big box of Celebrations.   Well, it would be rude not to!   And watching Eurovision is always better with Baileys!

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When I’m planning my menu for the week, I use a pad from Organised Mum.

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The left hand side is for planning out the week’s menu, and as I go through, I work out what ingredients I need to buy and add them in sections – frozen, dairy, drinks etc.   The shopping list detaches via perforation for you to take to the supermarket.   The pad has a magnetic strip at the back for attaching to the fridge, or there is a hole at the top for hanging on a hook.   There is also a clip for a pencil at the bottom, so as long as your kids don’t run off with it like mine do, you always have one to hand when you want to jot down something midweek.

Monday – Fish Pie

Tuesday – Sausage Casserole (and veggie chilli for me)

Wednesday – Pie or Chicken Nuggets

Thursday – Spaghetti Bolognese

Friday – Ham, Egg and Chips

Saturday and Sunday – Flexible days in case of eating out, takeaways or using stuff up

I am also using up some of the contents of the fridge to make some pasta sauces for freezing, and I’ll also be doing one of my regular stock checks.   Perhaps next week will just be freezer dive week!

I am linking to Mrs M’s Meal Planning Monday blog.   Pop along to see what everyone else has planned.

Gluten Free Baking – Cake Angels

Over the next week or so I will have to bake a lot for the WI and school stalls at the local May Day celebrations, as well as when I host some Rainbow mums chopping fudge for the Rainbow stall (as bribery!).   This is in addition to preparing for the Guide stall when I will be selling my Craftyguider goods (no cake involved!).

As a warm up, youngest Craftyguidelet and I made some raspberry and white chocolate muffins.

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As daddy is gluten intolerant, we try and make gluten free cakes.   An excellent purchase recently was the Cake Angels book by Julia Thomas.   In the past I’ve used (and loved) Phil Vickery’s Seriously Good! books, but the recipes require blends of different flours, some of which need to be bought online from shops that charge large p&p rates.   The Cake Angels book uses standard gluten free flours available from most supermarkets.

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The recipe is for both dairy and gluten intolerants, but as dairy isn’t a problem in our house, I just substituted standard yogurt, chocolate and butter.

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The batter looked a bit strange when it went into the cake cases, but the finished result was lovely.   Little Craftyguidelet was very proud serving them to the family.

Julia Thomas started her dairy free baking following cancer when she was expecting her first child.   She then moved on to gluten free baking when a friend asked for gluten and wheat free cakes for her son.   She developed a bespoke baking service and couriered cakes to customers, before putting some of her best recipes in her Cake Angels book.

So far I’ve tried the Chocolate banana loaf, Lemon loaf, Sticky toffee traybake, Chocolate brownies, Lemon butterfly cakes, and Almond and cherry cupcakes, and all have turned out well.   You really don’t miss the gluten.

If you want to bake a cake without dairy or gluten, most cakes have a version contained in the book.   There are even frosting recipes at the back.     It’s a really good starter book for baking for intolerances, and as long as you can get hold of some xanthan gum which adds texture to the gluten free flour, you should end up with a great result to satisfy both intolerants and gluten eaters alike.

I bought this book myself and all opinions expressed are my own.   The only benefit I have had is the delicious cakes baked using the recipes!

Crafty Magazine

Yes, yet another craft magazine has launched, and another £4.99 of husband’s hard earned cash has been spent.

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The free gift on the cover of Crafty Magazine is a 30x45cm  piece of natural calico and inside there are 3 suggestions for using it: embroidering it, embroidering it and making covered buttons and stamping it to make a flower brooch.

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There are plenty of mentions of crafty blogs, websites, and books, and Sarah Corbett of the Craftivist Collective and Mr X Stitch will have regular columns.   Crafty projects include making a collection of bugs from fabric, customising pairs of Converse, making a geometric botanical sculpture (blocks of oasis stuck together and covered in dried flowers), re-upholstering chairs, a simple tote bag to sew, crocheted owls and a scary looking David Bowie paper doll.

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There is a strong emphasis on designers and artists, with Laura Clempson (Cupcakes for Clara), Iona Thomas (Graffiti Life), Mel Elliott (I Love Mel) and Perri Lewis amongst others.

It is a very ‘arty’ magazine in my opinion, and doesn’t really fulfil my requirements for a crafty publication.   Perhaps I am too old for an edgy mag like this.   I prefer a bit more craft and home style, but I will enjoy reading this copy and will keep an eye out for future content.   It won’t be added to my (many) current subscriptions though.

I bought this magazine myself and haven’t been paid for providing this review.   These are entirely my own opinions.

Living Crafts in Hatfield

Today, my 3 year old Craftyguidelet and I braved the mud at Hatfield House to go to the Living Crafts Fair.

The fair is huge.   It’s made up of lots of marquees with demonstrations of sculpture, oil painting, pot throwing, paper making, chainsaw carving and many, many more.   Alongside this are dozens of designers and makers selling their crafts.

If I wasn’t under time constraints (there’s only so much a 3 year old can take!), I could’ve spent all day there.

These are some of my purchases.

These come from Fiddley Diddley who also make little pottery items.   The pink birds are a gift for my daughter’s friend, and the Home Tweet Home bird is mine.   As a home bird and twitter addict (@craftyguider if you didn’t know!) it was perfect for me.

These prints are by Sheila Gill.   The boat will be my dad’s father’s day gift (rather than the usual B&Q vouchers), and the landscape (Perfect Day) is for me.   The photo doesn’t do it justice.   I could’ve bought loads more – if I’d had the money of course!

This will be my best friend’s Christmas present.   It’s a long story, but all our presents are duck related, so if I see something, I have to buy it!   It’s by Studio Pottery.

This jug was so pretty!   It’s by Sarah E Stoker from Barnsley.   She doesn’t have a website but takes enquiries via email sarahstoker@hotmail.co.uk   Another addition to Craftyguider Towers.

I also bought goodies from Emma Ball and Koruarts which I can’t show as they are gifts for people who may read my blog.

Living Crafts is on until Sunday 13th May and I urge everyone to don their wellies and go.

Cubby Kits Review

Having spotted a tweet from @cubbykit asking for bloggers to review their craft kits for kids, I wondered if I was the girl for the job: a) I have a blog, b) I love crafting, c) I have 2 craftyguidelets who d) love crafting and e) it’s half term!   I qualify and Cubby Kit agreed to send me a box to review.   Yippee!

As my girls are 5 and almost 3, Cubby Kit chose to send me a box suitable for 3-4 year olds.   A box arrived for 5-6 year olds instead which was OK as the craftyguidelets are both professional crafters after all.

The box is addressed to the children which made it very exciting when the postman rang the doorbell.   Inside, the box contained everything you need (and more!) to complete three main activities, complete with full, child-friendly instructions, glue and spreader, paints, paper, and three brown paper bags containing the three main projects.   This month the theme is Outer Space.

As eldest craftyguidelet has been poorly this half term, we chose to make the foam rocket and constellations wall chart projects as a team.

The first brown paper bag contained the precut foam sheets, foam stickers and double sided tape to make the rocket.   Both girls got the hang of what they needed to do, and mummy just applied the tape.   This is our masterpiece!

As we were making it, it sparked lots of conversations about space, what all the stickers were representing, where the rocket was going to and what it would be like to travel in it.   It didn’t take long at all to finish.

The next brown bag was the constellations wall chart.

There were four cards and a silver gel pen to mark the constellations in a ‘join the dots’ style.   This suited both girls, but the constellations were a bit wobbly!   Once the cards were stuck to the black paper sheet using the supplied tub of PVA, the girls got to decorate their chart using the pen and some glitter glue and foam stickers.

The other kit is a papier-mache sun, moon and earth to make which we’ll attempt when the bugs have left the house.

The girls both loved working together on their kit.   There were ideas that I wouldn’t have come up with on my own, and I do sometimes steer clear of paint and PVA in favour of crayons and stickers!   Cubby Kit also supply extra materials so you can go on their blog and look at other ideas, or just carry on creating your own ideas.

To find out how subscribing to Cubby Kits works, just click here.   I received the kit free of charge, but the opinions in my blog are mine and the craftyguidelets.

Stevenage Stamperama

After a really rubbish night with the craftyguidelets, I decided I was going to go to Stamperama.  I wasn’t going to go as I’d been to the Bluewater show last week, but I loved it last year so I went!    Husband broke his shaver and so he dropped me off at the door while he took the craftyguidelets round Argos and Costa Coffee (my 5 year old has a loyalty card!).

As I was on the clock, I did a quick recce round the stands.   Not as many bargain bins as last year, but still lots of lovely stuff to crave.

My main reason for going was to add to my Promarker collection.   Luckily I always carry my list with me so I could see where I had gaps in my colour range.   I got 10 for £15 which was great.   From the same stand I got a spare blending tool, white opaque pens to replace my used up ones, and these gorgeous stamps.

I always loved Sarah Kay images and I think I still have my sticker album from when I was little.   I would’ve bought the entire range of these stamps, but I was good!

I also went on the Meiflower stand and bought a few pearls, charms and gems and these gorgeous embellishments.

They’ll look great on wedding cards.

My other purchases were some embossing folders and a Tim Holtz die of a dress form and bobbin.

Watch out for some new cards coming onto the website!

Creative Stitches and Hobby Crafts (and Meanyjar!)

Today the snow held off long enough for me to get to Bluewater in Kent for Creative Stitches and Hobby Crafts.

It was the first time the show was in Bluewater at the new events venue there.   It wasn’t the biggest craft show I’ve been to – the Creative Stitches part was a bit disappointing, unless you wanted ruffle scarf wool!   There were only a couple of fabric stalls, not a lot of wool, and a few cross stitch places.   In the Hobby Crafts section, there were some absolutely fantastic card samples displayed.   I wish I was that talented.

Of course I still managed to buy a couple of bits.

I always end up getting buttons and ribbons from Fantastic Ribbons.   I also got a bunch of card candi including this fantastic print.

I bought some charms and other embellishments and couldn’t resist these sparkly purses.

And this pattern was just waiting for me to buy it!



But the best bit of the day was meeting up with @meanyjar.   When we found out that we would both be going to the show, we agreed to meet up for lunch.   As an after thought, we also went armed with hooks and wool for a crochet lesson.   After a few texts describing what each other was wearing (I, of course, went as a blue fabric cat, as in my twitter profile), we located each other and found somewhere for lunch.

After a lovely lunch and an even lovelier chat, Jeany treated me to a crochet lesson.   Unfortunately, I seem to have very disobedient fingers.   Jeany was really patient, my fingers were occasionally compliant, and I managed a bit of treble crochet!   I unravelled what I did at lunch, but I’ve since done this.

I know it’s uneven and probably has loads of mistakes in it, but I’m so pleased I’ve done it!   More practice, a better hook, and better trained fingers and I’ll be crocheting properly.   Thanks so much for my lesson Jeany!

After we said our goodbyes, I then had to run the gauntlet of the Bluewater shops.   Of course I got drawn in, and also got pulled into Hobbycraft as I drove past on the way home.

I also bought some bits for my Popular Crafts heart swap which I’m keeping secret.

And finally, I bought hubby a Creme Egg to soften the blow of the credit card bill!