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Blossoming

I’m 38 weeks pregnant today… feel like I’m about to burst, but I’m in good company as everywhere seems to be suddenly waking up and blossoming :-)

I’m tired and can feel I’m slowly closing, spiralling into myself: very, very soon we will be welcoming this Little One into our hearts and arms. Time seems to be slowing down and speeding up, all at the same time… I’m ready… I think!

Here are some snapshots of what’s happening around here…

1(The bottom right photo is of a pot of bulbs that our lovely friend Dorothy gave us at Christmas-time: it was planted to come into bloom when Baby was due. It is now in bloom as we wait these last few days! What a thoughtful, heart present; I just love it)

2(Tadpole season down the boreen… beyond exciting for small people… and their parents!)

3(We found a small skeleton in the willows. We think it is a small fox: a few months ago a friend of ours was over and spotted one that looked unwell. When we went out to investigate it was gone. Today we found this skull and the boys googled fox skulls and they reckon it is, indeed, the remains of the little fox. Another exciting find!)

 

 

 

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WIN! 6 month Netflix Subscription and TurboFast Goody Bag!

I’m delighted to be able to offer a chance to win a fantastic 6 month Netflix Subscription and TurboFast Goody Bag here, thanks to Netflix ~ details below

We haven’t had a TV for years. As soon as we got broadband, as opposed to dial-up, we got rid of the telly and did all our viewing on the computer. There were many pros to this: we choose precisely what we wanted to watch, and when, and the internet-full of content. There were many cons too: it was dependent on the quality of broadband, often lagging and frequented by pop-up ads (only some of which could be blocked by ad blockers)

Recently, we started using Netflix, and the comfort and ease of watching has just increased several-fold. Netflix can be used on all computers as well as mobile devices, in fact, anywhere you can access the internet; Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, X-Box, Wii.

There are many advantages of Netflix: There is a section for all the family, profiles for up to five individuals, so it easily caters for the average family, this means that the children’s section has only kids stuff, and so there is no inappropriate content for their eyes.
There is a huge selection of movies and tv programmes, all categorized into different genres, such as Action and Adventure, Romantic etc. As well as having the golden oldies, they have a lot of the up to date modern programmes, like the Netflix Originals “Orange is the New Black” and the award winning “House of Cards” (which we just finished watching: dark, gritty and brilliantly written)

Also the feature my husband likes best: it resumes where you left off, and will do that on whatever you watched last. It also has the added aspect that it comes up with viewing suggestions based on your profile and what you have previously watched.

Not only does it have a great range of programmes for kids, it is a very safe environment for them to use. Netflix also have original kids content: new episodes of Turbo FAST that will be available for streaming in early April. This is Netflix’s first original series for kids and became an instant hit across the world when it was launched last Christmas.

To celebrate, Netflix is giving a prize of a 6 month Netflix subscription and a Turbo FAST goody bag here on my blog. You have three ways to enter to increase your chances of winning!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please Note: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team so I’ll be bringing you an update from time to time of what they have to offer. This is a sponsored blogpost, although all the opinions here are my own.

Comforting, Easy Bakes...Feck-It Style

Comforting, Easy Bakes…Feck-It Style

(I apologise for being AWOL at the minute: I am part of the team who have started Parent.ie – a website which is “a new take on parenting websites, covering a wide range of topics relevant to real Irish parents” It is wonderful, but takes up a lot of time for me at the minute as it’s a huge learning curve and my brain is at a constant go-slow… only a few weeks left before Baby makes an appearance :-)  I’ve several posts half written for my own, badly neglected blog here… I’ll try get myself in gear over the next week… but until then, enjoy some easy cooking!)

I’m not sure about you, but these days, I want easy, flavoursome food with minimal effort (maybe I should clarify and say I want this all the time, but there are days I’m willing to put in some extra effort)

I also want something that everyone will eat and won’t break the bank. These are vastly changeable; I find quiche to be the most wonderful “feck-it” bake of all. So there I shall start…:

Quiche

I usually make my own pastry, but when I’m feeling less virtuous (and pastry, after all, is not rocket science, nor is it difficult to throw together) I unroll some that I keep in the fridge. I buy puff pastry when I’m in Lidl; it’s not expensive, keeps a week or two in the fridge and is ready when you are.

In a buttered tin (I have a fluted tin), I press the pastry into the tin, then bake blind using chick peas as baking beans I keep for such a purpose. While it is baking (10 minutes) I root around for bits to fire in: cheese (even stuff that’s not looking great, a bit of judicious shaving of mouldy bits and I grate it up. Mould on cheese isn’t that bad. I’ve decided anyway) I had a wedge of brie I used last week, just cut off the rind and chopped it up. It was rather fine.

I always have a few tomatoes, even two or three cherry ones chopped up. And I always have an onion.  Any other veg like courgettes or peppers; meat like bacon, chicken, ham can all find a place in a quiche. I lightly fry up these (in coconut oil, delicious) especially the onion.

In a large-ish bowl I whip up anything up to three eggs (whatever I have) and some creme fraiche or cream or sour cream or natural yougurt (I told you this was a feck-it recipe) You are aiming for about a cup of the dairy. (I welcome suggestions of non-dairy that I could use!) Into the eggy mix, I stir in the cheeses and any ingredients that aren’t cooked.

In the baked pastry case, I put the onion and any cooked bits, then the eggy mix on top. I give it a quick stir around and fire it into a moderate oven to cook for 20 minutes or until set in the middle.  So simple and so delicious **salivating**

Spud Bake

Comforting, Easy Bakes...Feck-It Style

This evolved from something Jane over at That Curious Love Of Green posted on her Facebook page a while ago. She grated courgette into some potatoes to bake them. I tried it, and it was indeed incredibly creamy and delicious. I quite fancy those small salad potatoes at the moment, and they are perfect in this.

In a large baking dish, I chop up the salad potatoes in quarters or halves. Into this I add some, or all, depending on what I have:

grated courgette (or any other veg)

finely chopped onion

spring onion

garlic

grated cheese (If I am adding cheese, I add it near the end)

… or anything else you fancy. Enjoy!

 

 

Trust

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This word had been my salve over the past few months…

I have felt like “life” has been doing its own thing; things are moving so fast, sliding between my fingers, slippery, half formed: I can’t catch them and I can’t make sense of them until they have suddenly realised, transpired and I realise I had no control over them in the first place anyway.

I know we have no control over anything in life really: it’s an organic unfolding process that does it’s own thing. We can pull against or go with the flow. And often just be washed along in the torrent.

Things are changing fast around here, great changes over the next while, and I, in moments of complete anxiety, just hear and see the word trust over and over… and it brings such great peace.

 Trust what’s happening.

 Trust it will be okay.

 Trust all is well.

 

(I am part of the Design Team for a new challenge blog my sister Eithne, and the lovely Michelle have set up: Craft for the Craic. Every month they have set a new Craft Challenge based around a word: this month it is Green. Check out the blog here and join in! All arty/crafty adventures are welcomed; it’s a great way to see how different crafts explore the same topic in such unique ways)

A Visit To Woodville Gardens

Last Sunday we went to visit a walled garden near Loughrea, Co. Galway, called Woodville Walled Garden.  Woodville House has a long and fascinating history, you can read about it here, connected to Lady Augusta and the nearby Coole Park in Gort.P1010953This garden, which, by 2005 was being used as a farm field, started its transformation that year, and nine years later is blossoming into something really, really beautiful, thanks to the vision of its owners; Marie the Head Gardener and the numerous volunteers. P1010944 P1010961 P1010947

They held “Snowdrop Day” there on the 8th of February; we didn’t manage to make that day, but went over the following day.P1010969 P1010968Despite it being bitterly cold, the rain held off the entire time and we had a lovely walk and tour around the gardens.

P1010955P1010949P1010956There is a museum, cafe and little shop in the old stables. It is so well worth a visit, and we are already looking forward to going back in Spring and Summer to see how it has bloomed.

A true hidden treasure.

Pasta Bake and Mars Bar Cake

Today was wild. Apparently, thirty minutes away there was a mini tornado! After a quick run around outside this morning, everyone retreated indoors as the weather progressively worsened. And what do you do when you can’t go out? You bake.

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I made pastry last night in anticipation of whipping up a few apple-tarts this morning, but Grace declared today “Celebrate Daddy Day” and asked could she bake too. James was not to be deterred from anything exciting involving dough, flour, pastry cutters and the chance to make a fine old mess. Then Liam and Michael decided that they would pitch in too. So I was allowed to advise from the sidelines as Grace and Liam made apple tarts and Michael made mini tart-men (dough cut into man-shapes and filled with grated apple. Super finniky) P1010975(Graces’ apple tart is the one on the left, decorated with pastry shapes of flowers, men and hearts “for Daddy”. She spent the entire time, correcting me  as I explained what to do, telling me how “Ma” (my mother) did it, and did it properly at that. Epic fail on my part obviously!!)

James cut out men shapes too, and made dough “yourds” [swords] for them. Then waited by the oven door for them to bake (no patience) asking me every few seconds: ”Done?!” Eventually they were (longest ten minutes) and he huffed and puffed and blew them until they were cool, then gobbled them up with relish…20140212_140149

Grace drew a picture for Fergal for “Celebrate Daddy Day”:P1010976

We are getting married under an arbour and I’m holding the new baby. It gladdens my heart to see that I’m several feet taller than Fergal in this :-D

We stopped for lunch: I made this pasta bake last night, still had lots, so we had it for lunch. It was y-u-m…

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Chicken and Chorizo Pasta Bake 

(This is another feck-it recipe. I got together whatever I had, and improvised. As I encourage you to do too!)

2 large or 4 small chicken breasts (I had roasted two large chickens two days ago, and so had two large cooked chicken breasts which I used)

I chorizo sausage, chopped

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

Dash of oil

Cup of peas (I used frozen)

Approx 250mls of Creme Fraiche or Cream (Or natural yogurt if you were stuck)

100gms (I used half a tube) of tomato puree (Or a tin of chopped tomatoes, or a jar of passata)

Grated cheese (however much you fancy)

500g Penne Pasta

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Preheat the oven 180′C

Put the pasta on.

In a large saucepan, I added the oil, and, when hot, tossed around the onion. If your chicken is raw, cook it now first. Add the chorizo and garlic. 

Add creme fraiche/cream and puree, stir it all around. Add the cooked, drained pasta, and toss everything so it is well coated in the sauce. Put into an oven proof dish, stir in the grated cheese, bake for 15-20 minutes.

After lunch, I made a Mars Bar Cake as I bought some Mars Bars yesterday with this in mind (and we were celebrating after all). This is a Nigella recipe and is as moreish and delicious as you would expect!

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Mars Bar Cake 

(This fast started to turn into another Feck-it cake too: I found a few chocolate santas and some caramel Roses sweets that I threw in too. I tried to restrain myself there)

3 Mars Bars

2 Tablespoons of golden syrup

100gms butter (real butter please)

Enough Rice Krispies to coat

200g chocolate

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In a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the Mars Bars, golden syrup and butter.   When they have melted, stir in enough Rice Krispies to coat, then press into a tin lined with greaseproof paper. 

Melt the chocolate and pour on top, spreading out evenly.

Let cool completely before cutting into squares and devouring.

Art, Frustration & Apple Tarts

The way it is with me is this: I don’t post for a few days, which then lengthens into a week; then over a week, and unless I forcibly make myself write, I keep putting it on “the long finger”…

Not that I don’t have plenty to post here, and take many photos a day… it’s like a chronic laziness. Or perhaps I will pull out my trump card here and say 1) exhaustion (only nine weeks to go until baby makes an appearance!!) and 2) The return of my pregnancy sickness, which has been truly, a miserable turn this late in the pregnancy. I’ve been pretty queasy the whole way through; but on the upside, it’s not every night, only every other night (I’m, bizarrely, sick from about 8pm until 5am. Just to keep me on my toes) So I will stick to my great excuses and continue on in this post to far more lovelier things such as…

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Apple tarts! (or apple pies as some people *mistakenly* call them, cough cough Maud)

(The marble rolling pin was a present from my wonderful husband, who, incidentally, loves apple tarts)

20140208_150332It was forecast to be a pretty miserable weekend, weather wise, so Butterfly Buns (in homage to my sister who is Butterfly Bun Queen) and apple tart and custard were the order of the day…P1010914

James and I painted on Saturday for a while: I’ve been fiddling around with arty ideas, but just nothing was working. I felt like I simply didn’t have a clue what I was doing. So I painted randomly; I’ll probably use these, chopped up, for something else (my sister has set up a Design Challenge Blog here for all sorts of craft goodness. The first challenge was something with “heart” in it. My heart attempts have been disastrous so far) Hugely frustrating. P1010916James, as soon as my back was turned, would do a sneaky paint job on my page, which didn’t help either… Scut!!P1010972

I’ve been also dementing myself with Art Doll ideas… I know what I want to do, but just getting there is proving a challenge. A while ago, I made these forms, and on Sunday I tried to bring them further, but it just wasn’t working (I think I need to stick with cloth dolls for the moment, I’m finding papier mache too slow) P1010974So I gave them to Grace to decorate. She did one on Sunday and one on Monday: I was blown away with her ingenuity and creativity- nothing holding her back. It was really a lesson in free expression for me. She just adored doing these, and spent hours (literal hours) glueing and sticking (all the while with her tongue sticking out the side of her mouth… just like her mother :-) )P1010971

Also, on Sunday, we went for a walk in Woodville Gardens near Loughrea, Co. Galway… but I’ll hold out and post that in a separate post or this one will never end…!

Paper Dolls and Blueberry Slice

For Christmas, Grace received, amongst others, a beautiful book called The Paper Dolls (by Julia Donaldson and illustrations by Rebecca Cobb) We were reading it last night and afterwards talked about making our own paper dolls… which is exactly what we did, today!

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(note the bandaged finger: we had high drama last week when Grace got a long splinter embedded in her finger; it came out on Monday thankfully after a very anxious weekend and many poultices. Homeopathic Silica eventually pushed it out over night on Sunday in the nick of time before we went back to the hospital. Whew)

After we made the small paper dolls, we decided to make like-size ones: we had huge rolls of paper, thanks to my parents; so we lay it flat on the ground, then Grace, James and Michael lay down to be drawn around (Liam wanted to draw his foot only!!)

P1010893We had such a laugh doing this! And when we had drawn around the figures, they each coloured “themselves” in. James even drew a car in his hand with all of us in it:

P1010896Once coloured in, we cut them out and dated each one. James’ colouring doesn’t show up here, but he drew in details like each finger and eyes, the cutie. And Grace coloured in her bandaged thumb for posterity…!P1010906The mad “creature” attached to James’ foot is Liam’s foot, whom he has called ‘Kevin’:

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At the moment the giant paper children are lying on the kitchen floor waiting for their daddy to come home, making the kitchen look like a scene from C.S.I. :-)

And whilst I am here in the kitchen, let me share a delicious recipe from the kitchen of Wholesome Ireland; Blueberry Slice:P1010875I was originally going to make this with raspberries, but I cannot eat enough blueberries at the minute, the cravings! I made this recipe for Blueberry Slice almost exactly (I just addded 50g more blueberries). A gorgeously fruity delight! Thanks Caitriona!

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The Cherry Farm: e-course Giveaway!

I’m really delighted to introduce Halina from The Cherry Farm who has popped over here to do a guestpost in conjunction with a giveaway for a place on her e-Course, starting on the 3rd of February 2014:creatingmagic

I’ve been a long time fan of this beautiful, gentle blog filled with gorgeous photos and wonderful ideas. The e-course promises to be an absolute treat, and we have one free place to giveaway on this blog!! Thanks Halina :-)

You have many ways to be in with a chance to win:

-comment here,

-like and share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc….

…and make sure to tell me so I can add your name as many times into the draw!

So, over to Halina…

Including Young Children in the Kitchen

 Cooking and baking with young children can be so rewarding for both children and adults.

 Some days you might prefer to just get the dinner done quickly and don’t want the extra work and time that it takes to include your children. I have those days and that’s totally fine.

By always rushing through the process, however, you miss out on a wonderful opportunity to work and learn together, to share one of the most important tasks in a family: preparing nourishment for bodies, souls and senses.

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Your children learn about healthy food along the way and might appreciate dinner much more if they are part of the process.

We always teach children important fine motor skills through various toys and gadgets although they could learn most of them by just helping you in the kitchen (and otherwise around the house).

Pouring, stirring and kneading are great activities for little hands. Yes, there will be messes and a bit of waste. But is it really a waste if your children learn early on how to feed themselves with good homemade food?!

IMG_2676Messes can be cleaned up together. Let your toddler wash the bowls or wipe the counter tops with a cloth (there are those motor skills again!) while you take two minutes to put everything away and clean up the bigger messes. Your child won’t only get better at working without making spilling everything  – you will also get much faster at giving them little jobs that keep them busy while you do the things that you want to do without “help”.

So what else could little ones do to help you?

  • As soon as they can stand up they can help you wash the vegetables in a bowl and hand them to you as you need them.
  • Another task for little hands could be peeling the dry skin off an onion or garlic cloves. They could also use a peeler to take the skin off carrots, courgettes, parsnips, potatoes…in the beginning that might result in peeling away the whole vegetable but they’ll get the hang of it eventually.
  • I always left my children handle knives (under close supervision) from an early age but that’s a very individual decision. We have a small red knife which they can use to cut soft vegetable like mushrooms.
  • If you feel comfortable with it you could let them grate cheese for you. Just tell them about the dangers but also show them your confidence that they can learn to handle these tools. Your kids will learn fast and be proud to be such a great help.
  • Kids can butter their own bread, cut cheese, wash grapes, crack eggs into a bowl, etc.

There really isn’t much they can’t do if you help them a little and show them how to do it.

IMG_2327 Once you are brave enough you can let them bake their own banana cake. Even a 2 year old can pour together a few ingredients that you measured out for him.

Provide the following ingredients in bowls, along with an empty bowl and a wooden spoon:

  • one cup of white flour (combined with 1 teaspoon baking powder)
  • one cup of wholemeal spelt flour
  • ½ cup of sugar (or less)
  • one egg
  • 1 to 2 ripe bananas
  • ¼ cup coconut oil

This activity is about fostering independence and confidence, so it helps to let go of perfectionism. Fortunately it is not important to thoroughly mix the ingredients so it’s a brilliant beginner’s recipe for a child.

Having fun in the kitchen and preparing healthy foods together is one of the best foundations you can give your child for a long and healthy life.

(This is a little excerpt from week 3 of my e-course “Creating Magical Days with your 2 to 4 year old”.) 

Tutorial: Easy 8″ Waldorf Snuggle Doll (with PDF pattern)

P1010870(These photographs were taken over a few days- and the body of the doll went from being purple to yellow! But needless to say, the colour is irrelevent; just so the photograph of the materials makes sense with the finished doll)

Here is the Easy 8″ Waldorf Snuggle Doll tutorial, with a PDF Pattern to download.  Should you wish to link, please link back here to this blog, and of course, if you make one, please do post your results here or on our Facebook page! Enjoy :-)

(P.S Make sure to check back tomorrow for a fantastic giveaway for a place on the Creating Magical Days e-course!)

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Materials:

7oz (200gms) Clean Wool Fleece (Sheeps wool. I was recently gifted Alpaca Fleece: haven’t used it yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as I do. It feels utterly, deliciously soft and warm)

1 1/2″ (4cm) wide stretch Tubular Bandage/ Stockinette 10″ (25cm) long (this is the tubular bandage that you put on actual injuries: you could try in a pharmacy for some if you don’t have a doll supplier: I got some perfect finger bandage in a pharmacy for the 4″ dolls)

Approx 12″x 7″ (30cms x 18cms) Dollskin/Skintone Jersey (you could dye a white t-shirt/baby vest with tea until the desired colour?)

24″ x 14″ (62cms x 36cms)Jersey/ stretchy fabric for the body and hat (Velour works beautifully, or an old babygro or t-shirt-top. For this doll I used a top witha bit of stretch that Grace had outgrown)

Strong thread (for face indents and under head. I used crochet lace thread: its very strong)

Needle and Thread

Measuring tape

Scissors

Sewing machine (OPTIONAL!! I hand-sewed all of mine)

P1020445-450x600Before you start, get to know the proportions of a Waldorf doll: The head is one quarter/part of the doll, the arms and torso make up another quarter/part and the lower body/legs  take up the last half/two parts.

Start with the head: You need to get a very firm ball as you will be moulding the shape of the head (I needlefelt mine to make it firm, but wrapping it tightly like here (the head moulding/ threading is more complicated, I am using a simpler version for this doll to get you started); or using a tight ball of yarn as the inner core of the head is another ingenious idea I came across recently here)

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Once I have a firm inner core, I wrap more wool around the ball, leaving some  hanging down under the head: this becomes the torso and keeps the head firm on the body. P1010786

Take your stockinette/tubular bandage, and stitch a running stitch around one end, pulling it tight to seal the tube. Turn inside out (Apologies, I know the stockinette looks a tad dodgy)P1010789 Pull the bandage over the wool “head” (I cut off the excess once I was happy it came down far enough)P1010791Tie tightly under the head where the neck would be (Using strong thread/crochet cotton)P1010814 There are many different ways of tying the head in order to make the facial indents to mould to face. I am using a very smple one here, perfect for this doll.

Taking the strong thread, double it over, and then tie halfway down the head. PULL TIGHT! And knot at the back. P1010815 For the nose (you could skip this part and draw/stitch the nose on after): draw a circle under the facial indent as a guide. Take your needle, threaded with a doubled over piece of thread, and imagining a clockface as a guide:

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start at 12, bringing the thread under to 6, catching some of the fleece fibres as you do.

Slipstich to 7, and bring thread to 1;

slipstitch to 2 and bring thread to 8.

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Continue the whole way around, pulling on the thread as you go, catching a wisp of fibres to create a little bulk in the nose…

P1010817 Next, using your skintone jersey fabric/dollskin, wrap a piece around the head, making sure to pull it with the stretch going around the head:P1010818

I pin it in place, then cut off excess, making sure I have enough to fold over each side, then sew it up the back, keeping the fabric pulled firmly:
P1010819 For the top of the head, i fold the fabrib down onto itself making the least bulk, and stitch in place:P1010820 Tie firmly with strong thread/cotton under the chin again. A little person is emerging :-) P1010821For the body: Print out the pattern onto A4 paper, and cut it out. Fold over the fabric, so the wrong side is facing out, and draw the pattern onto it. Pin the two pieces of fabric together so it doesn’t slip while you are stitching it (right sides facing each other)P1010822 Sew on the line, leaving the neck and hand spaces free. Carefully cut around, leaving a generous 1/4″ (1cm) seam allowance.P1010832 Turn the right way out, and you have the little body!P1010834 To make the hands,  cut out the pattern, fold over the fabric or cut four pieces (I find folding the fabric over and sewing on the double keeps the stretch correct) Sew on the line and  thencut out (Keeping the stretch of the fabric going accross the hands)P1010835 Here are all your pieces so far: head, body, hands.P1010839 Turning the body inside out, fold back the seam allowance at the cuff. P1010840 Stuff the hand firmly with wool fleece, then insert it into the cuff:P1010842 Leaving the seam allowance showing.P1010841 Sew around the hand-wrist, attaching firmly.P1010843 Turn it all right way out again.P1010844 Using a knitting or crochet needle, stuff the body with wool fibre, moving and adjusting it with your hands as you go to get a pleasant shape (ours like soft and cuddly, not to firm)P1010845 Put in the head: you will possibly have to re-adjust the wool stuffing when the head goes in, as I had to do here.P1010846 Too bulky and stuffed!:P1010847 Some of the plump removed… Once happy with the shape, sew the head onto the neck. I sew around a couple of times: small, tight stiches to ensure it stays in place.P1010848 [I should have sewn on the face next!! Anyway... moving swiftly on...] Next, I sewed the hat: cut out the pattern, place on the fold of the fabric, draw out, then sew. Cut out, leaving the seam allowance. P1010851 Fit onto the head, moving and adjusting until you are happy with placement…P1010852…then with small stitches, sew on.P1010853 As mentioned above, this next step “should” have been completed before the hat was put on, but at this point I sewed on the face:P1010854 And with a wax crayon, smudged on some pink cheeks:P1010855 And there you have it! Enjoy the joy it brings your Small Ones :-) P1010856 P1010857

PDF PATTERNS:

Snuggle Baby Pattern Part 1 PDF

Snuggle pattern Part 2 PDF