Getting things done

I had plans for today and I’m pleased to say that I got pretty much all of it done.

First job was to re-arrange the furniture in the attic bedroom so that a fairly tall cupboard that stores my daughters arts and crafts stuff was directly under the window up there.  This is the one room in the terraced house that gets quite a lot of sun, from when the sun rises behind the houses on the hill behind us until midday.  And even on overcast days it gets good light.  So the reason for wanting a work surface there is two-fold – I want somewhere to germinate seeds AND somewhere to take photographs of the things I make for my Etsy shop.

Second job of the day was to empty out all of the old compost from the pots in the garden and get it into the car and take it to the tip.  Done.

I then got the kids to help me with washing out all of the pots we own – they did the little plastic ones and I did the big earthen-ware ones.  And once that was done I filled the smaller pots with bulb compost, planted Summer flowering bulbs and topped each pot with a little regular compost and some Spring bedding.  The left over Summer bulbs were planted in random places in the garden although I’m unsure of how they’ll fare as the soil in the only bed available is very compact and full of roots from trees and shrubs.  I just figured that if the Bluebells could make it through every year something else might just manage it too.

Luckily this was all done just before a fairly heavy rain shower so that was pretty handy.

Tea was consumed and then the kids were restless so I took us all for a walk around the river which meant that we did about half the journey in the early dark of evening, so once we got home is was pyjamas and supper all round.  One of them is in bed already and the second is just watching Dr Who before I pack her off to bed so that I can try and get some dance practice in.

All in all I’m a happy bunny.

Picture of Santa

My son (aged three) has gone though a milestone I wanted to share.  This week he drew a picture of Santa.  In fact he has drawn multiple pictures of Santa.  What’s fabulous about them is that I can see they are a picture of someone.  To be honest they mostly look like Mr Tickle but I am loving the fact that he can now articulate more fully what is in his mind rather than it being a random scribble that to him looks fabulous and to me looks like random scrawl.

Santa has made an impact on him this week – we’ve been to two toddler group parties where Santa visited – the first was a pretty poor representation (although well meaning so I mean no disservice) and the second was a fabulous example of an amply proportioned man in a bushy beard and moustache with equally opulent costume, glasses and a cheery demeanour.  I recall being scared witless by my first encounter with Santa (when I was in Infants School at 3 years) and although my son’s general exposure to the man in the red suit has been less than favourable (understandable as per my own recollection) he has obviously been able to  compute his experiences this week and make meaningful marks.

To those of you who do not have children this will seem like a meaningless, boring and petty observation, but I can assure you; the point at which a child can meaningfully portray an image that they hold in their mind and that they can convey onto paper so that an adult can interpret the marks is a wonderful and meaningful one.


The body incorporates the head, but the head has eyes and a smile, arms have hands and fingers and has legs (no feet but I can forgive that!)

I hope that Santa/Mr Tickle makes you smile.  🙂


Fun weekends ahead?

So at the weekend we’re off to a small theme park in my old stomping grounds – it’s a place I last visited many many years ago when I was a little girl and that when I worked in the town used to drive past each day.

Me and the children are off to Wicksteeds in Kettering with the Single With Kids group – so it’s all single parents and their children camping for a weekend together in one big group.

*Pray for sunshine* everyone.  I would like this last camping weekend to be a good one, and the sun always helps.

The school holidays have been pretty good this year for us.  Last year was a dark time for me and as children are resilient they do not seem to remember that mummy was not *herself* this time last year.  That I am grateful for.

The next two weeks are something I have been looking forward to – this weekend we are away, then we come back for a few days and then we go off again for a seaside break before returning the day before school for my oldest.  Hopefully the sun will shine on both weekends.

As for me?  Well, I hope to regain some of my love for dancing (it has eluded me for far too long) and I hope to get back into a routine where I can start being as creative as I need to be.

Shiny Up-Date

The school summer holidays are well and truly up us now, so for me that means limited time to create, practice dance and choreograph in readiness for next term.

No matter.  I shall be doing what I can in the next month and we’ll see what comes of it.  And now, as a small child has fallen asleep (never good at 5pm in the afternoon) I’m off to dig out the last couple of my tribal belly dance bras and see if I can get some pictures for Etsy.

Plus, if you’re interested in coming to classes I’ve updated the Blackwillow Belly Dance website with dates for the coming school year.


The bedtime ballet……

…is in reality more of a fight.

This is about children by the way…

Yes.  I know it’s a bit warm.  And yes, I know it’s light outside.  But for heaven’s sake, surely after being up since silly o’clock small children with busy lives and full tummies should feel the need to go to bed, and sleep.

Not want to get into each others bunks, spill water, need their sleeping bags (sleeping bags!!) and generally feel the need to bang and crash around until I have to steam up-stairs and play the evil mummy card.

I’m no fun when it gets to this point, no eye contact or kisses or kind words, just stern admonishments that they should GET BACK INTO BED.  All totally lost on them the minute I close the door.  My almost three year old is currently over-tired and shouting for the kids who live across and up the road…maybe he hopes they’ll come and save him from evil mummy who keeps making him get back into bed….

Don’t they know I have to write a blog, do some dance practice, make a Mucha inspired headdress for the Etsy shop, do some more dance practice, think about how I’m going to cobble together a costume for Sunday’s performance at Hipnotic (for which I need to practice some more, did I mention that?)

I think I’ll go and eat some chocolate and hope they don’t smell it.

Spiderman and Supergirl

It’s a shame I’m so precious about posting pictures of my children online or you would get to see a cracking photo of my son (two years and nine months) in a Spidey costume (complete with muscles) and wearing a red sequined cowboy hat…..

For now you’ll just have to imagine it….

Two nights ago I wore a sequined Baladi dress for a talk I gave at a branch of the local Women’s Institute here in the UK.  I figured practice clothes were too boring, full on costume bling might have been a tad too much.  So I wore a Baladi dress and took some other props and based my talk around costume genres and changes within belly dance culture before doing a touch of teaching to end the night.

But the point is my daughter (aged seven) was blown away by the dress and asked if she could have it when she was big enough.  Apparently I looked like a Princess (sometimes even a compliment from a child is a massive compliment!)

Tonight, when she should have been getting ready for bed she decided to go and dig through the box of dressing up clothes and found an old Shalwar Kameeze dress (sans sleeves that I have used for a costuming project) and came down-stairs, resplendent, happy that she had something similar to what I had worn.

To keep up with the gang my son came down, Spiderman costume in hand, insisting he put it on.  I helped him put it on and much laughter ensued as they danced for me (he in costume and aforementioned hat), before they played Super-baby (where he jumps off a chair into her arms which always ends with a banged head to at least one of them and tears and a cuddle before bed).

Twenty minutes later, Spiderman and Supergirl (as he called his sister) were dispatched to their beds after the foreseen bump and a cuddle (by Supermum no less, although I’m pretty sure that internally they were calling me something less flattering).

Supergirl was happy to step out of her costume.  Spidey was less happy, and so he has gone to bed in a padded acrylic costume, worn over his pyjamas.  I guess I now have to go up and relieve him of his super-powers or I shall be awoken by a very hot, smelly boy at a ridiculous time in the morning (ie, earlier than I would like and not quite early enough to get another couple of hours sleep in before we all have to get up).

Wish me luck.

Being Ethical

This is about what I make as a designer and I dare say I may meander into other areas…..

Tonight I made this.

Titania Headdress

As Blackwillow I get to make and sell things.  I do this because I have a creative streak that really only gets going once the children are either in bed or when they are with their dad (ie tonight).

But, this is about being ethical.  Here’s why this particular item is ethical.

The fabric used for the base I bought some 15 years ago from a charity shop.  It’s a beautiful brocade sari and choli (I used a sleeve from the choli) and it’s taken me this long to get around to cutting it up because it’s SO beautiful.

But I had the urge to use it this week. The sari is hanging in my bedroom at the moment and may well become something else (a skirt or trousers).  The choli had been taken in at least three times so there was a lot of stitching to undo but it was worth it.

The flowers I have had in my collection for some time too but don’t ask me how long.  They came from a charity shop too as most of my items do – you can count into that the jewelry and the pearls and beads and lace that I added.   All of those things came from a good friend of mine who works in a charity shop and puts things aside for me.

The earrings than brooch that form part of the design are pretty old, probably vintage (I do as much research as I can into designs).  The beads and wire part at the brow were second hand.  Inside the base is a belt I bought some time ago (from…guess where, a charity shop) and the elastic that makes up part of the ties is one of the only things that was bought new.  So I can’t claim that the whole item is ethically sound.  Just 90% of it….. maybe even 95%…..

Why is this important?

Because if I use things that have come from charity shops (goodwill or op-shops depending on where you live) then I am re-cycling or up-cycling.  Sustaining the life of an item that someone had decided they had had enough of.

The recent upsurge in fast fashion disturbs me, even though it suits my single parent pocket.  Even more so that I am now reading *To Die For* by Lucy Siegle, and then two days ago there was the rehash of a Panorama (BBC) programme about children working in sweatshop conditions for one of the biggest retailers of fast fashion here in the UK.  The BBC said that they were going to apologise for showing a programme that had *flawed footage*, apparently made up footage by the investigative journalist Dan McDougall.

If the footage was faked then I am disappointed.  That means that many people will continue to disregard the reports (that they cannot ascertain as true for themselves) about the working and living conditions of those who are subcontracted to make and decorate the fashion items that we now all take for granted as being as cheap as chips on the High Street in the UK, the US and in Europe.

But.         Think about it.        If you can buy a hand beaded top in Primark or a Walmart store for less than £10 then someone is not being paid properly.  Full stop.  I KNOW how long it takes to hand bead something.  I can’t bead a vest top, let alone a dress or a skirt for the price I could buy one for.  New.

In fact I can’t make my own clothes for less than I can buy them in a High Street store.  I certainly can’t grow, harvest, weave, dye, cut, sew and embellish a top for less than £10.00………….

But someone (in fact lots of someones) does all of these things in order for us to get such cheap fashion.

So how can we all play out part?  Do our bit?  Feel as though we have made a difference?

Get the most out of what you buy and wear.  Wash and care for it correctly and it’ll last longer, ensuring that you don’t have to buy more often.  If you’re going to buy something new then maybe buy something that is better made, better design, better quality.  BUT don’t be fooled by Fairtrade labels.  Fairtrade labels only refer to the growing of the cotton, possibly to the way it was woven.  They do not refer to the making/sewing/embellishing.  Sorry to burst the bubble……

Another alternative is to buy second hand and make alterations to ensure it’s unique to you.  Buying second hand makes sure that an item does not end up in landfill.  That it does get a second or maybe third lease of life.

And the hardest one?  Don’t be seduced by fashion.  Fashion is fleeting.  An industry that WANTS our support, but that does not need it if you are able to follow your own path.

DO NOT buy into the fantasy that buying a cheaply made top/skirt/dress means that someone somewhere IS getting a fair wage that will feed their family and keep them employed.  Consider this.  If there is no other work than the work that is offered by subcontractors for the clothing industry, then where are you going to get a job?  When you have worked a shift (8 plus hours) and your manager is under orders to complete and order and s/he instructs you to work another 8 hours 9through the night) before your next shift, are you going to ask your children (aged 5+) to help you or not?  Take a guess.  If you live in one of the many locations that are subcontracted into this work then you probably will tell them to help you.  Many hands make light work.

Take a stand.  Buy second hand.  Buy from people that up-cycle.  Have a go at making things yourself.  Wear things for longer.  Don’t be fooled by the foolishness of fashion.

End of rant.  You may now switch off.