27 June 2016

My Monday Making: My first rag doll

It has been such a long time since I had some relative free time for some creative ventures.... Making a rag-doll it was on my to try list, and finally I made it.

Making this rag-doll was an excellent way to recycle some old t-shirts and fabric leftovers... and have lots of fun at it...!

Firstly I began by searching my fabric stash for cute fabrics for the dress.
I also draw  and cut the doll template from old newspapers:

I began by making the doll’s head:

For the doll’s head I used an old t-shirt fabric  for the face and felt for the hair. I created a pattern for the hair, and cut the felt for both front and back of the doll’s hair. I stitch the 'back hair 'together so it would look as side pigtails. I basted the front and back hair on the previous cut t-shirt following the pattern I made for the head.  I embroidered the front hair and then I saw both back and front together. Once stitched, I  then stuffed the head  and embroidered the doll’s eyes, nose and mouth.

Then I made the doll’s body...

Afterwards it was time to make a dress:

O also made some bows as hair pins.

I had so much fun creating and making this doll. As a little kid I always wanted a rag doll but never had one... I guess I am fulfilling  this as a grownup,  but better since I made it from scratch. I will later share the doll’s pattern for you to download.
Here’s another picture of the doll, although without having embroidered the mouth. I was undecided about how to make the little mouth, or even it should have one altogether...

In the end I eventually embroidered one...

I linked up with:

25 June 2016

Today’s Thoughts: We need to keep the European dream alive

European Union woke up to a new world on the 24th of June. The UK’s referendum results were out, and no doubts were left, UK decided to abandon the EU. Exit negotiations will soon begin.
After the referendum results,  new calls to leave the European Union started, from France and the Netherlands, both coming from far-right parties.

I will not say how disappointed I am about this decision, and how wrong I believe this decision to be. It was a decision that divided the UK, half wishing to remain and half urging to leave and regain sovereignity. However it is clear now that most British people believe that the best for the United Kingdom is to leave the European Union.

I am fearful for the future of the European Union. Nevertheless I still believe in the European Union and its Constitution, which promotes peace, combat social exclusion and discrimination, promotes social justice and protection, equality between men and women, solidarity between generations and protection for children’s rights.

These are the fundamental objectives to uphold within  the EU.

EU was created first and foremost as a project of peace in Europe, after two WW having started in this continent. And lets not be mistaken, the EU has undoubtedly contributed for the stability of Europe.  This was recognised in 2012, when EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize  “for over six decades having contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.

Alongside this project of peace, EU promotes tolerance amongst its different cultures. It praises its own cultural diversity, which is valued. It drives on the freedom of movement of people and goods within its countries. Immigration is not feared, its valued.  When in school and throughout uni, I  lived in a climate where being an “European” was a reason for joy and proudness, more than to be part of a nation, one was European, a global citizen. I never felt that I was loosing my own nationality or traditions, I indeed felt that I could share them, as other Europeans would do the same. We were building a common ground of tolerance and multiculturalism. Where and when did we loose  this idea?

Nowadays Europe is living a xenophobia climate, an anti-immigration feeling which goes against the pillars which build this grand EU project. This anti-immigration feeling was plain to see the Referendum campaign which culminated with Brexit. I will not dwell on how wrong the Brexit campaign was in this matter. However I need to highlight how important is to regain the sentiment of tolerance. Precisely now is time to recover the notion of the European citizen, that values fraternity, tolerance and multiculturalism. The citizen that recognises the importance of  a networked Europe, and moreover fosters this notion.

Alongside tolerance, it is important to remember the EU achievements in fostering equality between women and men, which is one of its founding values.  It is interesting that the women’s rights were rarely  mentioned in either campaign, apart from Scottish campaign. EU legislation covers a multitude of areas to promote gender equality and women’s rights, from employment to private and family life.  Although recognising that inequalities still exist, the EU made significant progress and aims to continue to improve in areas such as women’s participation in labour market, economic independence and equality in leadership positions. Let’s not be mistaken, the EU has been a champion for women’s rights, and to be part of the EU ensures all women that a champion will still fight for their equality whilst maintaining those already achieved.  Honestly, I would not be surprised if Emmeline Pankhurst would support UK remaining in EU rather than leave, against what Priti Patel claims, since the EU is such a strong advocate of women’s rights. I am not the alone in believing this.

Sadly EU is not perfect, and surely theres more than room for improvement in such a large project. Criticism over an undemocratic EU were pouring in during this campaign. Nevertheless it is possible to find flaws in one of the oldest democratic system as the UK. This just proves that improving democracy, in any given society is still possible how could it not be in the EU? And lets recall that the EU has been reforming its structure and constitutional basis since its origin, 1948. I believe this one of the most weakest arguments to leave as it is clearly possible to improve  any of the EU fails when one is whiling to contribute. Nobody believes that an unifying Europe would be easy to accomplish, far less when it comprises a disparity of countries. But we must recognise the importance of debating  any difficult issue, and doing it so in the EU is the better way to do it, as once a consensus is reached it will definitely benefit all the countries that are part of this project.

Lets not forget Europe’s history.  Its wisdom. Not even its fails. Building upon our mistakes and learning from them its our strength.  I am hopeful that the outcome of such a shockwave like the UK’s referendum result will strength the Europe Union.  The aftermath of the referendum left many Brits regretting their vote.   There’s much to learn from this Europe. Learn from the disillusion of your citizens, from their desires. Let’s use what we’ve learned  to build a better and stronger European Union.
Together. Let’s keep the European Dream of a tolerant and cohere Europe alive.

05 June 2016

Especially for toddler’s little buds: chunky veggie chicken soup

If it is difficult for a grown up person to keep a well balanced diet, for a toddler it can be extra-difficult. Despite diversifying meals, preparing diverse salads and what else I remember to keep veggies on his meal... These same veggies are left behind.

But there’s a favourite entry of his, and that is soup, surprisingly enough. And soup is my easy way to keep these important  veggies and their nutrients on his meals. And if I can have protein, carbohydrates and veggies all in one dish, great... ! I will be sharing today a recipe that my little one loved, and so did I: chunky veggie chicken soup!
Nutritious and delicious all in one...:


Half head cauliflower
2 large carrots
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
100 mg shell pasta
1/2 chicken
1 chicken stock cube
2 soup spoon olive oil 

Season chunky bits of  chicken with pepper and salt to taste. In a saucepan fry the ground onion and garlic until golden.  Add the chicken and both carrots and cauliflower previously  cut in chunky bits, and fry for 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock cube and water (around 1l) and bring the soup to the boil. Let it simmer until the veggies are tender. 
prepare the shell pasta, following the packet instructions. Once the shell pasta is cooked, add it to the soup and let it simmer together for a few minutes (around 5min or less).

Serve ...
...And if you wish to have an extra creamy soup, you can add either sour cream or double cream when serving. 

02 June 2016

Friday’s Thoughts: Tales of invisible children.

I am writing this post because  I was shown and read recently about a case that happened in Southampton no more than three months ago. A case where a newborn baby, merely 5 days old, was removed from the parents guard and that may be post to adoption (or might already have been adopted). Of course, parents are fighting with all their strength to get their baby back. I can’t possible imagine what these parents are going through. I simply can’t.

I have read so many news and have seen so many controversial (as this article about an Italian mother's c-section and its more comprehensive counter-part) articles on the media about Social Services and child care.  Naturally, getting the facts straight is difficult if not impossible when dealing with such sensitive situations. Nevertheless I still want to believe.
I want to believe that the UK has an honest and sensible Social Service at work.
I want to believe that the Social Services in Southampton are truly looking out for the best interest of the children living in their council.

It is terrifying to learn that a newborn can be removed from parents (and looking at past cases, even from the mother’s womb!), with apparently no reasonable or well backed up reason, or at least not known. One thing is to act and to ensure that all is well with a baby, to accompany and monitor the situation. Other thing entirely different is to permanently remove a child from the family care and place him/her for a closed adoption - a forced adoption.
I ask myself, do Social Services  have enough evidence to take this action?
What are the alleged reasons that could justify such extreme act?
But there’s no known answer. And the public will never know.

And this is the key factor of what is wrong with this current child protection system. All cases that involve children and go to Family Court happen behind closed doors, surrounded by secrecy,  and no-one will ever  learn the grounds behind these decisions which leave devastated families behind. Parents are gagged, and cannot tell their tales.
Social Services and the Child Protection System have all the power in these situations. Some may even go so far to claim that few Social Services cases are corrupted, files changed or go missing to back up their claim over the child.  A well known MP also states that parents never get an honest family trial and goes so far to recommend parents to flee the UK with their children if possible, once Social Services are activated. An underground network is already set to support families in these situations, to help them leave the country and start a new life abroad.  We end up reading about parents losing their children in the news, as this one or this similar story from before. But in fairness, the aftermath shown in the media only portraits one side of the story. The family side. We never get a chance to learn the side of the Social Services, and the whole truth is hidden behind the need for confidentiality’.  This  also prevents any scrutiny regarding Social Services proceedings, including finding of any real evidence of effectivity for these same actions. Any event has no accountability, in any way. 

It is  also well known the reason why Social Services may be so quick to remove a child from their parents care. They wish to prevent a tragic and heart-breaking case as Baby P. Social Services got persecuted and scrutenized in the media for failing Baby P. But we have to be cautious when attributing the blame, and even more when attempting to avert past mistakes. Policy changes and reforms when needed to happen have to consider  the realities and the complexities of the social work, and some claim that recent policy changes  have turned social workers into managers and away from the field work. Acting fast, although with weak evidence can only lead to disaster. Moreover when these measures are permanent and tear families apart.

Which brings me back to the first case I started to write about. A newborn baby was removed from his family care by the Southampton Social Services. I feel for the family, truly feel, nevertheless I don’t know the reasons claimed by the Social Services to act. I want to believe that there was a credible cause to proceed so radically. The family however claims that the reason behind the baby’s removal  are adoption targets that the Southampton Social Services may have to meet, which is also rewarded with fostering grants. However, these same targets are disputed by social workers, as a recent article also shows that adoption rates are falling due to court rulings.

Unfortunately, I will never know the truth behind this story. Until Social Services processes and Family Court are transparent, the public will never know. Nevertheless, and unarguably,  the UK shows a clear unbalanced situation in the child protection system, where state and professional workers have more power than parents but without accountability. It is also  known that United Kingdom is the only european country where forced adoption happens due to ‘risk of emotional abuse. If I understand, and completely agree that the welfare and well being of a child has to be paramount in any given situation, I also believe that any parent has the right to defend  their family in a fair, well-balanced and transparent system.

I can only hope that these invisible children, that are not known and whose family life is devised behind closed doors are truly given the best future possible. I just know that  parents and families are left distraught and feeling prejudiced.
Rightly so? I don’t know.

Want to know more?

Personal website about the social services policies and work through the eyes of a previous social worker: The Barefoot social worker blog
Dispatches episode which describes child protection procedures and practices in the social care institution :  Dispatches - The undercover social worker
Community web site about the Social  Services: Community Care

Documentary through parents’ perspective whose children were removed  by Social Services: Traffic
Documentary that exposes forced adoption cases: Exposure - Please don’t take my child

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