Friday, 23 January 2015

A Year In Books: January

I seem to have regained the appetite and space for fiction reading. Since Coco was born my reading habit has been sporadic and often non-fiction based. The exceptions, books I have read, have often really stuck with me - and I think that's maybe why I've avoided reading (examples that spring to mind are Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Any Human Heart by William Boyd). Somehow I haven't really had the space to get too involved in someone elses story.

However, I'm now being spurred on by the fact that Laura (from Circle of Pine Trees) is continuing her 'A Year In Books' project where you aim to read one book a month for the year blogging about the book you've read and the one you are planning on reading next.

Running my finger along our bookshelves I guiltily spotted a number of books - most of them gifts -  that I haven't yet got around to reading. I pulled them out. Seven books; so that's seven months sorted already.

I started at the top of the pile with 'We are all Completely Beside Ourselves' by Karen Joy Fowler  - my Christmas present from Hugh.
On Sunday morning Coco and I snuggled up in bed reading our respective books while Henry and Hugh headed down to make breakfast, I love a bit of companionable reading and to do it with Coco was such a treat. A first in fact.
And yesterday I had the pleasure of an hours journey on public transport... only really a pleasure when you have a good book to read.

* If you are counting the books up there on my bedside table (well, if we're being technical it's Hugh's beside table - better light for a photo) you will have noticed nine books... but 'On The Map' and 'Everyday Matters' at the bottom are non fiction, so they don't count - plus I'm kind of reading them on & off already.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

7 Things from 7 Days {January 2015}

At the beginning of the year I was thinking I'd like to try to do a version of my 7 things from 7 days post every week... they are good for me to look back on, but this being the first I've got around to doing seems to prove that I was maybe being a little ambitious so it looks like this will remain a rather ad-hoc series where from time to time I chart the to'ings and fro'ings of our week.

1/ Early in 2014 I wrote a list of which London museums/galleries were open late on which nights. We didn't make it to any but I liked the idea of me and Hugh going to cultural places on our own again... we nearly managed it on Friday night but not quite. Hugh went to the British Museum on his own - I met him for cocktails and dinner afterwards (at Berners Tavern which was distinctly meh, would not recommend anyone rushing off there... the Social Eating House nearby however, top marks). Anyway, I digress...

2/ Hugh's visit to the BM was partly a recce for a visit on Sunday en famille. He picked up a leaflet about kids trail of the Ancient Greek galleries which he then did with Coco. It was great having the trail beforehand so we could look at it on the way there.

Henry is harder work in museums - but I gave him my camera to take photos with and then we settled down to do some drawing. I think seeing me looking and trying to draw some of the objects was quite an incentive for him to have a go, but I still think the highlight of the visit for him was the carrot cake we had in the great court.

3/ Yesterday's hard frost was pretty spectacular... so I put my camera round my neck when I took our compost out. Our winter veg is a bit on the weedy side (leeks not even as thick as pencils yet) but the purple sprouting is on it's way - in fact we had our first bowl full last week.

4/ I'm currently feeling very thankful for these magna tiles that my parents gave to Henry for his birthday - both children have been playing with them non-stop. Structures have been whizzing up at a pace and then being converted from rockets to boats to thrones. Since the holidays (and a couple of sick days for Coco since) these two have been playing a lot more happily together and in the last week pretty much all the games have included the magna-tiles.
It takes a lot for me to recommend a plastic toy - so take note people!

5/ In efforts to embrace and enjoy January we've been making the most of our open fire - this was early on Saturday evening, children in pj's snacking and reading. How wholesome are we!? (Incidentally I've got a post on books for early readers coming... I just keep adding to it... but in the meantime any recommendations for good reads for 6/7yr olds would be gratefully received!)

6/ This is happening in the kitchen.
We had a leak about 18 months ago which damaged the plaster and finally, FINALLY it's been 'made good' in fact, made better than it was originally. We also thought it's about time the kitchen mantlepiece got properly filled and fixed to the wall. Why did we put up with holes around our fireplace for 5 years?

7/ And today, after a couple of failed attempts last year Leigh and I met up for a coffee at this great little place in Forest Hill. It was so photogenic and I completely failed to take full advantage... which just means I'll have to go back soon.

Monday, 19 January 2015

(Ad)Ventures - New & Old

New Ventures - Alexis at

I sent a message to someone the other day - it was meant as a joke... but it wasn't really a very funny joke because basically it's true.
It read "2015 is the year I launch my portfolio career"

2014 probably could have been labelled my launch year too. Maybe I'll always be in perpetual launch mode as I have a tendency to want to follow through on every idea I have and my head is permanently spinning with plans and ideas.

There are however a couple of ventures that seem to be gathering steam at the moment. One has been in the pipeline for a long time and just needs a final push and then I can SHOUT about it...
The other is something that I've been chatting about with a friend for a while and we've decided to just go for it.

We are running some beginners photography workshops from my house. We've got two dates booked - one for the 30th January and the second for the 12th February. If your interested in coming along then there are still a few spaces on both dates and all the information can be found on our Chiswick Photo Course page.

I must say I'm really excited about the courses... it will be lovely working with my talented friend Siobhan (I introduced her to instagram a couple of years ago and she has gone from strength to strength on there... she is pushing on 10,000 followers!). I ran a couple of courses last spring and I really enjoyed doing them, but it's kind of stressful doing it all on your own but planning it with someone like-minded puts a whole new spin on it.

We are hoping to run a workshop every couple of months and I must say I'm already getting carried away in my head with more plans and schemes... (see previous note above). Plus there's a map project that I've wanted to do for AGES and I'm thinking about taking on some of my parents business and doing a bit more freelance work and I've got a social enterprise idea that I've been wanting to action FOR LIKE EVER and I want to get back to drawing because - um it's kinda fun, and Hugh got me some calligraphy stuff for Christmas which I need to make use of (read: get good at).
Oh yeah, and I want to do more with my children. You know, that old chestnut.
I'd be very happy to do less tidying and cooking... so there are some things on the 'less' list at least.

I know that fundamentally it's a good thing that I'm always busy and wanting to do stuff, but so often I end up feeling like a failure for all the unfinished projects. In fact this blog was started as somewhere to gather all the evidence of the stuff I had done; so I wouldn't always be focussed on the things not completed yet; only of course it's become yet another item on the to do list.
All the sensible people tell me to stick with one idea and go with that. But I guess I'm not that sensible... and surely that isn't a portfolio career?
So I shall keep going, edging forward on all fronts, enjoying the journey.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Reflecting & Planning

Oh hi blog! It's been a while...

reflect and plan for the new year ahead -

We are still not quite back to normal after Christmas and New Year shennanigans. Henry is back at nursery tomorrow and I'm looking forward to having a bit of time to clear the decks (rather than decking the halls) our Christmas decorations still need to be packed away my email inbox is out of control and there is a fine scattering of slight chaos all around the house. Henry tries to be helpful with the housework and cooking, but his idea of changing the sheets is to wrap himself up in the clean duvet cover and make a 'cosy place to live'. Kind of funny, kind of frustrating.

In the meantime I'm snatching moments to reflect and plan.
We had a really lovely festive period and I'd like to share some bits and bobs here - even if I will really stepping out of line blogging about Christmas in late January... I could save the drafts for next December instead? Oh well, we'll see.

My new 2015 diary is already full of lists and plans - I want to do a lot more on the blog - more documenting for me and our family, the memories that I have stored here are really precious to me and I appreciate the time I've put into recording them here. We also have some adventures in the pipeline that need fine-tuning and of course the list of DIY house tasks and craft projects is enormous as usual.

Oh and we've got a birthday party to plan for this Saturday for which I sent out the invitations, um, about 20 minutes ago. No matter how many resolutions I make I still have to live with me and my last minute tendencies. I guess the best thing I could relsolve to do for 2015 is to embrace mess and disorganisation, but I'll probably just go along fighting them as normal.

What I would like to do most of all this year is to enjoy the now.
Enjoy the reflection and enjoy the planning.
Enjoy the chaos, because this is it; and I'm lucky in so many ways, I like my life pretty much just the way it is.

PS. H.enry is here 'pressing something' and helping me write this post. So for once the typos are NOT MY FAULT MUM! 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Styling the Seasons: December

Styling the seasons with Liberty fabric - by Alexis at

The simple results of a lovely few hours spent in Liberty back in November are now adorning our mantlepiece on a selection of larch branches; acquired at New Covent Garden flower market rather than from a foraging session in the woods - although I did get up before 6am to go to the flower market, so that kind of counts doesn't it?

Styling the seasons with Liberty fabric - by Alexis at

Who doesn't love a floral liberty fabric? And what is that magic ingredient that makes them just so... lovely?

Styling the seasons with Liberty fabric - by Alexis at

As much as I would have happily used any fabric from their collection I made these really simple decorations by sticking to three designs; Capel F, Emma and Georgina, (the bigger print with the flowers on I can't find on their website).
And it was really a glue project rather than a sewing one... (I was one of the no-sew gang at the crafting afternoon - along with Lou, Sarah-Lou, & Heather)

Styling the seasons with Liberty fabric - by Alexis at

The rest of the house features a mish-mash of decorations that have been collected over the years, which is just the way I like it - but it's also very pleasing to have this little arrangement on my bedroom mantlepiece. It means I get to gaze at it for a few, um seconds, in the morning before the day kicks in.

Styling the seasons with Liberty fabric - by Alexis at

I'm really enjoying doing these styling the seasons posts - if you haven't joined in yet then surely January is the perfect time to start!? Go on - you know you want to!
Katy has done a round-up of the posts from some of the other bloggers who also went to the Liberty crafting afternoon and have their posts up already (I'm late, as usual!) - so many wonderful posts and ideas - take a look here. 
Thank you to Katy & Charlotte.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Wrap Party

At some point in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago I had a brainwave. It was the marriage of two ideas that I'd been pondering. I decided to have a Christmas wrap party. I would invite people to my house for a charity coffee morning with the added bonus of providing lots of paper and tape so that they could bring their Christmas gifts to wrap up too - all for a donation to charity of course.

Most of my middle-of-the-night ideas never come to anything, but the next morning I was still thinking over my idea (although of course there was much wrangling over the fact that I was about to host a coffee morning shoot me now!). So I picked up the phone and called my friend Lynne; the owner of Papermash - a superior online purveyor of very tasteful stationery. Lynne not only didn't think my idea was mad but also offered to bring over all her samples for people to use.
So that was that we were on!

My Christmas wrap party - with supplies from Papermash by Alexis at

It was a pretty relaxed affair, we kept things simple (mainly as we pulled it together in a week) - I had my normal party paranoia that no-one would come - especially as on the morning of the event my phone was pretty much constantly pinging with messages from people who couldn't come (you know just as I was trying to lay out enough food to feed an army) but in the end we had just about the right number of people.

My Christmas wrap party - with supplies from Papermash by Alexis at

A friend donated 100 mince pies (the result of a communication error by her company to a baker in Yorkshire was our gain), I made some ginger biscuits and my mum made a pound cake which went down very well.

My Christmas wrap party - with supplies from Papermash by Alexis at

Lynne's suitcase of delights brought forth - beautiful string, gift tags, glitter tape and the best collection of washi tape ever (there's still time to get some for Christmas people...)!
Her rubber stamps collection is amazing. And they look great on brown paper - I think pretty much everyone was convinced of that....
The only thing we were a bit short on was wrapping room...

My Christmas wrap party - with supplies from Papermash by Alexis at

My Christmas wrap party - with supplies from Papermash by Alexis at

As always with these things I wish I'd taken a load more photos, but the two hours past in a blur of door answering, tea making, mince pie warming, chatting and wrapping. It was both chaotic and really fun - plus we raised £160 for my friend Emily's charity The George Oliver Foundation - a grant making charity set up in the name of her first born George, one of Coco's first little friends who sadly died suddenly when he was just 14 months old (I've written about her charity here before).

Some instagrams of the day by @lynneatpapermash @westlondonmum & @nisia75

As Lynne and I agreed at the end there was a huge satisfaction in just having done it, so many ideas come and go so to execute something at pretty short notice and have it be successful was great.  I'm definitely going to do it again next year - but this one was a very good practice run.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Simple Christmas Cards

Henry and I had a little crafting morning making cards for him to give to his friends at nursery.

We kept things simple and, even if I say it myself, I think the results are pretty nice.

We used:
1. A Dormy DIY rubber stamp - I love this rubber stamp, I got it years ago and have used it loads, it comes with lots of letters so you can create different messages - just totting up the years... it's definitely at least 14 years old and the ink still works perfectly.

2. Glue.
3. A Christmas tree craft punch
4. Last years Christmas cards (I'm a hoarder -  I keep our cards from year to year stashed away in the decorations box.
5. Plain card.

Henry enjoyed telling me which bits of the cards to punch out - it was a bit too stiff for him to be able to do them himself although he gave it a good go. He was very keen on all the sparkly, glittery bits...
Then he stamped the Christmas message and glued the trees on to the front of his cards.

Most of the cards got three trees... only one got an upside-down tree which Henry insisted he wanted...

....and then he very patiently wrote his cards. Well patiently wrote them for about seven minutes. This one was an easy one as it was to another Henry. He's got his name writing down now and as you can just spot at the top of this photos is starting to go for a bit of embellishment too. Never too young to have a signature I suppose.