Sunday 29 December 2013

Christmas Leftovers

Our fridge is still stuffed with food. Presents are scattered around the place, new items yet to find homes. We've been enjoying Christmas outings and then coming home at dusk to hunker down in front of the fire, and enjoy some Christmas telly - Death comes to Pemberley + port + mince pies last night was particularly, well, Christmassy.

Christmas bauble

bay leaves and lemon balm gifts from our neighbour

Bayleaves and lemon balm from our next door neighbour for Christmas.


Half burnt candles and little tube station sign magnetic book marks, these were from inside a cracker.

Christmas crown made by Coco

We've found an accidental tradition, for the last three years Coco has made 'Christmas crowns'. I can't quite bring myself to throw them away yet so they are lying discarded around the place...

Christmas bauble

My favourite new bauble from our Liberty visit. Our tree is staying until twelfth night, even though discarded trees are already piling up in the local park.

gold twigs with decorations close up

Gold twigs in the kitchen

Henry wooden train

The holly has almost lost all it's leaves

The holly has nearly lost all of its leaves.

Paper recycling... I might end up keeping all of this

A box of paper recycling still sits in the corner of the kitchen. I'll probably end up keeping some of the wrapping paper (can't resist) I might even salvage the toilet rolls from the crackers. Coco and I ended up making the crackers on Christmas day in a mini crafting flurry. I'm wondering if I should just make up a few more now and put them in our decorations box ready for next year.

Thank you letters have been started

We've started on the thank you cards.

We never did get around to icing the cake, here it is just with marzipan on our Tord Boontje plate

Our semi naked Christmas cake never did get iced. Our neighbour came over on Chrismtas eve with a freshly made stolen cake (Hugh correction: Stollen cake) which we've been eating instead, it was especially delicious this morning when we took a slice to the park. Hugh and I had ours with coffee sitting in the sunshine while Coco and Henry busied themselves in the sandpit.
I think this Christmas cake is about to become Henry's birthday cake. The next celebration on the horizon.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Christmas Crackers

The preparations are nearly finished.

The turkey has been delivered from the farm, the presents are almost all wrapped (it wouldn't be Christmas if we weren't still doing a bit of wrapping late on Christmas eve).

The list for today looks like this:
Ice cake
Ice gingerbread house (this task has been started... see below)
Make mince pies
Finish making Coco's present
Finish wrapping
Make crackers

Presents wrapped with homemade wrapping paper, papermash tape, string and homemade tags

I made this Christmas wrapping with a bit of very unwelcome help from Henry. Toddlers and gold spray paint do not mix. The paper is crinkly as it's packing paper we've saved over the year, mainly from (whispers) amazon orders. I used last years Christmas present (a silhouette cutting machine) to make the star and snowflake tags with string and some gold tape from Papermash.

Making homemade wrapping paper

As I didn't manage to make nearly enough gold star wrap me, Coco and Henry made some more with star stencils and white paint. Some of it looked quite good. Henry didn't quite understand the concept of 'dabbing' the paint though, so a lot looks more like general white splodges.

Icing the pieces of our Christmas gingerbread house

This mornings work - the pieces of our gingerbread house are drying and awaiting assembly. This was a pre-made back up house I bought in case Coco's birthday house hadn't worked.

I've caught the icing bug

And some other icing... I've really caught the icing bug.

SO... We are just about to head out for some fresh air (and to maybe just buy some crackers...!?) before settling down, lighting the fire, maybe watching the second half of Annie which transfixed Coco yesterday and getting down to the serious business of enjoying Christmas.

Hope you all have a lovely time, wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

Thursday 19 December 2013

New Covent Garden Flower Market

When I used to live near Columbia Road market I loved the wintery flowers that would start appearing in late November, the pussy willow, the holly and the fragrent trees and although I still love a little jaunt over to Columbia Road it's not the most relaxing place to be with two small people right before Christmas. Stangley they are not that into crowds or buying flowers.

And so it was that a plan was hatched with a neighbour to get up at the crack of dawn; or actually it being mid-winter, way before the crack of dawn to go to New Covent Garden flower market and get some festive foliage (as the only child free time I get at the moment is between the hours of 8pm and 7am it actually felt quite good value to be able to do something other than sleeping).

A market cuppa, before heading home with a boot full of leaves.

Henry was impressed by our haul.
My friend and I split the bunches up and I was still left for enough for two pretty big vases of flowers and a wreath to pimp up with some holly and pine cones.

Last day of school for Coco tomorrow, followed by panto, and we went to see Hugh's brother singing in a carol concert last night. It's definitely starting to feel like Christmas. Bring. It. On.

Sunday 15 December 2013

50/52 A Portrait a Week

Henry - He took his own portrait this week, he loves buttons so getting to control the camera with the remote shutter release meant I had a lot of photos of Henry to choose from.

Coco - Decorating the tree yesterday. She helped while the judges gave their comments on Strictly come dancing... but was mesmerised by the tv during the dancing as normal.

One portrait of each of my children every week in 2013. 
A 52 project started by Jodi of Che & Fidel

Friday 13 December 2013

Me, Kenzo and a Blind Love Affair

Projects take a long time around here. They are started, in a vague way, then are put aside, children are born, they are re-ignited again before being ignored once more. But eventually things do get done.
It just sometimes really does take years.

As an example, I'd like to share with you the time line of our bedroom blinds.
It starts about four years, way back in what feels like another life time...

Late 2009 - I used to work near Liberty and I'd often spend my lunch hour wistfully browsing the store. We'd just bought our house, it was a wreck, it kind of looked a bit like a squat. We were nowhere near the point at which it was appropriate to choose paint colours or blind/curtain fabrics; but I spotted some fabric by Kenzo in the furnishing department at Liberty... and I decided that was the fabric I'd love to have to make blinds for our bedroom.

Christmas time 2009 - I ordered a sample of the fabric - the one that arrived usefully had been cut to avoid ANY of the pattern. Yeah, thanks.

Feb 2010 - I managed to order a decent returnable sample of the fabric. I also got a couple of other samples - like the one above. I would still like to use that some day. It's by Manuel Canovas, but I still wanted the Kenzo for our bedroom.

March - April 2010 - The sample was lovingly carried around for a while... and I chose paint colours around it. I quite clearly remember asking one of the builders what he thought... I got a shrug and a sort of 'whatever floats your boat' look.

May 2010 - The sample was dutifully returned, the paint was ordered and used on the walls - it looks a little yellower than it really is here (It's Paint & Paper Library Sand IV on the walls and Paint & Paper Library Stone on the skirting and picture rail).
I did the calculations to work out how many meters of the fabric we'd need and suddenly felt a bit annoyed at the size of our bedroom windows (which I'd previously been very happy about).

Summer 2010 - I looked for alternatives. I did, honest. I nearly bought an Ikea fabric (it was called Patrica - no longer seems to be online) on a number of occasions but they never had it in stock when I visited - even when the website said they did. honest honest. at £5 a meters vs £70 a meter I would have got it.

September 2010 - Meanwhile in a 'money saving' exercise I'd joined up as a paying member of the Sewing Rooms in Putney to learn to make blinds and curtains. I mentioned it way back here. I sucessfully made a blind from some super cheap Designers Guild fabric that I got at a warehouse raid sale and then I went on to make Coco's lovely Spira Haga fabric blinds which I still love to this day even if the bloomin' Hampshire Hog pub on King street in Hammersmith decided to use the fabric as their backdrop. urgh. So I had the skills to make the blinds - surely that justified spending the money on the fabric as really I'd be saving £400 plus on the making!?

October 2010 - Then Liberty tempted me with one of their 20% off weekends and I did it. I ordered 5 metres of fabric, yep that's 5x70-20% £280 That was 1 metre short of the recomended length that I needed to make two blinds with the pattern match according the curtain company that I'd got a quote from. But I'd done a course, I knew better than the experienced blind maker. I could do it and save money.

14th October 2010 - I remember this one, as it was on my birthday. The fabric arrived... I opted to collect it... Pregnant with Henry, Hugh took me out for a day date on my birthday and we went for Afternoon Tea and then on to Liberty and collected the fabric, bringing it home on the bus with Coco in the buggy.
It was mine!

Nov 2010 - December 2011 (yep, that's a year) And there it sat throughout our long decorating and DIY hiatus (during which Henry was born). We kept it in the corner of the bedroom on a roll that I occasionally laid out on the bed to admire...

December 2011 - In our push to get some overhanging DIY tasks done before Christmas we had to move out of our bedroom while we striped the fireplace... This is how we lived for a week or so, you know, in a kind of chaotic pile. But the fabric was safe, see it there? Tucked under the edge of the bed?

Kenzo jungle fabric blinds made by me

Jan-Feb 2012 - Lining fabric deliberations - I spent a lot of time deliberating about what lining to use. Should I do inter-lining and/or black out fabric? Oh decisions decisions. But sometime around here I bought some black out lining fabric from good ole John Lewis. This photo was taken in March, when the fabric had obviously been delivered... it sat there for a while, leaning against a shelf on our landing. I say 'a shelf' but really I should say 'Hugh's amazingly well crafted and beautifully painted sunken book shelf'.

And then another year somehow drifted past with no progress made, until...

In the process of making my Kenzo jungle fabric blinds

March 2013 - A weekend that I nick named the £1000 weekend. Because I aimed to make/save us £1000 over a weekend when my parents were looking after the children.
I was calculating:
Saving us £370 on making the blinds (as per a quote I'd got in a desperate moment)
Selling my Brompton (which we did for a stonking £600 - I did almost shed a tear when the woman who bought it cycled it away, but she was so pleased that it was kind of ok), selling my old computer for about £150 (tick) and various other baby stuff, some old curtains and a leather jacket (all still waiting to be listed on ebay...). It was a pretty good hit rate. But I didn't manage to finish the blinds.

Kenzo jungle fabric blinds made by me!

Much progress was made... just not quite ready to hang...

June 2013 - In order to finalise the shape of the pockets we needed the dowels. Hugh took Coco to B&Q.
Before the dowel found it's eventual home in the pockets of the blind lining I used them for the speech bubbles handles in Hugh's party photobooth.

Jul - Aug 2013 - Over the summer I had a few little hand sewing sessions...  Then I ran out of some supplies. You need lots of little rings and blind cord and velcro. Each time I went on to the John Lewis website one of the items I needed was out of stock. Thawted.

13th Sept 2013 - Henry and I had a date with Hattie and Johnny to go to the playground at the Olympic park. It was a very damp day but the boys bonded over building site/train/canal chat and we wandered and talked in the drizzle. On the way home I popped into Westfield and totally overbought on blind making supplies.

October 2013 - During the latest episodes of Downton Abby I sat and got pins and needles and... FINISHED SEWING THE BLINDS!

November 2013 - We hung the blinds. They were too long. A centimetre too long.

It took a while to make those final adjustments, but I did it, I managed to push through and finish a project.

Kenzo jungle fabric blinds

The blinds are finished.
They are hanging in our bedroom, and I love them.
Everyday I love them.

Kenzo jungle fabric blinds and print by Mrs Eliot Books

And now they also have this lovely print by Francesca of Mrs Eliot Books hanging up to compliment them too.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

We Love to Read: Clara Button & The Magical Hat Day

Clara Button and the Magical Hat Day by Amy de la Haye and Emily Sutton - Cover

We've had this book for a while and it's gradually become one of Coco's firm favourites. It's all based around a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum - which in turn has inspired some of our own trips there, including a visit back in half term to see a little exhibition of the original illustrations by Emily Sutton (which is on until 19th January if you're interested).

Clara Button and the Magical Hat Day by Amy de la Haye and Emily Sutton, beautiful endpapers

I'm a bit of a book geek so I love to see some good end papers - this pattern was specially designed by the illustrator.

Clara Button and the Magical Hat Day by Amy de la Haye and Emily Sutton, Clara with her buttons

The story is about Clara Button who has a very special hat left to her by her Granny... when her brother breaks it she sneaks it into her bag to take with them to the V&A fashion galleries to see if she can find a milliner.

Clara Button and the Magical Hat Day by Amy de la Haye and Emily Sutton

One thing that Coco noticed is that Clara's buttons on her own coat change in every picture...

Clara Button and the Magical Hat Day by Amy de la Haye and Emily Sutton, lovely illustrations of London's best department stores

Always makes me a little tempted to take part in some retail therapy with these illustrations of London department stores... although got to wonder what sort of distorted route they take in order to  manage to see all of them on the way...

Clara Button and the Magical Hat Day by Amy de la Haye and Emily Sutton, the wooden tiger at the Victoria and Albert Museum

The book features a lot of exhibits and spaces at the museum, so it's great to read prior to a visit. We actually took it with us last time we went. There's definitly something great about being able to talk about what you are going to see before you see it, and so many things, although beautifully illustrated in the book are also pretty awe inspiring in real life.
So the chandelier in the hall, the cafe and Tippoo's Tiger all become must see things/places... along with a lot of hats.

Clara Button and the Magical Hat Day by Amy de la Haye and Emily Sutton, full page spread of the Victoria and Albert Museum cafe

The only, slight, downside is that there is a touch of slightly annoying stereotyping between Clara and her brother Ollie. Why is this becoming SO normal... and why do so many people not seem to get as bothered about it as I do?

Anyway - apart from the above I do think this is a great book - especially if you are planning a visit to the V&A. Coco will be getting the next Clara Button book in her stocking this year (when I get around to going and buying it).

Sunday 8 December 2013

49/52 A Portrait a Week

Coco - looking at the Christmas windows on Oxford Street. Her and Henry insisted on looking at every single one of the Selfridges windows, they'd muscle in to the front, check it out and then shout NEXT and charge along to the next window.  This is the last one - completely made of gingerbread.

Henry - sitting as close as he possibly can to my Mum while eating a biscuit he decorated. He is quite the little chef now, he helped me make and decorate a load more gingerbread this week for Coco's school Christmas Bazaar and he made a Christmas cake with Hugh.

One portrait of each of my children every week in 2013. 
A 52 project started by Jodi of Che & Fidel

Thursday 5 December 2013

Six Years Ago

If you've been here before then you may know that I'm very partial to harking back.
So it is that over the last five years in the days after Coco's birthday I often think back and remember what I was doing in those very early days.
Brace yourself for a slightly self-indulgent* trip down memory lane - with the addition of a selection of pretty bad photos... I think we've improved on our photography skills since those early days.  

Coco was born four weeks early and I was pretty ill so we had the first few days together in hospital, initially in our own room and then for two nights on a ward. The first night in the ward was hard. Coco lay staring at me from her clear plastic crib with her little rosebud lips (my middle name is Rose as I too had rosebud lips at birth, apparently), despite being exhausted I couldn't sleep and lay listening to my ipod like a teenager. In fact I did listen to some of my teenage favourites, I distinctly remember lying in the semi darkness of a four bed ward with the curtains pulled around me listening to the album Strangways Here We Come by the Smiths. Somehow it was very comforting.

The day we came home from hospital was wonderful. Hugh excelled himself and our flat was spic-and-span and his brother had come over and made us goose pie for dinner. Admittedly one of the ways Hugh tidied was by moving all the 'stuff' that didn't have a home into our cloakroom and putting it all in the pretty useless 'half size' bath. It all stayed there until the day we put our flat on the market. But it kept the rest of the place looking nice and it was so good to be home. I remember sitting and watching Cranford (I'm a bit of a sucker for a period drama) on TV and it was like I'd never been away and had a baby at all.

First baby and buggy outing

For the next few days while Hugh was on paternity leave we completed these strange little tasks. We'd sold our computer on ebay so we had to pack it up and take it to the post office. That was one day. Then I decided I wanted to print some photos out so we walked out in the beautiful bright wintery weather to High Street Kensington, through leafy Holland Park, then I got totally overwhelmed with tiredness and so we got the bus home. Coco was less than a week old. Visitors came with food and gifts, we got very used to the postman delivering parcels. Our friends whose baby was due before Coco came over and stocked up our fridge - I remember thinking she was probably more tired than me at nine months pregnant, we should have been making them lunch not the other way around.


In some ways we just kind of carried on as normal, just at a really slow pace and in a sort of strange bubble, we'd be having breakfast as normal and Coco would just be lying on the table next to us.
One thing I was very very surprised about was how almost laid back I became. I think going through a relatively traumatic labour and having an early baby made me realise how so much is out of your control... so I stopped trying to be in control (for a bit at least).

First trip on the tube - and about a month later her first exhibition - Louise Bourgeois at the Tate 

After a few days we decided that we should go get some baby stuff, having had pretty much nothing but the pram before Coco's early arrival so we went on the tube to Peter Jones and bought a change mat for £8 - we looked at all the other stuff but thought as we'd done ok without it all we were fine. Instead we splurged on lunch out where I had prawns and a rare burger. So good after nine months of denial (well... actually, I was never very good at that denial bit).
Getting out in those early days was one of the best things we did, in some ways I was a bit mad, going to my work Christmas lunch for example but it set a tone for the days to come and we never really had a day that we didn't go out on an adventure.

It was an amazing time, those first few days and weeks. I was lucky that I had no problems with breastfeeding. Yes, I missed sleep and would hate the middle of the night feeds where all those dark and worrying thoughts would creep in (thank goodness for my iphone and twitter the second time around when Henry was having his night feeds).
As each year goes by I grasp back at the memories of those precious, never again to be experienced, firsts of motherhood, and I can't quite believe that I'll never be there again.

* I know, my whole blog is 'slightly' self indulgent.