Friday 30 May 2014

Rain Rain Go Away

On Monday when the Coco asked if we could face painting - a semi-regular request that I normally find any excuse to refuse there really was no excuse to say no. It was raining and we had no plans except to have a day together; so out came the facepaints.
The results were Henry the Lion (kinda). Coco as a sort of trellis covered in flowers and me as a hippy with oversized-flowers and hearts all over my face. Hugh being the main painter escaped somehow...

We must have looked quite a site when we braved the rain to go to our new local Byron for a lunch. Although I confess I did modify mine slightly... the black flower on my chin just wasn't working for me.

Saturday 24 May 2014

Election Day Bonus

Election day for us meant that both the children had a day off while their respective institutions were being used as polling stations.
Hugh and I decided to make the most of it. We had a lazy morning - stayed in our pj's until 11 - or in Henry's case until he wanted to go outside to watch some tree-surgery action so was forced to get dressed. Then we headed out to the Natural History Museum - a rare opportunity to visit it when it wouldn't be quite as crowded as it gets on weekends or in school holidays. I had considered going to Legoland - but a friend warned me that it is really not my thing... something I suspected to be honest - and happy parents = happy children has always been my motto; so we stuck to what we know.

By the time we got to South Kensington it was time for lunch...

There are some nice options around South Ken, after a little deliberation we choose to have sandwiches at Fernandez & Wells

We sat in the window on these lovely Ercol chairs...

  ... and had a selection of delicious sandwiches and a bowl of gazpacho; one of my all-time favourites dishes, and this one was fantastic. So good that I quite fancy popping back there for more now. 

Looking out to our other favourite pre/post museum pit stop - Casa Brindisa. Perfect for a pretend trip to Spain to try tapas. 

Henry pretending to be a door. Very handy.

Once lunch was done we wandered up to the museum.

We borrowed an explorers back-pack for the birds gallery where Coco got stuck into identifying and drawing a toucan before moving on to the Dodo - perfect as she her school topic is about endangered animals and extinction... nice cheerful stuff.

Henry almost did a drawing of an ibis but was quickly requesting a trip to see the moving dinosaur.

At which point I remembered about the Earthquake experience so we went up to that instead... which Henry LOVED. He didn't quite get it, obvs.

Waiting for the tremours to start in the mocked-up Japanese supermarket.

We did make it to see the T-Rex (with no queues...) "Hello Mr Dinosaur" Henry said... before it was time to hot-foot it back west for Coco's swimming lesson... our weekly trip to Syon park where we also popped into the garden centre and got ourselves some new strawberry plants and a load more salad and bean seeds.


And then once the children were in bed it was off to school for us to cast our votes.

Friday 23 May 2014

George Nelson Bubble Light

At some point post us moving into our house I was on the look out for a good central light for Coco's bedroom when I walked past a lovely local shop called Abode and spotted out the perfect light out of the corner of my eye. Right over the counter was a huge George Nelson saucer bubble light.

George Nelson bubble lights

I didn't know that it was such a design icon at the time... so when I inquired about the price and was told £370 I really had to do my best not to let my jaw hit the floor in shock. It looked so simple. 

Back to the drawing board I told myself. Except... I couldn't go back to the drawing board. I'd seen the perfect light and none of the compromises or nearly-copies were good enough.
So after Coco had had a bare bulb hanging in the middle of her room for about three years I just decided not to compromise and to suck it up. I bought a bubble light. A slightly smaller (and therefore cheaper) saucer bubble.

George Nelson Bubble light in Coco's bedroom

Here it is - in Coco's room... and I love it.

George Nelson Bubble light in Coco's bedroom

Every time it catches my eye I appreciate it.
It just works, it's elegant and simple and lovely.

Our friends Pauline & Jo have a wall mounted version which I took a photo of last year (you can see more photos of when I had a snoop around their flat here)

George Nelson wall hanging bubble light photographed by Alexis

I suppose the moral of the story is that design icons are icons for a reason...

Thursday 22 May 2014

Bubbles & Stuff

Our camera is just back from being fixed, in time for capturing summer fun... simple summer fun. For the price of a bottle of bubble mixture I get happy children for at least, um, 15 minutes?

Henry in charge of the bubble making contraption that my Mum got in one of her charity shop hauls - she volunteers at her local charity shop so we often get bits and bobs - it's great for all those school fancy dress demands. Although she told me the other day that once in a while the shop has to have a clear out and the things that really don't sell that well are the plastic toys, so they put them in a skip. Another reason not to buy plastic toys I say!
Mum came to the rescue though and now she takes all the things home and puts them on freecycle... [How right-on am I making you sound Mum!?]

My six year old - still so innocent (for now). I love the conversations I can have with her, particularly on the cycle home from school where I hear about snippets of her day. Last night we had a little Q&A - she doesn't like to be asked too many questions so Hugh and I were allowed to take turns asking one each and in between she would tell us something she wanted to say... it was one of those spontaneous moments that I would love to be able to repeat over and over.

We've also started to have 'the news' occassionally when we are having supper all together. We each report one thing from our day and then pass over to the next reporter. Considering neither of my children have ever (to my knowledge) watched the news I'm quite impressed by how well they've picked up the concept "but you have to say where you are reporting from Mummy."
Maybe all that Radio 4 which is so often on in the background has been picked up on afterall...

Henry is becoming much more of a chatterbox. We are in the why stage and sometimes if I don't know the why he thinks that maybe just shouting at me "but Mama I'm asking you WHY" might magically make me know the answer. His obsession with water, pouring and pipes, hoses, funnels continues. The outdoor tap (when in service, we often have to take the top off it) is his favourite place to hang out.

And me? Well I've been frozen with indecision here on the blog recently.
I want to change it a bit, move it forward and I have lots of ideas... but then I just end up putting up some images of bubbles, and I wonder if change isn't such a good thing... I'm just not sure where I'm going with this space.

Going to Blogtacular was like adding fuel to the fire. So much inspiration - listening to some amazing speakers (Anne Ditmeyer particularly really got me thinking) and best of all the opportunity to meet so many blogger friends old & new.*

Then the very next day I went to Kidcrafters - which was also at the Royal Institution and had my brain filled with questions and ideas by another bunch of people with fantastic ideas about how to help our small people navigate the world and become happy big people...

My head was near to exploding with so many ideas buzzing around it by the end of the weekend that I haven't really been able to properly process it all yet. It's now stuck in the sand a bit. Time to pull it out!

*Lucy, Hannah & Davina, Heather, Bryony, Kelly, Lori, Laura, Lottie, Emily, Alyssa, Bryony from Rusty Rambles, Beatrice, Annie... (and more - will have to edit and add as I remember)!

Thursday 8 May 2014

Our London School Holidays

It feels like I'm only just recovering from the Easter holidays and yet half term is only two weeks away. At Easter we spent the holiday at home and I still can't decide if half term will be another low-key week of London fun, a good chance to recharge everyone's batteries, or should we try to head for the hills... maybe on another camping adventure? It's always fun to go away but takes planning and then having to deal with the aftermath of mountains of washing... sometimes it actually feels more like a holiday when we stay local.
Here are a few London things we did last holidays...

1. The Southbank

Hanging out at the Southbank skatepark by alexis at

Most holidays bring at least one visit to the Southbank, it's easy to entertain the children for a day along this stretch of river. This visit was primarily to go to the Martin Creed exhibition which I'm very glad I saw... even if it was very un-nerving in parts. I came out feeling distinctly odd. The children loved a lot of it (the balloons... the car... the poo... I don't want to publish too many spoilers)! Last chance to visit this weekend I believe. On balance it was worth it, just know that you may be un-nerved.

Martin Creed exhibition at the Hayward,  Southbank by Alexis at

Martin Creed exhibition at the Hayward,  Southbank by Alexis at

If the weather is cold/wet you can always just hang out in the Royal Festival Hall - when we were there the Clore Ballroom was temporarily home to some brilliantly inventive organs which the children spent ages playing with. Buttons galore to please my small boy.

The children on hungerford bridge with big ben in the background by Alexis at

It's a super free-ish day out... my two would happily just hang out on the Hungerford bridge all day. 

2. London Wetland Centre

The london wetland centre by Alexis at

I had never been to the wetland centre despite living pretty close to it for nearly ten years now. Shame on me, I guess I'm not really a bird girl... however we had a great time and I''ll definitely be going back - although it's not a cheap outing. There is lots of see, the planting and landscaping of the site is really well done, there are various mini habitats of diffeent kinds of wetlands plus the amazing views of the natural(?) wetlands towards the Thames with London views beyond. And there was a good play area and good cake. Easily enough to do for a whole day.

visiting the Wetland centre

3. Kew Gardens

Bluebells at Kew Gardens, London by Alexis at

Kew is nearly on our doorstep so we are members and go quite a bit through the year... there is always something to see and it's size means we never get bored... tired yes, but bored, never! This visit was actually just me and Henry as it was after Coco was back at school but before Henry was back to nursery. We went specifically for a bluebell fix which we were lucky enough to get.

Bluebells at Kew Gardens, London by Alexis at
The palmhouse at Kew Gardens, London by Alexis at

4. Richmond Park

Biking in Richmond Park, London by Alexis at

On the sunny Easter Monday we took a elevensies style picnic of left over hot cross buns, chocolate egss and a flask of coffee to Richmond Park along with all our our bikes... We spent sometime on the bike paths while Henry terrified us with his love of speed/lack of brakes on some of the down hill stretches... Coco meanwhile spent a lot of time 'waiting' for us to help Henry and so got to see a lot more deer than we did.

Biking break in Richmond Park, London by Alexis at

Tree climbing in Richmond Park, London by Alexis at

For our picnic we walked into the middle of the park and settled on a spot next to a brilliant oak tree which Coco climbed up and down to her hearts content.
I'm hoping we might make it to the tree climbing at Alexander Palace this month which I found out about via Urban Explorer (a brilliant weekly email of ten things to do in London each weekend - which I highly recommend if you're not already subscribed).

5. The Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens

Diana Memorial Playground, London by Alexis at

I've written about this playground here before... but if it's a sunny day then this is the easiest and cheapest way to keep everyone happy. We like to get there as early as possibly as it does get crowded. This time we got organised and took a flask of coffee and while Coco & Henry played me and Hugh did an online shop for groceries... nothing like a bit of multitasking. Then we wandered through Hyde Park and blew all the money we'd saved on coffee (and some) by having lunch at Brindisa in South Kensington... worth it for some of the best tapas in London (in my humble opinion).

What are your favourite places to visit with children in London? I would love to try some new places if we do stick around for half term...

Wednesday 7 May 2014

A Camping Weekend...

We are a city family - and we love everything that comes with that, we can hop on buses and trains anytime we like to visit fantastic museums, art galleries and great playgrounds or markets... but we also want to give our children a taste of the country life. For us, going camping is a great way to give our city kids a sense of the 'country' (whatever that is!) so, for a few days at least, they can run a little wild, explore and discover things for themselves.

Our lovely bell tent at Wowo by Alexis at www.somethingimade

Last weekend we headed down to East Sussex, to Wapsbourne Farm (lovingly nick-named Wowo) and pitched our bell-tent (am still in love with this tent) for a couple of days of free-range living.

We'd never been to Wowo before - it's a popular site and for most weekends you have to book in advance (taking a punt on the weather)... I can see why though, it was a perfect site for us; really family friendly, close to London so we didn't have to trek miles, small enough for the children to be able to explore it themselves and most importantly for us they allow campfires. There were streams and woods full of wild garlic and bluebells, lots of rope swings hung from tall trees, ducks and chickens roaming around and so many well thought out little details from the comunal freezers to laminated maps and directions that could be borrowed from the well stocked shop.... they even had the papers on Sunday.

... and luckily for us the weather was great (although VERY cold at night, next time we camp this early in the year I'm going to be investing in some serious sleeping bag kit).

Here are some pics from our weekend...

Camping at Wowo in East Sussex by Alexis at www.somethingimade

Camp days start early... but honestly there is something so good about being up early when the sun is out and you have a steaming cup of tea in your hand...

Our lovely bell tent at Wowo by Alexis at www.somethingimade

We went with our friends and their children - this was our set up. Wowo have pre made fire pits all ready with benches. We backed onto a little stream with woodland behind it, perfect for our adventurous small people.

Camping at Wowo in East Sussex by Alexis at www.somethingimade

And we were right next to this great swing, which was just one of many to be found around the site.

Camping at Wowo in East Sussex by Alexis at www.somethingimade

The girls were thrilled when their new friends showed them this swing... I only found out about it as I asked Coco why she'd changed into her jeans (an almost unheard of occurance for this skirt/dress obsessed girl) and she told me it was so she could have them rolled up in case she got wet on the swing! I'm so glad I followed her up to see her try this swing all on her own...

Camping at Wowo in East Sussex by Alexis at www.somethingimade

Camping at Wowo in East Sussex by Alexis at www.somethingimade

Camping at Wowo in East Sussex by Alexis at www.somethingimade

 Henry on another swing that the girls found when they were off exploring on their bikes.

Camping at Wowo in East Sussex by Alexis at www.somethingimade

A make-shift bridge over the stream where we were camped lead to woodland carpeted in wild garlic - which the girls proceeded to collect...

Camping at Wowo in East Sussex by Alexis at www.somethingimade

Coco setting up her flower stall at Wowo camp site in East Sussex by Alexis at www.somethingimade

... and then they made a little flower stall...

Camping at Wowo in East Sussex by Alexis at www.somethingimade

and did a roaring trade for a while... before we had to tell them not to pick the wild flowers; although we did get them to harvest some wild garlic leaves for our tortilla.

... and then they made a little flower stall...

The site is a walk away from Sheffield Park, a huge National Trust property which we visited for tea... but mainly we just hung around the campsite, relaxing, having yet another cup of tea/glass of wine and cooking on the campfire.

Not that you even have to do your own cooking (well... you kind of do really - but this free soup was delicious).

Camping at Wowo in East Sussex by Alexis at www.somethingimade
 Henry getting adventurous... just before getting his first experience of stinging nettles.

Camping at Wowo in East Sussex by Alexis at www.somethingimade

Camping at Wowo in East Sussex by Alexis at www.somethingimade

Early mornings and late nights... with a lot of fresh air and adventure in between.

When I told Henry we were going food shopping today he said "ok, but then can we go camping after".

And if I haven't raved about it all enough, I think the proof of how much we loved this site is that when we got back last night we went straight online and booked for another weekend there later in the summer... I'm hoping that we are going to get a lot of use from our bell tent this year.