Saturday 31 January 2015

Styling the Seasons: January

... and so it is at 11pm on the 31st of January I'm finally getting around to posting my Styling the Season images for this month...

One of my favourite things about January is having a new diary.
I love the crisp clean pages, the corners not yet dog-earred, the thick notes section at the back still with plenty of room for plans and stories.
As much as I love the new diary -  I also hate letting go of the previous years - so January becomes this transition month where I often end up having both diaries close at hand - sometimes transferring various notes from my old diary to my new one, a process which for some reason I really enjoy.

My 2015 diary is the 10th one I've had the same - so for my #stylingtheseasons I decided to get all of my old diaries out together...

Our hyacinth has bloomed and flopped and I can't resist cutting a few hellebores from the garden despite their tendency to droop too. None of these winter flowers can really cope with central heating (even when we are pretty mean with ours) but it's worth having them anyway. Spring is coming... it's coming. 

The droopy flowers.

I love the look of these bulbs in our Astier de Villatte mugs - although they are just as perfect for hot chocolate too.

I have to confess to taking these photos in a bit of a hurry this morning - I got a little distracted flicking through the pages of the last ten years of my life....

Wednesday 28 January 2015

A Temporary Kitchen

For the last couple of weeks we've been home-camping. Complicating our lives slightly more than necessary by deciding to decorate the kitchen. We had a leak about 18 months ago which damaged the plaster and we never got around to fixing it but finally, FINALLY it's in progress and as that's being done we also thought it's about time the kitchen mantlepiece got properly filled and fixed to the wall. I can't quite believe we lived with it unfinished for so long (it's been well documented on this blog, but you can clearly see the holes in the plaster here).

We are lucky to have an alternative space - our playroom/workroom/studio/bike maintenance/utility room - where we've set up a temporary kitchen. It's the room I work and blog from in fact.
Our lives moved into this little space and we prepped food (not much cooking - a lot of heating food from the freezer), ate, played and worked altogether in this space. Mostly it's been pretty chaotic, but it's felt a bit like camping and also something about the small space has at moments reminded me of being in a beach hut.

Now we are back in the 'real' kitchen - and appreciating the space and light we have in there all the more. With a newly painted fireplace and wall I'm wondering if we should change some things around a bit... the plates are still waiting to be put back up and we've taken down the picture wall too so blank walls are beckoning.

It's also so easy not to be satisfied with one task being ticked off the to-do list. I'm already itching to continue the pace we've started and to sort our our front garden, which is frankly a disgrace, but it's one of those horrid jobs that just has so many knock on tasks and a lot of them are things that we need to trust other people to do, like adjust drains. I really don't know where to start adjusting a drain.

But what I'm also thinking about is whether to look into hiring a beach hut somewhere this summer...

Monday 26 January 2015

Goodbye Inanimate Object

On Friday this cot went to a new home. I felt slightly taken aback about my sudden sentimentality about it. I should have known better.

So here is a note to our cot.
You've been hanging around, dismantled for a while now with no where to go. Annoying me in the corner of our bedroom and then moved from there to the spare room, onto to the landing  and back.  But now your stacked up ready to leave this house and suddenly I'm thinking about what that means.

I'm remembering when you first arrived - a suddenly essential item. I'm remember all the times that I lent over your side, trying to sooth someone. Feeling your top edge pressing against me as I slowly, every so slowly, try to put a sleeping baby down. Then watching, holding my breath and hoping that the beautiful eyelids will stay shut.

I remember not knowing what to do when Coco got into the habit of trying to climb out of the cot in her baby sleeping bag, and not knowing how to stop her from standing up.
I remember the night we left her sleeping bag somewhere so she graduated to a double duvet in a cot instead… and Hugh had to go out the next day to buy her little duvet. Why did Hugh have to go? What was I doing? I can't remember that.

And then Henry came along and he got the cot; first in the corner of our room, then with Coco and then on his own for a bit when they kept waking each other up. For a year or so I'd have to wake him from his nap everyday to take him to collect Coco from school. He was never very happy about it (and I blogged about it - which is why I've got these photos).

I'm remembering putting Henry to bed and him telling me to 'shut the door' (now, he gives me a complex set of instructions  - the outcome that he hopes to achieve is the bedroom door is not shut).
I would tell him "I love you" and his response was "I love it" - so wrong but so right.

Eventually as Henry grew and we debated what beds to get next we modified you - removing a side and making you into a sort-of bed... until Henry really was too big for you anymore. So now we have no need for a cot. You've gone to a new home.** Getting rid of you feels like a milestone. They'll be a day that we pack away the bunk beds that have arrived in your place, and then maybe I'll feel nostalgic for now, for the feel of the wood on the instep of my foot as I stand up on the lower bunk so that I can adjust Coco's covers on the top bunk before I go to bed, of ducking my head to sit and read with Henry in his bunk... I just hope that day doesn't come around too fast.

** We gave our cot away via Kids Company - they needed a cot and for us it was great as they came and collected it right from our doorstep. They have a wish list on their website of items that they need if you are in a de-cluttering mood!

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!