Tuesday 31 March 2015

Paris & Venice: Books for the Kids

Over the last couple of weeks I've been pouring over guide books and googling things to do with children in Paris and Venice, so in order to get the children in the mood for our up and coming adventure we collected together a few books so that they could do their own 'research'.

Some we had already - like the Paris Hide and Seek and the Panda and the Odd Lion (a funny second hand book about the winged Lion of Venice).

I took myself on a little detour to Hatchards the other day - their Children's book department is wonderful - and got a couple more:
This is Paris
This is Venice
Olivia goes to Venice
Paris - Everything you ever wanted to know

I actually could easily have spent a small fortune... but I held back, here are some of the books I reluctantly didn't buy
A walk in Paris
A Lion in Paris
The Madeline Books
Stickyscape Paris
Paris colouring book (city)
Paris City Walks (partly as I couldn't find a copy - but it looks fab)

We've also spent a bit of time 'doing' pages in the Usbourne first french words sticker book and playing french bingo... (helping to touch up my GCSE French too).

Coco (7) seems to have read 'Paris Everything you ever wanted to know' from cover to cover - but as she keeps telling us it's 'not for parents' so she's being a bit mean about sharing any information. She is still adamant that the main things she wants to do are to go up the Eiffel tower and to see the Mona Lisa.
Oh, and take a boat down the seine... Despite the comparative lack of books on Venice Coco has announced that she thinks she'll enjoy Venice more than Paris... we'll see, I'll get her to report back!

The books have also sparked off some ideas of our own about how to keep the children entertained. I'm planning on making some kind of carousel token system - basically a reward chart - we're budgeting for one carousel ride a day for the children but they might have to 'earn' it a little... (obviously there's a big assumption here that they'll WANT to go on carousels... I off course am just thinking about the photo opportunities... so predictable).

We've gleaned some facts, such as Venice having 177 bridges so we'll do a tick-off chart of some kind for those - Coco loved doing cat spotting in Marrakech last year.

I definitely think the small people are ready for this trip - I'm not sure what they are going to really make of it all...

Sunday 29 March 2015

Styling the Seasons: March

Planning for Paris & Venice

I have spent a lot of this month in anticipation of our up and coming trip to Paris and Venice.

We decided to do this overland trip from London ~ Venice via Paris last year and we were very timely about booking our transport (eurostar to Paris, overnight train from Paris to Venice and flight home from Venice) and then we kind of sat back and forgot that we needed to organise other things, like, um, places to stay.

So this month I've mainly been hanging out on airbnb. But finally we are sorted.

I bought a couple of maps at our local Oxfam book shop and I pinned one up above my desk with our route on - partly for Coco and Henry to be able to start to get a sense of where we are going and partly to cajool myself into getting the rest of the trip sorted. I added the train (the kids excitement about sleeping on a train is almost uncontainable) the Eiffel tower keyring and the metro tickets - from the last time we were in Paris about 6 years ago. My advent calender still hasn't been put away because it's so beautiful I can't believe that soon we'll be standing in front of the real Saint Mark's Basilica.
The daffs from our garden... well, they are just some daffodils from our garden, because, you know, it's March.

I've got a new sketchbook for the trip ready so we'll be taking lots of drawing things as normal, maybe a few rubber stamps (the ones in the image are some new ones I got from Paperchase). Hugh's sister has also made us each a little notebook too so we'll be encouraging the children to do some sketching too.

Until I started really researching the trip I was wondering if we were a bit mad having such a city orientated holiday (despite that fact that this trip was really driven by Coco's desire to see these two cities after a school project on Europe last year). But the more research we've done the more I've thought it's going to be fine.
I've got two books on Paris which both have tonnes of great stuff to do - Paris with Children and Around Paris with Kids there is no way we are going to be bored, I think we'll be spending more time in playgrounds than in museums but I'm quite up for that. As long as I also get a bit of time to do some wandering and window shopping.
We are very food orientated tourists - Hugh has been reading the Polpo cook book in preparation for Venice and he cooked a good spread of cichetti which we took over to our neighbours last night. I spent a couple of mouth watering hours reading The Paris Gourmet which made me think that we're not going to have nearly enough meal-times in Paris...

I've also, of course, been doing research in blogland too - both Lori and Fritha have good posts on Paris and Courtney took her four children to Venice last year too. Skye McAlpine wrote a Venice guide on  Design Sponge and has recently written a 'Secret Venice' section on her website.
So although we still don't have a set plan-plan we kind of know what we want to do - and are also happy to see where the mood takes us armed with a bit more knowledge.

So, time to get packing... we leave tomorrow -  but I just had to get my styling the seasons post in before the end of March. Next month will surely be all about flowers and the garden - so except for the daffs it's good to do something a little different!

Styling The Seasons is a monthly challenge run by Katy and Charlotte - anyone can join in - just show an area in your home styled to show what the season/month means to you. 

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Snail Mail #1: The Little Letters Project

There's been a bit of a snail mail renaissance in our house recently - mainly thanks to Instagram and blogland...

I signed Henry and Coco up to Nell's Little Letters project - so they sent and received some drawings, notes and gifts in the post  - although Henry was quite confused about the sending idea initially - I think he just thought he was going to put it through our letterbox - he got quite into it eventually with his signature line-only style and he was absolutely delighted by the parcel he received from George. Here's a little video of him and his delivery.

Coco also loved writing and receiving her mail. We had a few false starts and ended up with a completely over-embellished envelope. She stashed her post away in her secret box; she really is a mini-me sometimes which is not entirely a good thing... a hoarder in the making!

Now it's about time I got them to write their letters back... a little project for the Easter holidays?

Tuesday 24 March 2015

A Spring Trip to Kew Gardens

A Saturday in spring with blue skies and no set plans  - perfect for a family trip to Kew Gardens.

So a couple of weekends ago that's just what we did. There we all are...

We made a picnic and cycled down, over the river - and my main aim was to see the glorious crocus carpet - and to be able to get some photos like this.

I think this is one of Hugh's photos (better credit him or he'll point it out later).

We were treated to blue skies all afternoon - we spotted blossom and daffodils - plus the last of the snowdrops.

It only feels like yesterday that we were reveling in the autumn colour at Kew... but I'm glad to see the back of winter, even if it does feel like time is racing by at the moment.

It's days like this that make me so grateful for our London life. We love having Kew on our doorstep - I'm hoping to get there in the next week or so to see the magnolias in bloom. Where do you go for your dose of spring in the city?

Tuesday 17 March 2015

A Modern Way to Eat: My New Favourite Cookbook

You know how a well loved cookery book becomes gradually worn in over time? It easily falls open to reveal favourite recipes, pages become crinkled from splashes of water or lemon juice, the corners are folded over for dishes that you look forward to eating and maybe there is the odd note written here and there...

Well, we have only had the book A Modern Way to Eat for about a month and it already bares all of these hallmarks.

I've been raving about Anna Jones' easy veggie recipes to anyone who'll listen - and quizzing my friends who have got it about the recipes they've tried.

It's really helped me to get out of a bit of a cooking slump. I've documented some of the recipes we've tried on instagram - I've even forgone two of my self inflicted rules 1) no cooked food photos & 2) no artifcial light photos (I'm not sure I've ever really stuck to them).

So from the top going clockwise we've tried:
Cauliflower based every day pizza (nice, different and surprisingly easy to prep).
Raw Thai citrus crunch salad (I loved this... although Hugh made it and added chicken).
Dhal with sweet potato and coconut chutney (I want to actually eat this right now; it's really good).
Autumn panzanella (we've made it twice - says it all...)

And much to the children's delight we've also tried...

Caramel popcorn. My only regret is that now they've tried popcorn like this my children don't want to go back to plain popcorn. And neither do I.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

News From Elsewhere: Glass Etching, Silhouette Portriats & Party Bags

In the absence of posts here over the last week or so I thought I'd point you all along to some other stuff I'm doing...

I've written a couple of posts for Hannah and Davina over at their blog Seeds & Stitches  - which if you've never visited then - get over there you're missing out!

Glass etching for Seeds & Stitches by alexis www.somethingimade.co.uk

The most recent post was a bit of a tutorial on how to do glass etching. Which hardly even needs a tutorial as it's so simple and easy (I feel like a cheat now).

Creating silhouette portraits and pictures for Seeds & Stitches by alexis www.somethingimade.co.uk

And way back in the depths of winter I did a post about our Christmas cards and creating silhouette portraits and pictures. I just realised I didn't even put my cards on the blog this year... maybe I'll fill you all in next December instead? But anyway folks, silhouettes aren't just for Christmas (they're for birthdays too, obviously - that is Coco above with her 7 balloon).

Cotton Twist make a medal for your teddy - alexis www.somethingimade.co.uk

And finally... my friend and I have tentatively launched our website Cotton Twist selling mini craft kits & activities designed for party gifts and rainy days. We are hoping to find a tribe of people who want something different for party bags and are bored of all the plastic.

Cotton Twist superhero mask party bag activity - alexis www.somethingimade.co.uk

We are still working away to improve & perfect the website as well as developing new party bag ideas; but the site is live, and it works... I will be shouting about it more the happier we become with it - and I will also tell the whole story of how it came about at some point as I think it's a good one - it started way back when Coco was four and I made her party bags from almost nothing. Wish us luck please (and maybe follow us on instagram!? - Am setting it up today and I think I might feel a bit sad about only having 2 followers)!

I have so much to catch up on here... I do love blogging but as I normally end up doing it late at night it seems that at the moment I love sleep more! 

Monday 2 March 2015

Framing Art with E-Frame

Before Christmas I had a lovely day out with some college friends in Lewes. Lewes is a good place to meet up - geographically it's good for all of us, but as a town it's great. I might have spent an evening browsing houses there on rightmove when I got home... Anyway; although the majority of the day was spent in coffee shops & cafes we also visited a makers fair where I bought a Christmas present for me Hugh.

It was one of those slightly accidental purchases. This print caught my eye right as we walked in and after a browse around during which I felt completely overwhelmed I just really wanted to buy something - partly to show some support for all the creativity - and partly as it's so good to be able to buy direct from the artist/maker.
After lots of deliberating I finally went back to the start and decided to go for the first thing that had caught me eye. And so it was that I bought this print by Liz Toole.

So it felt kind of fortuitous that e-frame contacted me to test out their online framing service a few days late.

I spent ages deciding on a frame. Normally I can ask Hugh's opinion but as it was a present I was on my own. I couldn't decide whether to go with a mount or not, whether to go with natural wood or a painted frame... there are so many great options on the site and once you've typed in the size of the frame you need then you can click around all the options and see the changing price too.
Eventually (as you can see) I went with no mount and a simple oak frame.

The frame arrived very promptly - this was a custom size so I was fully expecting that I might not have been able to get it in time for Christmas but these guys know their stuff and my frame arrived within a week.

As Hugh wasn't available for framing services either I had to put up with Henry's help instead; but seeing as the frame was a perfect fit his main job was just removing the packaging...

The whole process was so straightforward and the quality of the frame was lovely. I would definitely use e-frame again especially for custom frame sizes. Also the frames come with perspex instead of glass which I prefer - makes the frames lighter and easier to hang... and as we have a tendancy to leave frames leaning against walls it's much safer too.

Thanks to e-frame for getting in touch and for giving me some credit to try out their service.