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Appleseeds and Sunshine

It’s 7.30am on Sunday morning, and we’ve been up for ages.  It’s wonderful.

We were woken by brilliant shafts of sunlight through the cracks in the curtains, and it was too irresistable to ignore.  So we began the day with a picnic on the terrace before the rest of the world woke up; sipping coffee as the birds sang, revelling in the day.  We’ve needed this sunshine for so long, and it feels amazing.  The weekend so far has been spent pottering outside; planting, planning ahead for a summer of outdoor living and imagined parties that go on long into the night.  Harry has been spring-cleaning  The Little House  and serving notice to the millions of critters who took up winter residence inside. He’s made of stern stuff, that boy.

This time last weekend we were at a family Christening and reunion for my  smallest nephew and niece; a beautiful, fun service in a tiny church near their house.  We pondered for a while what to choose as Christening gifts; they are 4 and 6 so not babies, and have many of the things already that one might otherwise traditionally give.  In the end, Harry and I settled on apple trees, thinking that they could plant them in their garden and tend them over the years ahead, nurturing them into fruit and then coming home to see them as adults; a gift for a lifetime….

Apple trees as a Christening gift

I chose two different trees, both of which are promised to fruit abundantly in very short order (because waiting for anything to happen when you’re small is sooo hard), and wrapped the pots in simple burlap and scraps of leftover fabric;

Apple trees tied with burlap

For a card, we moved to the art room and Harry made an apple tree collage, using off-cuts of paper of every colour, and wallpaper for the tree trunk;

making a collage apple tree

It turned out pretty well!

Apple tree collage

And now the day beckons again, unfolding before us deliciously.  We have some more planting to do; Cucamelons for pots on the patio, and passion-flowers to grow over an arch leading down to the lawn.  And then some tennis practice (Harry hitting wildly and exuberantly; us running for miles to retrieve balls – we’re doing this all wong…), and then a party, because when you’re six, life is a social whirl.

Have a wonderful day, wherever you are and whatever you’re upto!

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Altered Books for Little People

 

Making Creative Colouring Books for Kids

It’s that stage of the Easter Holidays where time seems to drag and even Harry occasionally thinks wistfully of school restarting, so we’ve been extra-resourceful this week and have had a go at making altered sketchbooks, inspired by this lovely – and very simple – idea from Rock & Pebble; a kids’ sketchbook shaped like a house, ready to be filled with drawings and pictures.  Aren’t they cool?

Dollhouse book by Rock & Pebble

You can’t buy these in the UK (and at $27, you might just pause anyway), so we thought we’d have a go ourselves and raided Harry’s art cupboard, where I always keep a stash of bulk-buy sketchbooks.  We decided to have a go at making a castle book, so I carefully measured and drew turrets, and used a craft knife and safety ruler to cut them out (metal rulers like these with a finger groove are ideal and minimise the risk of profuse amounts of blood on your castle, however authentic that may look)…

Making altered notebooks

We then took a second notebook and drew and cut out a simple slanted roof, and added doors to each, like so…

Altered notebooks for kids

I had some leftover brick-printed paper from Harry’s knights and castles party last year, so we glued this onto the castle book and added a couple of paper flags for extra style..

DIY Castle Sketchbook

And Harry immediately settled down to colouring and creating, drawing knights, arrows, shields and battles…

Altered Castle Notebook

Castle colouring book DIY Knights colouring book DIY

Yesterday, we decorated the cover of the house book together, adding brick paper, shingle roof tiles and other bits and bobs of decoration.  We love how it turned out…

Harrys House Book customised drawing book for kids

Harrys House Book DIY Colouring book for kids

The inside is still invitingly blank, and our plan for tonight is to take the Ikea catalogue, a pair of scissors each, some glue and a huge array of snacks (it is the holidays after all), and collage a room full of all of our favourite things onto the pages… watch this space!

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing….

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DIY customised drawing books for kids

An Easter Miscellany

Easter carrot cake

hello, happy Tuesday! How was your Easter?  We had a lovely few days of relaxing at home, albeit with some of the wildest weather we’ve ever seen; glorious sunshine on Good Friday, then lightening, thunder and Biblical rain for the rest of the weekend, with trees felled and power lines down.  It was a good weekend to stay home and nest with family, and make cake, so that’s what we did…

Carrot cake!

A carrot cake!  Not a proper carrot cake; no vegetables were harmed in the making of this sponge…but instead a four-layered orange cake with vanilla frosting and faux carrots, fashioned from fondant icing rolled into cylinders, scored with a knife and rubbed lightly with green food colouring before being topped with a sprig of coriander.  Lots of fun to make; even more fun to eat…

DIY fondant carrots

And then to the garden centre for spring tulips to brighten the house; armfuls of these gorgeous beauties, which now adorn my desk in the studio...

Spring tulips

A bowl of spring tulips

And from the garden, some last-minute daffodils picked between rain showers, and arranged in a jug on the table, which I covered with a length of cut fabric from a local store.  With life so hectic, we didn’t make elaborate preparations for Easter this year – it was all last minute, and somehow just as lovely for that.

Garden daffodils

Easter saw the end of the school term, and Harry came back with his book bag bulging with weeks worth of art projects and treasures.  His class has been learning about the Arctic, and drawing and painting the animals that live there.  I loved these quirky penguins and polar bear (‘no it’s not a sheep, Daddy’ said Harry, in a tone of wearied resignation)

North pole artwork

I placed the animals on a sheet of paper and took some photos, and then decided to make the smallest penguin (‘he’s actually called Penguin Small, Mummy’) into next year’s Christmas cards, printing out a handful and stashing them away for Harry to use at the end of the year.  I am rarely this prepared, trust me…

making artwork into cards

DIY Christmas cards using kids art

Then with the printer warm and ready, I chose a couple of Spring photographs from last year and created a few rather more seasonal cards to send to friends and family, using gift wrap to make simple co-ordinated envelope liners..

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And finally… I don’t tend to make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I made three.  The first was to try to feel less guilty about everything.  The endless juggling and near-misses and just-good-enoughs that are the fabric of life as a working mum.  That’s a whole other post, I suspect, and I am doing decidedly averagely on that.  4 out of 10, perhaps.  The second was to read more, and I am, and am loving having a pile of books by my bedside, continually being replenished.  The third resolution was that this be the year of Friendship.  I tend to swing wildly between family and work, work and family, and time with friends is a precious rarity.  This year is my year of saying yes to every opportunity I can to spend time with my friends, and so far it’s working wonderfully.  It’s oxygenating, and affirming, and wonderful, and as much the stuff of life as everything else.

Last week a whole bunch of us went to a local pottery cafe and let loose with our creative instincts, and it was a magical, hilarious night.  Ignore the bottles of wine (there were twelve of us, I promise, just mostly out of shot…)

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Amidst the gossip and toasting and sharing and comparing of outfits and fetching aprons and creative endeavours, I painted this very sullen and miserable looking cat, in the style of Ronald Searle..

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And he came home this weekend, glazed and fired and as morose as ever.

Cat plate

I confess I am a little bit proud.

Have a wonderful week, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!

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The Archivist

Yearbooks together

Welcome back! and Happy Easter (almost) ..I’m looking forward to the chance to catch breath once again after a frenzied few weeks at work, and the chaos of the end of term at school for Harry.  The weather looks grim, but we are undaunted; it is as easy to eat vast amounts of chocolate in the rain as in the sunshine (easier! No risk of melting).

One thing that has been a lovely distraction in recent evenings has been completing last year’s Family Yearbook; an annual project to document all the best bits of the year before, and to translate the thousands of odd photos on my Mac into something physical that we can all flick through and talk about.  I began when Harry was two, and we now have four books in a nook in the Snug, which are regularly taken down and explored all over again..

Family Yearbooks

The biggest part of our yearbooks is always the family photographs, but it’s also a place to capture stories, passions, events and moments in time, like the time last year when the Tooth Fairy made her grand entrance…

Capturing the tooth fairies visit

And my brief flirtation with gardening in 2014 which produced an intense flurry of of interesting botanicals over a period of about 8 weeks before I got bored and forgot to water anything…

Gardening yearbook

And the funny things that you want to remember, like the time when Harry was just learning how to write, and was frustrated by the number of adult conversations that seemed to go on FOREVER without a long enough break for him to interject.  These notes were passed to us in the kitchen one evening by a stony-faced Harry, and were too good not to capture for posterity..

Notes

And I’ve also documented our gradual renovation of the house, like the guest room last year;

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Inevitably, the design and format of the yearbooks has changed over time, and it’s fun to look back on that too, as my own style has evolved and my comfort with the camera increased.  In some years I’ve grouped the book by season…

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And in others, by month..

January

Some things remain constant; in each book I have a section at the back for a gallery of Harry’s projects from the year; it’s fun to see the difference (and the things that stay the same; my thigh gap will never reduce; I am reconciled to this now..)

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2013

I use a software programme that allows to you to choose different designs for the front and back covers (these below are the paper fruit we made in 2014, which miraculously have survived 18 months in the playroom without incident, beyond mild denting);

Yearbook back cover

Family yearbook back cover

I’ve learned the hard way that the best way of building a yearbook is to do it as the year unfolds (sitting on New Year’s day staring down the barrel of 3,426 photographs and a blank book template is no fun at all), so this year I am finally ahead of myself and have the 2016 book saved permanently as a work-in-progress that I add to every couple of weeks; my goal is that on New Year’s Eve I can just click save for one final time and press the Order button..

If you’re tackling a project ike this for the first time, I shared some thoughts on what to include here.  But I’d love to know other ways you use photographs and preserve memories – all tips welcome in the Comments section.  We have the Memory Jar, and hidden in the loft, the Time Capsule, and of course the blog itself; but I’m always looking for other ideas…

Have a wonderful long weekend!
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Easter Preparations for Those Who Like A Good Shortcut

In previous years, Harry has embraced Easter preparations, gamely adorning himself with white glue, buttons and tissue paper, planting up eggshells with cress and gathering daffodils to give the house a Spring-like air.  This year, we both decided on a rather more low-maintenance approach which still allows us to display a bit of creative flair.

This year, we are…. Egg Pimping!!

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Yes, OK, not a term you will find in any crafter’s bible, but I think a fair description of the art of taking a plain, shop-bought chocolate egg and decorating it with every conceivable edible adornment until it glitters, Faberge-like, looking unmistakably homemade but nonetheless attractive for all that.  We wanted to make Easter gifts for Harry’s teacher and grandmothers, so gathered together a good selection of icing pens, decorations and a few good chocolate eggs from the supermarket.  We removed all the packaging, washed our hands (I note that purely in case either grandmother ever reads this..), and began….

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We used mini meringue sprinkles, giant fondant roses from Waitrose (they don’t look giant until you glue them to a smallish egg, then they look slightly freakish and Dali-esque.  We persevered). Also; wafer daisies (ughhh! these taste like paper!’ cried Harry in disgust, a wilting daisy stuck to his tongue), tiny icing carrots and pastel sugarpaste butterflies strong enough to break a tooth.  Trust me on this.

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I helped Harry loop and drizzle the icing around the eggs, then he decorated them freely, each one slightly more embellished than the last (the one below was a restrained first attempt).

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I found these copper wire eggs baskets on sale at TK Maxx (TJ Maxx in the US) for £3 each…

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So once the eggs were dry, Harry carefully filled each basket with shredded tissue paper and placed an egg in each…

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Which we finished with an excess of cellophane.  Truly an excess….

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Have a great week!

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DIY Secret Message Bowls

Homemade Message Bowls

Hello, Happy Sunday! And Happy Mothers Day to those in the UK.  I was greeted at sunrise with a BIG cuddle and this gorgeous drawing; it’s funny (and very lovely) to know I am perceived.  Whilst my thigh gap hasn’t got any smaller in this picture, I am coveting the dress (less so the green tights; I’m not quite so fashion-forward).

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I’ve had a little more time this week for crafting, so I did something I’ve wanted to do for ages and had a go at ceramic transfers, and made a surprise for Harry’s cereal bowl.  I got a bit carried away and worked my way through our china cupboard,  leaving little messages hidden at the bottom of a range of bowls and mugs…

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I found a script-like font (the lovely Helena, which you can download for free here) and made up some messages which I printed onto Lazertran paper.  There are various makes of transfer paper which will work with ceramics, in slightly different ways; ask your local craftshop what they have.  With the Lazertran paper, you print in reverse (choose ‘mirror image’ when printing), then dry the paper in a low oven to ensure the ink is properly fused to the paper.  Once the ink had dried, I cut around the words, soaked the paper in a shallow dish of water to release the transfer film and placed one in the base of each bowl, face down.

Sponge gently to release any air bubbles, and place in the oven on a low heat for about 15 minutes.  When the 15 mins are up, gradually increase the temperature over the course of 90mins until it reaches about 200 degrees C / 350 F; at that point the text will fuse completely to the ceramic and take on a glazed appearance like in the pictures above.  Leave to cool and you’re ready to go!

Lazertran printing

Flushed with success, I found these quotes on Pinterest and used them to create messages-in-a-mug; they look lovely when used with fruit teas, where the message can shine through the berry or lime colours of the tea.  They’d  look equally good on the outside of the mugs too…

Message in a Mug

Of course you can transfer images too, which would also look lovely – a child’s drawing perhaps, or a photograph… but I do quite like my secret messages.

Have fun exploring this if you decide to give it a go (try on something inexpensive first whilst you master the subtleties of transfering and baking)…and let me know how you get on!

Have a great rest of the weekend, wherever you are and whatever you have planned…

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Bowls with a message

Now We Are Six

This is 6

Whilst for Harry, life moves infinitely slowly, with the space between breakfast and lunch sometimes seeming to be as long as a whole year, for me it is moving very fast indeed.  Growth spurts can occur during the time it takes me to gaze blankly into my coffee as I come awake, and I am always surprised at the frequency of birthdays (Harry’s and mine, in fact – how did I get so old??).

Harry turned six a couple of months ago, which for him signified the onset of adulthood, pretty much, and for me caused to me pause and think about all of the favourite things which make up his world in this moment – the objects with a story behind them, or those which represent abiding passions over the years.  I gathered some of them together, bit by bit, and created a photo montage that we can keep and look at together in the years to come.  It includes:

1. The Militaria collection (or a selection thereof).

For a very equable, peaceful boy, Harry has always had his head turned by a decent plastic sword.  His collection spans various phases from pirate to buccaneer, brave medeival knight to Jedi knight, with silver duck tape providing necessary repairs over the years.  We have all become skilled in the art of swordplay, which mostly involves bluffing, waving your weapon flamboyantly around in the air air and shouting ‘ahhaaarrgghh!’ at intervals.  We are such amateurs.

Slide1 2. The Food Pyramid

I don’t think Harry consciously leans towards round-shaped food, but we certainly eat a lot of it.  From Cheerios (the breakfast of  champions), to cucumber – a hands-down favourite among vegetables, though both he and my husband maintain that eating lettuce is inexplicably dull and bizarre and to be avoided at all costs.  Chocolate donuts are a treat breakfast for holidays only, and thus have a near-mythical status and powerful associations.  The Charley Bear lunchbag is at least 4yrs old, but appears whenever we have a roadtrip to anywhere longer than an hour, and must always be filled with ‘just-in-case snacks’, although the snacks are invariably eaten and the just-in-case scenario is never actually verbalised.

food

 3. The Passions

Lego, Thunderbirds, Star Wars and making-things-out-of-cardboard-and-paper are abiding passions of Harry’s that show no signs of abating, and in fact gain steady momentum.  I captured some of them here, and expect that they’ll feature for many years to come.  I pulled out and photographed some of the items from his craft stash to remind me of this year…

craft

 4. The Random Ones That Make Me Smile

Amongst the rest there are a number of items that defy easy categorisation; the microphone that we mime with on Friday nights in the kitchen whilst music blares and the family dance-off unfolds (unravels, really).  The Ukelele that Father Christmas bought and which is strummed, endlessly and usually accompanied by Freddie Mercury-esque poses and strutting.  The commencement of pocket money, which has led to much discussion about the joy/torture of spending vs saving, and has introduced Harry to the novel thrill of having independent wealth to jingle in your pocket as you rummage through charity shops in search of a bargain. And Uno, a card game that Harry mastered at Christmas and will now attempt to persuade all those who cross our threshold to play.  He can now hold around 15 cards without dropping them all, has developed a cheery cackle to deploy gleefully whenever he is winning, and is an expert, charming manipulator who will try to recruit you to ‘join my team!’ whenever you look like you might be ahead.  He is still working on the poker face.

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When thinking about what to choose, it also struck me what’s missing from this list, like books; Harry loves being read to, and increasingly enjoys reading now that the struggle of navigating new words is outweighed by the momentum of those he knows and the pleasure and discovery of a new story – but at this moment there are no particular favourites or books he returns to over and over; there were in toddlerhood, and there will be again (Harry Potter, here we come..), but for now they don’t feature here.

To make the montage….

I gathered up all the items on our list and took photos of each against a contrasting-coloured background, then imported the pictures into Powerpoint (free trial here), and used the ‘remove background’ tool to isolate each picture so it would work against the white backdrop of the slide.  For some of the toy figures I used stock shots online which was infinitely easier.  If you’re an afficionado of Photoshop you’ll be able to create a montage like this easily using that, but I am a luddite and use .ppt.

But… the main value of this is to capture the memories and the snapshot of life at this age, so the method is much less important than the purpose.  You could just as easily make a scrapbook together with photos (or drawings!) of all precious items and write a line about each (we’ll be adding notes to our montage when I paste it into this year’s Family Yearbook, so we remember the story behind each one).

Just looking at ours makes me smile – a little mistily, in truth – and is the beginning of an annual tradition, I think.

Have a great week, when it comes!

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Saying Goodbye

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My best friend Vicky is moving to the US, and the very thought of it makes my heart hurt.

We’ve borne witness to each others lives for years; the high and lows, the scrapes and rollecoasters.  She poured mugs of wine and martinis through my years in the dating field, before breathing a quiet but audible sigh of relief when my now-husband rode into view on the horizon.

She even married us two years later, delivering a beautiful ceremony with such grace and gravitas that a number of our elderly relatives still believe that being a vicar is her actual day job (they didn’t see her later that night, weaving tipsily across the hotel lawn, bottle of champagne in hand, singing without inhibition, or they might have experienced some doubt).

Marriage

When Harry was borne she came to stay regularly, sitting through endless episodes of Ice Road Truckers and The Greatest Catch at 3am because I was up feeding Harry and she figured she could sleep when she’s dead and that friendship matters more.  Friends like that you don’t let go of easily.

So now Vicky begins her next big adventure Stateside, and we are counting down the days together with slightly wobbly smiles.  Philadelphia beckons her, and having signed the lease on an apartment, it feels very real.  It even has a bedroom for me (for all guests, in fact, but I am pretending it is just for me).

This weekend I’ve been making a farewell package for Vic, inspired in part by this lovely tutorial from The House That Lars Built on making folding travel maps using gift wrap.

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I found a sheet of Philadelphia giftwrap here

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…and followed the tutorial’s instructions to fold it up concertina-style, then covered two sheets of greyboard with a piece of this pretty paper.  I glued the map inside the boards, and created this fold open and close guide to the city…

Folding travel map DIY

Inside the folder, I slipped an envelope of photos of us all to cheer her up when she’s homesick, and some washi tape to stick them to the walls whilst the apartment takes shape.

Leaving present

 

And a scattering of these happy thoughts to open when needed, because there will be moments when this awfully big adventure just feels awfully big, and these will help.

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We also included city guides downloaded from the web, and restaurant recommendations from local bloggers.  And Harry’s contribution too was crucial; a picture of the two of them heading off in a rocket, because Philadelphia is about as far as the moon when you are 6 (and also if you have inherited your mother’s sense of geography, which is not the best).

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We bought two sheets of the map paper, and I’ve glued the second one to a large sheet of cardstock for Harry, so that we can mark up where Vicky’s apartment is and think about her in her new neighbourhood.

Because anything that makes the world feel a little bit smaller has to be a good thing.

Have a great week, when it comes!

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A winter miscellany

How are you, how has your weekend been so far? Ours got off to a lovely start with friends for dinner on Friday night.  Harry stayed up to say hello and enjoyed a mocktail of mango juice and rainbow sprinkles, accessorised with a cocktail umbrella and glacé cherry whilst we opened a bottle of fizz.  I think we all secretly wanted a taste of his.

Whilst shopping for ingredients the day before, I came across these beautiful Romanescos  - a sort of cabbage that apparently tastes like broccoli, and looks like a miniature Christmas tree..have you tried them?

Romanesco

I say they apparently tatse like broccoli; I intended to chop them up and cook them, but decided they were too lovely for that so instead Harry carefully wrote out everyone’s names and they became cheery place-settings instead…

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Talking of all things green, Harry and I have a new project; we are determined to grow a HUGE avocado plant.  Preferably by next weekend, in order to have guacamole for tea.  We have got precisely this far after 24 hours, despite progress checks approximately every 10 minutes:

Plant an avocado stone

In the meantime I have harvested some hardy Hellebores from the garden and planted them up in an old copper trough on the counter; a reminder that we will see Spring before too long.

Blog Jan 2016

In other domestic news, I’ve had a brief attempt at trying to bring order and discipline to our laundry (really, what was I thinking?), buying these inexpensive sorters from IKEA and painting helpful labels so that even the youngest member of the household (you know who you are) can colour-sort his dirty clothes.  I doubt it will work, but they look pretty nonetheless.

labels copy

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Weather like this requires cake, and cake is also a helpful excuse to drop in on friends, so we also made some of our favourite lemon and poppyseed loaf cake – one of those wonderful recipes where you get to throw everything in a bowl and then pour it into a tin, and do very little else other than congratulate yourself on your Domestic Goddessery  (if you do follow the recipe above, I skip the first step – if life is too short to stuff a mushroom, it is certainly too short to soak a poppyseed).   Try it; I promise you it works a treat..

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And now an epic fail to close.  Firstly, if our avocado stone is yet to bloom, my New Year sourdough starter is looking even rockier.  I had visions of it looking exactly like this:

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…but instead it looks exactly like this:

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It smells like a brewery, which is promising if a little alarming, but I cannot see it causing a loaf of bread to rise anytime this year.  All suggestions welcome please, including alternative uses for it (a solution for loose plaster?).

Know your limits, they say; I think I have met mine.  Any kitchen ingredient which requires daily feeding and careful measuring was, in retrospect, doomed.

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p.s. photo of entirely perfect and well-risen sourdough starter from a true guru here.

Welcome to the Art Room!

Art Room Materials 1

 

When we moved into our dream house a few years ago, we began by gradually restoring the most important rooms, starting with the kitchen.  Most of the rooms in our rambling, period house are part of the original footprint of the house, but there is a little annex attached to one side which housed a peculiar, 1980s-style kitchen, complete with carpeted floor and faux-wood cabinets.  It was so bizarre – and so unlovely – that for a couple of years we essentially ignored it (and indeed didn’t take a single photo of it).

Then some time ago we decided to rip out the kitchen, whitewash the walls and lay a cheap laminate floor, thinking it would make a good office space.  Instead, Harry and I have gradually staked our claim, filling the room with a growing tide of papers, paints, scissors, crayons, works of genius and  - everywhere – tiny drifts of sticky tape that briefly adhere you to the floor, or indeed any surface you may lean on.  It is, without doubt, now The Art Room…

The Art Room

Harry and I each have a desk; simple white worktops on IKEA trestle legs, which hold all of our most precious materials.  Harry’s is very clearly marked in case there is any ambiguity about ownership, and bedecked with various masterpieces;

Art Room Drawing Desk

Art room 2

I have noticed, as a random aside, that I always look in Harry’s pictures as if I have recently dismounted from a horse.  I am trying not to wonder what this may mean.

Art room 1

We love thick Giotto mega colouring pencils for their intensity of colour and ease of grip; not cheap but they last seemingly forever.  Then jam-jars of brushes, pencils, Sharpie pens, pastels and tactile, jewell-shaped crayons; a legacy from Harry’s early childhood but too enticing to move on from completely…

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The Art Room has a mysterious, scrolled staircase which ascends to a cosy alcove in the roof; too small for an adult to stand up in, but perfect for a child.  We don’t know what it was intended for, but now it becomes variously a den, a reading nook, a hiding place and THE best place in the house to squash 25 people into when playing Sardines.  It’s the only accent wall in the room, wallpapered (by me! After a glass of wine, as well!) with Scrapwood paper by Piet Hein Eek.

Scrapwood wallpaper

The stair-rail is strung with a random assortment of half-finished projects and decorative finds, like this vintage flag, driftwood garlands and my ever-increasing collection of beautiful stars..

Art Room flag

And under the stairs?  Our Dreaming Chair, where we can curl up and read, think, snooze or just chill out.  A gift from friends who were moving house, it looks like it is a million years old and has lived many interesting lives.  Each year on Fathers Day we take a photo of H and my husband in the chair together, and I intend to do this for at least another 40yrs.

Art Room chair

The Art Room overlooks the unlovely driveway, so to mask that and to filter the light which in summer is blazing and intense, I propped old window shutters from our last house against the wall.  They allow the weak, blueish northern winter light through and then do a great job when the weather turns warmer.

Art room shutters

What else?  A few nods to storage include a display box of old projects and keepsakes, and a couple of museum shelves just deep enough to hold propped-up treasures..

Box Shelf

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We use Ikea’s Asker hanging herb pots to store pens and brushes; mine are hung on the wall;

Wall pots

And Harry’s stand on his desk (the giraffe ruler was a treasure found in his Christmas stocking, but we suspect Santa might have sourced it here).

Art Room Materials 1

And our eBay-find vintage plan chest stores gorgeous papers and completed art works (you can glimpse it in the main room photo above)…

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Most of our other paints, glitters and craft stuff is stored on make-shift shelves in a shallow fuse-box cupboard just outside in the corridor; unbeautiful, but very useful, and somewhere that Harry can go without help to choose whatever he needs..

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So that is our tour, of possibly my favourite room in the house, and one with  - already – some incredible memories.  A room to be messy in (in fact my husband smiled at these photos, so unrepresentative are they of the daily chaos and flamboyant mess more usually found within), to play in and to be happy in.  Very happy indeed, in fact.

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Art Room Sign

 

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Separations and Reunions

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The New Year began at a million miles an hour with a flurry of back-to-work-and-school panic and then, for me, a week of transatlantic travel.   I’ve periodically travelled for work since my son was born, usually to the US, and these partings have been easy enough for both of us to manage.  Of late, though, it’s a little harder.  Time has lost some of its elasticity for Harry, and there are moments for both of us when I’m travelling that the distance feels very hard indeed.

We’ve been working on a few ways to make it easier, and this time I think we cracked it.  Some are conventional; others?  Well…

Saying good bye

On this last trip, I gave Harry a boxful of kisses when we woke up on the morning of my flight.  We talked about how whenever he was thinking of me he could open the bottle and find a kiss.  He tucked them in his pocket and went off to the playroom, where I caught glimspses of him busy with scissors and paper.  He appeared quite some time later with a square cardboard box.  In case you are struggling with the flamboyant spelling, it says ‘Here’s some hugs’…

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And inside? Two beautifully, secretly constructed figures of Harry and me who fit together perfectly into a hug.  ’You can take them out whenever you need a hug from me Mummy’. I was amazed.  And yes, hopelessly emotional…

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Bedtimes

It’s a long-standing tradition that every evening I sing to Harry when he is just dropping off to sleep.  In babyhood I sang him lullabies, and then gradually stopped, until a year ago when he asked for me to sing again ‘to help me switch my head off from thinking’.  So now our bedtime routine always includes a rendition of ‘Dream a little dream‘ by Mama Cass, and I worried about whether he’d miss this when I was away.  I used to try and sing it over the phone, but it was never quite the same, and usually involved me huddling in the corner of conference rooms or bathrooms and crooning sotto voce which didn’t help my tunefulness at all.  So my husband stepped in…

… and now on the nights I’m away, he dons a long blonde wig (I daren’t ask where he found this; secrets in a marriage are not always unhelpful) and does a cabaret version of the song, sometimes alternating with other favourites such as ‘How much is that doggie in the window?’.  I’m not sure that it helps induce sleep but it’s certainly a potent distraction, and one which generates many requests for encores.  You’ll be relieved to know that I have no pictures of this.

 Staying connected

On this last trip I took one of Harry’s soft toys with me; Hopalong, the smallest and most docile of The Boys.  Each day, I sent back pictures of Hopalong so that Harry could track our movements; at the airport, the gym, the office …and even raiding the hotel minibar and spreading crumbs all over my bed…

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Harry loved getting the pictures, and then one day last week I woke up to find an email from home with the rest of Harry’s toys having decided to join in.  Each day, Harry devised a new activity for The Boys, and my husband sent me a picture.  They took a shower together, raided the fridge in search of sausages; altogether, it sounded like the teddy bear equivalent of a frat party…

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One of the best things though was a letter from Harry, tucked into my case and discovered on arrival in Philadelphia, when I was feeling jetlagged and far from home….

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Because to be loved more than water pistols is as much as any mother could ever wish for.

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