family

Should you wear fir this Christmas?

Fir Dress

When I thought about decorating the house this Christmas, I wanted to do something a bit different to the usual garlands and fairy lights.  I love looking in Christmas store windows where tableaux have been elegantly yet  apparently oh-so-casually thrown together, so I’ve  been gathering vaguely festive and wintery household items to act as props in little displays for the hallway and kitchen.  It’s very much a work in progress; you know the kind of thing – just as soon as you artfully arrange a pair of wellington boots and ivy sprigs, someone will cry ‘Aha!, there they are!’,  tug on the wellies and march off down the garden, whistling.

One thing that is going according to plan is the crafting of a Christmas party dress for the mannequin that usually lurks upstairs.  Inspired by this amazing pin of a store window display, I’ve been attempting to create something similar at home…

Fir dress with music pages

I cut a piece of chicken wire and tied it around the mannequin’s waist, then wired in boughs of fir (I bought a huge bunch from the local garden centre for about £10/$15).  I tied a length of wide black ribbon around it to cover the wire work and branch stumps, then added a few tonal baubles as a touch of sparkle.

making a fir skirt

fir dress with baubles

The bodice I made by simply rolling up old sheets of music paper – a Mozart score found in a pile at the local charity shop – and tucking them into the ribbon.  it’s very temporary, but she will endure throughout the holiday period I’m sure.

rolled music pages

Into her skirts I am gradually weaving pine cones and robins (and Harry is tucking in any odd random bits of lego or string he finds lying around…), so she will continue to grow over the days to come.

I’ll transport her to the kitchen later tonight where she will take up residence over Christmas, but wanted to share with you the work in progress.

More pics later in the week as our decorating continues, including geese in packing crates, a rickety old sledge and a very precarious ladder strung with gifts and baubles.  That’s if we manage not to knock any of it over first…

Have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!

Kate x

New Traditions: The North Pole Repair Shop

Santas Repair Shop

Christmas is a time to revive traditions, but also – perhaps – to start some new ones.  Tonight, we will gather in the garden at twilight with a torch to send a signal up to the skies; we have a special parcel for Santa to come and collect.

Everyone knows that Father Christmas has a huge workshop at the North Pole where the presents for children all around the world are made by thousands of elves, overseen by the benevolent but watchful eye of Mrs Claus; it’s been immortalised in books and films, and is, as far as Christmas goes, a universally understood truth.  Not many people know, however, that Santa also has a repair shop, where pre-loved toys are sent in by children so that they can be lovingly repaired and restored, or simply polished and wrapped, ready to be given to another, smaller child who would adore it.

We’ve been busily collecting the clothes that Harry has outgrown, and the toys which were once favourites but are now relegated to the bottom of the toy-box, and have boxed them up to go to the North Pole.  Harry is delighted that another small boy might be waiting for his exact yellow truck – and it means that we get to clear the playroom a little ahead of Christmas when new toys are sure to arrive.

From our perspective it works a treat too; Harry’s main Christmas present this year will be his first bike; a gleaming red two-wheeler with a bell and shiny paintwork that is very cool but – without a doubt – definitely second-hand. We found it at a junk sale and knew it would be perfect for him.  Explaining that it has come from Santa via the North Pole workshop will account for the occasional scratches and dents, and give it even more of a cool factor;  the former possessions of bigger boys are much coveted.

I hope that this becomes a new tradition for us;  it emphasises the importance of giving and sharing, helps to keep our house free of outgrown toys and also allows us to have direct contact with the big man himself at the North Pole.

Five flashes of your torch, by the way, will alert Santa and the Elves that they need to swing by in the night to make the collection.  Leave your boxes by the back door or in the hearth, and in the morning you’ll wake up to find a candy cane as receipt of your package.  And parents; all we have to remember to do is to hide the boxes in the back of the car ready to give to the local charity shop or collection.

Magic.

Now, must add candy canes to my shopping list today….

Have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!

handbag logo

Midweek Magic: A Hug in a Mug

Microwave Cup Cakes

Occasionally I get asked how I juggle a career with motherhood and blogging. Not, I hasten to add, by those who know me, because they see how much falls through the cracks and bear witness to my forgetfulness, air of general chaos and just-in-time approach to life.  Still, if there are secrets to be confided here, one must surely be that I LOVE a good shortcut, and much of my balancing act comes down to doing things on the fly,  adopting Slummy-Mummy rules wherever possible.  And let’s face it, baking cakes in a mug in the microwave won’t win me any Alpha-Mum prizes (and hallelujah to that).

Whilst I do love ‘proper’ baking when time allows, there are definitely times where our household just needs cake, and needs it right now.  Before the oven has time to heat, before I can strap on a hernia belt in order to drag the KitchenAid out from the cupboard, and certainly before any butter has the chance to gradually reach room temperature (I love those Hummingbird Bakery guys, but really – time, people!).  When the need for cake arises, I know I can knock one up in less than 5 minutes, from conception to delivery – in fact, from conception to consumption – and it tastes so good.  Trust me on this.

Choose a mug and a jug (I’m tempted to write this in rhyming couplets, so taken am I with this first line, but I will restrain myself..).

Then add:

  • 4 tbsp of self-raising flour
  • 4 tbsp of sugar (caster or granulated; whatever you have on hand to stir into tea).
  • 2 tbsp of cocoa powder

Mix it up with a fork, then add:

  • 3 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp of milk
  • 1 egg – crack it straight in; you can beat it in with the other ingredients (no finesse or unnecessary prep here).

Give it all a brisk whisk (there I go again), pour into your mug (fill it about 1/3 to 1/2 full), and then pop in your microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, depending on the intensity of the microwave.  Trial and error is the key here, so you may want to experiment with a couple of mugs the first time for different durations (and then eat both cakes, in the name of science).  Pull up a chair and watch; nothing will happen for about a minute, and then the cake will rise majestically from inside the cup, teetering like a soufflé high above the rim until you are sure a volcano will ensue, before subsiding gently back into shape.  At the ping, remove and blow hard before attacking with a spoon.  The surface will be somewhat akin to that of the moon, but this is not unattractive, and you can artistically decorate with icing sugar to mask it if you choose;

chcolate cup cake with star motif

Add a birthday candle or a sparkler and you will look like the best wife/mother imaginable for your ingenuity and ability to conjure up such culinary magic.

5 Minute Cup Cakes

You probably won’t want to serve these at a dinner party – they have an undeniable slight rubberiness – but they are also undeniably good chocolate cakes, and never go unfinished.  Once you’ve cracked the basic recipe (ie in about 5 minutes), try adding a couple of spoons of Nutella to the mix for a fudgey, muffin-like consistency.  Or for real decadence, bake them and THEN add a dollop of Nutella or salted caramel on the top and give them another quick blast in the microwave; as close as you’ll get to gooey, molten chocolate cakes without actually having to make them from scratch. You can add a dash of vanilla essence or a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon for a festive feel; it’s very, very hard to go wrong with this.

A final word on presentation; I tried using this method with silicon cupcake cases and various other receptacles, but there’s no question that you get the best results in a mug.  Any old mug, but a mug nonetheless.  Set shame aside and give it a go… tonight.

cake eaten

 

Retreating and Restoring

Firstly, thank you for the comments and encouragement and sharing of memories prompted by last week’s post; for me the loveliest thing about blogging is the connectivity and conversation it creates.  The sense of a shared maternal experience of that first day of school, whether separated by days or decades, was potent and wonderful.

Over the last few days, we’ve been in keep-your-head-above-water mode, taking every day as it comes and exhaustedly acknowledging a job well done at the end of each.  For Harry, each day at school has brought a volley of ‘firsts’ and newnesses which have left him glassy-eyed and teetering between giddy exuberance and tearfulness; for us it’s meant juggling work schedules with new school hours, navigating the unspoken rules about drop-offs and collections, pegs and bookbags; the chastisements for wrongly-labelled uniform or missing permissions forms… I’m in yet another maternal learning curve and tackling it with my usual hit-and-miss style.  As a result, it’s been a week of retreating and nesting, where the hours outside of work and school have been filled with the familiar; things which nurture us and guarantee smiles.  Things like..

apple recipes

I took our huge bounty of windfalls and your recipe suggestions and have been revelling in a heady, appley-fog in the kitchen.  Batches of apple sauce, pie and crumble are filling the freezer, and our hands-down winners so far have been more-ish apple & pecan muffins, which we convinced ourselves are healthy enough to be classified as breakfast rather than cake.  Our new apple peeler is a family favourite toy, providing hours of entertainment as we attempt to peel and core every fruit and vegetable we can lay our hands on.

pinceone firelighters 2013

Our walks in the woods coupled with a week of high winds have allowed us to fill pockets full of pinecones; I made a few batches of firelighters for the months ahead and we lit the woodburner one unseasonably chilly night to give them a test-run.

The gradual turning of the seasons has given us a chance for bonfires which beg for marshmallows on long toasting forks.  Soon we’ll be piling foil-wrapped potatoes into the embers and lighting sparklers as we warm our hands with mulled wine, but for now we’re still eking out the last of the summer rituals.

campfire marshmallows

And in a few heady moments of escapism and me-time, I went to a local antiques barn and fell in love with this vintage packing trunk, which is soon to take up pride of place at the foot of Harry’s bed.  A large, wooden trunk complete with working clasps and canvas inlays, it felt very Harry-Potteresque to me and appealed to my current preoccupation with school-life… but I hope it will  grow with Harry’s own taste and look equally good in his room at 14 or 16 as it does now.

harry potter trunk

My other treat this week has been a visit to our local garden centre where the trays and baskets of winter bulbs are stacked high, and where you can stuff paper bags full of papery brown hyacinths which promise to fill the house with scent and colour throughout the darkest days of the coming winter.  It felt like choosing sweets as a child; I limited myself – somewhat – and am looking forward to a weekend of pottering and planting up, aided by a small helper who will doubtless shower soil throughout the house but will revel in the importance of being my Right-Hand Man.

Hyacinths ready for planting

Have a wonderful, wonderful weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing…

Kate

Moments for which there really should be a word.

The Days May Be Long

I’ve just put a small boy to bed, teetering with exhaustion and glowing with pride at having completed his first day at school.  So proud in fact, that he has been wearing his new uniform since dawn and only agreed after much discussion that it should be removed not only for bathtime but also for bed. It is hung carefully in clear sight of his bed, lit by the nightlight so it can be admired at all times.

Everyone warned me that the day your child starts school is one of those watersheds, where the world spins a little more slowly on its axis, and the past four years flashes back in technicolor glory, from the tininess of hands and feet, the warm solidity of toddler thighs, the milestones of weaning and walking and talking… until suddenly you watch your child, so brave and expectant, in school shorts which look impossibly large and grown up, waving you off from the classroom door.

On the one hand I am so proud to have grown this amazing man-in-waiting who can take life in his stride and who views everything as the next great adventure; on the other I want to freeze this time forever to preserve the magic of these wonder years before he grows any older.

At the moment, I am required to play a starring role in all of his games; that of the beautiful princess, who must be rescued from danger (dragons, pirates, husbands; anything which might distract me in fact).  There is little to indicate me for this role in anyone else’s eyes, but for Harry this is my natural place and I participate willingly, even if this requires me to climb grubby trees and sit there for hours whilst he rushes around at ground-level, or to wedge myself into the impossibly small cupboard under the stairs which doubles as a castle dungeon.  Occasionally, Harry forgets to rescue me and I find him playing with Lego, oblivious to the cobwebs in which I am covered.  Still, I am all too aware that soon I will be required to maintain a low profile when games with friends are afoot, so I will make the most of my time in the princess spotlight.

All this came back to me as I sat in the school car-park today, clutching the wheel and bracing myself to drive away.  In every car in the car park this scene was repeated; mascara being reapplied, husbands being called and debriefed on the recent partings, and everyone being brave and taking a deep breath.

In the end it was a triumph; a brilliant day for Harry with no tears or drama.  In fact, the only thing that Harry found shocking was that at lunch they were served only half a jam-tart each for pudding, and not a whole one (Harry is a man of healthy appetite).  Despite this reportedly Dickensian approach to food, the signs are good and I couldn’t be more relieved.  It’s one of those days where you feel like a million miles have been travelled… but travelled well.

____________________

Regular followers of this blog will know me as a lover of words, so when I stumbled across this beautiful collection of untranslatable words (below) via Pinterest which capture specific feelings or moments in time, it resonated perfectly with my current heightened emotional scale.  The authors collected eleven words which in different languages define something perfectly, and appear to have no direct translation.  The piece itself is lovely, but equally fascinating is the response it has gathered whenever it has appeared; the list of new words just grows and grows as readers around the world add more, as in the comments here.

11 Untranslatable Words From Other Cultures

For me there is just one word which is missing from these lists and deserves to be invented or declared; that mixed feeling of pride, nostalgia, anxiety and infinite, reckless love which hits you like a wave when your impossibly small child turns to you at the door of his new classroom and waves you goodbye….

We should name it, I think.

The Great Blackberry Caper

Homemade Blackberry Jam (and other recipes)

We’ve been mercifully distracted from preparations for the start of school, and have spent all our free time over the last few days foraging in hedgerows.  The unusual combination (for England, anyway) of endless sunshine interrupted by intense downpours of rain has ensured that nature is putting on a glorious show as the seasons turn; blackberries are everywhere you look; acorns are likely to fall from the sky and render a nasty ding to your forehead should you be foolish enough to stand still, and the air is perfumed with cider as a million windfall apples quietly ferment in the grass. (Do I sound a little tipsy and effusive?  Blame it on the apples..).

blackberry picking

Harry has proven to be a stoic and unflappable blackberry-picker; whilst I bumble along, shrieking and tossing my pail in the air with fright every time a bug walks over my hand, Harry tuts gently and gathers our fallen harvest before starting over again.  We returned home a little sweaty and scratched up, but with enough blackberries to fill several baskets and make for a weekend of berry-tastic cooking.  We started with our favourite… JAM!!

blackberry jam recipe from katescreativespace


I’ve found through trial and error that presentation is everything when it comes to homemade jam, and minimises the chance of recipients gingerly clutching their gift whilst stealthily examining the jar for mould, unconventional ingredients or smeary fingerprints. I made berry coloured labels for ours and then cut disks to cover the lids from a print-out of the photo above (at least there’s no doubt about the contents..).  Sparkly thread covered the rubber band and completed the look.

decorating jam pots

with approximately a bathtub’s worth of berries leftover we decided to invent a new recipe; blackberry crumble bars, which combine sponge cake, blackberries, jam and crumble, and thus contain all the main food groups.  All the ones we’re interested in anyway..

blackberry crumble bars

blackberry bars recipe

Exhausted – and deliciously full – we decided to abandon all further attempts in the kitchen and instead to package up our leftover berries and take round to friends and neighbours.  I found these pretty trays on sale and added labels with recipe suggestions, and then Harry practised his balance and co-ordination skills with moderate success…

blackberry gifts

And now, in a further fit of procrastination as I avoid all school-related thoughts; what to do with our first apple harvest?  We taste-tested these, and once we’d managed to un-shrivel our taste-buds, roll back our eyes and breathe without gasping, decided that they are probably a little too tart to be eating apples.  If you have any to-die-for recipes for cooking apples I’d love to know; at the moment I’m just enjoying their beauty and scent as they adorn our kitchen table (but I know I need to act soon….).

apples on kitchen table apple harvest

Have a great weekend, when it arrives!

Kate

How to Stay Cool in a Heatwave

homemade fruit juice ice lollies

We’ve had an unprecedented, glorious 3 weeks of unbroken sunshine here, with soaring temperatures and cloudless skies.  It seems to have sent Britain into a state of national shock, with people shedding clothes at an alarming rate and lying, spread-eagled, on every available patch of grass and scrub to soak up the precious rays.  Relatedly, hospitals report new levels of burns admissions and ‘injuries caused by misuse of poolside inflatables’ (there’s a Bill Bryson-esque post in itself there, I can’t help feeling).

Here, we’ve been rather more careful, and instead have been experimenting with ice-cream and lolly making.  In fact, we’ve frozen pretty much everything we can find in the cupboards these last few days, working out what tastes good and what was better left un-meddled with.  The kitchen has become a sea of brightly-coloured dribbles and splashes, and Harry has been diligently working his way through a variety of lollies, giving each one the lick-test for success or failure.  Here are our biggest successes;

Homemade Fruit Ice Lollies

Homemade Ice lollies

We made these by simply pouring our favourite natural fruit juices into ice-lolly moulds and freezing; simple as that.  No e-numbers, no scary preservatives, and a super-quick ice-lolly that you can even justify eating for breakfast (well, it replaces a glass of juice, right?).  You can, as we did, add a drop of food colouring gel to make them more beautiful – most natural juices are pale amber in colour, so feel free to jazz them up with a dash of the brights.

fruit juice lollies

You can find plastic ice-lolly / popsicle moulds like these in many stores, but if like me you prefer to use wooden sticks instead of the plastic handles and can’t find a mould which fits wooden lolly sticks, you can customise the plastic ones very easily (and it’s a great way of making large numbers in batches for a party).  Two foolproof ways; either cover the top of the filled mould with tin foil and pierce the wooden stick through, or (for the very precise-minded); place a piece of tape across the opening, and another at right angles so that you have a taped cross, and make a small incision at the centre before threading the stick through and down into the juice. If you don’t have special lolly moulds, you can make fill & freeze paper cups or even muffin cases using the foil & stick method – silicon works particularly well.

Our other favourite recipe was frozen yoghurt*…

organic frozen yoghurt pops

I made these in exactly the same way, by simply pouring into moulds, adding sticks and freezing.  As you’d expect, frozen yoghurt pops are much creamier and smoother than juice-based lollies, but seem wonderful immune from drips  - ours were mess-free, albeit they were consumed very quickly..

raspberry frozen yoghurt pops

*Yoghurt or yogurt?  Anything goes apparently, as far as the spelling is concerned; the only thing which is universally agreed is that it tastes divine..

yoghurt lolly

If you’re making batches of these, take the moulds out of the freezer when frozen solid (2-3hrs, we found), and after a couple of minutes ease the lollies out of the moulds.  Wrap each one in freezer paper to avoid them sticking together and place back in the freezer; then simply refill your moulds and start over again.

Are you an ice-cream or ice-pop connoisseur?  Any recipes we should be trying just as soon as we work our way through our current stockpile?

Have a great week.

Kate

How to make the news headlines without leaving the couch

I’ve just discovered a wonderful time-waster which I had to share; a write-your-own-news headline generator, where you can type in whatever news story you like and then download for free. You get a jpeg of your newspaper which you can email to a friend, or print out and turn into a card, as I did the story below which I wrote for my brother Tom as he picked up the keys to his first ever apartment;

newspaper-2

Thoroughly distracted by now with the fun opportunities the headline-generator offers, I’ve been busy documenting everything over the last couple of days, tacking bulletins to the fridge and, like a true newshound, letting nothing go unreported.  Including, of course, the Fathers’ Day scooter race between Harry (3) and Daddy (considerably more than 3);

newspaper-3

Do give it a go – but not when you have anything sensible you’re required to be concentrating on instead – just click on this link and fritter away hours practicing your cub reporter skills!

Before I sign off (and I’ll be back later in the week with a super-quick decor DIY), thank you to all those who reached out to check that I survived my wilderness experience; more details below …

More

The Absent Mother

Are you the main photographer in your family?  it gradually dawned on me this year that whilst we have armfuls of lovely pictures capturing the last few years, I am missing from the vast majority of them, hidden behind the lens.  In truth, it is entirely my own fault; I love taking photos, and I am far less comfortable at the front end of the lens.  When caught on camera, I tend to look like I am struggling with trapped wind, as I simultaneously try to remember my (alleged) best side, toss hair out of my eyes and give helpful instructions to the person unlucky enough to be trying to work my camera, all without breaking from my frozen smile.  Hopeless.

Last month I decided to sort this out, temporarily at least, and found a friendly photographer who would come along on a day that Harry & I had together, and just snap away in the background.  Sophie was brilliant, charged very little for a couple of hours of shooting, and then sent me all of the shots a couple of days later.  No costly post-production, no framing, no retouching – just a myriad of gorgeous, spontaneous shots capturing a typical Harry/Mummy play-day at the age of 3.

Like pirate sword-fights in the kitchen, followed by a teddy-bear picnic on the lawn..

teddy bear picnic

A short camping holiday;

camping

Stories…

stories

Three-way cuddles with Wilberforce the polar bear…

garden cuddle with bear

And plenty of snacks, shared of course..

snacks

It was a small extravagance, for sure, but worth it without a doubt for an eternally captured ‘day in the life’; particularly one where the sun was shining throughout.

The sun has since vanished, and we have been assailed by relentless rain and wind.  I would usually be unfazed by this (we are in England; such things are usual…), were it not for the fact that tomorrow I am to be abandoned in the heart of a forest for a so-called Wilderness Day, where I will be expected to rely on my survival instincts and a few hurriedly-learnt bushcraft skills until I am allowed back home sometime at the end of the day.  OH GOD.

I cheerily suggested the course a couple of months ago to a girlfriend who has a similar taste for bizarre and life-enriching experiences.  We’d been discussing doing something completely unlike our day-to-day lives (office workers and mothers), and over a glass of wine this seemed just the ticket.  What fun!,we thought, from the comfort of the couch.

Looking at the small print today, I have discovered a kit list as long as my arm, mostly – and worryingly – involving anti-chafing lotions and medical kits, waterproof trousers and flick-knives.  Needless to say, I have none of these.  The organiser, an ex-military guy called Wilderness Bob, sent me a cheery email explaining that the day will culminate in a ‘surprise survival experience’ to test how much attention we have been paying.  Indeed, it may be a surprise if I survive.

And now I must go; we have been informed we will be foraging for and cooking our own lunch – something to do with edible woodland weeds and the grinding of flints – so I must spend the evening sewing illicit chocolate bars & rashers of bacon into the lining of my jacket.

Wish me luck…

In Praise of Fathers, new and old…

fathers day hat

When your husband also becomes the father of your child, there’s no question that the relationship changes immeasurably.  You go through things together that you could never imagine as a footloose, fancy-free couple (childbirth, for one…); through a whole roller-coaster of adrenalin, hormones, thrills, spills and life-shortening panics… and most fundamental of all, joy.

Now, on this fourth occasion of Fathers’ Day, we are celebrating the general awesomeness of Daddy in a variety of ways, big and small.  We have a special honorary party hat ready for A to wear at breakfast time on Sunday (above), which I designed on my PC and then taped into a cone before decorating with braid … and then to complete the ensemble, some home-made LEGO cufflinks – a very satisfying quick craft;

LEGO cufflinks for fathers day

I ordered some blank cufflink backs on Ebay and asked Harry to select some Lego squares from his toy box. Harry is obsessional about Lego so it also commemorates this year’s passion and a favourite Harry/Daddy past-time.  Attaching the Lego bricks with Superglue makes for a very strong bond, and we were delighted with the end result.  Some men may hesitate at the thought of making such a flamboyant style statement, but we know our man well; he has been known to wear Superhero Cuffs to work and has his own dressing-up box after all (I know, I know; some things you just have to accept as unique in a marriage…)

lego cufflinks close up

lego cufflink on cuff

Tucked into his card will be a hand-made book of vouchers, giving him various treats such as time off to do Man Things (usually involving bikes, the watching of sport, rummaging in the garage and other such male pursuits), dinner and also a few activities which Harry can get involved in, like telling Daddy a great story on request.

dad vouchers 1

dad vouchers 2

dad vouchers 3

I’ve included a download of my printable below if you want to make one of these; I simply cut around the vouchers and clipped them into a book made from leather-look card stock.

fathers day voucher book

And on the subject of fathers..

One of the lovely things about writing this blog is the connections that it creates.  Usually with strangers who reach out and share stories, comments and feedback which lead to virtual friendships, but perhaps even more surprisingly with the people whom I already know and love.  When I wrote about typewriters here in February, I had a letter from my father who shared how it had brought back vividly the memory of receiving his own first typewriter, as a reward for passing a school entry exam;

‘..my parents promised me that if I passed the exam I could have a typewriter.  My recollection is that the life-changing letter came on a Saturday morning in June.  That very same morning we went off to a small shop in centre of Coventry, and I became the hugely proud possessor of an Olivetti Lettera 22.  It was one of the most beautiful objects I have ever owned.  The smoothly stylish Brancusi curves, the elegant typeface, the fluid touch of the discreetly rounded keys, the leather carrying case fusing design perfection and total practicality.  It was love at first sight…

..It was a brilliant object in its own right (and something my parents must have struggled to afford –I believe it cost £26 which in the mid-1950s, in our household, was a small fortune), but it has also become a symbol of that transition to a school that opened the doors to a future that would have been beyond my parents wildest imaginings – the opportunity of a grammar school education, university and … the world’.    
I was incredibly touched by my Dad’s letter, which went on to say that though the typewriter is long gone, it has always been for him  the talisman of the life-changing opportunity that a great education gave him.  This year for Fathers’ day my Dad will unwrap a vintage Olivetti Lettera 22, sourced on Ebay from the loft of one careful owner, who was delighted to know it was going to someone who would cherish it.  He is banned from checking my blog before the weekend, so hopefully the secret will be kept…

lettera 22

To Dads everywhere, here’s to you; may you have a glorious weekend…

fathers day voucher book

Fathers Day Voucher Book COVER

Fragile Worlds

le paper globe

I thought hard about how to prepare Harry for my recent extended trip. He’s very used to me being absent for a night here or there when work takes me away, but an absence of Eight Big Sleeps was unprecedented.  We talked about it in the few days beforehand so that it didn’t come as a surprise, and that seemed to work pretty well.  A couple of days before I left for India, I stumbled across this free downloadable paper globe kit, so we made one together and worked out where Harry would be, where I would be, and how long a plane takes to fly between them.

the globe

We painted India in bright pink so it was easy to find, and then carefully placed the globe on the fireplace where it could be taken down and examined whenever Harry wanted.

paper globe on mantel

These paper globes are beautifully tactile and surprisingly sturdy; I used 170gsm heavyweight recycled paper for ours.  If you download the PDF, you’ll see it is constructed by building a paper skeleton and folding the spherical globe segments into place around it.  I tried this, then cheated and simply abandoned the inner skeleton, instead just cutting, folding and glueing the outer pieces together to form our hollow-but-robust version.  (nb If you choose our method, you’ll only need to print the first 4 pages of the PDF).

paper globe diy

I had a few emails and comments asking about my trip, so I’m sharing a little more below; I work in healthcare ( so not creative, but very fulfilling), and I went to India to see how NGOs and government try to tackle some of the challenges of providing basic healthcare and access to education to those who live in urban slums and remote rural communities.  I expected to see – and did – some sobering and shocking things.  What struck me equally though were the things that I didn’t expect;

That there is beauty and entrepreneurialism to be found everywhere….

onion seller of ravi nagar

..That the children I met who live and work in the most extreme poverty have an irrepressible energy and joie de vivre, and bonds that run deep;

the children of ravi nagar slum

boys on roof

boys with flowers

These children (above & below) are all ‘rag pickers’ living  illegally in Deonar,  Mumbai’s largest dumping ground for waste.  They and their families pick through the dump looking for items they can sell.

Mumbai boys

…And that the next generation of women can together change their world.

women together can change the world copy

These girls live at the dumping ground but are now attending school and spoke impressive English.  Shy and proud in equal measure, their ambition is to be able to move their families out of the slum, ‘and also to become a doctor’.

India was a land of extremes; complex, beautiful, impressive and startling.  The only place I have been where you will see a man leading a goat along the highway on a length of frayed string, scrolling through his smartphone with a free hand.  And where (below) you find market stalls with the most vibrant and lush fruit and vegetables… alongside a stall selling puppies, packed into bamboo cages.  Abhorrent? Or perhaps just a different kind of normal.  Certainly food for thought.

crawford market mumbai

Back to the home-front now though, and what promises to be a weekend of sunshine.  I’ll be putting the finishing touches to the interior of Harry’s house which I’ve been busy kitting out for a Summer of outdoor living.  More next week…