Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Gallery: Christmas Sparklers and Bump

For this week's The Gallery theme of 'Celebrations' I want to post about last Christmas. It was very special for me indeed, as I was pregnant with BB, had enjoyed my first year of marriage to hubbie and was at the stage of my pregnancy where I was full of buoyant energy and naive optimism about parenting. I was a teeny bit gutted about not being able to indulge in my usual pleasures of red wine, port, french cheese and brandy cream but I took on my role as a crazy 'feeder' of others with enthusiasm.

Only two of my close family members actually celebrate Christmas and both had their own plans (all the rest of my family are very religious and think it is a pagan festival, hijacked by the western church but my view is 'and what a great idea that was too'). I think of this as a blessing in disguise, as it means we get to stay in London and do exactly what we want and not put up with the family squabbles and skeletons that seem to spoil some people's Christmases. Last year we also had the pleasure of one of our close friends joining us, so I got to make stockings and loads of food and keep their cups full and still enjoy Christmas alcoholic spirit as a bystander.

We decided to get dressed up as well, so make it seem extra special, so here are the boys, in their suits on Christmas morning playing with the sparklers they found in their stockings. Ah bless...

This one of hubbie is a classic, I imagine BB looking like this in the future when he is made to pose for pictures- fizzled out and unimpressed.

 Our friend was much more enthusiastic:

And here I am with a ghost of a BB bump:

I loved this Christmas, it was hubbie and I's last one as a two and not a proper three, that's why it will always be extra special- but I am looking forward to this year's, as now we have BB with us, we can regress even more!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Gallery: Black and White Wedding

It will be coming up to our second wedding anniversary soon and the theme of the Gallery this week, has made me want to look back at our wedding photos (taken by our friend, so have cheated a bit here) and think about what spurred us on to get married in the way we did. Most of the photographs are in black and white and the look of our wedding venue and the pub we went to afterwards (as well as the style of our friends), make it look like something from forty years ago- which is perfect because most days, that's how long I feel I have been married- in a good way!

As soon as we knew that we wanted to get married, I knew that I didn't want to wait- I didn't have an engagement ring and didn't want to 'be engaged' either, I felt that the contract of marriage itself was enough (and I knew that we couldn't afford a 'rock'). Hubbie was probably overwhelmed by my enthusiasm for immediate nuptial arrangements and got caught up in my schemes in a bemused way at first, but as soon as we even began to think about where we were going to get married and who to involve, it became clear that we both wanted something simple and honest to us. The more we thought about venues, receptions, who to invite, food, booze etc, the more the wedding started to feel like a ball of snow, picking up size and becoming more devastating, as it rolled haphazardly down a mountain of money that we didn't have. Divorces and separations in both our families, meant that a formal wedding with a sit-down dinner and speeches seemed like a trial rather than something to be enjoyed.  In the end, after a series of phonecalls to our close family, we decided to keep the wedding simple, so simple in fact, that it seemed almost like an elopement. We made an appointment at Hackney Town Hall Registry office, declared the bans and picked the very next Friday two weeks after to say our vows. We decided not to invite any of our family to the ceremony and the only guests were the witnesses that we had picked- we would announce our wedding and our unofficial reception venue (our local pub), as soon as we left the town hall.

Even now, looking back, our wedding seemed romantic, idealistic and also selfish but I know that for us, after unsteady years of trying to make our relationship conform to other's standards and not understanding each other properly, getting married was about telling each other that we were the ones that mattered. We had the rest of our lives to show our families our marriage and prove that it was the right choice, to us it was black and white.

Beauty Sleep, or 'Not-Ugly Sleep'

I'm convinced this is what I look like in the middle of the night
Before I had a baby, I didn't have a single wrinkle and never suffered from bags under my eyes- even after a five day bender I just managed to look a bit pale and wan. If I had a particularly indulgent week, I knew that a couple of nights of eight hours sleep or more, a bath and a facepack would be all I needed to be back in fighting, glowing condition.

What I have discovered in the last six months or so however, is that what beauty sleep means for me now, is any uninterrupted sleep of more than four hours- or what you might call 'not-ugly sleep', or 'not-frightening with some make-up on sleep'. That blissful nights sleep, when you awake naturally and the sun has actually come up? You can kiss that goodbye, if you have children. Unless you are very, very lucky and have a magical child,  planted in your womb by benevolent fairies, or are able to palm your offspring off on some unsuspecting do-gooder for a night or two, you are unlikely to achieve this now mirage-like number of eight hours sleep until they are teenagers (this is based on reading the blogs of mummies with older children).

By this point, you will be an aged parent anyway, so all the sleep you can get, isn't going to reverse effects of eighteen years of remedial caffeine, too oft indulged alcohol and comfort eating.

So if you are thinking of opening a trust fund for your adored child, my advice to you is to reconsider. I am pretty sure that by the time they are thinking of university, or other expensive things, your face will have become so horrificly twisted and destroyed by lack of sleep, that if you wake them from their blissful night of sleep by looming over them without any make-up on, your resemblance to a Dickensian villainness will be the immediate stimulation they need to run away and seek their fortune without any academic qualifications. Then the money you would have spent on darling's nights out puking and carousing, without much investment in any actual education (I've been there, I know it's true), can be spent on much needed liposuction and a facelift.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Food versus Style versus Work

I am very aware that I have been neglecting this blog, in order to get my teeth into my new blog about the food we eat at home and our experiments in baby-led-weaning. I have to admit, thinking up variations on dishes and trying to cook them, photograph them and write down the recipe without making a pig's ear of everything has meant that I feel more challenged creatively, than I have in a long while. I haven't stopped thinking about style related matters though, far from it but the focus on food has definitely diverted me from shopping and knee-jerk consumerism when I have been having ugly/ bored/stressed days, which is very useful considering my maternity pay stops shortly.

The next challenge I realised for me style-wise though (now I feel that I have accepted my post-baby body changes and vaguely worked out what suits me casually), is coming up with a back to work wardrobe which meets several requirements:

1. It needs to be appropriate for some expected challenges (so needs to give me confidence and be comfortable)
2. It needs to demonstrate commitment and assurance- it needs to say 'I might be a mother but I work better under multiple pressures and I can kick arse at doing a million things at once, including looking great'
3. It needs to be more professional and executive than before (tea dresses and cardigans were my previous work uniform)
4. It can't be boring- if I can't express my individuality through my clothes in some way, I feel like an unexciting office worker (which I am but I am in denial about).
5. It doesn't need to be ironed (don't believe in ironing, don't have room for an ironing board)
6. It needs to compliment my unprofessional hair, not highlight it (thick, wavy, refuses to be straightened, perfect for sixties festivals and just got out of bed chic, not for meetings and when I put it up I look like a pin-head).
7. It has to be budget but ethical.

Any ideas? I'm very, very stuck...

Mess Free Baby 'Painting'

You know those tummy time mats with the plastic 'puddles' that babies can pat and make little shapes move in the water? This gave me an idea for a painting activity for littler babies, where you don't have to worry about them putting paint in their mouths, or getting completely covered in it. I also have to make a birthday card for a friend's thirtieth and thought this would be a fun way to do it with BB, without taking the whole thing too seriously- as in the end result will not really be my responsibility. This will actually make a nice abstract blob that he will have to put in his window every time we come and visit! Hehe.
Masking tape a sheet of overhead projector acetate to a piece of cardboard
Squeeze some different coloured acrylic paint on anyhow- I did lines to see how something quite formal tidy could become chaotic!

After covering with another sheet of acetate and masking tape over the paint, let the fun begin! (I still have an old sheet down just in case)
Let them smoosh it
Lie on it

Try and crawl on it
Squish it with their knees
Cuddle it?
When baby falls asleep on painting, remove from underneath them carefully, remove the tape and peel apart for a wonderous gloopy image. Leave to dry put of the way and give to unsuspecting friends as window decorations!

Next time I am going to start with little blobs, so Baby Boy can really push the paint around, seeing what happens when the colours mix.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Dear Santa, if you are listening...

Dear Santa,

I think I have been very good this year. Apart from a couple of tarty stretchy Primark dresses in the last month of my pregnancy when I was huge and desperate, a few floral tent nightmares and some really ugly bras, I have made a lot of effort to be effortlessly chic. I may not look particularly inspired today style-wise and I know my denim stripy high waisted 'summer' shorts over black opaque tights, make me look like a bit of a pirate and not in a good way (like a really weather inappropriate dandy pirate, who spends all their  time strolling around the port looking rakishly flashy and who runs away from stormy weather and any actual fighting). I know in fact I looked like a bit of a t**t this morning as I walked through the park sporting said shorts with hiking boots but the boots are very comfortable and weather resistant. However, I feel you should take pity on me as last week, washing baby clothes took precedence over my own wash and I just don't have any clean trousers that fit.

I know last year I made a resolution to wear minimal chic and I never wanted to be one of those mothers whose baby looked better dressed than them (I never wanted to create a mini-fashion me either) but today Baby Boy is leaps and strides ahead of me style-wise, even if he can't crawl. He has a truly capsule wardrobe anyway, everything goes with everything and everything can be washed at the same temperature, it's just not fair! The washing machine is rebelling against Baby Led Weaning and 'lumps' not by eating his clothes but chomping up mine (another reason I am low on clothing that covers the bottom half).

Anyway Santa, I would like a new washing machine for Christmas please and the entire Celine A/W 2010 and most of the S/S Hannah Marshall collection fitted for someone with a 29 inch inside leg and if you think I have been extra deserving, the shoes and accessories from Chloe A/W 2010 too.

Yours expectantly,

Ready to Throw Entire Wardrobe in Bin Bag in Disgust Mummy
Chloe A/W '10

Celine A/W '10

Hannah Marshall S/S '11- all photos credited to

Saturday, 6 November 2010

The Seven Virtues of Christmas Shopping: Part IV Toys and Vintage Tree Baubles!

All the packages from my previous charity shop purchases have started arriving already- opening them up feels like Christmas morning, especially as I am never quite sure what they are really going to be like. My postman is looking a bit grumpy these last few days, as the items come from all over the country, packaged separately- it is quite a feat getting the little parcel mountains up the steps but I feel that our bond isn't quite broken yet and our baby/ nappy banter of the last few months will keep me going through this period of  demand.

So far, so good, with no nasty surprises and only the Liberty tie being a little too 'vintage' and with a few stains in obvious places, I don't feel I can give it to my father-in-law. However, everything else has been brilliant quality and like new. I will be honest with my family about my Christmas shopping challenge (makes me look good and then they can't complain if they don't like what they are getting- hehe) but I think I could get away with not saying anything and they would think they were getting 'virgin' items.

I am going to break my rule ever so slightly and buy hubbie some new aftershave, the last one I got him smells great at first but then after a while smells like old grannies, so he could really do with something wearable. Buying cologne from a charity shop might turn him into Toxic Avenger- so it's only fair!

Here are my last few purchases, again all from Oxfam Online:

More Baby Boy presents- a BNWT penguin puppet for £3.99 with a squeaky beak (he loves the puppets at the sensory development class he goes to) and a brand new in box Leap Frog Twinkle Twinkle Little Scout toy for £7.99

Toddler Nephew- a matchbox Jaguar XJS and Car Transporter for £4.99, as he loves tractors, cars, trucks and anything with wheels in fact (his favourite book is the most technical book on tractors I have ever seen and he can say all the parts of a combine harvester, quite a good party trick, or is he a loveable nerd in the making?)


While I was hunting for presents I found these beautiful vintage Christmas decorations- I have a very modern LED circuit board (boring) tree for our flat and won't be taking it any further than that this year but if you are looking for some gorgeous vintage traditional decorations, look no further...

All I have to do now is get wrapping paper, food, booze, stocking fillers and cards...

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Show me the funny! The Generation Gap is narrowing

This is the first time I have entered Tara's the Gallery and can't really compete with the geniusness of the entries so far. However, I thought I would share this picture of my Granddad and Baby Boy, who had met for the first time on the day of this photo. They got on like a house on fire and here can be seen talking about their favourite things: food (notice the tummies), trainsets and the annoying TV licence people. This discussion was clearly very serious and noteworthy.

Every time I see this picture it makes me laugh out loud- I don't think there is a generation gap here at all!

The Seven Virtues of Christmas Shopping: Part III plus hats, hats, hats!

I am on a real roll with the Christmas shopping challenge and since I have just agreed a £5 limit for 'silly' presents with my brother, I am feeling a lot more confident about gifts for him and my sister-in-law. After a quick telephone call with my dad and a couple of emails, I have also found something for his girlfriend, which was a bit of a worry before (I really like her but I don't know her well yet and didn't want to resort to soap or candles).

I feel it's a shame that I seem to be finding everything on Oxfam Online but there aren't as many choices on Cancer Research UK yet (it's not been going as long, although their designer offering is pretty good) and I browsed their entire clothing section to try and distribute my purchases a bit more fairly. I did find a dress that I knew my friend would love there though and she says she is going to buy it. They also have great Christmas wrap so I know where to go for that!

Here are today's purchases:

Dad's girlfriend- Evans dress for £9.99-it's a bit of a risk but I have Dad's approval...

More presents for Hubbie- canvas belt for £3.99 and M & S leather belt for £6.99- I really need to find something more exciting than a fondue set, a coat and some boring belts but I am pleased with my finds as they are exactly what he asked for.

I was also browsing the hat and gloves section on Oxfam Online and it is huge (over 400 items), I need never buy a 'new, new' hat again as the range and quality is incredible. I found some great fur-lined gloves for cycling in the New Year and was sorely tempted by a Russian style fur hat. Here are a few choice examples of the bonnets on offer, suitable for winter:

A Harris tweed Trilby for £12.99
A Russian style faux fur hat for £12.99
A 'world traveller-chic', knitted bobble hat for £5.99 or just a silly hat depending on your levels of cynicism

A felt hat (seen on many people at London Fashion Week, I'm still not sure yet) for £14.99

 A 1920's style cloche hat for £19.99- always wanted to dress up in one of these but never had the courage

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Seven Virtues of Christmas Shopping: Part II

A quick update while Baby Boy is having his afternoon nap, to show you some more of my charity shop Christmas gift finds.

Hubbie- Oxfam Online- a porcelain fondue set for £4.99 (don't ask me why, he is always going on about fondue, so I have given in, although I'm pretty sure will sit in cupboard gathering dust until regiven to another charity shop) and a heavy wool Topman winter coat for £19.99

Father In-Law-Oxfam Online- genuine Liberty print silk tie for £8.99
Has anyone got any ideas as to what to get for your Dad's girlfriend? I am a bit stuck...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Seven Virtues of Christmas Shopping

Since when shopping in town things are prone to getting out of hand (sprees) and I have abysmally failed at giving up clothes for a year, I thought I would seek some 'spiritual' inspiration to help me resist the usual temptations. What better way divert myself from a Christmas consumer orgy than setting myself a new challenge, to find all my Christmas presents from online charity shops? I can then employ the seven virtues in shopping.

1. Prudence- I love shopping second hand -I have always found the items I have bought from Oxfam Online and other charities to be great quality and excellent value- you can find some pretty amazing and unique items (often designer) for the fraction of the price.
2. Justice- I will balm my environmental conscience by recycling what others don't need
3. Restraint-I will save myself from trips to town and tempting products not on my list
4. Courage- I will take some risks in what I buy, instead of opting for easy pleasers
5. Faith- well if all goes wrong, it's the thought that counts, right?
6. Hope- If it is succesful this year, I may have found a way to satisfy my shopping addiction in a more fruitful way...
7. Charity- well this one is obvious...

 Here are my motley efforts so far, I will keep you updated as I find more presents- what are your tips for ethical spending and saving money at Christmas?

Baby Boy's First Christmas Present-Oxfam Online- A Sterntaler Rocking Boat Toy for £5.99
    My Niece's First Christmas Present- Oxfam Online- A wooden xylophone for £7.99

    Mother In Law- Oxfam Online- 1899 edition of Elizabeth and her Garden for £4.99

    Dad- Oxfam Online- 1952 addition of Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea for  £12.99

    Best Friend- Cancer Research UK- A cute Miu Miu top for £10.00!