Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Little People Who Lunch

Since having a child I spend lots of time in places I didn't before: soft play areas, the city farm, duck ponds, the library. I also find that my day is now firmly arranged around food in a way it never was before. It seems like it's always either time for a meal or a snack! I prefer to have lunch out if at all possible, otherwise I don't think we'd ever leave the house! Picnics are great but seeing as it will be a good few months before they'll be back on the agenda I've had to find some new lunch spots for Wiss and I.

The first one, I thought about not sharing as it's that good! But seeing as I was told about it by a dear friend it only seems fair to pass it on, plus it's a charity run place so the more visitors the better. It's called Discover in Stratford, E15 and is billed as a Children's Story Centre. If you are not a fan of the typical ball pit-type playground then this place is for you!

We met up with all our friends and their kids last weekend to celebrate Wiss's birthday. (You can book birthday parties there but I felt the little ones were too little for the planned activities.) It's large enough and varied enough to keep everyone happy for hours and there's a cafe for parents to get their caffeine-fix on an weekend morning! They have a permanent area on the ground floor and outside, and a changing exhibition space downstairs. At the moment it's 'Monsterville' but from the 1 April it will be 'Super Heroes'; they have readings of similarly themed books twice a day (our favourites are Where The Wild Things Are, Troll and of course, The Gruffalo.) I could go on and on, I love this place so much, so the last thing I'm going to add about Discover is that they have picnic tables outside and allow you to bring your own packed lunches. How cool is that? Check their website for even more details.

I live near Crystal Palace and are lucky enough to have lots of child-friendly cafes nearby. I've met friends for coffee with all our babies, or we've taken Lewis out for lunch with family but I'd never gone out for actual lunch, just the two of us. Until this weekend! The two of us sat down at a table (Wiss on a chair, not in a high chair!) and we ordered beans on toast, times two. It felt so different to be out with a little person rather than a baby. We played with cars between the salt and pepper pots until the food arrived, but my dining companion was on good form and best behaviour. I know it's a little thing but I was so proud and have been smiling all week about our lunch date.

Finally, I have a very secret spot to share with you. Wiss and I go swimming every week; he's been having lessons since he was 3 months old at Crystal Palace Sports Centre. In the summer we have a picnic in the park before swimming, and we had been having lunch in the cafe in the sports centre until recently, but it gets expensive and to be honest, the food is not great. Then a couple of weeks ago my husband suggested eating our sandwiches in the spectators seats alongside the olympic-sized swimming pool.

What a place to have lunch. It's warm, calming (almost hypnotic!), there's always lots to see and people to watch, and we're usually the only ones in the stands. And if the sun is shining, then wow! The light through the huge glass windows and on the water is beautiful. But sssshhhhhh... Don't tell anyone our little secret!

Maybe you have some good ideas to share for a spot of lunch with the little ones? But I've got to go now...I'm getting hungry!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Home corner, sweet home corner!

Yesterday was a very special day... it was Wiss's 2nd Birthday! I heard some 'scientists' claiming that it was actually the most depressing day of the year but how could we possibly be unhappy when we had one very excited little man?!

Wiss loves the 'home corner' at nursery and when we stayed in hospital, the play kitchen was the one thing he returned to again and again. We also thought it would be a good idea to have some toys in our kitchen to keep him occupied whilst we were cooking. Play kitchens are very expensive though, seem to be all made out of plastic...and usually come in pink!

(I can't believe that this kind of role play is still aimed more towards girls than boys, hello? It is 2012, you know! I also had many conversations with colleagues who questioned why a BOY would want a kitchen to play with? ...grrrrrr! We didn't think we were being ground-breaking or even controversial: we just don't want Wiss to be limited in any way. He can play with whatever he wants to.)

I searched on Pinterest and saw lots of fantastic home made and customised kitchens, so decided to make Wiss a kitchen of his own for his birthday. I will put my hands up now and admit I did enjoy getting carried away with all the little details, but hey, I am a modelmaker so how could I not?

I used some spare wood from our worktop for the upstands, and the rest was laminated mdf or a plastic material called Foamex. The base for the whole kitchen was a slim wooden bench with cupboards and shelves underneath and a back piece. I took a photograph of the wallpaper in our actual kitchen and printed it out on the big printer at work. Here are some work in progress shots as it came together...

I even branded the oven - showing off, I know! Wiss's kitchen is a mini version of our own, complete with walnut worktop and feature wallpaper! A vintage Fisher Price hob (eBay!), and  more birthday gifts of wooden fruit and veg, kettle, toaster and a dinner service were the finishing touches. (Thank you Nana Daisy, Auntie Hannah and Auntie Chicken!)

As you can see, it fits in pretty well and we couldn't wait for Wiss to see it. It's one thing for me to be pleased with it but would the Little Chef like it?

I think that's a yes!!! Move over Jamie, Heston and Hugh, there's a new kid in town!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

I'm feeling a trifle poorly!

We are all now back to complete 'normality' after Christmas and New Year. The short week was a nice way to ease myself back into work and the nursery routine. I completed my first week of the 16 week marathon plan, feeling good. And then bam! Sickness strikes!

First it was Wiss, then me and now the husband too. I spent all day either asleep or on the sofa and although I know this is what my body needs it still sucks. I hate doing nothing and I hate being ill!

I thought because of my relative inactivity I'd share a couple of things I made over the festive period. The first, individual trifles, are so pretty they made me feel better just looking at the pictures!

We celebrated New Years Eve with friends and a Great British theme for the meal. We all took dishes along, and I decided on mini trifles made in little jam jars. (This idea was shamelessly 'borrowed' from Ben's Canteen, a lovely gastropub in Clapham that everyone should try. I haven't been able to stop thinking about the food since going a few weeks ago!)

The trifles themselves were fairly bog-standard except I used Battenberg sponge at the bottom and Amaretto instead of sherry. A layer of strawberry jelly with fresh strawberries, then custard, then whipped cream. Delicious! And just the right size after a large meal.

There was one member of our New Years Eve crowd who wouldn't be tucking into the trifles or any of the other delicious food on offer: Baby Bryn, just 5 weeks old! Ever since I'd found out about his imminent arrival I'd been planning on making him something to do with Tom Jones. His mum is Welsh, what more can I say?!

I used the baby sleep sack pattern from Growing Up Sew Liberated (a lovely book with fab patterns for boys and girls) and I bought a Tom Jones tour t-shirt from eBay to re-fashion it from. I had to use a plain red t-shirt for the material for the arms and binding, but the tour dates are still authentically on the reverse of the nighty! Very cute.

Nighty night all!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

A Proper List - with numbers and everything!

As I've been going about my business this week, it struck me that my last post may have been a little incomplete: I said I liked making lists and making new years resolutions but then I didn't actually share them all with you! I've been reading lots of other blogs lately and have been inspired to write all of my ambitions down. Because I've put them into words it may help me to realise them, but at the very least I will be able to look back at the end of the year to see how I have done.

(As a caveat to this extensive list can I just say that I hate to sit still at any time, but more importantly, my ambition always far exceeds what time I have!)

So, here goes: (the first two I covered in my last post, so forgive me for repeating myself)

1.) I will run the London Marathon in April 2012 - I'm running on behalf of ARC, (Antenatal Results and Choices) a small charity who give support and information to expectant and bereaved parents throughout and after the antenatal screening and testing process. I will write more about why I choose this charity in particular at a later date, but I want to raise as much money as I can to help them with their valuable work.

2.) I want to move This is Wiss onto the next stage. I have been really encouraged by all the feedback and sales I have made since launching This is Wiss last year. And although I really enjoyed selling on a market stall, I don't feel like I've found the right place just yet. I want to explore other physical markets as well as starting to sell online so I'll be taking a little study leave for a couple of months before returning in March.

3.) I'd like to learn some new skills. Since joining Twitter I have discovered just how many great places run creative workshops and classes. I also like the social aspect of taking a class and crafting alongside like-minded people. The only problem is what to choose! I'd like to try Screen Printing, or learn to Crochet, or make a quilt or even how to Forage!

4.) I'd like to do some good. Being able to make stuff seems to be a good skill, and one that can be put to good use for others. Church groups often organise knitting circles to make baby blankets or clothes for the needy. I'm not religious at all but I like the idea all the same.

I found out about Project Linus through Twitter, and was excited to discover there is a UK branch, with reps all over the country. I love the concept that a handmade blanket can bring security and comfort to ill or traumatised babies, kids and teenagers, and having seen first-hand how much Wiss loves and relies on his 'Crumpet', I can completely relate to it.

5.) I want to blog more regularly. Not much more to say about this one except just do it!

6.) I want to start and finish my two (huge) cross stitch projects! I bought a fantastic Emily Peacock 'Think Happy Thoughts' kit for myself this Christmas, and when my husband told me he liked this I had to buy that too. I wonder if they'll both be hanging on our walls by the end of the year?!

7.) I want to make more clothes for Wiss. I have really enjoyed learning to sew, and taking part in online events such as the Kids Clothes Week Challenge. I get such a great feeling when I see Wiss wearing something that I've made for him (and I'm sure that a time will come when he won't want to wear anything his Mum has made!)

8.) I want to get the photo album up-to-date. I love getting photos developed, even in this almost completely digital age, however I have been very slack of late in putting them into the album. I think I am (gulp) 4 years behind!!! It's like the Never-Ending Story because I am always taking taking more pictures but I need to narrow the gap.

and finally...

9.) I want to listen to more music. I used to listen to albums all the time but in the last few years I seem to listen to the radio instead. That's all well and good but I am getting bored with the same songs played on air by the same artists. Seeing as I will be spending lots of time either running or at the sewing machine it seems like the perfect time to get back into albums. I've got Mumford & Sons and Kasabian lined up but would welcome any recommendations you may have?

Well, there it all is. In black and white. Let's see what the year brings! Sorry it's been such a wordy post, but I'd love to know what your resolutions are too.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Hello 2012!

Happy New Year! I had hoped to post this on the 1st January 2012, but computer forces were against me so I'm sorry, I'm a little late!

We wrapped up warm and went for a long walk to celebrate the new year. Blow the cobwebs away and clear your head! I love new years day; I like thinking about the coming year, making plans and setting goals for myself... and writing lists! My 'To Do' list is already pretty long but my main goal for the year is to complete the London Marathon!

I started running a few years ago, inspired by my brother taking part in the Chamonix 10km race in 2007. It was such a breathtaking place to run that I took part the following year. And that was that, I was hooked! At the time, I said that I wouldn't want to run any further than 10km, but I like nothing better than a new goal. I have run 3 half marathons now so the London Marathon seemed the obvious and ultimate challenge! My 16 week training program started this week so fingers crossed I stay injury and illness free until April 22nd!

My other main goal for this year is to take This is Wiss on to the next stage. I'm not exactly sure what that means at the moment but I will be looking into different ways of selling - finding new markets and maybe the internet? Etsy or Folksy? Lots of research is on the cards. Plus I will need to learn all about tax returns and accounting, quick smart. The deadline is 31 January so Moira Stewart keeps telling me! I am finding this book really helpful at the moment, and it seems to cover most things.

Of course as well as the above, I have tons of crafting projects I want to start, or finish! Yes, there's always lots to do but I like the way that at the start of year anything and everything seems possible. Let's see what happens!