Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Simple Things

At the beginning of the month, I wrote about this issue of The Simple Things in my Five Reads for February post, and it's finally here!

Issue 21 features the first of my 'making' features for the magazine, a burlap peg bag. The project is by Maya Donenfield of Maya*Made, and I wrote an intro extolling the joys of pegging out (managing to shoehorn Kate Bush lyrics in there, too). It's a very beautiful issue, full of springtime sparkle and lovely ideas for the home.

The Simple Things costs £4.99, available from Friday 28 February at all good newsagents - isn't that what they say? Or, you can download a digital copy now (and I think there's a free issue offer on at the moment).


Monday, 24 February 2014

For the love of Wes

I have always been deeply in love with Wes Anderson's films. They are practically perfect in every way: the characters, the writing, the costume, set design, and the music. And Bill Murray. Everything. I confess to loving Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums most of all; the boys adore Fantastic Mr Fox, and, now that I'm writing this, I have an urge to watch Moonrise Kingdom again.

But first, is it too soon to pre-book tickets for Wes Anderson's new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel? Here's the trailer:

And, for the real Margot Tenenbaum geek, have you seen these notebooks?


Sunday, 23 February 2014


A: 'You're slime-tastic': he made this at a birthday party today
T: Windswept and golden with sunshine

Another half term is over, and I have serious back-to-school blues. I may or may not have stayed in my pyjamas all day...

Tonight, I'm going to perk myself up with a bit of iplayer action; The Notorious Bettie Page or Cutie and the Boxer? Can't quite decide.

Joining in with Jodi's 52 project


Thursday, 20 February 2014


I've lost track of how many times I must've used that word over the past months and years. Turns out, this little boy couldn't hear me.

To cut a really long story short, what began as a speech delay about eighteen months ago turned out to be glue ear: congestion of the middle ear that causes hearing loss. Poor little dab, his hearing as poor as if you put your fingers in your ears. Life must've been so lonely for him in his little muffled bubble.

At the end of January, he (finally!) went to the Bristol Children's Hospital for a bilateral grommet insertion. I always remember kids at school having grommets and never knowing what it meant, so in the interests of education, here goes. Grommets are little tiny tubes that are inserted into a hole the surgeon makes in the ear drum. They drain the middle ear and relieve congestion, and hearing is improved. Grommets stay put for around nine months until the ear naturally says goodbye, at which point they fall out and the ear drum begins to heal.

On the day of his operation, we woke T at 6am, got him dressed and headed to the hospital. We were admitted to a small ward with four beds, and T made himself comfortable. He was the first on the list, and we spoke at length to the anaesthetist as well as the surgeon, and the nurses took his vitals and numbed his hands ready for the canula. Only one of us was able to go down with him for the anaesthetic, so I took him. I've never had a general anaesthetic before so it was a bit of a shock quite how quickly he went under. He just passed out in my arms after a couple of seconds, which was disconcerting.

Ben and I were told to head to the cafe for a cup of tea while the operation took place (it only takes half an hour or so). Back on the ward, we waited for him to come round at which point I went down to the recovery room to fetch him. He was in the arms of a doctor, sobbing and very disorientated. It took about 45 minutes for him to calm down; the hospital DVD player and a packet of chocolate buttons did the trick in the end.

We were out by lunchtime, and it was a relief to get home. I'd read other accounts of grommet operations after which kids had noticeably improved hearing almost immediately. T's wasn't quite so apparent, although over the days that followed his operation it was a joy to hear his new phrase: 'what's that noise?', said in response to birds flying overhead, or the miaow of a cat in the window of a neighbour's house.

In the weeks since the op, things have changed significantly. His hearing has definitely improved, his speech is a lot clearer, and his behaviour - although up and down for a while - seems to be improving. Time will tell how much better things will get and how quickly he catches up with his peers, but I'm glad we opted for the grommets and so excited for my littlest boy and the brand new world that's just opened up for him.


Tuesday, 18 February 2014


A: Larking about with that increasingly gappy grin
T: Attempting to put a bulldog clip through a sippy cup lid - weird science alert
Both wearing crowns they made on Valentine's Day. Cue many games involving me as Queen Mummy (got quite used to my new title)

Over a week's gone by since my last blog post. These past eight days have been kind of crazy: a funeral, a birthday, some good work news and some bad, two family members in hospital (separately), and now half term. I feel as though my feet haven't touched the ground.

This month of sleep is also up and down, with some early, early nights (before 9pm!), and others maintaining that same crazy, late-night mania I was trying to curb. I'm trying to embrace the early night - there is a deliciousness about heading up the stairs at such a decent hour - but it's just not that easy. There is always a book or magazine to be read, telly to be watched, and many, many hours of mindless internet wandering to be done, isn't there?

Joining in with Jodi's 52 project

Monday, 10 February 2014

Wild in the country

What better way to spend a sunny Sunday than to romp free in the woods, kick a football about, and splash in a stream?

A few weeks back, I went to see Project Wild Thing at Yeo Valley. A fascinating film on so many levels, one of the elements I found interesting was the study into the impact exposure to nature has on kids when they grow into adults; supposedly, these children grow up to love nature and actively seek out time in the great outdoors. As kids, my parents would take us on a walk most weekends. We HATED it. I remember stubbornly kicking my boots along, grumpily ignoring the rest of my family, desperate to reach the pub and a bottle of Coke and packet of crisps. So I'm not sure the theory really holds true in my case: huge amounts of nature as a child has not made me a voracious outdoors-lover. I'd say I'm rather reluctant, embarrassingly fair-weather, and it requires huge amounts of cajoling to get me in the open air.

Despite my case-study-of-one, I do try to get outdoors with the kids. Our recent visit to Dyrham Park was lots of fun: hide-and-seek in the Orangery, pond weed throwing, and messing about on a tractor. Above is an overly-sentimental take on the day, a video to remind me - and them - of the fun we can have out, running free, and going wild in the country.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Five reads for February

Image of Tove Jansson from here

1. Sculptor's Daughter: A Childhood Memoir
Part autobiography, part fiction, Tove Jansson's childhood memoir has recently been re-published; a counterpart to her Moomin stories for kids, these are stories told through the eyes of a child.

2. How to Be Alone
After six months of working from home, I woke up on Wednesday to the realisation that I might be just a little bit lonely. Some weeks, I might only socialise once, spending three or four days of the week alone. Being an avid lover of the printed word and believing it to hold the answer to all of life's questions, I bought this handy little manual (one of Alain de Botton's School of Life series).

3. Susie Orbach On Eating
Mindfulness and eating: sounds simple. Isn't.

4. The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves
It's all a bit self-help this month, isn't it? (What do you expect of a psychology graduate?) This book looks fascinating; I love a bit of insight into the human condition.

5. The Simple Things
I've just written my first piece for The Simple Things, and I couldn't be more excited. I love this magazine. Look out for issue 21 in a few weeks.


Saturday, 8 February 2014


A: Precision Moshi Monster line up
T: Changing so fast

Saturday mornings are pretty relaxed in this house. Since my change of career, we haven't had a cleaner so now we potter about, tidying and cleaning, in an attempt to begin the weekend all orderly and clean slate-ish. If you asked me a few weeks/months back what the kids do while we're doing this, I'd say they watched telly, punctuated by a few yells and complaints about some misdemeanour one is committing towards the other.

Now, they play and share and take it in turns and make their own fun. It is nothing short of a breakthrough. Along with this change, I find myself reacting to them in a much more positive way. They are sweet and fun to be around. It's amazing how true is the truism that you're only as happy as your least happy child. This house has become happier; each person's renewed good mood informing that of the other three.

Happy weekend x
Joining in with Jodi's 52 project


Wednesday, 5 February 2014


A: Always drawing. Current obsession: Pete Fowler
T: Always reading (that book is a bad influence)

A sleepover at their grandmother's meant my kids weren't around on Saturday. But their things were, and so I photographed what they'd left lying around, instead of their beautiful faces.

While they were away, we spent our tenth anniversary in quiet celebration at our favourite tapas bar. Walking home through the drizzle, we took in a few Bristol landmarks that have meaning to our relationship, and we tried to remember all the band t-shirts we used to own (where are they now? No idea).

Joining in with Jodi's 52 project

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A month of sleep

January should be a time of hibernation, nesting, and restoration after the whirlwind of Christmas. Last month, we dealt with a bereavement, an operation, and mountains of work. I have what the Guardian has coined Goldfinch Arm ('the specific ache you get from Donna Tartt's excellent but heavy hardback'), having stayed up too late, too often. I need sleep.

February seems as good a month as any to commit to regular early nights. Does this make me a bore? Maybe. But there are bags on my bags; my eyes can't go on like this.

The bed linen is freshly laundered and the bedroom tidied. I'm joining the zzzzz-list.
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