My Turn In The Kitchen

29 December 2011

Yesterday I finally got to spend a bit of time in the kitchen again. It's a comfortable place to be; even more so if preparing a Christmas spread for visiting family. Christmas Day itself was spent with my family and yesterday was David's family day. For those that came early afternoon I made a batch of Beetroot & Apple Soup which I served with Cheddar & Poppy Seed Scones. Afters was a stroll along the beach. Come the early evening there was six of us plus the kids. I did a vegetarian supper that consisted of individual Squash & Sage Pithivier's, a Tahini-dressed Courgette & Green Bean Salad (from my new favourite cook book; River Cottage Veg Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall), Roasted Red Peppers with Pomegranate & Capers and to finish An Iced Nougat & Raspberry Terrine. The best thing about it? Apart from the side dishes, I'd made it all before Christmas, so it was just a case of remembering to get things out of the freezer. Easy.

A Happy Christmas

28 December 2011

Well, here we are the other side of the big day. We had a lovely time staying with my parents who live on the Isle of Wight. It was a real chance for David and I to sit back and relax whilst the kids became nanny and grandad's shadows.

Christmas Day was spent indoors, apart from taking the dog for a walk round the village, so come Boxing Day we were ready to head out for some fresh air. It's become a bit of a tradition, that when we're at my parents for Boxing Day we go down to Steephill Cove. I've written posts on this little idyllic place during our visits in the summer months, but I love it in the winter too. The tide was in, so we found a little cafe and drank mugs of hot chocolate with marshmallows whilst watching the waves break. 
It's the perfect Boxing Day past time.

Not Long Now ...

21 December 2011

Just four more sleeps to go ... and I think I'm almost ready.

I've already started on the mince pies; I've purchased a bottle of sherry; the presents have been bought, though not yet wrapped and a few homemade presents are 'nearly done'. 

I've sorted the menus for the days I'm 'entertaining at home'. Seasonal goodies and treats have been made over the last few days and now sit happily in the freezer. I love nothing more than a bit of festive baking whilst listening to sentimental Christmas tunes on the radio.

The tree is decorated. It looks lovely. It's embellished with baubles; a combination of family heirlooms and Lily and Arthur's collections that I add to each year. It's not the coordinated style I used to go for, but a beautiful 'real' look that I like all the more.

I love this time of year; the run up to Christmas. It's full of excitement (both mine and the children's) It's a time sprinkled with lots of nostalgia. The Danish have a word 'Hygge'. It doesn't translate easily into English but is used to describe a state of comfort, peace and warmth while in the company of loved ones. It's about creating a cosy atmosphere by lighting a few candles and enjoying good food and something to drink. To me, Hygge is now ... these magical few days before the big one.

Jam Drops & Paper Angels

15 December 2011

Lily loves having her school friend's over for tea. Earlier this week she had four of her friends back after school for a bit of 'festive baking & making.' We baked Jam Drop biscuits and made these sweet paper angels. I came across the angels on this lovely french blog that I recently discovered. It's full of lovely templates that can be downloaded for a crafty afternoon. If you want to have a go at making these angels you can download the template here. They certainly held the attention of a group of six year old girls whilst their Jam Drop's baked in the oven.

A Lesson In How To Do Christmas Decorations

11 December 2011

The Christmas build-up has started in earnest this weekend. Yesterday was Lily's school Christmas Fair. I organised and ran the craft tables: it's been a bit of a 'second job' these past few weeks what with all the prep work involved but it's been what I would call 'busy-fun'.

Today we had our first official Christmas Engagement: a small pre-christmas gathering for some festive drinks at a friend's house. The abode in question belongs to an old friend of ours, affectionately known as Phil Hair (the name came about as we have three good friends all called Phil and this particular Phil is a hairdresser). But it's not only hair he has a way with. No, come December he turns his flat into the most amazing grotto. This is a man not afraid of multi-coloured tree lights and paper-chains. All of the decorations are vintage; some from as far back as the 40's and 50's. There's a fair amount of ones from the 60's and 70's too; some of which felt so very familiar. It's A Wonderful Life played on the TV and Christmas Tunes provided the background music. You couldn't fail to feel festive.

It's great to have a friend who goes through such effort each year (we're talking 2 - 3 days set up here). The kids loved it: it's far better than a trip to the local 'festive spectacular' in the shopping centre. We practically billed it to them as a 'fun afternoon out', and they weren't disappointed. Being the only children at the gathering wasn't a problem for them. They lapped up the festive ambience along with  what they would call a 'good spread'; nibbles in the form of crisps, peanuts, mince pies and chocolate mini rolls. I think we all could have stayed in that snug, comforting, nostalgic environment late into the evening. I left with a warm festive feel-good glow, though feeling a little inadequate in the Christmas decorations department.

A Pre-Christmas Ritual

7 December 2011

I love Christmas. I love a Christmas tradition. Today I bought the Christmas issue of the Radio Times. It is the only time during the whole year that I buy a television guide. I have no need to buy one: such guides come free with the weekend papers and to be honest I don't really watch that much TV.  No, this purchase was purely indulgent on my part. I love nothing better than sitting down on an evening in early December with a warming drink and a highlighter pen. I will read through the listings and highlight all that I would like to watch (though I know I'll barely watch a quarter of what I highlight).

There is something nostalgic about this particular publication: I wouldn't dream of buying any other at this time of year. As a child we always has a Radio Times and a TV Times in the house. I'm not sure why we had two. I'm guessing that back then, the BBC listed only their own channels in the Radio Times whilst ITV, and later channel 4, listed in the TV Times? Sounds rather antiquated now doesn't it?

So now I just need to find a free evening for my yearly ritual. But first, and most importantly, I will remove the 'summer holiday' supplement that is always stapled into the centre. That is just plainly wrong for the Christmas issue. I've always thought that.


1 December 2011

We're lucky enough to have Hove Museum & Art Gallery just a few minutes walk from our house. Every time I visit, I say I must go more often. The other week Arthur and I had the most lovely morning there. The museum hadn't long been open for the day when we arrived so it was quite empty. Empty museums are great when you're with a toddler. 

Our first stop was the tearoom for toasted teacakes with butter. You can't not. Then we wandered around the galleries. The current exhibition that we saw was just perfect. It was all about robots. If I'm honest, I can take or leave a robot: not really my thing. But this exhibition was just lovely. I saw it through a little boys eyes and now I think robots are fantastic! A vast range of robots and space toys from the collection of Sussex artist and illustrator Chris MacEwan make up this exhibition. There is a definite retro feel about many of the designs and on mass they just look something really special. Arthur really enjoyed it, and the morning didn't cost me a penny (other than the teacakes). The exhibition is on until February, so if you find yourself in this neck of the woods with time on your hands it's worth taking a look at, even if you think robots aren't your thing.


30 November 2011

I just love the way a two-year-old's mind processes what they see. Here's an example. It really made me smile.

I was in town with Arthur the other day and workmen were digging up the pavement to carryout some sort of cable work. Arthur watched them taking it all in. After a minute or so he turned to me with a very serious face:

Arthur: 'Digging mummy, men digging'.

Me:' Yes, that right. The men are fixing the cables under the ground'.

Arthur (very matter-of-factly): ' No mummy. Potatoes. Men digging potatoes'.

Arthur's main experience of digging is watching David or I down the allotment digging up the rows of potatoes we grow every year. If I had known I could have just walked down the road, pulled up a paving slab or two and helped myself to fresh spuds, I wouldn't have bothered planting them.

Live and learn.

It's been a while ... but I've not gone anywhere

 Image: Tim Kent

It's been a while since I last published a blog post; the longest gap yet.  I guess it was going to happen sooner or later. I've been writing this blog for ten months now and had put up a least a couple of posts a week. So why no posts? I blame work. Being back in the office three mornings a week has had a surprising effect on the latter end of my week in as far as there isn't a spare minute in the day Wednesday to Friday; I'm constantly on the back foot. In addition to that I've lost my laptop during the working day to the business. We've got ourselves an intern and with no spare computer in the office for her to work from I've had to surrender the home one. I hate to say it, but I feel rather lost without it. By the time the laptop is home it's so far into the evening I neither have the energy of inclination to write. It's been a busy few weeks with many a missed opportunity blog wise. But such is life. I'm sure I'll pick up speed again soon.

A Morning That Turned Out Better Than Expected

7 November 2011

This weekend we popped down to our allotment. It was a cold and windy and my heart wasn't really in it. Enthusiasm can wane as the weather turns colder. But the kids ran around with boundless energy and we dug up the last of the potatoes and planted some onions sets, albeit a few weeks later than planned. 

The best thing about the plot at this time of year is that mother nature gives you a fighting chance; a head start in the race to get the plot 'ready' for spring. The pace slows and the weeds you clear don't grow back before you've reach the allotment gates. We make progress year on year, but our 250 square metre plot still has many neglected areas that we earnestly want claim for our idyllic plot.

It was our first November weekend on the plot and I expected nothing in return for my morning weeding and clearing. But to my amazement we came home with potatoes, beetroot, carrots, rainbow chard, yellow courgettes and some sage. That made, what started out as an unethusiastic venture, a morning well spent. Who'd have thought you could have such a love-hate relationship with a piece of land; this weekend it won me over.

Dainty Little Cakes

1 November 2011

Last week I made these little Honey and Pistachio cakes. My brother, sister-in-law and niece were coming to spend the day with us and I was running short on time to throw a quick lunch together. We were planning on eating out in the evening, so I needed to prepare a fairly light, but still delicious lunch that wouldn't spoil our evening meal.

I made a quick batch of vegi sausage rolls which I served warm with an onion chutney and a pear and watercress salad. However I can't not offer up a 'pudding' of sorts when people come for lunch or dinner, so these dainty cakes were the perfect sweet treat when served with a dollop of mascarpone. Should you wish to give them a go, here's the recipe ...

Honey and Pistachio Cakes

75g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
2 medium free-range eggs
40g caster sugar
3 tbsp of clear honey, plus extra to serve
75g plain flour
40g pistachios, chopped, plus extra to serve
Finely grated zest of an orange
Mascarpone to serve

Preheat the oven to 190C / fan 170C / Gas 5. Grease a 12 hole cake tin. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.

Using an electric hand mixer, whisk the eggs, sugar and honey until thick. This will take 6 - 7 minutes. When lifted out, the beater should leave a trail that its on the surface for a few seconds.

In batches, sift the flour into the egg mixture and fold in gently. Carefully fold in the pistachios, orange zest and the cooled melted butter.

Fill the cake tin holes with the mixture and bake for 8 - 10 mins. Turn out onto a cooling rack. Serve with a dollop of mascarpone, a sprinkle of the pistachios and some drizzled honey.


Meet Jemima

30 October 2011

We have a new member of our family; Jemima. She's rather cute isn't she? Regular readers may recall a post I wrote a few months back about our children's campaign for a pet. Well after ruling out cats, dogs and rabbits, a hamster seemed the obvious and best option. It was while on holiday in August that we finally relented and promised Lily a hamster come the autumn half term holidays. She has been counting down to 'hamster day' since then.

I can't help but feel rather short changed with the hours that Jemima is, or rather isn't, putting in. Yeah, I know that hamsters are nocturnal, but Jemima is proving to be a rather elusive during the children's waking hours. I've had a few hamsters some years back and although they did a lot of sleeping in the day, they would make some brief appearances to stock up on food or have a quick run in their wheel. Maybe Jemima will alter her sleep pattern a little once she has settled in, or maybe, unbeknown to me at the time, I previously had hamsters that suffered from insomnia.

What a Beautiful Wedding

25 October 2011

Any long-term readers of the blog may recall a post I wrote back in March about the engagement of David's niece Lucy to her fiance Dom. Well, this weekend was the wedding. I can't believe how quickly it came around. 

It was a beautiful day in every way; crisp autumn bright blue skies, lovely guests, great food and great fun. My duty was to make the wedding cake. The end result was much admired and enjoyed. After much research, thought and consideration I went for the three-tier red velvet cake by Lorraine Pascale. I cut out the red food dye by quite a bit as I'm a little uneasy with sponges that are too red. The result was more of a devils food cake; a good dense fudgy sponge. I thoroughly recommend the recipe to anyone who has been asked to bake such a celebration cake.

It was a big day for Lily too; she was one of the bridesmaids. She had been building up to her 'big day' for weeks and was so excited. She took her role very seriously, reading her much thumbed 'how to be a bridemaid' book on the car journey that morning. The day lived up to all her expectations and more. She wore the most beautiful dress that made her feel 'just like a princess', enjoyed a 'grown-up' dinner and after such a busy day still had enough energy for some past-bedtime dancing late into the evening.

A Pumpkin & Chocolate Chip Tea Loaf

19 October 2011

It's been a very busy week and it's not over yet. Not wanting to totally neglect the blog, I'm posting a recipe to tide you over until normality is resumed next week (hopefully). I had bought home a pumpkin from the allotment. It generously gave itself for a few meals, but I needed to find a good use for the remaining wedge that lingered in the fridge. So earlier this week I made a Pumpkin & Chocolate Chip Tea Loaf. It was an all round winner with kids and adults alike. Only one slice now remains tightly wrapped in tin foil on the kitchen worktop. I think it's days are numbered.

Preheat the oven to 170C/ GM 3. Lightly grease a loaf tin about 10 x 20cm, and line with baking paper.

Using an electric whisk, beat 200g of muscovado sugar (I used dark, but light would do) and 4 egg yolks (save the whites) together for 2 - 3 minutes until pale and creamy. Lightly stir in 200g of finely grated pumpkin flesh, the zest and juice of a lemon, 100g of chocolate chips and 100g of ground almonds. Then sift in 200g of self-raising flour, a pinch of salt, 1 tsp of cinnamon and a good grating of nutmeg, folding it into the mixture using a large metal spoon.

In a separate bowl, beat the 4 reserved egg whites until they form soft peaks. Stir in a heaped tablespoon of the egg white into the cake mixture. Once combined, fold in the rest of the egg whites as carefully as you can.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin ensuring the surface is level. Bake for about 1 hour, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Once done, remove from the oven and leave the cake in the tin for 10mins to cool a little. Then remove the loaf and place it on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Does Having Children Affect Your Memory?

14 October 2011

Early(ish) next year I have one of those landmark birthdays. I'm still deciding whether to fully embrace it, go into hiding or just deny it completely. I've still a few more months to go so there is no pressure quite yet. However with this day looming, I find myself looking back at my former years. The other day I tried to think how I spent my last landmark birthdays ... my 30th, my 21st ... I can't remember either. It wasn't that I partied so hard they both ended in a drunken haze. No, I simply don't recall them.

My memory is patchy at best. I remember useless information: what I ate at a restaurant seven years ago; a dress my mum wore in 1979; the pattern of a wallpaper we had at home in the early eighties. When I look back through Lily and Arthur's baby albums I see babies snapped by the camera to record landmark times: first ever Christmas, first birthdays and such like, yet I struggle to recall any key elements of 'that day or time' ... they just all roll into one in my mind.

Try and take my memory back to life before kids and it really does struggle. Now, to remember when it was just myself and David is strange and surreal. The fact that we moved to a new city, where we knew just one person when Lily was just a few months old makes the line between 'before kids' and 'after kids' all the more definite; quite otherworldly. Yet children have only been part of our life for six and a half years. It's no time at all. My winter coat is older than that.

As any parent knows, it's a 24/7 job. Work, school and other commitments create a tight schedule that your days, weeks and years are organised around. I think it is just 'that' that highjacks your memory. As a busy parent your memory is called upon to store all the immediate and often random stuff you need to draw on frequently.

Take this coming weekend for instance, I need to ensure that Lily's swimming kit, ballet kit and school uniform is all washed ready for next week; I must buy two presents for two birthday parties that Lily is attending this weekend; I've got to pop to the florist to order flowers for a wedding cake I am making; I've a couple of work documents that I need to work on; I need to prep for a meeting with a possible intern for the business; I need to buy a new TV, a hamster cage and ribbon to edge the cake-boards of the forementioned wedding cake; then there are dinners to plan and food to shop for; an untold list of household chores to get through; the balcony needs clearing of summer plants that have died off; there is an Amazon order to return; and I really could do with getting down the allotment. I could go on. I live by lists - it's the only way. The amazing thing is I rarely forget to do any of this stuff.

But then I remember a conversation Lily and I had on the walk to school earlier this week. She asked me what my first teacher was called. It came to me in an instant. She then asked me who my teacher was the next year. It just rolled off my tongue. I ended up naming every teacher I ever had whilst at school. I surprised myself. So maybe it is all still lurking there at the back of my memory, ready to resurface at its own free will, when I least at all expect it.

A Tune for Tuesday No. 11

11 October 2011

Video: You Tube

It's been a while since I last did a 'Tune for Tuesday', so I thought it would be nice to have one today.   This week it's a song from one of my favourite ever artists George Harrison. There has been lots of talk on the radio in the last week about the new Martin Scorsese film Living in the Material World; a film that I will watch for sure. Also, this weekend just gone marked what would have been John Lennon's 71st birthday. 

So this weeks tune, I think is quite fitting. The song All Those Years Ago featured all three remaining Beatles (George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney), though this was expressly a Harrison single. It is one of only a few non-Beatles songs to feature three members of the group. Harrison and Starr recorded the song at Harrison's Friar Park studio in November 1980. After Lennon's death the following month, Harrison removed Starr's vocals (but left Starr's drumming track) and recorded his own vocals with rewritten lyrics honouring Lennon. McCartney, his wife Linda and their Wings bandmate Denny Laine visited Friar Park to record backing vocals.


An Autumn Weekend

10 October 2011

It looks like autumn is well and truly here. Only the weekend before the one just gone we were sitting on a sunny beach; just over a week on and it's coats, scarves and a craving for porridge in the mornings. I love autumn; crisp days, the scent of bonfires in the air, a new wave of seasonal foods from soups and stews to proper puddings with custard, winter clothes (so much more forgiving to wear), log fires, Sunday roasts and the excitement that Christmas is not so far away.

This weekend we firmly marked autumn's arrival by 'putting the central heating on'. It's a big thing in our house, flicking that switch. House rules state that the central heating can be turned on no earlier than October 1st and must be off by April 1st. Modern climate change has yet to be taken into account with this rule. This is David's rule, of course not mine. Growing up, my dad had a similar one; must be some kind of 'man' thing about not wanting to 'give in too early' to the heating.

The first thing David said to me in my slumber on Friday wasn't 'good morning my love, did you sleep soundly / can I get you a cuppa?', no it was 'the central heating has come on!' His voice had an element of panic to it. If the house gets cold enough, below a certain temperature, the central heating will automatically click on. Good old central heating. I stuck my leg out from under the duvet and touched the radiator with my toes; it was only tepid, but on all the same which made me smile. I love central heating you see. I was in for further delight when I took my morning shower. The towel on the radiator was warm and toasty. Simple stuff but it made me happy. So without too much reluctance it was officially turned on at the weekend. Toasty days are ahead.
On Sunday we went with the kids for walk in Hove Park. It looked really stunning in all its autumn glory. I've attached some of the pictures I took to this post. Don't you think the trees look beautiful? All in all our first proper autumn weekend.

12 Years Ago

7 October 2011

Tomorrow David and I have been married twelve years. I tend not to put posts up on a weekend, so it feels fitting to mark it today, blog wise. It still feels quite grown-up to have a 'wedding anniversary.' It's what your parents and grandparents had when you were younger; it's cards adorned with flowers and scroll type fonts.
When people ask how long we've been married, I can't just give a straight answer. I have to add the fact that we were together for ten and a half years before we finally got around to making it official. So yes, we've been 'married' for twelve years, but 'together' for twenty-two and a half years. Twelve years is good going, but twenty-two and a half years is long-term hard-core stuff for a couple of our age. It's a statistic that makes me feel really old; old enough for wedding anniversaries even.

Twelve years ago I'd say we were different people. In 1999 we were living in the first house we bought together (a very grown up family house); we were both 'employed' rather than 'self-employed'; we hung out with friends; frequented pubs and restaurants; went to more than our fair share of gigs and music festivals; had the weekend papers delivered and had lie-in's every weekend we wanted them. Oh how different life has become. All that free-time to ourselves: we'd walk over hot coals just for a fraction of that care-free time now.

Our wedding day was wonderful, as every wedding day should be. But it was just 'a day' ten and a half years down the line to legally seal our commitment to one another. It was a beautiful day spent with our families and closest friends all under one roof - a line up never to be repeated. We had a lovely civil ceremony at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park and stayed there for the reception. We were the last to leave the party - it was that good.

But it's the normal days, good and bad, that make a marriage. There have been amazing up times like the arrival of out two beautiful children who are the epicentre of our existence and there was relocating and setting up our family-life in Hove which has moved us into new circles of friends who have become very much loved and valued. There have been down times too, really down times; but we've had each other and that is a powerful thing during uncertain times in life. There has been stressful times; the business, moving home (or not), schools and finding our way as a new parents. Twelve  years ago today, on the eve of our wedding we were excited about the prospect of setting out on the path of married life: a new chapter. Back then we were carefree with ideas, dreams and ambitions. Did any of it come to fruit?

Well, we might not (yet) be living in our dream house as we approach our middle life years and holidaying in exotic places has yet to come our way, neither has a dream car (actually neither of us care a toot about cars, hence we own a Skoda) and we don't have piles of money sitting in the bank beckoning an early retirement. However, we're comfortable, have no major life regrets and we're happy. We've worked hard together to build our business, we live by the sea in a city we love and we have two of the most amazing children you're ever likely to meet. Not a bad outcome for the last twelve years all considered don't you think?

Today happens to be my mum and dad's wedding anniversary. They have clocked up an amazing fourty-four years. That's a big number. I ponder as to how that must feel. I imagine it must feel quite unreal; how can you have been married so many years in what feels such a short space of time? Where did the time go. As they say, time is what goes by when your busy living your life.


3 October 2011

I pretty much walk everywhere. I like it as a mode of transport, which is just as well as I don't drive. Since Lily has changed schools I now walk her to and from school; it's a brisk 25 minute walk each way. Fellow parents congratulate me on it. When I walk down the road neighbours remark how much I walk.

I really don't see the amount of walking I do as that excessive. A typical day starts with walking Lily to school (25mins), then I walk from school to work (25mins). After my morning at work, I walk from work to playschool to collect Arthur (15mins) and then back home (10mins) for lunch. Then come 3 p.m. we off again to collect Lily fro school (a 50 min round trip). I also make frequent trips and detours into town for the supermarket or the library. Add that up and on a good day I may spend 3.5 hours walking somewhere or other. It adds up doesn't it? I guess one of the reasons people drive is the time it saves. I am always strapped for time.

But if I did drive, think of what I'd miss. What kind of shape would my legs be without all that walking? Would I notice the changing of seasons quite so much? Would I have noticed the beautiful Peonies that flower every summer in a garden I pass on my way into town? Would I have as many opportunities to exchange pleasantries with my neighbours? No, I wouldn't. 

Walking is good for the kids too. They've never known any different and gladly walk for miles. The school run is mine and Lily's time to chat about this n' that. Arthur knows the various points on our walking routes where he might expect to meet a cat too; there are a couple of friendly felines that can often be found outside the music shop that we pass, as well as in the gardens of some of the houses we go by on our route. He's also starting to point out house numbers. Number '8' is his current favourite.

Run this blog post by me in the depths of winter and I'll probably be making noises about wishing I could drive. But I'm happier on the pavement. Walking gives me time, a chance to breath, think and get my mind in order for the next part of the day. 

The Business: Then & Now

22 September 2011

Image: LondonMet

As something that is so integral to our family life, I'm surprised I haven't written more posts on our business. Maybe it's because I've been somewhat out-the-loop for a while. For those who don't know, David and I run our own PR business: one that specialises in contemporary furniture, lighting and home accessories as well as design exhibitions. It all kind of happened by accident. We didn't both sit down one day and decide our dream was to set up our own PR agency. No, not at all. We grew it from scratch seven years ago and today we're still working hard at it. It's not an easy ride having your own business; the pressures can be huge, particularly when it has to support your family. But this far down the line, I don't think either of us could see ourselves working for 'a company' again.

For the last two-and-a-half years, I've taken a back seat: a rather over-extended maternity leave. Of course, in some ways I've not left; David brings work home and we've sat up into the early hours on many an occasion working through a press release or on a proposal for a potential new client. When Lily was born and before she went to school, we would effectively job-share. We split the business and the childcare 50:50. But by the time Arthur came along the business had changed some what and our 'flexible' set up wasn't an option. The work we carry out these days is much more involved; it wouldn't be time productive to constantly be 'handing over' to one another. So we decided on David handling the business full-time while I focused on running the home, looking after the kids and everything else that makes up family life. 

Since then our client portfolio has changed quite dramatically. Go back two-and-a-half years and many of our clients then had been with us long-term. Despite David and I running the business 50:50 from the very early days, a few clients had the false preconception that I was slightly higher up than David. Maybe it was the fact I had a PR background (Conran and Urban Outfitters) some years back; maybe it's because I started out on my own for a very short time on a freelance basis under the name PR-Girl.  When we became a limited company we kept the name as it was gaining a good reputation and we didn' want to jeopardise that. It used to really grate on me when a client would request that I attend a meeting rather than David or that I took the phone call. People, friend's even, would joke that David worked for me and that at the end of the day it was 'my business'. David never seemed that troubled by it: he knew that we both played an equal part in the business and that we were both integral to it.

So it was interesting when we announced that I would be stepping back for 'a while'. Clients excepted it. Has me not being around made any difference? No, not a bit. In fact, under his own steam, David has taken on several new clients: real mover's and shaker's in the industry. I doubt I would have had the confidence to take them on. Despite a recession, he has grown our business and achieved astonishing results for many of our clients, enforcing our worth in the industry ten-fold. I'm so proud of him. I think he's actually a better 'business' person than I am. He takes gambles and works like a dog to make sure they pay off. He has the right personality for the job. He is genuine and hard working and people see that and respect him for it.

We now have some handsome clients in our portfolio; Tent London, Origin, Design Event, Home, Pulse, Mini Moderns, Surface View, The Lollipop Shoppe and Michelle Mason to name but a few. He has essentially been doing the job of 2 - 3 people for the last couple of years. Apart from our week holiday and a few days at Christmas he has had no time off. He gets home late most nights these days, usually after I've put the kids to bed. After dinner, it's not unusual for him to turn on the laptop and catch up on some work to make 'tomorrow easier'. From what I see it rarely does. Being on the receiving end I can find it tough at times. His line between work and home is often blurred. I can feel like a single parent Monday to Friday, but it's hard to voice your complaints to someone who is working hard for you and your kids. After all, it's the kind of life one subscribes to when running your own business. I need to get the 9 - 5 thing out of my head: much like company pensions, sick pay and an annual holiday allowance, they are not part of our employment package. Our business is what we make it and it's what we have to do now that we have our family to support.

With Arthur now settling into playschool, I will be returning to the business for three mornings a week. Due to the limited time I can commit to the business for the moment, I will take the desk at the back of the office (so to speak). I will work on any press releases I'm needed for and will look after other projects that will hopefully enable us to grow the business further. I'll be  doing all the stuff David just hasn't had time to do; setting up our company blog, keeping the accounts up-to-date and I'll be working on our new company name and re-brand. Yes, seven years on we do still have the official company name of PR-Girl. It isn't really fitting anymore don't you agree?

Ooh, you ought to sell those ...

20 September 2011

For a while now I've been chewing over the idea of introducing a 'Buttercup Days Boutique' section to this blog. People often tell me that I ought to try selling some of my homemade wares. I love the idea, but I am so short of time and hand making anything is time consuming. Mmm, what to do?

I had this preconceived idea that to sell product I'd need to produce volume, and that was the part I couldn't commit to. So, I've decided to make limited runs of products to sell. Once gone, I may replenish or I might introduce a different product altogether. That is workable and fun I think.

So, to start the ball rolling I am selling my Buttercup Days cake bunting; whilst stocks last. Seriously, I have made ample stock of the bunting, so to find out more just click 'Buttercup Days Boutique' on the right of your screen. Be sure to visit the boutique regularly to see what the current offering is. Remember,  bit of retail therapy is good for the soul.

The Weekend

19 September 2011

With David currently working some crazy hours in the run up to this week's London Design Festival and Tent London, our weekend was a chance to normalize for 48 hours, steeping away from the busy weekday routine.

Saturday morning started with a cake order for a birthday party that was happening that afternoon for  the mother of a friend; the results of which you can see below. Then, in the afternoon, we took Lily to a birthday party. It wasn't your average party with a kids entertainer and pass-the-parcel. No, this was a horse riding party. Along with a dozen of her new school friends we went to Three Grey's Riding School. Lily had never ridden a horse before, but despite being a little nervous at the initial prospect she enjoyed every minute of it. After a half-hour lesson they went on a half-hour ride on the South Downs. What an experience; it's certainly a party to remember. Somehow, I don't think my homemade party hats and bags are gonna cut it next year.

Most of Sunday was spent down the allotment. The sky threaten rain all day, but it stayed dry. There was certainly a nip in the air too. There is, as ever, a lot of work to be done on the plot. Summer crops are fading and spent sunflowers are skew-whiff from the recent wind. I cleared some ground and planted out a couple of rows of kale and some spinach. I left feeling that Autumn was lurking just around the corner.

A Big Day For A Little Girl.

12 September 2011

You may recall a post I did back in March about David's niece getting engaged. I made the engagement cake; naturally. Well, the big day is now less than six weeks away. The excitement is building. Like me, Lily loves a good wedding: all the pretty dresses, flowers and the 'magic of the day' are completely her 'cup of tea'.

Well, for some months now I've had to keep a little secret from her. Her cousin Lucy wanted to have Lily as one of her bridesmaids. Lily knows a lot about bridesmaids: she drank in the royal wedding  fever earlier this year and she owns a much thumbed sparkly book that's all about being a bridesmaid. I think she sees 'the bridesmaid' as the not so distance cousin of 'the princess' or 'the fairy'.

So, yesterday cousin Lucy paid Lily a visit and asked if she would do her the honour of being one of her bridesmaids. Lily was lost for words, which I can tell you is rare. Then, with Lily still trying to process what was happening, Lucy produced the most beautiful bridesmaid dress for Lily to try on.  Needless to say she looked gorgeous in it. 

Unknown to Lily, Lucy had arranged for us to meet up with the two other young bridesmaid's and their mum to shop for the 'finishing touches', so without drawing breath we headed out to the shops. Just a couple of hours later Lily had a pretty cardigan, sparkly hair slides and tights to complete her 'best outfit ever'. Last night she went to bed very happy. 

What a day it had been for a six-year-old who has always wanted to be a bridesmaid. A perfect day.