What's your style?

28 June 2011

What's your style? 

I'm talking interior wise - your home, furniture and those bits that surround your everyday. It really matters to me - is that a bad thing? I love design. I always have. I can remember intimate details of the homes I've lived in; from the design of the Habitat tea set I ate off of in the 1970's to the bold blue floral pattern on my childhood bedspread. 

Now that we are staying in our current abode for the next few years we're going to do a bit of much needed work to it. It's the first 'big home project' we've done since having our family, so we need to approach it with that in mind. There is lots of boring stuff to do; the kind of stuff that eats away at tight budgets such a dealing with damp patches and buying loft ladders as well as some electrical and building work.  We'll be living with a bit of dust and disruption in the coming months, that's for sure. But the bit I am looking forward to is the decorating and the careful purchasing of some key furniture pieces. No matter what your style is, the process of putting your stamp on your home is what makes a house a home.

I love the picture that I've used to illustrate this post. It isn't my garden in case you were wondering. I came across this spectacular garden in the village where my parents live. It made me smile so I took a photo of it. Looking back at it now, I love it for its unapologetic display of personal style and taste. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but the owner is not shy about declaring his or her style ... and good on them, I say.

A Tune for Tuesday No.7

There is no under lying reason to this weeks Tune for Tuesday. It's just a song I love.

To date, this could be classed as a fairly 'modern' choice for a Tune for Tuesday song; 1981. But watch the video and do the maths and you'll see that this tune is in fact now 30 years young. Oh, how time flies!

Thank You For The Music

21 June 2011

Just a short post, but one I wanted to share as it will no doubt make you smile. You may have seen my Father's Day post last weekend titled Daddy The Superstar. Well, here is a peak behind the scenes, aka Lily's creative thought process.

Me: Any ideas of want you want to make daddy for Father's Day?

Lily: Mmm, well what does daddy really really like? 

Lily (after some consideration): I know, his records. His 'Sun' record, because he has that picture on his t-shirt too.

And from that seed came this artwork (it's the framed one, if you were unsure), which daddy was rather chuffed with. We also conducted a photoshoot with a similar theme, images from which made the Father's Day card.

It can be very rock n' roll in our house at times!

A Tune for Tuesday: Mr Blue Sky

Now I'm generally not one for 'lame' cover versions, it has to be said. By that I mean when an artist sings the song of another artist in much the same way as the original artist had. That is a cop out. 

But sometimes, an artist will take a song and reinvent it. Done well, it's acceptable. It's shows creativity.

One of my favourite songs ever has to be Mr Blue Sky by E.L.O. Now a few weeks back I heard a cover version of this song on the radio. It took me a while to 'name that tune' so to speak; I knew the words, but the tempo was all wrong. I think I liked it though. Then, the radio DJ told me that this cover version was by an artist called Jim Bob. No, surely not the Jim Bob who fronted the late eighties / early nineties band Cater The Unstoppable Sex Machine? I'd seen them live a fair few times. Looking back now that band makes me cringe, but hats off to Jim Bob for moving on and coming up with this. Give it a listen ...

Rather beautiful isn't it. But make no mistake, it does touch the original in any way or from, so if that rendition has given you an E.L.O. ear worm, below is the original in all its glory. Turn up the volume and enjoy.

Daddy the Superstar ...

19 June 2011

Lily has been building Father's Day up for a while now. Planning her little surprises and giving David a daily countdown to his 'big day'. Goodness knows what he is expecting!

This morning Lily made daddy breakfast-in-bed. She also showered him with homemade artwork, vanilla and white chocolate cookies made with her own fair hands and a pack of Arsenal Top Trump cards. It's their latest father & daughter thing Top Trumps. Arthur, being barely two, is playing it safe with a card made at playgroup and a voucher for one of daddy's favourite record shops. Arthur seems a little baffled with the concept of Father's Day. He just walking round the house saying 'Daddy Berfday!"

David is a brilliant dad - Lily and Arthur are really lucky. He has always been very hands on even though he works such crazy hours. I'd say that he's probably more of a 'relaxed' parent than I am.
He's fun - he'll respond to their requests to be swung upside down or a trip to the park when the weather is too cold / wet / windy for me.

Lily came home from school earlier this week with some very exciting news that she'd learnt in RE . She explained to me that they were learning about different kinds of religions.

Lily (very excitedly): Mummy, you won't believe this but there is a star that's got the same name as MY DADDY, really there is!

Me: Oh, what's that then?

Lily (fit to burst with her amazing news): It's called 'STAR OF DAVE'!

Me: Really?

Lily: (stopping to think), Well, it was something like that ... it's what daddy is called.

Me: Maybe you mean 'Star of David'?

Lily: (Excitement ressumed): Yes, yes ... that was it! How good is it that that star has the same name as MY DADDY!'

The Reason Why I Support Oxford in the Boat Race ...

The reason that I chose to support Oxford in the boat race is because my dad did. I had, and still don't have any interest in the boat race, or indeed sport in any shape or form. But when that annual day came around and you had to opt for Oxford or Cambridge, I wanted to be the same as my dad, so Oxford it was.

My dad was a huge influence on me when growing up, and still is in some forms today. I think I am probably more like my dad than my mum in some ways; we're both nostalgic to the years we grew up in, he shaped my musical tastes with his 70's vinyl, we both have a mild case of OCD, we'd both sooner buy the Radio Times than the TV Times, we love Macaroni Cheese and detest milk .... I could go on.

My dad was the stricter of my two parents. I remember being banned from watching Grange Hill in case it should lead me astray (but that was nothing compared to the girl next door who was banned from watching Rentaghost in case it made her 'mad' ... yes, really. There was also the spell of not being able to play outside of our own back garden on a Sunday. Back then, Sunday was the grown-ups day of rest and they didn't want to hear children playing out in the streets. Fair point dad, I can see your thinking now. I never really questioned anything my dad said as I assumed, without question he was right. He's my dad and he knew the answer to everything. Now as a parent myself, I expect he was winging it at times like I do, but he never gave that impression and that in turn gave my childhood a feeling of comfort, warmth and security.

Through my childhood eyes I very much saw my dad as head of our family. He worked hard at his job doing shift hours and when at home he worked hard around the house. He was always doing something practical; gardening or battling with nature down the allotment, making homemade beer or working under the bonnet on string of 'unlucky' cars.

He is strikingly intelligent and has an appetite for knowledge and the arts. I don't think that rubbed off on me as I'm not particularly intelligent in any academic kind of way. My brother is more that way inclined - I'm creative. My head is too full of pictures, colours and patterns to hold onto any knowledge. I can't see it changing now. As children, my dad would instill into my brother and I how important it was to work hard at school and how it would go someway in shaping our future. I can see that now. My dad's education failed him and he wanted more than anything for us to succeed. I always wanted to please my dad and make him proud. A highly skilled job, native in several languages and a love of Shakespeare and Opera I don't have, but I do have a strong work ethic, which I like to think came from him. I still always push myself in everything I do, sometimes when I don't always need to. I wonder if it is something deep within me, an ingrained habit looking for 'approval', needing to 'please', wanting to 'step up and beyond expectation' from way back.

I know my dad is proud of me. He was proud when I got my degree and he is proud that, together with David, I have my own business. To me, he is slightly disillusioned: my degree is in Art and therefore creative not academic and our business keeps us ticking over - business woman of the year I am not. But maybe I'm just doing that 'pushing myself to the next level' thing again. See what I mean? But,  who knows it could have been much much worse if I had been allowed to watch Grange Hill.

My dad lit a lot of sparks in me that have made me who I am. Take his love of nature. I remember as a child looking at his collection of 'Observer's Books'. My favourites were 'The Observer's Book of Birds' and 'The Observer's Book of Wild Flowers'. My dad has always done his bit for the world of animal welfare. My first beloved pet was a cat called Dinkie. She was a kitten from a litter of stray cats born in one of the hangers at Heathrow Airport, where my dad worked. The cats were deemed a nuisance and were to be destroyed, so my dad bought one home. She lived a happy life with us for 15 years. When I was very young we lived on the top floor of a maisonette which had huge windows. There were lots of Dutch Elm trees around which homed a lot of birds and we'd sometimes have them flying into the glass of our windows causing themselves a little concussion. My dad pick up the dazed birds and would care for them until they were recovered. It's the kind of thing dad would do.

I wanted to find a photo of my dad with me as a child to put with this post, but I don't seem to have any (other than the one I opened my first blog post with). So I've used this picture of my dad, taken a few years back with Lily. Like me, she adores him. She hangs off his every word as I did as a little girl and I love seeing them spending time together.

And, for the record, yes I do still support Oxford in the boat race and will forever more.

Windmills & Hoovers ...

18 June 2011

Do you remember having any irrational fears as a child? Most of us had them. They can be quite random. I remember being spooked by a musical wooden windmill my grandparents had. I think it was a souvenier from a trip to Holland. They kept it on top of the wardrobe in the spare bedroom. You would wind it up and it would play 'Tulips from Amsterdam' and at night you could plug it in and its windows would light up yellow and orange. To me as a young child it appeared rather sinister lit up. I'd have to ask my nan to remove it from the room if I ever slept over. Oddly enough, I never had a problem with 'real' windmills; I was actually quite fascinated by them.

Lily has a few fears that can be classed as irrational. I can see my younger self in her. The big one was vacuum cleaners (or Hoovers as we have always referred to them whatever the manufacturer). It could be quite a problem, having to schedule any hoovering for when she was out of the house. If at home and the hoover came out, she'd fly upstairs to her bedroom and shut the door, not coming out until we promised it was back in the cupboard. 

However a few weeks ago, she suddenly declared that she no longer had a 'hoover issue'. I'm unsure what happened to change her mind, but she now is totally cleansed of any fear, so much so that she insists on turning it 'on' and 'off' and packing the various components away into its storage bag. I'm glad she overcame her fear and it's comforting to know that when she is older she will have a clean dust-free house ... I did worry for a bit.

As for that windmill, I don't know what happened to it, but I'm quietly relieved that it didn't end up in my house.


16 June 2011

Arthur is developing a strong character which is lovely; except when it comes to food. He has a pretty good appetite and will eat most things if the mood takes him. But he will turn up his nose when it comes to being offered fruit and vegetables in their natural unpureed forms. It can be challenging at times. He's not about to have any dietary issues as he will eat soup and fruit purees, plus I can whizz up all manner of vegetables to hide in pasta sauces. It's more a battle of wills.

One of Arthur's favourite foods is ice cream, so I decided to make up some super fruity smoothies and disguise them as this friendly food. Did he fall for it? Hook, line and sinker .... he did. It's a win/win situation.

Berry & Banana Lollies

Using a blender or blender stick, whizz together a chopped banana, 100g of berries (such as strawberries and blueberries) with 125g of natural yoghurt and 100ml of milk. Pour into lolly mould and lolly sticks and freeze. Makes 6 lollies.

Cranberry & Mango Lollies

Make as above, but this time using one chopped ripe mango, 250ml of cranberry juice and 125g of natural yoghurt.

Memories: The Original Glamping

9 June 2011

You may have read my recent post on Niton, my childhood holiday village. Writing that post took me back to the wonderful holidays I had there. The magic ingredient was a place called Hoyes Farm. Hoyes Farm was where we would stay. It was a working farm with ten caravans perched up high on a hill that boasted a wonderful view of patchwork fields. The caravan site was called 'Meadow View' which was frankly very apt. It is still there today, but in a very basic form. You see much of the magic was directly due to the family who owned and ran the farm and holiday accommodation; the wonderful Brian and Orion Lacey. I probably holidayed there on and off for a good twenty-five to thirty years and it never changed a bit. I took my first holiday there at just months old and my last holiday there as a married women, yet in all that time Brian and Orion never changed; they managed to remain ageless. That certainly says a lot for the country air round those parts. 
My dad used to stay at the same farm as a child in the 1950's when Brian's father ran it. Back then the accommodation consisted of a few old buses which had been converted to house guests for their annual summer vacations. So by the time I started holiday there we were very much old friends of the family. But Brian and Orion treated everyone who stayed with them like old friends of the family. As a child the best thing was being able to get involved in the farm. Brian was always happy to take willing children under his wing. He was a bit like the pied piper with a trail of children behind him. He had all the time in the world for you. I've milked cows, helped herd cows down from the top field, bottle feed lambs, gone on tractor rides and fed the rabbits. 
Down the bottom of the hill was a caravan of an older model that wasn't rented out and as kids we were allowed to go in there. It had a black and white portable television and I can remember watching Top of the Pops on it. As older kids we were allowed to take some of the tame rabbits from their hutches into this caravan with us - I used to just love it; in my own space surrounded by these cute bundles of fur. I loved being on the farm helping out and having that freedom. When told we were off to the beach for the day it was usually met in a rather bitter-sweet kind of way as I'd quite happily just hang out on the farm.

Sadly Brian has since passed on, but Orion still lives in the village with her family close by. It's always a treat to bump into her down the village when we are there visiting my parents. When I think about those holiday's now I know that my children would have loved them. But I wouldn't dream of ever staying there now as it would never ever have the romotest chance of living up to my Hoyes Farm days. I guess I just got very very lucky.

Staying Put

It's official; our house is now off the market. It's right what they say about moving house being one of the most stressful things in life. I always though that statement was somewhat over dramatic, but the last year has proved my thinking wrong. We had people who wanted to buy our house and ironically,  at the very last minute we finally found 'our house' with an owner happy to drop his price to fit our budget. But the issue of trying to get Lily into a half decent local school kept on rearing its ugly head. The gamble of moving with its huge cost and still no guarantee of getting into the school we want was just too bigger a risk to take. Had it not gone to plan the reverberations would have left us with a guilt that we had somehow failed our children the good education they deserve. 

But 'our house' came along and ticked boxes left right and centre, but it was a one-way ticket to the school we were doing everything in our power to avoid. But we felt powerless, it was ours (or rather our children's) destiny to go there. We'd talk ourselves into the bleak situation - Lily and Arthur are bright and have their heads screwed on, they would get through their years at this school and it would be alright in the end. We were just parents who had come obsessed with schools - it can happen to anyone.

Then a few weeks ago things took an unforeseen turn. Timing, fate, a deep determination not to leave any stones unturned? I don't know. But we have manged to get Lily a place at a local school that is in our opinion is excellent for her.

It's not the route we planned or even considered but it means the pressure to move house is off. My heart may had found 'our house' but my head told us we ought to stay put here for a few more years as ironically we are now in a good place for Infant schools. A new one is opening this September which should well be an option for Arthur. It seems sensible after all the stress Lily's school situation has put upon us to stick here for a few more years. It should offer us some kind on insurance to not have to go through it again with Arthur in a couple of years. We do love our home and I think I will fall in love with it all over again as we're going to go ahead with a few home improvements to keep us ticking over. So, we got a happy ending - a solution that will more than do.  This morning I went into Lily's new school and signed the necessary documents. Afterwards, I delivered a note to her current school to inform them of our decision. The relief I feel now this episode is over is immense - huge. I'm excited about the future again.

Bookworm ...

7 June 2011

I bought Arthur a new book this week with some of the money he got for his birthday. He is really getting into books now. Lily is a right old bookworm, so maybe he will be too. Having children gives me the perfect excuse to dip into the wonderful world of picture books - there are some beautiful ones out there. This latest purchase has not disappointed either Arthur or myself. ABC at the Circus by Patrick Hruby is packed full of stunning illustrations that really strike a cord with me. I love the graphicness of them, the rainbow colours and the retro feel. The illustrations would work for me framed on the wall. Since having this book in our home I have done a little research and found that this illustrator has a blog (well, lets face it who hasn't!) and a website and that has furthered my passion for his work. This book will become well-loved in our family and when Arthur has outgrown it, it will be boxed up and put into the loft for any future grandchildren to enjoy.

Everyday is like Sunday

2 June 2011

The blog posts have been a little slow of late due to half term stealing any free moments I might usually be able to eek out of a day. So here is another 'photo' heavy post, which I hope still as enjoyable as the more usual 'wordy' ones.

These are from a selection of photo's I took whilst at my parents house in the Isle of the Wight the other weekend. It's my photographic illustration of the small but perfectly formed village they live in. It's called Niton and consists of a charming post office that also serves cream teas, a pub, a grocery shop that stocks a good example of local produce, a general store that sells a variety of bits you might need from books to begonia plants, a primary school and a library run by villagers (they took charge after the council tried to close it down). Its houses have names rather than numbers. It's big on community and stunning views. 

It used to be to the little village that we would come every other year on holiday, so it is very familiar to me. Not much has changed - it has almost stood still in time. Visiting there now I can't help but notice how quite it is. It's probably the sharp contrast to living in a city and the fast paced life we have. If I walk five minutes from my front door at anytime, I can tell you what day it is and roughly the time by the activity going on around me. But in Niton it is always quite and never busy. Everyday feels like how Sunday's used to be. I love the vibrancy of the city I live in, but it's great for us to have this place to come to for a recharge every now and then. It allows us to have the very best of both worlds.