Monday, 13 February 2017

Children's Book Reccommendations - Stories With A Message

Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
This year I have not made any resolutions, because I don't like to give things up but I have set myself a few goals, one of which is to start a few new regular blog features. One of which is to share some of our favourite stories. Reading is a huge part of this family's MO but when it comes to kids books there is so much utter trite out there you can waste an awful lot of money. I often become angry when reading a poorly written child's book it is as if the publisher has just shoved something out there because hey kids like bears and shown complete disregard for children, because hey kids are stupid you can read them anything right? WRONG!

To save you a little time trawling through the shops and internet site and hopefully save you wasting money on awful books I want to share a few books with you each month with a loose theme. This month the theme is stories with a message.

Narrative is a great way of exploring feelings, behaviour, social responsibility with children. It is also a great way to start a dialogue with a child about things that happen in the wider world or in their daily lives that they may find hard to articulate. We have always done this, even before Sebastian was talking I would talk about the story afterwards and compare it to things we had done, experienced, or another story. Now he will jump in and make comparisons as we are reading something. Or say he feels like a particular character in a book.

I think establishing an open dialogue with children at a young age is very important and making those conversations a place where they are not being judged is equally important. For example acknowledging if they dislike someone and helping them navigate how to manage that. 
Abracazebra Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/

We have been reading this since before Sebastian was a year old but it is not a short baby book, (I was always too bored for 'baby books'). The premise of the tale is a sleepy town filled with 'traditional' farm animals. Then an exotic creature, a Zebra comes to town. Many residents love he she is fun and exciting and offers them shows and stories they have never had before. However a goat is not happy and begins a campaign of fear until he drives her put with a sign saying "No Stripes Allowed". He realises his mistake and the town say sorry and bring her back. The penultimate line reads, "Now Yawnalot is a happy place where they welcome any kind of face" 
Abracazebra Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
This story is such a great way to explore themes of diversity but also about fearing things that are different. It also speaks about being a stander by to injustice, about not speaking up when you see a mean thing happen. I love this book and I feel as your child grows the conversations you can have around the themes in this book will grow and develop.
Elmer David McKee  Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/

There are a whole host of Elmer books some better than others, this one is a keeper. The hippo's river dries up and they come to live with the elephants. They know they are unwelcome but they need water to survive. Elmer saves the day and the Elephants and the hippos work together to restore their river. The best line comes at the end when one of the elephants who was opposed to the hippos being there says, "imagine if our river dried up"
 Elmer David McKee  Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
I love that this is about working together to secure a better future, about accepting things. It talks about overcrowding of the river but explores the fact that this is sometimes necessary for survival and bigger things are in play. It is a nice way to start a discussion about refugees especially given the current climate on this.

This is such a lovely book that talks about the insecurities that a sibling might face. It explains that the love a parent feels for a child goes beyond their attributes. It is a lovely reassuring book and one welcome in any home even if your little one is not part of a sibling group it does not mean that they will not have fragile moments about your love for them. They are a sensitive bunch those kiddos.
 Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
Gorilla Anthony Browne Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/

This is a book for parents as much as it is for children. The illustration is as important as the words it is truly wonderful. The book tells of Hannah who loves Gorillas, they are her favourite thing, the underlying truth is that daddy is Hannah's favourite thing but daddy is always busy. 

When her toy gorilla comes to life and takes her to the zoo he finds that her father's coat is "a perfect fit" After a night of fun she wakes in the morning to race downstairs and tell daddy all about it and he offers to take her to the zoo before she has a chance to speak. "Hannah smiled, she was very happy"
Gorilla Anthony Browne Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
There are so many lovely details such as a drawing on the wall Hannah has done of here and her father holding hands, he is huge and her smile is too. The drawings that show how alone and scared Hannah feels when she does not have her daddy's attention are very telling. It is not only a cautionary tale for parents but a great way to start a dialogue about the inevitable time we do have long hours at work and trips away and how that might make them feel.
Gorilla Anthony Browne Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
5. Mummy's Home - Christopher MacGregor & Emma Yarlett 
Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
This is a wonderful book that helps deal with separation anxiety. Christopher is ex army and he wrote Mummy's Home and My Daddy's Going Away. He wrote the two books and there is an accompanying website with advice on how to use the books. Inspired by his and other colleagues in the armed forces issues with helping their children understanding them going away for a period of time. This book has a wonderful rhythmic quality making it very easy to read aloud. It works for parents who go to work, if you are going to go away for the weekend or if you have longer stints of working away.
 Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
The world that Emma Yarlett has illustrated for the poem has such beautiful fantasy with many elements for little ones to explore. It also has great imagery to aide the theme in the story to help visual learners.

julia donaldson paper dolls Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
6. Paper Dolls - Julia Donaldson & Rebecca Cobb

julia donaldson paper dolls Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
Juila Donaldson is probably one of the most prolific children's writers  I know of and some of her books are better than others. This one is a great one. It has her signature rhythm and rhyme and it is a great way to talk about loss with a child. The story tells of a little girl making paper dolls with her mother and playing some fantastic imagination games with them until a mean boy cuts them up. At this point they float into her memory, a place where many wonderful things live such as granny, fireworks and old toys.
julia donaldson paper dolls Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
The little girl grows into a mother and one day helps her own little girl make some paper dolls. There is so much to talk about with your child in this book. Memory, loss, how to deal with a mean act from another party, why you should not be the perpetrator of a mean act and growing up. The story, it's themes and the whimsical illustrations make this book very easy to love.
 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

IVAR Cabinet Hack

I am a self confessed hourder, my husband is a hourder too although he is not quite ready to admit it, therefore storage has always been high on my agenda. Until we welcomed children into our home I had no idea how important storage is, I thought I was on top of it given my history but I was not prepared for the onslaught of 'stuff' that comes with a child! 
I am a huge believer that you can have both style and substance in your home so when I set about designing the bedroom for the little people in my life I factored in storage. I wanted the room to still feel spacious and when we fill a room with storage even the largest of spaces can very quickly become cramped. By mounting the IVAR units on the wall I employed an age old design trick. By being able to see the floor gives the illusion of space. 

As much as I am an advocate of investing in furniture that will last and vintage pieces IKEA serves a great many purposes. The truth of designing a room for a child is that you know all of your hard work and planning will have to be re worked at some point to meet their needs as they grown and change. In this instance the inexpensive and easily hacked wonders of an IKEA flat pack is a godsend.
You can easily create cool looks with their unfinished wood ranges. With the addition of frog tape, (who in the world does not love frog tape), I was able to add some very simple graphic elements. Once I had finished painting the shapes I thought it needed more so I popped some free hand sharpie dots on all of the white bits.
I wanted to add something to the inside so I turned to my unreasonably large fabric stash. I had 4 fat quarters from the Amy Butler Midwest Modern range in 4 different colour ways so I jumped for joy at this and cut them down to size and stuck the sheets in using basic PVA. It is important to cover all of the fabric or you will be left with unsightly bubbles when the fabric dries. Once all of the fabric is fully dry add a top coat of PVA to make it easy to wipe the fabric clean.
I love how the cabinets have turned out, and I can sleep soundly at night as the top cabinets are well out of reach for little paws for quite some time so anything that could choke them is hidden away. Also as they are securely anchored to the wall there will be no furniture pulled down on them. See style and substance.


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Shop In Focus - Maisons Du Monde

Although it is possible to buy from here online in the UK this shop was never really on my radar until I moved to Paris. In fact not until they built the shopping complex at Beaugrenelle, it was ideal, lots of space for the pousette, lifts and walking distance from the apartment, also it is quiet in the week so it was a great place for Sebastian to practice walking when it was wet outside. Apartment living really gets you out and about all the time with babies and toddlers as you have little space at home and if mummy can fit in some browsing at the same time why not.

That being said the website is really very good, easy to navigate and great product shots so you don't need to have a store near you. I like to buy investment pieces for my home, vintage and DIY feature heavily also, basically because I like my home to be different but sometimes we all enjoy just buying something because it is cute and inexpensive, we do, don't lie.


Maisons Du Monde, literally meaning houses of the world has ranges that have a global influence in their design so if your taste is cool crisp California coast or Indian prints they will have something for you and the prices are really reasonable, especially the accessories. As we have been deep, deep in building work and finding furniture to make storage work buying accessories has been at the back of my mind. In fact that is a lie, I have had to physically restrain myself from buying pretty things to focus cash where it needs to be. The living room and my dressing room, hell yes I am getting a dressing room are inches away from being complete, really it is just the styling and a couple, 5/6 decorative DIYs to go. It is safe to say I can allow myself a little look at accessories now and what a great opportunity for me to showcase this store. I love all of these items featured and I do have a birthday coming up....just saying!


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Living Room Progress & Finding The Right Blue

renovating a period lounge http://www.archieandtherug.com/

In the spirit of the progress reports, you can see the one for Sebastian's Bedroom here. The living room is such an important room as it is a real workhorse of a space. For a busy family it has to be all things to all people. A play space, a cinema, a romantic hideaway, a space for friends and conversation, and if you are like me despite trying hard not to the laptop comes out and it is a late night office.
renovating a period lounge http://www.archieandtherug.com/
WHEN YOU EMPTY ONE ROOM ANOTHER ONE ALWAYS TURNS INTO THIS!
renovating a period lounge http://www.archieandtherug.com/
PRIDE AT MY PATCH PLASTERING
My thoughts for this room went through a number of manifestations before it settled on dark blue. In our house that was a hard process, you see if I mention my latest thought to Joe he will take that as the final answer and then gets completely thrown when very different paint samples start to arrive. I have traveled a lot and collected on those travels, then Joe and I took some trips of our own and the collecting continued. One hoarder in a relationship is one thing but we both fall into that category so we are on dangerous ground. It was the carnival of colour that we have collected that was making me feel that I needed a neutral backdrop. The maternal side of my family are from India and despite our Western view that all Indian homes are bright walls and clashing saris everywhere in fact the opposite is true. I see more pale washed walls. I thought that backdrop would work as some sort of colonial haven. Then I thought who am I? I love colour and here I am in a south facing room that is flooded with light, a dramatic hilly Yorkshire landscape to look out upon and room proportions to die for get a grip. So I did, and I started to order sample pot upon sample pot of deep blue.
renovating a period lounge http://www.archieandtherug.com/
THE WRONG BLUE!!!!
Now let me take another minute to tell you again how important it is to buy a sample pot. At around £5 a pot it might look like a massive waste of money but the tiny square on a paint chart or the interpretation on a computer screen is not going to cut it. You need to paint lining paper and pin it up around the room. move it, look at it over a few weeks and at different times of the day. Now to quote my husband "Nic they are all bloody blue just pick one, how many sample pots of the same colour do you need". Well as it turns out they were all very different. In my post on How To Create A Colour Story you might notice that the sample we chose was called Royal Navy from Little Greene Paint Company. NO IT WASN'T! We checked and double checked the label it was Royal Navy, we ordered 6 litres of the stuff, I mentioned the giant rooms right. I started to paint the wall. Then Joe and I stood back and pondered, it looked different. Maybe it will dry differently. It didn't it was defiantly a different blue. 
renovating a period lounge http://www.archieandtherug.com/
FINALLY PAINTING THE WALLS IN THE RIGHT BLUE
I called Little Greene Paint Company and even though the sample was from one of their suppliers they set to work. They analysed what was left in the sample pot and it came back Moon Shadow. Funny aside is I liked that and refused to order it as I thought if I paint my living room in Moon Shadow I will have that Cat Stevens song in my head day in day out. It was fate, that was the blue.
renovating a Victorian lounge http://www.archieandtherug.com/
renovating a period lounge http://www.archieandtherug.com/
LATE NIGHT FLOOR SEALING
We were so lucky to get to work with the guys at Mandarin Stone for two reasons; one we have a stunning slate floor now and secondly if we had carpeted instead of ripping up the floor to lay a sub straight we would have been unaware of the horror that was our joists, best to get those sorted now really.
renovating a period lounge http://www.archieandtherug.com/
THE INCOMPLETE JOISTS LURKING UNDER THE FLOOR
Working around toddler bedtimes, illness, and pregnancy not to mention work has been tough and the daylight bulb in my camera light has been a godsend for late night sessions. 
renovating a Victorian lounge http://www.archieandtherug.com/
So happy with the room so far and I know I know that picture is all wrong on the mantle it is already gone and I am talks with Kimberly Duran about a new piece. Then all I have to do is make the curtains, reupholster the rocking chair and well all the chairs, and the sofa, sort out the rug, dress the room, paint the lamp, make a cup of tea and binge watch something on the sofa whilst I admire the room with a moderately smug face or my eyes closed.
renovating a period lounge http://www.archieandtherug.com/
Then get up off my arse and shoot the room for a proper room reveal, I might even do a video, for someone who presented on Channel 4 I really do need to sort out the lack of videos but hey someone else did all the work then all I had to do was talk and I have never had a problem doing that.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

How To Make A Living Willow Dome

how to make a living willow dome  http://www.archieandtherug.com/
I had long since decided that what was desired in the garden was stuff as opposed to lawn. So when I drew the plan for the garden I planned for raised beds, a tandoor oven, pond, fire pit and pergola. I had also decided that a living willow house for Sebastian would be a welcome addition to the garden. You have to plant the willow switches in the winter when they are not actively growing so although I have been itching to get on with this project for many months now I had to wait. 

The willow arrived and we left the unwrapped willow outside to keep it cold and wet. Three days later it was Sunday, the day after Friendmas, so we had some extra hands to help us.
how to make a living willow dome  http://www.archieandtherug.com/
Before embarking on the creation I had spent a good amount of time watching videos on You Tube, (that is how we learn now, right), and reading tutorials. In all honesty the tutorials made me feel more daunted that anything but I kept this under wraps as Joe is always more hesitant than I with new things. Joe likes to know a subject inside out and I have a a bodging, I mean have a go attitude to all things, this is probably why he is a nuclear safety engineer and I would have destroyed the world by now if let on site. The whole thing was a lot simpler to create than any of the tutorials made it sound. So let's not get bogged down with measurements, so here is how we did it.
how to make a living willow dome  http://www.archieandtherug.com/
Nothing about this operation was precise. It started with me standing with a can of spray paint at arms length and turning around as I marked out a rough circle, kind of like I was a human compass. This was followed by another very rough guestimation on the location and size of the arch that would be used as an entrance. We cut a circle of weed suppressant fabric larger than the circle marked and 'tucked' it into the ground at the edges.
how to make a living willow dome  http://www.archieandtherug.com/
We took the 6 thickest switches, we pushed 3 switches into the ground either side of where we had not so mathematically decided the location and size of the entrance. We then twisted them together to form an arch and secured with bakers twine. We then followed the circle with couplets or willow switches. Again we resorted to high brow maths and engineering techniques using the width of Joe's boot as a guide. We then crossed each one and secured with twine. We went all the way around and then we crossed them again placing the cross in between the lower row two crosses. This continued until we reached the top and then it was less about securing with twine and more about the weave.
how to make a living willow dome  http://www.archieandtherug.com/
how to make a living willow dome  http://www.archieandtherug.com/
how to make a living willow dome  http://www.archieandtherug.com/
All done all that is left to do now is scatter some bark inside and wait for the willow to grow. Then it is a matter of weaving in and cutting back every year. I am thinking it might be quite cute to plant peas or climbing beans around it this spring and let them grow up and through the structure.
how to make a living willow dome  http://www.archieandtherug.com/
how to make a living willow dome  http://www.archieandtherug.com/
Thank you to the guys for helping and if you want to have a go at this yourself buy your willow now before Spring hits.