Monday, 15 September 2014

Baby Water Play

Before I worked as a writer and presenter I worked as a project manager in the third sector, in the area of development. Development is such an all encompassing subject matter but when dealing with the complexities of human beings and human behaviour you need to adopt an all encompassing, holistic approach. My main areas were working on projects with young offenders, homelessness and community cohesion. Many of the projects looked into developing creativity in people. That could be any type of creativity. 

The importance of developing CQ, (creative intelligence) is vastly underrated, seen in some cases as hippy thinking or a slacker type. In fact there are huge links to show a correlation between a low CQ and anti social behaviour. You see creativity is not about creating a generation of artists but of people who think creatively. People who can approach science, business, the economy, in an innovative creative way. That is why my heart weeps when art is continually pushed out of existence in school curriculum's. This next bit is very important and my mantra so I am going to put the whole thing in capitals and bold, yes it is that important. THE PROCESS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE END RESULT. What that means in real terms is it does not matter if the creation in clay that your little one comes home with looks awful the importance of the lesson was the exploration of the material. Allowing them to fully explore and experiment with the world when their fresh and open minds as opposed to our older routined and conditioned approaches is how they train themselves to always maintain that freedom. It was very important to me to get Sebastian to explore and play beyond toys, that in their very creation are didactic to a certain extent. I am not alone in this thinking there are a number of education practitioners that you can read the teachings of that offer some great insight into this subject matter.

Water play can be done from an early age, and even a bath is an early form of them exploring and discovering. How much more fun it is when they are not being held in water but free to discover it safely.  From the moment your little one can hold their head up you can place them in a bumbo and hold a tray of water for them. They have even more freedom when they can sit themselves.
When I was working with families years ago too much emphasis was put on neatness and having no mess in the home. You can never be free of mess so I say let the mess count. Talk them through the clean up and as they grow they can assist you with this. A word on safety. I place a small amount of water in a shallow tray but you should still NEVER leave a child unattended with water they only have to cover their nose and mouth to drown. I am in no way a chilled out mum when it comes to safety but he is still free to discover and learn. As you can see he felt so free that he climbed into the tray.
I will be sharing more ways you can develop creative discovery and sensory play on here with Archie and The Rug's newest member of staff Sebastian.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Archie & The Rug @ The Festval of Thrift

This year I have not made any public appearances as I have been busy with baby. I am however thrilled to be at The Festival Of Thrift this year. This will be the second year for the festival. It was the brain child of designers Wayne & Geraldine Hemingway and their friend and the co founder John Orchard. 

The festival is free to attend and there is something there for everyone, old and young, crafty or foodie. I will be spending the weekend finishing projects and putting a lounge together from entirely upcycled materials. Everything will have been repaired, reused or repurposed in some way. I will also be giving a talk on Saturday entitled Beer Budget, Champagne Lifestyle.

Do come along it is a truly unique event with a great ethos behind it; follow this link to find the details of how to get there.

Friday, 12 September 2014

You're The Best

You guys are the best readers in the world! I bet you hear that from all the bloggers but I love the support you have given me over the years from the readership numbers to the sweet emails I get. I want to tank you for the nomination for Best DIY Blog for the AMARA Interior Blog Awards. This has come at such a great time when I am creating an upcycled room for The Festival Of Thrift at the end of the month. So many projects that I have kept secret until the festival - soon to be revealed and shared.

I want to ask you to continue your support by voting for me there is a pretty button on the top left there that will take you through to vote. I would love to make the shortlist but can't do it without your continued support.

Thank you again!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Mocha Buckwheat Cake

One of my favourite ways to spend a Sunday when I am here in Paris is to visit the flea market at Porte de Vanves even if I don't find anything to buy I love the spectacle of other people's stuff. It is so interesting to see what people have saved and collected over the years and it makes me wonder about the story behind the items and what I will leave behind. On one trip I found the best cake pan set and I was pleased to try it out with a brand new cake recipe.

I love rich cakes but when a cake is not too rich I can eat more of it. So a win win situation , plus you can always add a rich toffee or chocolate sauce....and there is the obvious addition of cream and ice cream to take into account.
you will need;
you will need;

for the coffee sponge;

200g buckwheat flour
100g plain flour
160g brown sugar
1 cup coffee
100g butter
22g baking powder
100g ground almonds

for the chocolate sponge;

150g plain flour
10g baking powder
3tbsp cocoa powder
75g butter
100g caster sugar

  1. Prepare the coffee cake first. Sift the flours into a cowl, stir in the ground almonds and baking powder. 
  2. Melt the butter and sugar together in a pan. Pour into a well in the centre of the flour mix. Add the coffee and mix the batter together. Pour into a prepared cake tin.
  3. Prepare the chocolate sponge in the same way. Pour on top of the coffee cake mixture. Take a skewer and run it through the mix to create a slight marble effect at the join.
  4. Bake at 180C for 45min or until the skewer comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely, level the top as this will become the bottom. Turn onto a plate and remove the cake tin.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Won't Somebody Think Of The Children

Please forgive the somewhat cheesy Helen Lovejoy quote from The Simpsons I am just in that kind of mood today. The truth is somebody did think of the children, and they designed the most amazing furniture as a result. I don't often post lists of wonderful things on the blog as I like to keep the majority of photos on here my own original work but as I have been surfing the net on the hunt for furniture I felt compelled to share some of the wonderful things I have found. I also feel compelled to have a bunch of children just so I can kit out dozens of kids rooms. I feel the later compulsion will not come to pass

I love my home and want it to look good, no correction, I want it to look amazing, but I have a huge chip on my shoulder when more emphasis is put on design and aesthetics than substance. Don't get me wrong I have a couple a pairs of shoes that certainly put style over substance but smiling through foot pain on a dance floor for a couple of hours is one thing your home is there to be lived in and enjoyed. With that in mind it is perfectly possible to tick the boxes of great design and functionality, this is never more apparent that with the growing number of innovative children's products available. Here are a few of my favourite finds.
The top image and the bunny stools above are both taken from Hiromatsu an online store. It is safe to say I love everything on their site. Granted to navigate the site you will have to brush up on your Japanese or use google translate but it is worth it. Fortunately I am blessed with half a dozen friends who speak Japanese.

Not an exclusive children's site but a great source of well designed products is Design Public and here in lies a lesson, when looking for things for a kid's room you may well find it in a world meant for grown ups such as the mushroom tables below.
Sometimes the tag line a company uses really does hit the nail on the head P'kolino uses the tag line 'playfully smart', never a truer word spoken. The furniture is fun, creative and smart and furthermore encourages all of those thing in your children. Their site made me want to be a kid again, here are some of my top picks from their site.

Storage is always needed but rooms are not always large enough to accommodate huge pieces of furniture that is why it is great news when designers create small pieces with storage such as the side table from Olli Ella. They also understand the importance of textures in the development of little ones. I myself would enjoy the feeling of their rugs under my feet.
The next site that I found sells the work of designer Roberto Gil and he really understands how you can have simple design, functionality and still have innovation and fun quirks. There are things to be found on his site that can really grow with your children. There are great mezzanine and hideaway furniture that will help every family make the most of every last inch of space. I mean what if your cute baby grows up and forms a band, a foldaway bed would be great so you can house the drum kit, some parents may not be as into that as I am.
The next website I found I could basically use to furnish my entire home, it is very rare that I love so much in one place but this site is the exception to the rule. They have great furniture but what I have been drawn to is the small storage and display furniture. There is also a lovely storage bench as I am a believer in duel purpose furniture for children.
There is something to be said for enjoying simple furniture in a children's room as they will have so many toys, cushions and wall decor that it will become so busy and never able to fulfil the tranquil roll of the bedroom - sleep! There is also a school of thought, such as those of Montessori that if you bombard a child they do not have the space to take anything in and develop. The furniture at Oeuf fits the bill perfectly. Clean lines, well designed and functional. Two of my personal favourites are the mini library and toy store pictured below.
Now last but certainly not least this little gem I admit is a little more style than substance but it is no less amazing. The interactive 'wall' can be in a birch or a range of bright colours. The sensory experience would benefit children of all abilities and I think the odd parent may find themselves playing with the wall too.
I hope you have enjoyed looking at the wonderful things on the market for children today.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Bibee Dresses

There are just times when work becomes the most fun ever as today I get to talk about Bibee dresses but better still for the past 2 weeks I have been trying my Bibee dress out around Paris, to see just how stylish it is, and Sebastian helped me road test it's functionality. When I was pregnant last year I visited a maternity fair in Manchester, I was on my way to the airport, feeling ill and tired and walked around the whole event in somewhat of a daze. Despite all of that Bibee Dresses still stuck out in my mind, that is why I was thrilled to partner with them on this post.

First of all let me explain what a Bibee Dress is. It is quite simply a dress that will see you through from pregnancy to nursing and beyond. The dress is a simple shape currently available in short, which I wear in this post, or maxi. The dress can then be altered in a variety of ways. Believe me when I say the different looks achieved in this post are the tip of the iceberg.
There were a couple of issues I had with maternity wear. The first being that there was nothing on the market that looked nice and made you feel good to bridge the gap between looking bloated, which I was and looking pregnant. If you jump straight into maternity wear too soon you look silly so you have to buy clothes that hang off you or slob around in your husbands trackies. Neither of those are appealing options The way that the bibee dress is cut means that you can wear them as soon as you feel you want to hide a bumpy tummy. They flow over your shape gently so there is nothing pressing on you. I found that if anything touched my stomach in those first 14 weeks I would get sick.

The second issue I had with maternity wear was the expense, you only have a few months to wear anything you buy so you don't feel like investing, particularly at a time when you have all the baby stuff to buy. Buying a bibee dress is different as it will see you through your entire pregnancy, nursing and beyond. Also you can change the look of one dress so much. So how does it work as a nursing dress?
To breastfeed your baby simply undo the buttons at one side and you have full access to feed your baby. There is a step by step picture guide to show you how they work on their site, follow this link.

I remember being shocked at just how pregnant I looked the day after birth. The fluid was out, I was holding the baby what was going on. Naive I know but you are still emotional then and the whole world and your mother in law are about to descend on your house and take photographs and you are not a bad mummy to want to look your best. The bibee dress is so comfortable, it does not crush easily and falls in a flattering way. You can run around after your little one whilst looking and feeling great, see.
This is me in the short black dress with the cowl neck bibee. Although the brains and driving force behind Nicola Norris is busy launching her new Autumn line she took some time to answer a few questions for me.

Q1. Apart from being a mum with a good eye for style tell me a little more about yourself? Do you have a background in design?

A1. No - I have no fashion or design experience what-so-ever! My background is more business focused and prior to setting up Bibee I was Client Service Director for a global lifestyle management company - basically you could call us from anywhere in the world needing something and we would sort it out for you 24/7 in over 10 languages. My team looked after all of the corporate clients - mostly the big financial banks.

Setting up Bibee came about because I couldn’t find clothes to wear during my pregnancy and whilst breast-feeding. I am not a slim person and have always had a hang-up on my stomach, so needed clothes that flattered and made me feel good about my lumps and bumps, but I couldn’t find this anywhere. I found the high street brands were really old fashioned, I hated wrap-dresses and the designer maternity brands all favoured skin tight dresses and skinny jeans - it was not a stylish time for me!

Q2. The range is classic, do you foresee further colourways in the future?

A2. Yes - we are introducing a printed dress for autumn/winter 2014 and bringing in teal colours. That said, I think our dresses will always remain pretty neutral as that is what most mums we speak to tell us they prefer. Classic colour dresses with the option to attach brighter dress-fronts - it gives greater wearability to the range. 
Short black dress teamed with the long sleeved breastfeeding friendly  t shirt & blue bibee
Q3. What is the future for Bibee products? Knitwear perhaps.

A3. Tunics launch in September 2014 - lots of mums have called us saying ‘we love your style and concept, but we don’t really wear dresses - could you make a tunic?’ - so we have. They can be worn alone (layered over another top), or with any of the dress-fronts so, like the dresses,  they are great for pregnancy and breast-feeding. 

Spring 2015 we have lots of growth - 3 styles of trousers, evening dresses, and two new day dresses. Plus our dress-front collection expands massively - it’s an exciting time!

Q4. What was your favourite part of pregnancy?

A4. I was really excited about being pregnant and I loved feeling the bump move - but I can’t say I loved pregnancy. I found it difficult.  I think motherhood is really difficult - rewarding but hard. 
Q5. I suppose we should find out your least favourite part of being pregnant?

A5. Dressing - during pregnancy I felt scruffy and frumpy and during breast-feeding I really struggled. I would have breast-fed for longer if I had felt better about myself and the way I looked and I think that is a situation which can correct - this is why I designed the Bibee range, because mums deserve clothes that function and flatter and make us feel great!

I couldn't agree more, we just made a baby we deserve to look good. I wanted to show how you could team the bibee dresses with items you already have in your wardrobe just to further demonstrate how versatile they are. Even if you choose not to breastfeed you can still wear this dress to cover the lumps and bumps post birth. Just for fun I wanted to show you the maternity space you have in the dress. Enough room for Sebastian III, (we named the teddy bear Sebastian II so it stands to reason that he/she that comes next will be Sebastian III).
When you wear a dress with pockets it truly is a red letter day!

Sponsored Post
dress, t shirt, and bibees c/o Bibee Dresses