Monday, June 28, 2010


The weather in London has been so glorious that it felt like the greatest holiday in the world was taking place in my garden this weekend. In this heat, I do not feel like venturing too far from home; I certainly do not want to be sealed inside a car or Tube carriage or bus. So this weekend was spent slothfully: lounging in deckchairs on a sunny lawn; Little Planet crayoning and chalking on her easel, which we'd placed outside for her; splashing around in her paddling pool; reading the papers; lunching on salads of Feta cheese, watermelon and basil leaves; strolling to the park to play in the sandpit and water fountains; buying and planting new flowers; enjoying the company of my mum; and after Little Planet's bedtime, luxuriating in candlelit BBQs with Mr Planet. Heaven.

I did, actually, venture out briefly in the car on Sunday. My mum and I went to a garden centre in Whetstone, near her house, to buy flowers and terracotta pots. We also had a nice lunch out together - Chef's salad of leaves, boiled egg, avocado, red onion, prosciutto, black olives, tomato and goats cheese. But the journey back home was incredibly stressful because, at 2.30pm, it coincided with the soon-to-begin England v. Germany football match, and there was a mad rush on the roads as cars honked and drivers hollered, impatient and frenzied to return home in time to watch the match at 3pm. It was a relief to get back home and the serenity of our back garden (Mr Planet watched the match upstairs in our bedroom whilst ironing his shirts).

And so my new working week begins. Not a working week that ties me to a poorly air-conditioned office in central London with a view of high rise buildings, but a working week that allows me to type away from a delightful study overlooking a beautiful garden, with a wonderful breeze coursing through every open window in the house and the background noise of... not police sirens or cars but bird song and the occasional gentle chatter of our elderly neighbours. I live and work in London still, but you wouldn't know it really.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Potty mouth

My 2 year old daughter has a dirty sense of humour. Cases in point:

Exhibit one
She burps loudly, then holds her hand in front of her mouth, gives a little giggle and states in an exaggerated voice, "Pardon me!"

Exhibit two
I'm changing her nappy upstairs in her room. Her father returns home. He shouts up, "Hello Little Planet!" She shouts back down, "Hello Daddy!" He says, "What are you doing?" She replies, "I done a poo poo!"

Exhibit three
This time her daddy is changing her nappy. She lets rip a loud fart and giggles wildly. Then she puts up her finger and says, "Here comes another one!" and surely a few moments later she lets rip another fart.

We neither burp nor fart in front of her (not even in front of each other really - need to keep the romance alive!) so these habits are hers alone :-)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Golden books

We've nearly completed a lovely weekend. Yesterday, we went into central London to view the monumental rusted steel and cast iron sculptures of Anthony Caro at the Annely Juda Fine Art gallery (which we adored but which Little Planet complained were "Too big! I want to get back in the buggy!"); we bought a selection of teas from Postcard Teas (the owner kindly opened it for us despite being closed to the public for a private tea tasting); we visited the Disney Store on Oxford Street because Little Planet wanted to see Mickey (who was not there, but she settled for a small stuffed version of him); then we shopped for provisions at the John Lewis Food Hall (where we saw singer Marc Almond who was not at all happy that his partner was checking my husband out - whoops). Dinner at home was roast chicken with watercress salad, cherry tomatoes and buttery mashed potatoes.

Today, we pottered around the house: M painted the shed (Farrow & Ball's lichen) and did some weeding, he baked banana bread, we rearranged garden pots, I rearranged the furniture in the study (shifting the desk to the front of the window with a view onto the garden), we read the papers, shopped locally and played. Tonight we're eating courgette, pea and asparagus risotto with homemade chicken stock (from yesterday's roast chicken bones).

But what I really wanted to blog about this evening was children's books - a particular brand of children's books. On Friday, I met up with M on Coptic Street for a Korean lunch at Bi-won (dolsot bibimbap - rice, meat and vegetables cooked in a stone pot - plus sides of miso soup and kimchi). Before returning to work, I popped into the tiny and amazing Gosh! Comics on Great Russell Street and discovered their vintage children's books section. In particular, their selection of vintage Golden Books publications.

I chose three in particular and Little Planet loves loves loves them. And so does her mummy!

The Colour Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown and Alice & Martin Provensen: "Once there were two color kittens with green eyes, Brush and Hush." So goes the rollicking tale of two pouncy kittens who make all the colours in the world. A great way of of introducing colour theory to little ones. First published in 1949.

I Am a Bunny by Ole Risom and Richard Scarry: "I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree." In the spring, Nicholas likes to pick flowers, and in the summer, watch the frogs in the pond. In the fall, he watches the animals getting ready for winter, and in winter, watches the snow falling from the sky. A delightful tale with exquisitely drawn illustrations of the natural world. First published in 1963.

The Me Book by Jean Tymms and Tibor Gergely: "My ears are for listening, wiggling, and holding up eyeglasses. Can you wiggle your ears?" Playful animals demonstrate the active things children can do. Originally published in 1974.

Here are some other Golden Books available to read, in full and in full technicolour. Enjoy.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The big leap

A week today, I will leave work for good, after just over four years with the company. You see, I resigned at what I feel is a natural break point in my career. I am taking three months off to write my third novel - to get as much of an outline or even a rough first draft finished before I return to advertising. It's summer, it feels like the perfect time :-)

My first two novels - written when I was at university - were unpublished. But they must have been of reasonable quality because those novels won me an agent and a publisher (Random House). Then I got ill and re-drafting those novels for publication and writing in general went on the backburner. Then I got a job, and then a career. Then I got married, and had a child. You know how life moves on at speed with little energy left over for working on our deep-seated passions.

But after four years in advertising, I was ready to move on. I started chatting to recruiters whilst still employed; I started talking to people. There are interesting, exciting jobs out there for me. And then I thought, began to feel, that I was ready to move on now, yes. But ready to move on to writing again.

Just for a while. Just to get started. Just to get something out there - if only a rough draft or an outline - that I can continue to work on whilst back at work. Just for the summer.

So I handed in my notice a month ago and I will not start looking for work until the Autumn. We have savings; Mr Planet will support me; Little Planet will remain in fulltime daycare; and I will dream and write, dream and write.

I won't write about my writing here. Blog posts may (or may not) be sporadic. Weekends will be family time so hopefully I'll still have many activities to blog about.

My big leap feels so good.

And, it's just for three months.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

2nd Birthday

It was Little Planet's 2nd Year Birthday on Monday but we celebrated it on Sunday with a party at our house. Here are some of her presents...

Here she is with her Dida (my mother) drawing on her new chalkboard...

Here's some of the food we ate: a buffet of Turkish kibbe, boreks, feta & watermelon salad, hummus and pitta, baklava and more...

The birthday cake!

Little Planet couldn't nap with all the hullabaloo, so here she is having some "quiet time" (not!) with us on our bed, in her second party dress of the day...

My little baby is not a baby anymore but a little girl :-)

Friday, June 04, 2010

A growing nursery

I was recently asked how I was doing up Little Planet's nursery. The straightforward answer? "Very simply." You see, neither M nor I particularly like themed rooms or specific colour palettes - all the walls in our house are white and we've added colour through accessories such as cushions, photos, books, rugs and ornaments.

Take Little Planet's bedroom, for example. The clean white palette is enlivened with splashes of colour from her wall art, pictures and spotty rug (the white chest next to her cot stores her toys) ...

... to her cream curtains with brightly printed illustrations of hot air balloons, rickshaws, yellow cabs, gondolas and red double decker buses (we store blankets and linens in her old moses basket on top of her wardrobe) ...

... to her bright beanbag chair and a few selected toys ...

... to her spotty changing mat on top of her chest of drawers and, of course, her colourful book display ...

It's a growing room that should be easy and quick to update as she gets older. More than anything, though, it's a calm, serene room in a quiet part of the house overlooking the back garden and all the trees. Little Planet steps onto her squishy cloth globe, peers out the window and looks at the trees, cats, birds, squirrels and foxes. It's such a peaceful room that I placed a chair in there for us adults to sit in and relax too!