Tuesday, 28 April 2009

On the Bloomsbury trail

Whenever we visit my parents, we drive past an enticing sign advertising 'An Artist's Home and Garden'. This is the markerpost for Charleston, home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and an absolute gem for anyone who enjoys unusual decor and exuberant gardens. We visited on Easter Sunday - terrifically busy but since Sundays are the only days you can take small people around without a guided tour, we had little option.

The house is quite startling - every available surface is painted or decorated, and the whole place is filled with colour and painting and fabric and sculpture. Hugely inspirational - but no photography allowed inside.

The gardens have borders overflowing with cottage garden-y plants, sculptures and lots of places to sit and play hide and seek, and a mean cup of tea served in the little cafe. This leads me nicely on to the Bloomsbury link we're lucky to have far closer to home: the Orchard in Grantchester, where many literary types allegedly took tea and lounged around in deckchairs.

We did the same last week, obviously pretending to have deep thoughts in the sunshine but in reality wondering whether we ought to skip supper after such a generous afternoon tea.

For fascinating literary details of the Bloomsbury group, I direct you to MrsM. All I can do is show you pictures of Vanessa Bell's flowers and reassure you that the enormous scones at the Orchard are definitely worth the extraordinary prices they command.

This post is for Alice, who would really enjoy a visit to Charleston.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

I don't know how she does it

I have a friend in the village who has five children, and makes it look easy - and yesterday came my chance to find out how that would feel when I looked after three of them for the day. Five little girls, ranging from 4 to 12, mercifully past the screaming-with-excitement stage but still! They were undoubtedly the easiest group of children you could hope for but I ended up more tired than I thought I was and overslept this morning!

But the thing that stunned me most was the quantity of food demolished over the course of the day - one and a half loaves, an entire bunch of grapes, a batch of fairy cakes and another of dottycookies, and so on - these are little people, remember, so what on earth will it be like when they're teenagers?!

Now admittedly it was an unusual situation in that I wanted to find fun and special activities for them to do; they were more than able to self organise games of hide and seek, and musical statues, and wrapping each other up in quilts. I asked them all to draw a picture to put onto a T-shirt, and then we rifled through my scrap basket to applique a range of pretty new summery tops:

I realise this is nothing new, but we had lots of fun.

And then we got out the grown up beads - usually at parties we use cheap plasticky ones but with fewer children I decided to do it properly. They chose their beads, threaded them and then asked me to attach clasps or crimps or turn them into rings for them. Their colour choices were beautiful and we had long and interesting chats about how difficult it is to be truly random vs imposing some order on the arrangement.

I think they had a fun day. I know I did. But, those of you with more than two children, and that includes my own mum - somehow you do this every day, and my hat is off to you!

PS Those of you who are wondering about Stephen?! - if you're in the UK tune into 6 music on Saturday mornings, or download the Adam & Joe podcast and all will be revealed. I'm listening to it now and chuckling away. I think it might be a love it or hate it thing though - and apparently there are a few of you out there who love it too!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Excuse me a minute

A conversation with Rhiannon earlier this week has had me itching to try a little experiment, and since this is likely to be the closest I'll get to shouting it in a public place:

Apologies to those who have no idea what I'm on about, and now think I have entirely lost the plot.

Happy Easter everyone!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

I reserve the right to be fickle

So, today we should have been here:

but owing to this
Tiny Small's ballet show yesterday - she was a skipping lamb, I cried and it was a very late night

we were all rather tired and emotional and decided the drive would be too much.

So instead, we went here for a picnic:

did a bit of map reading,

aaahed at these:

Born today!!!

held our noses as we passed these:

I was mildly horrified to see these described on the sign as 'porkers'

and admired this:

Walled garden, strongly scented with hyacinths

So, all in all, a 'Picnic Along' rather like those Gordon Ramsay Cookalongs. Well, sort of.

I was more than sorry to miss the event of the year, but I'm rather glad we managed to avoid the Small overtired tantrums that would have doubtless ensued. I am looking forward to hearing how all the picnickers got on though, and promise not to pout and turn too green!

Now we are listening to this and it is making us feel very happy.

If you can get away with it, I highly recommend you do too.

Monday, 6 April 2009

In which the Dottycookies do colour

Thank you for all the lovely comments on our little furry creature house; it now has a little garden attached, entirely crafted from tissue paper and egg boxes where Geraniums can frolic in the pond and snooze on the grass as the mood takes them.

We have been very busy outside over the last couple of weeks, but more of that another day. In the meantime, here's something we had lots of fun with on a day when it was too wet to go outside. Marbling paper - it's an oldie but a goodie, and described all over the place, including here.

Lots of fun; I think these are destined to be wrapping paper. They were disturbingly oily at first but we blotted them carefully with newspaper and the eventually dried out.

More colour: 'Mummy needs a cup of tea, here are the Hama beads'

and 'Now we need a break, can we chalk on the floor?' And why not?