CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE

Now that I’m a mama, time is so much scarcer and the thought of buying gifts for everyone these days actually makes me slightly antsy (anyone else?) Gift guides make me genuinely happy and have given me so much inspiration so I thought I’d do my own. I’ve kept it simple and picked three items ‘For Him’, ‘For Her’ and ‘For Little Ones.’ (toddler age specifically) Hope you enjoy it and remember to get your orders in quick – not too long to go now til the big 25 and remember you will need to allow time for shipping.

FOR HIM:

There’s something a bit special about Dr Bronners. Not only is it an organic brand with absolutely no synthetics and a beautiful family history behind it, but the quality and packaging really conveys an occasion to me. This male grooming set in peppermint is no exception and will make any man in your life the envy of the changing room.

FOR HER:

Not only do Bloom and Wild do the most beautiful blooms that seem to last for an eternity (wahoo!), they now also offer gift boxes that just like their flowers, fit through the letterbox meaning no pesky trip to the post office. This box, the Dorchester, has to be my fave. Filled with alpaca bed socks, Jasmine scented bath salts, the perfect travel candle, a Turkish towel and the most divine sea salt and honeycomb day chocolate, it really is the ultimate in luxury.

FOR HER:

Idan Oil is probably my favorite beauty discovery of 2015. Made by the gorgeous Liha, this oil which I use as perfume and a bath oil, is made from natural cold pressed coconut oil into which a Tuberose flower has been immersed. Sound wonderful? That’s because it is. The smell has me all giddy, and if I’m feeling really lavish, I use it as a moisturising oil.

FOR THE LITTLE ONES:

Little Goldie is a new discovery but this online kids boutique has just well, got it right. Handmade in London, this wooden kitchen (yes, I’m all about the wooden toys) is the perfect addition to your little one’s playset and certainly looks classy enough for any adult kitchen. I love the mustard colour and the accessories are just as cute.

FOR HIM:

My hubby has grown an inexplicable interest in ale. I don’t even know the difference between beer and lager so adding ale into the picture has completely thrown me. Beer52 make it easy and offer packages whereby you receive different ales each month in the post. Simple and a bit different; I’m super excited to give Sam this one.

FOR HIM:

I heard about Dave Trott through work and although he is an advertising copywriter, the ideas in his latest book, One + One = Three, are equally applicable to writing a novel, making a film, launching product, managing a football team, making life changes…and umm, pretty much everything else you can think of. It is perfect for a man with a creative side and a head full of ideas.

FOR HER:

I have only recently stumbled across the gorgeous organic brand Ilia but their lip balm is proving to be a total godsend for the cold weather these days. It leaves my lips feeling soft and as if they’ve just had a beautiful kiss (the non sloppy, nourishing kind). Only problem is, I wish I had one for my handbag, changing bag, desk, car….Oh, and the packaging is sleek and totally divine.

FOR THE LITTLE ONES:

I’ve got a particular weakness for Asda wooden toys as I think they are great quality and reasonably priced, and they always seem to come fully assembled which is a big tick for me. This farm table which comes with a 15 piece farmyard and has a reversible table top is no exception and I reckon any toddler would love it.

FOR LITTLE ONES:

Sophie & co is a small company based in North London creating high quality, hand made pieces for the little people in your life. Products include sass pants, african sasspants, and uber cute bloomers. We absolutely love these trousers and will be getting multiple pairs over the years I imagine…

Thanks so much for reading folks and I do hope you may have found a bit of inspiration here. Happy holidays – may they be joyful and restful… <3

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MOTHER PUKKA

…MOTHER PUKKA. She’s one of my absolute fave people out there right now, hilarious, amazingly lovely and boy, does she know how to work a wall. Here’s some insight into what makes her just so Pukka.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The urchin. It’s relentless.

What’s the first thing you do once you are up?

Put CBeebies on. Then tend to the urchin; then combine the two. Then I try to Sellotape my face together.

Tea or coffee?

Coffee. I went for a coffee at Itsu the other day (mainly because you get a free banana) and was in a bit of a rush; the lady said ‘Our machine is broken. Do you want me to just give you tea?’. Tea wouldn’t even make a dent.

What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Pyjama cocktails on a Tuesday night. One of my best mates lives in Dubai and we just Skype in our pyjamas with mad-looking cocktails (made from the dire contents of our sad booze cupboard and garnished with ‘stuff from the fridge’). Comfort cocktailing at its best.

When are you happiest ?

With my husband and daughter.

What makes you angry?

The people who elbow you getting onto the Tube. Oh and the judgers. Each to their own; work on your own happy stuff and leave others be.

Who do you respect?

My Grandma. She brought up two kids in the war.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

Leyton in East London. We’re trying to buy a house there and it’s driving me nuts, so please send good vibes.

Motherhood is…

Like waking up to Christmas every day. And then realising someone unwrapped all the presents and did a wee on the carpet.

Mae is… 

My spirit animal.

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Life Is Beautiful

I’m writing this from the comfort of my friend’s sofa during one of our babysitting shares. There’s something strangely luxurious about sitting in someone else’s living room, their baby sleeping, enjoying their food (a huge bowl of pasta and pesto, naturally) and just having that rare moment to really reflect without distraction or guilt. It’s what I need to digest the last 24 hours which have been a total emotional rollercoaster.

I’m full of excitement and love and yet I am burdened with sadness and despair. For today we woke up to the news of the atrocities that took place in Paris (we caught it as it was unfolding last night but the true horrors only revealed themself this morning) and it’s just changed everything. This time the evil struck bigger, closer and more randomly than ever before in a horrifically planned attack. Paris is a city I once called home – I used to live just around the corner from the restaurant that was targeted, I have partied at the Bataclan, I have drunk in the streets and picnicked by the canal. Paris is weeping. And so am I.

But I need to be strong – not to stand up to terrorists and beat them, because we cant beat them, and we definitely cant beat them through more vioience. No, I need to be strong because today Sam and I had confirmation that we are bringing a new human being into this world. We watched as it lay in my womb – all 5cm of it – and squirmed a little when the radiologist prodded it. Jack watched on – this wasn’t Peppa Pig on the screen, but it was certainly something interesting. The relief I felt at seeing that image is indescribable and of course, I welled up as I threw glances between Sam, Jack and the screen whilst the obstetrician just kept asking me if I was ok? (Is it that weird to cry at the sight of your baby inside of you!?) My tears were also for Paris, and also for the refugees and their children and the circumstances they find themselves in and the crisis we and they are all going through. So yes, I feel like I’ve been crying a lot over the past 3 months and so this morning has been extra emotional.

One can’t help but think, what sort of world are we in anyway? When I look at Jack he is so pure and so beautiful, what can I tell him? What will I tell him? Is this now our reality? Why are we bringing more people in to this life, some might say. Is this what I feel? No. I refuse to believe that. I want to bring good people into this world, to educate and entertain them, and in turn have them spread love and laughter. That is the plan, and that is why this morning’s news fills me with happiness and pride.

So this post is dedicated to life – to celebrating it, mourning it and to living it.

Thanks for reading. Oh, and I made this 5 minute video about how I’ve been feeling the last three months and how I knew I was pregnant long before sticking any plastic white stick in my wee.

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A NIGHT ON A CANAL BOAT

I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but come October, I always get itchy feet and want a break from the daily grind. It’s too cold by now to really travel to many places in Europe and still find sunshine (any suggestions welcome!), and yet the thought of flying further afield seems too indulgent after the rays we did get to enjoy over the Summer. And so it is that we decided to fully embrace the mini UK break (and the cold). And by mini, I mean mini. One night. 40 minutes from our home. Not warm. And yet, it was one of the most intimate and relaxing holidays we’ve ever had. The fact is, you don’t have to go far to feel like you’ve had a break and this is exactly what we experienced when we hopped in our car to spend a night on an air b n b Dutch barge on the Grand Union canal just outside of London.

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We started our mini break with a meal in a cosy pub near the canal before heading to the waters to find our new home. We’ve always been fans of Air b n b but this time ranks amongst the best of all our stays. Not only were our hosts Manuela and Richard there waiting for us, in the pitch black at 10pm (only we would arrive so late…) but they gave us a full tour of the boat and had left us provisions to get  started. The entire interior of the boat is wooden and the workmanship inside is just immense. We got the heater going and settled in for what was to be one of the best sleeps I’ve had in months whilst Jack slept snug (through the night) in a travel cot in the living room area.

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We spent the following morning doing my favorite thing of all: pottering in the boat. Fresh coffee and peanut butter on toast were the order of the day whilst we listened to Amos Lee (put your phone in a glass to create a decent speaker), watched Jack toddle about exploring his new surroundings before jumping into a bubble bath with daddy (yes, the canal boat had a bath!). It wasn’t until past midday that we actually ventured outside the boat, so content were we in our tiny beautiful home.

Before we set off for our mini mini break, I had said to Sam that the only goal was to not let Jack fall in the canal. I love watching him experience new things for the first time and I can’t wait to tell him about all the adventures his loopy parents took him on when he was little. The rest of the day was spent meandering along the canal and filling our tummies with a cooked breakfast at a local cafe on the water before promptly making a sharp exit as Jack didn’t seem so keen on sitting still. We walked on and Jack nodded off just in time for us to prop ourselves up on a bench and read the Saturday morning newspapers.

canal boat

By the afternoon, we were packed up and ready to leave our little canal boat and head back home feeling calm and content, all the more so because we knew we weren’t about endure horrific M25 traffic or airport security. Bring on the mini mini breaks, I say. And you really don’t have to venture far to find a perfect slice of holiday.

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“THE-BEST-THING-YOU’VE-MADE-IN-FOUR-YEARS” HUMMUS

When you consume as much hummus as we do as a family, and when you consider that a can of chickpeas comes in at 30 pence, it seems to make sense to start to at least entertain the idea of making our own. (I say “our own” but as you can see from the title of this post, you can probably deduce that muggins over here cooks, husband mainly just consumes….) I’m also coming to learn that whenever there is a magimix involved, this seems to generally be a signal to basically chuck anything in – which is my kinda cooking. Certainly, it seems hummus is no exception. Previously whenever I’d tried making it, I’d not had much success – it always came out a bit dry and certainly, not as tasty as a shop bought one. But this one turned out differently. I had a bit of coconut milk about to turn so I threw that in, and I think that was *the* ingredient. That, and some thai red curry paste leftover from the week before. Anyway, here’s what I did, and trust me (and @papalinouk), it tasted good. In fact, apparently better than anything else I’ve ever made since we’ve been married (that’s four years…) so I really recommend giving it a go.

Ingredients

  • 1 heaped cup chickpeas (rinse and drain well if you’re using canned)
  • 2 small gloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (depends how spicy you like…)
  • 1/2 cup  full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • A big squeeze of lime
  • Water to thin, if necessary
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

It’s super complicated…whack it all in the magimix and turn up that dial (oh, and it takes longer than you’d think to whizz it all up so give it a good few minutes)

 

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ANTONELLA GAMBOTTO-BURKE

Readers of my blog or social feeds will know that I am a huge fan of Antonella’s book, ‘Motherhood, Love and Revolution’. Doesn’t the name alone make you love it too? I first heard about it through Motherland and knew that I needed to get my hands on a copy ASAP. The book, as I had expected and hoped from the excerpts I had read, was mind-blowingly beautiful and informative, and touched me deep inside. It seemed to give voice to thoughts throbbing within me with science, psychotherapy, nutrition, family relations and whole lot more thrown in. Anyway, I won’t review the book here (I’ve done that here) but instead I want to introduce you to the woman behind the words for it was she that so fascinated me. Who was it that was bold enough to give voice to these now somewhat controversial thoughts? Here Antonella answers a few of my questions:

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The alarm clock – I like the ticking ones with big faces and those relentless tiny hammers that demand attention. Digital clocks just don’t do it for me.

What’s the first thing you do once you are up?

Stagger about blindly in my camisole and oversized pyjama bottoms as I open all the doors and windows, yawning.

Tea or coffee?

Dandelion tea, which is the food of the gods. Ridiculously yummy, and so good for you, too. I stopped drinking caffeine five years ago, and the weight – and stress – fell away, as if by magic.

Fry up or healthy?

When I was breastfeeding, I had vast organic-egg-and-brown-rice fry-ups every morning; now I just have a big plate of rice noodles with soy sauce, egg or chicken and shallots. I have no Asian blood, but do love Asian food. Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine put an intense emphasis on a warm, sustaining breakfast, and who am I to disagree?

What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Family-sized Milky Bars with Crispies. Portion control? Bwahahaha!

When are you happiest?

Strolling about London with Bethesda. The museums in particular are outrageously beautiful, and I love the architectural clashes on the banks of the Thames.

What makes you angry?

Pollution. Insincerity. Manipulation. And the deliberate inculcation of dysfunction drives me up the wall.

Becoming a mother has made you…

Happier than I ever thought it was possible to be.

if you can pass one piece of advice on to Bethesda, what would it be?

Love is truth.

————–

Antonella Gambotto-Burke is the author of The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide and Mama: Love, Motherhood and Revolution. Read an excerpt from Mama in The Guardian.

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PUBLIC TRANSPORT WITH A SMALL PERSON.

The combination of living in the suburbs of London and not wanting life to “stop” meant that I forced myself to embrace public transport with a baby pretty quickly. However, it didn’t come that easily. I remember the early tube journeys: I’d meticulously plan every part of it, I’d research which tube stations had lifts (the thought of taking a buggy on the escalator terrified me) which meant long walks between stations, I’d have to factor in another good 10 minutes to account for waiting time until kind people came along to help me up the stairs and I used to take a small suitcase every time I travelled. In short, it was a bit of a big (embarrassing) deal.

Flash forward a year and I zip up and down escalators (if you see a nutter balancing the bars of the buggy on her head, that’ll be me), I don’t have a clue which stations have step-free access let alone lifts and I stop the first person that walks past and gushingly, admittedly, ask for help. I’ve come a long way, and learnt a bit along the way so I thought I would share some of my learnings for once you are on board – and in this case, with someone a little older than a baby that requires a bit more attention.

For me, these simple tips make the difference between a journey spent chasing a barefoot toddler around a train carriage (yup, been there) and having one sat patiently on your knee nibbling on raisins whilst you get to read part of a book over his shoulder. The tips can really apply to any sort of journey, but are particularly focused on taking the train, tube or a bus. Take a read and enjoy the ride!

1. Take toys. Especially books. I cannot stress how important having on-board entertainment is. Books are particularly great; the amount of time you can spend pouring over a single page is remarkable.

2. Bring snacks. Or just food. I have a big tub of rice cakes and raisins which are my fail safe for journeys. I love raisins because they allow for some good time spent picking out each raisin one by one…

3. Sit near a window. This of course applies more for buses but it’s amazing how much time can be spent people watching. Or car watching. Or tree watching. Or building watching. Or even pavement watching. You see where I’m going with this.

4. Use other people. I’m that person on the tube desperately trying to catch someone else’s eye in the hope that they will engage Jack for just long enough for me to unashamedly whip on a layer of mascara or reply to a quick email. It turns out other people think your kid is quite cute, and are also in to peeka-boo, whilst Jack loves the attention. It’s a win win situation.

5. Use a light weight buggy (or a carrier) We have a chicco echo stroller which I love taking on public transport as it’s super light and slimline – which is crucial for point number 6…

6. Ask for help. I have spent large chunks of my life standing at the bottom of stairs just watching as people flock by. Take a deep breath and just. ask. The funny thing is, when you ask, no one says no, and more often than not they are all too happy to lend a hand.

7. Don’t travel at rush hour. Ever tried shoving yourself and a buggy on to a train carriage bulging with grumpy commuters? ‘Nuff said.

8. Avoid super long journeys. There is a limit to how fool proof points 1-7 are. I don’t tend to go on journeys that will exceed 40 minutes and would rather get off and walk the rest of the way with the buggy.

9. Plan loads of time. There is nothing worse than running along desperately trying to catch a bus, changing bag flailing and sweat patches forming. Allow a lot of time to get somewhere on time using public transport.

10. Don’t take it too seriously. Taking a little one on public transport will not generally be the most relaxing experience of your life. But nor should it be that bad. So even if you take one tip out of the above, I hope it might make the journey even a tiny bit better. I also made a short video on this ish-you so if that is your thing you can check it out here:

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Let’s Be Adventurers (Plus, Turning 30)

This time it feels different. It feels different because I’m pottering about with a naked person on the morning of my birthday, and that naked person isn’t my husband. It feels different because on the night of my birthday party, I am delighted to be in bed by midnight. It feels different because this year, it’s not really about me, it’s about us, and our journey.

I recently read an article over on the Pool (SUCH a great site) by Lauren Laverne on how having kids made her more efficient. I love this article, especially the part where she says  “Looking after a small baby is like rolling a huge boulder up a hill – simple, just bloody hard.” However, whereas Laverne talks of prioritizing what she works on, I find myself saying “yes” more and more often. I am embarking on new projects, not knowing where they will lead, surely knowing some will fail, but trying all the same. I am putting myself out to the universe and seeing what or who might want to talk back. (this blog you are reading now is a case in point)

Turning 30 has made me assess where I am, the kind of person I am and where I want to be. And time and time again, now that I’ve started a family with my number one, now that I am stable, the theme of living free and having adventures all together comes up. Call it an early mid life crisis, but turning 30 and becoming a mother makes me want to do more, learn more, give more, travel more and basically live more. I am addicted to travel blogs, to making things from scratch, reading about overseas current affairs.. but it doesn’t feel overwhelming like it may have done a few years back, it feels exciting and within reach.

So we will see where the next decade takes us but as we cruise, the bed will go unmade, the pottering will continue and the journey will surely evolve. All I know right now is that I feel younger than ever.

This post is dedicated to a very special person, Rebecca, my second cousin who lives on the other side of the world in Australia. She is one of the mothers out there who most inspires me  – check out her business and you’ll see just one of the reasons why. She made the beautiful spoon that features on the front of this blog post and she is insanely talented. Please go say hello.

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