Tuesday, 29 January 2013

24 weeks


or 5 1/2 months.....eeeeeeeeeeeek! Time is really flying now.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Columbia Road...

Last weekend, we got up super early and visited another favourite place of mine; Columbia Road in East London. Once a pathway along which sheep were driven to the slaughter houses of Spitalfields, Columbia Road is now a lively flower market open every Sunday 8am-3ish. Such a great place to come for your fleurs, shrubs and trees as the prices are incredibly reasonable - it's also just a really exciting place with so much atmosphere. I love listening to the stall holders' touting their latest offers and loud banter. Just be sure if you are travelling a distance, not to forget your bucket for the boot of the car to store your flowers - we forgot ours this last trip.

You will find lots of beautiful independent shops; one of my favourites being Jessie Chorley and Buddug, who made our wedding scrap book. The shop is so pretty, almost ethereal, like walking into Narnia.

There is a little market square with vintage/antique stalls and lovely food stalls, the smell of bacon and fresh coffee wafting about. A fabulous old-fashioned dairy called Jones sits just next to the little market square, you must go in. It is like stepping back in time, the interior of the shop has not changed in decades and make sure you check out the till. The selection of bread is lovely and we have sampled most, if not all the varieties, all of which are beautiful.

At the end of the market is our favourite breakfast joint; Campania Gastronomia. This place is heaving come 11am so if you were intending to sit in, get there early or be prepared to wait. It also has a little hatch in the wall, so you can order a pastry and takeaway coffee.

We managed to score a place in the window, I had the scrambled eggs with onion, tomato and chilli, pancetta and toast with a fresh mint tea, Dan enjoyed the spinach and eggs on toast. Simple food cooked to perfection. Particularly enjoyable when the temperature outside is below zero.

One of my favourite ways to spend a Sunday morning. We came home with beautiful bread, some vintage treasure and some cacti....yes people....Cacti is back and the bigger, the more colourful they are, the better.











and some iphone snaps...





Friday, 18 January 2013

New school uniform for my little friend China...

I managed to get everything and got myself down to the post office before the snow today to get it sent off. I filled the Spiderman backpack with stickers and a couple of little cars. I am so happy for China and hope he feels great in his new uniform to start school in. So looking forward to hearing from Laura how he gets on.




Wednesday, 16 January 2013

My trip to Guguletu...

A couple of years ago we were invited out to South Africa, it was the trip of a lifetime. While there, I met a very special lady called Laura.

Laura lives in the township Guguletu, she has lived there all her life. She works as a tour guide and takes tourists to all the beautiful sights that Cape Town has to offer, she will also take tourists to the township. I met Laura through a friend of hers. We were being hosted as guests of a large company based in Cape Town (where Laura's friend worked), as I said, it was the trip of a lifetime and we were shown an incredible time, including the use of their hospitality boxes at the World Cup. I was bowled over by the generosity so wanted to do something in return. On the lead up to the World Cup there was a lot of coverage in the UK media on the townships and the difficulties there. I wanted to to help. I was put in touch with Laura and I asked what I could bring to help.

Laura in her spare time, helps with a number of local projects and needy causes, a vegetable garden that grows food for a local TB clinic for example. The garden and kitchen is run almost solely by local women. Laura also invites up to 30 children every day into her home where she feeds them breakfast from leftovers donated by local restaurants, connections she has made. For some of these children, this is the only meal they will receive that day. In this time she reads and interacts with them, again, for some this is the only real interaction with an adult they will receive that day. She told me that the children needed shoes, so I told friends and family about Laura, they all wanted to contribute and I managed to gather quite a little pot of money.

Once in South Africa I arranged to meet Laura, we couldn't make our way into the township, we were told we would meet Laura outside. We met in a petrol station and from there we went to the local shopping centre. She had all the children's names on a piece of paper with their shoe size. We bought shoes, shoes and more shoes. After we had everyone accounted for, there was still some money left over, Laura told me there was a little boy that could really do with some clothes. He was poorly and had very little, a boy called China. We bought China a new outfit, underwear and a Ben 10 cap (his favourite). We left the shop laden with bags. I expected to hand them over to Laura. However, she insisted we come meet the children and give them their shoes.

I was not prepared for what I saw in Guguletu, despite seeing the programmes. On one side of a dual-carriageway were huge, expensive-looking houses with barbed wire, iron bars and security huts, the other side, a sea of corrugated iron as far as the eye could see. As we neared Laura's house, I could see a crowd of children , they'd been expecting us. They were so excited to see us, their little faces all lit up. We all went into Laura's house. We gave the shoes out and they were all so grateful and happy - we also had footballs and the promotional World Cup gifts we had been given which the children loved. Most raced off home to show off their new shoes, a couple of mums and grandmothers turned up a few minutes later to thank us and cuddle us for the shoes. It was weird, I felt good, awkward, embarrassed, sickened by my own lifestyle at home and angry all at the same time. I was angry that it was so little, why hadn't I done more? A few of the children had very angry looking impetigo, why didn't I bring cream?

We were sat in Laura's house talking and then a little boy wandered in, so very shy. It was China. China, I was told, had HIV and his mother diagnosed with Aids. He was 3 years old and so small. Laura presented him with his clothes and I will never forget his face, he just didn't know what to do. He could barely hold the little pile, he didn't believe they were for him. The other children know China is special and look after him, they all clapped for him and went about putting the Ben 10 cap on his head. His mother arrived shortly after looking very frail and poorly and thanked us, again I had that awful, awful feeling which even now makes me squirm, it wasn't enough.

It was an emotional goodbye with Laura, both of us overwhelmed. Neither of us could find the words, I actually don't think we said a single word, we just hugged and she kissed my hand. Nearly two years later, I am still in touch with Laura. She updates me on what's going on in the township. It has been a tough year, tougher then usual. China lost his mother at 4 years old and left in the care of his two adolescent brothers. He was his mothers shadow and was so lost when she went. However, since her passing Laura and he have struck up a beautiful friendship, she says he is now her shadow. He likes to see her everyday and follow her around.

Laura has also had her house broken in to, her brothers house burnt to the ground where he lived with his young family. For every child she tries to help, there is a mother deliberately getting pregnant and drinking heavily, in the hope of damaging her unborn child. The reason; you get more benefits for a disabled child. Most of the children Laura sees suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. It's not uncommon to see women in the shebeens with newborn babies, the mothers so intoxicated they can barely stand or speak. Rape is so common place, girls grow up to expect it. South Africa seems to have become a nation that is no longer shocked by it; just last month a young mentally-ill girl was gang-raped, the horrific ordeal recorded on a phone and uploaded. It trended on Twitter in South Africa, the video that is (until it was removed), but didn't make the national news.

I hear about these things every so often when Laura gets in touch, she lives with it every day and still manages to get up each day and help where she can, with a smile and such incredible warmth. She is the most amazing person I have ever met and she inspires me every day. Whenever I feel myself thinking about what a crap day I'm having or how rubbish things can be some days, I remind myself that actually I've got it pretty good.

It has been so frustrating not being able to help Laura more. We were trying to work out a way to send money on a monthly basis, the one route that looked likely was Paypal but we later found out they do not operate in South Africa. Posting packages/parcels into the township is not possible as most are stolen. Fortunately Dan had another business trip to Cape Town a couple of months ago so was able to take a parcel to Laura, I filled it with treats for her and some new clothes for China.

She wrote recently to tell me China is doing so well and is even off to school this year! Most township children do not get to go school because of the expense - he is very excited. China needs a school uniform and Laura asked if I could help, so I am off shopping this weekend for school wear. Laura has managed to get a guest house outside the township to agree to receive a parcel from me. I am so pleased for my little friend China, he's had such a hard start in life but thanks to Laura things are changing.

Wow, this was a longer post then I intended but it's something that is so close to my heart. It amazes Laura that someone this many miles away would be interested enough to care and the fact that I and others do I'm sure gives her the strength to keep going. She could move out of the township, but she worries about those she would leave behind. I update friends and family on Laura and China and they send messages which I pass on. At the moment there are limits to what we can do but the words are at least something and I know she really appreciates them.











and the next one always makes me smile, I love these faces.






Saturday, 12 January 2013

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Family recipe folder

This was an idea I have taken from my dear friend Amy (whom I am trying to convince to set up her own  blog - it would be beautiful). For years, my recipes (a mix of photocopies, pages torn from magazines, hand written family heirloom recipes, post-its and scraps of paper) have all been kept in a pile in the kitchen drawer or on a shelf. I wanted to keep them all together and Amy's clever idea keeps them together but in a way that you want to constantly take down from the shelf and look at. It's also really easy to do.

It's just an A4 ring binder that I have covered in old family and friend's recipes, using PVA glue. Inside I have used plastic sleeves to protect the recipes and unlike a recipe book, it's so easy to add new ones without having to hand write them into a book (which is beautiful if you have the time). I have done this for a few special recipes; from relatives no longer with us, ones that we have cooked for special occasions or just ones that we love.

You will need:
A4 ring binder - the papery ones are better then the plastic.
Selection of family/hand written recipes (you don't have to but I like to see family member's handwriting all over it, the stains and the scribbled shopping lists, I look at it all the time) take copies, and keep original in file and PVA the copy.
Paint brush
PVA glue

Take time to layout your recipes, play around with them until you are happy. Mix up some PVA glue with a little water and start to paint on your recipes, the glue will dry clear. Slightly thicker paper/card will need quite a lot of glue, you kind of want to soak those ones. Stand up and fold on newspaper, if not the recipes will tear on the folds when you do eventually fold the folder. Cut out the spaces for the holes on front and side. Cut along the sides for a neat finish.









It's one of my favourite things in the kitchen. It has also encouraged me to share hand written recipes with family and friends. It is more then a folder of recipes, it's a little bit of family history.

Monday, 7 January 2013

The growing bump





Absent without leave


So anybody that actually bothers to check in here, will have seen how tardy I have been. The funny thing is, whenever a client says ‘I want one of those blogs’, I always say that it’s better to not have a blog then to have one that is not regularly updated with interesting, helpful and/or inspiring stuff.  Hmmmmmm, bloody good advice. 


However, I am here and guess what my New Years resolution is???? 

So where have I been and what has been going on...

Well, I left off having not long moved to Kent coast and getting married (within 3 months of each other, still makes me perspire slightly). We decided in July 2012 that we would do some home improvements, what started as simply replacing doors and new carpets upstairs turned into the entire upstairs being renovated. Which meant that everything that was upstairs had to come downstairs and we had to live amongst it. The bedroom was in the office, the wardrobe was in the conservatory, the living room was storage so basically we had the kitchen to live in. The control and clean freak that I am meant that this living arrangement caused a liiiiitle bit of stress to me - eventually even the dog was afraid to put a paw wrong. At any one point there was at least 4 tradesmen in the house, each creating an unbelievable amount of noise dust, dirt and other debris/pollution. 

While all this chaos was happening I was still trying to maintain my freelance work, which was nicely ticking over. Then came a great opportunity, a marketing agency in London asked if I would work for them and head up their digital media arm. Of course I said ‘YES’ and then the reality hit me, that I was working on a laptop, that just fitted onto the tiny bit of clear workspace next to the sink in the kitchen, with a house project going on. Ever the optimist, I decided to stick with it and managed to get things going. 


The house work started in July and in my naivety I thought it would be finished in September, it went on until JUST before Christmas. The work has now finished and miraculously I have forgotten how truly stressful it was. But, in amongst the stress of it all, we did have a lot of fun, when things veered from the near-disastrous to the ridiculous, we did do a lot of laughing (sometimes because we were on the verge of insanity - and it was all we could do, think Beavis and Butthead).

In amongst the craziness we got some other amazing news......that we are expecting. We are so thrilled, so grateful and just so very excited! 

So there has been a lot going on here, I have also still been vintiquing and crafting so there is a lot to blog about. I have lots of before pictures of the house and I am working on the final touches now, so will be able to get the after pictures soon.  Here is a little taster of the bathroom and bedroom...  







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