Monthly Archives: December 2014

A bird in the nest

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Here is a small floral offering for my New Year’s Eve hostess. I am playing at creating my own Golden Era still-life-inspired floral arrangements. This is a small twig nest with a mixture of meadow flowers, heather berries, a blowsy creamy pink rose, pine cones and a little sparrow on the top.  Well it beats carnations from the petrol station.

Happy New Year everyone, I hope it is peaceful and exciting year for everyone that sees dreams coming true.

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If there’s a moose on the door you know it’s time to put a turkey in the oven.

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Just a few photos of some of my favourite Christmas decorations. Merry Christmas one and all.

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How to stop a primary school kids fight turning into a grown-up fight

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How to stop a primary school kids fight turning into a grown-up fight

First of all I need to issue a disclaimer, contrary to the traditional one that states that all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
I am drawing on my own experiences, those of friends and friends of friends. Some are in London, some are in Hertfordshire, some are in New York. Some are parents of boys, some girls. The common ground is that we are all parents and all kids fight.
We need to develop coping mechanisms for ourselves and our children to resolve these issues and in particular try to stop fights escalating from children to parents.
I have witnessed a full on fist fight in the primary school playground between two 40-year-old Dad’s, only broken up by the arrival of the police and latterly a court date for one of the warring parties. This fight was in fact started by two six-year-olds arguing over whose toy stunt car had fatter wheels.
Obviously this is an extreme example, but it is all too easy for children’s disagreements, especially when left to rumble on, to lead to confrontation amongst parents. So nip it in the bud.
Even two intelligent, normal people came become impassioned on the subject of their children, especially if they feel that the character of their offspring or their parenting skills are being questioned.
For this reason the overriding opinion of experience is to make the class teacher your first port of call for help resolving issues
There are many reasons that this is a good idea, not least the virtual certainty that whatever behaviour you are hearing about or witnessing the likelihood is that it originated and carries on in school.
A class teacher is perfectly positioned to arbitrate disputes in an emotionally detached fashion. This can be vital in taking the heat out of the situation.
They are also the person best able to see and understand both sides of the story, and there will always be at least two versions. Your little darling will be saying one thing, another little darling will be saying quite another. Like most arguments there will likely be some truth on both sides.

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Teachers are professionals trained to understand and manage children. A class teacher at a primary school probably knows more about how your kids interact in a group scenario, their friendship groups and dynamics than you do. After all for most children the majority of their socialising takes place in the classroom and the playground.
Just as much as maths and phonics are learnt at school it is also a time where these little people are working out how to be a social animal, how to interact in groups and how to build and maintain friendships.
If you telephone or meet a teacher and explain the situation they will be able to monitor and manage the children involved. They may speak to the children independently and/or also the class as a whole to explain what levels of behaviour are expected.
If the situation is not fixed immediately don’t hesitate to follow up and ask teachers for more help. For many reasons a one-shot wonder may not work but if the teacher is clear and firm on the message that they are giving, and this is reinforced at home, most children will sort themselves out.
In addition to help from a teacher, you can also try talking to the other parents about the problem between your children. A one-on-one supervised playdate can help forge better relations between kids. You probably have a good idea if this would work depending on whether or not you have an existing friendship or if they have a personality likely to be receptive to this type of suggestion. The consensus is that it helps if you remember to criticise behaviour or actions but not the personality of a child. The latter just naturally results in defensive and probably more aggressive chat.
And keep faith in your child. Say you think or discover that they have been behaving badly its not a disaster or an end point. Childhood, and let’s face it life in general, is a learning curve and we are all entitled to some blips. With love and help you just put them back on track.
Couple of quick other tips for mediating kids fights.
If you see a child misbehaving in a playground, in the park or on a playdate it is absolutely fine to politely tell them that their action is not acceptable. If they persist in bad behaviour telling them you are going to have to speak to their parent or carer is generally very effective in pulling them up short. And do go and speak to them if you need to.
In these scenarios, including a playdate, the general gist is that you probably deliver the reprimand in a more moderate tone than the one you reserve for your own offspring. But it is important to have consistency in the message your children receive from you. So if their friend decides to upend every toy box in the house or set fire to the family dog- tell them NO.
PS I am still learning but apparently when boys are play fighting the time to intervene is when someone starts crying. Up until then they are just playing an imaginary game of wooden club and wooly mammoth. Note they may not get this out of their system until their late thirties, if ever.

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A cup of Christmas cheer

Here are a few floral fancies that I put together with a combination of flowers from the shops and our garden.
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Give the flying rodent a gimp mask

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Since the N10 birds seem to be turning their beaks up at my delicious bird table offerings I resorted to shooting, stuffing and arranging them as my Christmas table centrepiece.
Ok that’s a lie. None of the little feathered fancies were actually hurt in the arrangement of my yuletide masterpiece, although I do have my eye on a plump and irritating squirrel who strongly reminds me of the chairman of the residents association where I used to live. Give the flying rodent a gimp mask and a Flashdance leotard, with holes for the twig and berries, and it would really make for a very realistic replica.

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Instead faux taxidermy, blooms, glitter and an antique Wedgewood teapot all went together to create a little floral fantasy.

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What a great use of pink bits

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A fandango of flamingos

Strangely, but happily, rather a lot of flamingos have made their way into my life recently.
I love these ballsy, shocking pink, slightly superior creatures. They look like the sort of birds that could deliver a dirty joke with aplomb.

My first flamingo appeared following an impulse buy in Brent Cross’s Paperchase. www.paperchase.co.uk
Despite her rather humble origins this little beauty currently provides a daily dose of glamour to the family at Grand Avenue. Her dazzling pink feathers and knowing look alleviate the daily grind of washing up and kitchen chores. Residing on the sill of the picture window in my kitchen, Lola’s pink bits delightfully pick out the hues of the winter heather and cyclamen in the garden behind. What a great use of pink bits.

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The next avian arrival came in the form of a very generous and lovely present from Auntie C for my birthday. Auntie is actually a very clever career lady who recently helped orchestrate the purchase of the fantastic Australian tea firm, T2 for Unilever.

My very beautiful flamingo teapot and matching sugar pot, are one of several exquisite china sets produced by this ‘Jo Malone’ of the tea world. I love its grooves, gilt and colours, its modern, eccentric, ornate and luxurious look. See for yourself online at www.T2.com or in one of their beautiful shops on the Kings Road, White City Westfield and Shoreditch in London.

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The final flamingo is flying in (it has got slightly lost en route) from one of the Intrepid Hound’s favourite retailers, the joy and delight that is House of Hackney. www.houseofhackney.com
It sometimes feels like these chaps have a direct line into my subconscious whereby they produce, before even I know it, the creations of my wildest, happiest and most design savvy dreams. House of Hackney and Christmas baubles- literally my cup of joy runneth well over.

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This tinkly fandango of a flamingo will be taking pride of place on my Christmas tree this year and for many years to come.

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Just a quickie, as the bishop said to the nervous choirboy

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Just a quickie, as the bishop said to the nervous choirboy, but a friend asked me for some ideas for bedding for her guest room. Given that I am lucky enough to be hoping to get my head down there on New Year’s Eve I had a very vested interest in getting this right.

The brief- Bed linen for a gorgeous high vaulted guest room in an old Vicarage in the country. The bed is a dramatic metal four poster with a canopy.

I am quite pleased with my suggestions as they include a rather brilliant print clash- just how this extremely stylish friend likes it.

Basic bed linen sheets etc.

Zara Home- CAMEL-COLOURED PERCALE BED LINEN, £6.99-£35.99

www.zarahome.com

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William Morris vintage design: India King Duvet
King Duvet

£135.50
www.cafepress.co.uk

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WALLACE MODERN LAMBSWOOL RUG (see at beginning of post)
£89.95
www.lochcarron.co.uk

Timorous Beasties for John Lewis Eastern Smudge Cushion, Damask, £85

www.johnlewis.com

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John Lewis Silk / Linen Cushion, Gold and also in Red
£25.00

www.johnlewis.com233405350

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Kids Christmas jumpers

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School Christmas jumper day is almost upon us so here is the Intrepid Hound’s round-up of some of the best wooly wonders available on the UK High street right now.
Santa Jumper (3mths-16yrs)
£13 – £18
http://www.next.co.uk (above)
Blue Zoo Girl’s red sequin penguin jumper, £14 to £15.40, ages 4 to 14 years.
http://www.debenhams.com

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Blue Zoo Boy’s red Christmas snowman knitted jumper, £12 to £13, ages 12 months to 6 years
http://www.debenhams.com

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Pure Cotton Fair Isle Christmas Jumper (1-7 Years), £12 to £14
http://www.marksandspencerscom

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Elf Dress Up Christmas Jumper ages 12 months to 8 years
Price: from £10.00
http://www.bhs.co.uk

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Elf Christmas Jumper, ages 9 months to 5 years
£8.00
http://www.direct.asda.com

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John Lewis Boy Reindeer Vest Top, Red/White
£16.00 – £18.00, ages 2 to 12 years
http://www.johnlewis.com

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Anxious animal baubles

IMG_0361 Tinkly, sparkly Christmas baubles while a simple joyful expression of Christmas, for me also resonate with family history, the passing of childhood and memories of celebrations down the years.

When we bring the boxes down from the attic to decorate my parents tree, I always look out for the crumpled red and silver foil bell that I made aged three. It’s always there. Crumpled but Christmasy. One of life’s constants from a time before I could read. It is as much a tradition of Christmas as a Turkey or an argument over when the potatoes are ready.

I remember aged six hanging strange wooden scarecrow like decorations that we bought in the Netherlands on our tree. They seemed peculiar but had pretty skirts of primary colours. Each year my brothers and I chose a colour to hang.

There were bulbous red and purple ornaments with mirror embroidery that made our tree look exotic.  The bittersweet love for the delicate Victorian era glass decorations that we inherited the year my Scottish granny died in my teens.

On my own tree are some beautiful tassled Designers Guild baubles that my Mum bought for me when I first moved to London, got my first job, first flat and first tree. Recently I hung a ceramic bell with shaped scribbles that my first-born proudly presented me. It’s a decoration only a mother would hang.

We have introduced  our own family tradition that every year, when we buy our tree, each child gets to choose a new bauble. I hope that this will build our own family history and evoke memories for my children as the years go by. The bauble I bought with my first pocket money, the time the hoover exploded as a result of overexposure to pine needles, the year I noticed boys.

Here are some of my favourite baubles with which you can start making your family history. You will probably notice that I do have a penchant for baubles depicting slightly anxious looking animals.

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House of Hackney, HACKNEY EMPIRE Panda Decoration – Blue / Green £15

www.houseofhackney.com

233564928 Felt So Good Deer With Scarf Decoration £5 www.johnlewis.com

FLORAL OWL & FROG SET CHRISTMAS DECORATION £24 www.designersguild.com 32023 Snowy Critter Ornament £16 www.anthropologie.eu 33367558_041_b Party Dog Christmas Decoration £14 www.rockettstgeorge.co.uk party-dog-christmas-decoration-29251-p[ekm]233x349[ekm] Glass Peacock Disc Decoration £5.95 www.grahamandgreen.co.uk gmn9215b_m1-lr-ls Glass multi robot decorations – box of 3 £12 www.paperchase.co.uk 00529247 Gisela Graham Vintage Fairy In Ring Snowflake Design Hanging Decoration £10.50 www.tesco.com 593-7227_PI_TPS2236899 Elephant glass hanging decoration £15 www.heals.co.uk 629727_l Goodwill Pink and Red Swirl Stripe Glass Bauble £9 www.heals.co.uk 630067_l

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Still life in a mad, mad world

Still Life with a Lobster, 1650-9, by Willem Claesz. Heda

Still Life with a Lobster, 1650-9, by Willem Claesz. Heda

I remember a still life picture hanging in my parents’ bedroom when I was a small child. I stared at that picture for hours. I can remember the intricate details of the pinky flesh and white bones of the fish, the light peeling off a pewter tankard and the soft folds of velveteen cloth hanging from the table. Maybe it’s because I was looking at it from a place of total security, their bed, but these types of dark, atmospheric still life artworks always give me enormous comfort and pleasure. They feel like home.

I wanted a gorgeous, gloomy, ’Babette’s Feast’ style Dutch masterpiece to sit alongside the gleaming oak planks of my antique dining table. I wanted a still life picture to overlook a real life picture of a banquet; candlelight, fine wine, crystal and conversation.

I found the perfect picture, Still Life with a Lobster, 1650-9, by Willem Claesz. Heda. He is a Dutch painter from the seventeenth century and worked during the ‘Golden Age’ era of wealthy Dutch merchants.

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He became a master of the so-called ‘breakfast’ or banquet still life paintings. The images in this picture all smack of a decadent, luxurious lifestyle. The craftsmanship in the ornate glass goblet with its blackberry like bobble clusters. The accoutrements of salt, pepper and citrus fruit were all very aristocratic for the time. The promise of the craggy orange lobster and its precious white flesh waiting to be broken apart. Blue and white porcelain imported from China, again hints of a patron with links to exotic and lucrative lands abroad.

Heda loved painting all these luxury items for his well-to-do clients and delightfully it is noted that after 1629 he never included a herring in any of his pictures. It was game, mincemeat and oysters all the way. Good times indeed.

I actually saw Still Life with a Lobster in the National Gallery in London and then discovered that the visual masters at Surface View have it in their archives. My print from them is on stretched canvas. www.surfaceview.com

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Two other still live prints of flowers that I picked up in a junk shop in Archway are currently hanging out on my mantelpiece. I will probably move them but wherever they land I think that these still life images convey the beauty of their genre: A beautiful dose of slow appreciation for life’s natural beauty. Still life in a mad mad world.

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