Thursday, 17 April 2014

Makelight Workshop Part Two with Emily Quinton

You may remember that back in September I spent a very special day with a bunch of totally inspiring women lead by the extraordinarily talented Emily Quinton. Photographer, Blogger of Startup Wife fame, Maker and extraordinary Mother of four, she has single handedly thrown me into a photography obsession. Before attending her Makelight workshop I was terrified of our SLR camera, I didn't ever go near it, sticking to my phone camera or my trusted Lumix, which I still love I hasten to add. Styling a photo or having props had never entered my thoughts. Props were only for theatre shows, right? Wrong. Now there is no charity shop that can escape my eager scouting eye for little additions to my collection of props, that will enhance a mood or theme. I spend hours editing photos as well as taking them, Matilda now loves helping me set up a little shoot. In fact, only this morning she was rearranging a set up in the garden, then asked for her own camera so she could also take photos. Goodness listen to me, I almost sound like a professional! Not there yet, but I'm working on it each day.

At our request for Part Two after such a fabulous day back in the Autumn, sorry Emily you were coerced, three weeks ago a group of us spent a Saturday in a beautiful Dalston studio filled with light, that would awaken the artist in anyone. We took photos under Emily's watchful eye, compared notes, chatted, ate delicious food and cake prepared by us.

I came away from the day excited, knowing exactly what all those previously redundant buttons do on my camera. A renewed vigour in my love of photography has seen me take more risks since then, whilst I continue to explore my 'style'. This will come with time and I'm sure I'll make a lot of mistakes along the way, but you know what? I don't care because I'm having a ball rediscovering my creativity that has been buried for years under the slog of daily life and working all hours.

Thank you Emily for reigniting my creativity, for enabling my progress, for the encouragement and praise, and most of all for guiding me in this wonderful journey. And thank you to all the ladies that I've been sharing the ride with. I can't wait for more!

For all Bloggers out there who'd like to improve their photography I really couldn't recommend Emily's workshops any more highly. Take a look at her Makelight Workshops website

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sticks and stones

The incredible weather this week has meant a brilliant outdoor start to the Easter holidays. The shining sun enables outdoor play, Matilda has barely been in the house since Saturday. Her little shed has taken on a new life this Spring, she spends hours rearranging the contents, creating scenarios with her soft toys and sweeping up fallen magnolia flowers.

Today I took her to her very first Theatre workshop at the wonderful Polka Theatre for Children. As documented in this very blog I've resisted the encouragement of her theatrical tendencies but this Bouncing Bunnies workshop seemed like a lot of fun so I relented. I've no idea what she did exactly in the hour and a quarter she was in the rehearsal room but all I know is that she came out bouncing like a bunny with a huge smile on her face. We then hotfooted it over to Richmond Park for a picnic with our old neighbours and boy the sun was hot. The children ran around the small playground by Kingston Gate but quickly got distracted with the load of logs, sticks, twigs and tree trunks lying around ready for the picking. The girls built treehouses, fires creating bridges and castles all from the wood.

The kind weather has ensured plenty of fresh air, and been good for our pockets as no expensive to soft plays or lunches in museums to avoid the rain. Playing outside with natural materials, using her imagination is as valuable as seeing a Van Gogh or Matisse. Long may this weather continue, well at least until the end of next week whilst we're on our Cornish holiday!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Petersham Nurseries

Whenever I want to escape to a place that is the antithesis to my urban surroundings but don't want to drive too far, I head to Petersham Nurseries by Richmond Park. I have written about this magical place before, though it looked so beautiful today bathed in the warm sun, I wanted to share this with you.

I'd worked all morning in the kitchen whilst overseeing a very patient Matilda who spent her time trying to 'build a treehouse' in the garden. Please note our garden is nowhere near big enough, neither do we have an appropriately sized tree. Her 'treehouse' consisted of winding all three water hoses around the branch of our lilac tree, by standing on the bench underneath...

After lunch I proposed a trip to our favourite cafe in our favourite garden centre with a drive to see the deer in the park. Matilda immediately popped her crocs on and ran to the door. Petersham is one of her favourite places, as soon as she walks through the gates she's off down to the cafe to chose her cake and order her beloved apple juice. I had the delicious home made lemonade today which I highly recommend, thankfully not too sweet with just the right tartness to counteract the Cappuccino cake we shared. I'm yet to try the restaurant post Skye Gyngell (her new London solo venture is set to open this Spring!), I plan that to be my next outing to the nurseries. Well I do have a wedding anniversary coming up in May...this could be my best excuse yet to spend a romantic evening in this conservatory with the husband. If you're reading Glen what do you think? x

Monday, 14 April 2014

Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey

Wasn't it the most glorious Spring day yesterday? We hotfooted it straight out of London to spend the day at the beautiful National Trust property Claremont Landscape Garden just outside of Esher. Less than 30 minutes away from home, it is like entering a past life. A vast lake presides over the garden with an Amphitheatre over looking it, yesterday it was packed with picnickers rather than theatre goers.

Claremont formed part of the Royal playgound, a retreat for a Duke where numerous landscape designers left their mark including Capability Brown and Sir John Vanbrugh. Today, ordinary children can enjoy all it has to offer, in particular the wooden play area and the Victorian thatched cottage filled with dressing up boxes, and old fashioned games that children are free to interact with. Matilda was so taken with this little cottage she took a lot of persuasion to leave, in fact she seemed pretty convinced it was 'her house' welcoming other children to it. Matilda has quite an extraordinary imagination, and her sense of drama was heightened yesterday as she took on the persona of the lady of the house. Not sure the elder kids knew what to make of her.

A word of warning do accept a map when offered at the ticket office, you will need it as there are no signposts! It is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic but if you'd rather not, there is a pleasant looking cafe with a great terrace that serves homemade cakes, drinks and light lunches. A wonderful day that we will be repeating for sure over the Summer.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Artescape comes South to Battersea

I've been looking without success for a local art class for Matilda, the ones available are all within private membership clubs or with a waiting list as long as your arm. Then the other week I happened to notice that a friend Lala Thorpe who runs a very successful children's art club in Islington was coming over this way to Battersea. In a blink of an eye I'd signed up Matilda for a 2 hour workshop which we've been looking forward to ever since!

Lala is a highly respected Arts project co ordinator and fully qualified art teacher. We  first met about 20 years ago when she was working with my university friend for Artangel. Her art club in Islington looks like enormous fun with trips to galleries part of the curriculum, sadly it's just too far for me to take Matilda to every Saturday morning, so I'm hoping Artescape will set up a permanent home at the Doodle Bar too!

We spent a couple of hours yesterday morning painting, block printing, drawing and making. There are plenty of materials, advice and suggestions. Children are encouraged to get messy and creative whilst trying out different techniques and materials. Lala and Eva have a wonderful energy about them, and are clearly passionate about nurturing a love of art in all the children they teach. Their belief that art facilitates a child's comprehension of the world that surrounds them supports my own vision; learning and development is more successful, in my view, by allowing children to be children, to explore and experience a wide range of activities.

We'll definitely be returning to this inspirational space too. The Doodle bar is a fabulous space right on the river in Battersea, who knew that this existed?! It's my kind of hang out place and I have every intention to go back one evening for a cocktail, if their excellent coffee is anything to go by, I'll be having more than one! It is also the perfect location for Artescape with its industrial vintage interiors, and massive blackboard wall and columns that the children are welcome to decorate with their chalk drawings. Ladies we can't wait to return! Can you be persuaded to start some workshops for adults too? Perhaps over a cocktail and some streetfood from next door?

Friday, 11 April 2014

Recipe: Chocolate Easter Nests

There's nothing more fun or simple to make than Chocolate nests. I remember making them at school, there are no knives or dangerous finger removing implements involved. Just a little melting which the children are happy to help stir while you make yourself a cuppa.

This recipe is adapted from one I found on the BBC website:

125g milk chocolate
100g dark chocolate
2 tablespoons of golden syrup
50g unsalted butter
75g cornflakes

Line a 12 hole Muffin tray with paper cases.

Melt the chocolate, golden syrup and butter in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally and remove from the heat as soon as it is all melted, chocolate has a tendency to cook if left for too long.

Stir in the cornflakes gently until they are all completely covered in the chocolate mix. Then take a tablespoon and fill each paper case with this gooey mix. Press 3 mini eggs into the centre of each one then place in the fridge for an hour or until they are set.

This literally takes only a few minutes to make but gives endless enjoyment not least for the adults who are transported back to their childhood days!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The hottest Easter Eggs...

We've taken a little wander around to bring you the best of the Easter Eggs this year, all available to order online so no need to go rushing out. Conserve your energy for the eating, I intend to spend to spend most of Easter Sunday comatosed by excessive chocolate consumption. From artisanal and expensive, to quirky to everyone's favourite Percy Pig here are some that have caught our sweet little eye...enjoy!

From the top left hand corner:

3. Farga
5. Prestat