Sunday, 29 May 2016

If you go down to the woods...

Now, I'm constantly going on about how much I love the seaside (and visit year round), I also have quite a thing for mountains (I've climbed Snowdon and still have plans for more when the little man's older), but I tend to forget all about woodlands.

I suspect this may be because we don't have any woods to speak of here, and it's been nearly 30 years since I lived around the corner from any. But those I did live around the corner from then were pretty fab. Last weekend we managed to combine a trip to the beach with a walk in those very woods...

So the woods were a 5 minute walk (for a toddler) from our house until I was 6, but after we moved a little further away they were still 5 minutes from my Nan's bungalow, so we visited often. It's a pretty sizeable wood with a great range of trees and a beautiful carpet of bluebells in the spring (which had just about finished last week). There are hilly bits to scramble down and a stream to get wet and muddy in and they're pretty much my idea of the perfect wood. 

I used to just pop down there with my Mum, but frequently with my grandparents too - when we went through their old photos after my Nan died last year we found quite a few of us in the woods, and they brought back really happy memories of cool walks on hot days and collecting bits and bobs from the leaf litter. 

Unfortunately the Great Storm of 1987 (which we called the Hurricane at the time, but Mr M absolutely forbids me from referring to it as this "because it's wrong"!) the woods were really badly hit. I recall crying a lot. We couldn't get in there for ages because all the paths were blocked and by the time we could it was just barren and bare, a completely different place. Every time we drove past the woods in the next 18 months before we moved away I felt a slightly nauseous pang, and I'd try not to look - even writing about it now makes me feel sad. 

My previous visit before last weekend was with my parents in the mid 1990s - it'd been tidied up a lot - boardwalks built on the boggy areas by the stream, and lots of new trees planted. It felt optimistic but not really like my woods. 

When our drive back from the seaside unexpectedly took us right by them I made Mr M stop and go for a stroll - I don't think he was that keen - little man was being a bit of a pain and he just wanted to get home. But stop we did. The little man loved the fact that they were the woods I played in as a child and that I felt so happy there - oh and as you can see it's growing back pretty well. Almost feels like it used to. There were plenty of bits I didn't recognise, but then we'd turn a corner and see a view I knew very well. 

So, this city girl likes the sea, the mountains, and the woods (yet to develop a passion for fields but maybe that's my teens spent in Lincolnshire!). I'm now on a mission to find some to visit closer to home, but we'll be popping back to my woods the next time we pass through (whether the boys like it or not!).

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Recovering Magazine Addict

I've had a lifelong love affair with magazines. So extreme at times it may be surprising that I didn't decide to go and work in the industry... I did have a zine of my own in junior school (I think what would now be year 6) - it was a fashion magazine - only the one copy, hand drawn by me and then passed around my friends (this was 1988, so just printing a few out at home wasn't an option).

The first magazines I remember getting really excited about were Just Seventeen and Smash Hits (probably around about the same time). I used to read my Mum's as well - mostly Ideal Home and Bella, but the obsession got a little out of hand when I was about 12 and discovered Vogue...

Then Harpers & Queen (now Bazaar) and basically anything glossy. At one stage I had 6 years worth of Vogue magazines in my bedroom (ostensibly for research, college sketchbooks - and they were used for this - but mainly because I couldn't let go). I also had years' worth of Melody Maker and NME (when they were in the old newspaper format). I recall moving house with my parents when I was 19 and my boyfriend (now husband) driving me down to the nearest recycling bins to get rid of them all - they obviously meant a lot as I remember this vividly!

Post the move I kept buying them though, but as I left home a few months later I didn't accumulate that many. When we got to London I ended up taking over the bottom shelf of the bookcase in our tiny living room with more Vogue, Living Etc and basically anything glossy or interesting - there were a few short-run zines in there and expensive things on interesting nice smelling papers.

On to the next flat and I started clearing out a bit as I went along (every 6 months or so). Vogue was a given, and Bazaar, In Style, Red, Zest, Runners World...

Then the little man came along - I kept buying the magazines for a while then realised I wasn't reading them. Not easy to read with a baby stuck to your boob - and that's the only time you actually have spare time (when you're not too tired to manage a magazine!), he got a little older though and Mollie Makes came along. A bit of a revelation - a craft magazine that was actually nice and had some things I'd like to make in it. I'd recently been doing some knitting and had started sewing and generally being more creative again so that was fab.

Guess what I did with Mollie Makes though? Yep, hoarded several years' worth - it's OK they made it to the recycling a few months ago, but not before I'd been through every copy just in case! Now I have a few favourites but I'm not currently subscribing to any (this still feels strange as I've been a long term magazine subscriber). Mollie is still one of my favourites but I also like a bit more of a read so Oh Comley, Caboodle, Frankie (shown above), Betty and Uppercase are all magazines I keep an eye out for. Mollie Makes is about as exotic as it gets where I live but I did find Frankie in Sutton the other day (I nearly fell over!).

So, I think I'm managing the addiction quite well? Quality over quantity - something good to read that isn't totally out of fashion a few months down the line. All the magazines above tend to smell good - and are either small or independent which makes me feel good about buying them*.

Are you a magazine addict too? Anything I've not included on my list which you think I'd like, or should I just stop and reign myself in now...?

I've recently had an idea kicking around in my head for a new zine (better than my 1988 effort but not full on magazine - simple and small and cheap - the true spirit of the zine!), however I suspect that's the role of blogs like this one now - my magazine (and it takes up a lot less shelf space).

*Oh, and I do still hoard any magazines I'm featured in - you have to! Everything else goes in the recycling after a few months though...

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Sticking with the Yoga

I though I owed you an update as a few weeks ago I shared the news that I was embarking upon yoga classes for the first time in an absolute age. You can read that first post here. I was all full of hope, but pretty poor expectations when it came to sticking with it, but I've surprised myself!

My first class was a week before the Easter holidays so childcare was all over the place. On the second week I couldn't go to the class I'd hoped to go to regularly, but made it to an evening one instead (this would't usually happen - again due to childcare issues) - the evening class was different, but still brilliant. Then it was 10 days before the next one I could go to - so I was desperate by the time I got there and it was also fab.

Image (c) And Smile - used with permission

There then followed a couple of weeks in which I managed to go twice a week. I realised pretty quickly that the magical restorative effects only last for 2-3 days at best, and waiting a week wasn't working. But then my teacher went on holiday and I couldn't go for 3 weeks... This coincided with me getting a nasty cold. I managed to do a yoga DVD in week 2 (this one - it's my favourite, lots of sun salutations) but that was it. My sciatica got worse again, as did my anxiety and I was just downright grumpy.

But now she's back and I'm three more classes down - the back pain has almost completely gone, I slept so well last night after my class that I felt really groggy this morning, but hey... I'm more cheerful and positive again, and feel like I've grown about an inch in height. The new aim is two classes per week and one go with the DVD - hoping that'll keep me on a nice even keel! Again the timing thing really hasn't been an issue - I'm so productive after a class that so far I've managed to make up for all the working time I've missed by going to it. In fact, having a pile of work to come back to doesn't bother me at all - I find I'm looking forward to cracking on with it.

I've also surprised myself with what I can do (shoulder stand, yes - headstand as in the above illustration by And Smile (who's aiming for this herself!), not quite). but I do have the tightest hamstrings known to man. As I mentioned in my previous post though, it's not a competitive class at all - but I do seem to improve each time, and maybe one day I'll be able to grab hold of my toes!

An update on other exercise... still just managing lots of walking with the aid of the Fitbit, and I suspect that resuming running with all of my niggly injuries wouldn't be that clever but we'll wait and see.

Diet wise, I've reduced my wheat and gluten intake over the past few weeks as well. Still some cake though don't worry - I haven't cut it out altogether. Interestingly I read this post the other day about elimination diets and so called healthy eating - I'm hoping my reduction and a little more fruit and veg may be the best (and healthiest, and more enjoyable) way. So far I have noticed that I'm a bit slimmer, even though I haven't actually lost any weight - a nice bonus!

If you love the illustration above you can get similar things from And Smile's shop - if you haven't discovered Viktorija's work yet, prepare to fall quite badly for it!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Snow, Sunburn and Legoland...

Well, the last week in April was a funny old one... On the day before the little man's birthday it snowed, on the birthday trip to Legoland last Sunday though, we all got sunburnt!

As I type this I feel like I'm still recovering from a somewhat epic weekend (I wasn't massively well last week though so my tiredness may well be a combination of the two). Rather than having a birthday party we had friends over on Saturday (for a mini party - 3 children, 6 adults and wine - much better than a screaming mass of 20+ 6 year olds!) and then the next day was the Legoland trip with his best friend. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Once we got over the fact that it took us an hour to drive to the outskirts of Windsor then a further hour and 40 minutes to get in and through the gate (if you aim to get there when it opens folks, aim to get there an hour before it opens - if it's a bank holiday weekend and the sun's out anyway...), and then the amazingly long queue for filthy loos it was OK. I loved Miniland (in these pictures) and could quite happily have looked at the models for most of the day.

The little man was rather excited to see Paris in miniature after our trip there the other week...

We went on rides as well of course. I missed the first one (the little boats) as I spent 20 minutes queuing to buy my lunch and they all got fed up and joined that queue without me (so I had to spend an hour standing around and waiting for them - this might be when I burnt my newly bare neck!), but after that I went on a few - the rapids were my favourite and Mr M's too. The little man loved the driving school - it's from age 6 and up so he's only just old enough but he loved it and said it was the highlight of the whole day for him - he did do pretty well, although he keeps telling me he jumped a red light! 

Legoland is great for younger children (under 10/11 I'd say) as there aren't any big rides or rollercoasters - most rides are suitable for 6 year olds and above. Make sure you take plenty of money, it is massively expensive to get in (get discount vouchers from Kelloggs packets and save on adult tickets) once you get there the food is mediocre, service is slow and pricey, a tiny pot of sweets in the sweet shop was nearly a fiver, and you can't take your child there and not buy them something from the Lego shop at the end - so plan ahead! 

Having said that we'll probably be back - maybe try Chessington World of Adventures next though...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

6 Things About 6...

The little man turned 6 last week (another thing to make me feel old!). He keeps on surprising me, not just with his appallingly bad behaviour - only at home mind, an angel at school, of course - but with the stuff he does and doesn't do. I'm pretty sure if the folks behind the "What to expect when you're expecting" range of books did one for 6 year olds I'd laugh and refuse to buy it, but here are 6 things that surprise me...

1. He can actually read and write. Far from the top of the class, but he can. Not sure why this surprises me as I could by the time I started school, but back in the old day job (and many years ago now) I used to help out at a local school, reading with their year 6 pupils (so 10-11 year olds) and the child I read with could only read slightly better than my little man can now. Probably more of an issue with the child I was helping than anything else, but still... Also loves practicing spelling tests at home (strange boy).

2. He still likes to hold my hand. I expected this to end a long time ago. I'm very very happy that it hasn't.

3. His memory is astounding. "Do you remember [such and such a place/event/conversation from 3 years ago] when we did [x, y, z]?", yes he can, and can add to the conversation proving that he's not just saying it.

4. He still plays with his brio train set (which was the best buy ever). We bought a job lot of track on eBay for £35 when he was about 18 months old, it's been added to over the years but it's out downstairs as I type this ("don't pack it away Mummy") with some trees from Daddy's Hornby collection, as he visited a model railway exhibition with him last weekend and was inspired. A little extra one here... he still calls me Mummy. Again, makes me very happy!

5. He still loves his warm milk and despite my best attempts to buy some more grown up drinking vessels, he still prefers it from his baby sippy cup (unless he has friends around...).

6. We've clearly brought him up to be very strong willed and argumentative. He's also developed the skill of being a tad lazy then really rising to an occasion. These things mostly drive me crazy but I can only hope they'll serve him well in the future. That's assuming the tantrums end at some point. They've been ongoing since 13 months - I really wasn't expecting that...