31 August 2013

Three Colours

The start of school always reminds me how much I loved LOVED shopping for school supplies. Back then, you could buy a big brown sack filled with all the needed materials. I prefered going to the store and picking out my originals.  

Mom would read off the needed items and I selected my favourites from the store's shelves: spiral notebooks, folders, pencils, ruler, erasers, glue, red marking pencil, and a box of Crayola Crayons. 

Do you remember your first box of Crayola Crayons? 

Just as you do with eggs,  I carefully inspected the crayons before purchase to ensure there were no broken ones, and that all tips were chip-free. My prized pastels were meticulously organised by their hues, and hidden from the grimy fingers of younger brothers. 

Yes, I admit, I was OCD from a very early age. It sent shivers down my spine to watch classmates neglect their crayons and smash their perfectly pointed tips on the sketch pad. Even now, I cringe when Ouisie peels off the crayon's sleeve or snaps them like a matchstick. 

As a young artist, I could not get enough blue violet in my drawings. In later years, it was burnt orange and forest green. These days, it's magenta and pink-- Ouisie's favourite shades of red. 

What is your favourite colour? 

With a toddler, my days (and house) are brightly coloured with paint, crayons, markers and play-doh. It is messy. It is creative. For both, it is pure delight. 

I simply adore colour.

26 August 2013

Carefree and Paste

I now understand that my blog, like my child (and pet), needs daily nourishing and nurturing. And though ideas for blog posts swarm in my head most days and many nights, I cannot convince Ouisie that mommy needs daily quiet time to work on her computer. 

It is not for lack of trying. Over the summer all of Ouisie's activities and playgroups went on break. And so, while the blog deserves love and attention, something had to give. And face it, switching off a computer is much easier than an active toddler.

Recently, when I switch on the computer, I struggle to put my stories into words and can only compose fragments from my stream of consciousness. 

After discarding another disjointed draft, I came across a blog post on Fox's Lane that echoed my frustrated feelings. Following her lead, I decided to play the 'taking stock' game. 

And so it goes;

17 August 2013

Short and Simple Recipe: Shortbread

I am still a morning java girl, but for an afternoon pick-me-up I reach for the teapot, not the cafetière. 

My preferred cup is jasmine green tea with honey or Earl Grey with a splash of milk. And nothing complements the two better than a freshly baked piece of shortbread. 

Baking shortbread is easy peasy usingonly three basic ingredients (butter, sugar, and flour). A perfect ratio of this trio yields the most heavenly crumbly biscuit suitable for any Mad Hatter.

A homemade biscuit far surpasses store bought super brand Walker and overpriced Harrods in its signature tin. Ready to bake?

15 August 2013

Broadstairs: a haven for fishermen and folk musicians

Last Sunday we packed the car and headed southwest to Broadstairs for a weekend getaway. Carib (the dog) was happy to be invited on the adventure, though hesitant about the choice of transportation. (She does not do well with motion.)

Broadstairs has been a fishing hamlet since 1080 AD. While fishing is still thriving, most of town's income relies on tourism. Fishing boats rest anchored in the shore, while ice cream parlors, souvenir beach shops, and pubs line the Boardwalk and High Street.

For the past six years we have made an annual road trip to Broadstairs to visit friends who call the coastal town home during the summer.  Longtime friend and fisherman, Julian, keeps lobster, crab and whelk (sea snail) traps along the coastline. Seafood does not get any fresher than this.

We were greeted by this fruit de mer platter of goodies from Julian's traps and local fishermen.We graciously devoured the platter along with a bottle of Ro and Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, sur Lie.

With the flavours of lunch still lingering on our palates, we took a stroll to burn off a few calories and check out the local scene at Folk Week. Broadstairs has hosted the week-long folk festival since 1965.

The atmosphere was upbeat and lively with brightly coloured hair, face painted children, and flower head wreaths.

08 August 2013

Coup de Coeur: Grain Store

Last Saturday we went for a family lunch at Grain Store, the newest restaurant from Bruno Loubet and the Zetter Group which opened earlier this summer. Cranes and steel frames filled the skyline along the five minute walk from King's Cross station.

King's Cross is in the midst of an urban redevelopment project. It's so BIG, it has its own new postcode. That's BIG!

Grain Store is located on Granary Square just steps from the banks of historic Regent Canal. The square opened in June 2012 in Phase I of the redevelopment project.  It is equal in size to Trafalgar Square. That's BIG!

In its first year, the square has been the setting for concerts, outdoor movie theatres, and dance groups. A permanent featured attraction are the 1,000+ choreographed fountains which kids (and adults) enjoy watching and running through.

It was another pur-tee day in England and 'dem city folks were out sunbathing on fresh astroturf and shiny concrete.

KERB had taken over Granary Square sponsoring a Saturday market with select street vendors. We used great restraint and did not taste any tempting samples as we crossed the square to Grain Store's front doors.

Of course, Ouisie spotted a popsicle vendor and nearly jumped out of her stroller at the sight of children splashing in the fountains.

We prevented a full blown temper tantrum by bartering both wishes in return for good behaviour at lunch.

We three entered Grain Store, all smiles.

borrowed image by Amy Murrell

07 August 2013

Proms Plus Storytime for Patrons in Prams

The BBC Proms; like Wimbledon, Royal Ascot, and the Chelsea Flower Show,  is a quintessential British summer tradition which locals and tourists alike should attend.

The Proms span over eight weeks with daily concerts for all ages and musical interests. The main stage for the Proms is at the stunning Royal Albert Hall. Smaller concerts, lectures and special events take place at various venues around London.

I enjoy listening to the BBC Proms televised and radio broadcasts, but have long wished to attend a concert.

Much to my delight, a new Proms Plus Storytime for children ages 3-7 at the Royal College of Music coincided with our family's cityscape last weekend. Having procrastinated and not researched scheduled events until the week prior, the Storytime concert had sold out.

The silver lining: an additional 50 tickets were to be distributed at the door 30-minutes before the performance.

I envisioned a serpentine queue of families winding the block from dawn's first light. I pessimistically thought we would be 51st-53rd in line and just miss our Proms debut.

Last Saturday night I decided if Ouisie woke early, despite the dark-out curtains in the Hotel room, we would queue for tickets. If she opted to sleep in, we would head straight to chase butterflies at the Natural History Museum.

She did sleep in, until 8:30, leaving two hours to get there and be 3 of  50 extra ticket holders. We decided we had nothing to lose and scrambled to get showered and round up some snacks for Ouisie.

01 August 2013

Book Review: The Happiness Project

the AUTHOR: Gretchen Rubin

I have been wanting to incorporate my love of books into the blog but in order to do so, I had to first put reading back into my routine. I delight in sharing my passion of storytelling with our daughter, but recently I noticed her picture books had become my only bedside reads.

A friend's loan of The Happiness Project was therefore very timely. I usually steer clear of self-help guides, and was thus skeptical when I started the book. Much to my surprise, Gretchen Rubin's natural, straightforward voice resonated with my own almost instantly.

For those who have not yet read this international bestseller, here is why I recommend it. 

The Happiness Project  opens with Gretchen recounting the day of her epiphany. While riding the cross town bus in Manhattan she had the sudden realisation that she was in danger of wasting her life if she did not make a concerted effort to be more happy. Gretchen knew she did not need radical change, just a makeover. 

The book is a chronology of Gretchen's year long journey to find more personal happiness within her immediate environment. I drew many parallels in our lives starting at the core: happy marriages, children, and loving extended families and friends. And while we both admire (and envy!) Elizabeth Gilbert's happiness quest in Eat, Pray, Love , neither Gretchen nor I could (or would) drop our families and responsibilities to travel the world for a year.

Overnight, she became a kindred spirit who wanted to be a better happy person. Although The Happiness Project was Gretchen's own self-examination, it provided me with some quiet introspection.

Each month, Gretchen pursued a different set of attainable resolutions: go to bed earlier, laugh out loud, exercise better or quit nagging. Along the way she tested the wisdom of ancient philosophers, saints, historical figures and current pop icons.

Through her research, Gretchen identifies four splendid truths for being happy. When written they seem very straightforward, but in practice they take great thought and discipline. I particularly like the second splendid truth:
One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy;
One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
The Happiness Project sent my hand scribbling notes on how I crave social settings to meet friends and more solitude for meditating and exercise. I discovered that in order to get ahead I needed to let go. I have started to identify some resolutions to set me on my way:
be musical. finish projects.
blog frequently.
ask for help with my SLR camera.
start a new hobby.
pay it forward. audition for a play.  
make new friends and keep the old ones closer.  
listen more. 
 In putting these thoughts in writing, I am motivated to follow through and keep these resolutions.

Why wait for the New Year to get started? August 1st has a nice ring ...join me!

If you feel happy, but want an added boost, The Happiness Project  should be your next summer read.

For more information on Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project , visit her daily blog.

Happy reading.
And happiness to you!

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