Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A nice cup of tea @ Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries sits nestled in a quiet, leafy conservation area, a stones throw from the Thames.  It’s a most wonderful place; and houses a garden nursery, Michelin starred restaurant and a teahouse, all on the one plot.

Foodies, gardeners and lovers of vintage and shabby chic will all love it here. Old style carts and wagons support trays of herbs and bedding plants. Strategically placed pieces of antique or garden furniture sit amongst flowers and foliage. It’s picturesque, calming, and a great place to gently while away a morning or afternoon.

It may have started out as a simple plant nursery serving food, but these days, its main proposition is the food offering. The shabby chic look and feel may appear effortless, but is surely the result of a considerable amount of time and thought.  Much of the Teahouse seating space is either outdoors or in old greenhouses, if it’s raining, puddles will appear between the mismatching old tables; simply decorated with a plain vase and blooming flowers.  Nothing matches, it’s all rather eclectic, but wonderfully so.  The food offering is simple, seasonal and delicious, which probably explains it’s popularity, come rain or shine. West Londoners love this place (this one is no exception.) It’s simplicity and ubiquitous greenness makes you feel that you could be deep in the countryside, and for oxygen starved Londoners that’s rather a nice feeling.  One gets a sense of escapism visiting here.  Even on a rainy day, sitting having a pot of tea (properly made with leaves) in an old greenhouse at Petersham, is a memorable experience.  

Making the most of Little Pip sleeping peacefully in his buggy, Big Daddy and I decided to detour from our weekend Thameside walk to the Teahouse for a delicious slice of apple and almond cake and a good sized pot of tea.  What a piece of cake it was too, a pastry base filled with slightly tart pieces of apple, plump sweet sultanas and a crumbly almond top. We washed it down with steaming cups of tea and talked peacefully, whilst Little Pip remained asleep,  (a true rarity as he can usually sniff out a piece of cake at 50 paces.)   We basked in a few precious moments of calm and serenity. An uninterrupted conversation, where sentences were finished.  A simple pleasure, but it felt so good.

On leaving, we perused the shop with it’s tastefully put together collection of garden tools, homewares, antique and garden furniture and huge array of Ilse Jacbosen wellies.  (Oh how easily my feet slipped into those black lace up size 7’s!) I employed restraint and left them there, wondering how many pairs of wellies does a woman really need? Is 3 too many for a Londoner?

As little Pip stirred awake, we headed across the road to the Petersham entrance of Richmond Park and the playground there.  The sky was blue and the sun was starting to shine.  What a wonderful backdrop for a playground. Who says London has no green space?

Friday, 26 August 2011

A little tube of loveliness - Jo Malone Vitamin E Lip Conditioner

Yesterday was a frazzling day.  The weather did not help, both Little Pip and I had cabin fever.  The storm clouds were lifted when Big Daddy emerged through the door that evening with a gift.  I LOVE receiving spontaneous presents. So much fun!

This little tube of loveliness brightened my day for two reasons:

1) It makes even the driest lips feel super smooth and silky.  It’s not sticky. It doesn’t have an overpowering smell, and it seems to have a menthol like ingredient which makes the lips feel cool and a bit tingly.  It’s also SPF 15 (not that we need it in this weather). Plus, it comes boxed in the lovely Jo Malone black and gold packaging, which means it feels like something special rather than a utility beauty item.

2) Its loveliness is quadrupled because it was bought by the man I love, who obviously thought about me and took time out of his busy work day to go to the shop and buy it. (He also did not think my recent use of Zovirax as a substitute for lip balm was a good idea.) And after a slightly fraught day, he knew it would cheer me up. Result: One happy mummy, full of sunshine and smiles, feeling 100% loved and appreciated.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Potty training in one week

Patience. Not one of my strong points.  Potty training in one week? Yes please! Armed with my copy of Jo Frost’s Confident Toddler Care, I thought I would give it a go. Little Pip had been showing some signs of readiness and it seemed like the right time.

A brief synopsis of Ms Frost’s advice: the key rule seems to be; decide you’re going to go for it, and then go for it. You’ve then passed the point of no return.  Equip yourself with a lot of spare pants, a home potty and travel potty.  Do not allow nappies for day trips out or car journeys, put aside a week to give it your entire focus and be ready with LOTS of praise. 

Here’s how we got on:

Day 1.  I confess, she of little stickability… I almost gave up on the first day. It seemed to coincide with Little Pip having a bad day. (Which then meant Mummy had a bad day too.) It was one of those, I’m going to bash and smash everything, generally be on a short fuse and not play nicely days.  There were some limited successes, but 2 rather big poos and a wee, all in the pants.  The first pair of poo pants I had to throw away, they were too messy to deal with.  Seriously started to question whether I had misjudged his readiness in a fit of blinkered mother love.

Day 2. There was a good start to the day with both a poo and regular wees on the potty.  In the afternoon, we ventured to the park at the end of the road.  He promptly hid in the bushes where I could not get to him.  ‘Are you doing a poo?’ I asked suspiciously, trying to crawl over to him.  He grinned back at me, hiding in the dingy bush for about 3 minutes, and then duly announced from the safety of his den; ‘I’ve done a poo.’ A successful first outing. Not. When we got home later, Little Pip watched the post-poo clothes clean up.

LP:‘What you doing Mummy?’

Me: (trying not to grimace) ‘Mummy is trying to get this poo out of your pants. It’s not a very nice job. It’s much better to do poos on the potty’

LP, frowning:  ‘Mummy. We DON’T touch poo’

Ahhh, thought I, at least he’s grasped that part of it then.

Days 3 and 4.  The weekend.  Grandma, Grandpa and Big Daddy were all around.  Little Pip is a big show off and loves an audience.  He was very happy to perform on Mr Frog for lots of applause.  Had to explain to Big Daddy that we don’t necessarily believe him when he says ‘No, I don’t need potty’. Best to check by sitting him on it, that way he is likely to have minimal accidents. 

Day 5. A bit of a dilemma, because Grandma was still with us, and we had a long term plan to go to the London Transport Museum.  With no accidents over the weekend I was feeling buoyed up, yet, with no success to date with the travel potty I was reluctant to venture forth into town. However, a bag full of pants and spare clothes later, off we went.  After leaving the house, Little Pip steadfastly refused to pee all day whilst we were out.  From 9.45 until 3.00pm he did not do a wee, despite numerous trips to the toilet and a huge glass of milk at lunchtime.  I wondered if he was holding on, in some amazing feat of bladder control, or if it was an issue with him not liking the very small travel potty.  I was convinced there would be an accident, but it did not happen.  When we finally arrived home 5 hours later, Mr Frog was christened with the biggest wee I had ever seen.  So big, in fact, I felt compelled to measure it. Half a pint of wee! What a mighty bladder my boy must have.

Days 6 and 7.  Little Pip was going to nursery on these days. I was a little concerned about whether he would get the constant prompts that I had been giving him and if he would be ok with using a different potty in a different environment.   Save for one small accident after his sleep on Day 6, he was dry.

Days 8 & 9.  This weekend we had decided to go camping.  I was wondering whether this would be a good idea.  (Especially as the travel potty remained unchristened). In the end Mr Frog came with us.  Little Pip did really well all weekend, and finally even managed a wee in the travel potty too.   On our way home in the car on Sunday I heard the words, ‘I done a poo’.  Fear crept through me.  Surely not, in the carseat? A quick bit of translation determined that he hadn’t actually done a poo yet, but it was imminent.  3 minutes from home, he managed to control the urge just long enough for us to whisk Mr Frog back in through the front door and for him to deliver us a welcome home present. Everyone relax…

I’m not sure what Supernanny would think of our week,  we’d probably get the feedback that  tried to pack a little too much in. We’re not 100% there yet, but I’m pretty pleased with the progress we’ve made.  Well done LP.  Mummy is SO proud of you xxx

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Plumpton on Thames - Why this mother loves her little part of London

Hello. I’m Mummy Plum.  This is my brand new blog and my first ever post.  You can read more about me on my aptly named ‘about me’ page. But in brief, the main protagonists of this continuing tale will be myself, Little Pip (2) and Big Daddy.  We live in an enclave of London continually filled with pre- and post partum women, a place I call Plumpton on Thames.

Plumpton is in a leafy part of London by the river.  A land of pavement cafĂ©’s, independent children’s shops, an abundance of kiddy activity classes, mummies and mummies- to- be.  Three prams can be wheeled along the pavement here side by side, great for mothers cruising; but a chaos causer for normal pedestrians.  If you stroll along the main highway, plump, bump stroking, mums to be can be found in their droves.   Which is why I call it Plumpton.  People seem to be drawn here to have babies.   

We lived here for nine years before starting our family.  At that time it was just a convenient location to commute from, as well as a nice place to live. Little Pip was somewhere light years ahead of us, and had only been considered in moments of cosy, loved-up closeness in our tiny little flat, when we were sipping wine and bravely talking about ‘the future’.

For those nine years, we knew no-one here except the Dry Cleaner. And we only saw him once a week, (to collect clothes that is, not to be social.)  It didn’t seem to matter to us back then.  We had each other, thought nothing of traveling to the other side of the capital to see friends.  I can say in all honesty, we weren’t lonely at all.  We conceded it would be nice to know more people on our doorstep, but we were never bothered enough to get out there and do anything about it.

When we did eventually decide to start a family, Plumpton seemed the perfect place.  Then we found that the baby we longed for was not quite ready to come along yet. In fact, our baby didn’t come along for quite some time. The lovely place in which we lived somehow seemed to amplify the ache of childlessness, weekend after weekend seeing plump, bumps and smiling, expectant couples strolling along hand in hand.  I found myself wistfully gazing at small baby clothes in shop windows, or at the maternity section in Gap, silently bartering with some imagined fertility god;  “Let me have a baby and I promise to be a good, kind person, do charitable deeds and never waste frivolous amounts of money on designer jeans ever again.”  All I wanted was to wear those trousers with the HUGE elastic waistband.

There was a happy ending.  Little Pip (LP) was born in 2009, and I was at last able to join the ranks of Bugaboo pushing mothers along the main high street just as I had always imagined.  Actually, not quite.  No peaceful pushing and window shopping for me. LP hated his pram, and would scream constantly from the moment I put him in it, until the moment I took him out.  I spent most of my time carrying him in those first few months. Bugger. Boo. Yes, indeed.  At times it felt like a rather expensive shopping trolley.

Before LP’s birth the fact I knew no-one here started to bother me.  We had no family or friends on the doorstep. I started to worry that my slightly reserved self would become introverted without the world of work, that maybe I’d never speak to anyone again, in my life, ever.   I feared I’d be like a goldfish in a bowl, mindlessly pushing my pram around the same circuit day after day, and not even realizing it. I don’t think I even could comprehend at that stage, that my new baby would be great company, albeit, with limited conversational skills, and that babies are a free pass to start a conversation with pretty much anyone you like.

Two years on, life here is a hum drum of activity classes, swimming, trips to the park, playdates.  I have met many wonderful mum friends and thankfully have never once felt like a goldfish in a bowl (although I may have had the appearance of one after so many sleepless nights.) Since having LP, I love this place even more. Being here in Plumpton, this constant mecca of child friendly activity, has probably saved my sanity.   Motherhood has been a harder challenge than I ever expected, especially having a toddler whose batteries never seem to run down.  I’m thankful for the fact that I know so many mums within walking distance of my house, the numerous sets of swings, playgrounds and green open spaces; the 3 Surestart children’s centres in walking reach and the plethora of usual kiddy franchises for music, gym, dance, art and football. On frazzled days, it has made life bearable knowing we can leave the house, and for one hour or so, Little Pip can participate in some supervised activity that I do not need to be the sole provider of. 

Wooed by the idea of a bigger property, fresh air, and good state education, Big Daddy recently thought it might be a good idea if we moved to the country.  We lost our hearts to a huge, family house, overlooking an area of outstanding natural beauty. I was filled with emotion as I watched Little Pip running with joy around a garden bigger than any other he had ever encountered.  But in the end, I couldn’t do it.  The little lanes were so rucked that taking the buggy out would have been more an expedition than a walk. There were no neighbours. There wasn’t even a shop. Who would I talk to?  Would I find myself getting up extra early just so I could have human contact with the milkman?  I might go for days without seeing anyone at all except some woolly sheep.  And where would I get a decent Latte?  It was too far removed from everything I loved about London life.  So that was it – the future in town for us. 

It was at that point I realized living here has become part of my motherhood coping mechanism.  It isn't just the wide number of facilities and activities that Plumpton has to offer that appeals to me, it's also the fact that, after eleven years of living in this part of London, we finally know people here.  We have friends here.  We can now walk down the road and see people we know to say ‘hello’ to, (not just the dry cleaner.) Having Little Pip has made us feel part of a community.   Pre children, I didn’t think about it, and I certainly didn’t miss it, but now I have it, I don’t want to give it up.   Finally, our little piece of London feels like home.