rosie flo saves the day

P1220350It seems that summer has been and gone, and its disappearance has put the kibosh on our plans for regular trips to Portishead Lido — just as with camping, we are fair-weather swimmers in this household, or at least I am which means the kids are forced to be.

But the arrival of a rather lovely parcel from Roz Streeten, aka Rosie Flo, lifted everyone’s spirits. A Pool Party. Perfect. The girls were beside themselves with excitement and spent all weekend drawing and colouring in the little figures, while outside it poured with rain.

P1220359P1220597Most parents of school-aged children will have come across the phenomenon that is the Rosie Flo Colouring Book. But if you haven’t, then click on the link, or head to your nearest good toy shop, and check them out — you are in for a real treat.

P1220591The brainchild of graphic designer, Roz Streeten, the colouring books feature charming line drawings of wonderfully eccentric outfits to which children (and adults) are invited to add heads, arms and legs, as well as lots of colour. The books are printed on lovely heavy paper and are quite unlike any colouring book you will have seen before. My children have been obsessed with them since the books first appeared, about ten years ago, and I would guess that between them they’ve worked their way through twenty or more.

Two years ago, Martha was given Rosie Flo’s Colouring Fashion Show for her birthday: a 3D colouring extravaganza which, in turn, prompted all three girls to make a whole range of their own paper pop-ups last summer.

islay paper games

All children seem to love colouring in, whether or not they like drawing, which means that there is an enormous market out there for colouring books. Such a shame then, that most  colouring books are of such poor quality: so often the paper is horrible and the art work worse — heavy black lines around simpering Little Bow Peep-type characters or gurning leprechauns. Urgh.

P1220355And this is why Rosie Flo has been such a huge success. Roz Streeten’s books not only satisfy a child’s desire to colour in, but they also invite children to engage their imaginations in order to embellish the scenes. Often, Martha races through her copies armed with nothing more that a black biro, adding faces and limbs, and sometimes additional characters in the background. In fact, now that I think about it, she’s never really been that interested in colouring, but she has always loved these books. She adores the witty detail in the drawings, some of which I hope you can see in the image below — the cupcake hat the waitress is wearing, the tiny ice lollies and the shelves stacked with cakes.

P1220405I was lucky enough to find myself standing next to Roz at an event at last year’s Bath Children’s Literature Festival. We peered at each other’s name tags in order to launch into the obligatory small talk and I explained that I was an unimportant ‘plus one’; she countered by saying that she wasn’t an author or illustrator but made colouring books, at which point the penny dropped, “Rosie Flo?” I said. “Oh you’ve heard of them?” To say that I was excited is putting it mildly. I really, really do love these colouring books. Roz seemed surprised to find such a grown-up fan; but I know that I’m not the only forty-something devotee. I would guess that many a parent has breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of a rack of Rosie Flo colouring books in their local toy shop — imaginative, charming, simple, fun and at £4.99 to £5.99, affordable too. Over the years the range has expanded to include packs of postcards and large colouring posters (£2.99). Not only do the colouring books make brilliant presents, they are also the best way to stave off cabin fever during the holidays or at weekends when the rain sets in — as it did last weekend.

Thank you Roz, the pool party saved the day on a very wet weekend!

The pool party is in the shops now, and I’d highly recommend it. And for all festival goers, you might like to know that for the second year running, Rosie Flo is behind the Camp Bestival Colouring Book.

home & away

P1220346It has been a very strange ten days. Last Monday morning Matilda flew to Germany (on a ten day exchange), and Bea went off to Exmouth for her year six camp. The house felt incredibly quiet and still.

Outside the temperature rose and the garden took on a mediterranean feel. In the evenings it was most odd to find only Martha pottering about making potions from petals, or constructing tiny tents for Sylvanians. Matilda’s 14th birthday came and went. Without her. That felt very strange.

P1220347Although I relished the peace and quiet, not to mention the relief at being several steps ahead of the diminished wrecking crew, I was surprised by how unsettled I felt by the absence of my eldest daughters. There were no fights, no doors were slammed and the mountain of laundry didn’t just shrink, it disappeared. There was only one packed lunch to prepare and then throw away at the end of the day (do other people’s children subsist on thin air?). I cleared out cupboards, sorted through the mess in both girls’ bedrooms, and chipped away at all the boring life admin that so often gets overlooked until it’s too late.

P1220339But the overwhelming feeling has been one of suspended animation. In fact there have been moments when I felt as though I’d lost a limb, or two. A foretaste, I suppose, of when the girls finally leave home.

Bea returned last Friday having had a fantastic time, and it was wonderful to have her back. But the house won’t feel quite right until I have all three girls back home. And I don’t have long to wait now, as Matilda returns in just a few hours.

According to the itinerary on my pin board, she’ll be at the airport now and home by about 8.30 this evening.

P1220332These are the flowers that I picked this morning (roses, geraniums and nepeta) to create a belated birthday bunch, not unlike the ones I picked for her birthday last year. My favourite rose, Ferdinand Pichard, is tucked in to the right of the central rose in the top photograph. I have much more to say about my roses, but I’ll save that for another time. For now I’m linking this post to Little Green Shed’s lovely Nature in the Home series, which I have been following for weeks now and enjoying enormously.

christmas: making and baking

baking plansTime to dust off a favourite cookery book – Linda Collister’s Christmas Treats to Make and GiveThe girls are still in full baking mode (both Martha and Bea have been to GB Bake-off themed birthday parties in the last fortnight, and their cousin is threatening Matilda with something similar along the lines of Come Dine With Me), so I thought it would be a good idea to channel their enthusiasm and get them to bake some Christmas presents.

For my part, I am planning to make a few treats from Diana Henry’s excellent Salt Sugar Smoke. I have already raided Ikea’s kitchen department and have a large stash of jars at the ready, along with some really lovely labels (also from the Swedish giant). Just need to brave the high street in search of the ingredients…

i do like to be beside the seaside …

                    Nothing like a few days by the sea to blow away the cobwebs.

Charmouth is easily one of my favourite beaches. Though, having said that, I’ve only ever visited in the winter months when, despite the steady stream of fossil-hunters and dog walkers, it’s probably much quieter than it is during the summer holidays.

The weather forecast for the weekend was terrible and the clouds looked pretty forbidding at times, but the rain held off and we managed to spend both Friday and Saturday by the sea – three hardy souls actually swam. Naked. Not me, though.

Lyme Regis for wave-hopping and crashing about on the shingle…

               … and Charmouth for fossils and chips – but not together.

Our lunch on the beach at Charmouth was one of the best picnics I’ve ever had: loads of buttered slices of bread from home which were then stuffed with chips from the cafe.

Incidentally, the cafe, which is run from an unpromising-looking large, green Portakabin-shipping container type affair, produces the best tea imaginable: hot and strong and served in large china mugs which they let you take with you while you search for ammonites and trilobites. Delicious hot chocolate too, according to the children.

And then back to base, where fortunately there was a large boot room  …

This is just the tip of the weekend’s footwear iceberg, which comprised walking boots, trainers, slippers, daps*, clogs, crocs etc. I could go on, but it’s enough to say that there were seventeen of us in all (toddlers to forty-somethings) and the weather was uncertain.

I am now dealing with a different sort of iceberg – a damp, muddy, gritty heap of clothes.

* Daps – Bristolian / West country term for plimsolls.

creepy

The rain came down but that didn’t put anyone off. Although only nine houses hosted happenings, the street was so full of children in fancy dress it looked like the set of ET.

As you can see, I managed to make Martha’s cape. I kept putting it off, the material felt so slippery and horrible I didn’t want to touch it, and beyond Martha’s drawing, I didn’t have a pattern to work from – cape construction is not really my thing. But at 5 o’clock this evening I had to face my demons and get on with it. Amazingly it took about five minutes – incredible what you can do when you are against the clock and beyond caring. The drape of the fabric is very forgiving, completely concealing my shoddy pleating. Martha, who had given up all hope of wearing a cape, was suitably impressed.

We are all off to Dorset tomorrow to recover.

planning

I know that Halloween is not to everyone’s taste, but in Montpelier it is celebrated with great enthusiasm (previous years’ fun here and here), though this year’s bash may be a rather low-key affair as it falls in the middle of half term and lots of families are away.

But of course none of this has dampened the girls’ excitement. In fact discussions have been underway for some time now: the picture above, which I thought was just another one of Martha’s endless drawings – she produces a lot – is actually a costume design. A design she is expecting me to follow when I make her costume. From scratch. Today. Eh?

When I complained that I’d had no warning, there was a loud chorus of “but mum you said you’d make me a dead bride/zombie red riding hood/creey doll costume” which, when I glowered at them across the breakfast table, quickly became a slightly sheepish, “well you didn’t say you wouldn’t!” So we are all off to Fabric Land in an hour or so, in search of red fleece, white netting, and whatever else I think I might be able to magic into something spooky with my limited sewing skills. We’ll tackle the pumpkin tonight.

busted!

Someone keeps stealing my camera. Each time I download my photographs I discover images that are entirely new to me. Of course, the girls deny all knowledge.

The self-portraits, however, tell a different story. As do the endless shots of Sylvanians. Time to get Matilda a camera, I think. But where to start? Can anyone recommend a basic digital camera for a thirteen-year-old?

bea’s brownies

I like to think that she’s been inspired by me, but I suspect that Bea’s sudden passion for baking is really due to her obsession with The Great British Bake Off. Over the past two weeks she has made two loaves of bread, cheese rolls and now these brownies.

Bea used the recipe from Paul Hollywood’s book How To Bake, and it requires marginally less butter and chocolate, and crucially, I think, fewer eggs, than Nigella’s brownie recipe which, despite repeated attempts, I’ve never made successfully (the squidge v cake balance is all out of whack – too wet and not cakey enough for my liking).

Bea doesn’t like walnuts so she used pecans instead and we had no cranberries so she made do without. I hovered in the background whilst she worked, biting my tongue. I was quite surprised by how controlling I am when it comes to other people using the kitchen. Matilda is also obsessed with The Great British Bake Off so I can see that I am going to have to learn to ease up a bit and just let them go for it.

the language of flowers

Yesterday, along with the usual cries of “Where’s my games kit, who stole my lunch bag, I’ve only got one shoe”, Matilda threw in a request for a bunch of flowers. Her friend Issy had phoned in tears because their cat had been hit by a car. Poor Issy, she was distraught. I’m not sure whether or not the flowers helped, but it was nice that Matilda chose to express her sympathy this way rather than sending a text full of emoticons.

Though of course it’s entirely possible that she sent one of those as well :(