New Babies

It took me a long time to feel broody after I had my twin sons. But then being pregnant for 18 months with a three month gap would, in my humble opinion, kill the desire to procreate for a century or so.

But I’ve been surprised that I’ve started to feel it again, not really for me to actually do (I’m not insane) but just that urge to cradle, gaze at and smell a baby is becoming more appealing as I get older. And the great news is, I know a few ladies now expecting, so roll on next spring I’d say.

I do love a newborn, a baby, a toddler, a pre-schooler, a little one. Super-cute when they’re as small as dolls, delightful when they can be shocked out of a tantrum just by acting a little bit weird. Ultimate entertainment when you ask them about their family and how much wine their mothers drink. Ya know, the really entertaining stuff.

They can be excellent value, those friend’s and relative’s kids. If I’m honest, I’m happy not to spend so much time with them as teens, only because I found it irritating enough trying to glean conversation out of my own children and I’d rather wait until they get a bit older, more interesting and the attitude isn’t at volume number 11 anymore. But hey, that’s just me. (I’m not sure anyone has ever accused me of tolerance).

My best mate and I go to a rather nice hotel in central London a couple of times a year and we always spend our Sunday afternoons sitting and chatting and drinking tea and eating biscuits and reading the papers in the rather nice lounge. Generally speaking we are joined by a group of anything between 8 and 20 women celebrating a Baby Shower.

Bearing in mind that my best mate and I met within a few weeks of our first borns being ummm born and that we have six children between us, we can happily say that we have been there and we have done most things maternity wise. But having a Baby Shower isn’t one of them. They simply didn’t seem to exist when we were busy bringing up babies and I feel like we missed out, because they seem such sweet, supportive and joyous affairs. Mothers and mothers-in-law always seem to be in attendance, another few women in stretched jersey over football tummies waddle about for fun and everyone seems to be eating cake with gay abandon.

And I think one of the nicest things about them is that it gets the whole ‘come celebrate with me’ out of the way. You get to give gifts and be special and celebrate the start of a new life before the actual baby arrives. Because when your baby arrives, there are only certain people that you’d be glad to see and, quite frankly, most people won’t make the cut for the first few months.

I remember my uncle turning up out of the blue to see our first born when she was under a fortnight old and I resented every second of him drinking the tea I’d made whilst my baby slept and I didn’t.

And he wasn’t the only one. In hindsight, I should have sent a ‘round robin’ style note out that read something like this:

Come around to see us if I know you so well that I won’t even have to explain why there’s a cabbage leaf stuffed inside my bra and that I’m crying because I still can’t see my ankles. Pop in if you’re in the mood to do some washing up/ironing/cooking/cleaning of floors without us actually having to talk to you. Enter if you think I’d feel comfortable enough to have you sit there holding my baby whilst I change the dressing on my episiotomy and promptly fall asleep with a boob hanging out. If you want to bring flowers, expect a tight-lipped thank you, and be prepared to silently return in a week to throw them out.

And if you think that a nice 30 minute snuggle with a sleeping baby whilst you talk about how your boss is pissing you off to a semi-comatose woman with bruised eyes and bleeding nipples is your idea of fun, then you need to look at yourself in the mirror and try to work out what kind of human being you actually are.

And so, before I truly get into the groove about the unwitting idiocy of the visitors that we received with our daughter and then with our twins, I’ll get back to why I think baby showers are so awesome.

Because when you’re heavily, but not too uncomfortably pregnant, you can spend a couple of hours surrounded by friends and nearest and dearest celebrating with cake and sandwiches and tea. And then you get gifts that are useful, thoughtful and returnable whilst baby is still conveniently inside. And that’s it in a nutshell.

So, although I’m really looking forward to meeting new humans next spring and showing off my keeping babies alive skills, I think I’m also just as excited that I might be invited to a baby shower. I’ve got the best ever gifts to take. One will be our Award Winning Birthday Yearbook (it really is a frickin’ awesome gift for new babies).

The other gift will be the promise that I’ll not visit for the first two months.

 

If you’d like to give more than just the promise of your absence or the promise of your help, do check out our Birthday Yearbook here.

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The Birthday Yearbook cover

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yes, that is actually me with my firstborn

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The Birthday Yearbook

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The joys of the approaching “back to school” day.

As the first day back at school approaches, are you like me and thinking ‘Thank God, a bit of peace” or are you lying to yourself? Or have you just spent 2 months in your house in Tuscany?

When I say that I’m relieved about the first day back at school, I’m not talking about that first ever bittersweet day of school. You know, the one when their blazer is too big and they look way way too young to be let outside, into the world to fend for themselves, to endure the horrors of playground politics. Because that very first day is the one that is indelibly inked into your DNA for evermore.

I can remember spending a year skipping merrily about, telling anyone who would listen how much I was looking forward to my house being empty from 8.30am until 3pm every day for the first time in what felt like forever. My husband took them and I sobbed uncontrollably for an hour. I’m never quite as pragmatic as I like to think.

But for quite a few years now, the long summer holidays have produced an awful cacophony of emotions and feelings within me. Because I have felt that maternal mix of guilt at being a terrible mother whilst simultaneously experiencing the certainty that I’m being a terrible businesswoman. I would go so far as to say that when I used to want to scream at them every time they innocently asked ‘what’s for lunch?’ I’d even feel the guilt of being a terrible human being. Ok, I’m kinda lying here – I did used to scream at them when they asked about lunch, so much so, they stopped asking for a while and then started to make their own.

So, if you have a child or children ranging from the age of 5 to, let’s say 14, you’ll be doing that whole trying to find shirts in the only Marks & Spencer/Asda/Tesco that doesn’t seem to know your child’s size even exists.

You’ll be working out if you should bother sewing/ironing/sticking those labels in or even whether you should bother marking the clothes with a Sharpie. Because, quite frankly, if they’re stupid enough to lose their pants at the swimming baths, they’ll more than likely find someone else stupid enough to not notice that you’re walking around in theirs.

You’ll be queuing, yes, queuing at a shoe shop with a ticket system exactly like the deli counter at a supermarket. You’ll be waiting to see how much your child’s feet have grown in the week that you feel it’s been since you were last there clutching onto a ticket with an unfeasibly long number.   You’ll then have a mini heart attack and weep a little when they ring up the total on the till – or perhaps that’s just me with three children exactly the same size who needed shoes and trainers bought for them every 2 weeks because their feet grew so quickly (or is that just my imagination).

And, if like me, you’re a bit of a neat freak and you like the smell of a new pencil case, you’ll be questioning your children on what they need for their next year. Is it time for compasses? (does everyone know someone who tried to tattoo themselves at school with a compass? No? Just me then).

And so it goes that you’re buying protractors, erasers, pencil sharpeners that you know will be lost within three hours on the first day, and you’re grabbing some colouring pencils, and HB pencils and possibly a Lamy if you’re feeling flush or they got a WHSmith voucher for their birthday. And of course, you have to get them a new pencil case because the unidentifiable ‘matter’ that is crumbed into the deep recesses of last year’s case is actually starting to smell and you can’t possibly infect the new items with the dirt. At least not for the first week.

And as the day approaches, you’ll start feeling a little guilty that you’re excited about getting some semblance of a life back, that you’re really wanting to look forward to hearing the word ‘mum’ again without it sounding like nails down a chalkboard. Because however much you love your children and even like spending time with them, there’s nothing quite like that moment of closing the front door and being able to just get on with your own stuff.

Unless, of course, you’ve just spent nearly two months in your house in Tuscany with your family, living the ‘simple life’ with bronzed healthy children who haven’t spent more than an hour on their computer for the want of getting back in that pool with their cousins. In which case, console yourself with the vitamin D that has been absorbed to last you through the winter.

Although I can’t help but think you’ve been a bit laissez faire with your preparations. Have you ever tried getting a pair of grey Teflon trousers on the day before term starts? No? I have – it’s not pretty.

Oh, and if you’d like to buy some excellent and very special ring binders, refill pads, pencils and notebooks for the new term, pop over to the site and grab some. We’d love to inspire your little ones with some plans…

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Skiing and the first set of IOU Vouchers for Very Lovely Children

Off we were skiing for Christmas.  Ok, off we were to the French Alps because I had promised myself that I would have a snowball fight with my children on Christmas day at least once in my life.  The skiing part was a ruse to convince my husband it was an excellent idea.

It was my first time.  I thought I’d give it a try.  I gave it a try.  I didn’t like it.  I don’t see the point in putting slippery things on your feet, only to stand on a slippery surface.  Don’t want to sound all sensible and boring, but seriously? Give me a couple of tennis rackets to strap to my boots.  Talking of boots, what sadist came up with modern day ski-boots, or as I affectionately called them, the painful coffins of claustrophobic hell attached to my feet.  No no no and a thousand times no.

Being new to the whole going to somewhere colder than here was a brave new world and I couldn’t believe how much stuff was required for a standard family of 5.  Ski jackets alone seemed to take up an entire bag.  Being the utter psychotic control freak that I fondly refer to myself as, I was preparing the packing in November (and I mean more firework night than dark at 3pm November).

The bedroom floor started to resemble an exclusive jumble sale run by a woman with OCD and being someone who is pretty damned good at spacial judgement, I looked at the suitcases and I looked at the bedroom floor and I realised that we could have a problem.

Much pondering and possibly some sucking in of breath in an ‘it’ll cost ya’ kinda way ensued.  The actual clothes were put away first.  I had been told by the seasoned ski season friends that the beauty of chalet living was to dispense with normal clothes and to lounge in thermals.  I, naturally, matched my pale grey thermals with my oversized pair of cream cashmere cable knit socks.  You know, so I looked all hygge.  But this was in 2007.  Suck it guys.  I’ve always been way ahead of my time ;).

Next to go were the imaginary gifts I had planned on buying for the children. Father Christmas might be able to pop over to fill some stockings, but he aint gonna be dropping off anything that mum is going to seriously consider leaving behind because she’s tired and can’t be arsed to try and fit it back in to a bag that is now full of smelly thermals. No way.

And so, as is my way. I came up with something that took me bloody ages to work out, sort, create and then execute.  I created a pack of  ‘IOU Vouchers for my Very Lovely Children’.  I pulled a favour from my lovely printer and had him print up three copies. And I packed them.  All together, they took up less room than my cashmere cable knit socks (man, I miss those socks – moths).

My vouchers for my children

So a pack of cards, each one promising a treat.  If memory serves, it was just over one treat a month and they included: a midnight feast; an ice cream after school; a packet of crisps (don’t judge me…); a trip to a photo booth; a trip to the craft store where they could go nuts and buy stuff (veto on glitter).  And yeah, I was stupid to date them.  I mean, really stupid.

I remember the tour of London on top of a bus had to be cancelled because one of them had thrown up the night before.  I remember it rained on the ice-cream after school day (like 7 and 8 year old kids give a shit what the weather is like – it’s ice-cream!) and the day of dressing up really smart so we can go to the local posh restaurant was a really bad hair day for me – still it ended up being a lovely evening.  As for the price of the theatre tickets… Seriously.  I could have bought a second hand car for the price of 5 tickets to The Lion King that I bought 6 months in advance and weren’t ‘best’ seats.  Ten years on and I’m still incredulous.  Just thinking about how many notebooks I have to sell to get close to buying a single ticket is eye watering….

And so the idea for the IOUs – Versatile Vouchers for Very Lovely Children was born and I was sensible enough to brief an up and coming graphic designer called Ian to do his magic on the design and, they have, I am told, done an excellent job as reward cards over the years.  Whichever way you choose to use them, they were, as is usual with the stuff at 2littleboys, created as a result of needing them for myself… not that I’m selfish or anything.

I SO won the snowball fight on Christmas Day 2007.

Do pop over to the MotherShip site if you’d like to buy a set of your very own IOU Vouchers.

Reward cards for Children

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My versatile coconut curry (and it’s REALLY easy)

I’m not really known for my cooking.  As in,  I’ve spent most of my adult life as a ‘won’t cook’ as opposed to a ‘can’t cook’.  I’m a firm believer that if you can read, you can cook – you don’t need much more than that to bang out a perfectly edible meal.  We’re not born with an innate ability to produce stunning dishes from our kitchen; I’m guessing it’s practise, but what do I know? When I can be arsed to cook,  I tend to bung a load of stuff together and watch with either horror or satisfaction when it all doesn’t work or it all comes together.

I’ve been getting back into it this year.  And I’m enjoying the cathartic side of chopping, stirring and feeding.  I’m also finally starting to use the freezer properly. It’s no longer just an expensive to run transition stage between my fridge and the bin.  But then, I don’t think I’m the only one to fill their freezer because of this thought:  “Uggh, the meat and fish in the fridge are about to go out of date but I can’t face throwing it all away, let’s put it all in the freezer to defrost and eat another day but I know I’m never actually going to get around to doing”.

I’ve revisited a recipe that I used to use many years ago when the children were younger and I’d forgotten how easy it was.  I thought I’d share.  It’s not exact science (which is probably why I like it so much!).  It’s also really really versatile.  To keep it simple to read, I’ll just write the recipe here and then add notes at the bottom for exactly why it’s so versatile.

This feeds 5 of us with spare.

2 large shallots or 1 large onion (finely chopped)

2 cloves of garlic

1 Blue Dragon Thai Red Curry paste

1 teaspoon palm sugar

A splash of soy sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 or 2 cans coconut milk (you can get lower fat version)

vegetables chopped up into pieces that usually take about 8 minutes to cook (I use anything/everything I haven’t got around to using in the week… green beans, an aubergine that’s a bit squidgy, broccoli, red peppers…)

3 or 4 salmon fillets

200 ml of basmati rice

fish coconut curry

How to cook:

Fry the onions on a low/medium heat until they’re soft but not brown.  Add garlic and stir for a minute or two.  Turn the heat up a bit, then add the paste, giving it a good stir around – I like chasing it around the bottom of the pan as it melts.  Add the palm sugar, then the fish sauce and soy sauce.  Give it a good stir, then add the coconut milk followed by the veggies – if there are so many vegetables that over half of them aren’t under the milk, add another can of milk.  Bring the pot up to the boil.

Put the Basmati rice onto a medium/hot heat*.

Cover the curry, turn heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes (just check the vegetables to see if they’re cooking nicely).

When they’re nearly cooked, line the salmon fillets, skin side up in the pan and push them into the sauce so that they’re covered.  Cook for about 5 minutes. I usually peel the skin off whilst they’re floating on the top of the milk (fussy like that). Peek at the inside of one of the fillets to check the salmon is cooked through.

Then serve it up with the rice.

*Basmati rice is really really easy to do.  Grab a measuring jug and fill it with the rice to 200 ml.  Packets say to rinse it at this point – I never do!  Pop the rice into a small saucepan then measure out 400ml of water and pop that in the saucepan.  Don’t do anything else to it until you think all of the water is gone, then give it a stir to check.  When the water has gone, the rice should be cooked.

 

So…. versatility tips.

You can swap out the salmon for diced chicken (1-2 inch squares) – just pop them in so that they’re covered by the coconut milk and cook for about 15 minutes.  Take one one of the bigger cubes out and cut inside to check it’s white.

Salmon fillets only take an hour or so to defrost, so if you remember to take them out at breakfast, you can cook for lunch at the weekend. (Obviously same goes if you take them out at lunchtime…. you can have for supper).

You don’t need the fish sauce, palm sugar or soy sauce.  But as they all keep for ages, nice to have in the cupboard.

You don’t even need the salmon – which I think would make this a fully vegan option (if you leave out the fish sauce too).  It also makes it a very cheap option – teach your kids for future meals they have to pay for ;).

You can add some lime juice; it’s really nice and weirdly makes it more summery.

You can use any red curry paste.  I don’t have shares in blue dragon, but the little handy pots are about 80p and can be kept in the cupboard.  It’s also not a ‘catch at the back of the throat’ curry paste.  So younger teens can eat this curry without having to run to the fridge for a glass of milk.

Blue Dragon red curry paste

Enjoy.

My coconut curry

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To CheesePlant or not to CheesePlant

I have been in turmoil people.  Absolute turmoil for the past 3 months or so and I have thrown tantrums and stormed from the office to the high street to eat biscuits and drink hot chocolate in a coffee shop on more than one occasion and yes, I inhaled those biscuits and yes, I felt guilty afterwards.  But there’s nothing quite like frustrated indecision to get you onto the biscuits I’d say.

Now you wouldn’t think that something as innocuous as a cheese plant could do that to a grown woman would you?  But boy, have they plagued me.  Sometimes, most days.  Some days all day. The relationship that is Sarah and cheese plants is starting to wear thin.

I liked cheese plants.  We had one in our first flat and we kept it alive for a number of years (which I think goes to show how resilient and therefore how lovable cheese plants can be).  But once we’d managed to kill our beloved cheese plant off, circa 1994, I don’t think I gave the genus another thought.

1aRoll on to summer 2015 and I had a very rare girlcrush on an item of clothing.  It was a Vivienne Westwood dress and, you’ve guessed it, the pattern was cheese plant leaves.  I liked the greens and I liked the cut and I managed to snaffle one at a rockbottom price and realised I couldn’t really walk in it… but still…. I stroke it and look at it in my wardrobe now and again and just, well, love it.

(and that’s fine because if you were to line up photos of me at trade shows over the last 7 years, you’d find that I really do get the most out of every item of clothing I buy – so having one in my wardrobe just for strokes isn’t that profligate).

 

Moving on….

So let’s get to 2016 when I take an idle wander around the floors of a well known department store to see what’s ahappenin’ and I notice that, yes, owls have, indeed, had their day.  The pale pink and grey ‘Pantone colours of the year!’ are moving on and we’re still trending through flamingos, pineapples and Rio stylee stuff.  (please see “Mid Week Rant” for the other trend that prevails).

and there I am, surrounded by flamingos and pineapples

…. and I think to myself.

“It’ll be cheese plants next”

And so, as I liked cheese plants more than I like owls, pineapples, flamingos, toucans and, indeed, unicorns (they’ll be everywhere soon….) I thought…

“I should design some products with cheese plant patterns”

Turmoil.  Because I’ve been drawing spider plants, ferns and cheese plant leaves for months now; moving them around the screen, playing with colours, tweaking, changing layer layouts, taking out elements, putting them back in, putting new ones in, isolating, combining.  And then I’ve looked at the cost pricing of having product printed and worked out the cost-trade-retail ratios and yes, may just make some money here and then I wonder if the artwork is good enough and whether we’ll get a garden centre or two interested and then I start to see cheese plant leaves popping up in a few places.

… and suddenly, I’ve found myself feeling sick in a coffee shop with crumbs down my front thinking “I can’t compete with them.

Last week was particularly bad. I was beginning to question it all, and I mean everything.  The very existence of cheese plant leaf artwork on my desktop felt like a virus in the files.  And it’s taken a lot of soul searching to conclude that I’m going to pop all of those artwork files into a folder and chuck them into the virtual abyss that I have named “Artwork in Progress” and here’s why I’ll probably never do anything with those files:

  • I’m not talented enough to compete with the true artists out there.  If I were, I would spend my life being an artist and making money from my art would make me happy.
  • I don’t want to lose sight of what 2littleboys.co.uk is all about.  We make cool shit to keep kids happy, beautiful stuff to keep memories and the odd funny thing for older people.
  • We don’t make patterns
  • We’ve never followed trends or even capitalised on trends we’ve foreseen before. Why start now?
  • We’re not big enough (or talented enough) to compete with the companies who create beautiful product with patterns and who can create a ‘story’ with their ranges.
  • I kinda like unicorns, pineapples and toucans, but not enough to create a range of stationery around them.  What if the trend after cheese plants was something I really didn’t like?

But most of all, and this is key.  

I don’t want to.

And that’s the joy of being the boss.

But it won’t stop me cringing every time I see a cheese plant leaf on a product. I’ll get over it, because FINALLY, I am exhaling and the turmoil of indecision is over.

And now I’m off to buy some soil, fertiliser, a nice big terracotta pot and a plant to grow in my living room.  I’ve moved on from cheese plants. I’m thinking a ficus.

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If there’s any company out there who likes some of these designs – don’t copy them, license them…. We’re fabulous licensors and our rates are very reasonable ;).

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Children, Patterns and Looking Up

My first ever ‘proper’ camera was for my 18th birthday.  (At this point, I can hear my teenage offspring pipe in with ‘they had CAMERAS when you were 18.’  Still…. moving swiftly on). My 18th birthday present was an SLR camera, it was black, it was heavy and I thought it was an utterly pointless 18th birthday present.

Yes, I have been and still can be an ungrateful bitch.

So on my 18th birthday, I snapped away until the button could no longer be pressed and took the film to Underwoods the Chemist in Victoria. Using a bewitching form of alchemy, they turned the metal canister of film into actual photographs that they then presented to me in a green and yellow envelope, in the process, they charged an exorbitant amount of money (photographs/process… see what I did there?… no… ok).  And so, from henceforth, the camera came out only on special occasions and gathered dust for the rest of the year.

Snap forward, if you will, a few years and I started to go on holidays.  I took photographs of hills, mountains, the sea, rivers, friends and the odd flower or two.  Oh, and my boyfriend; the ubiquitous selfie with camera balancing precariously on a rock, a table stacked with books, magazines, glasses cases to get to the right height or the car roof with a judicious use of the timer.

I’d then have Boots process the film (Underwoods closed down; I just wanted to show off my age and memory for triviality here) and on visits back to my parents’, I’d show them the holiday snaps and my father would flick through very very quickly and declare that there were not nearly enough photos of people.  “Why do I want to see pictures of mountains and lakes, it looks like every other mountain and lake. Take pictures of people”.  He sort of, kind of, had a point.  But still, I stopped showing him the holiday snaps.

And then I had children. And I took photo after photo after photo.  They were the most photogenic babies you’ve ever seen.  Actually, if I’m honest, my newborn daughter had an interesting look going on first thing.  After an extraordinarily difficult labour, I thought she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.  Then when the photos came back, I realised that, my God she’d looked Fugly).  Still… her head popped back into ummm, a head shape and she, quite simply, gets more beautiful every day, every week, every month… you get the point.

And I’m managing, once again, to get away from my point.

So, the kids grew older, they stopped spending their days in a thankfully vain attempt to damage themselves beyond repair and they eventually worked out that mum was constantly taking photos of them and that they weren’t too sure that they liked it that much.  But the bug had bitten me. I loved taking photos. Husband bought me a better camera and a zoom lens and I was off.

I took photographs of doorknobs, I took photographs of patterns made by mesh, by doors, by window frames, buildings, paving stones, mosaics, pillars, columns, clouds, flowers.  When you’ve got three kids to keep entertained, it’s important to find order in chaos and I suspect that this was what I was doing.  And I think I was doing it pretty damned well.

And then we found little cameras for the children and we would go on ‘mummy adventures’, grabbing a cab into London and becoming tourists and they would snap away. Because you can never see all of London and you can never capture it all on camera. Columbia Market, Borough Market, Houses of Parliament, Smithfields, SouthBank, Soho, Covent Garden, St Catherine’s Dock, Seven Dials, Hyde Park, Regents Park, St James’ Park, Green Park, Barbican, Tower Bridge, Hungerford Bridge and all between.  I’d tire us all out and there wouldn’t be moment of complaint of sore feet and we’d stop for a frozen yoghurt or a hot chocolate (seasonal choices, but way more random than that if I’m honest).  A Pizza Express pizza, or for a special treat, some dim sum in Soho where you can eat the fluffiest cloud bun ever (also known as a char sui bu).  And after lunch we’d keep going.

I taught them to look for beauty in buildings, and patterns in the everyday.  I told them to look above the gaudy shop fronts, to see their London through the ages – the old shop signs left long after the shop had left the building. The intricate details of stone-carving. Warehouse buildings now cafes and boutique shops.  And how moving your own body to different angles, you can get to see things from different angles that then, in turn photograph interesting angles. And they listened and they would stop in a street and look around and take a photo of something that you hadn’t noticed before and suddenly you’ll see an intricate chimney pot, or a detail on a window sill that could only have been created by a highly skilled craftsman many many years ago.

memories of looking up

These 9 images in a box are just some of the many photographs we took on our adventure days into town.  (Although I think top right is from our weekend away to Manchester). And I know that at least 7 of them were taken by my children when they were about this age….

2littleboystaking photographs

So, if you’re looking for a day out, just grab any old cameras or phones, take the kids and get them to look up…. just so long as they’re not standing in the middle of a road. Because then we’re back to that whole “attempting to damage themselves beyond repair.” and you should be past that stage by the time they’re into this sort of thing.

Or, you can always leave them at home, and take a wander around your home town and get to know it just a little bit better.  You’ll be surprised at what you’ve missed.

 

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The Stationery Show and the C Word

I was reminded over the last couple of days that at least one person had read the blog I had written about embarrassing things I had done at the Stationery Show TWO years ago. (Thanks Simon).

I thought I’d follow up this year with another round up as I’d like to think two days at a stand in Islington is an excellent barometer of where the industry/world is right now.  In reality, I accept that it is actually a mediocre barometer of my mental state.  You tell me.

Firstly, I should like to address the C word head on.  It is a word that I have been known to judiciously use, sometimes converting it to an adverb (i.e. this is so C…… ingly shit).  Yes, I do think it works.  So it was, during conversations with various visitors over the two days, the C word and its veracity and position within our collective lexicons was discussed.  It seems that there is a seismic shift in opinion.  Not one person actually said the word, but most agreed that it does, indeed, play an important role in expressing extreme views/emotions/general feelings toward certain people in our lives/friends’ lives and life in general.  One of my particularly clever customers gave me his view on the entire issue which went something like this:

The C Word is to the F word what the F word was to the word Bloody a couple of decades ago.  Read it again, I think it makes sense.

I don’t think I’ll be putting the C word on any products in the coming decade or so, but never say never.  And I think the shift in the general feeling toward the four letters in a very particular order is interesting.

So what else happened at the Stationery Show this year?  It was busy.  The same people who always walk on by our stand did exactly just that.  I was rude to approximately the same percentage of potential customers as I usually am.  There were, this year, however,  a disproportionate number of people taking photographs without asking, some in such an obvious clandestine manner that I’m relieved that they spend their time taking undercover photos of notebooks as opposed to actually having to take actual clandestine photos. Please just ask to take a photo – I accept times are changing and the ‘no photography’ rules are a thing of the past.

There were some lovely bloggers.  In particular, three woman who were very complimentary and made me glow with pride and then they confused me with acronyms   of social media stuff.  I await enlightenment; a lightbulb moment of clarity that I’m hoping will make it all seem worthwhile.

Two very young ladies popped by and spent ages going through everything and taking photographs (without asking), loudly proclaiming their opinions on each title to each other (and although most of their views were favourable, they did offer up their considered and experienced opinions that some were simply shite).  So, having already ascertained that I must be deaf, being only a metre away, they scowled at me as I took a single step toward them, rictus smile on my face.  “What is it you do?” I ask and they tell me the name of the retail chain in which they work, or maybe their mums worked there, I don’t know.  I had obviously heard of the chain, but I genuinely didn’t know what they did.  So I asked and I can’t tell you what they said, because they looked down and mumbled.  Sam told me once they were out of earshot (you know, more than a metre away).  They weren’t the power tool manufacturers that I had always assumed, but they were just as unlikely to buy my stuff as a power tool manufacturer and I’m not entirely sure what they were doing at the STATIONERY show.  Still, they were good for a bit of righteous indignation.

Ummm, what else; one of my lovely customers brought me cake on my birthday and a thing of beauty that slice of strawberry sponge it was. I offered some up to my next door neighbour.  She promptly declined and then proceeded to extol the virtues of its aesthetics, taking photographs whilst breathing rapturous promises to herself to paint its delicately coloured layers.  All of which, and I’m only guessing here, is what makes her a great artist who deserved the TWO awards she had received the night before.

I, as someone who is currently overweight bemoaned the cake’s calorific content, saw no future potential for the beauty of said cake slice and ate it.  Which probably goes a little way to explaining why I didn’t win an award the night before.

I had a few wobbly moments when I hated everyone (is it just me? Please tell me it isn’t just me).  So a few extended breaks were taken.  I outraged Sam by taking my M&S salads upstairs, borrowing a plate, knife and fork from the cafe, decanted and ate like a civilised human being.  It was brazen and I don’t know their rules, but I revel in that whole middle-aged ‘what are they actually going to do about it’ state of mind.  I even sent Sam proof just to get that whole ‘I can’t believe you did that’ response from him – you know, from the man who’s survived proper muggings without a whiff of PTSD.

food

I had a lovely time talking to fellow exhibitors, some extremely experienced, others not so much, but all of us aware of the rule of mid-sentence stop and slight nod of head to denote potential new customer crossing the invisible line onto the stand.  I laughed a lot during catch-up-on-life sessions with old friends and I didn’t cry.  Not once.

So all in all, I’d say it was a successful and exhausting two days. Will I return next year?  You’re C….tingly right I will.

 

 

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