Thursday, 27 August 2015

Decorating: With Clouds

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Ever since I became addicted to the Kmart cloud cushion (see below), I've been noticing clouds everywhere, and not just in the sky! There's something about clouds that sparks the imagination, makes us marvel at the world, sends our thoughts heavenward and yes, get the creative juices flowing. 

Most of the time...

I can still recall my Year 8 geography exam question that asked me to list six types of clouds. From memory my technical knowledge petered out after "cumulonimbus" and I was left with the following fall backs: white; fluffy; black; heavy; and ominous. Needless to say, my marks weren't great.

Whether fluffy and sweet, or dark and threatening, clouds are never boring. They are represented in everything from art to comic humour. If you feel a yearning to bring some into your home, here are some cute cloudy items. Failing that, look out the window and prepare to be amazed!

This quilted sleeping bag for kids, would almost guarantee sweet dreams! From Adairs for $59.


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The gorgeous cloud cushion (only $7!! I know, I've bought heaps!) from Kmart Australia along with these other gems make fun gifts and decorating items:




The Cloud Nightlight will set you back $5.
 And the hanging cloud shelf is $12

The adorable D'Anjo Liberty print cloud mobile from Hard to Find would make a perfect baby gift. Sparkly raindrops won't dampen anyone's spirits!

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Why not carry clouds with you all day, with this bag? (from Etsy for $50)

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And if one was to dress like a cloud, this is my top pic (from ModCloth)!

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Amazing wallpaper by Fornasetti creates a fabulously moody atmosphere:

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Or for a lighter touch try these fabric wall decals from Hard to Find ($82 from SnuggleDust Studios):

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And now for a final and profound word on clouds it's over to Charlie Brown:


If you haven't lain back on a grassy knoll in a while to stare up at the sky and look at the clouds, make time for it.
No one will see it the same way as you do...

Other stories you might like:
Bring the Outdoors In: 15 Inspiring Nature Murals
Blue Skies Up Above - DIY Painting Clouds
How to Make Glowing Clouds of Cotton

Friday, 14 August 2015

Mr Huff - Book Review


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It was published earlier this year and I've been hoping to get my hands on it for ages. But perhaps it was fitting that this book, sweetly named MR HUFF, only appeared in my life after our household had been consumed by weeks of colds and flu, exploding headaches, hacking coughs, sleep deprivation and and plenty of sorry-for-ourself tears. Yep life has been all kinds of miserable (obviously to keep things in perspective, colds and flu aren't big on a world scale of misery, but you know what I mean) and Anna Walker has entered the fray with something worth reading.

Firstly, Walker's wondrous illustrations and whimsical words have been a favourite of mine and many for a long time. Her last picture book, Peggy, was a gorgeous ramble through Melbourne Streets as a chook was carried by the wind far from home. Perusing it regularly almost makes up for the fact that I am located far from the gleaming copper and delicious coffee of Collins Street.
Almost.

In this new book, a boy, Bill, wakes up feeling out of sorts. He gazes at a sky that looks grey and foreboding. Nothing goes quite right in the morning and his mood darkens. So now we meet Mr Huff, who seems oddly familiar, kind of like an awkward relative who hangs around and isn't exactly a welcome addition to the family circle.  Mr Huff appears and follows Bill, like a burden of bad feeling that Bill can't quite name and can't shake either. Mr Huff doesn't exactly look scary, but he is big and overbearing - literally taking up too much space in Bill's life. It makes Bill angry and upset that Mr Huff has seemingly taken over his life, inserting himself in to every scene. Mr Huff isn't impervious to the affect he is having on Bill. In fact he is sad too. Bill sees Mr Huff in a new light. Slowly but surely he takes charge of the situation, and as he does light begins to shine through and colour returns to Bill's world. A new day brings a feeling of optimism and quiet happiness.

Walker's delightful drawings of city life capture details of books in shelves, coloured quilts, roaming pets, street trees and puddles on pavements.  This is a poignant tale of a boy fighting with emotions he can't control and the grey figure of Mr Huff who many of us recognise. He certainly seems to have taken up residence in our house in recent weeks. So it's nice to read and realise that a) when you're feeling down, you're not the only one who's ever felt like that; and b) bad times pass and the sun will come again.

Did I mention the big kids all went back to school today and Arch and I made a coffee cake and sat in the sun for morning tea? Our coughs are not quite as raspy and I'm sure if I looked Jetstar or Virgin might have a deal on trips to Melbourne... things are definitely looking up!




Thank you to PenguinRandomHouse for sending me a copy of Mr Huff by Anna Walker - available from all good bookstores and online.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Poster Art

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It's an accessible and cheerful (usually!) form of artwork that doesn't require the financial investment of forking out for a more substantial piece of art and requires less emotional commitment too. Meaning, you can afford to replace poster art when it no longer suits your mood/decorating style/room vibe.  If you've bothered to frame it, then pull out the old poster and simply replace it with the new...

What Should I Display?

Well, obviously almost anything that can be stuck down, hung or suspended in some way is up for grabs. Think about what is special to you... Travel? Kids art? Fashion? Inspirational Quotes? Landscapes? Portraits? Interiors? Illustrations? Books? Australiana?  ....these are just a few themes that might get you thinking. Once you have a theme, then you will have more of an idea of where to source your posters.  Maybe it will be pics you already have lying around: like paintings from preschool, love letters, concert paraphernalia, postcards or maps... or maybe you'll have to search further afield for what you're looking for. Either way, prepare to have some serious fun!

For more inspiration, check out my Pinterest Board on my favourite poster art

To Frame or Not to Frame? 

Totally up to you, the look you want and how swiftly you need results. Most of us have hopefully moved on from the old high school mojo of blue tacking your latest magazine pic to the wall. Now we use washi tape and call it cutting edge grunge pop art...  Framing will generally give you a neater look and, dare I say, a more sophisticated result. There are so many cheap frames on offer at retailers like Kmart, Target and Ikea, that doing it yourself is too easy. Framing shops will give you the option of adding borders and custom designs. Just be prepared to pay a little more.

If you're displaying more than one poster (go on!) then using the same style/colour frames will unify your look, even if the actual posters are not all similar.

Poster Art Sources:

FREE! - from your own collection find original letters/postcards. Even snazzy wrapping paper or a swatch of material can become great poster art.

Thrifting/Op Shops -  I keep an eye out in op shops for old pictures or paintings in great frames. This way you get something unique with character to give a more eclectic or vintage look.

Check out this signed Colin Buchanan concert poster that I hung recently. The old gilt frame came with an old print of a ship I picked up for $10 at my local Vinnies. I covered the old print in bright wrapping paper, layered the poster over the top and then put it back under the glass. The end result made me ridiculously happy!

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DIY - Downloadable poster art is all over the net, and usually doesn't cost much. Or if you've embraced the colouring in phenomenon, then why not frame a page or two? My friend Lorien has launched a wonderfully inspiring Colouring In Book of Spiritual Meditations. Check it out.

ETSY and EBAY -
I sourced a TinTin Poster on Ebay for my son's room a few years ago. There is a huge array of private and registered sellers offering posters of every description. Prices are usually good and postage can sometimes be cheaper than other overseas sources. Poster Art is huge on Etsy, on account of the number of artists and designers who sell their wares. Type in a favourite author, book or theme and see what you find. Here is a couple of my favourites. 


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RETAIL: Depending on your budget and style might determine where you look first - but there is a lot out there. If you're on a strict budget, try Kmart. This cute poster, doesn't need a frame and will set you back $9.
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Indulge your passion for romance and travel. Heaps to choose from at Ikea. This one is AU$89:
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ONLINE: This fabulous postage stamp styled poster from the imaginative hardtofind website has WOW factor and is a little more pricey due to the larger size (AU $245 for 120x150cm) but it is cheaper for smaller versions.

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What poster art have you hung in your home? How often do you change it? Share your favourite sources, I'd love to know!

Helpful Articles from Houzz:

Witty Word Art That Brings Wisdom To Your Walls

What's Your Wall Gallery Personality?

Nine Everyday Items You'd Never Think To Frame

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Top Ten Holiday Tasks to Keep Everyone Happy

Oh glory be! Where did June go? I walked past the calendar today and was staring at July thinking, why has someone turned the page over? 

And now that I'm coming to terms with what month we're in (and that it has been a month since my last post - eek! 2015 was going so well too…) if I don't put up this story soon, the holidays will be over!

So if you do find yourself at home, not having escaped to warmer climes, or having headed south to the snow - and cabin fever is hitting home, here are some fun ways to stay happy and sane for whatever time you have left. 

1. Put a care box together. Maybe you have an elderly neighbour who could doesn't get out much. Or you know of a family who are struggling. Maybe you just have a relative you haven't seen in a while. Making your kids aware that holidays and treats are not just ALL ABOUT THEM is always a good thing. Get them to write a list of some small items that could make someone else's day - then go make + buy them. The kids can make cards and decorate the box.
I love the idea of this yellow-themed sunshine box spotted on Pinterest.
See, you're starting to smile already…

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2. Find a new (cheap) appliance to make holiday snacks something special. The reason I thought of this was because my son found a new in box Sunbeam Woddle Maker (penguin shaped waffle maker!) at our local Salvos Store for just $10. We are loving it! It has made the kids wildly enthusiastic about making breakfast a penguin waffle event!
I now need a new high-powered exercise program, but it's been worth it.
If waffles aren't your thing, try milkshakes! Or slushies!
This great red milkshake maker is only $25 from Kmart.
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Penguin waffles by lovedecorateletters

3. Decorate cookies or cupcakes 
Our local shopping centre held cookie decorating classes for kids last week. We didn't get to them, but the idea seemed great. Rifle through your cupboard, and you might be amazed/appalled at how much cake/cookie decorating paraphernalia you already own. I opened a drawer and found 17 different sorts of sprinkles, edible glitter and those silver balls that break your teeth - just like that. There was probably more in there but I figured we had enough. Tip the edible decorating materials into little bowls and put them in a tray in the centre of your table. Mix up a few different colours/flavours of frosting/icing and the kids can go to town (plastic tablecloth recommended, on floor and table, and possibly walls - actually this is a great outside activity, weather permitting!) If you can't be bothered making cookies or cakes from scratch, there's NO SHAME (not here anyway) in heading for the nearest packet mix. I personally love the Greens brand gingerbread cookie mix, and cupcake mixes come with the paper cases and icing for total convenience.

Seriously under decorated cupcakes by lovedecorateletters

Don't feel you have to eat them all - take them to a playdate or drop them around to friends and family.

Click here for a great and easy sugar cookie recipe. 

4. Easy Sewing Crafts
Finger knitting / pompom making / sewing embellishments - use your imagination to suit any child's interests and abilities. There are so many how-to's on YouTube, the trouble is only in deciding what craft to do (and not getting side tracked by watching 80s pop music clips - or is that just me?).
Pompom making is a great place to start - anyone can do it! And I just loved this blogger Amy Christie's idea on what to do with them next (click on the source to go see)

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This gorgeous back pocket detail on a pair of Monnalisa jeans made me realise that even I, a clueless crafter, could do it!  Just grab a square of your favourite material, unpick the jeans pocket and use as a stencil before resewing the new pocket back on (yes, I'd probably need help with this bit). Get your kids to choose the fabric or embellishments to personalise it.

lovedecorateletters - Monnalisa jeans
5. Take an Op Shop Challenge.
In the first week of the hols I had the idea of taking the kids to a different op shop every day. Usually we'd take a couple of trips (See my musings on op shopping with kids from a few years ago). But this time I had a rush of blood to the head and thought more was better. More is actually incredibly tiring. Still, we managed four trips in five days and seriously got rid of a lot of stuff out of our cupboards along the way. Treasures we bought home included: a wetsuit for my 12-year-old ($3); the waffle maker ($10); A loom band kit ($1); A large pile of books to suit all ages ($1ea); a Plan Toy wooden fire engine ($4); several tee-shirts ($2-4); some Burleighware china ($1 a piece). You don't have to spend much and yet everyone's sure to find something.


For more ideas on what to look for, read this article on the Salvo's blog.

6. Revamp a space.
Maybe you've got a prime spot in your yard that's just begging for a hammock, or a sandpit, or a cubby house. Try and view your spaces with new (kids) eyes and be open to new ways to make them fun and a place your kids will want to be.

Our cubby house was looking decrepit and had become a haven for junk. I'll blog more about it soon, but we have been giving it a make over. It has become a reading nook - and after ignoring it for the last couple of years, the kids now race outside any chance they get to spend time in there. I'm thinking of installing a heater and letting them stay out there on a permanent basis for the rest of winter. Who says I'm not a fun Mum?  






7. Visit your Library
Whether you and your kids are regular visitors or will have to use google to find out where it is, find your nearest library! It may even offer holiday activities. If your kids are addicted to screens, you may need to explain what a book is. Try showing them some of your old favourites. Or ask the librarian for ideas. Many authors have cool websites that may encourage reluctant readers to connect with the book in different ways. Failing that, offer food or confectionary incentives. Did I just say that?

8. Make Your Own Movie

Get your kids to write a script, choose characters, record a sound track, act and film it. They will probably know the technology to do this already. Thinking creatively and collaboratively will be a challenge at first. Ahh, so many life lessons here, but so worth the effort. Start small. The Oscars may seem a long way off, but you never know where this path may lead…and everyone ALWAYS thanks their Mum!

9. Park Play
No one needs to be told to go to a park. But have you thought of finding a new one with new things to do? Shake it up a bit. Go to one with a view (the water!) or one with a flying fox (for the big kids!). Definitely go to one with a coffee van. Take scooters, snacks, and a blanket. Find a spot in view of a toilet so you don't have to spend hours searching for one (you know someone will be immediately busting the moment you start to relax, right?)



10. Make Art!
Take a trip to the beach to forage for shells, or a bush walk to find interesting sticks and leaves. Hunting for natural materials can be a great way to keep everyone busy and focused. Then returning home to make some art will provide a creative outlet and purpose for the remainder of the day. If your craft cupboard is well stocked then grab the glue, paint, small canvases, glitter and fabric. Decorate shoe boxes or small wooden trays or frames. Themes will vary depending on the foraged finds but the options are endless, and you may just end up with something that is useful and attractive: paperweight; trinket box; photo frame; fairy garden..



Try 32 Awesome Things to Make With Nature for more great ideas.

So how have you found this holiday? I hope it's had more ups than downs and that you've chilled mentally and not so much physically.
Share your ideas with me about your fun ideas on what works best for you and your kids...

Monday, 15 June 2015

Terrific Thrifting Finds

The start of winter is a great time for trawling the op shops.
Perhaps the high volume of secondhand goods is due to the cooler weather causing people to clean out wardrobes and cupboards and donating lots of things they no longer want/need. And maybe the op shops have been stockpiling winter goods too, waiting for the weather to turn. Either way, there is a lot of great finds to be made, so today I thought I'd give you a glimpse - in to the heady world of fashion.
So what have I found of late?
I'm glad you asked! Here's a mix of discoveries - not all came home with me (had to leave some goodies for everyone else!)

WINTER COATS:

Oh my, they are everywhere and I've been dazzled at the array of trendy, well-made warm and stylish coats on offer. For as little as $12 you can find something well-made and stylish, to suit most tastes and sizes. 

For a glamorous and lightweight option this delicious number by Alannah Hill was only $15 but alas, too small for me. I loved the delicate polka dots and rose patterned silk lining, wear it and be transported: Straight to Downton Abbey!

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Or this rosy pink 1950s styled Jigsaw woolen coat had me with visions of myself rushing through Bletchley Park (more to do with me having recently seen The Imitation Game on DVD than reflecting my math skills..)

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To this edgier more Military style by Zara. It was a tad tight across the shoulders, but I figured if I could get my arms in, then a slimmer silhouette could only be a good thing. And it will quite possibly promote good posture. Just a thought..

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I paid $45 at Vinnies, which is quite a hefty price in op shop dollar terms, but its classic go-with-anything styling and as new condition made it well worth it. Wouldn't be easy to find the equivalent in a retail store for under $100. Which doesn't mean you shouldn't look of course - Zara in Australia is having something of a profit slump (SMH June 12, 2015) so I'm sure they'd be grateful if you gave them a try.

The article in the Sydney Morning Herald I linked to above provided the following information:
According to Knight Frank's director of retail leasing, Alex Alamsyah, Zara's average price point per item is $US90 ($116), compared with $US80 at TopShop, $US60 at H&M and $US30 at Forever 21.
I would say my average price point per item from the op shops I visit on a regular basis would be around $12. Plus I get to feel good for supporting a charity and the good work they do. I'm reusing/recycling used goods which is good for the environment too. So while I don't advocate NOT buying retail - op shops are a great cost-effective and ethical option, without sacrificing on quality or style. 

SHOES:

Boots are a fashion must for winter and again I've been impressed at the styles and range I've seen on op shop shelves. Many years ago when I started op shopping, knee high leather boots were as rare as hen's teeth (!). Very expensive new I think people held on to them year after year. I bought a used Italian pair eons ago from an Anglicare store I used to frequent in the inner west. They were a little big for my small feet so I lined the inner sole and toe with thick winter socks. They were so warm and comfy I wore them for years! I passed them on to a friend's daughter and now she is wearing them!

These I found a couple of weeks ago in Vinnies for $15. Score!

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And these were all as new and $10 a pair. And all in my size.
Eek!
That's why we're eating a lot of soup this week... 

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So winter has only been going a couple of weeks, but I may have already found my ultimate thrifted winter outfit. It came together in three visits to two different Vinnies stores and I only paid under $50 total! I present to you:

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Australian made leather coat: $20
Morrisey black dress: $20
Black heeled glitter boots: $15

And yes I know, even my inferior maths skills can tell me that that is $5 over my bargain outfit limit. Still, as any good op shopping fashionista will be able to tell you, it's all about the thrill of the hunt!

If you're interested in op shops, here's some links that might help you find those near you + information about donating your used items and even volunteering work opportunities:

Lifeline Shops
Red Cross Shops
Salvation Army Salvos Stores
St Vincent de Paul Vinnies

Tell me what your favourite items to search for at op shops might be?
Do you find your op shopping experiences great fun (like me) or frustrating?
I'd love to know..

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Reel Time

How many movies do you see in any given week, month, year? Since having kids, I haven't averaged many. So in the last two months I've been on practically a movie binge. It doesn't really explain my lack of posting in May, but I know you'd be bored with the excuses and this is far more fun to discuss. Remember my joy in April at experiencing the exciting and much longed for release of  CINDERELLA?  What fun that was. My girls are talking excitedly about the future release of the DVD. Despite the fact that DVDs are apparently supposed to be dead, we are not (so far) a downloading family. We want the movie in our hot little hands and an MOV (?) file will simply not do. I mean really, how is one supposed to take successful shelfie pics of one's favourite movie collection if one can't line them all up on a shelf in a satisfying row? 
Please consider...

The next special event was my 18th wedding anniversary. My husband had flatly refused to take me to see Michael Bolton - so I had to settle for humming "How can we be lovers if we can't be friends?" while we drove to the cinema. I chose the movie. "Testament of Youth" was playing at the Dendy. A movie based on the memoir of Vera Brittain, an english girl who had just begun at Oxford when World War 1 began, the movie opened on VE Day and then backtracked through the war years. Brittain wrote most powerfully on the futility of war, the role of women, and life in the aftermath of the horror. I had read the book while at university, and the movie did not disappoint. It was beautifully done. At times heartwarming, uplifting, moving and tragic. I was in danger near the end of crying like I hadn't since seeing Life is Beautiful so many years ago. Had to pull myself together for dinner afterwards, remembering we were supposed to be celebrating after all. For two hours we were transfixed, transported and overawed (I'm talking about the movie again, in case you were wondering.) The clothes and interiors were amazing too. The acting superb. Totally loved it. 
And all for $40 for two tix. 
Sorry, but Mr Bolton wasn't good value for money in comparison.


Then, a friend's birthday treat became a rare and exciting pleasure of meeting in the morning for a (shock horror!) daytime movie! Yes, it was us and a few dozen seniors. We went for coffee first, and a pastry - it was 10am after all. At 10.30am we rushed into the cinema having neatly missed the advertisements (on account of searching for the perfect winter beanie with pom poms in David Jones Department Store) and then had the most fabulous time watching A Royal Night Out. Set on VE DAy (yes I was having dejavous!) this movie was hilarious and jolly good fun! I found myself thinking how jolly good it was to be there and wondering why with Arch at preschool for the past year and a bit I hadn't done something like this before now??? #lostopportunity

Loved the acting (Elizabeth was uncannily like the real Queen I thought, knowing her as well as I do) and realising that the film had obviously played loosely with the truth, the entertainment of watching Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret let their hair down was fabulous. And who knew Rupert Everett was looking so old? He did make a lovely King and the Queen Mother (also as the mother in Testament of Youth - more dejavous!) was excellent as a stern "keeping up appearances" type.


Then came my own birthday. May is my birthday month so having lined up some babysitting and therefore a few precious hours to celebrate myself, Jonathan and I again returned to the cinema to see A Woman in Gold. You might be thinking three wartime movies in a month is too many, but they were all so good. Again the acting in this one was superb - Helen Mirren is perfect as a Jewish/Austrian/American war survivor who has a burning desire to see her family property returned to its rightful owners. When the property just happens to be some of Gustav Klimpt's finest works, and paintings that seem irreversibly tied to Austria - well the (true) story is one well worth watching. 


War has many victims. When a movie can show the poignancy, the tragedy and the suffering that has occurred, in a manner that is heartrending, informative and rich in characters, stories and history - as well as fulfilling the purposes of being entertaining - well surely they have achieved something good. Perhaps even very good. I'd heartily recommend these movies (yes, download them if you must!), you won't regret it. 

Monday, 4 May 2015

The Birth of a Princess


A princess has been born and in this Royal mad household we are all very happy about it! (Eleanore met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge last Easter - we're still basking in the glory..)
We don't know what the name of the new Royal will be yet, but people all over the world are busy thinking about what it should be. I'm just going to put it out there and say it might (i repeat might!) be: Charlotte Elizabeth Diana Eleanore Wales..



And well done to Kate for not only looking so darn good 10 hours after giving birth, but for actually walking outside in public 10 hours after giving birth. Some of us would only dream about doing this in our worst nightmare ever!! (Here's a hilarious rant on the ScaryMommy Blog that says it best.)

I must admit though, that if I was going home to Kensington Palace from the hospital then maybe I would be in kind of a hurry to get back there too. As it was, and I do like my house, I always managed to stay at least FOUR DAYS in hospital after the birth of my children. I think my record for staying in the hospital room after birth may even have been five days. I can't recall - it was all such a blur! Which is kind of the point.
My method for maximising my hospital stay (when thankfully there were no complications) was to
a) stay very quiet and hope the staff forgot I was there; and
b) undertake copious crying (on my part, not the babies, they were fine..) when going home was even lightly mentioned as a possibility by some hapless nurse who obviously had no children back home herself and didn't realise that I wasn't returning to Kensington Palace with multiple staff, private medical practitioners and roomfuls of cosmetics and designer gear.

But seriously, I breastfeed all of my babies, but I never found it easy to begin with. With each new baby I had to learn how to do it all over again. Then there was all the physical stuff going on (your body kind of turns in to a foreign object), the lack of sleep and the pressure to feed that baby meant it was kind of traumatic. Every time. (If I just whisper the words: N***** Shields were my salvation - you'll start to appreciate what was going on…) So for those reasons and no doubt many more I've blocked out, staying in hospital for more than 10 (or 24, or 48) hours was not a luxury. It was VITAL for getting proper care for myself and the baby and for having midwives and lactation consultants and obstetricians everywhere who oversaw, checked, advised and assisted.

So these services may not seem like luxuries to many of us, but they certainly are for the women of Nepal. It's hard to imagine the devastation brought about by the recent earthquake, let alone to imagine giving birth in the aftermath. But it's happening.

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Here's one way to give and to give generously with whatever you have to spare. Go to Baptist World Aid's website.

Because all babies are beautiful - and getting a happy and safe start in life, whether that's in a palace or in an earthquake zone, is something that touches all of our hearts.


What do you think the baby Princess will be called?