Monday, 22 September 2014

Having a baby? Part 2

So, as promised, here is part two;  My guide to all things I  think that you'll want and need when your small cherub finally arrives.  
Baby shops see pregnant women as giant pound signs.  The  dream opportunity to try and sell every single baby related product that has ever hit the market.  I'm sure they have a competition going on  over who can sell the most crap to the most the gullible pregnant person.  This list is for very early days - I'm not thinking as far forward as weaning and high chairs, more the first few weeks.

A pram.   I'm embarrassed to say we were lured into a Bugaboo Cameleon that cost more than my first car.  To be fair, she's lasted very well and is in just as good condition now as when she first arrived.  As great as I think she is though, I don't think you need to spend this much to get one that's just as good.

  Whether you live in the town or country will make a big difference as to what you go for.  My city dwelling friends love the light weight, compactness of the Baby Jogger City Mini 4 wheeler and vitally, you can pick it up in one easy move.  Perfect for chucking in the back of a car/taxi/bus at the same time as balancing bags, dog, coffee and baby.  I swear you need a degree in engineering to operate some buggies but there's no struggle with this one. ALevels or not.  

Baby Jogger City Mini 4 Wheeler

If you're after a Bugaboo -I was obsessed with having one- they've just bought out the new Bee3 which is meant to be a 'nifty little urban number'.  I haven't come into contact with it myself so can't comment on it's ease of use.  As far as prams go though, it looks pretty swanky. 
For Country life, I'd suggest a chunky three wheeler.  Phil and Ted's Navigator seems to make a lot of people happy as again does  Baby Jogger's 3 wheeler version.  

car seat.  The hospital won't let you leave without one.  Ours is a Maxicosi that works with the Bugaboo too. And has definitely stood the test of time.

Maxi Cosi car seat

Cot.  If space allows, go for a cot-bed rather than just a cot.  A cot-bed can be extended into a proper bed and you'll have it until they're about five.  It's a no-brainer and most good companies do them.  The bigger Cub's came from a mega-chic French company called Laurette in Paris.  I've said it before but we really were completely clueless and this was the other area where we paid way, way more than we should have done.  But shipping from the UK alone cost hundreds, it looked great and at the time we had no comparisons.

A Laurette sensation.  Really wanted this one.

 In the UK, I'd head for Mamas and Papas or The Little White Company.  The former do a chic grey range called 'Harbour' which would be a perfect choice if you didn't know what you were having and/or wanted something other than white.  

Harbour range from Mamas & Papas

You'll also need a mattress, they rarely come with the actual cot.  Just make sure you get the right measurements.  Ours came from Amazon each time.

Moses Basket.  I was so excited about the moses basket when we first started shopping. God knows why.  They don't last for long so feel slightly like a waste of time but do make earlier days easier.  This is something you really could borrow from a friend - but do buy your own mattress. We were given a spotty white one from Nursery Window that was so visionary it hung out in his bedroom for years.  Cant wait to get her out again in a few months.

Nursery Window spotty voile moses basket.  You don't need the pillow.

Linen.  Baby lists will tell you to buy about ten sheets - we've managed, happily, with 2 fitted moses basket sheets and 3 flat cot bed sheets since day one.

Swaddle.  We were given one of these when the biggest Cub arrived and I didn't have the first idea what to do with it.  And it was brown. Not my best present.  However, one of the nurses in the hospital showed me what do to with it and we quickly became firm friends. Me and the swaddle; not the nurse. I'd be hysterical when it had to go in the wash, adamant that he wouldn't sleep without it.  They thankfully now come in lots of pretty colours so you don't have to dress your baby up as a giant poo.   Merino Kids is the brand you want.

Merino Kids swaddle

If you use a swaddle, you won't use a sleeping bag at the same time.  This comes later, when they've outgrown the swaddle.  Aden and Anais and the Little White Company have ultra soft ones with great designs.

Blankets.  Sleeping bags make life easier but you will still want blankets too.  Think about the traditional cotton cellular ones as well as a warmer wool/cashmere one.  I'm quite obsessed with my cream christening blanket There's something rather old fashioned and comforting about it.  And it's not just for christenings.  Though it is cream so not high on the practicality scale but it looks pretty if you want to pretend you're in a mother & baby advert. Sleeping bags are sized by ages, like with the clothes, I'd avoid getting a new born size.

Changing Table. You don't need, need one but it will make your life a lot easier.  Of course you can change your baby on the floor/bed/kitchen table if you want but make sure you have a chiropractor on speed dial.  If you're going to get one, I'd advise getting one with closed cupboards.  I've done open and closed and having no doors makes it look like a bomb's gone off 24/7. I like Mamas & Papa's Harbour range.

This is the one we got from Laurette.  Proper dream.

Changing Mat.  Just make sure it's wipe proof.  We were given a heavenly towelling one covered in bunnies that I just had to wash every five minutes. 

Baby Monitor. There are now so many different options that the thought of choosing a new one slightly panics me.  Technical items are definitely Chaz's department but all I will say is that we survived for five years without a video one.  They cost a fortune and I think have the potential to turn you into some sort of sleep deprived stalker.  Tomy always worked well for us both here and in France.  Quite worth going into a shop and talking to them about this one as some work better than others with thicker walls/long distance etc.

sheepskin.  For me, it's an essential.  They regulate their temperature and keep them from over heating.  I'm convinced that they sleep better lying on these.  The Cubs still sleep on theirs now.

Sleep suits.  A matter of personal taste but I go to John Lewis or Mothercare for the white basics and then the White Company for prettier and more special ones.  When buying basics I'd go for a multipack of sleep suits - the button up ones with feet, long arms and legs, a multipack of long sleeve vests and same again with sleeveless vests.   And unless you know your baby is teeny tiny, I'd buy age 0-3 months rather than newborn.

Little White Company sleep suit

New born nappies.  I like Pampers.

Baby wipes.  Get on Amazon - you'll save £££.  Again I like Pampers.
Cotton wool.  They advise you to only use cotton wool and water for the first few weeks and not wipes.
Sudocrem.  Go large.
E45.  As above.
Kamilosan nipple cream.
Breast pads.
A baby thermometer.  Splash out and go electric.  
Calpol.  Although not allowed until 3 months.
Nail scissors.  You won't believe how fast they grow.

Steriliser.  Real boring one but you will need one at some stage, even if you intend to breastfeed.  I've managed to blow up about four -always remember to add the water- but think that Avent does the best.  Unless you're using Tommee Tippee bottles and then I'd go for the same name steriliser.

Baby Bottles.  Getting the bigger Cub to drink from bottles nearly killed me.  I tried every single bottle on the market.  £200 later and he eventually decided that Tommee Tippee bottles would suffice.  Again, a matter of personal choice - your baby's, not yours - but Avent, Medela and TT are all very popular.  

Bottle brush.

Cotton/washable bibs.
Baby formula.  Good to have just in case. We've always used Aptamil.

Breast Pump.  You can hire heavy duty, hospital standard ones but if you want to buy your own, both Medela and Avent are good.  Just make sure it's electric and not manual. 

Baby carrier.  These are great when they're very tiny unless you're a weight lifter which means you'll be able to hang out with them strapped to you for much longer. I get about two months, max, out of them.  
This is a real goodie to borrow from a friend if you can.  If not,  Baby Bjorn are good or if you've got a lot of cash to burn, Bill Amberg makes a seriously chic, sheepskin-lined one.  

The Bill Amberg mega-bucks papoose

Baby bouncer.  You can get seriously swanky ones of these but my best has always been one from Mothercare that costs £14.99.  It's wafer-light so you can pick it up and plonk it down next to you wherever you are.  But you might want to wear sunglasses to look at it.  It's not the most tasteful/visionary of creations.

I know there will be a few things that I've forgotten but my own baby brain has taken over so I apologise if I've left off something major.  I'll add them to the list as they come to me.  
Below is a list of my favourite places to shop all things baby.

Nursery Window. 
Zara Home for baby clothes is the best kept secret ever. 
Sue Hill.  Heavenly handmade baby knits.  You can find them in Nursery Window.
Mamas & Papas.
Little White Company.
H&M - for affordable, organic cotton baby grows.
JoJo Maman Bebe.  V good for waterproofs.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

September Wedding Flowers

It was nearly a week ago but I'm still feeling like I've been hit by a bus since doing the flowers for a  huge wedding last weekend.  I'd been planning it for months so was completely prepared but there's nothing like being put in charge of how someone else's big day looks to get the adrenalin going.  
The Bride and Groom were dreams. Very un-bridezillery and my only boundaries were the colours cream, green, mint and a hint of peach.  This meant lots of  foliage- eucalyptus, variegated ivy, pittosporum and mint and creamy/white and green flowers; delphiniums, snowberries, ammi, dahlias, astillbe, hydrangeas and roses with a few visionary Cafe au Lait peachy dahlias thrown in for a bit of colour.
Below is what happened next in photos...

Back from the market.  Not enough buckets...

Day one.  Conditioning.

Bar decorations

Outside the front door of the wonderful Sezincote House

Loving my new milk churns

The vision that is the 'Cafe au Lait' dahlia.  Grown by the wonderful Richard at Withypitts in Sussex.

The groom was Indian so I made traditional Indian wedding garlands for him and his bride.

Decorating the mandap.

The Pandit preparing the service under the decorated mandap.

A finished table.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Country & Town House October Issue

Thank you Alice B-B and Country & Town House Magazine for the lovely write up in this month's issue!
Willow Crossley dreams of owning a florist’s shop, but for now the author and interior decorator has her hands full, says Alice B-B.

With two children and another on the way, a house in the Cotswolds and her second bookInspire: The Art of Living with Nature published last spring, it would appear that at the age of 31, ethereal beauty Willow Crossley has fulfilled her dreams. But it seems that the minute Willow’s dreams become a reality, a new idea pops up. It’s what keeps the creativity in motion. And the latest dream is… but first, let’s rewind.
Growing up in Wales with her Vogue  writer, author, painter and all-round creative mother Kate Corbett-Winder, Willow longed for London. ‘I wanted to feel the pavement beneath my feet,’ she explains. So, aged 18, she moved to The Smoke and began a three-year degree in fashion journalism at The London College of Fashion. Just a year into the course, lightning struck when she met her future husband: Charlie Crossley, model and manager of Fulham Road’s famous The Goat in Boots pub and subsequently owner and manager of the Hollywood Arms pub in Chelsea. ‘A couple of years into our relationship, Charlie sold the pub and moved to South of France,’ says Willow. ‘His father has a vineyard outside Cogolin and Charlie’s always dreamed of opening a beach restaurant in St Tropez.’ So Willow went too.
‘I dropped everthing,’ says Crossley. ‘My internship in the beauty department at Tatler magazine had ended so I upped sticks and followed him.’ While Charlie was tending the vineyards and making wine, Willow began to occupy herself by trawling local flea-markets and vintage fairs, making baskets with vintage pompoms and selling them to the beach shops, while also having endless friends to stay. Willow began blogging about her experiences. And that’s when the writer’s lottery-win happened. ‘An agent saw my blog, got in touch and told me that she thought it could make a book.’
Just a year later, Willow’s first book The Art of Handmade Living was published. And the publishers immediately signed her up for a second book. But, like a ripe brie, the French fantasy had begun to go off. ‘By then, Charlie and I were married and had our first child Wolf,’ says Willow. ‘I was just 25, with a tiny baby and no friends or family out there… I really began to struggle.’ This coincided with Charlie’s beach-restaurant reverie turning to dust, when he realised that beachfront property is tied up by old mafia-style St Tropez families. He was going to need a cool £20m to get his idea off the ground.
So the young family packed up their knapsacks and headed back to Blighty. ‘It was heaven coming back to London and to our house in Chelsea,’ says Willow, ‘but Charlie was climbing the walls – we’d gone from huge fields and mountains in France to a little house in London.’ So with a second baby on the way, they had the ‘shall we move to the country?’ chat. ‘We went out for dinner and made the decision to stay in London for another year,’ laughs Willow. ‘That night Charlie came up to bed with his laptop and said, “Look at this house!”’
The very next morning, they got on the train to Woodstock and it was love at first sight. Two weeks later their offer on the Cotswold cottage had been accepted. Willow worked her magic on the tired interior, bringing the outside in with jungly Sanderson wallpaper and hand-painted florals in the bathroom. Much of the house has been used as the backdrop for the alluringly creative photography in her latest book Inspire. It’s a charming, encouraging, enticing book about using flowers, beachcombed bounty and foraged finds for decorating the home and lifting the spirits. ‘Literally nothing makes me happier than flowers,’ says Willow. ‘If ever I’m feeling a bit shit, I’ll go for a walk with my secateurs, pick things and arrange them when I get home. Immediately I feel better.’
Which leads on to the next dream… ‘I’d love to have a florist’s shop, with a gallery, coffee shop, and sell some homewares and clothes… like Petersham Nurseries. And Charlie would run the restaurant.’ But having had a spate of crafting at summer festivals, including floral headpiece workshops at Wilderness and tribal pebble painting at Port Eliot, wedding floristry jobs, anInspire residency at Anthropologie and interiors ‘dressing’ work, her green-hands are pretty full. Oh, and add to that a third book and third baby in the pipeline – she has plenty to be getting on with. But in Willow’s world there’s always room for one more dream.
Inspire by Willow Crossley, published by Cico Books (£16.99) with photos © Emma Mitchell 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Having a Baby?

The smallest Cub at two days old

I was pretty much the first of my friends to have a baby.  None of them were any where near even thinking about it really.  Chaz and I were living miles away in the South of France and the whole pregnancy felt a bit like a (very exciting) game.  We'd spend hours wandering around 'Bébé 9' marvelling at maxi-cosis and muslins, giggling at nipple protectors and breast pumps like two idiotic teenagers.  We had no idea what we needed so went along with the shop assistants when they told us we had to have 7000 baby bottles, twenty five car seats, twelve sterilisers and thousand euro prams.    Nine months later when the biggest Cub actually arrived,  I had absolutely no idea what the hell I was meant to do.  And there was no one to help us.  My parents and friends would come and go for weekends here and there but essentially it was just Chaz and I muddling through; drowning in bottles.  I'm now doing it all over again for the third time and as great as it all was, wish that there had been someone to tell me what I did and didn't need.  

The biggest Cub and I having a stripe off

As I write, about fifteen of my friends are pregnant. It's an epidemic.  And despite being surrounded by all their family and friends they too are completely bamboozled by the whole thing.  I got an email from one last week asking if they needed an 'organic coconut-lined, ergonomically shaped  moses basket mattress' for £300. The shop keeper had insisted their baby would sleep for 12 hours straight if they got it. 
A pregnant woman is a marketing man's dream.   Clueless, excited, full of hormones and desperate to give their un-born baby the best they possibly can - you can sell us practically anything.
In an attempt to help anyone having their first baby, I've taken lists from lots of the big baby companies and  edited/made comments on them to tell you what (I think) you do and don't need.  This one is just for pregnancy and the birth - I'll do another one for general life with a baby next.  
I hope it helps! 

For maternity clothes or things that just work well with a bump, have a look at Topshop for every day bits and pieces. Isabella Oliver for one off, well-cut special pieces as well as smarter work wear pieces. Asos. Gap for basics. 9 London for slightly higher end brands. DKNY and Madeleine Thompson for voluminous knitwear that you will never take off. 

Maddie Thomspon dress available from Austique

Maternity trousers/jeans.  If you want to splash out, J Brand do the best.  If not, Topshop's Leigh design is fab. They come in different lengths and the ankle grazer is quite miraculous.

Nightwear.  I've never brought special maternity pjs.  Borrow your husband's.

Bras  - I bought 4 bras in total. Baby lists will tell you that you need about nine. One underwired and 3 non has always been enough for me.  All from Elle McPhearson Intimates.  V pretty and comfortable and very long lasting.  I'm still in the same ones I had first time round.  Online, Asos and fig leaves both stock her.

Maternity underwear.  Again, I just go one size up rather than get special maternity pants.  Mothercare and M&S do the perfect, big granny pant for post baby days.  Elle McPhearson for bras.

Pregnancy pillow.  Try and borrow one;  I just fought with mine and it just ended up taking up precious space but some people love them.
Maternity tops.  GAP do a new line of brilliant basics.  As long as you have good basics you can improvise with the rest.

Maternity dresses.  Asos smocks and swing dresses and Madeleine Thopmson cashmere if feeling extravagant. Jersey tube dresses from Topshop over a legging with a kimono is one of my favourite, comfortable, staple outfits.

my absolute best Asos oversized smock dress

Maternity swimwear.  Topshop all the way. 

Pregnancy band  I didn't have one the first two times but have just been given one and it's a Godsend.  Perfect to hide your tummy button and add much needed extra length to your tops.  Quite good support feeling too. 

Stretch mark cream.  Essential but don't be conned into thinking you have to have an actual special stretch mark one.  Any body moisturiser is good.  Palmers do a good cocoa butter one.  As do the body shop.  Bamford's rose lotion is heaven-sent.

Pregnancy book.  'What to expect when you're expecting' was and still is my bible.  

Hospital Bag

The bag.  First time round I truly believed I needed to go out and buy a special bunny covered baby bag from Nursery Window.  You don't - your normal suitcase will suffice.

Nightwear x 2.  It's nice to have a new nightie for being in the hospital.  A special, vintage one is a great present for a friend about to have a baby.  Ebay have a great selection of Edwardian visions.  If that's not your thing, just make sure you have something that buttons down the middle.  You won't want anything stiff or starchy.  Cath Kidston, Zara Home and Massimo Dutti have real goodies.

PJs from Zara Home

Dressing gown 

Snacks.  However great your hospital is I'd suggest bringing your own food.  Labour can be long and you'll want them for sustenance as much as just to pass the time.

Your own pillow.

Comfortable cotton pants.  Go large.  And black, steer clear of anything white/pale. Mothercare's multipacks were my best. Ignore anyone who tells you that you need paper, disposable ones - Do not go near them with a barge pole.

Maternity towels x 48.  Ultra-slim 'Always' will not be enough.  Yes they look like nappies but you'll need them.

Nursing bras 
Muslins.  Long gone are the days of the boring, small white muslin.  Aden and Anais have given us beautiful, enormous patterned ones that are so visionary you'll want to drape yourself in them.  They also make the best new baby presents. 

Breast pads x 40. 

Nipple cream.  Kamilosan is the best brand.

Wash bag and hairbrush.   A face spray is one of my essentials.  Evian is great or if feeling swanky, Ren, ILA and Chantecaille have delicious Rose ones.


Newborn gentle wipes.  Great for you as well as the baby.  Pampers are great, I'm not a fan of Huggies despite them being permanently on offer. 

Nappies - approx 10.  Newborn size.  Pampers are my best.

2 x long sleeve vests.  White Company, John Lewis and Mothercare all do great white basics.  Petit Bateau slightly more expensive but have real visions.  For the creme de la creme you can't beat Bonpoint.  Esp if you're having a girl.

2 x baby sleepsuits
1 x baby blanket
Baby hat

Baby car seat.  The hospital won't let you leave with out one.  We have a Maxi Cosi and love it.

Comfortable clothes for you for going home in.  Tracksuit bottoms/leggings/nothing tight.  

Phone charger
Change for car park
Blue maternity notes and birth plan.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Feeling Festie

As I mentioned in my last post, the last few months have been pretty non stop.  My biggest and definitely most exciting news, is that we're having another baby.  A third, teeny, tiny little Cub to add to the pack.  I am beyond excited but did spend the first few months feeling very sorry for myself, lying on the kitchen floor, trying not to be sick.  Hence why the posting has been on the rather minimal side.

Port Eliot house and festival

I'm now feeling right as rain and have been gallivanting round the country doing wedding flowers and workshops at various festivals.  
The highlight was undoubtedly working with Anthropologie again at Port Eliot. - A small, artsy-crafty, literary festival held in the gardens of a beautiful private house in St Germans, Cornwall.  I was one of Anthro's five artists and led a series of pebble painting classes each evening - complete with my very own Sipsmith Gin bar. The festival itself was wonderful, nothing like I've ever been to before.   Very, very small, for all ages and days were filled with swimming in the river, workshops and talks rather than being glued to a music stage.  My highlights were listening to the Helmsley sisters and Suzy Menkes, being adorned with fresh flower crowns by the Flower Appreciation Society and learning how to make a silver starfish from a cuttle fish with jeweller Catherine Zoraida (fellow Anthropologie artist).

Rose 'Debbie Magee' in the walled garden

the walled garden

mid action in my pebble painting workshop in the Anthro tent

Fortnum & Mason pop up coffee shop

casting in cuttle fish

workshop schedule at Port Eliot

my wall in the Anthropologie tent at Port Eliot

Wilderness was last weekend and rather more handily located down the road.  Being pregnant it was slightly calmer than last summer and we spent a lot of time wandering around the food stalls with the Cubs.  The mac and cheese van being my clear winner; I had it for lunch three days running. On the sunday afternoon I held a flower crown making workshop in the Sanctuary area which was run by Wild Well Being. It was initially going to be held outside under a flower festooned, pagoda type structure but half an hour before we started, the biggest storm of all time decided to grace us with it's presence.  So inside we went to a nearby yurt. There were about 35 of us in total and using the vintage silk and velvet flowers that I'd sourced in LA, I taught them how to make the crowns.  I found it fascinating just how different each person's creation was despite using exactly the same the ingredients.

entrance to the Sanctuary

my workshop ingredients

my workshop

Early bird tickets for Wilderness 2015 are now on sale