Classical Babies 4th Birthday!

I don’t normally write work-related posts on my personal blog but this seems to be a month of anniversaries and I’m excited about this one! Tomorrow will be four years since the very first Classical Babies concert at the O2 Centre, Finchley Road NW3, so naturally I am celebrating with another concert in similar style at the same location.

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There’s this fab group called The Lydian String who often play downstairs at the O2 Centre. If you’re in the area you might have seen them with their green banner and CDs out raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support. They are friends of mine from my freelancing days and put on a really great show. There are always crowds of people stopping to watch them and buy a CD or just donate some money. I am really proud to be joining them on the violin to play for our birthday concert. I think what they do is fantastic. If you take a look at their website  you not only get to hear a preview of what they sound like you can also read about their incredible fundraising work: 10% of every gig fee they receive goes straight to the Macmillan charity, as part of a commitment contract to pay them a minimum of £10,000 every year and 66% of the proceeds of their CDs sold also gets donated. They will have CDs for sale tomorrow, if you are coming please bring cash with you! This is a fantastic thing to play around the house to surround your child with music.

It says on their website (which needs updating!) that they have raised in excess of £90,000 for the charity since 2001 but I happen to know that this figure is wildly out of date and they have now raised well over £200,000!!

As well as the wonderful music, we will have the usual coffee, squash for the older children and a big birthday cake and plenty of balloons, plus some further treats. I’ll give every person through the door a number to be entered into the free prize draw which will take place in the middle of the programme, giving away a bottle of bubbly, some concert tickets and smaller prizes! After all, it’s only our birthday once a year! If you’d like to attend, full details are on the website.

I’m very excited with where Classical Babies is heading in it’s fifth year… With a sell-out first concert in Harpenden, our first Hertfordshire venue, plans for a Cambridge series and our first Manchester venue in the works I feel like expansion is the name of the game in ’14-’15! I can’t wait! I also have a re-brand planned with a new logo design coming from the wonderful Ellie Illustrates. I can’t wait for my website and blog to sport this lovely badge!

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If you know anyone with small children who would like live concerts in a fun, relaxed setting please show them this page and if you would like to know how Classical Babies started and how I got to this point, read my page on this blog about it! It’s something I’m immensely proud of and passionate about so if it’s something you like the sound of please like me on facebook, follow me on twitter @classicalbabyco and tell all your friends – Thank You! – Coco x

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Happy Bloggiversary to Me!

Yesterday was my one year anniversary of starting this blog. I didn’t have time to write anything for it but I marked it in my head. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, for one thing  because I’m not much of a prolific blogger and for one, more important reason:

This blog was born from a tragedy. I started it inspired by a blossoming friendship with a wonderful woman Jennie Edspire after the tragic loss of her beautiful 9 month old baby Matilda Mae to SIDS.

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So the fact this blog is one year old means it is also just over one year that Matilda Mae has been gone, and that is something to honour and commemorate, yes, but not to celebrate.

However, I love my blog. It’s only just beginning and I’m sure I’ll use it more and more over the coming years, but it has enriched my life and makes me happy, so honour it I will! It’s also just one of many new blogs to be inspired by Baby Tilda and her Mummy and one tiny speck in the amazing legacy she’s left. So to honour my one year blogging birthday, I would ask you all to do just one small thing:

Think of Tilda
Donate £1
Just text
MMAE92£1 to 70070

Doing this will raise money for the Lullaby Trust in her memory.

Thank you x

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Messy Play for Matilda Mae: Paper-maché Planets

We did this activity back in January but I never got round to blogging it and this week being such an important one where I attended the Matilda Mae Remembers Service, and we marked the one year anniversary of her funeral it seems like a nice time to do it.

This whole thing was Gabs’ idea. Producing tens of thousands of 2D pictures of planets was no longer satisfying him and he really, really wanted to make a 3D version somehow. Now I am incredibly lazy and tend not to plan ahead so we didn’t really do this quite as perfectly as we might have, with little balloons inside to make them perfectly rounded, but it was still a major undertaking (it took us two days!) and Gabs was really able to do everything himself so it was a good option for us. I’m sure we will improve on it and make another Solar System as we hone our technique!

Day 1: Inner Solar System

So basically, we picked up a mountain of Metro newspapers from the tube station and ripped them into roughly two-inch wide strips (Gabs wasn’t interested in this bit, or coordinated enough, so I did it and piled them in a bowl for him to take) and then mixed flour and water in a bowl to make a sticky paste. I followed some online recipe, I can’t remember the quantities and anyway I found it too runny and added a lot more flour so it’s irrelevant… 🙂

We started with the Sun, and scrunched up a load of newspaper in a ball (which is why our spheres didn’t come out too round! But it was easier for Gabs and he loved it) and then started laying the paste-soaked strips across it in layers.

Once we’d added some smaller inner planets, we put them in the oven on a low heat to speed up the drying process (we don’t have an airing cupboard and were impatient to start painting!) I should point out at this point that even though we used non-toxic paints it still makes the oven stink so you need to allow time to clean and burn off the smell before cooking in it after.

Then once the Sun was fully dried Gabs mixed the right paint colour (a mix of gold, yellow, orange and red paints) – something he took fastidious pride in! It took several coats of thick paint and we had to partially dry each one and then paint the bottom and put it back in the oven upside down to cover the whole of the sphere. It worked better with some of them to roll the whole planet around inside the bowl of paint to get it really well covered.

Gabs painted green land-masses onto the already dry blue oceans of Earth and once they were all dried we called it a night as we were exhausted! This worked out pretty well because Gabs was delighted by the results of his Sun and Inner Planets and it gave him something to look forward to the next day.

Day 2: Outer Solar System

The next day was more challenging because we had the planets with rings to deal with and more complex colours. We started the same way as before with the newspaper balls and paste. Our scale wasn’t very accurate, that’s something we’d like to improve on next time but it would have meant having an absolutely enormous Sun or teeny tiny inner planets to leave ourselves room for the right comparitive sizes of the bigger planets so we just approximated as best we could this time.

We had a lot more paint mixing to do for the more unusual shades of the gas giants and lots of layering to do for the cloud formations on Jupiter. First we painted it brown, then dried it and painted the rings of circling orange clouds, dried that.. then a splodge of red for the Great Red Spot and silver (we didn’t have white) on the top and bottom for the polar clouds.

We made the rings by cutting them out of purple cardboard and colouring with felt-tip pens. Saturn’s are much wider than Uranus’ and go round the middle rather than top to bottom which was much easier to fix on but somehow we made them just the right size to stick around the middle.

Did you know there is a storm on the North Pole of Saturn which is naturally shaped like a perfect hexagon?! Gabi told me this and I didn’t believe him at first until I checked it out myself but it’s true. One of the great wonders of the Universe!

Gabs tried very hard to paint it on but it went a bit splodgy. Another thing to aim for in our next one. So here they are, our finished planets, the whole Solar System including a little moon to go around Earth. The big gap Gabs left between Mars and Jupiter is for the asteroid belt… I have no idea how we’re going to make that!

As you can see our round paper-maché dried a lot less round and then the paint coagulated in clumps making some of them reeeally bumpy. Let’s be honest they are the funniest looking planets you’ve ever seen, right?! But Gabs LOVED them… he felt so proud because he considers that he made them almost all by himself, and they have been played and played with for weeks… They are great for playing at making the planets orbit around the Sun and the moon orbiting the Earth and they’re so hard and durable they are hard to break, although we keep losing the little ones around the house.

This was a great project for us, we had great fun and Gabs was in absolute heaven. He really felt special that Mummy had gone to all the trouble of this two day project to make him happy, making me feel like the best Mummy in the World. 🙂 It’s messy and time consuming but also pretty easy… I highly recommend it! If you have any tips on making an even more accurate one, maybe with balloons and any ideas for the asteroid belt, please write below! And look out for our next 3D Universe project…

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Alcohol Free ’till February – Update!

If you read my previous post, Alcohol-free Until February you’ll know that on 1st January I stopped drinking alcohol completely, for a variety of reasons, and committed to being alcohol-free for two months.

Well, I sort of did it, and I sort of didn’t…

I did 48 days straight (excepting that bit of champagne at Jen’s 40th as planned on 4th Jan – but even counting that, 44 days straight!) and I have to say it had gone really, really well. The first two days I really felt deprived but the beginning is easy enough, then every few days I’d get a huge craving and feel grumpy knowing I couldn’t have any but also completely proud to ignore that feeling and plough through. Right from the start I felt better, slept better, looked better. So far so good! Around the end of the month, when all the Dry January folks were looking forward to their first drink and celebrating their successes I was struggling. It felt like I’d done such a long time and still had as long to go again. Part of me wished I hadn’t set myself two months instead of one… But then the better part of me realised that the fact I felt that way meant this thing hadn’t done it’s job yet – this body-mind reset hadn’t been completed and I knew that the second month was there for a reason. Psychologists say it takes 28 days (or is it 21? – I can’t remember, and anyway it’s probably a myth!) to break a habit or set a new one as your new default. But I really felt that, for as many days as I’d found it easy not to drink there were as many again where, without my commitment, I’d have definitely poured myself a drink not out of choice but need, and as long as that programming was still there I was going to carry on… so I ploughed on into February!

A couple of weeks in, a noticeable shift happened. I found myself looking forward to my non-alcoholic sparkly wine and imagined choosing it over a bottle of red once the time was up. Most days I just didn’t think about it at all. I often considered whether I would have a drink if I was free to and gradually, more and more often simply didn’t feel like it! I really, really felt – and feel – that the reset has happened. I really, really like not drinking! I feel better, healthier, and un-beholdened to it.

So with that in mind, when Gabs started getting really tired towards half-term, struggling with school and asking, sometimes in a desperate tone of voice, could we please, please go to Nana Pip and Grandad’s house in Cornwall, I started to feel like I needed a new plan. We were all exhausted and Gabs and I especially really needed a good holiday! But even with my Driving Phobia a little more under control from the daily school-run, driving 270 miles with two kids in the back all by myself wasn’t really my first choice… until the flooding and storms in Cornwall washed the trainline into the sea:

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My Gabs needed this trip so badly, there was nothing for it but to grab myself by the metaphorical balls and get behind the wheel, so off we went. It wasn’t too bad at all, took us five and a half hours with one stop and the boys were unbelievably angelic. I felt so flippin’ proud of myself you’ve got no idea!! This was a big deal for me, coming from a place of having panic attacks before driving a few metres down the road in a straight line, to driving myself and my children all the way to Cornwall, calmly and well.. even enjoying the ride! So I’ll be damned, I was gonna enjoy my half-term to the full once I got there! I also don’t think we’ll get down there for another break until the Summer, something I hadn’t forseen back in December. So I wanted to relax and have the nicest time I could… including a glass of red wine with my chilli-con-carne!

So, I had a glass of wine with dinner each day I was there. Well, actually the first day I could only have two sips and got a headache so my Dad drank it. The next day, half a glass of white. The next, a proper glass of red which I drank, and the last day a pint of guinness with my fish and chips 🙂 The trade off is, I went back on my fast when I got home to London and I’m now doing an extra week into March, finishing on the 8th.

Am I excited about finishing and going back to total freedom to drink what I like? No, not really. I found, predictably, that first glass of wine a massive anti-climax and am actually so glad I didn’t wait it out until the 1st March so, so looking forward to it and then being disappointed. Wine is still my choice of treat over cake, chocolate or whatever… really I couldn’t care less about sweets, although I’ve tried to enjoy them this last two months as they’re pretty much all I’ve had left! But even with alcohol now, I can take it or leave it, and I’m pleased to note that coming off my week of drinking back into the so-called fast (which doesn’t feel like a fast anymore, but just normal) was beyond easy… no, a pleasure. It’s actually nicer not to drink. So why did I drink over half-term at all? I almost didn’t. It nearly went the other way, I spent an hour thinking about it feeling that it made sense to but I felt too irritated to let myself, since I’d said I’d do it! At which point, I realised it’s bloody stupid to do something out of pig-headedness when it no longer holds true for you and you’re only worrying about what other people will think.

Because I wanted to! Because I can. Because I’m an adult who should have the self-control to choose and not have anything hold power over me either in the love or the resistance of it.

So as 8th March approaches and I look back at what I’ve achieved so far this year, I can happily say I kicked two things in the nuts: My driving phobia, and my need to reward myself with a nice drink. Both lost their power over me. So welcome, properly welcome now, to 2014 which can really truly start for me afresh and the new, more Balanced Me 🙂