Messy Play for Matilda Mae – by Gabriel Azoitei, age 6

Yesterday, I woke up early in the morning, and straight away without having any time to eat my breakfast, I started making a bottle rocket. Materials: 1 empty – plastic Coca Cola bottle, 4 paper triangles, some pens, 1 coloured pencil (yellow), some paints, and, some tape.

First, I made a blueprint. On the blueprint, I drew, ‘the keys’. The Red line, is the key for, ‘cut’, and the Green – dotted line, is the key for, ‘fold’.

Then, I painted the windows blue, and I went out in the street with mummy to get a haircut, while the paint dried. When I got back, I painted the rest red. The next day, (obviously, the paint would have dried by then)…(again). Next, I painted a door onto the rocket. Can you guess what colour the door was? It was green!

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So, then my rocket was finished, and ready to blast off! 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, BLAST OFF!!!

I hope you enjoyed reading this blogpost.

 Oh, and don’t forget to leave a like!

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– Gabi xxx

[This blog post is all Gabi’s own words and own typing, completely unaided… He had already made the rocket and painted the windows on by the time I got up in the morning! The only thing I did was to help him spell “obviously”… Think he’s a better and quicker blogger than me. He even knew to ask for likes, which I never thought of! LOL. -Ed. aka Mummy]


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…


Messy Play for Matilda Mae!

I was so pleased when Jennie announced her new Saturday linky:


It just fits so beautifully with what I feel the biggest impact of Matilda Mae’s little life has been for me. I wrote in Waltzes and Lullabies about how little Matilda’s love of ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ had brought lullabies and singing back into my and my son’s life within the first days after she passed but that really was the least of her little gifts to me and my family in terms of her legacy. The following Saturday, really struggling with a confusing but undeniable grieving stage for someone I never met and unable to even think about working, feeling that the only things which matter in life at all are my boys, I shut the laptop and took Gabs (3) and Luci (1) in the double buggy to Regents Park. We looked at the ducks, enjoyed the sunshine and each other’s company, played in the playground and had treats in the café and returned home feeling like a brand new perspective had been born and all my previous priorities were turned on their head. My instincts that this was not a passing phase are gradually proving true, as every Saturday since, come rain or shine has been My Boys’ Day. For those of you who have more traditional job roles and working hours, that one weekend day might not sound much, but for a freelance musician and small business owner, used to working random hours, most weekends and grabbing any chance to catch up on emails whenever the boys are occupied with anything else for more than two minutes together, it goes against all my instincts and habits.

And yet, it’s made me so much happier.

In fact, I’d say it’s given me a taste of what I’m missing all the other times when I stick them in front of a DVD to get work done or leave them with a babysitter to run or play a concert, or when they’re at nursery. It’s made me keener to spend even more time focusing only on them and to use my time with them more creatively.

So no working, no laptop, no cruising facebook on my phone, unless it’s to post a couple of photos of what we’re up to…

Of course I have Tilda and Jennie to thank for that! So since February our Saturdays already consisted of playgrounds, parks, soft-play, bubbles, painting and café-treats. Now, it will sometimes consist of some more creative, imaginative, messy stuff too… something a little outside the box!

[Haha… I just took a break from writing this to bath the boys and while I was putting his pjs on, Gabs said to me, “We should get some water balloons.” Sounds like someone else has plenty of messy play ideas of their own. Next week: water balloons it is!]

Now I must admit that this week we weren’t particularly creative or even that messy in our play. I’d been cleaning up vomit for the past two days as the boys had a sick-bug and wasn’t much in the mood for more cleaning and Lucian was still a bit poorly and not up for much playing. But I was thinking of Matilda Mae all day long and had selected some starry stickers and glittery paint with her in mind and some Peppa Pig stickers for Lucian who is currently obsessed. So I thought I would post about the not very messy, low-key art work we did in the afternoon. We chose Mozart’s original ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ Variations on piano followed by the Gigglebellies for our soundtrack, and of course Mummy had her glass of wine 🙂 Here’s how we got on:

Next week, water balloons!!!

Welcome to my blog!

I’m a blogger! I haven’t quite honed the design of my blog yet, got lots of playing with colours to do, but I’m here!

I’m Coco, wife of Remus Azoitei (Romanian concert violinist, violin professor at Royal Academy of Music, Renault 12 enthusiast and generally awesome husband and Daddy) – mummy of two small boys, Gabriel (3) and Lucian (1), violinist & teacher, entreprenuer, and acting student. I love my family more than the Earth, I love music, I’m passionate about bringing classical music to babies and normalising classical music in general. I love Italy, champagne, flowers, babies & children, all things lovely and I’ll be writing about all these things at some point no doubt… plus life, death and the universe.

There’s a sad but beautiful story behind my new blog. A month ago, the mum-blogger community on twitter (of which I was a part as a mumprenuer @classicalbabyco) was rocked by the sudden shock of baby loss. The beautiful 9 month old daughter of Jennie Henley (@Edspire) died suddenly in her cot one night from SIDS. We were all stunned by her loss and became more and more involved as she turned to twitter for company and support the night after Matilda Mae was found sleeping, pouring out her grief in searingly honest detail. A few of us stayed up long into the night that first 24 hours after, as she tweeted from a dark, quiet house with husband and twins sleeping. I remember holding myself awake until gone 2am, long after her twitter feed fell silent, unable to bear the thought of her tweeting something and finding herself alone. Over the following days and weeks something strange happened. A new #Matilda Mae community sprung-up on social media, rallying around a grieving mother in her darkest time, sending love, answering her cries with our own esoteric answers, responding to Jennie’s tweets and blog posts with comforting words, ideas for the funeral service, music, ways of remembering Tilda and over the month we all came to be in awe of this woman. Even in the darkest times she managed to make everything around her beautiful. The beauty of her memorials for her daughter, the things she wrote, her thoughts for others, her ideas for the twins to honour Matilda’s memory: everything sparkled around her. She really is the most beautiful person! And we all came to love her and think of her as a real friend.

I’ve spent so much time online this month, talking to her, writing to her and to other bloggers about her. I want to write more and need a place to do that. So here it is. So, I have Jennie to thank for this blog. She even came up with the name: Coco&Co! This blog will be my own place to make beautiful. (Just another small part of Matilda Mae Henley’s immense, ongoing legacy). I hope you like it…. xx