Rebranding Pink

Can we talk about the pink thing for a moment?

pink dress up

It's not so much the pinkness of it that bothers me. It's more that as the mother of a 3 year old girl, I'm finding the pink glittery tsunami a little too much to bear. The problem is that in resisting pink, in making it something I must oppose, I've made a problem in my daughter and I's relationship. 

 

I didn't see it coming. When I found out I was expecting a girl I took a sharp intake of breath and breathed out all my fear of misogyny, body shame and inequality. I grit my teeth at the idea of her achievements being brushed away by a commentary on her appearance. I decided then and there that I would provide her with as many alternative ideas of gender identity as possible. I wanted hers to be a path that she chose armed with as much knowledge as she could cope with. I had grown up strong enough to kick down barriers in my life and I felt it my duty to raise her the same. 

However, the first time she reached for the pink taffeta princess dress at a play group, I froze. When she told me firmly in her little 3 year old voice "Mummy I want a dress so I can be pretty today" I felt my world tilt sideways. How could this have happened? How could my daughter place so much value on her appearance when her brilliance truly shines from within? I concluded that I had failed to protect her from the constant barrage of marketing that communicated to her that pink is for girls and girls are for looking at. In the face of this I kicked up my war on stereotypes and in doing so condemned her opinions just as I did those I sought to protect her from. 

I'm a self employed single mother. It's fair to say I have a chip on my shoulder about what independence looks like that has been rubbing a little raw since the separation. Looking back over the past 2 years I can see the moments that I made the princess identity a forbidden fruit that she just had to have. I'd always choose the blue dinosaurs over the pink glitter in toy stores and I banned Little Mermaid because DEAR GOD SHE CAN'T EVEN TALK?!?! In doing so, I limited my daughter's ability to explore and reject these ideas of her own accord. 

Realising this was a big moment for me this week. It came unexpectedly during a Bowie tribute I wanted us to share together. Hearing the news of his death was a deep blow and I felt that somehow I had to mark the day with my daughter so I could pass on his legacy. Bowie had helped me as I struggled to understand my own gender identity and sexuality as a teen and I dearly wanted her to know his brilliance too. I hit play on the Bowie playlist that's accompanied so many of our post dinner dance parties and pulled out some face paints. With Bowie looking out at us from the ipad we painted on red stripes and quiffed our hair. 

Bowie Collage

What followed was a discussion like no other I've ever had with my daughter. She asked why the man was wearing make up. She looked closely at his face and sighed "He's so pretty". Bowie's ability to challenge our expectations of gender were once again working their magic and though the eyes of my entranced daughter I saw all the opportunities that I had been missing with her: dressing up, playing with our appearance and taking the concept of beauty full on and celebrating it. How had I not communicated to her that feeling good about the way you look is actually incredibly healthy and powerful?

It was like someone had punched me in the stomach. 

embracing the dress up

Overnight my attitude has changed from that of a wall she needs to break through in order to reach her beloved frills to a comrade she can explore them with. I can't turn back the clock and remove the shame I'm sure I made her feel when she chose the stereotyped 'girly' option but I have since scrubbed my disapproval out. 

Playing dress up

The funny thing is that the next evening while we pranced around the kitchen to Missy Elliot, she turned to me and said "I'm not going to be just a princess Mummy. I'm going to be a Queen Bee too". 

 

Shine on little bee. You're gonna be just fine. 

Playful Parenting: Childrens Clothes

This sponsored blog post is brought to you by Yellow Lolly. Opinions and views expressed here are my own. 

Shopping for my daughter has become a task that fills me with dread. Whether it's new shoes, summer shorts, arts and crafts supplies or a new picture book, 9/10 I will return home empty handed and downhearted. Instead of an abundance of choice, I find myself woefully casting my eye over a sea of pink and references to ballerinas and princesses that bores me to tears. Finding her something that she can play with or wear that allows her to shape her own sense of identity feels like an impossible task. My friends with sons tell me it's not much different their side either with naughty little monkeys, endless cars and blue, blue, blue. 

That's why meeting Ellie from Yellow Lolly was such a blessing. She nodded sympathetically as I ranted about leopard print glitter shoes and agreed that if I wear clothes that are more ethically produced, my daughter should too. She suggested sending us some samples to road test to see what we thought and I was blown away by what arrived. 

Dress & trousers-  Papu Stories

Dress & trousers- Papu Stories

Patterns!

What's more, patterns and colours that were stylish and easy to pair with everything else in her wardrobe. I often buy plain tops and leggings as the more detailed options for girls seems to come with a wild array of buttons, ribbons, embellishments and more. I just want something fun without all the fuss and these hit the spot perfectly. 

We decided to put these new clothes through their trendy paces. 

Top & trousers-  Papu Stories

Top & trousers- Papu Stories

If you are ever at a loss for a low cost rainy day out in London with a little one, I can highly recommend the Sky Gardens. You need to book a little in advance but it's well worth the fore-planning. There's plenty to see out of the windows and space to run in. All of it was perfect for an active little girl, excited about her new togs. 

She climbed, danced, jumped and balanced for about 3 hours. (I took a video on the day which I've shared for you to see on Instagram). To say she tested the sturdiness of these new clothes is an understatement. 

Hoodie & trousers-  Papu Stories

Hoodie & trousers- Papu Stories

They held up just fine. 

Top & trousers-  Papu Stories

Top & trousers- Papu Stories

What's more, when I threw them in the wash, they maintained their size. I can't even tell you how many tees have become messy play tees as they skirt daintily above her belly button after just one warm wash to remove dirt or paint. 

The icing on the cake for me was these were guilt free clothes. I am often alarmed by how cheap and throw away clothes manufactured for children can feel. Sure, they grow fast but I'm not sure I wish to damage the planet because my child is shooting up like a weed. The dress, trousers and two tops felt soft and snuggly and like they were built to last. The fact that they are sustainably produced and made in organic cotton is a definite plus for me. 

I couldn't be happier and apparently.......

Dress & trousers-  Papu Stories

Dress & trousers- Papu Stories

..... neither can she.!

If you'd like the chance to win some Papu Stories for your little one, please head over to Yellow Lolly on Instagram where they will be hosting a giveaway to celebrate our collaboration. Good luck!

 

My Creative Identity

This July I will have been writing a blog for over 5 years and during that time there's been a fair amount of  unpublished blog posts: posts that I didn't publish in time to remain relevant, things I didn't love once written down or some that just felt too raw. I've always been pretty protective of what personal information is shared about myself and my family and have worked hard to shape 'A Playful Day' into a space in which I can feel good each time I log back in. A post that felt difficult to write sits on the page, waiting to greet me when I return here and that changes my safe space, making it feel less fun to be around. 

It happened that a few weeks ago I wrote something that felt really good to pour my heart and soul into. Writing is such a strong release for me and there it was, black and white, punctuated (some of which was correct) and ready to share. 

I chose not to hit publish. 

It was about when my page views hit the upper 20 thousands per week that I noticed I stopped writing personal blog posts. If I'd been reluctant to use this space in that way before, I was more so with a sense of audience watching. I had created A Playful Day to remind me to find a playful moment in every day and that was my mission. I felt like I needed to focus there and avoid too much mess with an audience that continued to grow each day.

I noticed it spilling over into social media too. There were conversations I read but rarely commented on. I sat in a neutral zone, determined to only encourage positive conversations and to continue to support women in their making and business. I say women because this is predominantly the audience and people I work with but of course, not exclusively. I also feel very committed to women creating and defining their own terms either in business or their creative expression. It has always been the undercurrent of what I do. 

 

That unpublished post irked me though. I started to feel as if the words in this blog are no longer my own. The whole point was for this to be a place I entirely owned and shaped for no one else but me. 

So I'm returning home again with this one.

There is always a story behind every post. Sometimes it's as simple as 'my camera is at this angle to hide the mess in the corner that I didn't tidy'. Other times, like today, it's a deliberate refocusing on my original purpose of creating this website: to find a playful moment in every day. Just like 5 years ago, I have found myself in great need of something playful recently and so here I am once more, putting the playful before the storm. 

What does Creative Identity mean to you?

What does Creative Identity mean to you?

So this month I will be really pushing myself to make and really show what creativity means to me. I would love to hear from you all as I look inside of myself and attempt to answer the question 'What does a Creative Identity feel like to me?'

My creative identity is entwined in the sessions I lead with other business women. We create together, pondering the best way to convey how a yarn creates the most enticing texture when knitted into a fabric. We play with words and images to best share that with an audience in a way that is loving, intelligent and appealing. I talk with them about their passions and dreams and we help shape goals that allow them to keep developing their own Creative Identity. 

My Creative Identity is also joining up with others to bring a beautiful project to life (stay tuned for some news, there's some magical things ahead I can assure you) in way that I can feel proud of when people ask me what I do for a living. 

However, the Creative Identity that resonates the deepest for me on a daily basis is the side of my crafting that happens in the intimacy of my own home. It binds itself with motherhood, friendships, my home and well being. It's in the moments I withdraw into near silence, the only outward show of my thoughts are as I pause to examine the way a stitch just caught a fleck of colour to stunning effect. I become absorbed, letting hours of stress and to-do lists melt away as I just lose myself in an activity I cherish and adore. 

Wildflowers and season change can spark so much joy

Wildflowers and season change can spark so much joy

It's also watching my daughter as she runs towards me full of exuberance, her little hand clenched around a bunch of new wild flowers. She deposits them happily in front of me and obligingly, I sit naming them all, delighted that she too now celebrates the changing wildlife around us from season to season. Just as I do, she roots herself in the changes mother nature brings, drawing in all that colour and texture into her happy moments each day. She learned that from me and I am so glad to have given it to her.

My creative identity is everything I hoped I could be and more. 

 

 

What does creativity mean to you? If you are making and sharing your creative endeavours this month please do let me know (@aplayfulday on Twitter and Instagram) and as always, it's wonderful to read your blog posts joining in the conversation. I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

#creative_identity

Homemade Nutella (or how I raided the cupboards and won)

It started with some chives. I was trying to explain to the Tot how delicious chives are as we pottered around the garden this weekend. She remains suspicious of anything green so I wondered how I could cook them in a way she would give them a try and not lead to a long conversation about why she wasn’t going to try them.

 

This is getting to the Nutella, I promise.

 

It was perfect timing then that I opened this month’s copy of The Simple Things Magazine and found a ‘Tea Treats’ feature hosted by the blogger Ms Marmite Lover. Included in the selection of treats were cheese and herb muffins which gave us a great excuse for a little harvesting in the herb patch. The Tot helped create the muffins and only mild carnage followed.

It was while tidying away and idly flipping through other recipes in the magazine that I found the recipe for Homemade Nutella. I did a little happy dance when I recognised at least 3 ingredients that I had there and then which meant I could make chocolate spread! (To be fair, one of the ingredients was sea salt so let’s not be too impressed by my larder).

Cheese and Herb Muffins are featured in this month's The Simple Things magazine

Cheese and Herb Muffins are featured in this month's The Simple Things magazine

As is often the case when I start baking, half way through the process I realised I only had half of the correct ingredients and even then, not at the correct quantities. So what now follows is my successful solution to this problem so that you too can have homemade Nutella. I kept some quantities the same such as sea salt as I like a little savoury mixed in with sweet and I made sure it was a little crunchier than recommended because that’s how the Tot and I like peanut butter.

It’s a game changer.

Homemade Nutella

Homemade Nutella

I am an affiliate for The Simple Things because I love gardening, cooking, travel and the comfort to be found in a seasonal look at the gentler things in life. If you’d like to subscribe, please feel free to do so here (affiliate link).

Homemade Nutella

Homemade Nutella

Emergency Rations Homemade Nutella

Ingredients:

150g whole hazelnuts

200g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

100g plain chocolate, broken into pieces

2 tbsp. coconut oil

2 tbsp. icing sugar

½ tbsp. hot chocolate powder

½ tsp vanilla extract

¾ tsp sea salt

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2. Pop the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes, being careful not to scorch.

3. While those are roasting, melt the chocolate.

4. Once the hazelnuts are ready and cool enough to handle, rub them with a rough paper towel to encourage the skins to flake away. You can peel off whatever is missed as you pop them into a blender.

5. Blend along with all other ingredients and distil into jars trying not to lick your fingers too much. 

Should keep for about a month in the fridge although I’d suggest you need to eat it up sooner because it’s delicious.

The Tot agrees…

With a Hint of Autumn Comes Sweaters

There's something about the faint hint of Autumn in the air that makes me quiver with knitterly excitement. It's gone from 'oh-my-word-I-actually-think-I'm-felting-this-yarn-as-I-knit' hot to slightly cooler in the mornings and yesterday I reached for socks. Yes, Autumn is coming and so begins a fresh knitting season. I personally LOVE this moment in time where it's still warm but there's an air of change and a hint of pumpkin, leaf fall and snuggly layers in the breeze. 

It's perfect timing then that I worked to finish a sweater for the Playful Tot. I'm dreadful at finishing off knits so I made myself pull out this little sweater and get some buttons on after a bath as soon as I saw potential for wearing it. The Tot is thrilled. 

Hine in Lush Worsted 

Hine in Lush Worsted 

The design is 'Hine' by Kelly Brooker and I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out. Being a robust little thing, I aimed to knit this with room to grow for the Tot as she's already sporting 2 year plus clothes and not yet hit this milestone birthday (where is time going?!?!?) It came out just right- roomy but ready to wear already so this will hopefully go right through to Spring now. I think this pattern is great for layering which I'm fairly sure is a must for toddlers, or at least it is mine. 

Hine in Lush Worsted

Hine in Lush Worsted

The yarn is Lush Worsted from The Uncommon Thread in the 'Bois' colourway. I love it. It's deep and moody enough to be a tad grown up and add interest to each stitch but warm and rich enough not to make a little girl look too serious. The base fluffs up nicely for a bath too so I think it'll be nice and warm on those chillier mornings. 

The best part was the buttons. I have a much maligned button box that got some serious attention. 3 little buttons with a spare just in case were found that I think are just perfect. What do you think?

Hine in Lush Worsted

Hine in Lush Worsted

You can see more lovely pictures and further project notes here on Ravelry. 

Quiet

I appear to have misplaced my words. As a story teller and professional writer, you can probably imagine how much this distresses me. I've been reluctant to journal, avoiding work and staring at the 'add post' button for days on this blog. 

As a writer and editor I fuss with words. I practice how they sound on the tip of my tongue and I almost certainly have favourites ('ponder' ranks highly in case you were wondering). Not having words is one of the deadliest of afflictions that I can think of. 

In the absence of words, I often turn to my trusted camera and look for moments in the day that might trigger a cascade of words I might not have thought of otherwise. I know things have got really bad when I'm not looking. 

I haven't been looking. 

So today, when I saw a daisy, collected by my daughter, and I wondered how to snap it I felt a glimmer of hope. The despondency might lift yet and I might achieve something this week. Anything would be pretty good at this point, I have to be honest. There's a press release and bio burning a hole in my head, an article that needs tweaking and I need to say something on here right?

Well apparently my daughter's first treasure was the catalyst. An afternoon that was meant to be dire thanks to a predicted downpour was saved by unexpected sun. The rain just never came. So we took our chances and zipped to the swings near the house (just in case, let's not be silly now) and the Tot walked up and down steps for 15 minutes. This is her current favourite thing to do and I'm happy to indulge it because if a skill is worth having, it's worth practising, right? 

Anyway, on the way home she notices daisies for the first time. She toddler squats (you know the one) and examines them for a long time. I pluck one and show her how soft it feels, the colours and the ways you can twirl it in your fingers. Delighted, she carried it all the way home and prompted me to pick up my much maligned camera. 

Funny little things these toddlers. They have a habit of showing you the way.