Archives for April 2013

Genevieve – A Mummy Plus interview

Last month, I kicked of the 2013 series of Mummy Plus interviews by interviewing Owner/Manager of Tatty Bumpkin South East Oxfordshire, Louise Steele. To find out more about this series, and to ‘meet’ Louise and learn why she’s a Mummy Plus, head back to 20 March in the archives and have a read. Oh, and then come back here to meet this month’s Mummy Plus!

For April’s Mummy Plus interview, I caught up with Genevieve Bennet. Genevieve is a textile designer who works mostly with leather, creating stunning bespoke tiles and panels to add a touch of luxury to your home. It’s not just me who rates Genevieve work highly. She was nominated for the Elle Decoration British Design Awards 2012 and has even been commissioned to create a panel for the living area of a royal residence last year. In addition to running this business, Genevieve is also Mum to three-year-old Torben.

You started your business in 2008, before you had Torben. What was that like?
A terrible time to start a business in retrospect given the economic conditions! I had no idea. However, this meant that things were slower starting up than they would have been, so I continued freelancing as well for some time. Now that things are more established I’ve realised that this was a good thing, as I invested time and money in new products and design and now that people seem to be getting the budgets back, everything is ready. The other plus is that it has given me time to really iron out issues and get everything in place, which is so important.

Tell us a bit more about what you do.
I run a business which designs, makes and sells custom made decorative leather wall coverings for the luxury market. I create hand sculpted, engraved and embossed leather tiles and panels which are used as artwork, wallcoverings, within bespoke cabinet furniture, headboards etc. I also design textiles for homeware brands, such as rugs, bed linen and table linen.

What has been your favourite creation so far?
I just created a sculpted leather wall covering for 60 square metre dining room in an private residence in New York. It was made in a beautiful dark grey leather and is a really lovely floral design. It suited the space very well and the client loved it so I was happy.

Who or what inspires you?
Pattern and colour. Amazing craftsmanship. Simple striking pattern. 1930’s decorative arts. Elizabethan armour. Spitalfields silk designs. The list is sort of long, but these immediately spring to mind.

How did you manage ‘maternity leave’ when you run your own business? Did you take any time off?
I did take off ten months, somehow. It coincided with the worst bit of the recession so things were a little quieter. I did find I had a lot of thinking time when my son was very small so I found it weirdly productive creatively. I came up with one of my main products in that time, but really just in my head and some sketches. Then, when I went back to work I made it happen quickly as I had worked out all the details in the middle of the night while awake!

Genevieve and Torben

How do you manage childcare when you’re working?
I have an incredible childminder who has looked after Torben since he was ten months old. I started with her only three days a week, now it is four. I had only planned to keep him with her for six months (then possibly move him to a nursery) but he is so happy and she is so brilliant that I kept it going. She is actually now like family, like another parent to him.

How do you ‘switch off’ when you’re not working?
I am working hard on this. I do yoga and meditate. I make sure I stop at 9pm every night so I have one hour to myself before bed. 10pm is bedtime as I get woken up so early. I do go to the spa every month as I find this is instant relaxation. Or I leave London to visit my parents in Derbyshire.

What’s your biggest challenge at work now… Has it changed over time?
The biggest single problem is having to have an income from the start. I could not just work on my business and invest money waiting for a couple of years to make a profit. I have always had to freelance and split my time, so you are constantly in danger of losing momentum. Now I am finally making the leap and just doing my business, which is very exciting.

If money was no object, what would you do with your time?
Employ someone to do all admin so I could spend all my working time being creative, then I would spend more time with Torben and eventually travel more with him to show him the world.

If you had to describe Torben in just three words, what would you say?
Physical. Funny. Fast.

And finally…

Complete the sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy Plus…’ in no more than 40 words.
‘…a creative energetic person who loves design and art and probably works too much but lucky to make a living from it. Kept sane and happy by incredible friends and family (including the most beautiful son I could ever imagine)’

If you enjoyed this interview, and have more questions you would like to ask Genevieve, please leave a comment below or email me, and I will pass them on.

If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.

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On trying not to drop the glass balls

Whether you work full-time, part-time, or are a stay-at-home-mum, I’m pretty confident that at least once since you had your child (or children), you’ve been asked ‘How do you manage?’ I know I’ve asked it several times – of Mums who seem to have so much more on their plate than I – more work/more kids/less help – it’s hard not to compare and wonder whether you’re doing enough.

On the flip side, though, is that I have been asked the same question – I often think ‘Well I work part-time and I only have one child so how busy can I really be? A friend pointed out recently that actually, I am pretty busy. So, how do I manage? Well, I’m sure I’m not the only one who might respond with ‘I juggle.’

The thing with juggling though, is that it takes some practice, and even experts can drop a ball from time to time. I guess the trick is remembering which balls it’s ok to drop. A long time before I had Mushroom, someone told me a story about juggling – I don’t remember it exactly but it was a metaphor for life (you may have heard something similar) about how some of the balls – family and health stand out but I’m sure there was at least one more – are glass. If you drop these, they might break.

You don't want to drop this ball...

I actually think that family is more than one ball – don’t you? We all have individual relationships with our children, partners, parents, siblings and extended family members (this extends to in-laws if you have them) – that’s quite a lot to keep up with. You might want to throw some of your friends into the mix as well. Then there’s another ball for friends as these are important too, another for health, and so on. It’s tiring just thinking about it! I imagine most of us are juggling other balls too – they may be different for different people but many tie in to these glass ones. For example, although career aspirations may vary, we all need to earn enough money to stay healthy and feed our families – dropping that ball could impact on all the others.

At the moment, I work part-time (in communications) and Mushroom only goes to nursery on the days I work so the rest of the time he’s with me. On these ‘days off’ as they are often laughingly referred to, I spend quality time with Mushroom –  (that’s a glass ball, that one), write two blogs (hence the usual weekly post or less), promote these posts on twitter and other forums as well as other  commitments related to these blogs. I also do the occasional bit of freelance coaching and writing and have started writing a novel (that ball has been dropped several times). Then of course there’s all the usual ‘life’ stuff that everyone has – banking/finance admin, housework/shopping etc. Most of this I do when Mushroom is asleep, which is far less than it used to be (and it wasn’t much to start with) and I think he may drop his lunchtime nap soon (Argh! What will I do? Drop another ball I expect).

So – Of all of this, the most important ‘balls’ for me are immediate family, my job/career (this includes the coaching and writing), my health, my ‘other’ writing (by this I mean personal unpaid projects like pro bono work and my novel) and my friends. Family comes first, alongside my closest friends, but the order of the other balls changes from time to time. Work is too often above health so I’m trying to change this!

How do I manage? Routine, routine, routine. It really does help, although of course it’s good to break the routine once in a while too. Early nights help too – I’m usually in bed before 11, anticipating a 6am start, if not before.

Which are your most important balls? And how do you make sure you don’t drop them?

Photo credit: By audfriday13 at


Mushroom’s microscooter

So, This is partly a post about Mushroom ‘graduating from the mini microscooter with a seat, to the older toddler (from age 3, according to the box!) version and partly a post about how kids always seem to want what others have (tell me it’s not just Mushroom)..!

Back in November last year, Mr B and I decided to buy Mushroom a scooter for Christmas. This decision was based on the fact that he repeatedly stole other children’s scooters every time we went to the park. A sound decision, we thought.

He opened it on Christmas day and could not have been more excited. Initially he rode it with the seat but we could see that he would quickly outgrow this (he’s pretty tall). At first, he would only ride it indoors, taking Cloudbabies’ Baba Green (a toy, obviously) for little trips on the back of it from the living room to the kitchen. We often took this version of the scooter to the park and it was hit and miss whether he would ride it outside. I often ended up carrying it. Just as he started to get more confident riding it outside it became clear he had pretty much outgrown it.

In February we took the seat off. Since then, he has so far he has scooted on it twice. Both times indoors. Outside, he prefers to turn it around and push it as though it’s a buggy with an imaginary child in it. Who knows, perhaps that is what is going on in his little head. What perplexes me though, is this: If we come across another child in the park with a scooter – the same scooter, more often that not – then he will still try to steal it and scoot on it. What is that? Anyone? Or is it really just Mushroom?

Mushroom will only scoot on other people's scooters

Disclosure: Just to be clear – this is not a review. Mushroom just happens to have a microscooter and I have linked to the brand to show which one, in case anyone reading likes the look of it and wants to buy one. Microscooters did not request this post and we did not receive payment for it. We do like the brand though. A lot. Read more about my review policy.


For Best Results Brush Twice Daily (or The Story of Adam and The Tooth Fairy)

I recently posted a question on babyhuddle, asking other parents how they get their toddlers to brush their teeth. I had been having trouble with Mushroom lately, who was point blank refusing to let a toothbrush anywhere near his mouth. I did get some useful answers but as with most of these things that seem insurmountable problems at the time, eventually Mushroom started to brush his teeth again and now he even lets me do it probably about every other day. A massive improvement.

Once he started brushing his teeth again and I was no longer concerned about it, I remembered that my brother had a similar issue when he was young (but older than Mushroom – he was about 7). I did nothing about it at the time, but later, when I wrote a series of children’s stories with ‘morals’ – see Do As You’re Told (or The Story of Julia and The Marmalade Monster for a previous example – during my university years, I remembered this and decided to write a cautionary tale especially aimed at little boys who won’t brush their teeth. If you have a toothbrush resistant child, you could try reading them this little story and seeing if it makes a difference – I would love to know if it does!

For Best Results Brush Twice Daily (or The Story of Adam and The Tooth Fairy)

Adam White was a very interesting little (or not so little) nine-year old boy. He had short blond hair and he wore glasses with big metal frames, which emphasised his beautiful big brown eyes. Adam was a very clever child who usually did as he was told. He collected used envelopes (because everyone collects stamps and Adam liked to be original), which he kept in a big photo album on top of the tank where his pet lizard lived. Adam thought it was ridiculous to name a creature you couldn’t talk to, so he just called it ‘Lizard’. Despite being a very clever boy, Adam hated brushing his teeth. In fact, since he could talk, he had refused to brush them. Adam’s parents, being rather simple people, thought that Adam was a genius and that therefore he probably knew best so they left him to it.

On Sunday night after his bath (for Adam was a clean boy in all other respects), Adam got into bed with a good book, and eventually he fell asleep. At around the hour that strange things happen (midnight, of course), Adam felt a tickle on his cheek. He woke up, rubbed his eyes and reached over to his bedside table for his glasses. When he could see, Adam saw the most beautiful woman in the world. She had dark eyes (they appeared to be purple), a pink, smiling mouth and long, wavy brown hair. Adam thought she must be an angel. Then she spoke. “I’m Esmerelda” she said. “I’m a tooth fairy” and then she smiled. A big, open smile that showed all her teeth. All three of them. Adam blinked. This woman’s teeth were disgusting. The three she did have were black, and small, and her gums appeared to be bleeding. Adam changed his mind about wanting to marry her when he grew up (for this is what he had been thinking). “If you’re a tooth fairy” he said, matter-of-factly, “Then why have you got such horrible teeth?” (Adam was a very honest little boy). Esmarelda laughed “You’re a very honest little boy aren’t you?” Adam sighed. Why do grown-ups always have to state the obvious? “I’m in charge of the rejects” she continued “Come with me”. So Adam went (a thought about not being supposed to go with strangers did briefly cross his mind but he quickly dismissed it). Esmerelda took Adam to a castle. A very old, run-down castle with a rusty gate, but a castle nevertheless. There were about 20 children playing in the courtyard. “I don’t understand.,” said Adam “Why aren’t these children at home in bed?” Esmerelda sighed. She was still beautiful as long as she kept her mouth shut. “These children…..” she said, with a sad look in her eyes “…never brush their teeth.” That was the only explanation she gave and then she disappeared. One of the children turned to smile at Adam, and a fly flew out of his mouth, cockroaches and beetles crawled out of another child’s mouth and a third child, who looked just like Adam, laughed. He had no teeth at all, just black gums that were covered in scabs. Adam screamed and found himself sitting bolt upright in bed, his pyjamas damp with sweat.

As soon as he woke up, Adam rushed straight to the bathroom mirror and when he saw that he still had all his teeth and that they weren’t black, or scabby, or gone altogether (although they were very yellow), he brushed them. He brushed his teeth five times and called to his mother to make a dentist’s appointment. When Adam turned back to the mirror, Esmerelda was smiling back at him…. And she had a perfect set of sparkling pearly white teeth.