Saturday, 29 April 2017

Califorina Dreaming

Tobyboo has had a break the last couple of weeks, the 3 of us have just come back from an amazing trip round California. We landed in L.A. and was taken on a brief tour to the Hollywood stars of fame malarky and Chinese theatre by my cousin. Most handprints meant nothing to Toby... then he found Emma Watson.

We only had 2 nights in L.A. and spent the second of it in Hogsmede - well The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. When we went to park and was told that only northern American disabled people counted as disabled (?) they really need to sort out their accessibility. 

If you do have a disability then Universal Studios really isn't the place for you - the rides are much more aggressive than somewhere like Disneyland. I was looking forward to going on 'Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey' and should have known from the seating that I wasn't exactly going to enjoy it - strapped in 'Robo-coaster' chair most of it was swung about horizontally, I was so scared my eyes were shut so I didn't see the film! I wish they had a more accessible version. 

Rides like the Minions one, that I thought would be quite general ended up in being aggressive too! (that one was fun though) 

After the L.A. heat and sun we drove to Sequoia National Park and to 5ft snow. Staying at the Wuksachi Lodge which was welcoming and as Toby says "very nice"

The following day we walked though torrential rain, Toby managed to get this shot of General Sherman - the biggest tree in the world! (in volume, says Toby) only staying one night we then moved on to the home of Apple screen savers, Yosemite National Park. 

Yosemite didn't disappoint at all - the only thing I can say is the hotel we stayed in had so much to do it was hard to leave. Tanya Lodge had lots of activities from night time hikes to archery, the hotel itself had 2 pools and in the evening a games room that showed films so if you go with kids be warned they might kick up a fuss going out!

Yes Toby did get a couple of bulleyes - no Bully Bull but a hat prize!

After a wonderful 3 night stay we were in the car again heading to San Francisco. I couldn't wait to go there and the place completely lived up to the hype. From the moment you head in you get such a feel of the place - with only 3 nights we sadly didn't get to see much of it at all but who knows maybe in 10 years time we might get to go again (our last big holiday was 10 years ago - in fact our only big holiday was 10 years ago).

View from the hotel - Hilton on Union Square

did get me sketching

and more sketching.

Waving bye bye to the bridge we were on the road again - this time heading down the coast to Carmel. A beautiful spot - again only one night here but it was enough. 

Heading south we stopped at Monterey - Kinder eggs are illegal in the States and yet sweet cigarettes aren't .... go figure.

Bubblegum Alley - yes an alley whose walls are covered in bubble gum.

Next stop - Santa Barbara. Yes, more beautiful coastline, sea otters (only saw heads bobbing and didn't have the camera handy) only one night here and then back in on the road - just not the coastal one because it was shut which meant we didn't get to do the Big Sur.

Back where we started - one last night in L.A. this time seeing what we were really after - a trip to Griffiths Park and the observatory - Toby was in his element - an observatory that was also in La La Land (the boy loves the film) which lead us to our final days visit - Warner Brothers Studio Tour.

More La La Land

He'll be there for you - on the set of Friends

This was expensive which is why only Toby and I went, but so worth it - it's a 3 hour tour on a small open tour bus. You don't know what your going to get because in small groups your guide almost tailors it to you - she got a 'yay' on the mention of Gilmore Girls and no reaction on 'The Big Bang Theory' which meant she showed us more of Stars Hollow. Being a working studio, you don't know what or who you'll see but you do get to get out of the buses and walk around - get shown on a set (not while filming is going on) and see the pre production side too.

Meeting up with Dave after we went on to see the Getty Museum - this place needs 2 days not 2 hours, just an incredible collection.

On the way back to the airport we stopped at Santa Monica, a play on the beach and then headed on the flight home.

We booked through Virgin Holidays - who did do us a great deal if we'd have booked the hotels independently there's no way we would have got the deals they got for us so I would recommend. Looking back, I wish we did San Francisco to San Francisco rather than L.A.  but I've got a feeling that it was cheaper doing that way - SF really does deserve about 4 days minimum. If you go to the National Parks with kids, make sure you do the junior ranger - in the information centres, sign up for an activity sheet when they complete it and hand it in theres a scout like ceremony and they get a badge - and yes its free.

If you have younger kids or any aches and pains I wouldn't recommend Universal at all - I came out in agony. If you are a blue badge holder, hopefully the parking might now be changed as they were shocked that the staff only counted Americans and Canadians as disabled and promised this would be corrected but do bear in minds that the rides aren't really geared up for wheelchair users. 

I'd defiantly recommend the Warner Brother Studio Tour, don't expect it to be like its sister in Leavesdon (Harry Potter Studio Tour) but they do try and milk HP and have lots of exhibits even though none of it was filmed there. Toby didn't know any of the programmes or films they were talking about but though it was fantastic just seeing a glimpse of Hollywood film making.

We had car hire throughout expect in San Fran, where we used buses, street cars and yes did queue for an hour for a cable car (and you will have to queue). 

I'd so recommend a trip like this if you've been thinking about it - yes it will take us ages to pay off (hotels, flights and car hire through Virgin Holidays approximately £4500) the credit card but in a couple of years time the boy won't be that happy about coming on a trip with us, this is a priceless memory for all 3 of us. 

Monday, 27 March 2017


Ok this is not the first time this has happened and I'm tired of it now - Debenhams under the 'Ben De Lisi' name have a new range - I genuinely thought I had done it without knowing if it had the illustrations alone thats one thing way too many people doing wonky bad line images but adding the text like that is my signature. People have thought this is my work and therefore to me it is theft.

I'm not accusing the people at the top of the chain, but they need to look at just what their in house design team does. Carola Van Dykes beautiful designs have been royally ripped off by them too - Debenhams, look at who you are paying - you are paying them to steal. I would give you - yes give you one of my designs rather than you pay some graduate with no ideas of their own little. Because as a true artist - designer I have shed loads of ideas and thoughts - I don't need to rip off ideas.

and by the way - maybe you need to check just how educated they are too - London Bridge? no its Tower Bridge Littlewoods - sorry Debenhams!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Forest Hill

So today I turned half of 90, not much you do as an adult for your birthday but alongside some Lego I got taken out for brunch by a friend to glorious underrated Forest Hill.

If its not enough that the South East London borough has the Horiman Museum it also is home to some of the capitals finest independent shops and cafes.

Canvas & Cream is not only a fantastic eatery but also is home to art in the C&C gallery, I'd be quite happy to get the train just to come here to be honest.

THE only haberdashery shop that also feels like something out of Bagpuss, Stag & Bow. This treasure trove of threads, fabric and pins also has art, gifts by local designers and runs courses. If you have a sewing machine or knitting needles you would be mad not to visit.

After getting your fill of threads from Stag & Bow I can highly recommend a coffee and cake in The Archie Parker - I didn't visit today because I was too full from early but I did pop into Sugar Mountain. This sweet treat of a place is 80's heaven I had no idea it was there until today! Ice cream sitting in a booth with an E.T. and Back to the Future posters what more could you ask for? oh yes a Metal Mickey annual to hand!

SE23 has a heck of a lot to offer, if you haven't taken a look then go! especially if you're on the orange line (you know the overground).

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Badges of Pride

Today I was working in a museum without my sewing machine! I did feel sort of naked to start with because, well thats what I do isn't it? stitch? not today, I was back to my children TV roots with 'makes' and was very lucky to be a part of the National Maritime Museums Rainbow Week for LGBT History Month (#LGBTHM17).

Kicking off with the London Gay Men's Chorus (who were just amazing), rainbow ships, mermaids, cross dressing pirate stories and I got to help children make their own version of a ships badge (ships badges took over from figure heads - showing the identity of the vessel, think of it as a boat family crest) the idea was to look at your identity and how you could sum it up in simple image and colours - its not as easy as it sounds! I took a sewing machine and made it into a penguin feeding its chick mother/sewing being pretty much me, and well I like green so that worked.

Penelope's fruit filled jelly was fantastic! (and very original!)

Dragons were popular

as were bunnies

rainbow girl did an beautiful rainbow

Thank you to everyone that joined in, I am exhausted it was so busy! Please take a look at events round the country for LGBTHM in museums as there are some fantastically fun ones about for half term. 

Friday, 30 December 2016


Ah, almost 2017. 2016's not been that great overall and there's a day to go....

My dad has been in hospital the last few days, he's got pneumonia. He's been in and out of hospital for as far back as I can remember and somehow has been unbreakable but his luck is running out. For someone who's had a history of heart trouble, strokes, kidney trouble, diabetes, gout, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and who knows what I've left off he's done pretty good for an 83 year old.

Before I we got married I remember being in tears that I wouldn't have my dad walking down the aisle because I thought he'd be dead, I never thought he'd see a grand-child from us - he did. We are incredibly lucky - he's lived to see his four children as adults and have children of there own there's not much to be sad about. So well done dad, I've no idea if you've got minutes, hours or days left but what is there to be sorry about? 55 years ago today my parents got married, we need to change the way we see old age and life - we need to hear more "well done" instead of "I'm sorry" or "I hope he improves".

My nephews didn't have the luxury of knowing their father as an adult, friends never knowing their children for more than minutes, and children not knowing their mothers so what's to feel sorry about for someone getting to the end of the game; which is pretty much the point of life isn't it?

Well done dad. You played a good game but chess has to end sometime.
Happy Anniversary Mum & Dad.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Sew Proud

Toby has been asking me for over a year to teach him to sew... I've been slightly rubbish and put him off. I've got two machines and I always said he could start no the domestic machine that works at normal speed. Last week I was thread drawing at the Golden Lane Estate Christmas fair and when put on the spot by him I couldn't say no and I had the faster semi industrial machine with me.

I thought I'd have to go through lots with him, turns out he's seen me so much he took to it like a duck to water.... I was hugely proud!

Toby age 9, very first attempt at thread drawing

second go - this is Bloo 2 - his favourite bear

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Another Brick in the Wall

This week has been very exciting if you live in London and like Lego and Harry Potter. On Thursday both the new Lego Store in Leicester Square and 5 minutes round the corner Minalima opened its doors to an exhibition of the artwork featured in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (but more on that one later this week)

Leicester Square has been quite a dull crowded part of London unless that is if you like M&M's so much that you want to have all senses drowned in them at M&M's world (why? yes why?), it's not bad for collecting Pokemon and obviously tip top for the most expensive cinema tickets in the country but now there is one reason to go above all others - that of the plastic brick.

The world's largest Lego Store has opened up! I went on the first day of opening which meant thirty minutes of queuing to get in but honestly worth every second - every detail of the place is fantastic and feels more like a theme park than a shop. The only thing missing was everyone had their arms filled with boxes to pay for and no shopping baskets! Surely you'd have giant brick shaped baskets, or giant head ones? Come on Lego!! Exclusives in store was a fabulous London skyline set - 9 out of 10 - would have been a 10 if it had St Paul's Cathedral but oddly had the National Gallery.

 Lego Store mascot - Leicester (do you think he voted leave?)

 A shocked Toby - a Lego tube with Shakespeare?! 

 Huge excitement when he saw the tube map made from bricks
 Obviously you'd have a red ringing phone box, you can't walk around London without seeing them!

Well done Lego - there was something for everyone but more so for middle aged men who seemed to dominate the shop!

PS: Dear Lego, why is are there no Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them sets? Surely its not just me that wants a Lego Niffler in a jewellery shop set?!

+44 (0) 207 839 3480
Store Hours
Mon-Sat: 10:00-22:00

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Our Cursed Child

The Toby in the Boo turned 9 this month, we celebrated by seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which I shall not mention except to say it 100% lives up to the hype! #keepthesecrets
JK Rowling got Toby through so much, he used to have night terrors and extreme misery, at 5 he started reading Harry Potter and didn't stop but the night terrors did and he felt like he had friends in the pages. His love of reading continues to grow.

I've been working on pieces inspired by our own cursed child. 
He's been through so much misery in the past and maybe its worse because he can express himself really well - the other week he said "I feel like I'm in an olympic race and someones put 100kg weights in my shoes". 
He is profoundly gifted and feels held back and trapped because he wants more challenging school work, I started doing this embroidery and explained to him about Bonsai trees how their roots are cut to stunt their growth. He liked the concept and said "if you feel like putting the roots wrapped round my neck I think it might be an idea" 
Bonsai Boy 2016
Too much crammed into one tiny brain (and I don't mean mine)

with huge thanks to Denise at Potential Plus UK and Lyn at Mensa - we are so grateful for your advice and help and to JK Rowling for helping a 5 year old find friends in books when he couldn't in the playground.