Sunday, 15 March 2015

An anatomy of...the Originals

To open, an apology. We have been woefully short of stock in recent weeks, but, (happy days, hallelujah) last week we unpacked some very large boxes full of shiny new Grubbies. And most important of all, our very-much-loved Originals are back in stock.

Originals are where Grubbies began. They are, quite simply, the perfect pair of dungarees. The dungarees we had been looking for when our children were small. The dungarees we had naively assumed would be all our children ever really wore (before we realised kids' fashion had become somewhat more complicated (often, wonderfully so) than when we were children. So...what makes the Originals so darn perfect?

1. Originals work as hard as their wearers. Little people work very hard. When you're just starting out, even toddling and sitting up straight is hard work, let alone the other stuff you want to get done. A spot of climbing. Garden gymnastics. Riding ride-ons, scooters, bikes, skateboards, Grandpas. Leaf stomping. Sand castling. Tree climbing. Playgroups. Playdates. Parks. Puddles. Originals were designed with hard work in mind. Bags of room to move comfortably and robust enough to withstand years of play (and 1,000s of washes).

2. Originals are easy on and easy off. We were a little surprised (nervous!) when first launching Grubbies that not all folks thought dungarees were as child-perfect as we did. The antipathy derived, it turned out, from an abundance of caution in the potty department. It has been a relief to later learn from customers that most children are little Houdinis confidently mastering the quick release of their Originals and, more leisurely, pulling them up again. And the wonderful thing about dungarees is that once they're on, they stay put. No tucking in untucked tops or struggling with fiddly belts or untying ties. And don't even get us started on builders' bottoms. Originals = no builder's bottom. We're not sure we have to say much more than that.

3. Originals look cool as cats on boys and girls. In an ideal world, would we like young children's clothing to be unisex? Well, for our part, not entirely - there are days for flippy summer dresses and days for spiderman suits. But for a great number of days in between, girls and boys are pretty much getting on with the same sort of stuff and there really isn't any sensible reason to expect little girls to wear clothes that are occasionally a touch inappropriate, sometimes impractical and, repeatedly, disproportionately, pink. It is a source of great delight, but no real surprise, that Originals have been just as popular with girls as with boys. I mean, who wouldn't want to look this cool, seriously?

4. Originals are all about the detailing. Yes, we like to keep things simple, but we certainly don't like to be boring and believe us, there us a lot of design in this kind of simple. We love how the piping and distinctive back-pocket embroidery, along with authentic denim hardware, give our Originals a timeless quality that looks completely contemporary but wouldn't look out of place in our own childhood photos. Oh, and it's all change this season. We've replaced our poppers with buttons which we hope everyone loves as much as we do. Although it happens rarely with Grubbies, it's always irritated us that when a popper pops off any of our children's clothes, it's basically sayonara to the outfit. But even the unhandiest of handyworkers can sew back on a button. It's all part of making Grubbies hand-downable. (And on that subject, note please how the straps on our Originals have a choice of two lengths - there's another year of wear, right there.)

Finally, another change this season. For the first time we have made our dungarees outside Great Britain, a decision we made with not a little heartache, but sad to say, we've found it increasingly difficult (and this season, impossible), to find a factory in the UK who can make Grubbies at a quality we insist on and a price that our loyal and lovely customers can reasonably be expected to pay. Our initial sadness has been greatly alleviated by the arrival of the new stock with a quality of finish that we are proud to call Grubbies. We've also been buoyed by being able to drop the price a little - how we'd love one day to calculate the cost per wear of our trusty Originals. It must be pennies.

Back in stock are Originals in all sizes with poppy or denim piping. To celebrate the arrival of new season stock, we are offering free postage and packaging to UK customers for the whole of April at our new price of £35 a pair. This way please.

So that’s the Originals in a nutshell. Do you agree with what we think makes them a true wardrobe staple? Would you change anything if you could? And let us know how you find those buttons!

Photo credits:  Customer "bottom" photos with thanks to Roi, Charlie and Freya.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Notes on a Grubbies Christmas...Sugar cookies and Grubbies Christmas countdown

Note 17: Sugar cookies

Until fairly recently I wasn't entirely sure what a sugar cookie was (compared to any other kind of sugary cookie you might choose to bake). I now know that they are those pale as pale, slightly shortbready biscuits that provide the perfect platform for clever bakers to show off their sugar craft. Sugar cookies don't spread on the tray. They hold their shape and look pretty much the same when they come out of the oven than before they went in. This makes them ideal for cookie cutting with children. In recent years, sugar cookies have been right up there with mince pies and gingerbread as a Christmas baking tradition in our house.

I don't yet have a go-to recipe. The recipe I used this year was from the US blogger, Glory Albin of Glorious Treats which worked well, although I did have to add some milk as the mixture was too crumbly to roll out. Possibly our local eggs aren't as big as the ones in California.*

Glory’s blog, like much of Pinterest in December, is awash with Christmas sugar cookie ideas that will either inspire you or leave you terrified. For example:

You probably already know whether you are capable of such transcendence. I wasn’t prepared to have an embarrassing Pinterest fail so close to Christmas and we did something rather more child and idiot-proof.

The cookies on this occasion were for a charity cinema night that we helped my little girl organise for the local hospice who looked after her Granny last year. The selected film was Barbie: A Perfect Christmas. It doesn’t come recommended by me, but its themes of Christmas magic, spoilt orphans, sisterhood and pop stars seems to be a favourite with five and six year olds. The guests traded in their purchased tickets for not particularly festive popcorn and hotdogs, but the centrepiece was this tree (picked up for peanuts) adorned with our glittered Barbie-pink cookie baubles. We’re not a very pink family as a general rule, but I have to admit it did look rather pretty.

* I confess I often look across the Pond for baking recipes. No offence to our homegrown bloggers, but my rather slapdash approach to baking generally leads me to prefer the American way of cooking with cups and spoons rather than painstakingly weighing everything out.

Note 18: Grubbies Christmas Countdown continues

Today is the second day of the Grubbies Christmas countdown. Order today and get 15% off everything you buy, plus free P&P on all UK orders. Just use discount code "Twinkle15" at checkoutOffer expires midnight tonight (Tuesday).

Don't forget that Thursday 19th is the last shopping day for guaranteed Christmas delivery.

Photo credits: Turquoise and reindeer: Tasty Food Snacks; Pastel snowflakes: Glorious Treats; Red and white: A Blog for This and That

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Notes on a Grubbies Christmas...Gingerbread, Christmas music and Grubbies Christmas countdown

Note 14: Gingerbread

Do you bake at Christmas?

Never mind mince pies and Christmas cake, it's the gingerbread and sugar cookies that the children in our house get most excited about at Christmas. Gingerbread men are one of our family's festive traditions. The children love eating them and I love how they fill the house fills with that spicy gingery, wintery smell. I have a recurring daydream that one year (one year) I will attempt a homemade (no kit) gingerbread house and invite over a crowd of nicely behaved and grateful children to help decorate it with smarties and jelly tots. 

But we're not in that league yet. In fact, this Note was intended to lament my annual battle to bake halfway acceptable gingerbread men. More than once, they have merged into one blob in the oven (one year I even resorted to re-cutting them after baking which was a bit desperate and predictably unsuccessful). More usually, they come out strangely bloated. And while puffiness isn't necessarily fatal for gingerbread men (you can always put a Santa hat on them), my dreamed-of cottage will presumably require a bit more consistency and structural integrity.

But, right on cue, this batch and came out of the oven looking perfectly golden and man-shaped and tasted like they smelled, spicy and syrupy perfection. It is then with more confidence that we can share our go-to family gingerbread recipe.*

You will need:

12oz (340g) plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsps ground ginger (Or as much as the children will let you get away with. Buy a new one. The one left over from last Christmas won’t taste of anything no matter how much you pile in.)
4oz (112g) butter (We use unsalted but you could experiment if not for children.)
6oz (170g) light muscovado sugar
4 tbsps golden syrup (Try heating the spoon on the gas ring before plunging it into the pretty can. It makes a satisfying noise and syrup slips off easily.)
1 egg beaten


Pre-heat oven to 190c/Gas 5. Lightly grease baking tray(s) or line with baking parchment.

Mix flour, ginger and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl and rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar. Add the syrup and egg and mix until you get a dough. This can take a while, so don’t lose heart. Use your hands.

Roll them out on a floured surface not too thick and not too thin. As  a guide, the original recipe says 5mm. Put in the top of the oven and watch for them to turn golden brown (10-12 minutes).

* The recipe is originally from the fabulous Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book. Obviously there is nothing inconsistent or structurally unsound about the recipe (as opposed to the baker).

Note 15:  New Christmas soundtrack

I baked these gingerbread men wearing an Anthropolgie apron and listening to my favourite new Christmas album, which may have contributed to their success. The Grubbies office has spent much of December listening to the same soundtrack, A Very She and Him Christmas. She and Him is the collaboration between the folk artist M. Ward and the generally talented and beautiful Zooey Deschanel and their Christmas album is all sugary nostalgia and angelic voices.  Time "A Christmas Wish" for the bit when the tray goes in the oven and the house starts to fill with gingery promise.

Note 16: The Grubbies Christmas Countdown

Today marks the start of the Grubbies Christmas countdown. As a gift for all our twinkly customers, we are offering a discount on every shopping day until Christmas but don't think too long about it. The faster you shop, the more you save:

Monday, 16 December: Use discount code "Twinkle20" for 20% off your whole order and free UK delivery. Offer expires midnight Monday.

Tuesday, 17 December: Use discount code "Twinkle15" for 15% off your whole order and free UK deliveryOffer expires midnight Tuesday.

Wednesday, 18 December: Use discount code "Twinkle10" for 10% off your whole order and free UK delivery. Offer expires midnight Thursday, 19th.

Remember that Thursday 19th is the last shopping day for guaranteed Christmas delivery.

Merry Monday!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Notes on a Grubbies Christmas...Nativity Sets for children and our cool as Christmas Outlaws

Note 12: Child-friendly nativity sets

If you’ve been following our Christmas Notes, you’ll already have met this chap, El Caganar. He sits alongside beautifully crafted nativity figures gathered over the years from all over Europe. It’s a “look don’t touch” type of Nativity set that children (and one day grandchildren) will gaze at in awe.

For little hands though, a more child-friendly nativity set will help them learn the Christmas story (if you want them to) through play. Here are our favourites:

Fair trade children’s nativity set by Lanka Kade

This atmospehric hand painted, mdf nativity is robust enough for staging your own nativity play. Unlike a lot of children’s sets, the characters are not childlike and all the main players are there, including two pretty angels and some cheerful animals. Baby Jesus and the crib are separately carved and children will enjoy taking him in and out of his manger. £20.95 from Tickety-Boo

Nativity nesting dolls by Ingela P Arrhenius for OMM Design

Children love nesting dolls and these ones will be a colourful addition to a stocking for Christmas morning play. Durable resin plastic and cheerful retro design by Swedish illustrator, Ingela P Arrhenius, they will have a place in your Christmas decoration box years after the children lose interest. £19 from (the brilliant) The Kid Who

Carddies Nativity Set

We have long been big fans of Carddies (I can’t remember the last children’s party where we didn’t give Carddies). Ideal for travel or rainy afternoons, this set has 12 hand drawn characters for colouring front and back, a stable scene and great colouring pencils. Beautiful quality; we have never seen our children colour so carefully as when they have a box of Carddies. We also love that, like Grubbies, Carddies are a family business and made in Britain. Stocking filler perfection. £8.99 from Carddies through Amazon 

Note 13: The Outlaws

Another Christmas gift for you. Until tomorrow, get 15% off Grubbies Outlaws, our baggy fit, low slung dungarees which are built for adventure and make little boys and girls look as cool as Christmas. Choose from toffee or poppy red piping and back pocket embroidery and enter the code "Outlaws15" at the Grubbies shop. Don't forget, there is free P&P on all UK orders until Christmas.

Merry Friday!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Notes on a Grubbies Christmas...Santaphobia, a refreshing Nativity and the Gummies

Note 9: Santaphobia*

Are your children frightened of Father Christmas?

We’ve had a few bust-ups with Jolly St. Nick over the years. We did the obligatory grotto visit when our eldest daughter was about to turn one. She howled; I tried desperately to catch a decent photo. Year two, she appeared genuinely excited as we queued on Southend-on-Sea pier to see Santa.**  But as soon as the Elf called her name, she inhaled deeply and then threw herself at me screaming, genuinely terrified. Dear old Santa even stepped outside his grotto to say a gentle hello but it didn’t help. She briefly recovered long enough to accept the offered gift (“Aged 2-3, Girl” – don’t blame ELC, it starts in Lapland) but was visibly shaking when I strapped her in the car. I felt dreadful.

First trip to Santa's Grotto. One for the family album.
The following year, she refused to let me put her stocking in her room and we agreed to hang it on her door. She had always been a very careful child and, quite reasonably, she decided she did not like the idea of a large, bearded stranger creeping around her room when she slept. Perhaps that is why some families (is it an American thing?) hang stockings over the fireplace (or radiator) rather than in bedrooms.

Our daughter is now five. I really, really hope she believes in Father Christmas and I assume, if only because she’s five, that she must. But, and I admit this very tentatively, neither of our children seem quite as excited about a visit from St. Nicholas as I remember being. I don’t know what it is. A friend has the theory that these lucky, lucky children of ours are capable of less wonder than the generations before them. They are Disneyed and wowed out. That same friend just got back from one of those glitzy Lapland long weekends and was disappointed to observe that the main event, the audience with the Big Man, fell a little flat with anyone under 30. In fact, when asked for the highlight of the chilly weekend, her three year old said, “Seeing a reindeer”. Her five year old offered, “Beating Mum at Connect 4”.***

Still not entirely sure.
Santaphobia, as it turns out, is not unusual. offers some helpful tips to keep your children happy long enough to capture the prize grotto photo. If that seems a bit like unnecessary torture, then perhaps keep your family Santa tradition a bit more arm’s length. If you haven’t found it already (and we’re sure you have), Portable North Pole is a brilliant way to bring the grotto to your home and it had the children completely fooled. Or, just write him a letter. I'm afraid you’ve missed the early December deadline for the Royal Mail’s charming reply service (Santa needs time to reply to the 800,000 British children who write to him every year) and similar services offered by charities including the NSPCC and RNIB. We don’t tend to get round to Santa letters until much nearer Christmas in our house, but in any event, the children don’t expect a reply. The real excitement comes on Christmas morning when you find out whether your letter made it to the North Pole, whether you've been too naughty or just nice enough and, more importantly, whether your wished for toy was "in stock".

Note 10: The Nativity Play II

Since writing our previous note on the trials and triumphs of The Nativity Play, I was reminded about the refreshing approach taken by a little local pre-school where one of the Grubbies clan used to go.  
Theirs was an entirely child-led Christmas production. Children chose their own parts resulting in two Marys, a four year old Baby Jesus (wearing trendy onesie pyjamas) and just the one king. If they didn't like the suggested costume, they just wore whatever they fancied. There were a few hiccups - Baby Jesus tried to open one of the offerings and had to be reminded he was only a baby. The Innkeeper, when asked if he had a stable instead of a room said "Sorry, no, I absolutely haven't got a stable either". After the Nativity, the children each took to the stage and sung a song or did the sort of expressive, interpretive dances that only three and four year olds can do. It may have been a less polished performance than those we are treated to at big school, but I bet the parents and children will treasure the memory for many years.

The Innkeeper/Narrator/Soloist in his favourite outfit waits for his big moment.
Note 11: The Gummies

Today's Christmas present is 15% off our snuggly, jersey-lined, beautifully-soft Gummies, perfect for the tiniest boys and girls wriggling to escape from Santa. This year you can choose a festive poppy red zip (extra long for emergency exits to save fiddling with poppers). Use discount code "Gummies15" at check-out until tomorrow (13 December). Like Santa, P&P on UK Grubbies orders is free until Christmas.

*Probably not a word.

** I have no idea if the same Father Christmas still mans the grotto on Southend-on-Sea pier but in case you are down that way, the one we met was a fabulously authentic model, all silvery hair, bona fide beard, rouged cheeks and deep, kindly voice.

*** Speaking very personally, I never fancied the idea of transporting the family to Lapland to meet Santa in the flesh. If you are tempted, then Sophie Butler over at the Telegraph is an authority on the subject.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Notes on a Grubbies Christmas...Holiday Bauble Shopping and Grubbies Originals

Note 7: Buying baubles on holiday

Do you buy baubles when you go on holiday?

Ever since I bought this bauble (Amsterdam, 1980), I have bought a Christmas decoration as a souvenir of every holiday.

In the height of summer, in the most un-Christmassy places, there are decorations to be found and so we can't be the only ones. Did you know for example you can buy Buddhist monk baubles in Thailand? Well, there we go.

All children love unpacking decorations in December and remembering what went on the tree last year. With holiday baubles, as the children grow up, Christmas tree decorating becomes a session of happy "Oh look, do you remember whens".

The habit gives a purpose to souvenir hunting when on holiday and, importantly, permits you to buy those types of souvenirs you wouldn't otherwise be inclined to clutter your house with (the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Provencal donkey).

If you are a fellow bauble shopper, can I politely suggest you visit Naples some year soon. In Naples, we discovered, the local artisans specialise in nativity figures. This little chap is El Caganer, a traditional feature of the nativity scene in Spain and was a present from a Spanish au pair who rightly assumed that two young boys would find it hysterical. 

El Caganer, to the best of my understanding, roughly translates as "The Crapper". Charming. If you are interested in learning more, can we direct you to Wikipedia which very helpfully provides no less than fourteen "possible reasons for placing a figure representing a person in the act of excreting waste in a scene which is widely considered holy". Every year he takes his place near our crib (France), alongside the crippled beggar (Italy), the camels (Turkey) and the praying children (Portugal).

Of course, once added to the results of the children’s craft sessions and inherited baubles fondly remembered from childhood, you end up with a rather uncoordinated, yet beautiful and personal, tree, simply dripping with memories.

Note 8: Grubbies Originals

Today's twinkly offer is for our Grubbies Originals, the ideal tree decorating attire for helpful little boys and girls. Beautifully made and built to last, our Originals are simply the perfect denim dungarees just like you used to wear. They are fabulously cool and cosy over our long-sleeved tees teamed with a chunky Christmas cardi cardi or just your best friend. Now available with festive poppy red piping and embroidered pockets. You have until tomorrow to get 20% off our Originals (and free P&P until Christmas). Use the code "Originals20" at checkout.

Merry Wednesday!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Notes on a Grubbies Christmas...the Nativity Play, the Christmas Bookshelf and Kerchiefs straight out of the Wild West

Note 4: The Nativity Play

Were you ever Mary? You'd probably remember if you were. All those children gathered round looking on with envy as wise men and shepherds lay gifts at your feet, the tallest boy in the class rests his arm on your shoulder and you get to sit really, really close to the baby doll.

Yasmin Alibhai Brown wrote in the Independent this week that, unless you had flaxen hair and fair skin as a child, you probably didn't get a plum role like Mary and Joseph. You were more likely to be the second innkeeper or the back end of a donkey. And the more I think about the various nativity plays I've watched over the years, the more I think Yasmin is right. As lovely as all the Marys have been, I can't think of one that was a non-blonde, which I should have thought, for a Galilean Jew, was quite unusual. I might also observe grumpily, that like a bride at her wedding, Mary is generally mute and it's down to Jo to confidently make the hotel arrangements.

And perhaps there is a problem with primary schools in December. Mary, Angel Gabriel and the Narrators have a month of centre stage and glorification. Plenty of other children sit bored round the edges, grateful only that spelling and numeracy appear to have been forgotten for the time being. I always have a quiet admiration for the bored, disinterested children in school plays. There is a hint of stubborn rebellion in their yawns and infernal fiddling.

And, I only recently found out, many of the boys feel acute horror at wearing a dress. It genuinely never occurred to me that four and five year old boys would be upset by their biblical tunics. In our school it wasn't so bad for the reception class who put on the Nativity. But the whole of my daughter's class was cast as the "Night Sky" and girls and boys alike were allocated a long navy silk "tunic" and a sequinned blue bolero. My daughter couldn't believe her luck. Many of the boys came in that morning in tears.

Yet, however you're cast, the Nativity Play is an abiding memory for most of us. I admire wholeheartedly the attempts of brave primary schools trying to do something a little different, but it's difficult to beat the tears and tea towels of the traditional Nativity.

Note 5: The Christmas Bookshelf

One of our family's favourite Christmas books, The Nativity Play, captures its subject to perfection.* Tracy, the angel, feels beautiful in her sheet and halo but wonders why she doesn't have a magic wand. The other angels torture their audience with their recorders. One of the shepherds waves at his Dad. It's a subtly witty little picture book that young children will love and identify with at this time of year.

This year we have found another Nativity bedtime treat in Nicholas Allen's Jesus' Christmas Party, the story of a grumpy Innkeeper struggling to sleep as a parade of visitors, a blinding light and an exulting angelic chorus descend on his outhouse. Nicholas Allen wrote almost all of my children's favourite books which, with titles like Father Christmas Needs a Wee, The Queen's Knickers and Cinderella's Bum, may say something about my children.

Note 6: Our retro Western Kerchiefs

Whatever happened to the Cowboy Carol? It was the hands down favourite when I was at school and even had the back end of the donkey joining in. Our "Wild Horses" and "Coyote" kerchiefs are the perfect stocking fillers for spirited cowboys and little girls who are bored of mermaids and princesses. Illustrated, printed and hand sewn in Great Britain, they feature quirky, perfectly vintage designs by children's book illustrator, Marion Lindsay. You have until midnight tomorrow (Wednesday, 11 December) to get 15% off any of our Kerchiefs (and with free P&P on all UK orders until Christmas). When shopping, use the discount code "Kerchief15" to grab your Christmassy discount.

* The Nativty Play incidentally is by Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen who need no introduction (Kipper, Wibbly Pig, Percy the Parkeeper). Mick Inkpen also wrote Lullbyhullabaloo, which you don't often hear mentioned, but which is one of the very best children's books we own.

Photo credits:  Nativity cartoon by 
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