Catarina and Russ, London

Today, we’re going to London downtown to meet Cat, her husband Russ and their three daughters, Evie 12, Lulu 9 and Claudia, 6 years.

All together they live in Little Venice, not far from Regent’s Park. Both are originally from New Zealand. Russ, 51, is an architect, and Cat, 42, is the founder of the lovely kids’ brand, Smalls.They moved to London 18 years ago. They now live in a 3 bedroom 1950’s mews house.

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IN THE CITY

What do you like in your city?

I love the diversity and culture in London. It is a truly unique and inspiring city to live in. You can go from the edgy shops and cafes of East London, to the beautiful streets of Notting hill and Marylebone, then take in an old master at the National Gallery. Every part of London has its own amazing history, story and personality.

We have lived all over the city but we love Maida Vale and can’t imagine living in a different part of London now. Little Venice is the jewel of London in my opinion with its beautiful canals, gorgeous pubs and hidden communal gardens.

Claudia in Maida Vale's streets
Claudia in Maida Vale’s streets

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Is it easy to live in London when you ‘re a family?

Even though we often hanker after a laid back life in New Zealand, London is a great place to be with children. 47% of London is green space which is huge for a urban environment, so there is always a beautiful park handy. All of the big museums and galleries in London are free so it means you can visit any time without a second thought. They can be busy, but the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum are all incredible and within minutes walk from each other in South Kensington. It is easy to have a good time in London if you know how, without spending a fortune, and the local councils and museums put on some amazing activities for kids in the holidays.

Worshop at the National Portrait Gallery
Workshop at the National Portrait Gallery

What do you like doing with your kids in the city ?

As a family, we really try to make the most out of living here. We have membership to the Royal palaces so we love visiting the Tower of london, Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace. Kew Gardens is another big favourite and a great way of watching the seasons change.

We visit friends in East London, go to the Tate, meet friends for pub lunches in Winter and spend most Sundays at the farmers market in Marylebone followed by a coffee at the Providores on Marylebone High St. We also often meet with Emma, my associate and friend, and her sweet family.

Bicycle training in Maida Vale Private Gardens
Bicycle training in Maida Vale Private Gardens

In which museums do you go with your children ?

My personal favourite art gallery is the Tate Britain. Its a perfect size to get around with the children and they often have kids activities on in the weekdends. Not that the Tate Modern isn’t completely awe inspiring…from the art to the architecture. We all love wandering around the fashion section at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Sommerset house optent has wonderful exhibitions on and has a spectacular outdoor ice skating rink during the winter. The fountain outside is brilliant to play chase with if you’re brave !

There are brilliant places to visit and enjoy the sometime greusome history of London… the Museum of London, the Tower of London and the London Dungeons. The British Museum has an incredible collection of mummys…Kids always find this fascinating !

Horse-riding in Hyde Park
Horse-riding in Hyde Park

Which places are family friendly in your city? Explain.

All the parks in London have great playgrounds. Kensington gardens has an amazing free playground –the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial playground. In warm weather,the Princess Diana fountains are a brilliant place to paddle and the Serpentine Summer pavilion in Hyde Park is always an amazing place to visit with kiddies.

In which restaurants or coffee shop do you go with the kids?

If we go out for dinner with the kiddies, we tend to stay local. We have some great restaurants in the area. The kids love Japanese and we go to Maguro often (5 Lanark Pl W9 1BT) and the Red Pepper for a really good Italian (8 Formosa St).

 

AT HOME

Cat's livingroom
Cat’s livingroom

What is your favourite  and easiest meal with children?

My girls are real foodies and love so many meals. It was a hard choice to decide on a favourite but in the end they all agreed on Macaroni Cheese * recipe at the bottom of the page) which is something they have all loved since they were babies and still do.

Macaroni Cheese
Macaroni Cheese

When the weather is bad, what do your children enjoy doing at home ?

My eldest daughter is very creative so she leads lots of craft activies with the two little ones (I’m very lucky) We all love to play dominoes together and old fashioned card games…Old Maid and Last Card (New Zealand card games). Its hard to beat a bit of freestyle painting so we often get the water colour paints and go crazy.

What books do your kids love ?

Both of my older daughters have always loved books by David Walliams . They are modern classics such as The boy in the dress, Mr Stink, or Gansta Granny. My middle daughter Lulu is obsessed at the moment with the Harry Potter series.

 

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Many thanks to Cat for sharing her family life in London… If you need some warm and lovely clothes for your kids, please have a look at Smalls

See you on Thursday for a report about my last photo shooting for Chahut Bahut, a vintage furniture brand… A great experience… in a garden!

Take care,

Emilie xx.

 

*Macaraoni Cheese (Serves 4-6)

Here is the recipe from the Edmonds Cookbook (NZ Classic) which is the same recipe mum used when I was little. Now I just add tomatoes to the top and they roast deliciously while the macaroni cooks.

Ingredients :

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Edmonds plain baking flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 cups milk
  • salt n pepper
  • 2 cups grated tasty cheese
  • 2 cups macaroni elbows, cooked

Method

Melt butter in a saucepan. Add onion and cook until clear. Stir in flour and cook until frothy. Add musard. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly until sauce boils and tickets. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in half the cheese. Add macaroni, stirring to combine. Pour mixture into an oven­proof dish. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Cook at 190°C for 20 minutes or until golden and heated through. Chopped cooked bacon or ham can be added to the sauce if desired.

 

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