Tuesday, 29 December 2009

goodbye 2009 it has been quite a ride...

we had lots of holidays together as a family; in Betty the VW camper van, a Cornish tipi, a pink Welsh cottage and camping trips - Alfie's first tooth fell out closely followed by the second - I did the fab unravelling course - it snowed in February and we played and played on the sledge until we couldn't feel our toes - met new friends through flickr and blogging - and cherished old friends - went on a bear hunt - skinny dipped - launched myself as a photographer - had a makeover and appeared in a national magazine - faced new work challenges and lost a loved one...

What a year, full of new experiences, adventures and many brave decisions. I look forward to 2010 with a little more confidence to face all that it holds in store for us.

Happy new year to you, and thank you for sharing your comments and wisdom on this blog in 2009.

Emma x

Monday, 28 December 2009

tools of the trade...

Lots of his little friends were having computers for Christmas, we bought him a tool set. He spent Christmas Day, with Granddad, cutting up bits of wood and cardboard boxes with his saw. He is now building a wood store with daddy! Sometimes I worry that our more traditional approach, won't help him to fit in with his peers, do they think we're a really geeky family?

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas...

baking gingerbread, more pictures here

The boys and I have been busy making a gingerbread house, really easy to make and although ours is less than perfect, I would say we grouted the sides together rather than delicately iced! I know this will be a tradition from now on in our house, as we delighted in making this ourselves from scratch.

We have also been spending today, Christmas eve watching Santa on his travels around the globe, thanks to the NORAD website, excited as he gets closer to the UK.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas x

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

It's cold here at the moment and we have had a few layers of snow, enough to dust the tops of the yew trees in the churchyard and bring an erie silence that comes with a snowfall. Although I could probably get out and about, the ice on our road is putting me off after watching the neighbours slide about. So inside we stay, hoping for a little more snow so that we can go sledging and hoping that it stays a little while longer for Christmas day, which would be perfect!

I hope you are enjoying the weather wherever you are?

Monday, 21 December 2009

solstice, stories and snug by the fire

we spent our winter solstice, snug by the fire. Yes, the fire, our new wood burning stove, the one I have been saving up for since we moved in seven years ago, put off with the arrival of babies. Finally and somewhat rashly, I ordered one and it was installed last week, just in time for Christmas. We have had it fired up constantly since! I am sure the novelty will wear off soon, but until then we are toasting marshmallows, crumpets, pancakes and chestnuts and just sitting watching the flames, reading stories.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

why do I always find gifts for myself at Christmas?

I couldn't help treating myself to this lovely stamp a little while ago, from here. It's great as it has 13 letters, and you can move the rubber bands to create gaps for short sentences, such as "love from emma" and "Happy New Year." A really naughty purchase when I should of been shopping for others!

Monday, 14 December 2009

I had resisted up until now...

you probably already know my opinion about children's clubs, and that up until now I had resisted the numerous clubs that my eldest could join. You see, he still comes home from school tired and to be frank, I don't really believe in driving children all over the place, like parcels to be collected or delivered! We had dabbled in a little Sunday morning rugby, but he never really took to it and it did start to mean driving some 50 mile round trip just for a 30 minute game.

Mind you, he is six already and when most Olympic athletes are asked when they started playing their particular sport they usually say four! (Have I preventing him from being an Olympic athlete already?)

So when the other boys in his class at school started playing football, it was only fair that he joined in too and he was desperate to be allowed despite being the youngest in his year. Phew luckily he was allowed to join in with training and was given a number 11 shirt, the shirt is folded neatly with his new shorts and socks on the chair next to his bed. He loves it, I mean really loves it, he would wear his kit 24 hours a day if he could! He has played in a few matches already ~ that's his victory celebrations above, which he has mastered quite well! The coaches are just great with them, really encouraging and supportive but always there when there are knocks. This is his team and he belongs and it is just wonderful to see how much enjoyment he gets from it!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

while shepherds washed their socks at night...

It isn't a school nativity until there are children with tea towels on their heads, all singing "when santa got stuck up the chimney!" With two little men in two nativity plays this year, my heart almost skipped a beat, to see my little shepherd and king! Oh, how I love Christmas.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

advent spiral

Advent spiral, originally uploaded by whitt.

shhhhh, its advent spiral time. Each child quietly and carefully carries their candle and places it on the spiral, then returns. As each child takes a turn they get nearer the middle where a candle sits. They do this in silence, apart from a lyre playing in the background. It is a beautiful celebration and one of my favourite Steiner traditions.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

moving on up...

moving on up yeah {she says singing along to this!}. It's time to say goodbye to my wonderful Nikon D40x and trade up. For the past two years I have loved the D40x, it has served me well, but taking on more and more commissions it is becoming clear I need a little more from my camera and I am not sure which my next model will be. I have been looking at a Nikon D90 this weekend, a lovely camera, not too big, but have also been reading about the D300s, which would be quite an investment indeed as these don't come cheap! I am sure it will be a Nikon, but I could really do with road testing one! I mean you wouldn't buy a car without driving it first would you? Have you any experience of either of these models?

Monday, 7 December 2009

just landed on my doormat...

is Jamie magazine packed full of Christmas recipes. I especially like the feature 'Personal Touch' which has lots of homemade present ideas including the DIY cookie jars, pictured above. I just love the layers of dry mixture in the jar and the 'eat me' labels that have the instructions on the back. I am going to make and give some of these myself this Christmas, but add some little chefs hats and star cookie cutters!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

an apple a day keeps the doctor away...

I am thinking of my family's health at the moment. There are so many illnesses going round school and work, and we all seem so tired and run down. The children at the end of the term are especially worn out. This week is nativity week and I remember watching last year and there were quite a few children that were almost in a daze with exhaustion. I make sure the boys have early nights and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, but still the shorter days and cold weather herald the onset of running noses and night time coughs. I think it's time to get out the echinacea and vitamin tonic!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

a few gifts I am buying this Christmas with a woodland theme...

toy deer by schleich

gingerbread house cookie cutter £15 from cox and cox

scented pine cone firelighters £16 from cox and cox I am going to put these into a gift box packed full of fireside treats {toasting fork, hand knitted socks and crumpets} for my mum who has just got a new wood burning stove

Thursday, 3 December 2009

and then it happened...

...it was a split second and he was gone, straight across the road and into the path of a car. Instinctively I screamed, "STOP", the kind of scream I made when giving birth to him, almost animal like and primeval, and flew after him. The man in the car had seen him and was doing a safe speed to stop in time, he made it to the other side, so did I, grabbing him and not letting go. I was shaking and trying to control the tears as the shock set in. Trying to pull myself together in front of my elder son and his friend, trying to hide the shame I felt as a parent who hadn't been able to control her child as the eyes of other parents turned towards me and the drama as it unfolded.

I shook for hours after and have drunk many cups of tea, sweetened with heaped spoons of sugar. I always make them stop at the road, I always ask them to hold my hand, we always 'stop, look and listen'. What made him dart across the road? I gave him a stern telling off, whilst both of our eyes streamed with tears. Does he realise what he did, how can I be sure he won't do it again?

I can't get out of my head the picture of him running across the road and the awareness of an approaching car. I know when I calm down, I will be thankful to the safe driving of the man, whom I can't even recall and I will be thankful that today could of ended very differently.

I wasn't going to share this as I know people will judge and think me a bad parent, but it has taught me two things, 1. you can never really be in full control of your child, it was very out of character and happened in a split second and 2. speed limits around schools, houses, playgrounds should be dropped, it really does make a difference! I can truly say I have never been so frightened in my life before.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

where did you get that hat?

I had the pleasure of spending time with some of my favourite people last night, when we went to a Vintage Shop for some out of hours shopping! Hats, gloves, dresses, stockings, jewellery, bags, tiaras, bodices, hand mirrors, gloves, coats, in fact everything! We drank champagne, tried on hats and dresses that could of only belonged to Margo from the Good Life, ate cupcakes, tried on more beautiful dresses, and looked like Gangsters molls! Despite not being able to squeeze into some of the older clothes {oh my were they really that tiny years ago?} it was very funny to see the others trying things on ~ yes I'm talking about you Sam, in an 80's wedding dress and you too Christina, it was way too revealing for the school run!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

wet and windy weekends...

pet shop photograph by me

this wet and windy weekend has seen us...
  • playing shops ~ this week our pet shop has been open!
  • getting the Christmas box down from the attic, with the advent calendars in ready for Tuesday!
  • visiting our nearest Steiner school Christmas Fair, buying lots crafting supplies and trips through the 'crystal cave' where the children put on goggles, a head torch, hardhat and armed with a pick axe, journey into a darkened room/cave, where there are crystals buried in the walls (I think it may of been plaster of Paris that the walls were made of), for the children to dig out! We went through many, many times! I don't know what the gnomes will say when they find all the crystals have gone!
  • playing lots of board games ~ snakes and ladders and ludo
  • writing lists for Christmas, card lists, present lists, shopping lists, menu's and a horrible housework list!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

happy birthday...

herriott~grace is celebrating its first birthday today, hip hip hooray! To celebrate Nikole is having a little birthday giveaway on her blog forty-sixth at grace. I have just browsed the shop which is brimming with gorgeous wooden spoons, cake plates and salt dishes carved by Nikole's very talented father. If you haven't started your Christmas shopping I would recommend you take a look. As for me, I can't take my eyes off the chocolate cake!

Friday, 27 November 2009

who is teaching who...?

my little man came home with a certificate from school today for 'working well in everything and being kind to others', now rest assured, I am not telling you this to boast, I am sharing this as we have had a rather challenging couple of months with him. He had been coming home from school in such a bad mood, tired and angry all the time. Then after a meeting with his teacher we were dismayed to learn that although popular, he was involved in a lot of rough and tumble at playtimes, that needed to stop.

The first thing we did, was look our parenting and I realised the more challenging that he was becoming with his behaviour, the more I was relenting, therefore his anger and frustration was being rewarded by being allowed to play, as I was trying to keep the peace for an easy life. We have also gone though such a couple of months of poor sleep with our youngest, that I noticed our tolerance level had dwindled and we were snapping at our children. It was so clear when standing back how he was just mirroring our behaviour!

So I have been spending more time with my little man, being calm, firm and trying to focus more on him and his needs these past few weeks. I have had complete days without turning the laptop on {you may have noticed I haven't been around as much?} as we try to bring in a rhythm to our day again of play, making supper together and doing crafty things. His dad has been taking him to football practice which he has been loving too and although I am not keen on after school clubs and driving children all over the place, this is working well as it is a good place for him to release his energy and something his good behaviour is rewarded with.

It just serves to remind me that you can't get complacent with this parenting lark and the more time, hard work and energy you put in, the more you all get out. His certificate today makes me so proud of my little man and reminds me how important to him, good parenting from me is.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

words to shoot by...

photography by Steph Parke

I am very excited to have been asked by Steph Parke to be one of the new contributors on the Words to Shoot By photo collaboration. I met Steph through taking part in the Nectar and Light photo trade last year, when we were paired together and I have followed her beautiful photography ever since. The 'words to shoot by' collaboration is lovely, every two weeks a word is set and the contributors interpret it through a triptych of photographs. I can't wait to start...

Monday, 23 November 2009

so I hid them under the bed...

I have been under the weather for a few days now and spent most of the weekend in bed, feeling sorry for myself, and often not sleeping due to my mind racing {don't you just hate that?}. Today I feel even more rubbish, especially as I missed a day in London yesterday, catching up with the BBC (aka: Susannah, Jo, Penny, Leonie and Sas ~ Megg couldn't make it either!). I must have been feeling rubbish for a little while now as my online shopping has increased again, something I usually only indulge in when feeling, down, stressed or insecure. Clothes shopping is my armour, I am a bit like Worzel Gummidge (a scarecrow with a head for every occasion or to give him a certain skill), when I feel vulnerable, I like to think I look OK, or that I dress to achieve a certain image, businesswomen, yummy mummy etc...

So this week I have bought a knitted hat, two Paris books and a pair of cowboy (ish) boots, which I promptly thanked the delivery driver for and hid them under my bed! I didn't want to have to explain to the husband why I needed yet another pair of brown boots or spent money we haven't got! I caught my reflection in the mirror and wondered what on earth a 35 year old was doing? I am still wondering and yes, they are still under the bed!

p.s. picture of boots to follow!

Friday, 20 November 2009

friday flickr faves...

Today, I am lusting over battered old leather chairs, wrist warmers and cupcakes! happy weekend, Emma x

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

can I introduce you to...

Emma Bradshaw, the photographer. Yes, finally after a lot of nagging {sorry encouragement} from some very straight talking friends and listening to their advice and words of wisdom, I have finally launched Emma Bradshaw Photography. I have been steadily taking on more and more commissions over the last year for friends and family, which have gone really well and through word of mouth, I have a few more lined up in the next few weeks. So it was time to 'come out' so to speak!

Of course I have created a new site www.emmabradshawphotography.com and to celebrate my official launch, I am offering limited edition gift vouchers just in time for Christmas! Here's to busy times ahead.

Monday, 16 November 2009

nature club: making terrariums

this weekend we made some terrariums. We put some horticultural grit at the bottom, a layer of charcoal and then compost on the top. We have added moss in ours and a couple of animals, but we need to buy a couple of plants to plant in them too, maybe some ferns would look good?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

always at this time of year...

...especially when it gets cold, I start thinking about next years holidays, firstly as we have already started planning next year at work and if you don't remember to keep a few weeks clear, they quickly get filled up. And my youngest starts school in September, which is a momentous thing indeed, and one that needs building up to and using up every last minute I have left with him before he starts!

but where to go? We have had some wonderful holidays over the last few years from a feather down farm, to a railways carriage called Wendy. Two breaks in VW campers called Betty and Prudence, a tipi and the most gorgeous pink Welsh cottage. Plus some amazing camping trips. But for next year I am not sure where to go, we love Cornwall, should we go back again? If so where? We have been most places and it is all so expensive nowadays. Should we go further afield to the Lake District or Scotland or even abroad {note to self: will need to buy three passports!} I love looking at the Scandinavian countries and the lovely wooden summer houses by the sea. We love quirky holidays, something in a beautiful property or place, somewhere unique or by the sea, we loathe holiday cottages that all look like an ikea showroom inside, especially when they are so old and beautiful on the outside. Any ideas gratefully received...

Thursday, 12 November 2009

simply the best...

sunday lunch in the world, at The Black Horse, Cranham. The food is so good, consistently good and cooked to order in a tiny Cotswold Pub Kitchen. You have to be prepared to wait for food this good and a busy lunchtime can see long waiting times! So go prepared, take good company, the Sunday papers and get there early to secure a seat by the fire and laugh as people who are dining there for the first time, get cross and irate as they have to wait! (when did we get so impatient?) Those who have the audacity to complain are sent packing to 'chain' pubs nearby, who microwave their food! Don't expect to move for the rest of the day as this is good hearty food and you may require an afternoon nap straight after!

Monday, 9 November 2009

gunpowder, treason and plot...

sparkler by me

We celebrated Guy Fawkes Day with a bonfire, fireworks and food with friends. We found a rather nice menu in the free Waitrose 'Seasons' booklet, the soup is delicious, we made ours with butternut squash.

Bonfire Night Menu

Pumpkin soup with tortilla chips
'Hog Roast' rolls with bramley apple sauce
Chocolate fudge fondue
Caramel popcorn
all washed down with some mulled cider and warm apple juice!

I did have a brainwave of popping the corn over the bonfire in tin foil parcels on the end of sticks, but I forgot to put any oil in and ended up burning it ~ whoops!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

children's party

he didn't quite understand why he had to get off the chair, to play musical chairs! He was quite happy to sit and watch with his little friend whilst the older ones raced around him. His older brother on the other hand turned into a wild thing, racing everywhere, so over excited!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

when November brings rain...

pictures by me

...we shelter in cafes and coffee shops, playing games, drinking warm milk and hot chocolate. We read books and take colouring books to colour in. Then we pull on our wellies and waterproofs and go outside and jump in all the puddles!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

is this my fifteen minutes of fame?

Well here I am, on page number 309 in the December edition of Red Magazine (UK). It is a really great edition, packed full of good features, interiors and food. The article is good too even if there is the caption "I eat three mince pies, one after another" over my head, resulting in my husband chanting "who ate all the pies!" The advice from Jane Clarke, nutritionist and Samuele Serreli, personal trainer, is realistic too, which is great. I was afraid I had said something awful, that would just haunt me, but it is a lovely well written piece by Andrea Childs with good advice, great styling from Lucy (she even lent me her necklace in the pic!) and hair and make-up by Lindsay Poole, not to mention the great (and very flattering) photography by Sarah Dunn, who was just so lovely. I would recommend if anyone else has the opportunity to do anything similar ~ be brave and go for it (I wish I could do it all over again!).

I wonder if this is my fifteen minutes of fame? What do you think? Have I scrubbed up OK? Do I look like me? I could scream with excitement and hide behind a pillow full of silly embarrassment at the same time! I wonder if anyone I know reads the magazine (or this blog for that matter?) and will recognise me? I wish I had taken Julie and Laura's email addresses (the other girls in the feature) too, so I could email them and find out what they think! OK I am thinking about this way too much ~ I'll stop now - I promise!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

pinch me ~ was it a dream...?

in the chair by me

do you remember, a few weeks ago I shared with you my trip to London, to be photographed for a Christmas feature in Red magazine? Well as promised here is the second half of the story...

I walked in and met the lovely team from Red magazine, not at all "Ab Fab" but gorgeous down to earth people. They had selected a range of clothes that were hanging on a rail for us to choose from. Goodness, I thumbed through, found some lovely things, but I was of course choosing the type of thing I usually wear. I asked Lucy, the fashion assistant, what she thought, I mean, I am hardly going to do this again, so I may as well take advice and go for something a little more different, don't you think? She handed me some skinny jeans (moi? - I tried to disguise my shock, so as not to appear like the untrendy mid 30's mum that I actually am!), but surprisingly they were amazingly flattering and made my legs look long and not really like my legs at all! Although then she gave me the highest pair of heels I have ever seen, could I walk in them? No, I sort of just tottered! I confessed I never wore heels, I had to, I was standing swaying as if I was a six year old dressing up in her mums shoes! She teamed up the jeans with a couple of vests and a sequined jacket, which I hope look more rock chick than bingo caller!

I then had hair and make up done, again I put myself in their hands, and they curled my short hair, painted my finger nails black and gave me smoky eyes! There were two other gorgeous ladies, taking part in the feature and they took individual shots and then a group shot of us together, what with trying to smile and trying to stand up in the outrageously high heels, I forgot to breathe in! All too quickly it was over and my Cinderella moment came to an end, it seems like a dream now. I wish I hadn't been so embarrassed to get my camera out (what with a professional photographer there, I felt a bit nerdy!), but not to worry, in just a few weeks the Christmas edition of Red will be in the shops, aaaahhhhhh ~ I have butterflies just thinking about it...

Monday, 2 November 2009

I still can't crochet!

crochet by me

I ripped a pattern out of an old Martha Stewart magazine years ago as I just loved the crochet snowflakes in it. I haven't got around to learning yet, despite a few kind offers to teach me, but my lovely crafting friend Christina crochets beautifully and has already made a few at our Wednesday night crafting sessions! I am going to have to learn as I quite fancy a garland of these sewn together for Christmas and that's not far away at all!

Friday, 30 October 2009

wildly inspiring...

artwork by Heather Smith Jones

I have just stumbled across this wonderful leaf by Heather Smith Jones, isn't it amazing? I just had to share it with you. I am so inspired by Heathers artwork that I want to try something like this with the boys they will love it (they love any arty activity that uses felt tips, scissors, glue, needles ~ things most mothers of young children keep under lock and key!) I vaguely remember doing something like this when I was young and went to Brownies, we pricked holes in a dark blue piece of card to map out the constellations, then held it up to the light to see.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

autumn garland

I made an autumn garland to hang from the mantlepiece, using chinese lanterns, cones, old mans beard (wild clematis), ash keys and acorn shells. I am really pleased with it, using finds from our nature walks, plus the chinese lanterns from my friend Rachel, which are rather amazing.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

the nature of play...

I love watching children play, how they make friends with other children instantly. The difference between girls and boys and the roles they assume. Over the weekend these four got on famously, especially when they went outside to play. Without toys and constant entertainment from TV and computer games children have to make their own entertainment, find things, discover places and climb. The two little ones ended up with wellies filled with water, whilst the older ones were happy throwing stones into the lake, simple as that. They could have just been in the same spot for ages, laughing at the splash of the stones and the squelch of water filled wellies! I will never understand why people lavish such expensive toys on children, only to watch them squabbled over or break, when outside there is a whole world of free entertainment?

Monday, 26 October 2009

we've been away...

ullswater by me

we took daddy for a surprise birthday weekend to join some friends at a holiday flat they were staying in, which overlooks Ullswater in the Lake District. The views from loadpot flat are amazing with the stark peaks, lush green valleys and the colourful trees all dressed in their autumn displays of crimson, brown and orange. It is such a beautiful place I can't believe I haven't been there before! I always thought it such a long drive (four hours) but it is well worth enduring the motorway (and eight sets of roadworks, yes eight my friends in 250 miles don't you love British roads!). It even rained most of the weekend, but it didn't dampen our spirits at all and we braved the drizzle to walk to the most amazing waterfall, Aira Force.

The rain and the clouds just made it all the more dramatic, one minute the peaks would be covered in cloud the next minute they would emerge, the sun would shine and rainbows would appear! The best thing about the rain was the puddles to jump in and the coffee shops to warm up in, slurping big mugfuls of hot chocolate! Our taster weekend has made us all want to go back again there is so much to do, so much beautiful scenery, wildlife and walks to go on.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

marshmallows made with beetroot...

A few weeks ago Ted and I made some homemade marshmallows, following the River Cottage recipe, below. They are great fun to make, especially with children, but a little scary as they contain so much sugar and you have to heat it too! The worse thing is, that I don't own a food mixer, I am not one for gadgets, and love the 'old fashioned' kitchen, with wooden spoons etc... but when you have a recipe like this that requires a lot of beating, then blimey, it's hard work on the wrist! We beat the mixture for about half an hour and then had to collect Alfie from school, so had a break and then had to go back home to beat it some more - phew! It was worth it though, they cooked well over a campfire and tasted good too, you could even detect a hint of beetroot, but next time I really need a mixer (love this one in almond cream) or a strong man on hand!

River Cottage Beetroot Marshmallows

• 1-2 tbsp icing sugar
• 1-2 tbsp cornflour
• A little vegetable oil for oiling the tin and knife
• 1 small, raw, peeled beetroot
• 25g gelatine powder (about 2 sachets, but check the packet)
• 500g granulated sugar
• 2 egg whites


1. Sift the icing sugar and cornflour together into a small bowl.
2. Rub a shallow cake tin of about 20x20cm with a few drops of vegetable oil and shake a little of the icing sugar mixture around the tin to coat the base and sides.
3. Grate the beetroot into a small bowl and pour over 125ml of nearly boiling water and leave to infuse for 30 seconds. Strain the pink, nearly boiling water into a bowl and sprinkle the gelatine on top. Stir until all of the gelatine has dissolved.
4. Put the sugar into a medium-sized saucepan with 250ml of water. Warm over a low heat, stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved, then place a sugar thermometer in the pan and raise the heat, allowing the mixture to boil fiercely without stirring until the thermometer reads 122C. Remove from the heat and pour the beetroot/gelatine mixture into the hot sugar syrup, stirring until everything is well blended.
5. Pour the egg whites into the large bowl of a mixer and beat until stiff. With the mixer going at a low speed, slowly pour in the sugar mixture in a steady, gentle trickle. After you’ve added all of the syrup, leave the machine to carry on beating until the mixture turns really thick and bulky but is still pourable – when you lift up the beater, it should leave a ribbon trail of the mixture on the surface which takes a few seconds to sink back down into the mix.
6. Pour the marshmallow into the prepared tin. Leave to set in a cool place (do not refrigerate) for an hour or two.
7. Dust a chopping board with the rest of the cornflour and icing sugar mixture. Coat a knife with a little oil. Carefully ease the marshmallow out of the tin onto the board, helping it out where necessary with the knife. Make sure all of the surfaces of the marshmallow are entirely dusted with the icing sugar mixture. Cut the marshmallows into squares, oiling and dusting the knife as needed. Store in an airtight tin lined with baking parchment.

Monday, 19 October 2009

a good post day...

well after a huge delay, due to the postal strikes at the moment, I finally received my wonderful postcard from the very talented Jill Wignall. Her Today, I Saw daily drawing project is fab, everyday she draws a little something on a postcard and sends it to a lucky recipient. I love how little daily observations inspire Jill and more so that she shares them by posting them across the world!

The boys and I always notice little things in life, spiders webs with dew on them, the direction the clouds are blowing and the homeless man, being ignored as he sits in a doorway. Jill's project has inspired me to join in, maybe not on postcards and setting up another blog, but I have ordered myself a new moleskine sketchbook and a special stamp, that I have been admiring for ages on etsy (and now have a reason to buy it), so that we too can draw our daily observations.

Thank you Jill for inspiring us, we love your project and can't wait to get started!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

a sunday soak...

photograph from brown paper & string

I always look forward to Sunday mornings, they are when I get a lie in, that is if Gina doesn't text me to go to the car boot sale. My husband usually takes the boys to mini rugby leaving me alone to have a long soak in the bath with peace and quiet. This is my time, my thinking and dreaming time. This is when I relax and my worries fade away as I soak in Weleda lavender bath soak or Neals Yard Remedies seaweed and arnica foaming bath. I start thinking that this motherhood lark isn't that hard and how lovely it would be to have a third child! But then I notice the dust behind the sink, cobwebs on the ceiling and I know that any minute my peace will be interrupted by two boys clattering up the stairs and invading the bathroom and piling all their bath toys on top of me! Oh well, I will dream of owning a roll top bath, like the one pictured instead!

Friday, 16 October 2009

this weekend...

we will be riding our bikes,
going for an autumn walk,
reading stories,
making autumn garlands,
cooking beef stew and dumplings
& writing letters to friends,
how about you...?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

a new pinny...

me - cleaning - you saw it here first!

After a weekend feeling sorry for myself, thank you for all your kind words, a parcel in the post has done wonders to cheer me up. A treat from etsy no less, and yes it is a dotty angel apron, called Cybil! A slightly indulgent purchase as I have a few aprons already, but I loved this one when I saw Tif modeling it, and it came with magical powers ~ the power to make me clean!

I even tried to encourage Pete to take a photo of me {above} - 'dotty' style, but with fading light as he was home late and my instruction to "cut off my head", it was all a bit much, so apologies for the above pic, which was one that he accidentally took as I was clearing away! It doesn't quite show the apron off as well as I had hoped {but you do get a good shot of my favourite boots!}, so with my new found love of housework, I'm off to dust ~ thanks Tif!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

the big decision...

hanging with the boys {on film} by me

so following yesterdays teasing end - "what is the big decision" I hear you cry? Well, its not really that big or life changing in the great scheme of things, but it is for me and one that has taken me weeks of agonising. I am stepping back at work, stepping down from heading up the marketing department and instead just managing it. What this means in real life is that I should be able to do all of the work without the responsibilities and stress that have previously accompanied it. And I may be able to just work the 26 hours a week I am supposed to and spend more time with my family!

An opportunity arose at work in terms of timing, and it was now or never. I just got fed up hearing myself complain, fed up of always being late at the school gates, always working in the middle of the night surrounded by piles of washing and compromising in terms of my sanity as I can never say no! Probably all the arguments that all working mums have, trying to juggle home and career?

At the moment it feels weird, you are brought up to believe that upwards is the right way to go, strive for promotion until you reach the top. It feels wrong that I should be going down the 'corporate ladder' so to speak, even though it is a sideways shuffle rather than a demotion and I've never been a 'career girl'. I think the worst thing for me is that now I am not responsible for as much, people don't ask me things and refer things to me, things that I have been doing for 10 years and might know about, which dents my pride. But I have to learn to let go, this is no longer my responsibility, my colleagues are wonderful and the biggest lesson I need to learn is that I can't do everything.

This move will free up more time so my job will become easier as I don't have to spread myself so thinly and I hope those around me will benefit too. My children won't have to play second best to a laptop after school, my husband may get tea on the table once a week {miracles may happen!} and my colleagues at work will once again get creative, sparky, emma back. Who knows? it is early days and I know it will be hard to be line managed once again, I am trying to be brave, as I know it is for the greater good and you just never know what the future holds do you?

Monday, 12 October 2009

glimpses of the real me...

my wonderfully inspiring blog friend Susannah, calls blogs like mine 'PR' blogs, and she is right, I only post about sunny days and smiles, while she blogs about all of her life without editing it first! I wish I could write like she does, without holding back, but I am always mindful that friends, family, neighbours and work colleagues sometimes read this little blog of mine and therefore I leave out great chunks of my life. I am sure that people I know would read this blog and not even recognise that it's me, were it not for the photos!

Anyhow, why I am thinking like this, is that I have just spent the whole weekend in bed with a migraine and flu like symptoms and I am down right depressed. Depressed that I have missed a sunny weekend, depressed that I haven't played with my boys all weekend, depressed that I live for the weekends and I have missed this one completely and depressed that I had some events to go to, that I missed out on! Just downright feeling sorry for myself I guess as I am still feeling rubbish. The reason that I am ill is that once again I have overdone it, too much work, too many late nights and a big bout of insomnia. I have had a summer of stress and worry, where once again I vowed to be around more for my family, to have tea on the table when my husband arrived home and to keep the house clean and tidy. What happened in real life is that I ended up working full time instead of part time and completely forgot to cook and clean!

All is not lost and with my mother-in-law passing away at the end of the summer, it forced me to stand back and reevaluate what is important in our lives. I am lucky, I work for an organisation that values and supports its staff, which allowed me to make a very big decision and to make a change. But I think I have bared my soul enough today as I am not used to sharing quite so much with you, I will tell you more about my big decision over the next few days, but first I need a nap and more paracetamol!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

the moral of this story is to be brave and get out of your comfort zone...

do you remember a little while ago I mentioned that I had been interviewed for Red magazine? The feature was about getting ill at Christmas, which unfortunately I always seem to be! Well, what the journalist didn't tell me, was that I would be whisked to London for a photo shoot that would accompany the piece in the Christmas edition! I had thought there would just be a quote from me "I eat my children's chocolate to protect them" or something equally cringeworthy, that would go alongside a feature, but no there were three of us, each to be photographed on our own and then a group shot of us all together.

It has all happened rather quickly and after the picture editor had called to see when I was free, I thought, "no, this isn't me!" I will apologise for wasting peoples time and pull out, I rarely go to London, I don't wear that much make~up, I am hardly stylish, I am not one to get excited by the words 'make over' in fact they are more likely to make me run a mile. Besides, I always feel like a country bumpkin when I step off the train at Paddington, with my west country accent and straw in my hair (Ok, maybe I exaggerate about the straw!). I feel lost in the hustle and bustle of the city and shabby in the presence of groomed city workers, that seem to be so grown up and always in a hurry. I had no idea what the shoot would involve and imagined 'london' types, that say 'darling...' a lot. I went into auto pilot, went along with the flow and sort of drifted there...!

So, the day arrived and I managed to calm myself enough to get on the train and then in a taxi to the trendy Spring Studios, I took a deep breath and walked through the door...

to be continued...

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

nature club: seed gathering

will they float? by me

my eldest stuffed his pockets with beech nuts on the walk home from school yesterday. We had read in our favourite book that good seeds sink and those that won't germinate float! He was keen to test this out and spent a good while trying to get the floaters to sink! He then fished out the sinkers and planted them in a pot, where hopefully they will grow!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

conkers anyone?

photo by me

'tis conker season and we had our first family championship here today. Have you ever played? apparently the national championships are next week, but I don't think we will be entering! Good garden fun though - especially finding and choosing the biggest and the best conker in the first place.

I found some rules of play, for those of you who take games seriously...

Two players, each with a conker threaded on a piece of string or a shoelace, take it in turns to hit each other's conker, until there is one conker left.

The first player holds out their conker at arm's length, hanging down, ready to be hit. The string should be wrapped around his or her hand to stop it being dropped.

The second player then wraps the string of his or her conker around her hand, draws it back and takes an aim. They must hold the conker still as the other player hits it. If it accidentally swings, the second player can steady it before they take a strike.

He or she lets go of the conker as they swing their arm in an arc and tries to hit the other person's conker.

The first player then has a go at hitting the other player's conker and they take it in turns.

NOTE: If the player deliberately moves his or her conker while waiting for it be hit, the other player is allowed another go!

*Conker scoring

If a conker has never been used before and succeeds in breaking another unused conker, it scores one and becomes a 'one-er'.If, in the next game it breaks another new conker, it becomes a 'two-er' and so on.

But, if this two-er loses a game and is broken, its score is added to the other person's conker. So if they used a new conker on a two-er, it becomes a three-er and so on.

If the conker that broke it had already broken others, then the scores of BOTH conkers are added together and added to the winner. So if you used a three-er on a two-er, then the score awarded to the winning conker will be five.

Friday, 2 October 2009

today, I saw...

Today, I am so excited, the talented Jill Wignall is sending one of her 'TODAY I SAW' drawings to me! She emailed yesterday and I have since discovered her wonderful project, go check it out if you haven't seen it before. Every day Jill draws what she sees and sends it to a lucky person around the world! I love this idea and even more I love her illustrations, more found here on flickr, the illustrated walks are just lovely. I can't wait for the postman to arrive, many thanks Jill!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

35 things...

I am still dreaming of Paris {number 16}

each year on my birthday I try to put together a list of things I can realistically achieve during the year, some big but most small little things. This year, as I am 35, there is a list of 35 things to do before I turn 36 years old, last year it was 34! They are the little things that we often think and dream about, but somehow writing it all down makes me more focused to achieve it...
  1. learn to crochet after falling in love with this (I just can't get the hang of crochet at all!)
  2. enjoy the magic of Giffords Circus as it tours the Cotswoldsü
  3. buy flowers at London's famous Columbia Road flower market
  4. and afterwards visit the Albion Caff for lunch
  5. make a scarecrow as good as this one ü
  6. finally get round to installing a woodburning stove ü
  7. paint a large canvas to hang in the lounge
  8. make dandelion sorbet ü
  9. practice yoga at least twice a week
  10. have pancake races on shrove tuesday ü
  11. make and fly a kite
  12. illustrate an adventure whilst walking using a storyboard book
  13. stay at the new scarlet hotel & spa and enjoy a hot tub on the cliff top!
  14. find an art deco vintage leather club chair - (I have been looking for five years now for one I can afford!) ü
  15. camp in our bell tent as much as possibleü
  16. travel to Paris on the train from St.Pancras (still on my list from last year!)
  17. listen more
  18. eat more local and seasonal produceü
  19. teach Alfie to play scrabble
  20. learn to identify some of the stars/constellations
  21. throw a party to celebrate Chinese year of the tiger {14th February 2010} as we are both tigers! ü
  22. find a small roll top bath that will fit into our tiny bathroom!
  23. carry on campaigning for suitable land for an allotment site in our village
  24. read more!ü
  25. come out as a photographer and accept commissions! ü
  26. have a vintage clothes party with the girlies ü
  27. go for a night walk and hoot at owlsü
  28. get rid of anything that isn't beautiful, useful or enjoyable
  29. watch a meteor showerü
  30. go fishing with the boysü
  31. sort out my photos, deleting, editing, storing and backing up ~ there are thousands!
  32. be a guerilla artist for a day!
  33. make fortune cookies ü
and this is where I have got to at the moment! as it was only my birthday a few days ago and 35 is a lot of things to think about I am going to have to keep coming back as I think of more!
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