Saturday, 31 January 2009

my life in tags...

55200mm apple artdeco autumn badgeworth baking bankholiday barbecue bath beach bed beech belltent bird birthdayparty bread bristol bristoluniversity brownie bubbles camping canal cardigansandcandlelight castle champagne cheltenham childrensparty chocolate chocolateandbeetrootbrownies christmas cornwall cotswolds cow crafting curry decoration down easter easteregghunt eggs elderflower elves farm farmersmarket fdsflickrtoys feather featherdown featherdownfarm feathermynest festival film flames flying frog frost fun fungi fungus garland giffordscircus gloucestershirewildlifetrust greystonesfarmnaturereserve handmade holkham hughfearnleywhittingstall ice ihadwildmushroomraviolifollowedbyitalianicecreamandhehadtheporkbellyspecial italianfood jamieoliver jamiesitalian jazz kites knight leaves light lomo love makingbutter makingelfhouses masterofscience mayday maypole mistletoe moon moss msc museum mushroom myeverydaylife nature naturereserve needlefelting nest night norfolk orchard paragliding peace petesgraduation picnik play polaroid pond portheras portherasbeach pub pumpkins raftracing railwaycarriage red river rivercottageautumn rivercottagefamilycookbookrecipe rivercottagefestival sauljunction school showmanswaggon sky sleep snailrace snailtrail snow snowscene spring steiner steinerwaldorf stick strawberries strawberrypicking stroud summer thegreenchristmasguide thephototrade thephototradenovember tree treehouse trees turquiose underthethatch vwcampervan wallpaper weddinganniversary wellsnextthesea wendytheaberporthexpress winter woodland woolpack work wwwthephototradecom wynstones

Friday, 30 January 2009

pyjama party...

Blue Yonder is hosting a pyjama party here this weekend. Take a look and share your memories of sleepovers!

I remember the music that we used to sing along to, take a look at this pilgrimage back to the 1980's!

we all wore t-shirts with the slogan 'RELAX' on and it was always sunny! ahhh the power of memory.

What did you sing along to?

Thursday, 29 January 2009

the bulbs start to appear...

... and spring is on the way. I feel as if I can breathe again as the cold of winter, making me crave carbohydrates is almost over. Good news, our allotment petition to our local council {made in July} has been a success, they have found some land owned by a local charitable trust and are working out the finer points like access, water supply and legalities... yipppeeee. By spring we should have our very own allotments and be able to grow our very own food! This is a triumph as the orginal allotment land was sold off and built upon with two luxury houses over ten years ago. Now we can start planning what we are going to grow. We have had lots of interest too from like minded families in the village, and I am really looking forward to communal digging sessions and harvesting together.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

wassail away...

Wassailing is the pagan fertility rites carried out on Fruit Trees to awake them and has been celebrated in England since the 1400's.

The word wassail derives from the Old English words wæs (þu) hæl which means variously ‘be healthy' or ‘be whole' - both of which meanings survive in the modern English phrase ‘hale and hearty'. Thus this is a traditional ceremony which seeks to start off the first stirrings of life in the land and to help it emerge from winter and to ensure that the next season's crop of fruit, especially apples and pears, will be bountiful.

After dark those taking part process down to the orchard, ceremonially bearing the wassail bowl filled with the prepared booze. They also carry large sticks and such items as shotguns, drums, kettles, pans and whistles - anything which can be used to create lots of noise in fact.
The ceremony generally begins with the tree, usually the oldest and most venerable tree in an orchard, being variously serenaded with traditional "wake up" type of chants and rhymes alternating with speeches by the group's leader in praise of the tree, its fruitfulness in previous years and exhorting it to do even better in the coming year. The following one was recorded near Painswick in Gloucestershire:
Blowe, blowe, bear well,
Spring well in April,
Every sprig and every spray
Bear a bushel of apples against Next new year's day

The custom usually continues with the tree or trees being beaten about the trunk (and any branches within reach) with the sticks. This is believed to begin the process of awakening the tree and starting the sap flowing up the trunk. It is accompanied by much shouting and the making of as much noise as possible, and shotguns are commonly fired up into the branches. Again, this is believed to assist the tree in awakening from its winter sleep as well as frightening away any evil spirits which might be lurking in the branches.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

all good things come to those who wait... I am smiling, this dress is reduced from £155 to £23 in the Toast sale! Now I just hope it fits! I do need it, I do, I do, I do...!

Monday, 26 January 2009

34 things...

number 24 - eat at Jamie's Italian

inspired by this post here, I have put together my own list of 34 things I am going to do this year before turning 35!
  1. master the art of baking bread! ✓
  2. row a boat
  3. make campfire bread
  4. go for a wild swim in the River Windrush
  5. catch a crab by fishing on a harbour wall
  6. go for another road trip in a VW camper van - courtesy of winning Snail Trail's 'happy snappies' competition
  7. toast crumpets in front of an open fire
  8. stay in a tipi
  9. see Paul Weller live at westonbirt arboretum
  10. lie on the top of the highest hill and watch the clouds go by ✓
  11. see a glow worm for the first time on a summer's eve
  12. make a pair of pyjama's for Ted's dog ✓
  13. travel to Paris by train from St.Pancras Station {this may be wildly ambitious and too expensive!}
  14. find a hat that suits me ✓
  15. Give Ted the best 3rd birthday party based on his favourite book 'We're going on a bear hunt'
  16. Find an old photobooth and take loads of pictures!
  17. Celebrate our new 'allotments' and get digging!
  18. Make homemade marshmallows and toast over a bonfire ✓
  19. fill a jar with magical thinking - I wish I had found out about this years ago!
  20. hold hands with the Mr.
  21. get my eyes tested and accept the fact that I probably need glasses
  22. get a pedicure and paint toe nails red {I have never painted my toe nails!}
  23. project a classic black and white movie against the wall outside and watch under the stars
  24. eat at Jamie's Italian restaurant Bath ✓
  25. make/source nature's kit bags to give as birthday gifts this year ✓
  26. swim in the sea filled rock pool at Cape Cornwall ✓
  27. leave a random happy message in a library book to make someones day! ✓
  28. help Alfie plan and organise his fancy dress party ✓
  29. go punting along the River Cam
  30. renew my passport {number 13 depends upon this one!}
  31. find a reason to dress up again after the fun we had on new years eve!
  32. learn how to load 600 film into my sx-70 vintage polaroid
  33. find the perfect dressing up box for all of the boys dressing up clothes
  34. slow down!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

grandad's birthday cake...

Grandad let the boys choose what flavour birthday cake and after much scouring of cook books - they chose a chocolate one from my favourite cook book 'Apples for Jam' by Tessa Kiros. We hadn't made this recipe before, but it is very easy and has turned out beautifully. It is a rich moist cake with a indulgeant topping, perfect warm with a little cream or ice cream on a winter's night!

Chocolate Cake with Icing

180g (6 1/2oz) butter
50g (1 3/4 oz) dark chocolate broken up
30g (1 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 eggs, separated
180g (6 1/2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
125g (4 1/2oz) plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons of milk

80g (2 3/4oz) butter
60g (2 1/4oz) incing sugar
30g (1 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of milk
2 generous teaspooons of golden syrup

Preheat the over to 180oC (350oF/gas 4)
Butter and flour a 24cm (9 1/2") tin
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat, then add the chocolate and cocoa and stir until melted. Remove from the heat. Whisk the egg whites into a bowl until they are creamy and stiff. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they are foamy, then beat in the sugar. Add the chocolate mixture, a bit at a time to acclimatise the eggs. Next sift in the flour and baking powder and mix well. Add the milk and mix until smooth. Carefully fold in the beaten white, trying not to deflate them and gently mix until they are completely incorporated into a fluffy but dense mixture. Scrape out into the tin and bake for about 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely in the tin before moving on to a serving plate.

For the icing, whip the butter with the icing sugar unfil fluffy. Whisk in the cocoa a bit at a time so that it doesn't fly everywhere. When it is completely incorporated, add the milk and golden syrup and whisk until very smooth. Spread it over the top of the cake with a spatula.

lick the spoon!

Friday, 23 January 2009

tone of voice...

I am laying low at the moment trying to get the bulk of a website project completed. It's a difficult one and I am weary, a mixture of writing and editing and a large dose of technical instruction. It's also very overdue, not mainly due to me, may I add, but many different things that happen that make you think someone is conspiring against you not to make this project happen!

I have been stuggling to find the balance on the new website and 'tone of voice' and undertook a lot of research to understand who my audience was. So it is only natural for me to wonder who reads my blog, after all it is something that has evolved, from one or two random postings to regular postings that now attract comments. I love meeting new people through the blog and then linking through and reading theirs, marvelling how we are all the same, whatever side of the world we live on.

When I found the 'polling' option, I was delighted, being in marketing I love things like that! So I urge you to vote or leave a comment below and tell me where you live and I promise I won't change my 'voice' and start calling trousers 'pants' or anything like that!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

we love books...

I hadn't realised quite how much we loved books until we filled four bookcases! I tried to go through and sort out what we could get rid of and I think we managed one each! I don't think I will count how many we have as that might scare me. My husband loves natural history and collects old first editions and identification guides {I am not quite sure how many mammal ID guides you need, when there are only 21 species in the UK - obviously not counting bats, dolphins or big black cats!} but we have loads!

The nice thing about it, is that our boys have absorbed this passion too through osmosis! My five year found some poo in the garden a few months ago and shouted at me "wait right there and don't move!" whilst he ran to get his favourite tracking book filled with skulls, poo and footprints and then identified it as hedgehog poo! He was just so proud and left me to explain to the neighbours, who were now quite bemused and looking over the fence, why this poo was so exciting.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

reasons to be cheerful...

Well as I said last week, today is 'blue monday' and is meant to be the most depressing day of the year, so here are three things to make you smile today...

1. The new T-Mobile advert here - just makes you smile and dance!

2. There is a future for all Polaroid users and film will once again go into production, thanks to the impossible project.

3. Read about the guerilla art project, that Andrea did with her children, random acts of kindness - inspired!

the woodcutter's way...

We should have our woodburner by the summer! So we are starting to gather wood and kindling to give it enough time to season ready for next winter!

"Beechwood fires are bright and clear if the logs are kept a year.
Chestnut's only good, they say, if for long it's laid away.
Birch and Fir logs burn fast, blaze up fast and so they do not last
Elmwood burns like church yard mould, even the very flames are cold
Poplar gives a bitter smoke, fills your eyes and makes you choke.
Applewood will scent your room with incense like perfume.
Oak and Maple, if dry and old, keep away the winter cold
But Ashwood wet and Ashwood dry, a king shall warm his slippers by."

Saturday, 17 January 2009

a winter walk...

... to blow our cobwebs away. We walked to a haunted gothic mansion, hidden in a secret valley. The mansion has the most amazing gargoyles that were designed to project rainwater away from the building as the valley is very wet. The mansion was never finished, the workmen just left one day, leaving their ladders up against walls and floors were never put in, so fireplaces feature in the middle of walls!

We found a great roe deer skull along the way, but felt it should stay where it was rather than on our nature table! There were also many puddles in which to jump... and on a grey day, that's probably the best way to spend your time...!

Friday, 16 January 2009

five senses friday...

five senses friday, idea copied from here.


the new little man pictured above for the first time and just sit and wonder at him
the clouds moving in quickly from the north, bringing colder weather with them for the weekend


the sound of the cash register as the boys grow again and need new shoes
childrens feet running in through the front door, coming home after playing next door in time for tea
the sadness in a mama's voice as she copes with her little man's loss


a fizzy orange vitamin C tablet disolved in water as I try and avoid catching another cough or cold
salt as I kiss away the tears from my little ones face as he has bumped his head


the sea as I pay for the balance of our holiday
chimney smoke which lingers through the village on these cold winter days
notes of orange and cinnamon from my favourite winter spice candle


a mixture of emotions when my son shows me evidence that a new tooth is pushing up ready to knock his baby teeth out of the way {so symbolic}
very broody because of the little man pictured above!
tired as this is the end of a long week and I have housework to do this weekend

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

give us this day our daily bread...

At last, I have baked some bread that is edible! I can now lay my bread baking demons to rest {who saw to it that my bread would never rise} and finally post a picture on the flickr group one good loaf! Obviously I had two little helpers, so I can't really take much of the credit!

We tried out a recipe from the December edition of Country Living Magazine for Pull-apart wreath-bread. This bread is fantastic and my friend makes a plain version of it at the Steiner Waldorf parent and toddler group that we go to, where she hides a cherry in one of the segments. The bread is then pulled apart and shared out and the child who finds the cherry gets to be 'king' for the rest of the morning and wears a crown!

Pull-apart wreath-bread

1kg of strong white bread flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 tablespoon of chopped dried apricots
1 tablespoon raisins or currants
25g fresh yeast or 1 teaspoon of dried
50g butter
about 500ml of warm milk
1 egg, forked to blend

1. Before you begin, set everything out on the table including the mixing bowl and leave to warm in the heat of the kitchen.
2. Sieve the flour, salt and spices into the mixing bowl and toss with the dried fruit. If using fresh yeast, mix it with a little warm water and a pinch of sugar to start it working quickly. If using dried or instant yeast, mix it straight into the flour.
3. Chop the butter into little pieces and add to the milk, which should be just hot enough to melt it. Make a well in the middle of the flour with your fist. Pour in the bubbly yeast mixture, if using fresh yeast. Add the egg. Stirring with your hand, work in enough of the buttery milk to make a soft sticky dough.
4. Tip onto a clean surface dusted with a little flour and knead till it forms a smooth ball and your hands are no longer sticky. Drop it back into the bowl, cover with clingfilm and set in a warm place for an hour - it's ready if it keeps the mark of your finger when prodded.
5. Knead it again and work into a rope. Chop into 18 little pieces, forming each into a ball. Arrange into a circle,a finger's width apart, on a buttered, deep edged baking tray. Cover and leave to rise for another 40 minutes.
6. Heat the oven to 220 oC (200 oC fan oven) gas mark 7. bake for 30-35
minutes until golden.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Walk off those winter blues...

I read this in a mailing received today from classic cottages.

"The Inuit have over 100 words for snow. We have as many for walk. In order of mph (miles per hour): amble, stagger, stroll, stride, stomp, ramble, hike, plus another ninety odd nestled into the pack. But speed alone doesn't classify a walk. The where and the who matter too. Some do it alone, some do it en masse, some do it 'til they drop. With or without a map, you can forge your own virgin path or trace the steps of saints and giants."

It made me think of 'Blue Monday' which is next Monday, 19th January and meant to be the most depressing day of the year. So wherever you are, get outside take a deep breath and stride out with confidence, so blue monday doesn't get you!

Monday, 12 January 2009

striving for a simple life...

I am really trying to have a spring clean and declutter the house. We are all really bad hoarders and have piles of stuff everywhere, piles of clothes that have been grown out of or are waiting to be grown in to, piles of paperwork {where does it all come from?} and piles of photographs {obviously}. We don't have a lot of storage, although I am convinced that what we have is more than adequate, what I want to do is lead more of a simple life without so much stuff!

I look at other peoples homes, such as Nicole, Liivia and Ellas, they are so lovely and simple, full of nature, beautiful furniture, art and natural fibres. Mine is full of hand me downs - sofa's that we couldn't say no to, but are pink - yes pink I tell you - I had an extreme case of sofa envy when I read this post here! The trouble is we have still so much to do to the house, A came along so quickly after we moved in, we have been playing catch up ever since.

I have managed to make a bedside table from vintage suitcases {pictured above}, inspired from our holiday in the railway carriage last year. But I need to throw away so much - do I really need all the paperwork/assignments from my degree ten years ago - does anyone still have theirs? The trouble is the longer I hold on to things, the harder it is to throw them away as they then acquire sentimental value!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

a quiet night's crafting...

I have a child that is an awful sleeper, he always has been and I guess I thought he always will. We have never been very strict (we could never leave him crying - which is what midwives and other people tell us to do). Anyway, the boys completely surprised me last night and with their father out they both went quietly to bed and were asleep in their own beds (not mine!) by 7.45pm!

I didn't know what to do with myself - first I thought I would text everyone who knows how difficult T can be to tell them of my achievements, then I thought no that would be too loud, what if the phone rang and woke him up? I then creeped around for a bit not making a noise, then I thought of all my crafting projects that I have started and never get finished as by the time T usually goes to bed 9-10pm, I am too tired and go to bed myself.

So I started the fox above, I thought I would maybe get the body done before he wakes, but he didn't so I did a little more, then some more and although I could of spent a little more time getting the blending right (I can easily sort that out). In no time at all I had a finished fox - imagine what I could get done if he went to sleep every night!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

the simple things in life... the squirrel nutcraker that was in Pete's Christmas stocking, which has created hours of fun. I never knew breaking shells could be so satisfying. We have also found many a use for a walnut shell. Little candles, little boats in the bath and a great game when you have three shells and hide a pea under one and move them around before guessing which one it is under - what is the name of that game?

I need to exorcise my 'bread baking' demons as Molly over at One Good Loaf has reminded me, I had a run of turning out awful bread for various reasons last year and one of my resolutions for 2009 is to get over this hurdle of mine! One Good Loaf is a great weekly blog about baking bread and now has over 100 members - check it out, if like me you like nothing better than hot crusty bread straight out of the oven spread with delicious butter and jam - mmmmmmm.

Friday, 9 January 2009

warm as toast...

warm as toast, originally uploaded by Emma Bradshaw. new Toast flannel pyjamas and snuggly flannel bedlinen and a new lambswool throw. Perfect for long cold nights and toasting crumpets in front of the fire!

I have always been a pyjamas girl and usually buy mens as I prefer the traditional type and ladies are always pink or silky, but my husband found me these for Christmas. Striped flannel with pockets and a generous cut and straight out of the 1940's and I love them. I would wear them out if I could!

I had this DVD for Christmas too and I love the styling and fashion of war time Britain, just beautiful and filmed (in part) in wonderful west Wales.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

a little bit of summer on a winter's day...

...a natural swimming pond. I saw these being exhibited at Hampton Court Flower Show years ago and fell in love with the idea of swimming in between the lily pads with frogs hopping around me. Apparantly the water quality is as good as drinking water due to the plants that act as natural filters. I would love to actually swim in one of these beautiful ponds.

The picture above is from this website here which has a gallery full of lovely pictures of ponds in very nice houses, indeed.

Thats enough dreaming for today...

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

the waiting game...

My lovely friend B is currently waiting for her first baby to arrive. I think waiting for a baby to arrive is probably one of the hardest things in the world, especially your first. When you have a baby it's all about dates, due date and overdue dates in particular. Someone told me never to disclose your actual due date, to stop anxious friends and family from ringing almost daily to "check that everythings OK?" you should give out a date a week after!

Both my babies arrived late - that is late by medical opinion (charts and scans) rather than my own workings out based on evidence - and since when did a baby adhere to medical advice and know when to come out! The first ten days late the second a more respectable five. You are told to relax but your body is full of excitement and nervous energy, you have nothing to do as your house is impeccably clean and has been for weeks. The nursery is ready and your bag packed. You don't want to cook, or do anything to get it dirty again, but yet as you are overdue you are watching the dust settle again!

I also became obsessed (for want of a better word) with having matching cups and a teapot, as I was going to have SO many midwives and family visiting, I even had nightmares about it! So I have included a picture above of my mild hysterical purchasing of matching china from here and I thought the message on the cake was appropriate as I hope today was the 'birth'day!

Monday, 5 January 2009


...I am working from home and eating way too many of the boys chocolates still lying around from Christmas and listening to New Order's 'Blue monday' on an online radio station.

...Am thinking of having a chinese new year party in February after seeing the above image in an old country living magazine.

...I am inspired by reading new blog 'In heywood's meadow' full of beautiful ideas, adventures and fresh air, I think I will give nature journaling kit bags to all the little people as gifts this year, with a petrie dish, notebook, pencils and a field guide inside.

...Am overjoyed as I was actually at home when a delivery man came! and he delivered a parcel of beautiful bedlinen bought in the sale from here.

...I have reached the point where my computers memory is all used up! Oh no what to do now?

What are you doing today...?

Sunday, 4 January 2009

winter wonderland

winter wonderland, originally uploaded by Emma Bradshaw.

yuk, it's 01:08 in the morning and I can't sleep! I can hear my husband snoring and my youngest is tossing and turning as I have disturbed him by turning on the computer with it's low whirring. My mind is whirring more than the computer, only one day left of holidays before we go back to work and my son to school. My youngest is meant to start playschool but I think it's too soon but do I think that it's too soon for me or him? Do I hold back and risk losing a place? Questions going round and round in my head. Plus our roof is leaking, I knew yesterday was too good to be true!

It's now 01:14 and I really should be asleep and will regret not trying harder in the morning when the reflection in the mirror looks back at me all haggered. Why can't I make decisions?

I couldn't be doing nothing so am scanning in Polaroids, hence the lovely wintery picture of the Cotswolds above. It is cold outside and I have left my slippers somewhere, so my toes are now cold too, I think I will go back to bed and warm them up on the Mr - that should stop the snoring anyway!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

and the winners are...

us...! We entered the photo above into the Snail Trail photographic competition after our fantastic holiday in Prudence back in July and we have won a long weekend - yipppeeee! I have never won anything in my life before and I am very very excited. What a fantastic start to the new year.

Now do we stay faithful to Prudence or do we choose another of the wonderful campers that Snail Trail hire? Who would you choose?

Thursday, 1 January 2009

hello 2009...

Well , what a fun and frosty start to the new year - as Cleopatra and Jack Sparrow! We weren't the most authentic as my wig was lop sided and Pete's mustache kept falling off! but good fun and I have been nursing a fuzzy head ever since!

I hope your 2009 has started with as many smiles and crazy dance moves as ours did...!

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