Friday, 31 July 2009

goodbye July...

a goodly month indeed...

finished a photo commission {photo's above}, which was really enjoyable and I am delighted with the results, they are really natural and capture the essence of this lovely family. It was a really fun shoot, the girls running around wild flower meadows chasing butterflies with nets and me running after them, which was quite tiring on what turns out to be one of the hottest days of the year so far! 

I have also found a tin tray that I have been hunting an age for, a chic camping accessory, thanks to naturally clean for the tip off! now all we need is the good weather to return so we can go camping again!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

needles & nimble fingers...

Wednesday evenings are now craft nights, spent with girls I have met through a local Steiner Parent & Toddler group. Time spent crafting and chatting, drinking iced tea and eating something yummy! The others are very productive compared to me, and I watch with wonder as pieces of wool are turned into little pieces of art, with nimble fingers and a needle during the evening. I really enjoy it, having a few hours to myself, being with others who enjoy making things as much as I do, chatting and laughing as girls do when they get together. The hobby horse that I am making is coming along too, slowly but steadily and with lots of help! 

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

rain, rain go away...

rain by Pia Jane Bijkerk

Every once in a while I stumble on another blog so beautiful that I spend an age exploring it, this weekend, it was Pia Jane Bijkerk's blog. Her post last week, included a sound recording of the rain falling on the canal outside the houseboat she lives on, so so beautiful and peaceful to listen to. I am wondering to myself why her rain sounds so romantic when the rain against my windows today is down right depressing! 

Monday, 27 July 2009

blackcurrant cordial...

We have made some homemade blackcurrant cordial over the weekend, it is so good and tastes loads better than any shop bought cordial. Here's our recipe...

1) Put fruit in bowl and crush with wooden spoon
2) Add about half pint water to each pound of fruit.
3) Cook slowly, crushing occasionally with spoon.
4) Strain through sieve.
5) Add one pound sugar to each pint juice.
6) Cool, and store in sterilized bottles, in the fridge.
7) Add hot or cold water when you want to drink it.
It will store safely for about 2 weeks if kept in the fridge.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

married to a collector...

we all have things we collect and covet, for my husband it is natural history books. I am not sure quite how many identification books we need, but apparently they are all different. He loves the Collins New Naturalist series, which you can see on the top shelves, which date back to the 1940's and are still written and published today. In fact he has come to expect the latest, for his birthday or Christmas... surprise!!!!! The older books are beautiful, so much care and craftsmanship went into them and it is wonderful to look at the illustrations, rather than photos that are used in modern publishing. The collection is like a little library don't you think?

Saturday, 25 July 2009

cowboys and indians...

Owning a bell tent, makes the game of cowboys and indians a little more realistic as it makes a great tipi substitute! We make our indian headdresses with thick cotton ribbon and attach the feathers by sewing them on, making sure we measure the length of ribbon we need first by measuring around our heads. The feathers are all collected from our nature walks.

They are so simple, effective and cheap to make and are great fun to wear whilst running around a campsite!

Friday, 24 July 2009

preserving summer...

oh how I love our yearly ritual of going to the farm to pick strawberries. We walk to the furthest point out of sight so that we can naughtily pop the odd strawberry in our mouths as we pick! The boys darting from row to row, searching for the biggest strawberries and comparing their finds in the cardboard trugs. How we bring our treasure home and set about making little jars of jam so that we can spread a little bit of summer over the wintery months ahead.

I make a very simple loose strawberry jam with equal measure (1.5kg) of strawberries (cut in half) and natural sugar, I add these to a large saucepan greased with 10g of unsalted butter and simmer, dissolving all of the sugar, one dissolved I add the juice of two lemons and bring to the boil for approx 20 mins or until the jam sets.

To test if it has set I put a couple of saucers in the fridge and put a teaspoon of jam on them and pop them in the fridge for a few minutes, if you can run your finger through the jam and the white line stays then it has set. I then use a variety of small jars to bottle up, having sterilized them in a hot oven beforehand. This amount usually gives me about 2.5kg of jam, yum!


my mum gave me some old frames she found in her attic, for me to use for my pictures. They belonged to my grandma and are pictures of her sister, Agnes {pictured above} and her wedding back in the 1940's. My mum lost her parents far too early in life and although she grew up in a large family, most didn't have children, my great, great grandmother, at 90 outlived all of her 11 children and only one of those children had children of their own, such was the curse of TB!

They are such beautiful pictures and it would be sacrilege for me to remove them from their frames after 60 years. They meant something to my grandma, who would of displayed them proudly in her home, as I am now going to do in my home. She would of looked with love at her sister who moved so far away from her in the war. The sister she trusted to look after her daughter, my mum, when she had TB in the 1950's and my mum who bravely went to a new house, new school, in another country (well Wales) all on her own without seeing her own mother for two whole years! 

These might be pictures of strangers to me, but I feel a responsibility to preserve their memory and pass on their stories to my children. It makes me sad when I go into antique shops, car boot sales and charity shops to see medals and pictures, things that are so precious and shouldn't be sold. It will certainly make me think twice about buying a picture frame with a picture already in it in the future, who is the person inside and where are their family? 

Thursday, 23 July 2009

now we are six...

to my wonderful boy, 

you are now six. You greet each day with such excitement and energy. On the eve of your birthday, I asked what presents you were hoping for and you answered "What people give me, mummy" and inside my heart swelled with pride. You don't ask for much and aren't bothered by toys, you would rather play with your friends or your brother and parents. You love action games, dressing up, adventures or football. You love riding your bike and go so fast that one of your birthday presents was wrist, elbow and knee pads! 

You were making castles at school a few weeks ago and all the children came out with cereal box sized castles, you walked out with one almost as big as you are, with boxes, turrets and many many other features! You are so creative and are always full of big ideas. You are kind and thoughtful and not only invited your friends to your party, but their little brothers and sisters too, spending time at your party cuddling your little one year old friend Charlie. 

As I stroked your head at the end of such a wonderful day, I watched you as you slept and remembered that six years to the day, I was also watching you, my newborn son. I can remember watching you for hours, in your hospital crib, thinking how perfect you were and holding you with all the awkwardness of a new mum. You have grown into such a handsome boy and I am lucky that you are mine. 

Happy birthday Alfie x  

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

there was a party...

we wore fancy dress, 
played party games, 
received lots of presents, 
made a dinosaur birthday cake, 
watched as a balloon floated up into the sky, 
& took great delight in mischievously letting another go egged on by friends!

gave out toy rats/bats to the boys,
and a posy of flowers for the girls, 
blew out SIX candles on the cake, 
and gave out generous slices to our guests, 
wrote out who gave all the presents in a long list, 
ready to write the thank you letters ~ oh the downside of parties! 

we are all now pooped and eating the leftovers ~ egg sandwich anyone?

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

I've always wanted to sleep in a gypsy caravan...

I have just found the most idyllic holiday home, a thatched cottage and gypsy caravan in Ireland. It is an 'Under the Thatch' property, who we have stayed with before, remember the Railway Carriage? Look at the interiors, just so lovely and a gypsy caravan to sleep in too!

Monday, 20 July 2009

party prep...

We are preparing for a sixth birthday party here, with all the excitement and noise that comes along with it. Instead of the dreaded party bags (which I hate, waste of money, full of plastic unethical crap that breaks) we are giving all the boys a toy (rat/bat/spider) and the girls a posy of flowers, each with a tag saying "thank you for coming to my party" hand written by the birthday boy. I have made some 'cut out and colour' fancy dress "Alfie's" to match the invitations, but I can't figure out how to attach a PDF to the blog, has anyone else done this? 

Now to plan the party games and thank you for the most valuable advice of not playing hunt the thimble Jackie! I thought, pass the parcel, pass the balloon between your knees, musical statues/bumps, the flour cake game, treasure hunt and sleeping lions to end, again good advice to have a wind down game at the end, thank you Thimbleina. 

Oh and make the cake, which this year is to be chocolate with dinosaurs on top! or footballers or cowboys, the boy is worse at making decisions than I am! 

Sunday, 19 July 2009

one enchanted evening...

As a child I would imagine and draw, magical woodland glades lit by hundreds of glow worms, but I have never seen one in real life. I joined a glow worm walk this week at dusk, to learn more about them and how to identify them. They are amazing things, they aren't worms at all but actually beetles. The female is huge compared to the male and glows to attract him and once mating and laying her eggs, she dies. They emit such a tiny but bright light, like an LED light and can be quite hard to see as they hold on to long grasses. They are even more difficult to photograph!  

I rarely go out at dawn or dusk anymore, especially in the summer time when the boys are in bed when it is still light, which is a shame as they are the best times to see wildlife and take photographs. If you would like to find out more, then I would recommend you visit your local Wildlife Trust website to find out what is going on near you, the events they run are usually free. 

Saturday, 18 July 2009

cool camping crockery...

At this time of year, I rarely get everything unpacked before it's time to pack up again for another camping trip. With this in mind I have been scouring antique and charity shops and car boot sales for some camping crockery and cutlery, so I don't have to pack and unpack all the time. I prefer to take nice china rather than anything plastic, I think it creates a more beautiful camp site! 

By organising everything like this I find it so much easier just to pack and go on camping trips, without the usual packing stresses that can arise from squeezing four people and their clobber into a relatively small car! Here is my latest find, a 1960's china set just perfect for camping, but almost too nice, so will probably find it's way into the kitchen cupboards and then I will look for more... do you notice a pattern emerging? 

Friday, 17 July 2009

we finally got our allotment ~ yay!

After a year of waiting and a HUGE backlash against the allotment by local villagers {NIMBY's} we have finally been advised by the council that there will be a site provided. We live in a beautiful, very picturesque village, where houses are expensive and there is an aging population. The allotment site is about a quarter of a field on the outskirts of the village, in front of a large listed mansion {divided into apartments} and visible to all driving past.

Without even finding out the facts, a group of villagers, started a petition, using an artists impression of a horrible allotment site covering the whole field. By misleading local people, they have been discredited, for example the sight line to the beautiful mansion is not compromised, it is agricultural land and therefore does not come under conservation status like buildings do, nor will there be sheds or a huge car park. Nor will having a water supply, increase the risk of flooding to local houses! The stories that have been told!

Despite their campaign we have stayed firm, there is no truth in the stories they have told and therefore the only objection is one of a personal dislike of allotments, which in this day and age somewhat surprising and disappointing.

For young families like us, who have very small gardens and are effected by the increasing food prices, an allotment is a dream come true. We are very excited and will make the allotment site the front garden of our village, lets hope this is where the battle ends...

Thursday, 16 July 2009

sunshine on a rainy day...

1. a sweet summer picture, 2. new emmeline, 3. cakes, 4. the livingroom, 5. The Lake District, 6. the crockery cupboard, 7. Untitled, 8. Untitled, 9. lisboa, 10. July 4th, 11. Untitled, 12. fresher than fresh, 13. * cake and tea, 14. friday night lights, 15. Untitled, 16. homemade strawberry cake, 17. bouquet, 18. ., 19. India with a garden snail..., 20. * tea for one, 21. Untitled, 22. summer, 23. pb & b pancake, 24. summer morning, 25. we laughed

I am constantly inspired by photographers I have discovered on flickr, here is a selection of some of my most recent flickr favourites. A summer theme, packed with sun flare, tea and cakes and flowers, which is brightening up a very rainy day here, I hope this mosaic brings some sunshine to your day too.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

the circus is back...

Every two years Giffords Circus tours the Cotswold Villages in all of it's boutique 1940's splendor! Unfortunately, not this year, but they have just announced that they are taking bookings for the new 2010 show! The new show is called 'Yasmine - a musical' about the legendary horse trainer Yasmine Smart. This circus is like no other, it is small, intimate in fact, and everyone takes part, the girls selling your brochure dart in and out of the big top and sell candy floss in the interval. Last year I took a photo of one of the outfits and a voice behind me said "they were made from my mother in law's curtains you know!" I looked round to see Toti Gifford owner of the circus, selling brochures. 

I can't recommend this circus enough, it is packed with original music, gorgeous costumes, original artistic direction from Nell Gifford, beautifully trained horses and a goose named Brian. If you get the chance to go, then make sure you book an evening performance and follow the show with a meal in the restaurant, which is a large canvas tent attached to a showman's waggon kitchen. You dine on large communal tables, alongside circus performers, the food is good and sourced locally whilst on the road. I know I will be booking my tickets very soon!

access to nature...

Bit of a long post today, before you start, make a cup of tea...! Right, are you ready? So with the summer holidays stretched out before us, today's post comes from an interview with Richard Louv here, about children's access to nature. This subject is so important to me that I have copied almost the whole article in length so as not to dilute it... 

Whether you grew up in a suburb, on a farm, or in a big city, you probably spent a lot of time playing outside, getting dirty, and coming home happy. Maybe you watched ants making anthills in your backyard, climbed trees in the park, or simply lay in the grass contemplating the drifting clouds. Unfortunately, young children today do not have as many direct experiences with nature, and it's taking a toll. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, maintains that this disconnect from the natural world is producing ill effects in both mind and body. But he's optimistic that well-meaning, forward-thinking parents and educators can close the kid-nature gap. "We should not think of a child's experience in nature as an extracurricular activity," says Louv. "It should be thought of as vital to children's health and development." 

Research suggests that a connection to nature is biologically innate; as humans, we have an affinity for the natural world. When children spend most of their time indoors, they miss out. Problems associated with alienation from nature include familiar maladies: depression, obesity, and attention deficit disorder. Kids who have direct access to nature are better learners. Exposure to nature has been shown to reduce stress and increase attention spans.
When a child is out in nature, all the senses get activated. He is immersed in something bigger than himself, rather than focusing narrowly on one thing, such as a computer screen. He's seeing, hearing, touching, even tasting. Out in nature, a child's brain has the chance to rejuvenate, so the next time he has to focus and pay attention, perhaps in school, he'll do better.

There are some obvious reasons, such as the fact that many families are overscheduled, which chips away at leisure time. Parental fears — of traffic, of crime, even of nature itself, such as with Lyme disease or the West Nile virus — also play a big role in keeping kids indoors. What's unfortunate is that these fears have been overamplified by the media, and the overall effect is that kids spend more time in their homes, or very close to home.
In many places, children's access to nature has been cut off. The woods at the end of the cul-de-sac were made into a new subdivision. New neighborhoods are carefully planned, and as a result, they often dramatically restrict what kids can do with nature. Even parks are manicured — there may be a nice smooth soccer field or a baseball diamond but no rough edges. Rough edges are the places children gravitate toward to explore, where they find rocks and weeds and bugs. Efforts to provide nice-looking and safe outdoor spaces are well intentioned, but they give kids the message that nature is not something you go out in to get your hands dirty.
These days, kids in rural areas are just as indoor focused as their suburban peers, and for the same reasons — parental fears, less 
unscheduled time, an emphasis on computers and other indoor activities. And while we might think that, historically, kids in cities have had limited contact with the natural world, it's not always true. In older cities, especially, there are lots of green spaces, lots of unplanned areas like vacant lots. Sure, it's not the woods, but when we talk about nature it's not about the kind of nature, it's about children having the opportunity and freedom to explore what's out there in their surroundings. That may mean a city park, a farm, a patch of woods in a suburb — even a tiny roof garden counts.
You would think it would be ideal to let kids run loose and come back dirty and happy at end of the day, but in reality this is not likely to happen anymore. We have to come up with new ways for kids to have direct contact with nature. This probably means parents have to get out there with their kids, and explore with them. Schools, too, including preschools, can incorporate natural surroundings. In many schools in Western Europe, nature is incorporated into the design of child care centers and schools, and there have been positive results in terms of kids' attention spans and stress levels.
The best thing you can do is to be enthusiastic about nature yourself. Go out in your backyard. Instead of a manicured lawn or garden, leave some spots untamed so kids can dig in the dirt and find rocks or interesting weeds. If you have a vegetable garden, have your child help you plant seeds or pick tomatoes. Even walking to your local park can be a nature walk to a preschooler — he can collect leaves, you can point out trees and bushes and show him the bugs crawling along the curb. Let your kids get down in the dirt so they can see at eye level the whole universe there. Nature is good for everyone's mental health. Nature isn't the problem; it's the solution.

If you would like to read more or get some inspiration for school holiday activity, I would recommend these books below...

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
Forest Schools and Outdoor Learning in Early Years by Sara Knight
I love dirt by Jennifer Ward 
Nature's Playground by Fiona Danks

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Emma's camping guide...

Camping season 'tis upon us. Already we have been camping this year and have plans for even more trips over the summer. We camp in a canvas bell tent which we love, especially with the boys being small, we all huddle up close at night. Camping is having a huge resurgence in popularity at the moment in the UK, which is great as it is the stuff that childhood memories are made from; being allowed to roam further, playing until the sun sets and meeting lots of other children. I thought I would list what I take with me on our family camping trips...

the tent...
A canvas bell tent : : ours is 4 metre diameter
a double self inflating roll mat : : ours is one by outwell and despite a bad back I get a good nights sleep on it 
sheepskins for the boys to lie on : : to keep warm make sure you insulate yourself underneath it's more important than piling blankets on top! 
1 double sleeping bag {which separate into two single ones}
2 single cath kidston sleeping bags for the boys
blankets, pillows, cushions and throws {last things to be packed and I squeeze as many as I can in the car without the Mr. seeing!} to make the tent feel luxurious and give you something to snuggle in as the sun sets
A low table {I am currently on the look out for a tray/low camping table, a tin tray with fold down legs would do ~ let me know if anyone finds one!}
camping chairs
doormat & dustpan and brush for a clean tent and happy mama
tea lights, torches, camp lamp

a camping stove & matches
one plastic tub which doubles as a table with crockery and pans in {I take mismatched china, enamelware and cutlery bought from car boot sales}
camping kettle
water bottle
one cool box with food basics and essentials {it is really important to support local business when you go on holiday, over 90% of people take their own food on self catering holidays which is very likely to be from a supermarket, by eating local produce you are supporting the local economy, plus you can really discover local delicacies such as Cornish cream teas, samphire, fresh fish etc...}
plastic trug for carrying things in and washing up - take ecover liquid to be environmentally friendly
I do take picnic rugs, jam jars to double up as vases and tablecloths too!

note: The Happy Campers recommend taking a homemade cake so that when you arrive at your campsite you can put the kettle on whilst the men put up the tents then sit down and have a cup of tea and slice of cake as soon as it's up and the hard work finished! 

camping fun...
cowboys and indians fancy dress {the bell tent doubles as a tipi}
bow and arrow
paper and pencils in case of bad weather
camera's : : goes without saying!
moleskine journal for creative drawing and writing
cricket set
good story books ~ like Enid Blyton's adventure series
wet weather gear and wellies {always be prepared for all weather's and it won't spoil your fun}

this is the hardest thing for me as I always overpack clothes 'just in case' but I am getting a lot better! I find it best to write out what you need then lay it all out on the bed first before packing. I also write out what the boys need {like this here} and let them help pack as they are always really keen to get involved. 

note: I always take a small first aid set with antiseptic cream, sting relief cream, arnica cream and tablets for bumps and bruises, plasters and antihistamine tablets.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

goodness through your letterbox...

I have just had my first delivery from graze, a health food company that delivers fruit, nuts and seeds in little boxes through the door! I know, a little extravagant and I can certainly buy the ingredients separately for a lot less, but somehow I don't. I don't like the taste of nuts and bulk bags of seeds in health food shops and supermarkets scare me! I buy the odd bag of dried apricots and pumpkin seeds but after a few minutes of munching I get bored and need the instant gratification of biscuits or cake! So with my new healthy attitude I have signed up for a weekly delivery, of fruit and seeds. You can specify what you do and don't like and even include olives in the delivery too. I am delighted with my first box, with a large portion of grapes, a mix called apple strudel {dried apple, dried apricot & dried cranberries} and also a granola seed mix. 

I think when you are eating healthily or dieting, a little treat goes a long way and this has certainly made healthy eating a little more fun! If you want to try a box for just £1 visit and enter the code FHK4VCLB to receive a little box of healthy eating through your letterbox. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


picture by Nikole

I have just discovered Nikole of forty-sixth at grace. With her father she sells the most beautiful wooden spoons and cake stands in her shop herriottgrace. I just love the display above made even better with her amazing cakes, just look at the icing ~ have you ever seen anything more gorgeous? It looks knitted doesn't it? I would love a birthday cake like that, wouldn't you? 

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

summer is...

eating peas straight from the pod
going swimming after school
weekends spent camping
cooling down with fruity lolly pop's
wild swimming in rivers
village fete's, homemade cakes & brass bands
drinking homemade elderflower cordial
dirty hands and feet from playing in the garden
barbecues with friends
& rain, rain, rain! 

Saturday, 4 July 2009

back to the drawing board...

I rarely do any drawing, but I have been inspired enough to design my son's 6th birthday party invitations. He wants to have a fancy dress party, so I have designed a 'cut out Alfie' with four outfits to choose from to cut out and dress. As a child I used to read 'Twinkle' comic and it always had a cut out 'Twinkle' on the back with a different outfit each week and I have attempted to create a boy version. I will scan the drawings in and add colour and details in Indesign and maybe keep a line drawing version to print out on card to add to the party bags. He has chosen 17 friends, both boys and girls, so quite a big party {aaaaah!} so please feel free to share any ideas you have for simple party games and cheap and simple ideas for party bags.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

hobby horse...

I have fallen in love with homemade hobby horses, this one was made by Chia-Li, the Parent & Toddler Group leader at our local Steiner School. It will be our group project in the Autumn term, but as you can see Ted loves it so much we are starting ours at home {we have already secretly pinched daddy's socks!}. Chia-Li is going to buy some clips, the kind you get from ikea to hang your brooms up with, so that all the horses can be 'parked' next to each other on the veranda! 

All you need is a stick for the horse and another for the handles, which you notch so they sit together firmly as a cross. An old sock, stuffed with organic wool, and some wool for the mane. Buttons for the eyes and some stiff felt for the ears, it's really quite simple to put together and each horse really does take on it's own identity. If you are looking for a summer crafting project, then please join me and make your own... we could have a gymkhana
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