Wednesday, 30 September 2009

seasons round exchange : autumn

I have just received my exchange parcel for the seasons round exchange from the lovely Ella Pedersen. Ella's was one of the first blogs that I discovered a few years ago, when I was new to the world of blogging and she is someone who continues to inspire me. She is a beautiful mother, photographer and artist, creating beautiful dolls and crowns, one of which I bought a few years ago, from her etsy shop and it has become a treasured item in our home.

I was delighted when Kyrie, the brains behind the exchange, paired me up with Ella, and even more delighted when the little parcels arrived containing not only some little felted acorns (that I have been admiring and secretly hoping a few might find their way here) but one of Ella's crowns too! Wonderful and so generous... now the boys have one each! She also sent a gorgeous onion dyed play silk, which is just a lovely colour (note to self - I must try this) and a lovely leafy mother earth with flowing red hair.

We sent a needle felted brown bear and mini picnic rug, a feather, a seed gathering activity, some autumn picnic photographs and some hot chocolate - which represents what we like to do in autumn, go on lots of picnics, gather seeds and drink hot chocolate! I was also mindful of what would travel well in the post all the way to Canada!

Thank you Ella for your lovely gifts and thank you Kyrie for organising the seasons round exchange. If you want to take part in the next seasons round exchange: winter, then sign ups begin tomorrow, here.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

when darkness falls...

picture of us by Jenny Ross

When night falls on a campsite, the fun begins, children get very excited as they so rarely play out in the dark! This is why I love camping in spring and autumn as the night falls earlier, as in the summer children have to stay up very late to see the sun set! Children become very wide eyed at night, running and hiding between the tents like little animals.

We took some sky lanterns with us on our camp, pictured above, and watched them float off into the sky, it was so enchanting as the sky was so clear and full of stars without any light pollution, like we have at home. Our friends had the forethought to buy some glow sticks for the children, so we could see them in the dark! Quite handy really, when trying to tell them apart! We also found some little packets of magic dust in the camp shop, which when thrown into the flames turned them blue ~ ideal for stories of magic, if our children were capable of sitting still for more than two minutes!

The best thing about camping is a real campfire, if you are fortunate to be at a campsite which allows them, I love campfires don't you? My favourite part of the evening was toasting the homemade marshmallows which I finally got round to making, using beetroot for the colouring, from this River Cottage recipe. Although not having a mixer, beating everything by hand was quite hard work! They tasted the same as shop bought ones although they did smell of beetroot...!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Cloud Farm Campsite - a review

picture by me

It just sounds idyllic 'Cloud Farm' doesn't it? Situated in the Doone Valley, the campsite is a series of meadows alongside the beautiful Badgeworthy River. We arrived at night, after a fraught journey, involving our usual "you can't fit all this in the car!" debate on the pavement at home followed by a lot of roadworks on the M5! Despite my biggest worry of pitching the tent in the dark using the car headlights, we managed it, and woke up to find we were surrounded by Exmoor rising steeply above the campsite.

We had camped in the first meadow, below the farmhouse and more importantly the tea shop! The boys quickly made friends with two boys in a neighboring tent and were off fishing as soon as they could, after talking us into buying some nets! In fact, the shop had everything we needed and if we go again, I would be tempted not to take any food at all, as it was so well stocked with good quality food and drink.

One of the reasons we chose this campsite was the fact you can have 'real' fires, a rarity for an English campsite and we bought wood from the shop. You could bring your own, as small bundles of wood and kindling are expensive and they don't insist that you use their own, like some places do, but sometimes it is best to pay for the convenience! The farm also runs a stables where you can go on trails, we thought this was a bit much for our little guys so we hired 'Sweep' the pony for half an hour and walked around the campsite, they were delighted to be rewarded with a rosette afterwards!

The river has lots of gentle waterfalls and pools, big enough for some 'wild' swimming ~ although a little cold, we waded instead, and cheered when a very brave couple took the plunge and swam. Being so accessible, I was very nervous with the boys around the water and insisted they had a grown up with them, my youngest is only three after all. I think were they a little older, you could pack them off in the morning with a picnic and not see them for hours, such is the potential 'adventure' factor here. I would advise plenty of clothes, as ours seemed to get wet very quickly and if we had been there a week, I may have started to despair in getting through so many pairs of shorts!

I would certainly recommend Cloud Farm, especially for families with children, as there is plenty to keep them amused, it is almost a 'natural' theme park, in comparison with the plastic amusements of Butlins, which is 20 miles along the coast, who needs kids clubs when you can discover the joys of messing about on a riverbank? My only word of caution would be weather - this is Exmoor and the weather changes quickly, I wouldn't want to be camping next to a river in a steep valley in heavy rain!

Cloud Farm is just how a campsite should be, no frills or fancy, just heaps of old fashioned fun!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

a birthday camping trip...

picture of inside our bell tent by me!

quite a low key birthday this year, especially after the last couple of weeks. My husband is worn out after his mum passed away and somehow celebrating my birthday a week after the funeral just didn't seem right. So we went away for a camping trip with a few close friends, who kindly drove quite a long way just to spend one night camping with us!

We stayed at Cloud Farm Campsite, in the Doone Valley in Exmoor, and I am wondering if it is possibly the best campsite we have ever been to? But before I share the reasons why, I have two very dirty boys to bath, a mountain of clothes to wash and camping kit to store away for the final time this year! I will post more after an early night and a large mug of hot chocolate... night all!

Plus, as another year has passed, I have a new list to put together - soon!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

hedgerow harvest...

picture by me

The hedgerows are brimming with fruits and berries at the moment, rosehip, blackberries and apples are some of my favourite ~ we can't pick enough! There are so many more fruits this year than last year and my little men come with me bringing big sticks to pull down thorny branches to make the juicy berries easier to reach. I took this picture of my little man on a recent walk using my lomographic film camera and it is an instant favourite and judging by the views on flickr other people think so too! Its one of those pictures that I am going to look at forever, as it reminds me of our walks together, he always finds a stick {a bit like a dog} and leads the way, five paces in front with my youngest five paces behind!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

work in progress...

hobby horse picture by me

I have been working on a handmade hobby horse for a little while now, just not seeming to have to time to finish him off! Today I have added some eyes and now all I need to do is attach the sticks! He has come alive with the eyes and ears and no longer just looks like an oddly stuffed sock, thank goodness!

Monday, 21 September 2009

a rather large kettle...

photo by me

I have been on the lookout for a large kettle for an age. Large enough to make everyone a cup of tea when we go camping. Large enough for a dormouse to sleep in, like in the tales of 'Alice in Wonderland'! {sorry wandered off there for a moment} I have been lusting after one since we stayed at a Feather Down Farm last year. Even better this one will go on an open fire, perfect...!

I found the kettle of my dreams {pictured above} at our nearby car boot sale and it cost an unbelievable £1! I am becoming quite addicted to car booting, thanks to my lovely friend Gina. I used to go years ago, but as you usually have to get up at the crack of dawn and I generally don't, then I haven't bothered for years. But through her and reading Julia's lovely blog here, I have mustered enough energy to get out of bed early on a Sunday morning a few times now! It is always worth it and last week along with this kettle I found a lovely picture frame, some more wooden letters and some old wooden school chairs, £3 for two! What amuses me most is the bartering and banter, and how at a car boot sale you really don't pay more than a few pounds for anything, I have walked away from so much thinking "£5 for that, you're having a laugh!" only to get home and see it in a trendy catalogue or something and regret my thriftiness!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

homemade lemonade...

picture: squeeze by me

Today was a hot day so we made lemonade, we should of been joining friends for an overnight camp, but felt so worn out after the last few weeks, we just had to do nothing! I thought some fresh lemons would give us the pick me up we need to stop us feeling so run down. We squeezed out 20 lemons, added natural sugar and some water to taste. Fresh lemonade and an early night might just be what the Dr. ordered!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

climbing trees...

My six year old son is pushing his boundaries, he climbs higher, cycles faster (and tries wheelies!) and runs everywhere! It is so important that I make sure he has the opportunity to explore but within a safe environment. He can shin up a tree so quickly, leaving me trying not to scream "get down" underneath, as I hover - just in case! When I see him up a tree or jumping from a great height, I think of this advert in my mind - just imagine what his mother is thinking! Maybe I should nip this in bud now?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

book review: handmade home

For the many of you that inhabit the blogosphere, then you will already be familiar with Amanda Blake Soule of soulemama fame. If you are like me, a fan, then you will without a doubt already own this book and probably have made a few of the creations detailed in it! Mine has only just arrived, so forgive me if I rave to the converted!

The first thing I noticed about Handmade Home, was the paper, it has a lovely recycled, uncoated texture, different than the satin feel of Amanda's first book 'The Creative Family' and much better and fitting with the theme of the book. The 30 projects range from papier-mache bowls to a one word banner and are easy to follow, beautifully photographed and you don't have to be an expert seamstress to do most of them.
I was surprised at the simplicity of the projects, they are things that we could all think of and do ourselves and maybe thats why Amanda is so damn good, the rest of us don't think of these ourselves. She reminds us of just how simple it is to create beautiful things for our home and provides a range of project's that are simple for all family members to get involved with and enjoy. This book is ideal for lovers of homemade crafts, sewing projects for the whole family and those looking for a little magical inspiration. I am off to make the portrait bookmarks with the boys!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

this has got to stop...

another weekend, another cooked breakfast! This week I was interviewed for a Christmas feature in Red Magazine about health at Christmas. I am going to be one of their case studies as someone who usually gets ill at Christmas, in fact I am always ill between Christmas and New Year to be exact. Every year the same, I pick up something and puts a dampener on the festivities. As I answered the journalist, Andrea Child's questions, I was forced to admit my guilty secrets...

I do no exercise (I class running around after the boys and walking as exercise), I eat most of the chocolate that is given to the boys to prevent them from eating badly (you should see how much they are given at Christmas and Easter!) and I don't eat breakfast, except at the weekend when it is cooked and usually eaten at lunch time! It got worse, sometimes I eat with the boys for an early tea then eat AGAIN later with my husband at 9pm at night. This is without my biscuit weakness - why have just one? There are going to be two experts that offer me advice, nutritionist Jane Clark and a fitness expert {I am hoping they will provide the kick up the rear I need}. I felt quite guilty, confessing all to a voice at the end of the phone and I knew how awful it would look in print as I do know what I need to do, I just lack the motivation and will power to do it! It is the same every year due to the stresses of balancing work and home life in the run up to Christmas. It's not that I find Christmas particularly stressful, it's just that there is so much to think about, such as making cards, wrapping paper, nativity plays, Christmas parties, presents, making mince pies... Andrea asked "do you think you could buy all the stuff you make?", yep I sure could, but then that's not really me is it?... there is really no hope!!!!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

wrapping things up...

I watch this blanket blow in the breeze on the washing line, the shadows from the leaves behind, dancing across it. We have almost finished packing my mother in law's life away, neatly into boxes and I think I will keep this blanket out and wrap it around my family, especially on those colder winter nights ahead. I realise we are fine and for each knock we take it binds us closer together as a family, understanding how each other feels and making each other laugh. It is surprising quite how much humour and laughter is found at times of sadness isn't it? I received a lovely book in the post yesterday, from a lovely friend, who I haven't seen for a very long time and with whom I share a very painful memory of loosing someone we both held dear, who passed away far too early in life. The book is really helpful as a prompt to read to the boys and to discuss any feelings and memories that they may have and wish to talk about. Thank you Em, your kindness has touched us all x

Friday, 11 September 2009

learning to be a parent...

my eldest son started back at school last week, he has really grown over the summer. If he was educated within the Steiner movement, this would be the year he would start class 1 and I can see how physically, he would be ready. Although he was socially ready to start school at the age of 4, after two years he is way off some of his classmates reading and writing abilities, which to me is fine as I do not and will not compare. But he is starting to notice and say little things about it. I have purposely not pushed him at home, as I firmly believe that after six hours at school, he needs the freedom to explore and play and spend as much time outdoors as possible. We try to nurture a love of books, not just for reading but to look at the pictures and to make our own stories.

I am lucky that he has a good teacher who has already commented to me about just how enthusiastic he is, which makes me feel like she knows and understands him as she said how great this was, and that we just need to channel this enthusiasm without dampening it. In the back of my mind I still have the fear that already he has been catagorised basically due to his late birthday in July and that he will never "catch up" with the "gifted" children. I also feel quite strongly that yes it is important to read and write as I'm sure he will have no problem doing, but it is more important to nurture creative thinking and ideas. I think of all the people that I admire and none of them it is down to their academic success, but it is for their kindness, hard work, passion, creativeness, free thinking or leadership.

We are introducing a 'wind down' hour in the evening before bed time, where we read books to each other, draw, write stories or play games. I am hoping this will help with reading at school in a non pressured way and help him to keep confidence in his own abilities.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

saying goodbye to summer...

 by lobster and swanAlbion Caff by read me...i forgot by simply photos l e e p y by clumsy bird219 // 365: More clouds by jesshibbpicnic 2 by marthasnailbff by simply photoboy and his dog by brown paper and string by little birdsafghan crazy! by makingchickensaladgarden poem by wood & wool stoolwool storage by wood & wool stoolpicked daisies from my garden by wood & wool stoolbazar style by wood & wool stooltiles & granny squares by wood & wool stoolexota 3 by wood & wool stoolkrukjes loes by wood & wool stooltea by wazzagyogurt pops by simply photo by Molly | Orangettetwenty pounds by birchmama. by unravelling [susannah]Sunny Summer Driving by buttonmoOongreen by kat heyes by buttonmoOonsummer by liivia ssummer by liivia sIMG_6471 by dayataglancequilts by tiny happyCovent Garden's Spring Renaissance by Steve Jguardian of the shed by fitzhughfellahome by liivia s

cheering myself up with a few of my flickr fav's. Feeling rubbish as I haven't picked my camera up for almost a week now!?*! Hoping that my groove returns soon before you all forget about me! Enjoying the sunny spell, before embracing autumn and all that it holds in store.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

the kindness of strangers...

so many cards and kind thoughts arrive on a daily basis through our door and on this blog, from some people we know but mainly people we don't. We take comfort from this, and that she lived a long life and in the end it was painless and quick, which is something many people are not afforded. She lived 78 years and had seen her son graduate, marry and have sons of his own, for which she was very proud. We feel the weight on our shoulders of arranging a funeral and choosing "what she would of wanted" sometimes this weight makes it hard to breathe. We are reminded of our own mortality, we do not have a Will, who would know what we want, do we know what we would want? How many years do we have left and how are we going to fill this precious time?

It is a time of great change for our little family, feelings of emptiness peppered with laughter as we find yet another writing set in her drawers - how many did she need? We pour over old photos processing all the memories that we subconsciously try to catalogue in our minds, fearing that we might forget them...

Where do people go to when they die?
Somewhere down below or in the sky?
'I can't be sure,' said Grandad, but it seems
They simply, set up home in our dreams.

Inside Our Dreams by Jeanne Willis

Sunday, 6 September 2009

hold on to your loved ones...

my mother-in-law passed away on Friday evening, very quickly but peacefully. We are in shock and probably will be for a while yet. My husband, her only child is a rock and is busying himself with the practicalities that follow and answering so many phone calls! The worst thing is she lived in sheltered housing near us and we only have a week to sort her things out, a week to pack her life into three piles of "keep, recycle/pass on/sell or throw away", which I find a bit harsh. I think my approach will be to buy many plastic tubs, pack it away and deal with it in a few weeks when we are ready. After she died on Friday evening, my husband was told he could collect the 'body' the next day, so hard to hear her being referred to as a 'body' within minutes, don't you think?

We haven't been able to sort anything out in terms of funeral either as the hospital bereavement office, register office and solicitor to get the will are all shut at the weekend, so again more waiting! The boys are fine and appear not to be interested, even though we have told them what's happening, I think as she was in and out of hospital over Christmas, they are used to this and just think she will be back, especially with Alfie's nine lives theory!

It is a strange time and a time when we hold our loved ones just a little tighter. Thank you friends for all your good wishes and don't forget to hold your loved ones a little closer too x

Thursday, 3 September 2009

a broken heart...

no operation last night, but yet more complications found. This morning my husband travels back to the hospital to see what a new team of consultants think about the tear in her heart. I tried to talk to the boys about it and said about her having a 50:50 chance last night, Alfie took it to mean she has fifty lives, a bit like a cat. It is so refreshing how a six year old brain, understands and rationalises and is a tonic for me right now!

I remember when my aunt passed away, days before his third birthday, we went to the funeral, then a few months later my rabbit died too. As we buried him in the back garden, I said that Aunty Liz would look after him in heaven, so he is convinced that we buried Aunty Liz in the back garden too! I do not know what you are supposed to say to children, I am trying to be as open and honest as possible and tell them how serious this is without scaring them.

Thank you all for your kind thoughts and comments, it gives me great strength reading them.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


tonight my mother-in-law has been admitted into hospital for an emergency heart operation. It is very serious and my husband has rushed to be with her on this windy, rainy, horrible night. I sit and wait, busying myself with small jobs, but feeling fairly useless. Tonight, nothing else matters, I watch my children sleep and I am filled with sadness, helplessness to stop this world from turning, and knowing my husband is at her bedside, her little boy. I light a candle, the candle that was lit for my aunt at my son's baptism a few years ago, when she died just days before, and I blog, because it's something I can do, and I wait...

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

new home...

the farm animals have a new home, in an old printers block tray, mounted on the bedroom wall. It is a bit of a squeeze for the bigger animals but it makes it a lot easier to see all of the animals and for little hands to have access to them to play with freely. This sums up most of our bank holiday weekend... housework! Our least favourite chore, but one we have a rekindled passion for as we are trying to get all the little things for have been putting off for {6} years done and finally have a house that we are comfortable inviting people round to!
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