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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