Friday, 31 December 2010

looking back, this year in pictures...

January ~ we made lots of pasta!

February ~ it snowed and I got a nice coat!

March ~ football and dirty knees

April ~ a little man's campfire birthday and seed planting

May ~ a walk through golden fields

June ~ camping, campfires and peatini's 

July ~ a sleepover for 8 boys and elderflower picking!

August ~ blackberry picking and making into yogurt pops!

September ~ photographing a wedding and outdoor cinema night

October ~ a trip to Wales and pumpkin carving

November ~ the chickens are still laying

December ~ more snow and illness wipes us all out! 

Thank you for visiting my little space here in 2010 
Happy New Year to you all! 
here's to a great 2011
Emma x 

Thursday, 30 December 2010

the pudding club...

Grey drizzly day outside today, and at last the boys and I have felt a little more human again, although still coughing like crazy! Something a little cheery was required for tea, so I used up the Christmas panettone in little pudding dishes, to make ice cream bombs. Firstly I lined the dishes with cling film, then thinly sliced the panettone and lined the dish with it. I spread a thin layer of jam and added a good quality vanilla ice cream, adding a last layer of panettone on top before pulling up the cling film over the top, squashing down and popping in the freezer. Bring out of the freezer 20-30 mins before serving. 

2010, a whistle stop review...

spent an entire wintery weekend with the most beautiful friends in a Cotswold cottage in January.

had photographs published in Sainsbury's magazine, the BIG Issue magazine, front cover of Stroud Life newspaper, Wildlife Watch and The Wildlife Trusts publications and the book 152 Wild Things to Do.

watched my boy develop a love of playing football with his team, and his dad watch him with such pride.

sadly our village library was closed, the grade 2 building was deemed unsafe! I can't see it ever being open again in this age of spending review and cuts.

held my first ever exhibition in June, ran my first ever family 'picture picnic' workshop in July and had my first ever commission in August!

took one of my most favourite photographs ever (above) taken with my sx-70 and rejoiced with Polaroid lovers all over the world as the Impossible Project started producing film again.

our parish councillors still haven't resolved the lack of allotments and it's now been over 2 ½ years since we asked, despite a site being found a mile away (to be reached by bus - can't wait to try and get on with wheelbarrow and manure!) there are now issues over access and parking!

wiped my tears, as my little man started school, without even looking over his shoulder and as we welcomed our dear friends beautiful baby girl into the world ♥

photographed my first wedding!

I spent far too much time working, the perils of working part time with a great work load, meant I spent my spare time catching up instead of with my boys! This makes me very sad as they are growing up far too quickly and I stay up far too late at night.

in the garden we planted lots of seeds and welcomed Betty chicken and Rosie Red hen to the family!

Spent an amazing week in the wonderful Cornish tipi's again and even got to visit Wales not once but twice!

& made the most amazing birthday cake EVER!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

winter ice skating party

isn't this winter ice skating party magical? I found it on the sweetest occasion website and now want to ice skate in a magical woodland clearing, just like this! Lit by candles in jars and fairy lights strung in the trees, with popcorn and jugs full of hot chocolate and hand knitted jumpers to warm you up.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas is...

a time to indulge! Today, I had a winter warming spa treatment, bought for me by my family for Christmas 2009! I know a year, why has it taken me a whole year to take advantage of this gift? Well, I thought I would save it for the right time, the right moment when I had enough time to steal myself away, without guilt! Unsurprisingly, this moment didn't arrive, until now! It was so lovely, especially as I still haven't shaken off the lurgy!

Christmas is also a time of receiving gifts, things that I would never justify buying for myself, things like these gorgeous Hush pyjamas, a pair of fingerless mittens, a good book and the beautiful needlecase, handmade by tiny happy (pictured above). Things like this I will covet. I do hope that you were spoiled as much as I have been this Christmas?

after Christmas...

comes the big tidy! I guess new presents and days spent relaxing at home, make me want to get on with jobs around the house! I start noticing the skirting board that needs painting, the doorknobs that need replacing and the dust on the tops of picture frames! I have just 'pinched' this cushion from my mum's, she embroidered it in the 70's, I think it is perfect for my leather armchair, so that's a start, right?

Monday, 27 December 2010

Friday, 24 December 2010

let the festivities commence...

With snow still on the ground we spent the day with good friends sledging and walking through picture postcard scenery, stopping for hot chocolate topped with 'squirty' cream! Then home for Rudolf's Rocket Fuel Soup, a butternut squash soup, with apple, parsnip, carrot, potato and paprika. Throughout the day we have been glued to Norad's Santa tracking website, following Santa across the world, getting excited as he gets closer!

Now its time to leave out a mince pie for Father Christmas and an apple for Rudolf (apparently not a carrot this year!), hang our stockings and go to bed!

Merry Christmas,

Thursday, 23 December 2010


I came across the term 'elving' over on Soulemama's blog a while back, such a great turn of phrase. We have been elving today, whilst wearing our 'elf ears' for authenticity! 

We made a huge bowlful of gingerbread dough for the gingerbread house and for some gingerbread men, and two gingerbread foxes to give the chickens for presents! So that's all ready for construction and decorating tomorrow. 

And, we have also started making paper chain decorations using newspaper, to string up around the house, inspired by the paper bunting by Toast, this Christmas. 

more fun tomorrow!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

roasted chestnuts...

we roast chestnuts in our woodburning stove with our 'homemade' roasting pan, aka a tin with holes punched in! Simple and a perfect fireside winter solstice treat.

how to make a DIY biscuit jar...

I have taken this recipe from Jamie magazine Dec 09/Jan 10, but adapt it to suit different recipes. 

You will need a clean dry 750ml jar. Layer the following ingredients in this order, starting with flour...

  • 115g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 150g raisins
  • 165g rolled oats
  • 125g light brown sugar

On a luggage label write the following instructions...

the decorate the jar with biscuit cutters, vanilla pods and string!

Christmas food planning...

am feeling quite unprepared for Christmas, with the last two weeks being full of illness and now being snowed in! So true to form I am list making and trying to make as many gifts as possible.

pre~Christmas Family Baking...

gingerbread house 
gingerbread cookies to decorate and give as gifts
fairy cakes with coconut snow and little deer on top
DIY biscuits jars (pictured above)
mince pies made by the elves

* * *

Christmas Eve...

Rudolf's rocket fuel, carrot soup
homemade bread rolls

mulled cider/apple juice

carol's playing in background!

* * *

Christmas Day...

snacking on gold coins and satsumas from our stockings! 

Porridge with maple syrup and cream

Turkey with bread sauce and stuffing
Roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips
Cranberry sauce 
Brussels sprouts with bacon 

drinking black velvet {guinness and champagne or in our case asti spumanti!}

Christmas ice cream bombe, mincement mixed with vanilla ice cream and a polar bear decoration!

* * *

Boxing Day...

breakfast of bubble and squeak - leftover potato, cabbage and sprouts fried in butter and topped with a fried egg

lunch at mum's 

eve - turkey sandwiches, crisps, pickle, cheese!

* * *


turkey and leek pie 
mashed potato & gravy

panettone and a nice cup of tea!

* * * 

Saturday, 18 December 2010

snow day...

Snow has fallen overnight, and I have woken feeling better having spent the last few days coughing and spluttering in bed! I am loving this video of snowboarding in Montmarte, Paris, it's so enchanting!

I saw this 'guide to snow' on the Howies website, and have adapted slightly...

Guide to snow...

1cm - light dusting. Can still get to school, work. Unsatisfying

5cm - schools close, people start walking like the marionettes from the Thunderbirds

10cm - wear wellies everywhere, make snowmen, bread starts selling out of local shops as people panic buy!

15cm - driving almost impossible, kettle works overtime!

20cm - put on as many layers as you can until you can no longer move, get sledges, skis, snowboards out and head for the hills!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

farmer's market...

The low winters light shines through the farmer's market at this time of year, highlighting the beautifully displayed stalls, that are piled high with tasty wares! My favourites are Days Cottage cider and apple juices as the bottles glow with golden contents and mountainous piles of vegetables, precariously balanced by Over Farm!

We buy huge sprout stalks and cabbages, fresh croissant and Days Cottage cider to heat and add mulled spices to. We treat ourselves to Hobbs House bread, goats cheese and fresh olives and sometimes if we're good we stop for coffee and cake at Woodruffs Organic Cafe. Saturday mornings at the farmer's market or 'farmer's supermarket' as Ted says, are my favourite days! 

Monday, 13 December 2010

a winter picnic...

Of our favourite things to do this time of year, is to have a picnic. So many people think picnics are just for summer, but wrapped up warm on a sunny autumn or winter's day, often means you can have a beach to yourself! We pack up hot soup and sandwiches and a freshly baked cake to share and find a hill to climb, wood to walk in or deserted beach.

One of our family's favourite autumn/wintery soups is a very simple butternut squash soup, which I make roughly like this and easily fills the four of us... 

1 butternut squash
1 large onion
a knob of butter
milk or cream
vegetable stock

1. fry onion in a large deep pan with a little butter until it goes clear
2. add in butternut squash, chopped into cubes and add to this one pint of vegetable stock
3. cook until squash is soft, then away from the heat blend until smooth
4. bring back to a low heat and add in a little milk/cream to get your preferred consistency/creaminess 
5. season and add a teaspoon of paprika to taste

Sunday, 12 December 2010

my two fat ladies...

I salute these girls who over the past few weeks have braved temperatures as low as -12. They didn't complain once as their water froze {every few hours!} and have even kept on laying us an egg each, every day. We have been rewarding their bravery with a blanket around their hen house to keep the cold wind out, warm porridge for breakfast, and a little warm water soaked bread for supper.

I had thought of putting a hot water bottle in their hen house those nights when it got REALLY cold, which my mum did in my rabbits hutch years ago, but thought they might peck it and burn their beaks! I wondered weather we would peep in one morning and find two chickens frozen on their perch, ready for the freezer! Today the frosts finally went and they have their lawn to peck over once more, happily searching for worms and grubs!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

thank goodness for online shopping...

The lurgy has reached our door, and there have been coughs, splutters, temperatures and sleepless nights all week. The little man was too poorly to go to school yesterday and the day before, so for the first time in years, I missed a nativity! My husband and I had taken the day off work to go Christmas shopping in Bath and have lunch at Jamies, but instead the youngest and I spent the day tucked up in bed, taking it in turns to look after each other!

All I can say is thank goodness for online shopping, still searching for gifts I found that Muddy Puddles has got some great presents and offers at the moment, the camo backpack is fab and comes in two sizes, great for different ages, and camo face paints and torch (make great stocking fillers). We get through quite a few torches in our house (many are dropped), but this one is sturdy, good quality and has a good beam - usually children's torches are quite plasticky and rubbish! I have also got the hooded fleece top, which is soft and fantastic for boys at this time of year, and even better it is currently reduced to only £11.50, so be quick! And the best thing for mums of active children is that it washes really well too.

Muddy Puddles has a huge range, and lots of discounts online at the moment, if you order online, use EMMAB at the checkout for FREE standard delivery.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

hoar frost...

beef stew and dumplings for supper tonight to keep us warm. It was -8 when I woke this morning and it didn't rise above -4 all day! The countryside however, looked magical with a hoar frost blanket over everything making it feel like Narnia! Lots of children were off school poorly today, so I am dosing the family with echinacea to ward off those nasty winter bugs!

I started Christmas shopping last night online in a panic that I have left everything to the last minute AGAIN! Found this adorable lamp for my little man, some little mice for little friends, a personalised subbuteo player, a Christmas folk stamp for us to make some wrapping paper with and a book for my boy. I also very naughtily bought some cow bells to decorate the fireplace with, well it was Toast and free P&P! I am struggling with gifts for my seven year old though, his list to Father Christmas contains the same as every other child in his class {conspiracy maybe?} a laptop, xbox, nintendo DS and a Wii! Suffice to say he will not be getting a computer of any sort!

I then discovered this fab new blog about shopping locally for Christmas and now feel guilty about my online purchases!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

these hand knitted socks...

these gorgeous Ruth Cross hand knitted socks are keeping my toes nice and toasty today! I wish I could hand knit socks!

Monday, 29 November 2010

it's cold outside...

Snow is forecast overnight, brrrrrr, so we are staying warm by the fire, drinking tea from my new teapot! Winter has arrived in style!

I had squirreled away enough pennies to buy an iphone (it seems the whole world has one), but I couldn't ignore the brake warning light on the car dashboard any longer, so after a trip to the garage today I have spent my savings on new brake pads and discs as well as a few new tyres! Although the boiler, washing machine and freezer are also competing as to which is going to give up first! Sometimes I hate being a grown up.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

the start of advent...

opening the advent string

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas day, which is today, 28th November and whilst I am not deeply religious, we do celebrate Christmas and I think it is important that my children understand and respect why Christmas is celebrated. I don't want them to think it's only about Father Christmas and receiving presents!

One of the first traditions in our house is to visit our local Steiner Waldorf School Christmas Fair, where we buy an advent string. An advent string contains individually wrapped gifts, from crystals to knitted or felted animals and mary & joseph, that by Christmas builds up a nativity scene.

Whilst we open a parcel from the advent string each day, we read The Light in the Lantern, (by Georg Dreβig, Wynstones Press) a book of short advent stories, split into four sections, for the four weeks of advent, each containing seven stories. The stories document Mary and Joseph's path to Bethlehem, which is fraught with difficulties, but a small miracle happens on each day, which coincide with the gift from the advent string.

The Christmas Fair was wonderful as usual and the boys made a beeline for their favourite activity, the crystal cave (where a cave is made by sticking crystals to plywood sheets with plaster of Paris), the children dress up as miners, wearing hard hats, head torch and googles and enter the cave armed with a hammer. The children emerge from the dark cave clutching their crystals having hammered them from the walls ~ genius! We also hand dipped candles, made gingerbread biscuits and floated walnut candles on the silent pond, as well as catching up with friends who we have left behind!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Wild Things Week Four ~ nature cocktails

Weather: Frost overnight, cold but sunny morning, snow forecast! 
Date: 26th November 2010 ~ leaves now off the trees, frozen ground
Activity: mixing nature cocktails

After mentioning in last weeks post how a few children started to mention the cold, the lovely people at Muddy Puddles contacted me and offered to supply some gloves for the children to test! Regular readers will know what I think about getting children outside in the right gear and what a fan I am of Muddy Puddles, my children have the bib and braces and sou'wester hat, that I can't recommend enough. 

I believe there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes and the people at Muddy Puddles are just as enthusiastic as me about getting our kids outside! So much that they kindly gave the reception children an originals mac and water proof trousers, some ribbit wellies and gloves to try, which proved a lifesaver this week as a few children (or rather parents) forgot their gloves and wellies! So without them we wouldn't have been able to take the whole class out this week! As you can see in the picture above, the wellies, mac and trousers were modeled by a very delighted four year old, who just loved the wellies! 

Even better the lovely people at Muddy Puddles have extended their kindness to you too, and are offering readers of this blog FREE standard delivery and returns on all orders, by using the code EMMAB at the checkout! They do much more than just waterproofs, find thermals, ski wear and casual clothes too, take a look, with snow forecast here, I am tempted to invest in the thermals for the boys. 

This week was my last outdoor session before Christmas with the reception class, so we decided to celebrate with a cocktail party! This is something I learnt from an earth education course years ago. Each child is given a cup, then they have to find some ingredients such as leaves, soil, moss, bark, sticks and berries and mash them all together with a stick. Then the leader slowly adds a little drop of water to each of the cups, with each child then encouraged to stir the mixture, and take a sniff before thinking of a name for their cocktail, such as 'soil swizzler', 'leafy legbanger' and 'smelly earth slammer.' 

Then to finish off the cocktail making session, we all stood in a circle and shouted "cheers" and instead of drinking our cocktails threw them onto the floor! The beauty of this activity is the simple process and making the activity fun. 

*Wild Things is part of a series of blog posts documenting my involvement in outdoor education activities with the reception class of my son's school. The aim is to encourage children to discover the natural world through simple activities and play. I hope by sharing these activities here on my blog, others may be inspired to try some of the activities at home or even, like me, approach their local school to help out.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Christmas gift ideas...

This scarecrow kit would make a fantastic gift idea for a family, £25 from Hen and Hammock. It contains all you need to make your very own scarecrow, a great winter activity in preparation for all your seed sowing in spring!

I am sure if you felt creative enough you could put your own kit together using sacks, and old hats and clothes bought from charity shops? But it might be cheaper and easier to buy the set as it contains loads...

- 2 recycled coffee bean sacks
- 1 broom handle
- 2 bamboo canes
- 1 ball orange garden string
- 2 needles
- 1 marker pen
- 1 packet of seeds
and beautifully illustrated instructions. 

There is even an enchanting gallery of scarecrows, on the Hen and Hammock website, from customers who have bought the scarecrow kit!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Christmas gift ideas...

Belle & Boo - Bubbles Before Bed To Do Book by Mandy Sutcliffe from belle & boo on Vimeo.

This book is so enchanting, I have a few little ladies in mind who would love to receive this for Christmas. The book costs £6.99 and is available from

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Wild Things Week Three ~ the secret badger

Weather: cold, wind and light rain
Date: 17th November ~ leaves on the ground and mulched on the woodland floor
Activity: who has been digging up our school field? 

A few children forgot their wellies, it was a very wet and windy day, so we decided to take shelter in the school's nature area, which is quite sheltered as it's overgrown. Firstly we stopped on the school field as there were signs of digging, I asked the children who they thought would dig up the field? They replied a mole or fox and then said badger. I was very impressed! 

As the nature area is fenced off and accessed by a gate, I asked all the children to find a 'ticket' so that they could enter, they quickly found leaves, that were used as tickets! I asked all the children about the hazards of playing in a wooded area, and we identified sticks, wolves (?) and stinging nettles as things to watch out for! 

Once in the nature area, we crept quietly and found the large badger sett, where there are many holes and freshly dug earth. I told the children that the badger would be asleep so we had to be a bit quiet. We then looked for other holes in the nature area. The children quickly began to play in the area and found a 'tunnel', in the form of a tree that had fallen over, and they lined up to take turns and go through it. They also found sticks on the floor, that one little boy snapped in half to share with others, he then became the child that was in charge of snapping and giving out sticks! 

This was the first week that the children started to feel cold and a few mentioned they had cold hands, so we quickly shock them and blew hot air on them, before returning to school, asking them to bring gloves and hats next week. 

*Wild Things is part of a series of blog posts documenting my involvement in outdoor education activities with the reception class of my son's school. The aim is to encourage children to discover the natural world through simple activities and play. I hope by sharing these activities here on my blog, others may be inspired to try some of the activities at home or even, like me, approach their local school to help out.
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