Thursday, 30 September 2010

fossil hunting...

There are fabulous Jurassic cliffs near where we live, packed full of ammonites, crinoids and brachiopods. And there is nothing better after bad weather, than to visit the cliffs and see what has been washed down in a storm, to the scree at the bottom. Whilst we haven't quite found a dinosaur yet, we have found many 'devil's toe nails' to fill our pockets with! If you do visit cliffs and quarries you are advised to wear a hard hat, and never hammer or pick at a rock face.

There are many different places you can search for fossils, and different areas of the UK have different geology and fossils. Once you have found your fossil you can take it home, gently wash it with a toothbrush and identify it. This is a really great fun activity to do with children.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

the best birthday cake ever...!

Ever since I saw the amazing rainbow birthday cake over on Hula's flickr stream, I knew, despite the crazy amount of food colouring and icing, that I had to make one! How can you not smile when you slice open this cake? And with my birthday last weekend, I had the perfect excuse! 

We made one large plain cake mix, I used a Victoria Sandwich cake recipe, then divided the mixture into six bowls and with the help of number two son, we mixed six colours and learnt how to make orange and purple in the process ~ see educational too! You then bake, turning them out onto a rack upside down to encourage them to be flat and then pile them up, using icing to cement them in place. Once you have stacked all six, cover with icing ~ we used a cream cheese/butter/icing frosting mix. Believe me when you cut and serve, there will be gasps!

p.s. in the top photo, I love how you can see number one son doing his homework on the kitchen table whilst I was baking!

#3 off the list

Monday, 27 September 2010

cinema under the stars...

To celebrate my birthday a few days ago, we had an outdoor cinema night in the garden, underneath the stars! After a small technology set back, and after our fab neighbours saved the day, we watched Laurel and Hardy and Carry On Doctor, projected on to a bed sheet screen!

We had pumpkin soup and hog roast rolls whilst we waited for the sun to set and the sky to get dark enough for us to see the screen - then we munched on popcorn, whilst sat in camping chairs all snuggled up with blankets! The best thing was using the wall, which is the back of our neighbours garage, which totally dominates our garden and I have always hated as it is so tall and blocks all the light after 4pm! Now it has a good use, I can see us doing this again, maybe even have a film club! The next film I want to watch is 'One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing' one of my all time childhood favourites. Although I may have to find a projector that works with my MacBook, does anyone have any recommendations?

More pictures of our makeshift projector stand, blankets and bed sheet screen on flickr!

#1 off the list

Saturday, 25 September 2010

36 things...

number 15 ~ more ice cream flavour experiments

and so the tradition continues, the annual list of things I would like to do before my next 37th birthday. I am alarmed by how big the list is this year, and therefore how old I must be getting!
  1. have a 'cinema under the stars' night✓
  2. go on a sx-70 photo safari with Sus
  3. bake a rainbow birthday cake
  4. wild swim under welsh waterfalls
  5. lose weight so that I can wear a bikini next year!
  6. attend THE wedding of the year ♥ in 2011✓
  7. visit the ancient white horses of wiltshire
  8. swim at the lido
  9. go punting/ row a boat✓
  10. take my boys to Jamie's Italian
  11. own a pair of brogues✓
  12. bake more✓
  13. organise a game of rounders✓
  14. go roller skating with my boy!
  15. experiment making different ice cream flavours✓
  16. own an i-phone
  17. make more jam✓
  18. rent a cherry tree
  19. host a tea party for charity✓
  20. go on a fat hen foraging course
  21. hire a vw camper van
  22. celebrate midsummer's day
  23. plant a rhubarb crown in the garden
  24. do something special for 10th wedding anniversary✓
  25. climb a tree!✓
  26. buy wooden kay bojesen monkeys for the boys
  27. make paper chains and trees out of newspaper for christmas decorations
  28. go 'trick or treating' in fancy dress✓
  29. trace my family tree
  30. pick apples and use a press to make rough cider!
  31. make these chocolate truffles
  32. have a water pistol party
  33. grow dahlias and chrysanthemums✓
  34. stay in a beach chalet
  35. go to the circus
  36. visit Black-A-Tor copse in Dartmoor

Thursday, 23 September 2010

the ordinary boys...

Inspired by this interview, I thought it would be fun to interview my boys too! So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to Alfie (age 7) and Ted (age 4)!

What would you like to be when you grow up?
Alfie = footballer
Ted = superhero

Who is your favourite famous person?
Alfie = Wayne Rooney (Man United football player)
Ted = my friends Toby and Alex

What makes you happy or laugh?
Alfie = When my football team scores a goal
Ted = A jack in the box

What makes you sad or angry?
Alfie = people pinching my toys, like my brother!
Ted = When the chickens peck my fingers!

What is your favourite book?
Alfie = Alfie books of course!
Ted = Some dogs do and The Tomten and the Fox

What is your favourite film?
Alfie = Pirates of the Caribbean
Ted = Toy Story

What is your favourite animal?
Alfie = Chickens and dogs
Ted = Giraffe and a crocodile

What is the best holiday you have ever had?
Alfie = Climbing the mountain with my dad and going to Featherdown Farm
Ted = Betty the campervan

Where would you like to visit?
Alfie = France, I think they have a big swimming pool
Ted = California {it's where Lightening goes in the film Cars!}

What is your favourite colour?
Alfie = blue and brown
Ted = the rainbow, but not green, grandad likes green

Your favourite toy?
Alfie = my football, walky talkies and bat detector
Ted = my bike

What is your favourite food?
Alfie = lasagne and chocolate cake
Ted = French food

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Ok, I'll do a deal with you...

I will admit that autumn is here and winter is inevitable, but I will accept it only, and I mean only, if spring and summer promise to hurry back. There is a nip in the air, conkers on the trees and the smell of woodsmoke as people light their fires. Shoes have replaced sandals and I am pulling on my thick woollen tights. Grandma took the boys to find conkers today, for our annual family conker game, I love them when they have just burst from their shell, all velvety smooth with the most beautiful rich brown shiny colour.

I spent £2.65 at the car boot sale on Sunday, and bought two sundae dishes, three martini glasses for 10p each, some old nature cigarette collectors cards and the very beautiful, Enid Blyton's Nature Lover's Book, pictured above.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

a jaunt to Shipton Mill...

So, armed with my new found baking skills, I went on a little jaunt a few days ago to Shipton Mill to buy some organic flour. There has been a mill at Shipton, near Tetbury, since the doomsday book and you can visit in person to buy bags of flour or order online. Just what I needed for a weekend of baking!

Now all I need to accompany these rather splendidly packaged bags of flour is this gorgeous hand turned flour scoop from Herriott Grace.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

a trip to baileys home and garden...

a few weeks ago my car booting partner in crime was on holiday in France, so feeling very sorry for myself, I took myself off for a jaunt with my boys to Baileys Home & Garden. Now for those of you who don't know about Bailey's, it's a shop on the outskirts of the picture postcard border town of Ross-on-Wye. In the middle of nowhere, but luckily for me only a 40 minute drive away! It sells home and garden things, kitchenalia, vintage wares, brown luggage labels, wooden letter blocks, teapots, the most gorgeous loft sofas and crates. I also find it very difficult not to spend money there, so limit my visits carefully throughout the year!

I was delighted that they have had a move around since my last visit and relocated their cafe, into the yard and into a delightful tin building called the 'tabernacle tearoom' pictured above ~ oh how I lusted over those brown tea pots! The loo's have also been relocated into their own building, I loved the mirror and lampshade pictured below ~ can you spot the birdy?

The thing I love most about Bailey's are the displays, everything is so beautifully presented, below are the pie dishes, with recipes for pigeon pie, eel pie and stargazey pie, written in chalk.

It's well worth a visit, if you aren't local then come and stay, the River Wye is gorgeous and only a few minutes drive away, are these beautifully romantic gypsy caravans, just make sure you leave enough space in the car to have room for all your purchases! You can also share the Bailey's love in these books, The Recycled Home and Simple Home by Mark and Sally Bailey.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

it's just that I want to live in a TOAST catalogue...

The TOAST catalogues are so beautifully styled and photographed, little works of art that drop through the letterbox. Women's, House & Home and now Men's catalogues are out for Autumn/Winter 2010. For even more inspiration they tempt you into the world of TOAST by sharing their Style Stories online, how can you not want to enter such a beautiful world?

Love outdoor play...

More than 30 respected authors, charities and explorers have come together to say that a ‘big society’ needs more children playing outdoors in our streets, parks and communities.
“Having the freedom to play outdoors improves the well-being of children and their communities. Together, we are building a visible community to support reasonably safe exploration, adventure and play. Wherever you see a Love Outdoor Play sticker or symbol, you’ll find people who welcome play and are looking out for young people” is the manifesto for the Love Outdoor Play campaign which launches on Tuesday 14th September.
“We are asking people to take a very simple action. Make or get a Love Outdoor Play sticker and put it up where you live or work. Research shows that in many communities we’re afraid of what other parents will think of us if we let our kids out to play or walk to school. By putting a sticker up you not only show that you support outdoor play but can start a conversation about how play can be improved for children where you live” explains Daniel Raven-Ellison, one of Love Outdoor Play’s organisers.
The Love Outdoor Play symbol is available under a creative commons non-commercial share-alike license. As long as you are not making a profit from the symbol and credit Love Outdoor Play anyone can use the symbol.
Authors The Geography Collective (Mission:Explore), Lenore Skenazy (Free Range Kids), Sue Atkins (Raising Happy Children for Dummies), Sue Palmer (Toxic Childhood), Nicola Baird (Homemade Kids), Bethe Almeras (Grass Stain Guru) have come together with explorers Benedict Allen, Olly Steeds, Jake Meyer, Alistair Humphreys and Bonita Norris in an effort to get more children playing outdoors again. The campaign is also supported by Play Scotland, Play England, the Campaign for Adventure, Digi Mums, Play Association Tower Hamlets, Institute of Outdoor Learning, Alliance for Childhood and the Association of Play Industries. A full list of supporters can be found here.
Anyone can join the campaign and help to crowd fund stickers at here.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

shop open...

this weekend the boys, with the girl next door, opened a little shop outside our house! they sold their eggs for 20p each, home grown runner beans for 10p each, locally picked blackberries 1p each, a courgette for 50p, tomatoes for 5p each and roses for 20p each! They made a grand total of £3.89 from passing friends and neighbours!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

boys own adventure...

my husband took 'the boy' off for an adventure last week, camping and a mountain climb up Mount Snowdon in Wales. My husband loves climbing this mountain and took me here on our honeymoon, so it was really special for him to climb it with his son. The best thing about Snowdon, is there is a cafe at the top and a train that runs up one side of it, so they got the train back down after their huge climb! It was a great thing for them to do and to spend time together, I am sure this is the start of a new family tradition. And I got to spend some precious time at home with the littlest man before he starts school.

p.s. the t-shirt he is wearing in the picture above is this thermal vest, I had bought it ready for winter, but he won't take it off! It is really lovely and has brushed cotton on the inside.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

a little something nice...

mmmm homemade mushroom pâté, spread on a delicious crusty baguette from the farmer's market. I made plenty to last the week, with enough to add to pasta to make into a sauce, with a little cream.

250g mushrooms
30g butter
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
250g cream cheese
salt and pepper to season

  1. Clean and trim the mushrooms, then chop them finely.
  2. Heat the butter in a large pan over medium heat.
  3. Drop in the mushrooms and garlic and saute for 10 minutes and leave to cool.
  4. Blend the mushrooms and cream cheese in a food processor until smooth.
  5. Season to taste then leave to cool.
  6. Serve in generous dollops on crostini or toast.

farmer's fare...

up bright and early
caught the bus into town
went to the farmers market
bought olives, milk and cream,
mushrooms and beautiful flowers,
the first pressing of apple juice this year
& a baguette that we nibbled on the bus home!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

back to school ~ what's the right age to start school?

my youngest is starting school next week aged four and a half. His older brother, being a summer baby, started school a few years ago aged only just four, and was in a class with children that were 11 months older than him, which at four is 25% of their lifetime! Is this gap too great and does it ever close?

Last year (2009), the Independant Review of the Primary Curriculum by Sir Jim Rose, acknowledged the gap and highlighted the need for flexibility...
"summer-born children are up to a year younger than their classmates when they sit tests at the end of each Key Stage. This can affect their performance right through school age up to the age of 16… Given the concerns expressed to us by parents I would like you to consider whether it would be appropriate to allow more choice and flexibility in start dates for children entering primary school."

Experts at the Higher Education Policy Institute have also found that at GCSE level, 10,000 teenagers fail to score five good grades simply because they are the youngest in the academic year.

Scandinavian countries start formal education when a child is seven and by the time they sit exams they are more academically advanced than UK children. I have friends whose children attend Steiner schools, and this is true of their education model too, they start to read and write from the age of seven, soon catching up with state schools.

Looking back, my eldest was ready to go to school, in that he is very sociable, full of ideas and just loves school, but a few things really knocked his confidence early on, one being his teacher telling him to sit still all the time and when he couldn't, keeping him in from playtime, he was only just four, I am adamant that you are not meant to sit still for great lengths of time at that age! And keeping young boys in from playtime is just asking for trouble ~ if they are playing up, run them around the grounds then they might just concentrate!
Like all parents I want the best for my children and hate to think that their birth dates may prevent them reaching their full potentials in the state system? What do you think? I would love to hear your views and opinions as this is something that I really worry about.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

baking banana cake...

my new favourite recipe is in fact my mum's banana cake recipe, which I have never tried to bake myself before as she makes it so well! But with a mini heatwave this week, I have needed to eat up some banana's that were on the turn. It is really easy to make and great for little hands to help with too.

cooking time: 1 hour
temperature: 300˚F / 150˚C / gas mark 2

3ozs sugar
3ozs butter
1 free range egg
2 tablespoons of milk
4ozs flour
1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
2 large bananas - mashed in lemon juice

1. Cream together sugar and butter
2. Add in the egg, beaten in the milk
3. Fold in the flour sieved with the bicarbonate of soda
4. Fold in the mashed banana
5. Put mixture in lined greased tin
6. Put in oven for an hour or until cooked

enjoy warm out of the oven, with a scoop of ice cream!
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