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.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Wild Things Week Two ~ scampering squirrels

Weather: drizzle, gusts of wind
Date: 11th November ~ a few leaves on trees, but mainly bare branches
Activity: Scampering squirrels

Week two a very blustery day! One child forgot their wellies, but as we were going out on to the field and it wasn't too wet, it was OK for him to wear his shoes.

We used the schools mirrors, usually used for symmetry, science and maths, and put them under our noses to take a closer look at the treetops. We pretended to be squirrels and walked around the tall beech trees in a line scampering from tree to tree, stopping only to find beech nuts on the ground.

*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.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

fungus foray...

We visited the oak woodlands of the Forest of Dean to look for fungi today. I had hoped to find lots of edible ones to make mushroom soup for tea, but unfortunately most of them were poisonous and my ID skills aren't good enough to risk it!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Wild Things Week One ~ butterflies in my stomach!

Weather: drizzle but mild

Date: 5th November ~ many leaves on the ground in great drifts around the field
Suggested activity: discovering leaves, size, shapes, colours and making nature crowns

My first session, helping with outdoor environmental themed activities with the reception children at school was last week, and I had a few butterflies in my stomach! All the reception children brought in wellies and some even brought ski suits or waterproof trousers. Only one girl didn't have a hood, but I had taken a spare fisherman's hat, just in case! I was a little concerned about the drizzle and how the children would react to getting wet, so agreed with the teacher to play it by ear, and take the group back in if the children got too wet or upset.

We started by walking outdoors, to a place underneath some mature beech trees and formed a circle. The children were asked not to use the 'trim trail' (wooden play equipment) as it was very wet. They were also asked what things they had to be aware of, they replied, "slippy leaves, tree trunks they may fall over and mud!" I also asked them to stay in the upper part of the field (the fields are very big and with a group of 29 children if they dispersed too far, it would be difficult to control this first session).

The children were also asked when I shouted "Children, where are you?" they all turned to me and said "here, I am," we practiced this a few times and when I used it in the session, they responded quickly to me. I thought this would be a gentle way to get their attention, as I didn't want to use a whistle!

In the circle, the children were asked to be nature detectives and look around the grounds and find a leaf that caught their eye. Some picked the leaf quickly, choosing the first, others wandered and were gently encouraged to pick a few that they liked. All children returned to the circle, with their leaves and I asked each of them in turn why they chose their leaves, most said the size or colour. One child said his sycamore leaf looked like a tiger's foot, another said he chose his leaf as the rain uses it as a trampoline!

"I chose my leaf as the rain uses it as a trampoline!"

All children were able to tell me why and weren't too shy to share with me a new person, which was wonderful. Whilst we were doing this, we could hear a leaf blower being used by someone clearing leaves from a nearby footpath, we walked towards the noise and saw drifts of leaves at the top of the field. We encouraged the children to kick them, one child picked them up and threw them in the air. I asked the teacher if this was OK, so we all started picking up leaves and throwing them in the air laughing! We formed a circle with handfuls of leaves and all threw the leaves up at the same time, really great fun. One girl got a leaf in her mouth and was a little upset, but some consoling from her teacher and she was quickly alright again.

To end our session, we gathered lots of wet leaves to take back inside and dry out, to make nature crowns, which we weren't able to do in this session as it was too wet. We were outside for about 45 minutes and then took a further 10 minutes to take coats and wellies on and off.

*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.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

my little black address book...

secret places that I love, but shhhhh don't tell anyone...

The Golden Galleon, Fish & Chip Shop in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, eat them sat on the pebbly beach! and while you're there take a toy boat to sail on the boating pond. Perfect for a windy day!

The Toast archive store hidden in the depths of Wales, well Llandeilo anyway!

For children of all ages, Bewilderwood in Suffolk is just fantastic. A treehouse adventure park, no tack, just tree based family fun and good healthy food!

The Orchard at Grantchester is a tea garden open throughout the year. Just outside Cambridge, during the summer months you sit in the beautiful garden in deck chairs to take afternoon tea.

Baileys Home & Garden, Ross-on-Wye, a shop selling vintage and new homewares, with a tin tabernacle tea shop!

The Black Horse, Cranham, Gloucestershire has THE best Sunday lunches in the world. Freshly cooked, this place gets seriously busy and you can wait up to an hour for food, cooked in the tiniest of pub kitchens. So take a newspaper, relax by the fire and laugh at he who dares complain about the length of wait!

Wendy, the Aberporth Express, is an Edwardian Great Western Railway Carriage, perched on the cliffs of West Wales and available to hire for holidays and short breaks!

Polpeor Cafe, Britain's most southerly cafe at the end of the Lizard, Cornwall. Get up early, order a full english breakfast and sit on the terrace, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, you may even see dolphins, seals and basking sharks!

I haven't been to either, but The Scarlet hotel and spa looks amazing! As does Cowley Manor, both amazingly hip, I think it's the swimming pools that are calling me!

For special occasions go to The Daffodil restaurant, Cheltenham, formerly an art deco picture house, this stylish restaurant has been restored to its 1920's origins. The early sitting has an affordable set menu!

and finally Giffords Circus, this wonderful village green circus tours the Cotswolds every summer, with original score, fantastic performers and the amazing after show restaurant.

have you got any little black book addresses to share? leave a comment below...

Saturday, 6 November 2010

starter for ten...

Here are some blogs that I am enjoying at the moment, I thought you might like to know where I visit, so I have listed the top ten that I actually read... 

1. via by Liivia, I adore the photography on this Finnish blog, so very beautiful as you can tell from the picture above. 

2. a newly discovered blog by me and a fellow car booter! Tales of a Junkaholic I love seeing the gorgeous stuff that jewellry designer, Artemis finds and often models, plus I was captivated by the beauty of her recent wedding! 

3. number three just has to be the colourful Hula Seventy, a fellow polaroid owner, Andrea inspired my love of lists, also this is where I found THE rainbow cake idea! 

4. another new read for me is mamaUK, I really enjoy her Steiner influenced simple family life and adventures with two beautiful girls. 

5. has to be Soulemama, she must be one of THE leading mama bloggers in the world, and inspired so many of us to pick up needles or sewing machines again! I can't imagine how many followers she has, but she has written three books off the back of this great blog about her families daily adventures. 

6. 3191, is a collaboration between two bloggers, Stephanie and Mav, one who lives in Portland, Maine the other Portland, Oregon in the US and 3191 is the amount of miles between them! Again this is a blog that has spawned books and now a very beautiful seasonal journal, I love the beautiful simplicity of the sharing of their their lives, recipes and photography. 

7. has to be the gorgeous Susannah Conway of unravelling fame, queen of e~courses, and the best polaroid photographer! 

8. another mum I admire is Ella of Little Red Caboose, also she has two boys and boys rule, OK? I love her crafting, the crowns are just fantastic! 

9. One of my favourite photographers is Jen Causey, of Simply Photo, she makes me want to move to New York, also I love the weddings she shoots! 

10. Finally, I am inspired by the thinking that emanates from The Do Village, they host an annual lecture event in Wales once a year, where great people gather to talk and listen. On their blog they share these lectures and many more thoughts, quotes and pieces of inspiration! 

I have left many other good blogs out of this list, with a view to doing a second list soon! I hope you enjoy visiting these fab blogs! Do let me know your favourites by leaving a comment below, as I love to discover new and exciting blogs. 

Friday, 5 November 2010

making toffee apples...

we love this time of year, and buy small local apples from the farmers market, to make toffee apples with. We take them to apple day, halloween or bonfire parties, wrapped in baking paper. Here is the recipe we used this year.  Please note the mixture is extremely hot, take care with young children, I wait for it to cool in a bowl, before allowing the boys to dip their apples in!

8-10 small apples
400g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vinegar
4 tblsp golden syrup
8-10 lolly sticks


  1. Place the apples in a large bowl, then cover with boiling water (you may have to do this in 2 batches). This will remove the waxy coating and help the caramel to stick. Dry thoroughly and twist off any stalks. Push a wooden skewer or lolly stick into the stalk end of each apple.
  2. Lay out a sheet of baking parchment and place the apples on this, close to your stovetop. Tip the sugar into a pan along with 100ml water and set over a medium heat. Cook for 5 mins until the sugar dissolves, then stir in the vinegar and syrup. Set a sugar thermometer in the pan and boil to 140C or 'hard crack' stage. If you don't have a thermometer you can test the toffee by pouring a little into a bowl of cold water. It should harden instantly and, when removed, be brittle and easy to break. If you can still squish the toffee, continue to boil it.
  3. Working quickly and carefully, dip and twist each apple in the hot toffee until covered, let any excess drip away, then place on the baking parchment to harden. You may have to heat the toffee a little if the temperature drops and it starts to feel thick and viscous. Leave the toffee to cool before eating. Can be made up to 2 days in advance, stored in a dry place.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

putting nature back on the curriculum...

one in five children have never climbed a tree, said a report* commissioned by Eden TV in August 2010. Shocking isn't it? The National Trust agree, their research indicates that families spend an average of 43 hours a week on the sofa! But to author Richard Louv, this isn't new, his book 'Last Child in the Woods' published in 2005, coined the phrase 'nature deficit disorder,' identifies parental fear as a huge barrier to todays child exploring the natural world.

You may be aware, this is something I feel very passionate about, read here, here and here! And as I believe in practicing what you preach, from this week, yours truly will be leading some outdoor sessions with the reception class at my children's school! I am greatly inspired by both the Steiner and Forest School approach to environmental education and am currently researching age appropriate activities that will really benefit and compliment the early years curriculum.

I had always been really nervous about sharing my opinions of outdoor education, and didn't want to appear as a 'pushy' parent by making suggestions. But with my youngest now in full time education, I found myself with a day off a week, and thought I would ask the head teacher if I could help out in anyway. I had thought she would say "come in and help with listening to the children read", but instead she mentioned the reception teachers would be really happy for me to help with outdoors education! The teachers are so enthusiastic and welcoming, that I would recommend that if anyone is also thinking about helping out at their local school, do it, teachers are so tied up with paperwork and curriculum stuff that all help offered is usually very gratefully received, and ultimately means that our children benefit!

*The survey of 2,000 children aged eight to 12 years was specially commissioned by TV channel Eden to celebrate the launch of the Eden Inspires campaign, which aims to re-engage children with nature.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

my style...

A few lovely people have said recently how much they like 'my style.' I find this intriguing as I {and certainly my mother} consider that I am generally quite scruffy and without much style at all! Most of the clothes in my wardrobe, have been hanging untouched for nearly eight years, as a monument to my 'pre-baby' figure! You know, just in case I ever lose that 'baby' weight!

When buying new clothes, I try to buy things that won't date too quickly, are good quality to last a few years, and will compliment my shape. My problem areas are my tummy {refer back to earlier baby reference - really must do sit ups!} and my boobs, both being larger than desired, and if I'm not careful with how I dress, I look and feel quite frumpy {a bit like Les Dawson dressed as Ada!}. I would love to wear strappy dresses in the summer, but need good upholstery underneath, which a strappy dress just cannot hide! So I try to stick to things that I know suit me and are practical for my lifestyle, boat/slash neck tops, jeans, tunics, dresses over jeans, long skirts with chunky belts and knee length skirts, which flatter my shape, and take the eye away from areas that I am very conscious of.

So many people ignore this very simple principle and buy things they like or is in fashion, regardless of whether it suits their shape or not. My advice would be, take a very honest friend shopping with you and try on loads of things, see what suits you and what doesn't, you may be surprised, for example when I did the Red Magazine shoot last year, I wore a jacket and skinny jeans, things I would never usually choose for myself but looked OK! There are also certain people whose 'style' I admire: Barbara from The Good Life for the allotment look, the late Natasha Richardson for elegance, and the effortless 'boho chic' of Sienna Miller.

I love jeans, they are my uniform {and hold my tummy in}, chunky boots, and this seasons brogues worn with crochet tights. I also like 1940's influenced fashion, vintage dresses and cardigans, but wearing too much of one look can be a bit over the top, so I try to mix it up, for example I am just about to invest in this top from Top Shop {loving their clothes this season and I didn't think at my age I would still be shopping there!} will work well with jeans, but dressy enough with the back detail to wear for a night out, maybe with some deep red lipstick? The other thing I am mindful of, is wearing a 'uniform' where you favour one brand and become a walking advert top to toe, you see this with the 'boden' mummy on the school run!

I also try to invest in certain pieces, from places such as TOAST, which I love but can't justify spending full price on, but their archive sales bring gorgeous clothes into my price range! I also like Top Shop, and H&M at the moment, but it changes from season to season, I would love to afford Jigsaw, Gap {way more expensive in the UK than the US}, Noa Noa, Cath Kidston and Brora but can't, so try to recreate their key 'looks' through car boot and charity shop purchases.

So thank you for enquiring about my 'scruffy' style! I would love to hear about yours...
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