Monday, 31 January 2011

words to shoot by...

This weeks word is 'place' and the picture above is one of the three I have submitted to the Words to Shoot by photography project this week. It's a Welsh waterfall taken on fuji film with my lomo camera.

Talking of lomographic cameras, have you seen this beauty? A film camera that spins 360˚ ~ how amazing, you know I want it!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Jamie at Home and a free prize draw ...

I am delighted to have been approached by the PR guys at Jam to review the 'Jamie at Home' DVD series this week. I'm a Jamie Oliver fan, but didn't watch all of this series on the TV when it originally aired. The reason I've been asked to review the entire Jamie at Home series, is that The Sun newspaper is running a promotion 5th - 11th February. There's a token to collect each day to receive a free DVD, each DVD has two Jamie at Home episodes on and there are just six to collect, 12 episodes in total. The tokens are instantly redeemable in Tesco on the day of print too.

I love the styling of this series, with the music, drawings and journal effect and of course Jamie Oliver's house with garden to die for, although I do feel a bit cheated that he has a gardener, which is more my jealousy than anything! I must admit that I was a bit worried when I start watching episode one, Jamie goes out shooting rabbits! But it is a traditional meat, one that has gone out of favour in this country. I'm not sure however I could cook and eat it, but do agree with him, we do need educating about meat in this country, especially game, that grazes on natural grass and as long as it is shot by experienced gamekeepers and not as a sport. These animals have a far better life than the chicken that we freely eat without knowing its provenance.

By the second recipe, venison with dauphinoise potatoes, I am drooling and wishing I wasn't watching on an empty stomach. Episode two, pastry, something I rarely make, has me mentally promising to make it this week after he cooks the most amazing pie, and I rummage for paper and pencil to start writing down the recipes and shopping list, thank goodness I can press pause! The vegetables from his bountiful garden are what this series is all about, even stinging nettles in the field are used in a recipe, oh how I dream of growing veg on that scale, he pulls them up and cooks the most delicious meals straight from the garden. Not only does he have me wanting to cook he has me once again searching the property websites for a house with a decent garden to be able to grow our own food! This series is fab, full of lots of easy recipes to make at home for the whole family, I would recommend it!

The best thing about this promotion and the real reason I agreed to do the review, is that I have been given a set of the six DVD's to give away to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment below by midnight on Thursday 3rd February and on Friday 4th February, I will draw a name out of a hat and announce the lucky winner! Please note that the six DVD's come in cardboard sleeves.

This review and competition is sponsored by and the Sun Newspaper.

I endeavor to keep this blog free from advertising, but from time to time I will admit to being seduced by a product or brand with which I share values and beliefs, such as Jamie at Home. I will always make it clear if a post has been sponsored. 

Saturday, 29 January 2011

what accents do you use?

What accents do you use when reading your children storybooks? My Gruffalo voice is slightly cockney and the BFG has a west country accent with quite a Bristolian lilt to it. The voice I do for Jasper the rhino in Jasper's bath is French, and if I ever have to do dinosaurs, they are usually slightly 'simple sounding!' My Tomten voice sounds quite like a Cornish fisherman, and anything Enid Blyton is always in my best, posh work/telephone voice, very clipped and authentic 1940's!

I am notoriously bad at accents so I'm quite lucky my children don't know any better, although they don't usually like my attempt at a French accent! I am even worse at remembering song lyrics, and when my first baby was born the only songs words I could remember in the middle of the night were Silent Night in German (learned at school) and Robbie Williams, 'Angels', much to my husbands disgust! So I learned the words to the 'Mocking Bird' song and I think I have sung it almost every night for five years, as it's always requested by son number 2, to fall asleep to!

Friday, 28 January 2011

a grand day out...

I discovered the lovely town of Lechlade this week, stuffed full of antique shops. I almost bought so much stuff, but remembered how we are trying to cut down! So made do with a green vintage thermos flask for soup and stews. I much prefer the old glass flasks, things in them seem to stay hotter for longer.

Things I regret not buying as I thought them too expensive: silver plated Victorian toast rack £18, old box of Derwent water colour pencils £4, vintage green bagatelle board £43 (wish i had found this before buying a new one for Christmas), old cowboy story books £4 each and a 1920's bakerlight mirror £4!

I could of browsed for hours and hours, especially in the shops that were nearer the junk end of the 'antique' shop scale! This is going to be a favourite day out of mine, I can tell.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

a hot chocolate day..

Hot chocolate in a Belle & Boo mug

Today I went for a ten mile walk for work, it was very cold and I'm very tired. A good tired, that you only get from fresh air and exercise, although my legs are already aching as they are not used to such long walks! We had hot chocolate after school, then toasted marshmallows on the fire before bed. I think a seaweed and arnica bath is in order for my over tired limbs before they seize up! 

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

toast and marmalade...

image from an old Toast catalogue found here

I love toast and would eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner if left to my own devices! I have always been partial to Rose's lime marmalade, and think the jar is rather special too. Last year I made my own marmalade for the first time, it is a real joy to make and so easy. The house was full of the aroma of Seville oranges for days after, and we had a supply of marmalade for the whole year! If you fancy making your own then Riverford do a marmalade kit, with oranges, lemons and recipe to follow. I think I may make our yearly batch this weekend. 

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

are you going anywhere nice this year?

amazing photograph by Tara Whitney 

I've been filling out my holiday request form at work today, I need to be organised and make sure my husband does the same or else we end up with uncoordinated leave that's not in school holidays! I'm quite reckless when it comes to holidays, never having them as a child has made them quite essential in this house and I like to get them booked so that we can look forward to them and count down the days!

We have been extremely lucky in the past few years to have had the most amazing holidays, from a featherdown farm stay to snail trail camper van adventures and a railway carriage over looking the sea to a tipi away from it all! We are meant to be cutting down this year and paying off credit card bills, but we couldn't resist booking this amazing beach chalet in Gwithian, Cornwall, only a stones throw from the sea. And with it being our 10th wedding anniversary this year, we have just booked a weekend without the children at this beach hut with it's very own beach (we have NEVER had a night away from them!) So it seems that it's year of the beach hut!

We wanted to go away at Easter too, but everywhere is just so expensive nowadays, and nice campsites need booking years in advance! Do you have any recommendations, favourite places to go on holiday?

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Spring has arrived on the doormat...

After yesterdays dip into the mundane world of vacuum cleaners, I am happy to report that once again my Dyson has suction! Thank you for your helpful comments, I thought I owed you something a little more than domestic drudgery today, so with the mail order catalogues dropping on the doormat and with purse strings tightening, my thoughts are turning to spring and ultimately my spring wardrobe! I am carefully planning what we will be wearing this year, so I don't make any rash purchases and waste money!

I'm also growing my hair so that I can wear it loosely pinned up like in the picture above, as long hair doesn't suit me, I am thinking a layered shoulder length bob will be my style this year, and will mean I don't have to go to the hairdressers as often!

I am loving this 70's cream dress, to wear with a beige coloured boyfriend cardigan, black lacy tights and my last years brogues, luckily still in fashion, which is fab as mine are now worn in perfectly! There is definitely a 70's vibe at the moment, look out for bows galore!

I wish I could afford this vintage dress, just gorgeous and would be so adaptable, perfect for spring and its changing weather! I would wear it with wellies in the garden, whilst planting Sarah Raven's ultimate dark dahlia collection.

The most important thing I find when shopping on a budget, is to think about what you already have and how additional pieces will fit into your wardrobe. Most of my wardrobe is very plain basics that can be accessorised and will last for years, so this spring I will be searching for some black capri jeans, the perfect beige shorts and gladiator sandals.

What are you planning to add to your wardrobe this spring?

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Warning, this blog has reached mundane levels, I'm now blogging about vacuum cleaners!

I love how he sticks his tongue out when he concentrates! At the moment we are spending our wintery Saturdays doing housework and baking whilst listening to music, today Radio 2, which has played some excellent tunes! Lovely times and I hope my boys will always enjoy cooking, I remember living with some boys at University who had never even boiled an egg!

Today has been the day when the Dyson has officially given up the will to clean, having had virtually no suck for months now! And despite operating on it several times, removing many a foreign object, I think it's time to give up and find a newer model! A Henry hoover has been recommended to me, does anyone have experience of these, are they any good? I really have no patience to seek out and research for hours. My mother would consult Which magazine and go to every electrical shop in town to compare prices, I by contrast cannot stand the bother of it all and wish to get a replacement before my carpet disappears underneath the fluff! I am thinking the Henry vacuum cleaner has a smiley face ~ is that reason enough?

STOP PRESS: Dyson tweeted me about an hour ago, having picked up on this saga and asked me to call the help desk. Their helpdesk is so HELPFUL, I spoke to someone called Sam, he was polite and talked me through a few things it might be, hopefully clearing a few bits and cleaning the filter (most common reason for loss of suction apparently) and best try again in the morning. I am bowled over, firstly by the fact they picked up on my tweets and asked me to call them, secondly they answered the phone quickly on a Saturday night and finally the man was so polite and helpful. Isn't it awful in this country how we are so used to poor service? This amazing service by Dyson tells me that they are building these things to last and they care enough about their quality and reputation that they have a helpline to make sure these things keep going! And to think I was going to discard it at a whim and replace so quickly, talk about throwaway society, I am feeling pretty small let me tell you! Thanks for all your Dyson service recommendations, I will certainly invest in that before throwing it away. Fingers crossed for good suction in the morning!

Friday, 21 January 2011

food friday...

we are busy baking this weekend for Grandad's birthday, a large chocolate birthday cake by request and full Sunday roast with all the trimmings with baked custards for pudding. I am aware that sometimes our family doesn't eat very well, usually on weekdays when the boys are ravenous and come home from school only to find me quite unprepared. I am also very guilty that food does go to waste in our house and that sometimes I give in to my youngest son, who at times can be a very fussy eater! 

So I am going to try and organise myself better, buying ingredients, trying different recipes and starting next week I am going to cook from scratch,
  • Sunday roast, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and veg followed by baked custards
  • Chilli con carne 
  • Pizza's 
  • Chicken risotto
  • Vegetable crumble
  • Butternut squash soup
In fact, if I'm to be truthful with you, it's me that's the worst eater in the house, I never eat breakfast in the week and as a consequence usually eat my lunch of fishpaste (sardine and tomato is a childhood favourite) sandwiches by 11am at my desk! By the time the boys have tea, I am secretly snacking in the kitchen, I will then eat with them or finish up their food AND have a main meal with the Mr as late as 9pm! Shocking isn't it? 

Thursday, 20 January 2011

baking makes us feel better!

The little man is still off school with tonsillitis, he has a horrible cough and was awake all through a fifth night, but fine in himself! We have just baked some pear and ginger muffins with spelt flour, honey, pear, oats, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg, to make us feel better! The recipe is from Miss Dahls Voluptuous Delights cookbook and is really simple, quick and easy to make, so great for getting little helpers involved!

I am also thrilled that a second gypsy caravan print from my etsy shop has sold in as many days, this one going all the way to the United States, which has prompted me to list my very favourite cloud print for sale. This print looks amazing big, the grain is just amazing, it almost looks textured like a painting.

There is also potential for an allotment too, although the site is a six mile drive away, after two and a half years of hoping that something could be sorted out in our village, with sites being found, then withdrawn, then found, locals campaigning against them not fitting in with the 'look of the village', consultations, blah blah blah, I am wondering if this completely ridiculous, fuel guzzling option might be our only one! I will go and see and report back.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

an uphill struggle...

dice and twig pencils from Baileys Home & Garden

The day started well, with another order placed through my Etsy shop of my absolute favourite gypsy caravan print, this one going all the way to Australia! Then soon went downhill after a two hour visit to the Drs with the little man, only for him to be diagnosed with tonsillitis! An afternoon on the sofa followed with fever, vomiting and a lot of waking in the night, for the fourth night running (*yawn)

Despite all my good intentions to be more organised this year, already the thank you letters are not written (see Debrett's for a guide to family etiquette ~ I never even knew there was a guide!), there is a hole in my eldest sons shoe, where he has scuffed the rubber off the front of it in the playground and both boys need a haircut! 

I always think I have this 'out-of-control' feeling as I am trying to juggling a part time job (with an immense workload) with appearing to be a 'stay-at-home' mum, well as far as I am always at the school gates to collect the boys. I would rather stay at home, unfortunately we can't afford it, sometimes it all seems like too much of a struggle ~ does anyone else feel like that?

p.s. thank you all for your wonderful comments on this post, i would reply personally but many profiles are private, so sorry about the blanket message. It's lovely to hear so many wise voices through the comments on this blog, I really appreciate it!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

the toy story...

This year was the first Christmas that I was worried about present buying, as the boys main present was a bagatelle game, shared between them, and not a lot else to be honest!

The eldest had listed a Wii, Xbox, DS, laptop, and ipod on his list for Father Christmas, influenced by his friends at school and his younger brother just copied him! I explained that they were too young for computers and we couldn't afford one, I also knew that grandma had brought them some fab gifts, so I hoped they wouldn't be too disappointed on Christmas day.

Luckily they weren't and a bagatelle championship took over most of Christmas and New Year between bouts of illness. Along with a renewed interest in their castle (see picture above), thanks to the fab present of a trebuchet from Aunty Jenny.

We have no intention of buying them computers when they are so young (aged 7 & 4), but at the same time sometimes it feels that they the only children that don't have a DS or Wii? I feel an impending sense of doom as they are only going to ask again next Christmas!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

hot in the kitchen...

in our kitchen today, we are busy making mango chutney, each of us working on a different element, chopping, grating, measuring and stirring! Despite following the recipe (something I am not know for!), the chutney has turned out to be very hot and spicy! I was planning to take it to a friend's curry night this evening, but fear it might be too hot having tested on the Mr who coughed and spluttered, and he loves hot food! I don't want to resort to shop bought, does anyone know a way to make it a little milder?

I also realised whilst on hands and knees in kitchen cupboards today, how much enamelware I own. I love the stuff, so pictured above is about half of my 'collection'.

Right on with the day, we are now going to do some baking, whilst dancing around the kitchen to Cat Stevens 'Can't keep it in' a current favourite baking tune!

Friday, 14 January 2011

treat Friday...

Fridays are treat days in our house, and are a reward for good behavior throughout the week. Today we made chocolate brownies from a recipe given to us by grandma and are therefore called 'grandma's brownies'.

Grandma's Brownies

100g (4oz) butter
50g (2oz) plain chocolate (we use Green and Blacks 70%)
175g (7oz) dark soft brown sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten

½ teaspoon vanilla essence
100g (4oz) self raising flour
pinch of salt

1. heat the oven to 180˚C/ 350˚C/ gas mark 4
2. grease a tin (approx. 11x7 inch)
3. melt the butter and chocolate over hot water, remove from heat and cool
4. stir in sugar, add eggs, mixed with vanilla essence
5. mix in flour and salt
6. pour mixture into tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, until top is crispy and inside soft
7. Leave in tin until cool, then cut into squares and serve

eat quickly before little hands devour all the brownies!

Thursday, 13 January 2011


I wish I was one of those people that shouts when i am wronged, and said no instead of yes! And I wish I had a roll tap bath in a garden room, like the one above! 

Monday, 10 January 2011

roll up, roll up...

I am very excited, at work we're organising a special 50th Anniversary bash for Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust at the very amazing Giffords Circus. There will be a glass of fizz and canapes on arrival, a full Giffords performance of their latest show 'War and Peace', followed by pig roast (vegetarian option) and dancing to their enchanting circus band, in the big top under the stars!

The performance, one of the very first of the year, is on Friday 20th May at Llanthony Priory in Gloucester Docks and will raise money for wildlife conservation in Gloucestershire. Tickets are priced at £50/person and are available by phoning 01452 383333.

The downside is that I will be working! ~ although I am sure I will be allowed a small tipple and a little dance? I hope you can join me?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

full English please...

a weekend treat, the sun streaming through the windows and an English breakfast, toast with real butter, baked beans, mushrooms, two rashers of bacon and an egg kindly laid by Betty chicken. Of course no breakfast would be complete without fresh orange juice and an unlimited supply of tea. Don't worry the golden syrup tin in the background isn't a breakfast ingredient, I have a hyacinth bulb growing in it at the moment!

Friday, 7 January 2011

january blues...

I always get the January blues around this time each year! The rain, cold, dark nights seem less enchanting now than they did in November somehow! So having stumbled across Pummelvision, I made this video with my Flickr stream and it made me feel a whole load better, glimpses lots of smiles and sunny days!

I have promised the boys a friday game of hide-and-seek, so best go, if you ever play this with me, I am champion of the double bluff. I stamp noisily up the stairs and then double back on myself quietly to find a good hiding place!

Hope you have a good weekend full of laughter and games too!

Monday, 3 January 2011

last day of the Christmas break...

last day of the Christmas holidays, we are playing bagatelle, a favourite Christmas gift (pictured above), not getting dressed until late! General gloom that tomorrow we go back to school and work, once again having to get up and out early.

The Yorkshire pudding was really delicious yesterday, you take the beef out of the tin to rest, then pour out the juices, skimming off and returning the fat to the roasting tin and using the juices to make the gravy. You then re-heat the fat in the pan for five minutes and then add the Yorkshire pudding mixture to it, cooking for a further 15-20 minutes until risen! It's a very impressive way to make Yorkshire pud!

It has started snowing here again today, a light dusting making everything look quite enchanting! But boy is it cold, I might make some pear and ginger muffins as a treat for our lunch boxes tomorrow, to make the day a little easier!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

sunday roast...

Today, a sunday lie-in (thank you lovely husband!) and a fresh new look for this blog, what do you think? It was getting a little busy and I quite fancied a little more simplicity.

Roast beef is now in the oven (smells delicious - I wish you could scratch and sniff this blog!), a lovely joint of silverside bought from our local beef farm within a mile from our front door (how's that for provenance!), I am now trying Monty & Sarah Don's recipe for Yorkshire pudding, from their lovely Home cookbook, a Christmas pressie! You cook it in the roasting tin after the meat has cooked, I am hoping it will look as impressive as the one pictured in their book!
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