Saturday, 30 July 2011

feeling fruity...

We found out about Clive's Fruit Farm, through the lovely blog A Quiet Corner, and decided to have a day out picking fruit, a great summer holiday day out.

The strawberries were large and luscious, perfect for picking and so much better than the ones from the place we usually go to. 

Obviously I took the quality control inspector, who was caught eating one!

There were strawberries, plums, cherries, raspberries and apples to pick, the smell from these apples (above) was amazing. 

There was even something for Pete, wobblejuice, real farmhouse cider, not the fizzy bottled stuff that is so fashionable now, this stuff will make you fall over! Will have to watch him when he drinks this, it could be quite funny! 

And there was a lovely farm shop with a butchery and cafe, for you to sit and enjoy a cup of tea, whilst the hens peck the crumbs from under your table! Perfect, we will certainly go back, but first we have a marathon jamming session.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

messing about on the river...

Yesterday we enjoyed a family day out on the river. We went to the Trout Inn at Lechlade and hired a boat to adventure down the River Thames. Armed with our picnic basket, and swimming costumes we journeyed to the Cheese Wharf and Buscot Weir, two places listed in the Wild Swimming book, although it was too overcast, windy and cold for us to jump in!

We made do with eating our sandwiches and feeding the crusts to the swan (Ted!) on the way back! We did discover the quintessentially English village of Kelmscot just a few miles further down the road, Kelmscot Manor is where William Morris lived and is truly delightful, well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

how to make a tipi...

We got the tipi out to play in today as I needed to make some minor adjustments to it! It now stands at over two metres tall and turned out a lot larger than I had intended, as despite making a scale model that looked fine, in real life it was too narrow! I think this is due to my poor grasp of maths more than anything.

There are nine isosceles triangular panels in total each measuring a finished 80cm width at the bottom and 2metres in height from base to tip. I cut them out a little wider to allow for sewing together. We then got nine 2.5metre sticks, coppiced from our local woodland for the frame and slipped it over the top, whilst balancing on a ladder!

The cotton canvas is a lovely natural one from Whaley's of Bradford, where they have a large selection of various weights and finishes of canvas to choose from, we chose a very natural looking calico light. I am rather pleased with how it has turned out, especially as I hand sewed it, and even if it was intended to be half the size for the boys bedroom!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

we all scream for ice cream...

I have just tried out a fab ice cream recipe from the book 'Make your own organic ice cream' by Ben Vear of Winstones Ice Cream. This book is due to be released in Autumn but available for pre-order now, so this spiced plum recipe is a sneak preview. I made it without the aid of an ice cream mixer and it was quick and delightfully easy to make, it tasted delicious, with the spices making it more for the grown up palette, which I was relieved about as my two make fast work of ice cream!

Spiced Plum Ice Cream

  • 100ml carton organic double cream
  • 200ml local full fat milk
  • 150g fair-trade caster sugar
  • 3 large organic free-range egg yolks
  • 400g blended fresh plums
  • A dash of Lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon


1.     Beat together your eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl, using a hand whisk and place over a low heat. Stir continuously until mixture thickens to a custard like substance adding milk and cream.
2.     In a blender, blend all of your plums and add a dash of lemon juice and a few tbsp of water, until mixture is a completely smooth liquid.
3.     Combine the custard with your plum mixture and return to heat. Now stir cinnamon into mixture and return to heat for 10-15 minutes stirring mixture constantly before removing from heat, allowing the mixture to rest before pouring the into your ice cream maker or freezer proof bowl.

To make by hand: whip the cream so it's light and floppy, not too stiff, and fold it into the cold custard. Freeze for 3-4 hours, stirring once an hour until almost frozen, and then freeze as above. 

Monday, 25 July 2011

homemade pooters...

Today we made some homemade pooters with jam jars and went bug hunting in the sunshine! Pooters are so easy to make, you need jam jars, plastic tubing, some muslin, electrical tape and blue tack. 

We drilled two large holes in the lids of the jam jars and pushed two lengths of plastic tubing into each, sealing one end with a little muslin and electrical tape, so that when you suck you don't end up swallowing any bugs. Then sealed around the plastic tubing with some blue tack. 

Then armed with a good identification guide, we looked for little bugs and beasties! The joy of this activity is that it's cheap and you can do it anywhere, check out the Wildlife Watch site for your own downloadable 'how to make a pooter' guide. 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

outdoor theatre...

we spent a fab sunny evening watching a production of the children's book 'the mole who knew it was none of his business' in a hidden outdoor amphitheatre. I was quite surprised when we were given the book about five years ago, as the story is about a mole who pops his head out of his hole only to be 'poo'd' upon! The mole then visits lots of animals to find out which animal did this to him, inevitably, as it's about bottom humour, it has become a firm favourite of the boys! 

I love the current fashion of bring children's storybooks to life, it's a lovely way to capture a child's imagination and introduce them to theatre. This production was by the Kipper Tie theatre company, a cast of just three actors who were just fab, and similar in style to the Gruffalo Live production we saw back in February. I have also seen adverts for Fantastic Mr. Fox live, but all the venues near me are sold out already! 

there's more to a barbecue than sausages...

drizzled these peaches with honey and baked them on the barbecue in some tin foil. Then served sprinkled with bashed up Cornish fairing ginger biscuits and ice cream, delicious!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Schools out for summer...

A great start to the summer holidays, sunshine, a large sheet of plastic, a bunch of children, a gently sloping lawn and a hose pipe! 

I have signed up for the August Break with the lovely Susannah Conway to share a picture a day throughout August. Here's hoping we have a few more days like today! Anyone can sign up, it's free and you can use any camera, so hop over and add yourself to the blog roll.    

Friday, 22 July 2011

owning an eight year old...

the boy is eight! I'm not quite sure how it happened, I remember the conversation my husband and I had as newlyweds when we moved into our first house together and I said "let's get a dog," he thought about it and quick as a wink, we discovered that we were expecting a baby instead, "This isn't what I agreed to" he lamented!

I often think about that conversation, me wanting a springer spaniel, and I definitely think that's what we got, minus the waggy tail. The boy hasn't stopped since the day he was born, quick to crawl, he didn't bother walking, just went straight to running. His enthusiasm and excitement for everything can be exhausting, but at the same time he is so thoughtful and kind.

We celebrated his birthday by going out for breakfast and then having a party in the park with his friends in the afternoon, exactly what he wished for. The boys and I made gingerbread footballers and wrapped football comics in brown paper to give out instead of party bags.

For food we took the camp stove to the park and cooked hot dogs, which went down really well with onions and tomato ketchup, simple and easy for a load of hungry boys. 

The day ended with our measuring ritual, every birthday we measure the boys and a mark is added to the wall to see how much they have grown over the year. My mum did this when I was little and it's tradition we have continued.  

*Oh and just for the record, I still haven't got the dog!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

sunshine after the rain...

After what seemed like hours of rain yesterday, the clouds eventually cleared and we made a dash for the village of Lacock. Dating back the the thirteenth century, the village has remained untouched without any street markings, satellite dishes or telegraph lines, making it the perfect backdrop for all those period dramas on TV. 

We skipped past the busy National Trust cafe, looking for something a little more authentic and less touristy, and found a lovely place called 'At the Sign of the Angel' a really old house in one of the more quieter streets and ordered afternoon tea in the garden.  

After a quick lap of the village, walking off the very large portions of cake we had just polished off, we visited Lacock Abbey. The botanic garden was lovely, with sunflowers, rows of alliums and a greenhouse. 

But the real reason we had visited was to see the Whispering Woods storytellers, who were performing in the Abbey grounds. They were wonderful, starting off with a folk dance that we all had to take part in, then weaving around the gardens, looking for faery folk as part of the story, whilst being serenaded by violin and cello music. 

We gasped in awe as we reached the glades with the tightrope walker (pictured top) and then the acrobat performing amazing acts, it was simply enchanting. 

Saturday, 16 July 2011

the cloud...

everyone is shattered today, very weary and grumpy boys, following a week of evening school plays, football tournaments, sponsored swims, beaver camp and Pete getting up at 4am four mornings in a row for work!

The wet weather isn't helping to lift our spirits and it reminds me of this episode of the Flumps from the 1970's when Perkin is followed by a cloud!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

bistro birthday party...

I was a really lucky girl to be invited to Hobbs House Bistro's first birthday party earlier this week. The bistro is fab, and situated above the award winning bakery in the heart of bustling Nailsworth. Have you been yet? 

The menu is seasonal and local, prepared by Chef Antony Smith, who was recently shortlisted in the 'Best New Chef' category at the prestigious Cotswold Life Food and Drink Awards. For the party he had prepared some delicious lamb from Henry and Jess Herbert's butchers in Chipping Sodbury, and pittas that were freshly baked as we arrived, by master baker Tom Herbert

The Herbert's are a large and very talented family and it was so lovely to meet other members of the family, and hob nob with local suppliers such as the lovely Ben from Winstones Ice Cream. Of course what's a party without a cake, and my what a cake, a HUGE delicious chocolate number by Hobbs House resident cake maker Sasha Jenner, who told me she is now making macaroons too! 

As chef Antony cut the birthday cake, Tom lamented "how it's not such a good idea to sing happy birthday to a building, as his dad had been asked to sing happy birthday to Yate shopping centre years ago with interesting results!"

I cant wait to visit again soon, it has such a lovely relaxed atmosphere and there is always such an amazing menu. But in the meantime Sam has promised to save me the stickiest lardy cake on the Hobbs House stall at the farmers market on Saturday! 

The bistro is open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, to book a table ring 01453 839396. 

Sunday, 10 July 2011

apple inspiration...

photograph from

We have been talking about having an apple day celebration in our village, gathering fallen apples from unwanted trees to press and make apple juice and cider, having games such as 'the longest peel' competition and apple bobbing, baking apple pie, eating pork and apple stew, planting a community orchard, mapping all the old orchards in our village that have disappeared and putting together a history walk, a sausage and cider walk, there are many ideas...

Have you ever organised or been to an apple day celebration? I would love to hear from you...

Saturday, 9 July 2011

keeping up appearances...

Sometimes our weekends are full of chores to be done, this weekend housework and haircuts! Haircuts were needed as Pete is due to be filmed on one of his nature reserves next week for The One Show. Very exciting indeed, especially following his appearance on Countryfile last Sunday, did you see him? 

Two of his nature reserves featured on the show, the dormice (aaaahhhhh) are in one of the woodlands he manages, Siccaridge Wood and Daneway Banks where the dew pond was filmed is home to the large blue butterfly too. We were very proud, especially as he gave up one of his days on holiday in Cornwall with us to travel back to Gloucestershire for filming, which was a 12 hour round train trip! 

We go to the most fabulous barber shop in Cheltenham called Balthazaar, full of vintage things to look while waiting our turn with the wonderful Kerry. It's a bit like stepping into one of the pages of Sibella Court's book Etcetera. The boys know that if they are good and sit still in the huge vintage barbers chairs, they will be rewarded with a trip to our favourite cafe Moka for a warm milk and slice of cake. 

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

car booting...

I love car booting and go with my friend Gina, although not as much as we would like! We usually get up very early and travel to a large car boot in a nearby town, where you may even bump into the queen of the car boot sale, who can spot a bargain a mile off!  

We love a bargain and whilst Gina will look at everything and come away laden with stuff, I flit (attention span of a gnat!) looking for specific things. We have an unusual tactic of often liking the same thing and confuse the seller by haggling between ourselves first! I still wish I'd seen the wooden metre stick first and bought the preserving pan that I thought extortionate at £1! 

This week I discovered the blog 'A Thrify Mrs' where she has put together '10 bootsale tips' a great guide if you are new to boot sales. I really must get to some more and try out some new boot sales/markets, anyone got any good places to go? 

Monday, 4 July 2011

Wild Things Week Six ~ touch boxes!

Weather: cold 
Date: March 2011
Activity: Making touch boxes

I am terribly behind in documenting the naturey stuff I have been doing this year with the reception class at my sons school. This is an activity we did back in March, I asked if all parents could send an egg box with their children to school. We then gave each child an egg box each and they were asked to think about the way things feel; smooth, soft, wet, sticky, hard, prickly, bumpy, slimy, rough. They explored their school grounds looking for a different 'feel' for each of the egg segments in the box.

The children then sat in a circle and shared the different 'feels' one child had a stick and said it felt soft. We looked puzzled, but on closer inspection discovered it was like balsa wood, quite spongy, so we all agreed and passed it around. All the children shared their discoveries as a class and proudly took their boxes home, much to their parents delight!

*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. My aim is to encourage children to get outside and discover the natural world through simple activities and unrestricted 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.

Friday, 1 July 2011

thrifty finds...

I love Fridays, I usually start the day at my local market where I buy flowers and plants from the WI stall for very reasonable prices. Then a rummage at the junk stall to purchase a few more tea cups and saucers. The owner of the stall let me rummage around her lock up today, which is packed from floor to ceiling with boxes of stuff, a real Aladdin's I was rewarded with finding a pile of colourful sheets and linens for a den making workshop I'm running in a few weeks time!
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