Tuesday, 28 August 2012

insects and ice cream...

a visit to one of my favourite tiny nature reserves, the only clue that it's there are two amazing carved posts either side of the entrance
sitting in the dappled shade of the chestnut tree
looking for great green bush crickets amongst the long grass
finding instead an Adonis blue butterfly
catching the boy playing with his baby brother
then walking over the Common to Winstones Ice Cream factory
I had a strawberry ice cream milkshake, Alfie had a banana and toffee cone and Ted chose a vanilla tub with chocolate sauce!

Monday, 27 August 2012

a day in the country...

good friends
gorgeous children
Evie drinking redbush tea in her new midwinter cup
a secret cottage with anemones in the garden
happy dogs
Alfie cuts the biggest slices of treacle cake
& gossip over a cup of tea...

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Prema Arts Workshops...

Situated in a small picturesque Cotswold Village is a small but perfectly formed arts centre called Prema. You could drive through Uley and miss the turning, but look carefully, as on the main road there is a signpost covered in colorful knitting, a clue as to this quirky and fun venue hidden on South Street. Prema is a family friendly arts centre, with live music, art exhibitions, workshops and a brand new arts cafe serving a delicious range of cakes and savory treats. 

This Autumn/Winter season I am running a few workshops at Prema, the first will be about blogging and setting up your own blog as part of their fab 'mum's night out' series, a bit like a modern WI but with a glass of wine. 

Then in December I'm running a Gingerbread House decorating morning, with my friend Jenny (aka The Cheltenham Cake Fairy) for families, which will be loads of fun. There will be icing, silver balls and smarties everywhere! Finally I'll be leading a Green Christmas evening workshop, making decorations out of foraged and recycled materials. 

I am so excited about these workshops, do come along if you can? Looking through the brochure there are lots of other really good performances and workshops that I'm going to go to - although I'm not so sure how receptive the husband will be to the 'knitting for men' workshop! 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

the simple things...

Our tracks and trails adventure featured over on the new 'The Simple Things' website last week. The Simple Things is a new monthly magazine celebrating the things that matter most and until tomorrow there is a fabulous offer ~ £5 for the first three issues!

boys will be boys...

I never imagined I would have three boys, but with the baby almost four months old and starting to roll over, I know that so very soon, all three of them will be running around, chasing each other, arguing and doing all the loud, smelly, boisterous stuff that boys do. There are a few simple rules I try to stick to, in order to remain sane. 

1. Be active - my children, especially the eldest, have the most amazing energy - they are on the go from 6.30am! No matter how tired I get, if they don't get their daily exercise and fresh air, by two or three o'clock we'll all be climbing the walls! I find even when I'm at my most lethargic, fresh air helps me feel better too, the worst thing is the weather, we dash out in between showers or even walk in the drizzle!

2. Have a routine - the more organised I am the more smoothly our day goes, I sit down the night before and on a Sunday night to loosely plan the week ahead, if the boys know what we are doing they seem more receptive to fitting in school work, chores and are more helpful - and the more they can do the better. We get little jobs and boring stuff done first, clearing up breakfast stuff, homework, dressing the baby, phone calls etc before we go out on our adventures.  

3. Be patient - I am probably the most impatient person EVER! I will never fail to get annoyed at telling a child to put his socks on three times. The calmer I am the more calmer the boys are - simple! A friend said to me wisely 'choose your battles' as she could see I was loosing a battle of wills with the stubborn six year old! This I definitely need more practice at. 

4. Eat good food - my boys have bottomless pits for stomachs, the nine year old especially eats loads and needs good proper meals. If they snack and have too many sweet treats they bounce off the walls, so they need a proper hot meal every day and plenty of fruit and vegetables (which they only eat under duress!) We try and involve them in meal planning and cooking as much as possible. 

I also try and look after myself as much as possible so I have as much energy as I can muster - which sounds a bit like survival training but I find if I have early nights and eat well I can just about keep up with them!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

outdoor film night....

We enjoyed a trip to Bristol Zoo for a special outdoor screening of Jurassic Park. The weather was glorious, but we did wonder what the zoo animals thought of t-rex noises echoing around the park!

There are animatronic dinosaurs all around the zoo, moving and making noises, the t-rex below even got to watch the film!

It's a lovely zoo, I remember being taken as a child but I must admit baulking at the admission costs, I can't believe how expensive places like this are to visit nowadays. The boys really wanted to have a go on the rope walk, which looked amazing, but you paid on top of admission cost, I think it was £6.50 per child. You can save 10% by buying online before your visit but it will definitely be a while until we can justify going back.

goodbye chicken...

The little mans chicken, Rosie Red Hen, died on Thursday and we have buried her in a shoebox at the bottom of the garden. Poor Ted, was quite sad for a little while but dealt with it in a very matter-of-fact way, even declaring himself vegetarian for a few hours. He had wanted a viking burial for his chicken, but we managed to persuade him that something a little more traditional was fitting.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

fruit picking...

A few weeks ago we visited the local fruit farm for our annual berry picking. We usually make jam to last us through Winter, but this year have followed a recipe with less sugar in for a loose, more fruity jam, more like a compote, which won't keep as long. I have made Strawberry and Rose Jam, Summer Berry Jam and Raspberry Jam, all with a 'half the weight of the fruit in sugar plus the juice of a lemon' ratio. It's now taking over the fridge, to be used in a few weeks for a celebration.

Monday, 13 August 2012

instant photography for the next generation...

One of our projects in the school holidays is to write a diary of our adventures. We bought a fuji instax camera so the boys could take their own pictures to make their daily writing in their Moleskine journals a little more exciting. I chose this camera as the boys love instant cameras, and my Polaroid cameras are just too dear to me, to let them use freely! The camera produces credit card size pictures and the boys find it really easy to use. They do have a cheap digital camera - but have to rely on me to upload and order, which takes the fun out of it.

Ted took the pictures above at the circus, which are just fab - I couldn't do better myself! The results are really similar to my SX-70 so if you can find a cheap Polaroid on ebay or car boots sales, you can order film from the Impossible Project, who have started making it again, children just love watching the picture appear like magic!

Friday, 10 August 2012

I want to run away with the circus...

It's not officially summer holidays until we visit Giffords Circus - a small vintage circus that tours village greens around the Cotswolds. Usually we are too keen to see it, to wait until it gets to our favourite venue, Minchinhampton Common in August, but this year we did wait and tonight we were rewarded with the perfect summer evening, all long shadows and children jigging excitedly. As we drove across the common, it's always so exciting to see all the showman's wagons painted with their burgundy livery, all lined up around the glorious big top.

Our favourite act is Tweedy the clown (pictured above), he has the audience in stitches, and for us he's always the star of the show. It was also a delight to see the return of Nancy Trotter, who I remember from past shows, her performance this year with doves was just brilliant! The boys were captivated and I as always just dreamed of sneaking through those red curtains, backstage to run away with the circus!

As always the costumes were amazing, I loved the orchestra's 'Victorian bordello' styling and the exotic feathers of the girls. Giffords Circus runs until September 16th 2012 and tickets are £14 children and £21 adults.

More Gifford's Circus pictures here.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

keep young and beautiful...

A few weeks ago I was offered a course of four facials at The Montpellier Chapter Spa, in Cheltenham, to introduce the new partnership with REN skin care. I'm not one that visits spas on a regular basis and I will admit to having a skin care routine that usually involves a 3 in 1 cleansing wipe before bed! So this was an opportunity too good to turn down. 

Upon arrival at the spa for my bespoke facial I was welcomed by manager Karen Chapman. She showed me into one of the luxurious cocoon shaped treatment rooms to begin my Express Facial "a re-energising express facial for maximum results in minimum time."  

The Spa uses the REN Clean Skin care range, which is based in Devon and its natural products are paraben, petrol chemicals, animal products and sulfate FREE! Karen started the facial with the No. 1 Purity Cleansing Gel and Jojoba Microbead Facial Polish, massaging acupressure points on my face to relieve stress. She then applied the Invisible Pores Detox Mask, wiping it off with hot flannels, leaving my skin feeling amazingly clean. An anti-aging eye gel and Balancing Day Fluid was applied, finishing with a serum and lip balm. 

The results were instant and catching a glance at a make-up free me, I noticed that already my skin looked fresher and healthy. Over the next few days a few people commented on how well I was looking and inside my heart jumped with joy - as any sleep-deprived, frumpy-feeling, mum of a small baby knows!

A few days later and a package arrived at home, a box from REN containing all the products recommended by Karen. I have neatly lined them up in the bathroom (I think I need a bigger shelf!) delving into them daily for my new skin care ritual. 

I still have two facials to go, but already my skin feels more radiant and I'm delighted with how good that's making me feel. My favourite thing about the products is their aroma, not overpowering and very natural, the packaging is plain but the products inside are just gorgeous and I'm completely smitten with them already, especially the gorgeous night repair serum. 

From £13 the range is comparable in price with cosmetic counter ranges on the high street, although I would really recommend visiting a spa as the tips and advice that you will be given is invaluable and will help you buy the right products to suit your skin type in the first place. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Escape with a great book!

"I am delighted to introduce my lovely twitter friend Joanna Hobbs, who is manager at my local Waterstones Bookshop in Cirencester and has kindly agreed to write a guest post, sharing her passion for books with us. 

When I finally met her in person a few weeks ago, she helped me find books for my son to read and also a great holiday read for me too, all whilst greeting customers in her store like old friends. So go and visit the store in person or just read on to enjoy her recommendations. Feel free to leave your own comments about these books or your own favourites below." 

The summer holidays present a fantastic opportunity for you and your family to spend some quality time with books. There is so much wonderful choice for children, whatever their tastes!

If your child can already read, then each new book opens a doorway into a different world of adventure - and the perfect escape on a rainy afternoon! For those who are learning to read, the holidays provide a lovely stretch of quality time in which to unhurriedly explore the pleasures of a great story. With little ones there is nothing like the shared fun of reading a story together - especially if you do all the voices!

My happiest memories of childhood summers are centred around being outdoors - reading in shady spots, climbing trees, looking for tiny frogs and fossils, building dens and rockpooling. There are many lovely books which capture the spirit of the great outdoors and will inspire you and your children to go on your own adventures! Here are some favourites:

Make it Wild! by Fiona Danks & Jo Schofield. Subtitled '101 Things to Make and Do Outdoors', this is packed full of superb ideas for all seasons! There are all sorts of projects from making nettle paper to the more ambitious making of go carts. 

The Eden Project have done two lovely Little Guides with wonderful picture book author Charlotte Voake on Wild Flowers and Trees. They're great to take out on walks and to have at home for inspiration.

The RSPB publish a popular series for young nature lovers. The bugs one always goes down well! Usborne Spotter's Guides are fab portable guides to take out and about & introduce a fun competitive element - how many things can you find!?

As I got older I wanted as much information and as many pictures as possible! I found I grew into any that were initially too advanced and always loved the great photography/images captured in adult nature guides. Two great series are the Collins guides:

and anything by the publisher Dorling Kindersley

If you want a treat for yourself, here are some real beauties - two relatively new kids on the block and the classic updated:

The River Cottage Handbooks are fab (above) and below The Hedgerow Handbook (below) is a lovely book to share with the family:   

The brilliant Richard Mabey, Food for Free;

Needing further persuasion...?
Have a read of this fascinating book and I challenge you to remain in your armchair!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Olympic fever...

We have Olympic fever in our house and are glued to the TV. So many great athletes, so much great coverage on the BBC, too many late nights!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Cotswold Life...

If you live in the Cotswolds then buy this months Cotswold Life, there is a fab article by Katie Jarvis '50 things to do before you're 12' and the photography used to illustrate the piece is by me!

Camping with babies...

We took the baby on his first camping trip a few weeks ago, he had the most amazing nights sleep. I took his Moses basket and lined it with the sheepskin I use in his buggy, to keep him insulated through the night, which worked perfectly. 

As it was our first camping trip with him, we decided to stay close to home, which is just as well as it took us two trips to get all our stuff there! The baby buggy just takes up too much room, we need one of those top box things or a trailer. We didn't need any other baby stuff, just his Moses basket - but that fits neatly in the car stuffed with sheepskins for the boys to sleep on. 

We're hoping for another spell of good weather so we can venture a little further afield next time.

Friday, 3 August 2012

how to have a beach barbecue...

Food tastes better outside, and there is nothing better than an impromptu beach barbecue, especially on cold windy days!

We buy two small disposable barbecues, light one and when it's going really well, we pour the contents of the second onto it, to get a hotter fire that lasts for longer. The boys are experts in finding great big rocks to act as windbreaks and sticks to hang the hot chocolate kettle on. I prepare all the food before hand, seasoning and coating with oil, so that less rubbish is taken to the beach and also the food can then be cooked quickly for hungry boys, who can't entertain the concept of waiting for the flames to go down!

We try and buy local food too, there are always plenty of roadside honesty shops to choose from, such as the one below in Cornwall, selling delicious new potatoes and courgettes.

A typical beach barbecue menu: 

bacon wrapped asparagus
courgette sliced lengthways  
baby corn and green beans - delicious on a barbecue
Burgers or Sausages in baps - the boys favourite! 
Feta stuffed tomato or peppers
cous cous salad
grilled peaches drizzled with honey

we would cook damper bread, but you need a much hotter fire than that from a disposable BBQ!

All washed down with huge enamel mugfuls of hot chocolate!
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