Friday, 28 February 2014

Baking Madeleines with Stanley

We thought we'd try the madeleine recipe from Rachel Khoo's The Little Paris Kitchen recipe book after reading that they were often enjoyed by French children on their return home from school. 

So faced with another rainy Friday (why does it only rain on my days off?) I thought it a great idea to do some cooking with Stanley. He loves cooking but is into EVERYTHING, no sooner have you cracked an egg with him he's trying to eat it raw, so you really have to be on your toes! Measuring out the ingredients on the digital scales he kept resetting it to 0!

So after a rather messy afternoon of 'loosely' following the recipe, we ended up with a plateful of madeleines, warn from the oven for his older brothers return from school.

Oh la la, they are delicious, we didn't push in a raspberry or add lemon curd after cooking as the recipe says, but I didn't think they needed anything else to be honest. I don't think they'll last long.

Now where are those boys when there's washing up to be done?

Happy weekend friends x

Monday, 24 February 2014

I love crates

I have just implemented a new filing system for shoes and school bags after getting fed up of whiny voices from my children every morning saying they can't find things! I have labelled three crates, one each for each boy to put in his shoes and boots, and morning one was a complete success.

It is quite apparent that I have quite a crate obsession though, with thirteen crates used in different places around the house! They are by the front door, I have some with wheels on in the boys rooms for their toys, as kitchen shelves, my beside table and even as a unit to house the records and record player!

I really like them and would have even more if I was allowed, I rather fancy fixing a load together to make shelves in the lounge like this set by Bailey's. Although that might be going a little too far perhaps? 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

A gardening giveaway

I have just received the latest Your Cotswold Family magazine, it's fabulous and I'm excited that I have an article published in it called 'Top of the Crops' all about gardening with children. The magazine is seasonal, published four times a year and is really beautiful with fantastic articles, fashion and things to do, I do recommend it, subscription is just £10 for four issues.

So to celebrate the new issue and the sunshine we have seen this weekend (at last!) I am giving away five packets of my pumpkin seeds currently on sale in the Bradshaw & Sons Store, to hopefully inspire a little gardening of your own. All you need to do is fill in the rafflecopter giveaway form below for free entry, you can enter as many times as you like and the draw will select five random entries after it closes on Friday, simple!

P.S. There are just a few packets of pumpkins, heartsease, foxglove and bluebell left in the shop

*The offer is limited to entries from the UK only

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Spelt soldiers

We tried some fancy organic, biodynamic spelt flour this week for our loaf of the week. The bread didn't rise much, and upon cooking it was quite dense, but thinking about my favourite loaf a Hobbs House seeded spelt, which is a similar size and density, that might be the nature of spelt perhaps? Spelt is a really old variety of wheat, low in gluten and high in fibre and vitamins and one I'm keen to introduce to our diet, so I'm pleased the boys overlooked the fact that it is 'brown' and actually wolfed it down!

The bread tasted earthy and delicious and would be perfect with a glass of cider and some cheese, but we couldn't wait and made it into soldiers to dip into our eggs for breakfast.

Playing along with Little Green Shed by baking a loaf a week and sharing a picture of it on Instagram with the #52loavesproject

Friday, 21 February 2014

A co-sleeping confession

I'm not going to lie, this is where he sleeps, right in the middle. He is number three you see. With number one we read every manual, and were scared silly by co-sleeping advice guidelines so every night we spent hours trying to get our new baby asleep in his cot in his rather beautifully decorated nursery. With number two, we didn't bother with the nursery (which was by now a junk room) we put the cot in our room, and he ended up in our bed almost every night.

With number three we haven't bothered with routine, he has had to fit in around his two older brothers. We didn't have the energy or inclination to bother with a routine, he has slept with us since the day he was born. He sleeps much better than the other two, but this is probably because we are more relaxed as parents.

It's not ideal, this week I have been kicked in the ribs and had the blankets kicked off more times than I care to think about. But he is number three and I think we are clinging onto our baby as he is our last, poor thing. He goes to sleep with his hand on my cheek and he wakes with a huge smile on his face.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

making the right move

We have found the most wonderful place available to rent and with an offer on our house we could make the move. But is moving to rental a good move?

It would mean we would live in a place that we would never in a million years be able to afford, an old farmhouse. But in a classic heart versus head situation am I being swept along with the romance and turning too much of a blind eye to it's remoteness, damp and homage to 80's decor?

Whilst the boys would have miles of countryside to explore, would cutting them off from their village life be a good thing? I would imagine that a lot of people will want to live here, so we might not even get to choose but right now my head is spinning with endless possibilities, although one things for sure, my mother will think we're crazy!

Did I mention the bread oven in the barn?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

creating jam jar scenes

We've been creating jam jar scenes using little people bought from the model shop! We got the idea from Jeska's lovely terrarium she pictured on her Instagram feed a few weeks ago, a fab camping scene. The babe is fascinated - but we have to keep it out of his reach as the pieces are tiny. I thought he swallowed a 20p piece a few weeks ago, but after a trip to A&E where he was scanned, they couldn't find anything so I'm not taking any chances.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Planning a summer of camping adventures

Follow Emma Bradshaw's board camping on Pinterest.

It's a good time of year to plan summer holidays and camping trips and I'm pinning lots of inspiring images on my Pinterest camping board. We need to buy a new tent and my heart is torn between buying a 5 metre bell tent or one with rooms that the rest of my family want, that packs down smaller and is lighter to carry!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Half-term adventures

Planning some half-term adventures with our new *old* map. It's from 1946 and it's amazing to study and see just how much has been built, including the M5 and the railway lines that have disappeared!

This week we're hoping to:
  • Learn to map read
  • Make madeleines
  • Go on a walk & illustrate it
  • Make a mini stage with a box and old sheets
  • Wear our wellies!
  • Find some sticks
  • Bake some Welsh Cakes
  • Make butter 
  • Go thrift store shopping
  • Get haircuts! 
  • Make bows and arrows 

Rain, rain go away...

Saturday, 15 February 2014

By George, I think we've got it!

Week 6 of the #52loavesproject and we've just pulled out of the oven a perfect loaf which smells divine. Using fresh yeast bought from our local bakery, we used a simple white bread recipe and left it to prove on the record player in the sunshine that's been streaming through the windows between the showers.

I don't know whether it was the soulful tunes of Paul Weller from the record player, the sun streaming in or the fresh yeast but we got a perfect rise at last!

Even more exciting, I was also live on Radio Gloucestershire this afternoon, talking to the lovely Manpreet Mellhi about the 52 loaves project, as I challenged her on twitter to join in and give bread baking a go!

Finally, if you are looking for some fun family things to do this half-term then I recommend a visit to the Hobbs House Cookery School in Chipping Sodbury, as on Monday Tom Herbert is running a pizza making workshop between 11am-2pm and on Thursday, it's bake off day with cake designing and decorating sessions with Sasha and Carla. It's perfect wet weather fun and Chipping Sodbury is a lovely small market town only 30 mins drive from Stroud, Bath and Bristol.

Playing along with Little Green Shed by baking a loaf a week and sharing a picture of it on Instagram with the #52loavesproject

one of our dinosaurs is missing

A London visit to the Natural History Museum with the boys who were enjoying an inset day. I've wanted to take them to the museum for ages and we finally made it. I've loved visiting it since I was a child and my favourite film was (and still is) One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing!

I haven't visited for ages and I was blown away by the new Earthquakes and Volcanoes gallery, with a plate tectonics room featuring an actual 'shaking' Kobe Supermarket and scary tsunami footage. The entrance to the gallery is pretty impressive too, through a globe escalator.

The boys enjoyed the dinosaur exhibition with the animatronic T-rex, although it was really busy, and the blue whale room, full of mammals and cool whale skeletons hanging from the ceiling. If you visit, I do recommend the lovely sandwich bar in the Red Zone with really delicious focaccia and salads, it's a lot quieter than the other cafes as it's quite out of the way.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Creating order from chaos

I have been tidying at home and trying to create a sense of order this weekend. Our house has felt that it's been bursting at the seems for a while and a spring clean is long overdue. Unfortunately my natural leaning is towards saving everything 'just in case' which I get from my mother who keeps everything! I have sold a few things on ebay and am trying to get rid of things to the charity shop that we no longer need and already the house feels cleaner and lighter. Lots more to do, including tackling the paperwork, my clothes cupboards and bulging bookshelves, until then I'll daydream at the beautiful houses on Pinterest.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

a heart shaped loaf

We made this weeks loaf in the shape of a heart for Valentines Day on Friday. We followed a new recipe discovered on the back of a bag of unbleached flour I bought last year from Y Felin, the most picturesque flour mill in St. Dogmaels, near Cardigan. The mill is one of the last working mills in the country and uses traditional methods to grind the flour, powered by a huge waterwheel on the side. You can take a tour of the mill and see the flour being made.

The dough only required a tiny amount of kneading and this week I bought some fresh yeast from my local bakery to see if it would work better than the dried stuff I usually use, and it did seem to work better, so I'll try it again next week too.

Playing along with Little Green Shed by baking a loaf a week and sharing a picture of it on Instagram with the #52loavesproject

Saturday, 8 February 2014

How to make play-dough the natural way

We've been busy making play-dough and colouring it using natural dyes. It's loads of hands-on fun and Stanley is at that age where he is curious about everything and just wants to do everything!


2 cups of flour
2 cups of warm water infused with natural dye
1 cup of salt
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of cream of tartar

For the colours we use: 

Red cabbage for purple (the colour in the photograph above)
Beetroot for reds
Greens for green!
& tea bags for browns

We make an infusion with hot water and our chosen vegetable, when the water has boiled then cooled down to a warm temperature we mix all the ingredients together in a large pan over a low heat. When it all comes together into a big lump we turn the heat off and keep stirring until a perfect play-dough consistency is reached. Hours of fun!

p.s. poor Stanley had his hair cut by his older brother the other day, just look at his crooked fringe!

Monday, 3 February 2014

A winter's walk in the Slad Valley

In that place of steep meadows
the stacked sheaves are roasting,
and the sun-torn tulips
and tinders of scented ashes

But here I have lost
the dialect of your hills,
my tongue has gone blind
far from their limestone roots.

extract from THE WILD TREES by Laurie Lee

Today was spent exploring the footpaths and lanes of the gorgeous Slad Valley with colleagues in preparation of a summer of Laurie Lee centenary celebrations. We walked up and over Swift's Hill (above) a limestone grassland covered in no less than fourteen different species of orchid each spring/summer. 

Past magnificent beech trees that looked like elephants feet.

Through hamlets of beautiful Cotswold stone houses hidden in folds of the green valley and past the orchards that inspired Cider with Rosie

We were greeted by clumps of snowdrops along the route...

...And by fence posts painted with different badger scenes!

Of course every long walk should be rewarded, with lunch at the legendary Woolpack Inn. 

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