Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Wherever you go I'll follow

The little babe follows his big brothers everywhere and has started to get upset when they go to school without him. "Schoooool" he wails as they go out of the door in the morning not understanding why he can't go. They are so good and patient with him I hope they remain close when they grow up.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

May Whistles For May Day

Our local Farmers' Market in Stroud is so much more than a market, as not only does it boast award winning produce such as Hobbs House bakery, it has stall upon stall of fresh strawberries, asparagus, mushrooms, fruit and veg, meat, flowers and plants, doughnuts, cheese and vintage wares as well as musicians and craft people. 

Each year in April/May, we find the lovely Anna Casserley at the market selling her beautifully crafted wooden spoons and May whistles. May whistles are an enchanting custom, they are a small whistle made from ash, sycamore or willow that are traditionally made and blown by children to ring in summer on May Day. 

Anna, who was taught by her Cornish grandfather skillfully makes them in minutes in front of children who stare in awe at this magic. All around the Farmers' Market you can hear the whistles being blown by children delighting in this newly discovered ancient tradition. 

The whistles are about four inches in length and about half an inch diameter, Anna cuts a mouth piece with her sharp Opinel knife and then scores around the outside, this is the magical part, she then taps all the way around the bark and it just slides off. She deftly cuts a v-shape, a shallow chamber to blow down and a chamber and then slides the bark back on before presenting it to a child to blow. 

In minutes a tradition is passed down to the next generation and with the amount of shrill whistling around the market, summer should definitely be on its way! 

Discover more at www.maywhistles.co.uk  where there are step by step instructions on making your own May whistle. 

Friday, 25 April 2014

Happily pinning

Visit Emma Bradshaw's profile on Pinterest.

There are some really beautiful pictures on Pinterest that are so inspiring, I while away many an hour repinning and dreaming. Here's a few pins from today, enjoy x

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

My baby turned two!

And just like that the babe is two, where did the time go? Whilst I mourn the passing of another year, the birthday celebrations and joy that they bring makes me forget my own woes.

Little Stanley had a wonderful birthday, we made him a balloon curtain which he just loved and has played with all day. His present was a trailer to go on the back of his favourite land rover (that was his Christmas present) it's a Britain's Big Farm toy, which are really life like and not extortionate prices. The cows are a bit plasticky but we can use our lovely Schleich farm animals instead.

His birthday cake this year was a bit of a short cut, with Easter and two birthdays close together and realising that I'm not supermum and just can't stay up all night baking, I bought a cheap supermarket gâteaux and hid it with an army of rabbits that were discounted Easter choc. It was a bit too chocolaty, if you can believe that is possible but was cheap, quick and easy to make.

His lovely godmother and grandparents came for afternoon tea, nice and simple and surrounded by his favourite people, it was a lovely day. Now onto birthday number two this week!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A mini garden for Stanley's birthday

We've just finished making a mini garden for Stanley, who will soon be two, TWO!!! how did that happen so quickly? We copied the idea from a picture that we saw on Pinterest, where most of my ideas seem to originate these days! It was so easy to make, an ivy twig from the garden with tiny twig steps glued on with PVA glue. A tyre swing made with a Lego tyre, tied on with string and we made the treehouse platform from a few lolly sticks glued together. We planted the garden with moss, dill and corncockle plants that we'd grown from our Higgledy Seeds. Then added some small bunting sewn together from scraps and a tiny washing line too. We are planning to give it to our garden loving little babe for his second birthday with a set of mini tools so he can garden. I hope he likes it.

Wild woodland weekends

We went with our friends for a woodland walk this weekend in our favourite wood. Our adventure took us through a river and past banks of wild garlic, wood anemone and carpets of bluebells. I love English woodlands at this time of year especially when it's sunny too.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter egg tree

We finally finished this year's Easter tree made from a few twigs from our twisted hazel in the garden. We dyed the eggs using red cabbage and red onion skins but unlike success in previous years, this year they just didn't take despite doing everything the same. I still like how they've turned out and it's a fun family tradition that we look forward to and that we've done for years now.

We had a lovely day starting with an Easter egg hunt around the garden, quickly followed by eating as much chocolate as possible before breakfast. Grandma and Grandad visited for a delicious roast Sunday lunch. I wrapped a shoulder of lamb in wild garlic leaves, it was really good. Then with full bellies we played a family game of Scrabble and managed to finish before the babe stole any of the tiles.

Feeding time at the zoo

A glimpse of our breakfast table, what you can't see is the noise! One boy asking for seconds, daddy telling one of them to 'stop talking with your mouth full', another boy complaining that he hasn't got as many sausages as the other, it's constant and just how I imagined family life would be like. I love mealtimes, how they constantly tell me they're hungry and yet I have to shout five or six times to get them to wash their hands and sit at the table. It's noisy and I wouldn't have it any other way!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The real Easter bunny

I love the story of how the real Easter bunny is actually a hare. Years ago people would find nests with eggs in hidden in meadows and believe they belonged to hares, when in fact they belonged to ground nesting birds such as lapwings (also known as peewits). So the original Easter bunny leaving Easter eggs, was in fact the hare and now the eggs are more likely to be chocolate! To celebrate the humble hare, I've made some biscuit hares and some Easter nests with some moss from the garden and mini eggs for our Easter table tomorrow.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Pottering about

We discovered The Village Pottery in Clifton Village, Bristol today. The little man wanted to have a go on a potters wheel for his birthday, so instead of a party he chose to take two friends for a pottery session. The pottery shop was lovely, with floor to ceiling shelves packed with gorgeous mugs, plates and bowls handmade by Jen and in the studio next door just enough space for the boys to each take a turn on the wheel and make other clay creations, whilst I enjoyed a latte. The boys loved it and Jen was so patient and good with them, we've left our creations for her to glaze and fire before collecting our works of art in a few weeks time. 

Our Easter tree tradition

Every year we decorate eggs and hang them on our Easter tree, which is a few twisted hazel stems from the garden. We use natural dyes in jam jars to dye our eggs; coffee, onion skins, beetroot, spinach and our favourite red cabbage.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Dens and damper bread

This week for the 52 Loaves Project we made damper bread on a campfire. You have to twist your bread around a green stick and keep turning so as not to burn it, but it tastes delicious on its own, freshly baked.

400g plain flour
30ml natural sugar
15ml  sea salt
20ml baking powder
60ml softened butter
10ml warm water

in the kitchen...
1. mix together all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Add water and stir. Dough should be too dry to come together into one lump.
3. Cut in butter and knead by hand just long enough to make it smooth and consistent.
4. Form into a log, wrap in plastic and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

at the campsite...
5. Prepare 1 or more sticks 1cm in diameter by shaving clean with a pocket knife.
6. Cut dough into 12 pieces. Roll into long pencil thin snakes 30cm (12 inches) and coil these around the end of the stick.
7. Hold sticks high over the fire, constantly turning until the coiled dough turns golden brown.
8. Cool and eat straight off the stick!

recipe adapted from the fab book Baking Bread with Children by Warren Lee Cohen

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

Sunday, 13 April 2014

My five minutes of fame

It's taken me all week to pluck up the courage to watch last weeks BBC Countryfile that featured my hubby and I on an exciting project that we're working on together at the moment. I was terribly nervous as have never been on TV before and meeting John Craven too was quite exciting. My nose looks huge and I really need a haircut but it's not too bad, bossing my husband around on national TV has amused many of our friends anyway! You can still catch for a few hours if you want to watch it on I player!

The new girl

I am really excited to have been invited to be part of the This is Your Kingdom team, you can find me here. This is Your Kingdom is a beautiful website that shares lovely places to visit and things to do, by a team of contributors up and down the country. I have always enjoyed visiting the website so am delighted to now be part of such an inspirational team. If you haven't visited the site, go and make yourself a cup of tea and lose yourself for a few hours as you explore the UK, from hidden tea shops, to the best places to go crabbing, there really is something for everyone, and sign up for the free email too, which will deliver lots of inspiration straight into your mailbox.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

A 'whole' lot of love

We were doing so well, we'd followed Tom's great white bread recipe instead using a lovely stoneground wholemeal flour by Stoates. We split the dough into four and made three loaves for the week ahead and five rolls for lunch, they baked beautifully, although not achieving as huge a rise as we're used to with a white flour. Then tasting them we realised we'd forgotten a vital ingredient, the salt...!

I'm not quite how this happened, although I seem to remember a lot of us in the kitchen at once this morning! Just as you think you've turned a corner a schoolgirl error creeps in, oh well, it just about tastes OK with salted butter.

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

Wild Food Weekends : A Forager's Breakfast

The dandelion plant is really easy to identify with their yellow tufted flowers and jagged green leaves. Called dandelion from the french dent-de-lion meaning lion's tooth due to their distinctive leaf shape, they are considered to many a weed popping up everywhere, and have been eaten in the UK for centuries. Dandelion and burdock has been drunk since the middle ages, where the dandelion was fermented to produce an alcoholic mead, but today we know it as a fizzy soft drink. The leaves of the plant are versatile and can be used in salads along with the yellow petals of the flowers.

In Miles Irving's book The Forager Handbook he suggests frying your dandelion leaves with a little bacon, white wine and adding a poached egg on top, a perfect forager's breakfast! So that's exactly what we're going to do this weekend, with fried eggs instead, here's our version;

Forager's breakfast 

(serves 2)


20 dandelion leaves (young leaves as old are bitter, washed and picked from a clean place not a roadside)
3 rashers of smoked bacon - chopped
2 free range eggs
(salt and pepper to season)
1 dandelion flower - to sprinkle the yellow petals over the top

  1. heat a knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat
  2. chop in the bacon in small bits and fry until just starting to crisp
  3. move bacon to one side and break the eggs into the pan to fry
  4. add in the dandelion leaves on top of the bacon until they wilt
  5. serve on a plate placing the egg on top and garnish with petals
  6. season to taste
  7. eat outside on a sunny day! 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Baking with a new-found confidence

white loaves and banana bread straight out of the oven!

I set to making our weekly loaf this week with added confidence and enthusiasm after last week's bread making masterclass with Tom Herbert at Hobbs House Cookery School.

This was the week I was going to create the perfect white loaf! This was also the week where we had a new oven fitted (whoops sorry credit card!) and I purchased a baking stone too. There were a few variables but it was fine, I didn't impulsively add flour to the very sticky dough as I would have before, instead after a few minutes kneading it started to turn into a beautiful soft dough. The dough scraper was a revelation - who knew?

I also kneaded it for twice as long as I did before and shaped it to go into the tins and sprayed them with water before putting them in the very hot oven. I still made the mistake of putting too much dough in the tin, so there is plenty of room for improvement

The difference is amazing they actually look like something you'd buy in a shop! All the tips and advice that Tom shared have really paid off, you really can't substitute with a book the opportunity to learn hands-on with an expert, I feel as if we've turned a corner.

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

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Sowing seeds with Stanley

I've just been sowing my seeds today from the enchantingly named Higgledy Garden in Cornwall. I bought an edible flower collection with sunflower, cornflower, calendula, dill, nasturtium and borage for £6, and a small cutting garden collection of cerinthe major, nicotiana, corncockle, rudbeckia, calendula, cornflowers, sunflower and cosmos for £10. I really liked the selection of flowers and different collections, far more than those on offer in the garden centre, they arrived in lovely brown paper envelopes too. I sowed them with Stanley, who was in charge of watering, I can't wait for them to grow. 

The 52 Loaves Project Bakers Go Back to School

When the lovely Tom Herbert of Hobbs House Bakery heard about the 52 loaves project on Instagram  he invited some of us taking part to the Hobbs House Cookery School for a morning of bread baking with him. We spent the day up to our elbows in flour, learning tips of how we can improve our loaves. Together we made a great white loaf dough, sour cherry and chocolate hot cross buns, soda spelt buns and watched how to make pitta breads. 

We brought home small bits of the famous Hobbs House 59 year old sourdough, which I have rehoused in a kilner jar in the fridge, and will feed until I feel ready to learn how to make sourdough loaves. *note to self read up on feeding sourdough*

A very dapper looking Tom, sharing his business card, a Hobbs House dough scraper!

Tom invited us to take one of our loaves with us for him to help us and as a result I discovered that I under knead, over prove, never shape properly and don't cook in a hot enough oven! Which might sound awful but after 12 weeks of baking loaves it was really good to get some guidance and tips on what I can improve on.

A beautifully presented row of our soda spelt rolls, don't they look delicious?

The day was so inspiring, Tom has such an infectious enthusiasm for sharing his baking passion that I can't wait to bake my next loaf and I've invested in a baking stone to bake my bread on too, I now have no excuses!

The 52 Loaves Project Bakers from left to right; Ruby, Carolyn, Jack, Lou, Dan, Tom, Laura, Emma, Natalie and Me!

If you would like to go on a bread baking course with Tom, check out the Hobbs House Bakery website for more information. 
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