Sunday, 30 March 2014

Sailing away with a daffodil gnome

There's been more than a breath of spring about the place over the last few days.  Firstly, a daffodil gnome arrived, something I won in Katie's recent giveaway.

She didn't have far to travel to get here, just a few miles from Cirencester, where she was created by the talented Svenna of Stitch and Purl.  We all think she's lovely, and she looks just right down amongst the (many) daisies in what I laughingly call the lawn.  A bit later she went for a sail.

The boat is courtesy of the middle boy, who had a Beavers sleepover last night.  He had a happy day of games and walks and sailing boats in the stream.  He was thrilled to win "Joint Best Sailor".  Today he was more than a little tired though.  The biggest boy made sure not to miss an opportunity to tip him over the edge.

After lunch we went for a walk up to Painswick Beacon.  Some of the shorter legs were tired from a lot of early running, but it was nice to get out and feel the sun on our skin.

I found lots of oak apples, something I hadn't seen for ages.  It was a new thing to show the boys, and explain how they are caused by gall wasps.  We could see the holes where the wasps had left the apple.

Towards the end of the walk we found a tree to climb.  I boosted the littlest boy up, then the other two climbed up by standing on my back.  I've put my hoody in the wash.

At the edge of the picturesque beacon is this quarry.  It's completely out of place, but I suppose all of that beautiful Cotswold stone has to come from somewhere.  It was deserted on a Sunday, and had the feel of a setting for an Alex Rider book (a bit like a James Bond for children if you're not familiar with it).  The stones look like pebbles from here, but they were five to six feet tall.

The last picture I took was of this tangle of nature, above an old stone wall.  It fascinated me to see how all of the different plants were mingling and struggling for survival and dominance.  I'm not sure what the main tree is, beech maybe, and then in front of it there's yew, as well as ivies and a rhodedendron.  Hanging down are lots of bare stems - brambles probably.  It must be a jungle in high summer.  Nature, full throttle.

Here in the UK it was Mother's Day today.  Each of the little people made me a card, and the middle boy made me a coconut mouse while he was on his Beaver's sleepover.

The littlest boy was especially sweet, saying "Happy Mother's Day" to me throughout the day and asking me tonight when we were doing some colouring together before bed whether I'd had a good day.  Well yes, I do believe I have.

Before I go, I want to say a huge thank you for all of your lovely comments on my last post.  You have all been so kind and encouraging, I've been quite overwhelmed.  Thank you.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

One year of blogging

Just over a year ago, I read this post, written by Lucy of Attic 24.  I'd been thinking about writing a blog for a while, but when I read her words, it suddenly seemed like something that I'd enjoy, something worthwhile.

I still wasn't exactly sure why and what I would get out of it, and in fact that's something I ask myself a lot.  But I thought, well, I'll just do it.

And I can honestly say, it's been a blast.  I've so enjoyed writing it, and doing something with all of the photos I take.  

But most of all, it's been amazing to meet so many like-minded people.  People who like the same things that I do, and people who are kind and generous and encouraging and helpful.  Blogland is a place of friendship and inspiration, and I often find I am pushed to try something new, to go a little further, to be a bit more adventurous, and to live life a little more fully.  I examine my life and the things around me more than I otherwise would.  And there is always support for anything you might want to try.

So I just wanted to say a huge thank you, for stopping by here, for reading and commenting and connecting.  You've totally blown me away.  I did want to have a little giveaway, but the thing I ordered hasn't turned up yet, so I shall wait and see if it does first, just in case.  

You may have noticed the header has been changing in all sorts of odd ways.  I'm not hugely confident (or at all able) when it comes to the technical stuff.   I naively thought I'd change the top picture, so I deleted it, and from there on in it all went wrong.  The new pictures were miniscule.  Then I couldn't get it back to the way it was before.  You think there'd be a button for "Go Back To How It Was Before I Meddled With It", but there isn't.  And I couldn't find the original photo or remember the font or anything.  Then I made the pictures too big.  I finally got them to an okay size, so I think I shall leave it for a while.  I want to change the photo of me and a couple of other things, so if it all looks wrong next time you visit, you know why.

Wishing you all a good weekend, full of adventures and expeditions and also some cosy happy at-home time.  I shall be missing the middle boy who has a Beavers sleepover and watching a little football as usual and wandering around with my camera looking at the world and wondering what I shall write next on my little blog.  Thank you again for visiting.  CJ xx

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Colour Collaborative: March: Bud

Buds.  A universal symbol of spring.  Every year we look for them.  We wait and watch, never knowing exactly when they'll be here.  It's something the plant works out with nature, with its environment.  And when the time is right, there they are.

Enclosed tightly at first in pale greens and browns and the old bleak colours of winter.  Just a hint, a suggestion of something more to come.

It happens slowly, slower even as we watch so avidly.  But as the days tick by and our little patch of earth tilts a touch closer to the sun, there's a glimpse of something more, a sliver of colour, the edge of a petal, the promise of life.

From the palest of baby pinks to the most vibrant raspberry, every tone and every colour is there.

Every sensational flower, every dramatic, showy bloom, and every subtle one too, they have all emerged from drab overcoats with an explosion of sensory overload.  Colour, texture, scent, sensuality.

Not every bud makes it.  Some are lost, frozen, plucked, knocked from their stems.  Life is hard, storms are frequent.  That's why there are always more buds.  The plant keeps trying.  If one lot of buds doesn't succeed, more are sent forth.

Some flower and go no further.  Petals fall and the idea is gone.  But sometimes, when there are kindly bees and gentle rains and the softest of winds, you look one day at the place where there was a bud, and if you are lucky you find fruit.

For me, the colours of spring are pale pinks and greens and whites.  Subtle colours that hum but don't shout.  The colours of apple blossom and magnolia.

As I thought about buds this week, it occurred to me that ideas are like buds.  They are there, waiting, just waiting, for the time to be right.  They are delicate, easily damaged.  They are slow, shy, tentative.  Often they are lost to storms and circumstances.  But sometimes they flower, these ideas of ours, and when they do they are beautiful to behold.  Bold and strong and tremendous.  Because they are a little part of us, that we have opened out to the world, that we have been brave enough to try.  Despite the ideas that didn't happen, we've tried again.  And sometimes, just sometimes, after an idea there's fruit.

Of course, occasionally it's a lemon.

Right now, I have a little idea of my own.  Something that might be a bud or it might not.  A plan for the future, that I might make work or I might not.  But to try is everything right?  Do you have a dream that deep down you wish you could pursue?  Is there something that might make it happen?  A small step you could take on the path to the place you wish you could be?  Wishing you bravery and flowers and fruit, CJ xx

To visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, including one from March's guest blogger, Sarah at Mitenska, just click on the links below:

Annie at Knitsofacto                                             Sandra at Cherry Heart                                       

Gillian at Tales from a Happy House                     Jennifer at Thistlebear                                          

What is The Colour Collaborative?

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Wombles, Lego and a bit of other stuff

Wandering round the house this morning after I left the boys at school it struck me how some of the things they've been enjoying are the same ones that I liked when I was little.

Remember the Wombles?  Orinoco and Bungo and Madame Cholet.  I like to call out, "Coo-ee, Wumbles" sometimes, just like she does when tea's ready.  The book was published in 1973 and cost the grand sum of 35p.  Those were the days.  The Womble philosophy is more popular than ever now, although "making good use of the things that they find, the things that the everyday folk leave behind" has fancier names now, repurposing, recycling, upcycling and the like.  I found this book on the sofa, the middle boy is reading it, and I'm happy that he likes the gentler stories, as well as some of the more action-packed stuff he also reads.

Upstairs there's Lego.  A while back, in a frenzy of decluttering, I nearly got rid of the tin of old Lego from my childhood.  I've no idea what I was thinking.  It's a biscuit tin full of the pieces I played with over and over again when I was little, making houses and a little milk float, complete with blue milk bottles.

And check out those biscuits!  Oh life was good.

I must have made this house twenty times or more.  I think I wanted to live in a house like this one day.  I loved it.  Thank goodness I didn't give it all away.  It's a tin full of memories.

The middle boy is a huge Lego fan, but this week all of them have been happily building things.  I love to see their happy imaginings.

Also up there is another tin ("Biscuits for Cheese" this time), filled with my old plastic Mecchano.  More classic stuff that they still love today.

I remember making all of the different models from the instructions.   So nice that they're still intact.  And that my little people, especially the middle boy, love to make these things too.

Downstairs I've been enjoying this lovely book, that I was lucky enough to win in a giveaway done by Karen at The Garden Smallholder, one of my favourite blogs.

It's a really beautiful book, full of information about growing flowers for cutting, and the photographs are stunning.

It's going to be really useful, as this year me and the boys are going to be trying to grow some flowers, for cutting and also for insects.  It's written by Louise Curley, who blogs at Wellywoman.

Outside the frogspawn has turned rapidly into tadpoles.  I don't know if it's faster than normal, but it does seem like it was.  Last year was cold, and I'm sure we waited ages to see tadpoles.  This year they've been wiggling around all week, and basking on the top of this waterlily leaf.

Inside things are a little calmer than they were last week.  Sometimes the boys get tired and cross and then every day is full of noise and arguments and fighting.  This week (well, except for Monday) it's going much better.

Tomorrow there's a teacher's strike.  The middle boy's teacher and the littlest boy's teacher are both striking.  The biggest boy's teacher isn't striking so he'll be going to school.  The littlest boy has volunteered to walk to school with us so that he can wave goodbye.  What a lovely little brother he is.  I'm looking forward to a happy day full of Lego and imaginary games.  The two littlest boys do play nicely together when it's just the two of them, and they love their inventive playing.  I love to listen to their conversations. It should be a good day.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Of mice and peas

At the allotment the other day I started trying to plan out where I'm going to be putting everything in a few weeks, when the time comes to plant.  I'll never have one of those immaculate plots with perfectly straight lines of things and smart labels and cleverly organised planting.  But I do like to have a vague idea of where I'm going to try and stick most of the stuff.  Usually by the end I am shoving odd plants into spaces left by the ravages of slugs and snails and it all gets a bit higgledy piggledy.  But at this time of year when it's just on paper it's all looking great.

I've tried to concentrate on things that most of us like, although I can't seem to stop growing squashes and courgettes.  But I like them, and they are such pretty plants and fun things to grow, so they're in.  I've got more potatoes than I should have.  If I put them in about a foot apart I've probably got enough to cover about half an acre.  Not sure how that happened.  Well, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but I do have more than I need.  I'll leave any spares at the top of the allotment site for someone else to pick up.

This is the bit at the bottom of the allotment, by the shed.  The green thing in the middle is a garlic bulb that was left in the ground last year.

I'll be trying carrots again, despite limited success last year.  I swear half a row of seedlings disappeared overnight.  Rabbit?  We do eat so many between us all.  (Carrots, not rabbits).  In fact I'm the only one who's not really keen on them.  Even the hamster likes a chunk occasionally.

I'm going to have beans, squashes and sweetcorn, and I'm wondering if it's worth trying the "three sisters" method of growing them, with the beans climbing up the sweetcorn and the squashes shading the roots.  Has anyone tried this and found it successful?  This bed at the allotment would do nicely, especially now it's actually weed free.

There will be lots of tomatoes and cucumbers, and at home I'll put in most of the salad leaves, spinach, chard and maybe a little kale.   Not too much kale though, the little people aren't quite convinced yet.  I made kale crisps, but no-one was fooled.  The grown-ups loved them though.  We'll also have sugar snap peas at home.  I love it when the children pick them and eat them straight from the plant.  This year I need to try and have a successive crop for as long as possible.

There will be runner beans, as well as French and borlotti and odd little things like radishes and Florence fennel squeezed in wherever there's a space.

At home the boys are going to be putting flowers into their raised beds this year.  We've chosen ones that are butterfly and bee friendly, and I really hope there will be lots of interesting things for them to see.

In a moment of inattention I left some packets of seeds in the allotment shed.  The mice (which I've never seen, thankfully) were delighted.

It's always a happy busy time of year for a gardener in March.  All those plans and dreams.  The reality will no doubt turn out be a little different than the original sketches, but in the height of summer no doubt glorious all the same.  There will be surprises and disappointments and successes and gluts.  I'm ready, let's plant.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Positively delicious

I did some baking today.  A few sweet vegan treats for puddings and weekend snacks.  I made cookies and flapjacks and from this lovely book a chocolate fudge cake.

The book is full of recipes from the wonderful Demuths Restaurant in Bath.  It's somewhere we used to eat regularly Before Children, when we had time, freedom and Disposable Income.  Ah, sweet Disposable Income, I barely remember you now.  And to be honest, I don't miss it too much.  I'm happy with just enough.

I digress.  Demuths is fantastic.  Wonderful food, full of amazing flavours and creative combinations.  I've never eaten anything there that wasn't delicious.  And to make it all perfect, Rachel Demuth wrote lots of the recipes down in three cookery books.  I've got two of them, and the one above is the first one.  Full of inspiration.

I decided to make the eldest boy a nice cake.  He's doing really well with being a vegan for Lent, although it's quite easy for him, he just sits down at the table and eats what I place in front of him.  Anyway, Demuths' vegan chocolate fudge cake is a great recipe, easy to make, but really good.

I baked it a little longer  than usual to make sure it was completely done in the middle.  When I took it out of the oven it looked just right.  I'd put the recipe book away by then, and I couldn't remember how long I was supposed to leave it in the tin to cool.

As it happened, it didn't matter.

As if by magic, it flew out of my hands and slammed into the floor.  It hit the ground with such force (I was trying to grab it at the same time) that the tin was squashed out of shape.

Fortunately no-one in this house minds eating chocolate cake that's been briefly on the floor.  We're not fussy (or classy) around here.  And I had just washed the floor.

Later I went and watched the biggest boy lose 7-0 in a school football match.  He was greatly cheered to hear there was chocolate cake for tea.

If you're ever passing through Bath (and you really should pass through Bath, at least once), I can highly recommend Demuths.  And if you want to learn how to cook it all too, Rachel Demuth has a cookery school now.  No doubt nothing is ever dropped forcefully on the floor there.  But then, they haven't had me.

Sunday, 16 March 2014


Despite the beautiful spring weather, mud is still featuring heavily in my weekends.  First of all there was football.  The biggest boy scored a couple of goals today which made him happy.

Four lots of football and one of golf meant a light application of mud and bits of grass about the place.  Then we went to Slimbridge.  The biggest boys were having heaps of fun chasing each other about the play area, until the middle boy ran across what he thought was a bit of solid ground and turned out to be six inches of the thickest, wettest mud imaginable.  He went absolutely flying, and about one second later the biggest boy did exactly the same.  They honestly looked like swamp creatures.  The middle boy even had it in his mouth, to his horror.  They were covered, all down one side, legs, back, arms, hands.  It happened about eight seconds before we were going to leave anyway.  So close.

I made them sit in the car in their pants.  When we got home the car was not parked particularly close to the house.  I've never seen them get to the front door so fast.  I took my time.  I may even have snapped a photo or two of them standing on the doorstep.

They're squeaky clean now, especially the biggest boy who has had two showers in the space of about six hours.  The littlest boy was utterly thrilled at not being the one in trouble, after a particularly tricky week.  Oh he was happy and proud.  So good when the weekend goes out on a high.

I know you won't want to see pictures of boys on doorsteps in their pants, so I have some pretty things from Slimbridge instead.

I vividly recall looking for buds on this magnolia last year on the 13th of April.  I found only one.  How different this year is.

There were also lots of fluffy spring things.

And some slightly sunken leftover rosehips.

I had an insightful conversation with the two bigger boys yesterday.  We'd been talking about what estates and wills were.  It went something like this:

Middle boy:  "Horrid Henry has a really funny will, he leaves his mum and dad a chunk of mud."

Me:  "I hope you're not leaving me a chunk of mud."

Biggest boy:  "Actually, you'll be leaving us stuff."

Me:  "Got your eye on anything there have you?"

Biggest boy (with nary a pause):  "Big lens.  Laptop."

Middle boy:  "Television and remote.  Daddy's computer."

Me:  "Lovely.  Will you be leaving anything for the littlest boy?"  (I should point out that the littlest boy wasn't in the room, or he would have shouted the loudest and bagsed everything for himself.)

Middle boy:  "He can have your recipe books.  And the kitchen."

I'm wondering if they're thinking about making him cook their food.  Good luck with that.