September Highlights 

September was a month of change and new starts for the majority of our household, with new schools and starting a university course. Even after a few weeks it all still feels like treading new ground, with so many things to try and get my head around. But even in between the madness, there has been some time to have a little fun.

  • The month began with a fabulous family wedding, on a beautiful autumn day. How am I old enough to have a nephew get married???
  • Family visits and visiting family, always a lovely treat! The rain held off long enough to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
  • We had a fantastic day out at Bristol Museum, taking part in their interactive Pliosaurus exhibition. It was great for families (and it’s on until 7th January!).
  • M went to a secondary school open evening!!! I was ok until I got there, then I felt quite unprepared for this next change to come!
  • The girls were in an amazing concert through school and isingpop, who came in to teach them songs and dance moves with a positive message. They even had the parents up and dancing at the end!
  • We have also squeezed in a fire pit, trips to the park, painting, baking and some autumn walks. Not too shabby!
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It’s been so busy this week it felt like a real treat squeezing a little bit of time to do some baking with E. Due to play dates, we ended up with an unexpected slice of time to do something frivolous like baking and decorating cupcakes, just the two of us! It was very precious!

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A Lesson Learnt from a Trail Blazer

Do you ever fall into the mythical idea that success just springs upon those trail blazers of times past? Sometimes the success is so celebrated that the pathway towards it is obscured by the shining glory of that moment of genius. I have! And I’ve realised it works quite well as a water tight alibi for not putting myself out there too much in case it all falls into a piling heap of failure. It has taken me time, alongside many reminders along the way, to realise maybe there’s some whopping great holes in that theory! A visit to Lacock Abbey was not only beautiful and fascinating, as so many National Trust properties are, but also an enlightening insight into the life and studies of Mr Fox Talbot who resided there.

I had heard of Fox Talbot many years ago whilst studying photography, and glanced over the facts without too much thought, taking for granted the fact that the whole reason I had the subject of photography to study was partly down to the dedication and passion this person had for the science behind capturing and retaining a photographic image.

Photography began very much as a scientific pursuit, alongside the creative benefits. This was perfect for Fox Talbot who had both an interest in and experience with chemistry as well as a keen interest in the study of botany. Due to his lack of artistic ability, he wanted to find a way to capture images of specimens without the need to be a skilled artist. His motivation and passion for the photographic world was born out of a lack of artistic skill; rather than letting this bring him into a deep gloom it pushed him on to make many scientific discoveries by exploring his curiosity. That’s a great set of life skills right there!

There were many failures along the way, but curiosity, determination and resilience came through, and look where we are today! In his words:

“…I do not profess to have perfected an Art, but to have commenced one; the limits of which it is not possible at present exactly to ascertain.

I only claim to have based this new Art upon a secure foundation: it will be for more skilful hands than mine to rear the superstructure.”

– Fox Talbot 1839

A truly inspiring moment in history, for which I’m grateful, as I get to enjoy this wonderful art form pretty much everyday. What a different world it would be without photography in it!

 

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The photo says it all!

(Well maybe just omit the last word and ignore the bit about fly tipping!?).

Going back to study I have to try and repress a strong desire to regress back to those blissful care-free days of undergraduate studies, where there appeared to be so much more free time than study time (except at assessment points). I keep reminding myself, this is hard core study! Plus now I am also a responsible adult with dependents….there is a rather bizarre dichotomy in my mind at the moment as I find a new definition of student life.

A few things have changed since I studied last, virtual learning environments were only just being utilised, but they’re now in full swing – which is so helpful, especially as I’m commuting into university. They are the font of all knowledge for everything course related. Taking photos of lecture slides using smartphones; this really took me by surprise! There was no way phones would be out during a lecture, apart from some surreptitious texting beneath the table. I definitely am on board with taking a quick snapshot of a bulk of information to refer to later, ingenious!

Plus….and maybe I’ll reveal my own stupidity here….I actually thought someone was coming towards me and being super friendly, striking up a spontaneous conversation even though they had no clue who I was….no, no, no! They were talking on their phone…through headphones I hasten to add! I do recognise what a mobile phone looks like!? I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for headphone wires in future.

It’s a learning environment in every sense of the word!

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Autumn Equinox 

What a beautiful introduction to Autumn, the warmth of the sun with blue skies and a slight bite in the air. We know it’s arrived when the condensation forms on our ancient windows…another job to add to the morning list of chores. There’s a reticence to leave the warmth of the house and venture out to meet the protests of hungry chickens and a noisy cockerel. 

I welcome the change of seasons, each one bringing its own unique gifts and a change of pace. September often feels like its own kind of new beginning, with the start of a new school year…although this year has been full of nerves for all of us, with new starts and big changes. It still feels like we’re in an adjustment phase, so it seems even more important to soak up the little things.

These are some of the little things I’ll be enjoying during autumn:

  • The beautiful, low light with its intense warmth in the fading hour of the day.
  • Pulling on cosy jumpers and snuggling beneath blankets.
  • Comfort food…out with the salads and in with the soups and stews.
  • Changing colours and views. There is a house I love to watch each year covered in ivy that changes to a deep red before shedding all of its leaves.
  • Popping the electric blanket on and jumping into a toasty warm bed.
  • Shoving on wellies for walks down muddy country lanes.
  • Consuming a lot of apple crumble! And possibly putting on some winter insulation!?

All of this when I don’t have my head in books, attempting to soak in some knowledge!

If you want to get yourself into that autumn feeling, Radio 4 had some lovely autumnal poetry read throughout the day. Enjoy!

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Enjoying a mild, autumn evening with windfall apples and hot chocolate by the fire. There’s something so comforting sitting by the fire listening to the crackle and snap of the wood alongside the flickering flames. 

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That Creeping Feeling of Self doubt


From a childhoods innocent perspective, adulthood appeared so much simpler and free from worries or fears. The reality is so much more complex, as we become entangled in a web of responsibilities, expectations and worries.

Forging your own path, stepping into the unknown is not only daunting, but sometimes full-on terrifying! Change is inevitable, but even when it’s a choice it can introduce a pile of doubts and fears.

I’m embarking on a new adventure, which is very exciting, but equally scary. I will be right out of my comfort zone, pulling on skills that haven’t been utilised for years, dusting off the old brain cells and creaking those neurons back into life. I am so, so lucky that I even get the opportunity to do this, in a country that supports progression and education, with a family that is more than happy to support my dreams and goals. So what’s the problem???

Out there, lurking in the dark corners of my grey matter, is the big fat fear of FAILURE…with all its associated demons of self doubt. What if I don’t know any of the answers? What if everyone finds out I have no idea what I’m doing? What if my brain just does not have the capacity to work at the required level to succeed? (The list goes on…!).

Serendipitously, I have come across some podcasts this week covering just that subject…self-doubt, and the great news is that everyone faces it, unless they are a psychopath (excellent! I can cross that one off the list!). I would definitely recommend a listen, there are some great gems of wisdom contained within.

We’re all so individual that listening to the same words will bring out different things for everyone. The things that stood out to me, offering both comfort and a call to action, were the following:

  • Everyone experiences self-doubt – so in that sense it’s very normal.
  • It’s worth finding the root cause of self doubt and targeting that area.
  • How we speak to ourselves is hugely important – instead of focusing on what we can’t do, we could turn this around and tell ourselves about what we have done well…in essence be kinder to ourselves.
  • Self doubt will always be around, but it needs to be kept in its proper place.
  • Self belief needs to be the driving force to achieve hopes and dreams and combat fear.
  • Self doubt can be a good thing, as it makes us evaluate choices and weigh up their value and worth.
  • Don’t give voice to the demons…or fear of what others may think, because 1. we never actually know what other people are thinking and 2. Those that care about you most usually have your back.

So my plan is to put this into practice, alongside lots of deep breaths (without inducing an attack of fainting) and the mantra FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning (thank you Radio 2 for that beauty!).

Podcasts: Hashtag Authentic with Sara Tasker & Sas Petherick

Courage & Spice with Sas Petherick

 

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Autumn has suddenly appeared! And with it weather that is all over the place…sun, rain and wind changing from one moment to the next. At the weekend we quickly dashed out for a wander while the sun appeared, timing it just right between heavy downpours. 

It was a lovely treat to have my parents visit, culminating with a beautiful rainbow.

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Henry the VIII Gets Everywhere!

We’ve been on some great days out this summer, countryside walks, historic houses and a castle that is still owned and lived in by a family. When learning about the history of the buildings and its inhabitants, Henry VIII’s name frequently pops up as a royal visitor to the household…he certainly travelled around and made an impression wherever he went. Famous or infamous, he is certainly a fascinating character! When visiting Sudeley Castle recently, I was intrigued by a quote that I read (forgotten who by now), which spoke about how much Henry VIII adored women; he was, rather unconventionally at the time, brought up around his mother and sisters rather than being sent away and had a great affection for women. He was a very charismatic individual and deeply loved women…of course until he really didn’t!

Sudeley Castle was the residence of Catherine Parr, the famously surviving wife of Henry VIII, where her remains were discovered in the late 1700’s. Catherine Parr had a great influence on society, through her religious beliefs, publishing books of prayers which became an accessible means for others to take part in personal worship. In a letter, she mentioned that she felt it was her duty to marry King Henry VIII, through the will of God, saying: “Howbeit God withstood my will therein most vehemently for a time, and through his grace made that possible which seemed to me impossible; that was made me renounce utterly my own will, and to follow his most willingly.”

Her influence also stretched to educating Lady Jane Grey, who she took under her wing; another woman who played a significant role in history. There were so many interesting facts and some very informative short films, which made the information accessible for adults and children. I really felt that I gained a small glimpse into history.

The gardens were spectacular! Beautifully kept with a huge variety of sights to see and interesting designs. We walked through secret gardens, narrow pathways lined with hedges, climbing trees and spotting fish, pheasants we never knew existed and wonderful water features.

We had the best luck with the weather, beautiful sunshine which was perfect for a picnic, running around the grounds and having a sneaky ice cream.

I loved the ruins of the banquet hall (pictured above), with all of the foliage growing around the remains of what would have once been a breathtaking building. Even with a hum of people milling around, it was peaceful enough to reflect on times past and the merriment and entertainment that happened here.

Saved for the end of the day, was a fabulous adventure playground, which the children could easily have spent much more time running around in than we did. My tip if visiting Sudeley Castle, is to get there at the opening time to enjoy all it has to offer, as it closes early evening. We only drove out through the local village, but it also looks like a beautiful place to wander around and explore.

Thanks to the wonderful world of Tesco club card vouchers, we had a fantastic day out for the royal sum of £3, what a bargain!!

Happy faces all round!

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A Sewing Adventure Lived and Learned

I have all these plans and goals in my head of all the things I would like to do in life…I don’t know when the ideas first emerged or sometimes even what inspired them, but they’re there and won’t be ignored! Initially I don’t want to ignore them, but when I get started with them and it doesn’t seem to be panning out quite how I imagined I ask myself ‘why did I think this was a good idea?’.

One of these ideas, which planted itself in my head in a time long forgotten, was to make a baptism dress for each of my children. Reflecting on it now, I obviously didn’t entertain the possibility of not having any girls therefore negating the need for a dress. So 2 years ago, that is what I did for my eldest, with the help of friends and family. It was difficult and I learnt a lot, but I didn’t remember it being too traumatic so 2 years on I begin the task again. Having not made anything since the last time, I had forgotten pretty much everything I’d learnt the last time around…but feeling confident and armed with material, a dress pattern and YouTube, I thought it wouldn’t be too taxing..all I needed was plenty of time. I definitely remember staying up late with my mother-in-law finishing off the dress from 2 years ago and didn’t want to repeat those feelings of ‘will I ever get this done?’

Cutting out the pattern and material all went ok, starting the bodice and lining…still ok, understitching..fiddly but ok, sleeves..a bit of adjusting around the limitation of the sewing machine..not too bad. Attaching the sleeves…uh-oh! Totally followed the wrong steps in the pattern, hours of unpicking and restarting. The race against time begins, lots of silly mistakes with the phrase my nan used to say spinning around my head ‘more haste, less speed’, which rang very true! With little more than an hour to spare before the dress actually needed to be put into use, the last stitch goes in…didn’t quite learn the getting it done in good time lesson this time around.

I made a ton of mistakes whilst making this dress, and it definitely isn’t perfect. But even when I look at it now, with all it’s little (or not so little) flaws, I’m amazed that I did it and it doesn’t look half bad.

My top tips (for myself ready for next time, or anyone embarking on a sewing adventure):

  • Allow a lot more time to complete your project than you think e.g. double or triple it!
  • Read the pattern very, very carefully!
  • If using YouTube, watch at least 3 video clips on a particular skill/element of sewing, as they can vary quite a lot. Choose the one that you feel most able to replicate, or that shares a common theme with other clips (some video clips are not the correct method of doing that skill).
  • Expect to make mistakes…it’s inevitable and completely normal…that’s what the unpicking tool is for!
  • Don’t rush, this is when the mistakes happen (refer to point 1).
  • Enjoy the experience…may as well – it could be a long one!
  • Bask in the glory of your achievements, if even for a moment.

Going off on an interesting tangent from this adventure in sewing, to the relationship we have with clothes, the love of an item of clothing despite its flaws, embracing the memories associated with it….have a listen to this interview, I found it fascinating!!

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