November Highlights

  • I finally completed 30 days of Yoga…it only took me 2 months! On to the next challenge.
  • I’m very late to the party, but I finally watched La La Land and absolutely loved it! Although the ending broke my heart a little…wasn’t expecting that!
  • Made and consumed a delicious gluten and dairy free orange and chestnut cake, from River Cottage Gluten Free.
  • Listened to a really interesting documentary on Radio 4 about adoption, definitely worth a listen to understand how it effects everyone.
  • Finally used my birthday voucher from last year and had a fantastic massage, just need one everyday!
  • Assignments galore this month! And still more to do! At least some of the vocabulary and concepts are beginning to take root!
  • Lots of lovely celebrations with birthdays and bonfire night, with my first attempt at making Parkin…a veritable success, we may have begun a new tradition!
  • More recipe firsts…making dahl (which the girls thought must have originated from Roald) and homemade waffles.
  • The woolly jumpers are out, alongside crackling log fires…it’s feeling very cosy around here!
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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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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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August Highlights

August ended with an amazing Bank Holiday sizzler, as despite all the odds, the sun actually appeared and shone gloriously as we possibly beat our record by having 3 BBQs in a row! I feel decidedly unprepared for September this year, so I’m still in shock that August has actually passed me by. However, we managed to squeeze a lot in…some of the highlights include:

  • We kicked off the month with a fun-filled, family camping trip to Wales.
  • Two birthday celebrations, a day apart (didn’t plan that well ha ha!).
  • Lots of walk in the countryside, trips to national trust properties, family days out and BBQs!
  • I read 2 books! Together by Julie Cohen, which has a great twist at the end! And The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce – one of my favourite writers…it has given me the desire to buy a retro record player now though!?
  • I really enjoyed listening to Robert Webb’s ‘How not to be a boy’ on book of the week on Radio 4.
  • In an effort to get some kind of exercise into my life, I have been doing Adrienne’s 30 days of Yoga. I haven’t managed it everyday, but I always feel great when I do.
  • With a glut of plums from the tree in the garden, I made some plum chutney ready for Christmas from The Modern Preserver I didn’t realise it would stain my finger nails a rusty brown colour for days, so hoping the delicious taste in a few months will be worth it.

Now we move onto cooler, shorter days the slow cooker will make an appearance for warming stews and soups ready for more hibernation indoors.

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A Wild Time at the Wild Place Project

Summer holidays = a very empty bank account! So it was a real treat that the girls got a free voucher each for completing the Summer Reading Challenge at the library this year to The Wild Place Project. We hit it on a beautiful, sunny day with a bag filled with a picnic lunch, a change of clothes and wet wipes (as advised by friends in readiness for the barefoot trail, which can get quite muddy and messy).

There are lots of trails and activities in between visits to the range of animals there, as well as an insight into the effect of the choices of others and their impact on animal species, such as illegal poaching, mining and deforestation. The girls asked lots of questions about this as it is something they haven’t come across in the past, a great opportunity to discuss some big environmental issues.

A favourite was watching the giraffes gracefully moving around their living space, they are truly amazing close up!

We got up very close to the lemurs, who put on a good show of extreme cuteness as they curled up together for an afternoon snooze.

The barefoot trail was lots of fun (to watch…I didn’t participate), of course the best bit was the sticky, sludgy mud!

Our final adventure before we headed for home was a go on the huge, extremely scary swing, which falls from a great height. To show that I’m brave too, I went on the swing with the two older girls…as we hung high up waiting for the fall E said ‘how did I get myself into this?’ And I had to agree! Suddenly remembering my fear of heights, I decided I wasn’t so brave after all!! It provided much amusement to all the spectators as we descended without much composure or grace!?

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Getting out into nature in the city!

I absolutely love nature, countryside, flowers, fresh air etc etc. On our visits out, I am always drawn to the flowers, gardens and greenhouses. Even though we live in the countryside, as we were already going into the city we made a little detour to visit the Bristol Botanical Gardens. For just a small entry fee, it was such a treat, there was even an activity for the children! Which I wasn’t expecting at all! A little trail finding Bee facts and stamping flowers (with ink onto a piece of paper…not into the ground!?)….this kept them really engaged as they had to search them out.

The weather was forecast for a rainy day, but we lucked out! The weather man was wrong…hooray! We had some beautiful sunshine between the clouds. There was a wealth of information about the varieties of bees in the United Kingdom, where they nested and their habitat.

It was a quiet day, so plenty of space to run around and explore without causing a nuisance, with a huge variety of different themes and displays to enjoy. The Chinese medicine garden was amazing, seeing all of the different plants that are used for healing illnesses.

I loved the ferns, grasses and trees, the aromas were lovely and earthy, which always remind me of my nan’s garden and the same smells I experienced on our visits there throughout childhood and beyond.

The children became quite attached to a black cat, which followed us around the gardens for quite a while!! Pretending it was a black panther in the wild.

There was something beautiful to see around every corner, inspiration for anyone’s garden.

One of my absolute favourites were the greenhouses, so many different greens and exotic plants to explore. The girls discovered a Venus fly trap and had fun tickling the leaves until they closed.

This is definitely a place I could come back to again and again, as I’m sure it changes with each visit.

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July highlights

A little bit late….the summer holidays don’t seem to have slowed the pace of life yet. Lots of exciting things happened throughout July, I’m always surprised by how many things get packed into our little lives.

  • We had some beautiful sunshine throughout July (which has rudely disappeared for the summer holidays!?), which has been great for being out in the garden, school sports day and lots of BBQs. 
  • The two oldest children took part in the school production at the end of the academic year and really gave it their all in both acting and singing. We also had a treat seeing the youngest two performing their ballet during their last class before the holidays.
  • M kicked off the summer birthdays, with much hilarity during her party where we played some good old fashioned party games, including the cereal box game, after eight game, flour game and a treasure hunt.​
  • I tried out some delicious new recipes, one using aubergines (the yummiest dish using aubergines that I’ve ever made) and some scrumptious mexican rice
  • I really enjoyed reading The Muse by Jessie Burton. I have previously read her first novel, The Miniaturist, a few years ago. It was a gripping plot and I was really drawn into it through her eloquent writing style.
  • An ongoing issue that keeps popping up in the news….something I can never fathom, the justification behind a gender pay gap even being existence.
  • We took advantage of a beautiful, sunny day to visit Blaise Castle and the Toy Museum there, for the first time. The grounds are expansive, with woodland, streams and plenty of open space to set up cricket and football matches. 
  • And of course, a family camping trip to Wales!
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A Taste of our Easter Holidays

I read an inspiring blog post about creating short films to capture the fleeting moments and memories of family, which reignited the desire to try to do this again. A couple of years ago I enrolled on Xanthe’s Creating Time Capsules online film course. I learnt a lot about various methods of making and keeping memories through film and photography, but for one reason or another, only created a handful of my own little films. So here I am having another go, dregging the cavities of my brain to put those lessons into use once again, to capture memories that would otherwise be long forgotten.

This was created using my iPhone, as this is something I have with me most of the time. I’m still getting to grips with filming with my DSLR, it may take a while!

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Nothing better than a leaf fight in beautiful sunshine….still finding little bits of dried up leaves deposited around the house, in shoes, coats, jumpers etc. Lovely to see the joy the simple things in life bring.

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Money Well Spent

I remember when my parents would suggest going on a beautiful, countryside walk, especially when we were on family holidays. My dad would be armed with walking leaflets, clearly mapping out the 2 or 3 mile route and off we would we set on a leisurely morning or afternoon stroll, or that was the plan! Unfortunately, in the days before google maps and 4G, our walks were often rather doomed – those clearly mapped out routes became vague and badly signposted, leading us onto paths previously unchartered. A route that should have taken a few hours inevitably turned into 5 hours and a few miles turned into many more.

My clearest memory is of a walk around Robin Hood’s Bay, we set off in bright sunshine in the appropriate attire for such a beautiful day, got inevitably lost en route and caught in a torrential down pour. In true British style, the weather returned to a beautiful summer’s day and we walked back into the village looking like we’d been for a dip in the sea fully clothed, much to the confusion of locals and tourists alike. So I understand why my children often display the same reticence when I suggest going on walks – which oddly enough is one of my favourite things (maybe marrying someone with a degree in Outdoor Education and a great sense of direction has helped me overcome any demons!). Of course I ignore my children’s cries of woe and we go on walks anyway, especially as 5 minutes in they have forgotten why they didn’t want to go in the first place.

One of the best investments we have made over the past year is National Trust membership. The houses are beautiful and rich with history, the gardens and grounds are stunning and it is so family friendly! Our children have absolutely loved exploring the houses, taking part in treasure hunts and dressing up, as well as learning about how people used to live. There’s so much to see and do that we keep returning to the same places over and over again, as well as using the opportunity to stop off at places on our journeys around the country.


So if you’ve got some spare money burning a hole in your pocket, or you want an excuse to get out more and see the beautiful sights this country has to offer I would definitely recommend National Trust!

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