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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This week has involved lots of baking, creating and bonfire night celebrating! All of my favourite things!

D has a new topic at school on the theme of chocolate! What could be better than that! She is so excited to do her homework, next on her list is making rocky road…yum!

M and I made Parkin for the first time, especially for bonfire night. A traditional Yorkshire cake made with treacle, ginger, golden syrup and all things delicious!

This was topped off with a bonfire and sparklers, still so much joy to be had even at my age!

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You may have thought the loom banding craze was over…not in our house! It is very much alive and well! Lots of love happening from everyone here for the joy and contentment it brings to us all.

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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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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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Not to break with tradition, I totally forgot to take back to school photos on the first day at school. With added complications, due to a move to a new school and a delay in starting, I was caught up in the rush of it all. So on a more relaxed ‘second day’ of school, I grabbed the camera out!

Unfortunately the enthusiasm for a back to school photo was pretty one sided, even bribery didn’t work this time. I’m hoping that other parents experience the explosions and arguments about who touched who, who stood on whose feet etc etc in setting up any type of formal photograph.

Daisy lightened the mood with her uncurbed desire to always be cheeky, and we enlisted the help of daddy to get some giggles!

We got there in the end…sort of ?!

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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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All looking smart and beautiful for a wonderful family wedding. Can’t believe I’m old enough to have a nephew that has just been married! So exciting to see a couple starting their life together anew, so many adventures and happy times ahead for them both!

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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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