Friday, 29 March 2013


A first Easter egg
I love Easter. We celebrate it with our very actions as a time for kicking off projects and getting stuck in to tasks that have been put off throughout the gloom of winter. Whatever the weather we collapse onto the sofa at the end of Easter Monday feeling very satisfied with what we have achieved whether it is inside or outside our home.

I will find a few minutes to snuggle down on the sofa with my boys and hot cross buns to discuss the story of the resurrection of Jesus though they will doubtless find the mash of pagan eggs and Christian beliefs as confusing as I did as a child.

We will all munch chocolate Easter eggs on Sunday though my youngest will put us to shame as he contentedly pushes them to one side after a small nibble as he has "had enough for now". I wish that I were as in tune with my body as he is.

It is also a time in which we see our extended family, children come to stay and we have Easter egg hunts in the garden. We have a big roast meal on Sunday whilst Monday is spent desperately trying to finish things off before we go back to our normal working week.

I don't feel the need to impose any more festivity to Easter. What we have works for us and it is a celebration of Spring that we enjoy.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Crochet hat

Hand spun crochet hat
What to do with all those odd lengths of yarn? Make a hat!

My son complained that he didn't have a decent hat. I had made one for my youngest, myself but not him and it wasn't fair. Feeling a bit dubious about this I allowed him to choose some yarn from my stash - he chose a short length of mixed green that looked a bit like camouflage. So I started a hat but, not too surprisingly there wasn't enough green so, using black to separate the colours I went onto red. Then I went on to blue. He wasn't amused.

I now have a lovely warm hand spun & crocheted beanie to keep me warm in the cold. My son still has no hat but being the loving mother that I am I will allow him to borrow one of mine. But only if he can keep the look of distaste off his face :-)

6 months later he loves this hat. I cannot believe the amount of use that this has had, it is very satisfying!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Cheesecake for the birthday boy.

Mocha Cheesecake
We celebrated J's birthday with a cheesecake. This was a very simple mix of condensed milk, cream cheese, whipped cream, melted chocolate and a dribble of strong, hazelnut flavoured coffee. It was delicious and I have a new recipe up my sleeve. Next time I think I'll try it with a tot of baileys. Yum.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Relaxing on the trampoline

To enjoy those rare moments of blue sky you cannot beat lying on the trampoline. Looking up into the wispy clouds as they slowly dance by. Breathing in the fresh spring air. Listening to those chattering birds rioting in the trees managing to drown out the traffic from the nearby A road.

Only problem is my relaxing never lasts long. All it takes is for my children to take one look out of the window for them to come flying out of the house and jumping on top of me. At least it gets them out of the house!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Home made ginger cordial

Ginger cordial in the making
I don't drink many hot drinks, I've never acquired the taste for tea and coffee affects me too much. I love hot chocolate but as my version is rather rich it isn't a drink for every day. I've experimented with herbal teas in the past but none of them have hit the mark. The only success has been Tetley's green tea that I enjoyed... but I had the same caffeine issue as I did with coffee which nixed that as a regular drink. So I'm usually down to the occasional hot drink of oxo or cup-a-soup, warming but not good fare for a regular cuppa.

I love ginger and have occasionally treated myself to ginger cordial, most recently with Bottlegreen's Ginger and Lemongrass. But what I really want is something with a bit more of a kick to it so I decided to try making my own. Working off a basic recipe of 2 parts water to 1 part sugar I boiled up some chopped up root with one lemon to make a delicious refreshing drink. With a kick. I use ALOT of ginger. It is good. Unfortunately the rest of my family think so too so it's going down quickly.

An extra bonus, this is delicious hot!

I must buy more ginger.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Win Green Hill

We had a family walk on Win Green Hill. The boys were reluctant due to the cold, but us adults were determined. The boys were correct, it was cold. Very cold. So cold that it started snowing as soon as we were out of the car. Not to be easily knocked back we walked on. A bit. A little bit. It must have been our shortest walk ever. I'll be amazed if it was longer than half a mile.

Walking back to the car I was drawn to an odd little copse. The trees on it seemed to be raised above the surrounding countryside and they were calling me in. Leaving the rest of the family to walk on I lingered to absorb the feel of the place. It was restful, felt as if it was sleeping. I could have happily settled there for longer but the peace was broken by my son calling.

I'm always left wondering by barrows as to who built them, why and what were the emotions they felt when they were used. This one is very prominently placed on the hill top with no trees apart from those growing on the mound. I wonder who planted these and why, I assume that they are fairly young, especially compared to the age of the mound which is said to be bronze age. A lovely place to just be.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Spring Equinox

Today is the Spring Equinox.

I'm looking for things to celebrate and this is a festival that feels very right to me. Lots of googling has not really inspired me as celebrations for this festival and Easter can be very similar due to the Christian tradition of recycling older festivals. I was raised as a Christian and have always celebrated Easter albeit in the modern worship the chocolate egg way. So, if Easter is our family's Spring festival what can the Equinox be? One idea I have had is to consider it as the start of the Spring celebrations and use it as a day to put up our Easter decorations.

What does seem significant about today is that day and night are in equal length so I would like to do something to represent this fleeting moment of balance. I have a candle that I have previously made that is actually two thin ones twisted together, I may use this as a symbol for today.

The next question is what do I feel is out of balance in my life and what should I do about it. The first thing that hits me is that I don't spend enough time outside, not necessarily doing work, just being. I need to make time to enjoy being outdoors more often. The other thing out of balance is my food intake and exercise, this is also something I need to work on.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Seedy sunday

Radish seedlings
Last year my veg patch was something of a disaster thanks to the slugs. I couldn't keep on top of them. Apparently all the rain we had was good for our plants but I gave up in frustration. This year so far the pigeons have stripped my purple sprouting broccoli. I see that I'm really going to have to pay more attention to pests this year if I'm to hope to get anything back.
I always want to grow onions, carrots and potatoes which is ridiculous as these are so cheap to buy. So my focus should be on the pricier veg such as beans and garlic. And salad. Definitely salad. This is where a true saving can be made. Salad leaves are so easy to grow and we all enjoy eating them. Truly! I grew up having salad as an extra that was picked at cautiously, now we mix it up on the plate with whatever hot food we're having. As a result my boys love it.


Monday, 18 March 2013

Dribble wax

Here's another wax crayon project. This was inspired by this image on pinterest. Using a heat gun we melted wax crayons and let them dribble down the canvas. This was not an activity for young children so my little one did get bored. We tried using a hair dryer but it took a long time to melt and then sent the colour in all directions.

My eldest pronounced it silly. I quite like it's colourful effect and already know exactly where it is going to go. As an art session with my boys it was not a success but I still like the final product.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Little blue socks.

Completed socks
Another completed project! These are some hand knitted socks that I have made from a bag of pure wool found in a local charity shop. The soles have a double thickness of thread though I didn't bother weaving in all the ends. These are really comfortable and I love them.

When they were first completed I was worried that they would be too big. However a quick wash and felt soon shrank them back to size - and also dealt with those loose ends.  As you can see in the photo I've not bothered blocking them, life's too short when they're only going to end up on my feet.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Wax & Ink

Today for our art we drew wax pictures.
Lots of planets.
Using a wash of water and ink the sky was painted.
A very simple activity but enjoyed by all.
This was actually our second attempt. For the practice run we used A3 printer paper and used water colour for the wash, my boys were disappointed with the rippling affect of the thin paper. This time we used wall lining paper which is excellent for absorbing washes, the ink was to hand and therefore used.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Old to new

Sleeve ironing board
Several years ago I was given a mini ironing board. It didn't look great but how hard can it be to make a new cover? Well, umm, it's surprising how difficult I can make simple tasks become. Complicated is not usually a problem, perhaps my expectations tend to be more realistic. So new cover has been made but alas it doesn't fit quite as tightly as I had hoped.  Never mind. I can make it fit. There's nothing like sewing the blasted thing on with a thick piece of embroidery thread zig sagging tightly beneath to cinch things in a bit. It now works. Of course, this still means that I need to make another cover at some point in the future...
Much improved

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Wax crayon art: planets

Our little crayon planets. Some were more successful than others!

I wanted to start our 'wax crayon' week with something simple that also manages to use up those nasty crayon ends that just live on in the box forever. I found a great pinterest board here which gave me the inspiration.
The original activity comes from Sandy Toes and Popsicles which shows some incredibly looking mini planets. I have to say that this is a really simple activity and my boys enjoyed trashing their candles. We think that the Earth type planets look good, the coloured ones less so. The dark green disc? I don't know what happened there!
Some tips: Try not to mix your crayons. We had a few stockmar beeswax crayons (website chosen at random) which didn't mix well with the normal crayons. I found that the oven temperature listed was too high but every oven is different, I recommend starting lower and turning it up if you need to. Keep the extractor on, these smoke badly if the oven temperature is too high. Don't try using a little bit of white candle wax to substitute for white crayon, the melting temperature is different, it will just float to the top side. Finally, they really do pop out of the tray when cool but cleaning the tray is best done with boiling water. If your sink is large enough for the tray to sit in then just leave it in the water until it is cold, the wax will melt and reset on the water's surface. I couldn't do this so I just rinsed the tray with boiling water into the washing up bowl ready to tip out the waste water straight onto the garden. Do not pour it down the drain as the wax could solidify and cause a blockage.  
As you may have guessed I made all of the above mistakes apart from blocking the drain. My candle making knowledge finally had a purpose!

Monday, 11 March 2013

My mother's day gift

I completely forgot to share this, look what my son made me for Mother's day! It means more to me than a card would as he hates making cards but loves lego. I think that it is fantastic. But it's a good thing that I took a snap of it as it's already gone back into the lego box, apparently it was only a short term loan and he needed the bricks :-)

Granny gloves

3 new pairs of gloves
Aren't these gloves great! Exactly the type of pattern that a few years ago I would have cringed at the thought of wearing. But now I am now the proud owner of these. What has changed? Well, a bargain bin was part of the story. They are practical too as having gloves for weeding in the garden saves my poor nails. But the biggest reason for this purchase - they make me smile. I still find them hideous :-)

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Mothers Day

I don't feel that I ever truly enjoy a mothers day just for me. My mother in law (who is lovely) is usually visiting and it generally comes in the same week as my partners birthday so it gets a little overshadowed. But today has been a pleasant family day. I chose a box of maltesers to share, I love that their boxes have a hole from which only one at a time can be shaken out. This means that I can hear when my boys have a rattle :-)

We drove to a national trust site for a short walk. When we left the house it was sunny, by the time we got there it was snowing. I loved it.

We watched a movie together, Star Trek, with toffee popcorn. My lads are turning into regular little trekkies, watching my youngest son try to understand how this linked into the series is fascinating.

We had a lovely roast tea followed by crème brulee cheesecake, delicious.

Now the rest of the family are playing a board game and I'm happily escaping for my own bit of peace and calm.

It's been a delightful Mother's day.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Dancing in the rain

Here it is, my finished masterpiece that is already hanging over my bed. I had a lot of fun making this and learning to appreciate it's naivety was part of that. I could have lined up the letters better, I could have definitely improved on the splash. But part of this exercise was just to complete the thing and enjoy the process rather than forever plan perfection.

Despite it being a large canvas the square size does make it look a little lost on the empty wall so at some point it will need to be joined by more art. For now I get to enjoy, ponder and look out for more inspiration.

Original post can be found here: Quotation Art

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Evolution to a woodshed

When we first moved here the patio by our back door looked like this:
With a lot of clearance and pruning it changed to this (yeah, still messy but none the less better):

then this:

I always wanted a pergola and was quite chuffed that there was one here, complete with a mature rose. But having lived with it for several years I eventually realised that from a design point of view it was all wrong. The structure was built square to this house but the garden wall is at an acute angle. The result was that as you walked out of the back door your eye would be drawn into the wall not down the garden. It felt very enclosed and claustrophobic. Another issue was the shade,  this was already the shadiest part of our garden, the pergola just made this worse. The final nail in the coffin was that the mature rose is also rather vigorous. After just a month or two of having pruned the plant my partner (who is admittedly rather tall) would have difficulty walking through the area without getting attacked by stray fronds. So I made the decision that I never anticipated, remove the pergola.

This also had the convenient by product of providing wood to frame up a woodstore by the back door. Something we needed and made entirely of salvaged material from the garden. Whilst it's fairly large it isn't intrusive at all. Now I walk out of the back door, my eye bounces off the garden wall and swiftly moves onto the scene beyond. A massive improvement.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

New storage for winter wear

Individual storage
I finally did it, our big old hamper of miscellaneous hats, scarves and whatevers has been sorted into individual boxes for each of us. We are lucky enough to have a utility room and in this space I have a large Ikea Expedit bookcase in which we store all manner of useful stuff. I have been looking out for suitable sized baskets to sit in the spaces but cannot afford the lovely wicker ones that I prefer so was left hunting in Homebase. Alas, whilst they had a reasonable selection some months ago all those available now look pretty but were clearly not designed for durability. Instead a multipack of 5 boxes was purchased and are now sitting very neatly in their cubby holes.

These boxes will not only hold winter extras but also cycle helmets and clips, reflective vests and (importantly) those nerf gun bullets that I'm constantly picking up throughout the house. I still need to sort through each of them but as winter will be coming to a close soon I am putting off that task for now.

I'm not keen on plastic storage boxes. Whilst they have their uses I find that over time my children tend to split them. I was going to cover up some cardboard boxes with fabric for a cheap fix, after all this is what most of those I saw in the shops were. But the thought of investing time into this project when they will have to put up with some heavy use made me decide reluctantly in favour of the cheap plastic for now. I will continue to keep my eyes peeled for a better solution.

This follows on from There is no bad weather only bad clothing

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Tripping over no more

Living room floor with most of the floorboards back in place.
I hate cables lying around on the floor. I consider them accidents waiting to happen. When we first moved in cables were laid, temporarily, around the edge of the rooms to allow internet access. Finally, finally, finally something is happening. It is happening slowly but surely. One day I will have a living room without network cables to trip me up.

Having floorboards up also gave me the opportunity to clean out under some of them. There is an area under the stairs which was once used to dispose of broken bottles. With this fully excavated there is no longer any damp there. An unlooked for success!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Planting seeds

Willow cuttings
 I love planting seeds, they always seem to be so full of promise. This year I'm determined to cut back on my vegetable aspirations and get going with other perennial plants for the garden. A couple of years ago I saw an episode of 'Gardeners World' showing a winter/spring garden full of willow, hellebores and other striking plants. I can't afford to fill my garden with these but I have got started with a selection of 17 different willow cuttings. These have all been pushed into my flower nursery bed in the veg patch and I really hope that they will prosper. I have previously attempted this but due to a combination of dotting them around randomly in the garden and helpful children pulling the sticks out, nothing took. My fingers are crossed for this time.

Half price roots
Another item I've not had much success with are purchased roots. However, I felt unable to pass up the opportunity to pick up some of my favourite plants in the form of these half price root packs. These were also planted into my flower nursery bed so that I can keep an eye on them and move them to a more sensible location when they have bulked up a bit.  

Heated Propagator

 Finally I had a fun with seeds. My little heated propagator is packed full and so is my kitchen windowsill. And to think that this is only the beginning. I really hope that the slugs won't be up to the same mischief again this year!
Unheated propagator

Friday, 1 March 2013

February review and March planning

So how did I do with my February goals... pretty poorly to be honest but none the less it was a good month for me. The focus shifted from myself towards my family more... which is probably why I wasn't successful with my original intentions.

Home & garden, Wellbeing: Work in the garden at least 3 days a week
This didn't happen, I don't enjoy the cold. Also, as most of my weekends are spent outside I just don't have the time to do this throughout the week too as intended. However, my vegetable patch has been tidied and my compost area has also improved. I'm quite happy with my progress so far.

Health & Fitness: Plan healthy meals and cut out the rubbish
This was an epic failure.

Celebrations: Enjoy Candlemas & Valentines
Did it!!

Arts & Crafts: Complete one unfinished project, start and finish one new project
Did it!! I must take photos though..

Self learning: Continue with keyboard practise
Another epic failure. Much as I love playing the keyboard I need to use my goal setting for new ideas rather than continue a previous goal.

Goals for March?
I'm going to make these more family focused. January was very much about me, February became  a mess because I had to catch up with family stuff. So bearing this in mind I'm setting my March goals with a better awareness of how much time I need for my family, but I hope to swing back to me more in April.

Home & garden: Complete the decor in the front room. Clear out my craft room.
Wellbeing: Post on blog 4 times a week
Health & Fitness: rediscover yoga
Celebrations: My partners birthday. 11th Commonwealth day. 17th St Patricks. 10th Mothering Sunday. 20th Spring Equinox.
Arts & Crafts: Explore art with different materials with my children
Self learning: I need to focus on doing rather than planning.

Let's see how I do.

There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.

My youngest attempting a snow angel
Yesterday I came across a quote that I really like:
There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
What a true statement! I often let the weather dictate what I can or can't do and I really shouldn't let it happen so often especially as it also impacts on my two little (or not so little!) trouble makers.

Thankfully we do have much of the wet weather and cold gear that we need but it does tend to get jumbled up in a hamper and each time we head out I have to go hunting for gloves. Better organisation is clearly required but how? Something to ponder on but for now I'm going to make a start by clearing out all of the extra pieces we have lying around.