Sunday, 31 May 2009

caterpillars, damselflies and tadpoles

Despite feeling less than well this week, there has actually been a lot going on. The truth be told, with both boys home all week, I was unable to hibernate in my bed and nurse my cold away, I still needed to occupy them at the very least for my own sanity and well-being, because as we all know bored restless children is not a good thing.

Have I told you about the caterpillars yet? I don't believe I have. Well what with it being spring and all, the boys have been very keen to hunt for caterpillars, but with a rather small garden that we have, and it being of the "work in progress" category they didn't find any. Then I found this little guy along a pathway. I took him home for the boys to observe, but eventually had to let him go as I couldn't find anything he liked to eat. I have not been able to properly identify him, but I believe him to be a moth. So what I decided was to purchase one of these butterfly kits.

So, we have five little guys now, living in a small container, getting bigger and bigger everyday, and the boys are totally fascinated with them.

We have also managed to adopt some toad tadpoles caught in a local pond. The boys want to rear them into toads, if we can manage to accomplish that, I think that would be amazing for the boys to see.

And finally, this has been somewhat of a dragonfly/damselfly week. They have been abundant around here lately, and we have had some great fun spotting these truly beautiful insects; Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum), and I think, Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum).

I think I deserve a rest now after all that exploring, hunting, identifying and catching. Or a cup of tea at the very least.

Monday, 25 May 2009


It has been a very busy weekend for us. On Saturday the boys and I spent the day with friends of ours. It was a beautiful warm and sunny day, we picniced in the garden, went for long walks, picking wild flowers and ended up at the adventure playground. After walking back we ate pasta and ice cream al fresco. My friend Barbara is a talented artist and as we were leaving she gave me one of her paintings, of a bridge over a river to keep. It is my first piece of original art in my home and I really love it. Every time I look at the painting I see a new dimension to it.

The garden is yielding some beautiful flowers that I want to share inside the house as well.

Unfortunately, after so much play and relaxation from Saturday my To Do List is not getting any shorter. I have countless sewing projects that I need done, the house cleaning has been seriously neglected recently, the front hedge needs trimmed, the garden needs tending to, and of course the endless laundry, cooking and baking, not forgetting time to play and engage with children. Alex has been desperate for his room to be decorated since we moved into this house last August. The walls are covered in this hideous pink yellow stained wallpaper. So yesterday all other jobs aside we started to strip the wallpaper off, so we have at least made a start.

The children are off from school this week, so I dare say I wont even make a dent in that list, but at least we can have so fun.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

i'm loving it

Here are a few things I am loving right now. A new book for Adrien, which we both fell in love with immediately after it arrived in the mail yesterday; such a sweet story and the illustrations are beautiful. Our favourite one is where the little girl Emily is building sandcastles in a sand pit. Too cute!

And more beautiful surprises popping up in the garden. I think the first one is a Clematis but I have no clue what the others are. As far as our gardening has been going, we haven't had much luck. The grass has grown beautifully now, but the seeds we planted have not come to much. I think they probably didn't survive the over-watering from Adrien. He is also still pulling out any tiny shoots that do manage to appear and tipping over the seed trays. I think we will need to start again.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Cornerview: Coffee in East of England

England is well known as a tea-drinking nation and I am a little embarrassed to admit that the majority of people around here drink instant coffee. I am somewhat of enigma to my friends when I brew fresh coffee. I love it. I enjoy quite strong coffee with a little cream, no sugar. I think I developed my love of (real not instant) coffee when I lived in America, and I'm still addicted now.

So, a word of warning. If your ever in England and someone offers you coffee outside of a coffee house, you're more than likely to be served coffee from a jar.

Here is coffee from a different perspective:

jane, ladybug-zen, ian, bonnie, esti, sophie, cele, modsquad, caitlin, joyce, ani, couturecoucou, kim, a day that is dessert, natsumi, epe, kaylovesvintage, trinsch, c.t., jeanette, outi, schanett, ritva, dongdong, francesca,state of bliss, jennifer, dana, denise, cabrizette, bohemia girl, ruth, dianna, isabelle, amber, a girl in the yellow shoes, mister e, janis, kari, jgy, jenna, skymring, elizabeth, audrey, allison, lise, cate,mon, victoria, crescent, erin, otli, amy, ida, caroline, lisa, dorte, kimmie, la lune dans le ciel, nicola, malo, samantha, vanessa, britta, virginia, april, Rebecca,b,
sunny mama, angelina,
kyndale, kristina, dorit, goldensunfamily, sophie, janet, nicki, ruth, mcgillicutty,

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

more soup?

This week is the turn of Broccoli and Stilton Soup, and I think it has got to be my best yet. I'm sorry if the picture does not make it look that appetising, but it is truly delicious. (However hard I try I cannot get these soups to look good in the photographs). Here is the recipe if you would like to give it a go:

Broccoli & Stilton Soup
1 clove garlic chopped
1/2 onion chopped
30g/1oz butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 handful of grated potato
290ml/ 1/2 pint vegetable stock
1/2 head broccoli chopped
75g/3oz Stilton, cubed
85ml/3 floz double cream
1 tsp thyme chopped

1. Saute garlic and onion in butter & oil for 2-3 minutes.
2. Add potato and stock and simmer for 7-8 minutes until potato is tender.
3. Add all the other ingredients and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
4. Blend and serve.

I did have to play around with this recipe a bit, like adding more water when necessary. Also, I think the recipe assumes the broccoli is already cooked

Monday, 18 May 2009

nature fayre

I took the boys to a local nature fayre yesterday and we had a wonderful time. There was pottery, woodwork and crafts, and learning about bee-keeping, medieval games and charcoal making, to name but a few. The bat stall caught the boys attention. They learnt about the different species of bat, how to help conserve and encourage them with bat-friendly gardening. Coincidentally Alex has been learning about nocturnal animals at school at the moment, so this was a great way to support his learning. So now we have gone all bat crazy. But best of all was the tree-climbing, even little Adrien had a go, he was their youngest and most daring participant.

The gentleman in the above picture was carding wool and the lady spinning it into yarn.

I treated myself to this little ceramic garden from a pottery stall. They are unique designs by a lady called Roz Lowe. You can put a little essential oil, like lavender or lemongrass around the edge of the pot to give off a wonderful calming aroma. The plants inside grow and just need a little spray of water every so often to keep fresh. I think it will look fine on our nature table.

Sunday, 17 May 2009


Today marks the fourth anniversary of my mum's death. I can barely believe it has been four years, it still feels so very new and raw.

This picture of my mum and dad with Alex when he was about two, was taken just a few short months before she passed away, we had no idea. She was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (cancer of the plasma cells) and died a couple of months later. It was fast, shocking and totally unbelievable. She was only 58 and one of the fittest and healthiest people I knew. It has left me a different person to who I was before. In some ways good; I endeavour to take nothing for granted, make the most of every moment, and appreciate the little things. In some ways bad; I constantly feel like the rug is going to be pulled from under me yet again, at any time, I worry so much more and sometimes feel very cynical.

Adrien was still in my tummy when she died, so they never got the chance to meet, but she is still a very big part of our lives, and he talks of her like he knows her.

This is very difficult for me to write, but I thought it important to me to acknowledge this day in this way as a way of healing, as opposed to previous years where I have tried to ignore the day, and try to carry on a normal.

We want to spend this day, remembering, celebrating and having fun. That's all she would ever have wanted.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

morning walk

This buttercup meadow is literally on our doorstep, a two minute walk from our house. We took a lovely walk over there this morning. It was an extremely windy and showery morning, but felt immensely invigorating. We collected some wild flowers and weeds, and sat and did some pencil sketching.

Monday, 11 May 2009

brown bear, brown bear what do you see?

I was inspired to create this little felt brown bear after reading about Courtney's at two straight lines.

The pattern for the bear can be found here. I just couldn't resist the crate bed too. I found it a little tricky working with the felt, it tears so easily and the seams show through, but the boys loved it anyway. Adrien is really loving brown bears at the moment after reading this book,
and the classic We're Going On a Bear Hunt.
He asked me, "mama, is that the bear snores on?" and I suppose in a way it could be.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

meet Susie

Here is Susie, about to embark on an amazing journey to Nicaragua as part of the Craft Hope Project 2. Adrien named her Susie because she reminds him of a girl at his nursery. In fact, both boys have become amazingly attached to Susie, even though she is less than 24 hours old. I think they will be quite sad to see her go. They did have a little play with her today, which I must admit added a little femininity to this testosterone loaded household. She even got a kiss from an Action Man! You go girl!

I hope she can bring as much love and fun to the little person she is going to, as she has brought to this family over the weekend.

Farewell Susie, safe journey. xo

Saturday, 9 May 2009

lemon fingers

I was craving some sweet lemon today and so baked some lemon fingers. I adapted a recipe from Tana Ramsay's Family Kitchen book. Here is the recipe for anyone interested:

175g/6oz butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
175g/6oz self-raising flour
1 tbsp lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 180/350.
2. Mix together all ingredients. Once smooth pour mixture into a lined & greased baking tin.
3. Bake for approx. 15-20 mins.
4. Once cool, slice sponge into fingers of approx. 21/2 cm x 8cm.
5. Mix together 200g/7oz icing sugar with 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp lemon zest & 1 tsp water.
6. Decorate fingers.

Friday, 8 May 2009

dolls with love

I today discovered Craft Hope, a project designed to share handmade crafts with those less fortunate. It is currently on its second project, to provide handmade dolls to the children of the Casa Bernabe Orphanage in Nicaragua. You can read more about it here.
I am very excited to be a part of this amazing endeavour. I love making rag dolls, and am pleased that I am able to give a little to these children. I am also keen to involve my children in making the dolls as I think it will be a wonderful learning opportunity for them.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

treasure boxes and pirates

I love these treasure chests which are supplied through Bookstart, which come free with children's books. My boys tend to keep their favourite artwork stored in them (although we quickly run out of room). They gave me an idea to make some smaller boxes ourselves, decorate them and use them for special 'treasures'.

We used an empty laundry detergent box, (which is conveniently shaped and opens up like a treasure chest) covered it in brown paper and drew lines to make it look like wood. Adrien decorated his with glitter, glitter and more glitter. Some coloured tissue paper rolled into balls as the 'gems', and some decorative drawings with markers.

Here is the finished box, together with full pirate costume. Of course we couldn't make treasure chests without playing pirates afterwards.

A little less scary here. Adrien let me have a sneak peek to see what's inside his new treasure box - a Spiderman, a marble and a half-eaten cookie.