Saturday, 27 April 2013

Birthday bushcraft...








The birthday boy didn't want a party this year, just a walk in the woods with a few friends. He requested that his dad dressed up like a bear as he had done for his third 'we're going on a bear hunt' birthday party, but the fancy dress hire shop didn't have the costume anymore! Instead we walked through the river, looking for animal tracks. We found lots of deer slots and each child was able to make a cast with plaster of Paris to take home as a souvenir. 

We then cooked sausages and our campfire favourite, damper bread on the fire before heading home tired out. 

How to make Damper Bread...

You have to twist your bread around a green stick and keep turning so as not to burn it, but it tastes delicious on its own, freshly baked.

ingredients...
500g plain flour
3 tablespoons natural sugar
1 teaspoon  sea salt
3 teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup of softened butter
1 cup of warm water

in the kitchen...
1. mix together all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Add water and stir. Dough should be too dry to come together into one lump.
3. Cut in butter and knead by hand just long enough to make it smooth and consistent.
4. Form into a log, wrap in plastic and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

at the campsite...
5. Prepare 1 or more sticks 1cm in diameter by shaving clean with a pocket knife.
6. Cut dough into 12 pieces. Roll into long pencil thin snakes 30cm (12 inches) and coil these around the end of the stick, ours are always quite chunky else they fall off! 
7. Hold sticks high over the fire, constantly turning until the coiled dough turns golden brown.
8. Cool and eat straight off the stick! My friend from New Zealand recommends drizzling butter and jam into the hole as she did as a child. 

adapted from the recipe in the book Baking Bread with Children by Warren Lee Cohen

17/52

A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013

Ted & Stanley - This weeks smiley birthday boys! Again my older one has been more elusive and Jodi has posed the question on her blog about how other people shoot older children. I find capturing other peoples children so much easier than my own. I would love to learn any tips of the trade that you find works for you, as my oldest is moving towards those awkward teenage years!

playing along with the 52 Project - click on the logo to find out more


Friday, 26 April 2013

rescuing ratty...


Dear Ratty from The Wind in the Willows, wasn't a rat at all, but a rather lovely water vole - many people still call them by their old name of water rats or even just rats. You'd be forgiven for not knowing what a water vole is, as they are a species that in our lifetime has declined by over 90% in the UK, which is comparable to the decline of the black rhino in Africa (who gets a lot more PR!)

I was fortunate to be taken out yesterday to search for the elusive water vole and see some of the important nature conservation work to reverse the decline of this species and prevent it from extinction. It was a lovely day so we stopped on a bridge for a picnic whilst dangling our feet in the cool water.


The water vole lives on the riverbank, a vegetarian he bothers no one. Unfortunately he is predated by the American mink and his decline can be attributed to the minks release from fur farms years ago. He has also suffered from habitat degradation, for example cattle being allowed to drink from rivers, resulting in poached river banks destroying valuable water vole habitat.


On the picture above you can see how the riverbank on the right has been poached by cattle and collapsed, over time the river has widened and lost vegetation. A new fence has been erected to stop further poaching and the old riverbank line reinstated by using stakes and faggots made from coppiced wood, in time this will be the riverbank as the vegetation fills in the gap. The good thing is these improvements benefit other species such as the brown trout, white clawed crayfish, kingfisher and otter too - so it isn't about single species conservation, it's about the bigger picture.

Unfortunately we didn't see a water vole, but found its poo - a sure sign that they are there, thanks to the miles of riverbank restoration work by the National Trust, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, local volunteers and farmers.


two birthdays in two days...






We had two birthdays in two days this week. There was a lot of cake eaten, breakfast in bed and the banana split kit went down a treat! And there was the annual measuring to see just how much growing has been done over the year! 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

One...


And just like that my baby is one and almost walking. How did he grow up so quickly?

Sunday, 21 April 2013

16/52


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013


Alfie: Always kicking a ball, proving very difficult to capture every week. This weeks photograph was taken in front of the white washing on the washing line! It proved a great backdrop on a very sunny day. I had just finished telling them off for kicking a ball around it!
Ted: Growing up so quickly, all of a sudden he seems so big! 
Stanley - My almost one year old - One, already! 

playing along with the 52 Project - click on logo to find out more

Saturday, 20 April 2013

a taste of things to come...


A few weeks ago I was sent a proof of The Ethicurean Cookbook to review. You may remember my visit last year? I am so excited to pour over the pages of this delicious book, packed full of the wonderful seasonal delights that make The Ethicurean so enchanting. I know it's a good book as I'm carrying it around the house to snatch quiet moments when I can delve into its pages.

The book follows The Ethicurean over a year and is laid out in four seasons starting with winter and wassailing. The recipes are presented as beautifully as the rows of vegetables in the Walled Garden from where they originate. Delicious creations such as Nettle soup with Caerphilly, St. Georges mushrooms with asparagus and Figs wrapped in pork belly with lavender and buffalo mozzerello, just leap out of the pages thanks to beautiful photography by Jason Ingram.

Matthew and Iain Pennington are the self-taught chefs and artisans behind The Ethicurean and have written the book, alongside co-founders Paula Zarate and mixologist Jack Adair-Bevan, whose splendid cocktails are peppered throughout the book - my favourite is the apple flip. This book is truly an inspiration to all of us who are trying to improve how we source our food and learn new techniques such as preserving, smoking and curing. In fact I've planted some courgette seeds this very afternoon after reading the Ewe's-curd-stuffed courgette flower recipe!

If you aren't lucky enough to visit The Ethicurean, then the book is out on the 16th May so you can create your own seasonal magic at home!

Friday, 19 April 2013

banana split kit...


My eldest son and I found some banana split dishes in a junk shop last week! We bought the set and instantly hatched a plan to give them to son number two, a banana split lover, for his 7th birthday. We have decorated a box to put our 'banana split kit' in and have added some really fun posh sprinkles. With a few tubs of our favourite Winstones ice cream and some squirty cream, hopefully our birthday boy with have a brilliant birthday tea!

ants in your pants!


Woodlands are waking up from their winter slumber, birds are nesting and bluebells are starting to push their way through the frozen earth. One species that emerges now is the wood ant. Wood ants are the UK's biggest ant, growing up to 1 cm in length, they live in colonies that are larger under ground than what you see above it (like an iceberg). Wood ants secrete formic acid (their Latin name is Formica rufa) as a form of defence. You can see in the experiment below, when threatened with a bluebell the wood ant sprays it with acid and turns it pink!


*please don't pick bluebells in the wild - the bluebell used for this experiment was found on a path already broken off. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

15/52

A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013


Stanley is now tall enough to reach things on the table and  he's quick to steal tasty morsels when I'm not looking! 




Tuesday, 9 April 2013

playing the waiting game...

photograph by storycatchers

This time last year I had reached my pregnancy 'due date' and believed I would go into labour pretty much on that date as my calculations and the hospitals had all been the same! My sensible head knew that only four per cent of babies were born on their due date, with the majority a week after. But still despite my first two babies being overdue, I thought the third would be on time. I can't believe it was a year ago already!

Monday, 8 April 2013

inspiration...





click on the photographs above to trace the originals

I'm totally captivated by these watery photographs that I found on Pinterest, they are just beautiful. My aim this summer is to capture some watery shots on my film cameras, without dropping them in! 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

when the sun shines, I dream of living by the sea...


I wish we lived nearer the sea or were rich enough to have a second home. If we did have a second home I would buy a beach hut at Gwithian Towans in Cornwall and every Friday we'd hit the M5 for a weekend spent on the beach. I have it all planned in my head, how we would decorate it, how the boys would have surfing lessons and how we would spend Christmas there.


I fell in love with Gwithian years ago after spending my summers there as a student, and recently rediscovered it after spending a perfect family holiday there at Driftwood Beach Chalet (pictured above) owned by Forever Cornwall. It is pretty much my dream home.


But until I can afford a second home, at least I can holiday there and enjoy their gorgeous properties, which now include two new beach huts that sleep eight, perfect for sharing with family and friends. 


Forever Cornwall have reduced their prices for holidays taken in April and May, there are bargains to be had! So which property will you choose; a beach hut, a beautiful barn conversion or a traditional Cornish cottage?


I really want to go back to Driftwood and sit in those chairs above and watch the sun set!


and watch my boys have surfing lessons and laugh as they keep falling off the board! I don't know how they stand the cold. So now the sun is shining and spring is here, I think it's time to book a few adventures especially as there are some great deals to be had! 

Friday, 5 April 2013

pizza party...


Last night we were introduced to the Chadwick Oven by friends Anna and Tom. The oven sits on top of a normal gas ring and reaches 500 degrees centigrade in about ten minutes - twice as hot as a conventional domestic oven. I remember seeing an early prototype of this revolutionary invention by Dan Chadwick, a few years ago at his house, and he has worked for years crafting something that is both functional, beautifully designed and made locally, in Stroud, Gloucestershire.

Milo made a delicious dough and all the children made their pizzas adding different toppings, with the pizzas cooking quickly to satisfy their impatience. I resurrected the fennel, blackberry, honey and goats cheese topping that we discovered last year, to see what Anna thought of it, followed by generous scoopfuls of Anna's delicious homemade honeycomb ice cream. I really want to try an asparagus topped pizza and one with a fried egg on too.

The Chadwick Ovens are now for sale online, if you haven't got enough dough to buy one then they have a pizza wagon each year at Giffords Circus and the Stroud shop will be open soon.


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

jeans are my uniform...

preppy



H&M blouse / Topshop , £50 / Toast linen tunic / Toast fringe top / Dorothy Perkins , £36 / Topshop , £24 / Toast flats boots / Brown bagging / Butter London nail polish, £9.91

I have a confession, the bad weather is all down to me! Since I bought some new sandals in February (the ones above) it has been so so cold. I also bought the H&M blouse above too, it fits really well and can be dressed up for work or just with jeans at home, although I'm currently wearing it with chunky cardigans over the top. I pretty much wear jeans all the time, they are my uniform and always will be. I am lucky enough to own the satchel (pictured above), although I'm shocked to see how much it sells for now it's deemed more fashionable, I bought it years ago for a snip of the price! It doubles as a nappy bag or camera bag depending on what I'm doing or sometimes both. 

Monday, 1 April 2013

April newsletter...


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