Wednesday, 30 December 2015

THE DOG WALKERS' TREE





There's a lovely tradition near where we live, where each Christmas local dog walkers' decorate a tree on the common. The dog walkers' tree as it's known sits on Rodborough Common above Stroud and for years has been decorated with tinsel and baubles each Christmas. The lovely thing is that it's not just decorations on the tree but memories and pictures of dogs who enjoyed their daily walks here. Underneath the tree there is a big plastic tub where people leave donations of pet food for the local animal shelter. It's quite a sight to see on the common but somehow very beautiful and a fitting way to remember mans' best friend.

After our visit to the tree we walked (although a certain someone was carried!) across the common to Winstones Ice Cream that, despite the gale outside, was bursting with walkers enjoying an ice cream break. I loved their seasonal Christmas Pudding flavour ice cream and may have indulged along with the boys, well it is Christmas after all!

Monday, 28 December 2015

BLOWING THE COBWEBS AWAY


The Boxing Day walk with friends is now an annual tradition in our village, and after a few days cooped up at home is always much needed to blow the cobwebs away. Getting us all up and dressed is always a battle but it's worth the effort and we stuff our pockets with Roses and Quality Street chocolates for bribery and motivation.  


The village 'gin off' is a new tradition, each family picks sloes in August/September to make into Sloe Gin for our Boxing Day walk. An impartial friend or relative gets allocated the task of being judge! We came a respectable third this year, so will have to try harder next year!


We take flasks of hot chocolate, I use this amazing Jamie Oliver recipe without the cinnamon, it's like drinking melted chocolate. My friend Kate had the genius idea of adding a little of her slow gin to this molten mixture and it made it the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted, I'm certainly making it like that again! The children had our homemade snowman marshmallows in theirs.


With all the rain we're having we certainly enjoyed the mud but have been watching the flood situation in Lancashire on the news in disbelief, it looks an awful situation, I do hope none of you have been affected? Keep safe and dry x

Sunday, 27 December 2015

A PUDDING THAT'S THE BOMBE!



The boys made this really simple Christmas pudding the other day to take to our friends house. They cut slices of swiss roll (bought not made I'm afraid!) and lined a bowl with them, then we popped the bowl (with a smaller bowl placed inside to press the sponge down) into the freezer for a little while. Once frozen we scooped vanilla ice cream inside and gently pressed down to fill the middle, then adding another layer of swiss roll on the top to seal. Then popped it back in the freezer until ready to serve. We took it out of the freezer 20 mins before serving and garnished with chocolate holly leaves (we painted the leaves and then pealed them up once set) and cranberries. I think it would make a great tortoise birthday cake, don't you? 

Saturday, 26 December 2015

CHRISTMAS SCENES


This year's advent calendar was based upon Cath's brilliant idea, using model railway figures to decorate 24 little boxes full of chocolate treats and fun things to do.


We wrapped presents with pom pom snowflakes and polar bears,


and received some excellent presents.


I hope you had the most wonderful Christmas x

MELTING SNOWMAN MARSHMALLOWS




One of my favourite Christmas crafts this year has been these melting snowman marshmallows. They are so easy to make and have really made everyone smile who has seen them. We made them with a cocktail stick dipped in melted chocolate and carefully dotted on a marshmallow for the eyes and mouth, we chopped up dried apricot into tiny triangles for the carrot nose. You then add them to hot chocolate and watch them melt in! We also put them in little cardboard boxes to give as gifts too.

Friday, 18 December 2015

FRIDAY FIELD NOTES


The older I get the more in love I fall with a car called Morris. Isn't he beautiful? I'm sure Miss. Marple drove one quite similar and one day hopefully I will too!

This weekend we'll be making and decorating a gingerbread house, one of our favourite family traditions.

I fancy trying this recipe too.

I've been super organised with present buying so I don't fall victim to any last minute panic buying, so I'll try and wrap all the gifts this weekend and pop them under the tree.

We also need to chop our wood ready for Christmas and fill the kindling basket too.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend x

Thursday, 17 December 2015

CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR TEACHERS


We always make gifts for teachers each Christmas and I was delighted to find inspiration for homemade gifts in the December Simple Things magazine. There was the most simple lemon and rosemary body scrub recipe that was really easy for the boys to make. They blended sea salt, olive oil, lemon juice and zest and chopped rosemary and carefully spooned the mixture into jam jars. Perfect for their teachers, classroom assistants and playgroup staff to say thank you for putting up with them all year! 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS


We love Christmas; the traditions, family rituals and magic. Each year I try and keep things simple and shield us from getting swept up in the commercialism that surrounds Christmas. Despite being fairly organised the closer we get to Christmas the more stressed I feel, at a time of year that should be about family, reflection and calm. Tomorrow I have a mountain of tasks to finish at work AND we have teachers gifts to make and Christmas cards to write, I will be drinking lots of tea and eating biscuits to keep me sane.

Monday, 7 December 2015

BEEF & ALE STEW


This is my absolutely favourite stew recipe, perfect for a wild windy wintery day. I make it in huge batches with award winning red poll rare breed beef from Ruscombe Farm in Stroud and put it in flasks for walks. Here's my recipe,

Ingredients:

olive oil
plain flour seasoned with salt & pepper
750g stewing beef - cubed
3 onions chopped
100g streaky bacon chopped
6 carrots
3 parsnips
100g button mushrooms
1 garlic clove
1 tin of chopped tomatoes 
tomato puree
2 bay leaves
1 bottle of Guinness
1 beef stock cube

Method:

1. toss the cubed beef into the seasoned flour and add to a frying pan with the oil - browning off the meat and putting to one side.

2. add a glug of oil, the chopped onion and garlic to a large stewing pot with the bacon and cook until the onions become translucent.

3. stir in the carrots, parsnips, mushrooms and add the tin of tomatoes and Guinness, table spoon of puree, bay leaves and stock cube made up in 75ml of water.

4. cover and cook in oven on a low heat for 3-4 hours until the meat is really tender, you may want to check it once in a while and add more water if needed.

5. I add dumplings half an hour before serving too!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

CHRISTMAS BIRD SEED WREATH


A few weeks ago I was delighted to do a bit of behind the scenes 'prop-styling' for BBC Countryfile's Christmas Special. Don't worry it's not a new venture, I was busy with my day job for Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and helping my colleague Rosie, who was being filmed with our President Ellie Harrison.

We were making a bird seed wreath, a great alternative Christmas wreath that you can hang in your garden for the birds, you can get a free guide on the Wildlife Watch website, but here's how we made our Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust one!

You will need

twigs, willow or hazel to make a hoop
pine cones
lard
holly/mistletoe/yew/greenery from the garden
floristry wire or string
bird seed
dried aprocots
sultanas
grated cheese/breadcrumbs

Method

Twist the willow into a hoop and use the wire to secure if needed. If you use it soon after cutting it will be bendy enough to twist around itself and weave the ends in.

Attach the floristry wire around the pinecones, leaving enough to tie them on to the hoop.

Mix the lard, bird seed, sultanas and grated cheese/breadcrumbs together into a pliable mix and squash into the pine cones and attach them to the hoop.

Thread the apricots and sultanas onto a piece of wire into 'flowers' and attach to the hoop.

Finally add some greenery, even holly and mistletoe if you have it in your garden, to offer the blue tits, great tits and the finches some cover whilst they feed. You will also notice thrushes and blackbirds will pick up the bits that are dropped to the ground too.

Finally tie a piece of string to the hoop and hang in your garden to enjoy!

The BBC Countryfile Christmas special is due to air on Sunday 20th December, we'll be watching our wreath being made and it being given as a present.

Monday, 23 November 2015

CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE 2015 - GARDENING


Here's another gift idea for Christmas. I usually plant some bulbs around now so they are peeping though on Christmas day and pot them in individual pots with a little moss on the top from the garden. The pots are from Bailey's Home & Garden, bulbs from Burford Garden Centre and seeds from Higgledy Garden - who have lovely native seeds including edible garden mixes.

Friday, 20 November 2015

FIELD NOTES



This time every year without fail I crash. It coincides with the clocks changing, work being just mental and is always the busiest time to be a mum with parents' evenings, school concerts, nativity plays and Christmas to prepare for! Everyone else always says to me "I don't know how you do it?" but in truth I don't! My house is a mess, I am so lethargic that I practically hibernate and I eat my body weight in cake - I must be part hedgehog I think!

My Winter survival guide is simple,
  1. Get outside as much as possible even if it's for just a short time
  2. Take long baths using your favourite products, mine are Neal's Yard seaweed and arnica foaming bath, Weleda Lavender bath milk & REN Moroccan rose products (I always ask for these for my birthday/Christmas pressies)
  3. Don't try and do too much, learn to say 'no'
  4. Start planning for Christmas early so you don't get swept up in the panic buying and commercialism of it all
  5. Hibernate on the sofa with a good book, a game of cards or a movie
  6. Eat! It's the time of year for root vegetables so embrace your seasonal stew and soup recipes
  7. Buy next year's calendar and plan your spring and summer adventures, I love having things to look forward to especially holidays and camping trips
  8. Top up your vitamin C with those beautiful citrus fruits to keep your colds at bay or take rosehip syrup
After years of trying to do it all and never quite achieving it, my health and well being need to come first - gosh I almost sound grown up don't I?

Monday, 16 November 2015

SISTERHOOD WINTER SEASONAL SUPPER


I helped out lovely Lou on Saturday evening and waitressed at The Sisterhood Winter Supper. It was a magical evening of twinkly candles, flower crowns and laughter whilst the rain drizzled outside the gorgeous big industrial windows. Lou is planning lots of creative retreats, workshops and and suppers for women around the country, so sign up to the mailing list to be the first to find out about the next events. It was lovely to meet the guests in person, some of whom I had followed on their blogs for years!



Whilst we helped set the table and serve the food, the ladies took part in calligraphy workshops and made the most gorgeous flower crowns before sitting down to eat together. I loved Hannah's table styling and am going to lay my table on Christmas Day just like this as it was so beautiful. 


The Forge was the most enchanting venue with exposed brick walls and gorgeous spiral staircases. It has just been renovated and there are lots of exciting workshops and events planned here in the heart of Bristol.


The lovely Claire Thomson of 5 O'clock Apron (pictured below with stylist Hannah) produced the most delicious three course meal and she'll soon be sharing her recipes on the Toast Travels blog, I'll add the link here when she does. 


The Sisterhood Winter Seasonal Supper was created by Lou Archell, and was organised by her as part of Sisterhood Camp. It was held at the Forge, in association with Toast . Styling was by Hannah Bullivant, using products by Toast,  Linen Me  and Lights for Fun. The chef was Claire Thomson of 5 o'clock Apron. The evening was documented by photographer and filmmaker Xanthe Berkeley. There were workshops by Quill London (calligraphy) and Erin Trezise (floristry). Cathy Jolliffe was the designer.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

A GLORIUMPTIOUS DAY OUT IN GREAT MISSENDEN


In half term we took a trip to visit the Roald Dahl Museum in the village of Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. I'm not going to lie, this was as much for me than for the children as I've always been fond of Dahl's books, reading them as a child and loving them even more reading them out loud to my children years later as an adult.

Roald Dahl lived and was inspired by Great Missenden and many of the village buildings found their way into his books from Matilda's orphanage to Danny's father's garage and I can see why, even on a damp and dismal day it was the most charming place. You can't miss the museum on the High Street, pastel painted and adorned with the BFG!

The museum is tiny and on a busy day quite a squeeze I would recommend getting there early. The highlights for us were seeing Roald Dahl's writing hut with everything in just as he left it and the Mr & Mrs Fox figures from Wes Anderson's recent stop motion animation. Afterwards we enjoyed cakes in Cafe Twit, which hopefully didn't contain real worms just like in The Twits!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

TOP 10 PLACES TO WILD SWIM IN 2016

Lake & Infinity Pool © Soho Farmhouse

Having dipped my toe tentatively back into the world of wild swimming again this year, next year I'd like to challenge myself and do a lot more. So at a time of year when the weather is gloomy and my new 2016 diary is shouting at me to fill its crisp white pages, what better than to plan days of wild swimming adventures? Here are my top ten places where I want to go wild swimming in 2016; 

1. In a Snowdonian lake with Vivienne Rickman-Poole. I've never met Vivienne but I have followed her on Instagram for years as she swims throughout the year in the icy lakes of Snowdonia. She captures the most emotive under water shots that are both beautiful and a photographic diary of all the lakes she swims in, not sure she'd want to swim with an amateur like me who takes half an hour to inch into cold water though!

2. In the middle of the City. I loved swimming in the middle of King's Cross, London and the swimming pond closes at the end of 2016, so make the most of it I say!

3. Under a Welsh waterfall in the Brecon Beacons.

4. With the pirates at Prussia Cove. I love Cornwall and discovered this hidden gorgeous pebbly cove a few years ago whilst on a foraging walk and have dreamed about going back ever since. I am hoping that 2016 will see our return to Cornwall where we can wild swim in the sea every morning!

5. At Dancing Ledge in Dorset, a man-made tide filled pool on the Isle of Purbeck.

6. I want to hire a Morris traveller, wear my flowery vintage style swimming cap and travel back in time to the decadence of the Lido! I am blessed to live near two gorgeous Lido's so will certainly be using these to improve my swimming before heading out on more challenging swimming adventures.

7. Grantchester Meadows with the Bloomsbury set! You may have to avoid the punts in Cambridge, but the beautiful meadows outside the city are a perfect place to swim and generations of students have done just that. Afterwards take tea in The Orchard, a Cambridge institution.

8. The mighty River Thames used to be lined with swimming clubs, platforms and pontoons as social bathing became popular. Between the towns and villages there are lots of places to get an otters' eye view of the world.

9. At the Cowshed Spa at Soho Farmhouse, Oxfordshire (pictured above) where they have a heated pool in a lake, this place is where all the cool kids go and I really want to go too!

10. The River Dart in Devon, recommended on the Wild Swimming website.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

BONFIRE NIGHT, BANGERS & MASH





We always have bangers and mash on bonfire night, big swirly sausages (these ones bought from the farm shop at Gloucester Services), lashings of creamy mash, peas and gravy. 

This year we made some salted caramel apples too, our take on the traditional toffee apple. They are really easy to make, use apples from your local farmers' market, I try to get ones that aren't shiny. We use hazel twigs from the garden as sticks.

To make the sauce I melt together 250g of light brown sugar, 150g/200g of butter and a pinch of salt on a low heat, then once melted turn up the heat and using a thermometer heat the mixture to 230/240 degrees. To test that it's done, a drop a couple of drops into a glass of water to see if it solidifies, if it does it's done. It only took me about ten minutes! I then remove from the heat and leave to cool for a little while before dipping in the apples and leaving them to set on greaseproof paper. 

They were perfect for eating whilst watching the village bonfire and fireworks. 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE 2015 - MEMORIES


In an effort to have a more thoughtful and less commercialised Christmas this year, I thought I'd share with you some of the things that I will be gifting this Christmas over the next few weeks.

Firstly, this newly published book by Laurie Lee, Village Christmas, £9.99. It's a beautifully presented hardback book, I love the front cover of the road that goes through Slad in the snow, it will fit perfectly into my husband's stocking. It is a 'lyrical portrait of England through the changing years and seasons' and harks back to a time when life in the Cotswolds' was simple.

Secondly, my lovely friend Anne-Marie has just launched her amazing new photography venture called Photogem. A Photogem is a modern twist on a traditional locket, with photographs sealed into brass, pewter, silver or gold gems, each  handcrafted in the Birmingham jewellery quarter. You can purchase them to go on chains or leather straps. I have one (pictured above) with a Photogem of each of my boys and will be buying one for my god-daughter for Christmas as it is such a lovely and special gift that will last a lifetime.

Ordering is really easy, you simply upload your photo to the website and Anne-Marie has kindly given me a 10% off to share with you, so just use the code Bradshaw10 when ordering.

I'll be sharing more inspiring Christmas gift ideas soon.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

EVERY CHILD WILD


Children are happier, healthier and more creative when they are connected to the natural world. This should be an option not just for a few, but for every child in the UK. Today, The Wildlife Trusts have launched the Every Child Wild campaign, for every child to have access to wild experiences. I cannot applaud the Trusts enough for taking on this initiative, it makes me proud to work for them, read their story below to find out why...


Evidence has been growing for a number of years pointing to the array of health and social benefits to be derived from contact with the natural world for all ages1.  However, results from a new YouGov poll, commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts, highlight the discrepancy between what parents think is best for children and what they actually experience.  
The Wildlife Trusts, who reach around half a million children each year through their junior membership and work with schools, are concerned about a loss of contact with wildlife during childhood. Despite the fundamental importance of nature to childhood the signs are that a generation of children is growing up at arm’s-length from the natural world. Children’s freedom to roam and time spent outdoors has shrunk disconnected from natureand with it their opportunities to discover wildlife, with just one in ten ever playing in wild places.  
Our new poll shows that:
  • 91% of parents of children aged 18 and under think that having access to nature and wildlife is important for children, yet
  • 78% of parents are concerned that children don’t spend enough time interacting with nature and wildlife
Sir David Attenborough, President Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts, said:  “We will be physically, mentally and spiritually impoverished if our children are deprived of contact with the natural world. Contact with nature should not be the preserve of the privileged. It is critical to the personal development of our children.”
However, a generation of children is growing up disconnected from nature, with just one in ten ever playing in wild places2.  The Wildlife Trusts reach around half a million children each year, many with outdoor experiences through their school, but we are concerned that many more children are not getting the chance to get close to wildlife.
The poll also reveals:
  • 57% of parents said their children spend a little less or a lot less time outdoors than they did - many children are missing out on contact with the natural world:
  • Less than half (46%) of children aged 8-15 had looked for wild flowers with their parent/ guardian or grandparent with even fewer (42%) listening for birdsong together
  • 71% of children have never seen a lizard in the wild in the UK, more than half (53%) have never seen a flock of starlings and more than a third (37%) have never seen a hedgehog.
  • But there were some positive signs – 95% of children had visited a park with a parent or guardian, showing the importance of everyday places for experiencing wildlife.
The Wildlife Trusts work with schools and teachers who are passionate about using the outdoors but our poll also indicated wildlife experiences are limited in schools:
  • Although more than half of the children polled (56%) have learned about wildlife in the classroom in the last six months, under a quarter (24%) said their school has an indoor nature display area, like a nature table, and
  • Only 50% of children said their school had an outdoor nature area and less than half (46%) of the children said they had been to a place in the wild with their school to learn about wildlife in the past year
Lucy McRobert, The Wildlife Trusts’ Nature Matters campaign manager, said:  “We know that first-hand contact with nature is good for children.  It makes them happier, healthier and more creative and for some it can have a life-changing impact.  But there’s a gap between what society intuitively knows is best for children and what they’re actually getting.  The results of our poll illustrate that some children are missing out on the contact with nature their parents and grandparents are likely to have known.  This is partly due to the changes in our everyday lives and partly due to diminishing opportunities: wild places are vanishing and wild animals such as starlings and hedgehogs have declined massively over the past 50 years.
“Parents clearly think it is important for children to have outdoor experiences and we need to help schools make the most of opportunities for them to discover nature.  There are some creative teachers using wildlife and wild places to engage and enthuse pupils but we need to help nature become a more central part of school life, enabling more children to have special wildlife moments close to home.”
More encouragingly, 95% of the children polled have visited a park with their parent/guardian or grandparent, and many (82%) had held a ladybird, highlighting the importance of using urban environments like parks and gardens as places where children can discover and experience wildlife.
In a bid to ensure every child in the UK has an opportunity to enjoy regular contact with nature, over the next year The Wildlife Trusts are inviting individuals, parents, teachers, schools and organisations to share their ideas on what needs to happen to put the wild back into childhood and make ‘every child wild’ as part of a new initiative called Every Child Wild .
Every Child Wild offers top practical tips for successful family adventures, inspiration from young people with a passion for nature and much more, including:
Sir David Attenborough adds:  “The Wildlife Trusts are giving countless people the chance to experience wildlife in their everyday lives.  It is moving to see the delight on the face of a six year old looking at a pond skater or caddis fly larva.”Lucy McRobert continues: “The Wildlife Trusts are a leading provider of outdoor learning and early nature experiences in the UK through our Wildlife Watch groups, school outreach work, volunteering opportunities, Forest Schools and the huge number of wild events that we offer every year.  We hope Every Child Wild will get people talking and sharing ideas about how we can all help to put the wild back in childhood.  We need to empower families, teachers and schools to ensure children have access to nature and to engage with it on a regular basis. Together, we are all nurturing the next generation of naturalists, animal-lovers, birdwatchers, explorers, scientists, campaigners and politicians to try and slow the decline of nature.”
Billy Stockwell is a 16 year old from Nottingham. He features in a new podcast in which five young people discuss what it’s like growing up with a passion for nature. Billy says:  “There’s a physical side of nature, like trees and ponds and fields, but then there’s the symbolic side of nature, which makes you realise that some things just aren’t as important as you thought they were.  The other day I dropped my phone.  I was so annoyed but then spending time in nature, which has been around for millions of years, helped me to understand that I worried about the little things far too much.  We need to learn when to turn the computer off and actually go outside and have experiences.”
Experience nature with your Wildlife Trust and take your child(ren) to one of our events, nature reserves, Wildlife Watch groups or join as a family. Join in the discussion with Every Child Wild and share your ideas and inspiration for reconnecting children with nature using #EveryChildWild on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

WINTER SEASONAL SUPPER




I am delighted to be helping out at the Sisterhood Seasonal Supper on Saturday week.
The event will be a celebration of winter and all the wonder that it brings, with flickering candle light, warm textures, greenery and conversation, in association with British clothing company Toast.



Located in a beautiful building in Bristol called The Forge the evening boasts two workshops, 

1. Modern Calligraphy by the brilliant team at Quill London. - Learn to pen your own cards, gift tags and supper menus.  You will be given a starter pack to take home, including your own calligraphy pen, ink and worksheets.

2. Flower workshop - make a floral crown or boutonniere to wear at the supper with local florist Erin Triezise.

After the workshops there is a chance to mingle, grab a cocktail or wander the pretty fairy-lit Christmas Steps and shop in the wonderful independent shops in the area, before supper.

The sumptuous three course supper, which will be filled with seasonal abundance will be created by the brilliant Guardian food writer, restauranteur and successful author, Claire Thomson, of The 5 o'clock apron, who has recently cooked on Woman's Hour, Cerys Matthews BBC6 Music show and Saturday Kitchen.

The event starts at 3pm finishing sometime around 9.30/10pm.Price includes, two workshops, cocktails, three course supper and wine plus a rather splendid goody bag.

So if you'd like me to be your waitress for the evening tickets are available now (although there are limited spaces so be quick if you want to come). 



Tuesday, 3 November 2015

A SWEDISH CANDLE


Swedish candles are just logs cut down the centre to create six wedges, then tinder is lit and put into the middle. The candle then burns from the inside out, it's rather clever and quite magical, and practical too as you can use it to heat a kettle or put a pan on the top. The Scouts have put together a handy how-to if you fancied making one yourself, maybe for roasting chestnuts or heating hot chocolate at Christmas?

Monday, 2 November 2015

WARMING WOODLAND STEW

 


 


At work we spent our biannual staff day out at one of our biggest and most beautiful nature reserves making woodland Christmas crafts ready to sell at local markets to raise money. An army of wooden snowmen were constructed, along with fire-making kits, wooden deer, pine cone firelighters, wreaths, painted Father Christmas's and garlands. I offered to make a stew to keep everyone warm and productive, so made a hearty beef and ale stew with dumplings using award winning rare breed Ruscombe Red Poll beef and a gluten free butternut squash, spinach and chickpea hotpot. It was quite a challenge to cater for 40 people but I really enjoyed it.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

PUMPKIN HEADS!







We love Halloween and carving pumpkins, it's one of our favourite family traditions. One of our favourite pics was taken five years ago when we were staying at Bryn Eglur in Wales, we thought we'd recreate our pumpkin heads today and this time with little S too!


We've found some great pumpkins and squashes this year to carve, I just love the colours, they match  my new Bonne Maison socks (a birthday pressie from my boys.)



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