Sunday, 31 January 2016
This week's nature table has a range of different things today. Some winter flowering cherry, a teasel, a Roman snail shell and a fossil.
Did you know? Fuller's teasel (a bit different than the one pictured above) was used years ago in textile mills to raise the nap of fabrics such as wool. We find a lot of Roman snail shells here in the Cotswolds but they aren't found all over the country, unlike garden snails that were brought over by the Roman's at the same time!
Friday, 29 January 2016
I rarely buy any beauty products and I'm incredibly brand loyal having spent years finding ones that suit my skin! There are a few staples in my make up bag such as Dr. Hauschka's Rose Light Day Cream, it's an expensive moisturiser at £29 for 30ml but it's the only product I've ever found that keeps my skin from turning into a red blotchy mess each winter and I justify the cost in the saving of the hundreds of lotions and potions that I'd buy that would never work! I also adore REN products, since having a treatment at the Montpellier Chapter Spa in Cheltenham, they always have offers and a loyalty programme and the products last forever, my favourite is the glycolactic radience renewal mask which is a bit of a mouthful to pronounce but the effects are awesome!
This week the lovely folks at Green People have sent me through some skin care essentials for mums on the run which I am super excited about. Green People are sensitive skin specialists and make natural and organic beauty products for the whole family. The products I'm trying out are their volumising mascara £14.75, lip primer £13.00 and tinted DD moisteriser £36.
I would never buy a lip primer but this one has instantly impressed me, moisturising my dry weather-chapped lips for hours, it is clear but makes the lips look fuller when applied and the candelilla, carnauba and baobab makes it smell divine! I am never without a mascara and if I don't wear eye make up all I ever get is comments from people asking if I look alright! So am a big fan of black eyeliner and mascara even if it isn't the most fashionable look of the moment, it makes me feel better and this one certainly does that. With a stubby brush it's really easy to get good coverage and control with the wand so I am delighted and would certainly buy again as it is heaps better than my current mascara.
I am also a huge tinted moisteriser fan preferring a more natural look than using a foundation and keeping my dry skin moisterised. The one I currently use just comes in one colour but Green People have given me three colour samples to choose from to find just the right match for my freckly skin! I do have plenty of imperfections so I'll be making sure that it gives me enough cover for the odd chocolate-induced pimple too. I love the fact that you can order the testers online as I find it an expensive mistake to get wrong.
Thank you Green People for sending me such fab samples to review, I'll let you know how I get on!
It's the simple things that get me through the week. This week I've had so much work on I've been working past midnight every night, which I find hard as I get so tired and snippy the day after. But it's OK as tomorrow's Friday and Friday's are for fun, for playing with my youngest, for hoovering the house and for buying sweets from the shop after school. It's a day to slow down and prepare for the weekend, to wash school uniforms and restock the kitchen cupboards!
Sunday, 24 January 2016
I think the birds are quite confused with this mild weather as they have started their dawn chorus already this year! On our tree in the garden there have been flocks of long tailed tits passing through in groups and goldfinches on the ground rooting through the leaves. We have been trying to identify the egg and nest we found a few weeks ago ~ but it's proving quite tricky. It's a great time of year to clean out old bird boxes and make new ones ready for the nesting season which might be earlier this year if it continues to be so warm.
It was the village wassail last night, so with ivy crowns, owl face masks and stick antlers we made our way rather noisily banging pots and pans to the orchard to the bless the trees and warn away evil spirits. Afterwards we had cider and listened to shanties in the town hall to warm up again. I would love to own an orchard one day or have a garden big enough to plant lots of fruit trees, it's a real dream of mine!
Sunday, 17 January 2016
We are rather delighted that loads of people are joining in with our passion and taking part in #thenaturetable on their own blogs, twitter and Instagram by sharing pictures of their nature tables.
This week we have explored a local orchard as it's the week of our village wassail which traditionally took place on old twelfth night (a little later in January than the date on which we mark twelfth night nowadays).
In the orchard the hedgerow had old mans' beard or wild clematis woven through it that catches the low winter light, there were also rosehips not yet eaten by the birds. An old medlar tree still stands proud, its fruit less fashionable nowadays and sadly not picked for jams and jellies, instead left on the branches and scattered under the tree. It has a lovely flavour but needs to be bletted before use and picked after the first frost, it's also known as the 'cat's arse' fruit as that's what it resembles!
Finally a sprig of mistletoe, a lover of old orchard trees on which it is a parasite, it is common around here in the Cotswolds' but scarce in other parts of the country. Birds love it and eat the plump berries spreading the plant around in their droppings which contain its seed.
In Gloucestershire traditional orchards have declined by 67%* which is a significant loss for the species that live in them things like mistletoe, stag beetles and woodpeckers, and this week at our wassail we'll be walking to the orchard to bless the trees by banging saucepan lids and blowing horns to scare off evil spirits. We'll then hang toast on the branches of the biggest tree (the King tree) for the robin, the guardian of the orchard as this is where the tradition of toasting ones health comes from!
Finally we'll sprinkle the tree with cider and pass around the wassail cup to drink and toast to the health of the orchard and recite local wassail rhymes. Years ago villagers would blacken their faces too so that the village squire wouldn't recognise them as it was quite a bawdy affair, drinking and firing guns into the air. Nowadays it's lovely to both take part in a tradition but appreciate too the beauty of the orchard and the wildlife found in them.
*Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust State of the Natural Environment Report 2011
Saturday, 16 January 2016
This morning as I lay in a darkened room holding two smooth basalt stones whilst enjoying a hot stone massage, all I could think about was a book I'd read which told the story of someone in years gone by taking a small piece of coal from the fire, wrapping it in a handkerchief and tucking it into a coat pocket to keep warm!
There was something quite soothing about holding a hot stone and after a few days of wintery aches and pains to be cocooned in the subterranean spa at Montpellier Chapter Spa and receive the new hot stone treatment was just what I needed as it tried to snow outside.
At first to be massaged by stones felt a little peculiar, different but in a good way. Sophie, the therapist seamlessly swapped the stones using large ones to work larger areas of the body down to tiny ones that she placed between my toes to encourage energy flow. The warmth and pressure seemed to permeate my poor neglected body and relaxed my knots and muscles more effectively than any other massage I've experienced before. She methodically worked around my back, neck, shoulders, arms, legs, feet, décolleté and stomach using REN products for a luxurious 90 minutes leaving me deeply relaxed and rejuvenated.
The spa is situated in the Montpellier Chapter Hotel in the heart of regency Cheltenham and is keeping alive the spa town's tradition of health and well being. In 1716, mineral rich waters were discovered in Cheltenham and people would travel from far and wide to 'take the waters' in the pump room. A town full of tree-lined regency splendor soon grew around this tourism trade, with squares of grand terraces built around beautiful gardens all surrounded by green Cotswold Hills.
The hotel has a contemporary interior, with large comfortable lounges, a lovely old conservatory, huge art canvases on the walls and a cool restaurant with a delicious new British menu, I can understand why this is a really popular hotel. Luckily I am local and can pop-in for coffee, an evening meal or a spa treatment whenever I fancy and now having been issued with a loyalty card I certainly will reward myself with some 'me time' a little more often.
*I was invited to try out the new hot stone treatment by Montpellier Chapter Spa, for more information about this and any other REN treatment please visit www.themontpellierchapterhotel.com
Sunday, 10 January 2016
Here's our first wild discoveries for our new nature table project, snowdrops flowering already in the garden and lichen pom poms on deadwood branches in the woodpile. We haven't ventured far from home this week due to the miserable weather so these bits are from the garden.
The snowdrops are starting to flower throughout the village, a lot earlier than usual. I love these simple beautiful flowers often the first of the year, this year the mild winter is tricking many blooms out early and we even have a rose in flower in the front garden!
Thank you all so much for your positive response to the nature table project and for taking part in Instagram and your own blogs. I'm overwhelmed that people feel as passionate as I do about bringing back the nature table, none more so than my online friend Emma Mitchell of Silver Pebble designs, whose Instagram flat lays of her nature finds are so beautiful and inspirational go take a look.
Here's to a fun year ahead discovering sharing and learning about nature and encouraging people to create their own nature tables, especially in schools and offices. Let's bring back the nature table!
Labels: the nature table
Friday, 8 January 2016
We visited new cafe/art bar in Stroud today called Meme. It's rather cool with an amazing menu, Ercol furniture and lush food. I'm rather taken with the chai lattes, chalk writing in the window, and I do love a Moomin! In a few weeks time Meme is hosting a Scandi night with projected images and music, colouring competition, woolly jumpers and a smörgasbord of delicious food and drink. If you're visiting Stroud it's worth stopping for lunch here and keep an eye on their facebook page for news of events.
Tuesday, 5 January 2016
Our new year's resolution is simple, to make our lives a little bit wilder. So this year we're going to make an effort as a family to get out more and learn about the nature around us, picking up basic ID skills as we go.
If you've visited this blog before you'll know all about my passion for connecting children with nature and my concern about the impact of nature deficit disorder, you can read my 2008 thoughts here and here.
I have worked for The Wildlife Trusts for 15 years but to be honest I didn't know much about wildlife before I started working there, in fact I don't even think I owned a pair of wellies! Most of my passion has come from being surrounded by colleagues that are quite simply nerds about nature, bird watchers, badger vaccinators and otter poo sniffers (don't ask!) and by working for a conservation charity I have the access to some of the most wonderful wildlife and places to visit.
I am blessed to be able to share this with my children, but even with this knowledge we do find it hard to get out as a family with the same time pressures that all others families have; after school clubs, homework, work commitments, sports clubs and weekend matches and screen time (the boys even have online homework!)
Last year the Wildlife Trusts launched their Every Child Wild campaign to engage children with nature, one of the stats that stood out for me was that less than 24% of children surveyed had an indoor nature display area like a nature table. So that was it, the seed was planted and we're going to bring back the nature table! We'll display the bits and bobs we find on our weekly wild adventures and most importantly learn about what we find*, like a proper old fashioned school nature table.
We'll try and post regularly on here, I'm hoping the boys will contribute their thoughts here too and I'll also post over on Instagram using the hashtag #thenaturetable you are most welcome to join in too, the more the merrier. I am hoping we'll increase our knowledge, observe the seasons changing and get to spend quality time together.
P.s. If you live in Gloucestershire there's an offer on membership of the Wildlife Trust this January, just use the word GIFT in the offer code to take advantage of an amazing 50% off your membership which starts from just £1.25/month! The family membership is rather fab as the children get their own Wildlife Watch mailings four times a year too.
*as wildlife identification skills are increasingly on the decline and just not passed down from generation to generation anymore
Sunday, 3 January 2016
Last year at our village wassail a lovely Frenchman who lives in the village baked a load of these amazing delicious tarts called galette des rois. Inside each of the tarts was a little ceramic bead and whoever found a bead in their slice is then king or queen for the day and gets to wear a crown!
The tarts are traditionally baked once-a-year in France on the epiphany (6th January) to celebrate the three kings arrival at Bethlehem to meet the new baby Jesus and its name means 'tart of the king'. It's super easy to make with ready-made puff pastry and a frangipani filling in the middle, I followed Raymond Blanc's recipe.
It's a really charming custom whether based on ancient tradition or as Raymond Blanc OBE says "probably organized by an opportunistic pâtissier who saw the opportunity of a huge market!" It is certainly a tradition that we're borrowing in this house as they are delicious, and who doesn't want to be a king for the day?