Monday, 29 February 2016

PARENTING PRESSURE


As I write this blog post it's 5am, a woeful hour and one I'm experiencing due to my three year old waking at 2am and now I can't back to sleep my mind racing with all the things I need to do! I'm tired and know that by this evening I'll be exhausted and very grumpy but still I'm awake and checking my work calendar for all the things I have on today.

People say to me "I don't know how you do it?" and in truth I don't: things slip, the housework doesn't get done and I forget to wash kids school uniforms for example. This week we've been looking after the playgroup bear, the boy loves it but as I look in the bear's diary at the other diary entries I feel completely overwhelmed to think of anything interesting for us to do with the bear! So instead we thought we'd give him and his clothes a wash. It's funny how the little things always worry me so much.



A minute ago I checked in on Facebook and my closet friend's sister-in-law sent me a message having seen my middle child at a party this weekend. She took the time to say what a good job I was doing as he was lovely. It has completely overwhelmed me, the fact that someone I hardly know took the time to send such a lovely message is humbling, and the fact that I have received it at such a low point has meant so much more than she will ever know.

I know that the pressure I feel is pressure that I put on myself, to be the best mum, to be the best at work, to have a lovely house, and to do interesting things. Most of the time I can just about juggle everything, with a humongous amount of help from my husband and mum, but right now I'm paying the price of wanting too much, being too busy and being exhausted and quite frankly I'd like a round of applause when I walk in the office today just for making it there fully dressed! 

Thursday, 25 February 2016

THE NATURE TABLE ~ IDENTIFYING EARLY BLOSSOM

(left to right) myrobalan plum, Pissard's plum & myrobalan plum. 

I've been seeing loads pretty blossom growing in the hedgerows near me which I used to think was blackthorn, however it's not, it is actually a lesser known tree called cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera).

You can see from the picture above that there aren't any thorns on the twigs which are synoymous with the blackthorn. Wild cherry plums are found throughout England and grow as straggly, thornless hedgerow shrubs or graceful standard trees, Pissard's plum above was brought from Persia for suburban gardens in the 1800's. Like many fruit trees cherry plum trees are favourites with birds such as titmice (blue tits, coal tits & great tits) who shred the winter buds looking for hibernating aphids, and bullfinches who have no time for such pickiness and eat the whole buds, aphids and all.

My colleague at work Ellen Winter says "If you are very lucky you will find a cherry plum tree in fruit around August. Wild crops tend to be meagre, with occasional unexpected gorgeous ruby bounty. Looking exactly as named – like a cross between a cherry and a small plum – the fruit has a sweet sharp taste and are loved by birds, who might be one reason humans see the ripe fruit so rarely."

Years ago our ancestors would have been familiar with the subtle differences between wild plum, cherry plum, blackthorn, hawthorn and others, we have largely lost all of this intimate knowledge of our native wild habitat and I'm really enjoying learning to identify more and more through our nature table project. 

Monday, 22 February 2016

THE NATURE TABLE ~ WEEK 7


This week our nature table has buds and blossom on it and it certainly feels as if spring isn't far away. In the garden the daffodils are flowering, about three weeks earlier than last year, and the muscari and snowdrops are in full flower. If you're joining in with #thenaturetable do let me know or leave a comment below and I'll try and do a blog round-up over the next few weeks.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

THE HAM, EGG & CHIPS PROJECT


After a hellishly busy week at work we decided to go out as a family for lunch today for a treat. We journeyed south to a tiny hamlet called Ham near Berkeley Castle where we found the Salutation Inn, known locally as the 'Sally'. 

The Sally has been winning recognition and awards such as CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) pub of the year since being taken over by Peter Tiley in 2013. Peter quit his job as a business analyst in London and with his wife Claire bought the lease of the Inn with their life savings. 

The reason I had wanted to visit the Sally was to find out more about the ham, egg and chips project which is possibly the first of its kind for a pub. In 2014 the pub bought some Gloucester Old Spot pigs, a rare breed that originate from the Severn Vale and that tradition says earned their spots from living in local orchards where the apples fell on them! They started to grow, butcher and cure their own ham (ham from Ham as they say) from the pigs and when this became a success they bought chickens to provide them with eggs and planted potatoes so they could make their own chips ~ the real good life! 

On arriving at the Sally, it was not how we imagined, instead of the sanded wooden floorboards and trendy falcon enamelware that has become de rigueur for every new bar and restaurant, the pub still has a skittle alley and carpet that dated from the 70's or maybe 80's. The other thing that the pub has is local's, this wasn't a destination pub for foodies this is a valued part of the local community! The skittle alley was decorated for a 60th birthday party, someone was buying some flagons of ale to take away to the local rugby match and there were plenty of pub regulars too, catching up over a pint and parking their horse boxes on the lane outside. On the wall there were details of loads of events over the weeks ahead, from a home brew competition to a bring your own supper night. 

We examined the menu, there were just three main options as the Inn wants to do things simply and properly; ham, egg and chips, a ploughmans and a daily changing third option, which today was a venison burger. We ordered one of each of the main items, plus ham rolls and extra chips between the five of us and settled down to a card game of Jacks. My husband was impressed the amazing range of ales and ciders on offer in this free-house, nine different ciders and eight beers on tap and there was bottled too! He choose Quercus from local cider makers Barnes and Adams and having tasted a little, it was delicious. 

Within 20 minutes of the Inn opening it was full; a few families like us, groups of friends wet from a wintery walk, couples with their dogs and locals sat on bar stools. Our food arrived and we hungrily tucked in, I chose the ham, egg and chips and it was of course the best ham, egg and chips I had ever tasted, I didn't expect any different - thick cuts of ham, hand cut chips that were fluffy inside and eggs with gloriously golden yolks. My husband delighted in his ploughmans which boasted cheese from local producers Godsell's and Jonathan Crump and the boys wolfed down the burger, ham rolls and chips. The only downside was the sachets of ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise, I'm just not keen on them and would much rather a bottle or jar, but I can forgive a sachet or two!  

With bellies full we drove home, happy to have discovered why The Sally is loved by so many, this is how pubs should be and we'll certainly return. 

Friday, 19 February 2016

FRIDAY FIELD NOTES FROM THE GARDEN


This Friday we're lifting and splitting our snowdrops as they're almost over in the garden. This encourages them to spread and create beautiful snowdrop drifts. The treehouse has had a battering this winter, so the boys have been making plans to amend and extend it, they are busy measuring up and I can't wait to see what creative designs they come up with!

Monday, 15 February 2016

THE NATURE TABLE ~ WEEK 6


Ok I am totally cheating this week and sharing a pic of one of the display cases in Oxford's Natural History Museum. These are some of our native local butterflies, my favourite is the comma. I vividly remember catching cabbage white butterflies in our garden as a child and the occasional orange tip, that I would study in a jam jar before releasing again.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

ADVENTURING IN OXFORD

 

With the prospect of another grey, wet weekend ahead we decided on whim to get out and go adventuring. We had heard great things about Oxford University's Natural History Museum, so decided to get up early and explore Oxford. 


As parking is difficult and expensive in Oxford we used the park and ride service that cost £2 to park and £2.40 return on the bus for adults, children go free. On arriving in the city we sought out the Turl Street Kitchen as recommended by Karen for hot chocolates and croissants, it was lovely and I'd certainly recommend too. 


We darted through the drizzle and past the many walking tours taking in the University's many colleges, to find the rather grand Victorian built Museum on Parks Road. The Natural History Museum was so much better than we imagined, packed full of dinosaurs skeletons, fossils and even a dodo skeleton! It is housed in the most beautiful building with a glass roof supported by huge cast iron pillars, bathing the exhibits in natural light. 

The Pitt Rivers Museum next door, contrasted beautifully in a dark and mysterious room, housing the archeological and anthropological collections of the University, our favourite was the case containing the shrunken heads - although the nine year old was a bit spooked by these!

We'd certainly recommend a trip to Oxford and the Natural History Museum, I think I even prefer it to London's Natural History Museum! 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

SWEET DREAMS FOR SUPER HEROES


Oh my goodness how gorgeous are these cartoon long John's? They are from this season's mini Boden collection and my cartoon loving nine year-old adores them, not only for their design featuring Sprout the super dog but for their comfort too. They come in a pack of two, one pair cartoon (pictured above), the second pair a grey stripe and the boy changes in to them as soon as he's home from school! We have a fab local Red Cross book shop that sells old copies of the Beano - this one he's reading is from 1983, I'm sure I read it first time around!


They are perfect for lounging in or wrestling with your brothers in too but hopefully they will last a long enough to be handed down to the next boy!

*thank you Boden for sending me these ones to review, the boy was especially delighted for having something new and not having to wear his older brothers hand-me-downs!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

PANCAKES IN THE WOODS ON SHROVE TUESDAY



We enjoyed making pancakes in the woods for Shrove Tuesday using our new Kelly Kettle. I much prefer fluffy American pancakes at the moment, making them smaller than I would usually make pancakes, more like drop scones in size.



How to make American Pancakes

150g plain flour
150ml milk
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
1 large free-range egg
1 teaspoon of baking soda
& 2 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter.

I simply sift the dry ingredients into a one bowl and all the wet ingredients into another, whisking the wet mixture lightly before adding the wet mixture to the dry, slowing stirring.

I then whisk together until there aren't any lumps!

To cook, heat some butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and drop spoonfuls of the mixture slowly into the pan until to form palm size circles.

Once the mixture starts to bubble then I flip over to cook the other side, it take just a couple of minutes each side.

Serve with bacon & maple syrup, banana, or lemon juice and sugar!

Monday, 8 February 2016

THE NATURE TABLE ~ WEEK 5


It's been such a wet and windy week this week that we've hardly been outside at all, instead preferring to stay warm by the fireside. When we did venture out we were surprised to see lots of spring bulbs starting to venture out and catkins on trees. We found these catkins blown off a hazel tree on the edge of a beech woodland. We also discovered that catkins get their name from kittens tails which they resemble! I also think they resemble the lambs tails on the front of this gorgeous ladybird book too.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

WHEN WILL IT STOP RAINING?


It feels as if it's been raining for days! The fields near us are so muddy and so many sports matches have been cancelled, which means loads of catch up mid-week fixtures come April and May time. We've been darting outside between the showers to jump in puddles and get stuck in the mud, but today I really couldn't face it and stayed by the fire nursing a horrible cough.

Friday, 5 February 2016

CAMP WILDERNESS


Last summer the boys went to Camp Wilderness an all-inclusive residential summer camp in Oxfordshire for children aged 7 - 14 years old. Summer camps are something of an American institution with over 11 million children going on a camp each year according to the American Camp Association in 2010. But they haven't really caught on in the UK, until now. 

"It really is a different type of adventure where the children truly get to grips with bushcraft, and have lots of fun while doing it. We pride ourselves in providing a back-to-nature experience that children will remember for the rest of their lives. Not only do they make new friends and learn new skills, with Camp Wilderness they are able to spend time in the most beautiful woodlands, getting away from technology!" explained Jade Forbes-Wattley of Camp Wilderness.  

The action-packed camp is held in beautiful safari-style tented camps combing traditional bush craft with fun activities that include archery, bush tucker BBQ's and wild swimming. With children spending less time than ever outdoors, these camps offer a wonderful alternative to TV, games consoles and online distractions.


I had butterflies about the boys going away, especially as the nine year old has never been away from home without us before, but the butterflies soon disappeared as we arrived at camp to the best welcome ever. We were waved in from the road and as we opened the car doors we were greeted and bags were carried for us, it was so lovely and so friendly I knew the boys were going to have the best time and my nerves were instantly calmed.

Research has shown that children going away to camp encourages self-esteem as they learn to look after themselves and solve problems, it helps them to make friends often with a more diverse groups of friends than they may have at home. It brings them closer to nature and give children experiences they wouldn't have in their everyday lives such as wild swimming or even seeing a frog up close!

Camp also gives children an opportunity to take on new and different roles, quiet children find a new confidence and leadership skills, and hyperactive children can find calm in new surroundings. It also gives them fresh air and exercise and wonderful memories.    


Camp Wilderness takes place in four picturesque locations in the UK and solves a problem of child care that we face each and every school holiday as despite having a flexible working contract and supportive employers, there are only so many hours that the grandparents can entertain my very active brood!

As I write this we have been looking at the website to plan the next trip, find out more about Camp Wilderness and book your childrens' summer holiday adventure.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

DOES BIRTH ORDER MATTER?


I watch my three boys and how they interact with each other and often wonder how birth order will shape their lives. I parent them differently too, I'd be lying if I said I didn't. I've learned how to be a parent through the eldest, he is the one that tests boundaries, whereas the youngest gets away with murder!

My eldest child was the one that I'd check that he was still breathing in the middle of the night and make purees from only the best organic fruit and veg! Firstborns are said to be confident and assertive, the leaders of the pack they are supposedly organised and reliable.

When the second child came along I was much more relaxed as a parent. Of course he wasn't the youngest for long and with a new baby bother he now has the position of middle child! A middle child is meant to be a people-pleaser, with many friends and a rebellious stubborn streak, this is certainly true of mine.

The lastborn child being brought up in a more relaxed way is thought to be fun loving and have more freedom but also attention seeking and self-centered. It's a little early to tell if this is true of my youngest but he certainly has just started to act the fool to get smiles from his older brothers.

I don't know whether their birth order will affect them as they get older but sometimes it helps me to understand them, their arguments and their frustrations.
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