Thursday, 31 July 2008

Madder than mad

C and O came home last night after a week spent at their Grandparents. Having had a week away from parenting, I've spent all day today marvelling at their insane levels of exuberance, energy and enthusiasm. I thought the good folk at The Secret Garden Party were fun loving party people, but honestly they've got nothing on my children. How could I have forgotten this in the space of just one week?

C hasn't stopped talking for more than a few seconds at a time since he woke up at 6am this morning. He's chattering to me now as I type this. O has inhabited her own, slightly loopy but enchanting, world of fairies, pictures, friends and animals, drawing us in whenever she can.

We told jokes as they podded broad beans for tea, and at the end of the day they had a go in my foot spa. There seemed to be more bubbles involved than when I do it.

Ah, so very good to have them back.

Monday, 28 July 2008

A festival in numbers

To remind myself that I am sometimes an accountant, after a weekend of behaving more like a blissed out, love-and-peace child from the 1960s, here is my tale of the festival in numbers.
  • people other than me, seen wearing aprons as fashion items: 6
  • feather boas purchased: 2
  • conversations with my sister-in-law bemoaning the disgusting state of our fingernails: 5
  • pirate ships danced on: 1
  • visits to portaloos: 20ish
  • visits to the eco-friendly composting toilets: 1
  • books packed: 5
  • books read: 2
  • nights I stayed up until 2am: 3
  • glasses of mead drunk: 4
  • days of unbroken sunshine: 5
  • conversations with people dressed as zebras: 4
  • glasses of Pimms drunk: 5
  • photos taken: 192
  • glasses of kir Breton cocktails drunk: 4ish
  • cold pints of cider drunk: 4
  • minutes spent fretting about everyday concerns: 0
  • cups of tea drunk: 8
  • cups of coffee drunk: 7
  • minutes spent fantasising about a nice hot bath: approx. 50
  • minutes spent in the bath when I returned home: 42
  • and many, many more hours spent lying in tents, lying outside on the grass, listening to music, dancing, chatting, people watching and grinning.

If you want to see even more photos, head over to my flickr set.

Monday, 21 July 2008

The English summer

This song by Sheffield duo, Grandadbob, is one of my all-time, top favourite, Desert Island Discs. I am listening to it a great deal at the moment, because it is that time of year.

It has got me thinking too. The Grandadbob definition is brilliant, but what would mine be? A list clearly.

► Strawberries
► Broad beans
► Music festivals
► Drinking cider
► Damp grass
► Open windows
► Early dawns
► Tents
► Dragonflies
► Hay
► Midges
► Jam making
► Sunhats
► Cherries
► Sports day at school


Last week was Sports Day and this coming weekend is the music festival.

On Thursday, G and I are heading off to The Secret Garden for five days of child-free, music-drenched outdoors relaxation. We’ve been to The Big Chill (many times), Womad and The Green Man before, but this is our first time to The Secret Garden. I’m looking forward to it so much.

For me a good festival is small, laid-back, beautiful, busy and slightly mad. I want to drink posh cider in the sunshine, read books, play games, eat middle-of-the-night bacon sandwiches, wear funky clothes, discover some new music and hang out with friends. I am sure all of this is going to be waiting for me at The Secret Garden.

There’s a festival packing list – obviously.

And my funky raincoat will be the first thing packed, but from the forecast it looks as though I won’t need it. Even an English summer is sunny sometimes!

See you all in a week’s time.


Monday, 14 July 2008

Things of which I am scared - but I don't let on....

Until now that is:

  • moths
  • being burgled
  • dogs
  • needing stitches
  • canals
  • making phone calls
  • the bough breaking...

...especially when he is climbing with a friend before school.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Strawberry rose buns

My job is not at all creative. Much of the time it is complicated and requires lots of thinking, problem solving and organising. And sometimes - I guess like most jobs - it can also be incredibly dull and repetitive. Sitting at my computer in the office on a wet Monday, plugging away at the numbers and having one of those days, I dreamt up this recipe.

I've had to wait until my day off, today, to make it. And amazingly it turned out just how I had imagined it. Very satisfying.


Strawberry rose buns

  • 100g butter or marg
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • half a packet of dried strawberries ( I got mine from Waitrose), chopped

To decorate: icing sugar, rose water, pink food colouring, crystallised rose petals or fresh strawberries.


Put 12 bun cases in a shallow bun tin (not a deep muffin tin) and set the oven to Gas 5.



Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in 1 egg and half the flour. When incorporated beat in the other egg, the rest of the flour and the chopped dried strawberries.


Spoon the mix into the bun cases and put into the oven for 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.



When the buns are cool, make the icing. Put a good shake of icing sugar in a bowl. Add a few drops of rose water, a tiny dab of pink food colouring and enough warm water to make a runny icing. Dribble the icing over the buns and decorate with crystallised rose petals or half a fresh strawberry.



Oh no! There's one bun missing....


Phew...there it is.


Enjoy on your day off!



Edited to add that the lovely Kimberley from Tallulah House gave me this blog award, which really made my day - thank you Kimberley! Go and admire her blog, which is really good - especially those photos of Ireland.

I'm going to pass on the love to a blog I have been enjoying so much recently: Funky and Delightful. Tory and Elise write so well, make lots of beautiful things and I love the fact that there are two contributors to this blog. Tory's recent Ambitious Weekend, has been great to follow - love that hat from Day 1 in particular!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

What's going on?

Some things that I'm enjoying at the moment:
  • the heartbreak of Ed and Fallon's relationship in The Archers. Why is he so stoopid as to be still mooning over daft Emma??
  • the smell of the tomato plants as I pick off the baby side leaves and feed them to the hens each morning. The smell of tomato plants is one of my earliest memories - crouching in my Grandfather's greenhouse in Sheffield, gazing at water dripping slowly from the water butt.
  • Grapefruit and geranium essential oils in the oil burner at night.
  • This wedding video - there are many, many weddings coming up amongst our family and friends this year and next. I will probably cry at all of them, given that even this video reduces me to a sobbing heap.
  • Washing the rice - a hypnotically soothing activity after work as I prepare that evening's curry. I am cooking lots of thai vegetable curries at the moment using this range of pastes.
  • The unseasonable wind we've been having lately: washing flapping on the line, fresh air blowing through the house and ruffled feathers in the hens' run. All good.
  • Ice creams in the park - they always remind me and G of our friend Ann who loved Mr Whippy vans so much when she visited us from America more than ten years ago. Mr Whippy rocks! This one's for you, Ann :o)

Thursday, 3 July 2008

The Emmeline Apron

Well I'd read reviews, I'd listened to podcasts and I'd gazed at the photos. I'd also bought the pattern and left it sitting in my sewing box for far too long.
But earlier this week I finally dug out some fabric to make Sew Liberated's Emmeline Apron. I then spent one evening pinning and cutting out, one evening basting gathers and finally, today, a happy morning sewing (all this whilst watching Wimbledon - either live or the day's highlights. I get so much done when there is good sport on the tv - I may even finish a whole quilt during the Olympics next month...).
The pattern was great - straightforward to follow, and it seemed to come together remarkably quickly. It does use an incredible amount of thread, however. I used an entire 100m reel of Guttermans - so if you are going to make it, don't start with half a reel!
I found it hard to choose the fabrics. You need three: front, back and the contrasting fabric for the ties and binding. It was this third fabric I found tricky as it has to look good with both the front and back fabrics. In the end I settled for some lusciously bright Michael Miller Water Lily fabric that had been a late night impulse buy from Repro Depot, Kaffe Fassett's paperweight in brown and orange, and some yellow cotton with polka dots that I had left over from the binding for my quilt.

Next time I wouldn't bother with top stitching the edge of the apron or the waist ties - maybe its the temperamental tension on my sewing machine, but I think that just pressing often looks flatter than topstitching. That's the only thing I'd change though. It's such a wonderful apron.


I finished it about 5 minutes before I had to go and pick up C & O from school. I couldn't bear to take it off, so wore it to pick them up. C was mortified and O was enchanted at their Mum wearing an apron in the playground. Fortunately, C forgave me enough to agree to take these photos of me wearing my apron this evening.


I may never take it off now.