Tuesday, 14 November 2017

illuminated

I've recently discovered a podcast called The Family Photographer, which I am finding very inspiring. One of the episodes I listened to this week gave this advice on how to take a good photo: find someone you love, find some great light, get in close and take the photo. Another piece of advice was to capture your surroundings because they change so much over time, and in the years to come, you'll be glad that you've captured the small things which change and evolve. Ruby starts school next year, so we are in the season of visiting lots of local schools. I took this photo just after we had come home from our fourth school visit. Ruby sat at her table and quietly started writing. I loved the way the light illuminated her hair and right hand so grabbed my camera to capture the moment. (I can't decide whether I prefer the photo with her hair or her hand in focus.) The light on Ruby's face was filtered through the stained glass in our kitchen door, which creates these small shards of light, mid morning. In the new year, we will be doing some building work which will require moving this door and removing the window that the light is coming through, so I know ahead of time that this photo is only possible to take now, at this time of year with the low Autumn light, before we make changes to our house. This is just a simple, every day moment but I love it and I know that in the years to come, it is this kind of photo that I will treasure that captures little details of our lives. I know that I will also want to remember what the message was that Ruby was writing: 'It says, Dear Mummy, I hope you 'joy my brilliant writing. Love from Ruby.' At the moment, every card or letter that Ruby writes or draws has this same message with just the name of the recipient changing and I love it that she sees all her handiwork as 'brilliant'.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

just start.


On Wednesday evening, I went on an impromptu run. When I say impromptu, I mean that I had the idea at 5.25pm, sent my husband a text at 5.28pm to check it would be ok for me to run when he got home, and I was out the door by 6pm. I hadn't given my route much thought, just figured I'd do a quick twenty minute run along the cycle path, round the park then home. My usual route.

As I stepped out of my front door, I was greeted by the most beautiful pink and grey skies. Our house doesn't have any great West facing views, so I had no idea sunset was so beautiful this evening. So I abandoned my planned running route, and headed West. We live in a fairly built up residential area and I was keen to find the best view possible. So I ran uphill, much faster than my average pace, desperate to soak in as much of the beauty as I could before it faded. Once I had enjoyed the sunset to the best of my ability, I turned and ran East. I didn't really know where I was, or where I was going, I just headed in the general direction of home, knowing I'd eventually get there. I encountered more hills than I had anticipated, and discovered parts of my neighbourhood that I didn't know about.

The reason I'm telling you this is because it's a helpful reminder for myself - and perhaps you too - to just start. You are capable of more than you think and can often go further, find greater adventure and more beauty than you expected - sometimes the biggest hurdle is the first step. I often think about this in relation to starting a business. Over the years, I've had a few people ask me for advice on how I started my baking business. In all honesty, the answer is that I just took the first step when I didn't have everything figured out. I made mistakes along the way and spent more money than I needed to, but ultimately, I knew that if I waited until I had done all of the research before diving in, the likelihood I would never have started. That's not to discount doing research, seeking advice and taking time with making decisions. These things are all important. It's just that it's possible to feel so overwhelmed and anxious about the consequences of these things that you don't ever try. So, just take the first step with whatever it might be that you're wanting to start - a hobby, a business, exercise, writing or reading a book. Keep putting one foot in front of the other - either physical or metaphorical - and the landscape will change in unexpected ways as you move forward.

One of my favourite books that I have read this year is Big Magic by Liz Gilbert. There were so many lessons I took away from it about creativity, and the one that has been very applicable to both my baking business and creative projects is the idea that it matters completely and it doesn't matter at all. Liz talks about how our creative ventures are incredibly important in that they are ideas and inspiration which we should follow, but they aren't costly in the way that the job of a doctor is. No-one is going to die if we keep on ignoring that idea that keeps coming to mind. But inspiration and creativity are really important and fulfilling. Sometimes the voice of potential defeat, challenge or failure can feel so loud that we just don't try pursuing inspiration, but sometimes, if we just start, we can find ourselves on wonderful adventures. 

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Jude Benjamin // Seventeen Months

Dear Jude,
On the eve of you turning seventeen months, we found ourselves back in the very same place where I gave birth to you, at almost exactly the same time of day. You were born at 1.44am on the 1st May 2016, and on the 1st October 2017, we found ourselves back at Cossham Birth Centre with croup. I looked at the clock as we arrived and couldn't help but chuckle that the time was 12.44am. When I shared this small detail with Daddy in the morning, he said, 'seventeen months isn't really a special milestone, is it?!' He's right in many ways, but to my Mama heart, this detail mattered. the date and time of your birth will always be etched on my brain, and for now, I think of your birth each time a new month rolls around. But more than that, as a Mother, the experience of growing a baby for nine months, then actually delivering this precious life from my body is one that I replayed over and over, not wanting to forget any of it, because every birth only happens once. Even when births are more traumatic than yours was, the story of birth is something so significant to Mothers that we keep counting the months since your birth well past your first birthday. Whenever strangers ask me how old you are, I tell them how many months you are. Ruby reprimands me and corrects me every time, saying, 'he's one, Mummy'.
This month, your communication has changed in small, fun ways. You make it very clear when you don't want something, with a little shake of your head and an 'uh-uh'. Planes and helicopters fascinate you - everytime you hear one overhead, you stop what you are doing, point skywards, gasp and look at me. We have a book called 'Things that fly' which you love. Your vocabulary has expanded to include the words:
Jude: 'Dooooooooo-a'
Ruby: 'oooooooooooh-sh'
More: 'moooooore'
oh no
oh wow
ball (used to be 'lllllllllllll' then 'blllll')
choc (often said while wielding a bar of chocolate that you have found in my baking cupboard)

At the same time as your speech is emerging, so is your frustration with communicating and being understood. You will frequently point and say 'daaaah' and the longer it takes me to figure out what it is you'd like, the more frustrated you get. This often results in you lying on the floor, crying for a little while. I'm doing my best to understand you, little one. We'll get there. One lovely moment this last week, you had been been playing in the garden by yourself. You came inside, took my hand and insisted I come outside with you, pointing wildly and chatting about something only you could understand. You took me to our apple tree and pointed up, making it very clear that you would like an apple. We picked it and you ate it. Such a simple moment, but I loved it for so many reasons. I love that you know we have an apple tree that you can eat from. Our last house didn't have any trees at all, and this simple addition to our garden brings me a lot of joy.

At mealtimes, we give you a shot glass of water. You take a sip then pour the rest onto your plate before saying, 'mooooooore!' When we fill up your glass for a second time, you saturate your food once again. You like to spoon frothy milk into your mouth and eat your grape halves with a fork. You take great care to turn each half over so that the flat side is face down, making it easier to spear.

When you wave goodnight to Daddy and Ruby, you cock your head to the side, scrunch up your nose, fill your face with a smile and wave your characteristic wave, which I adore.

You are still so confident to approach a group of strangers when something about them sparks your curiosity. You stand and watch, not seemingly concerned if they don't take an interest in you, but delighted when they do. Especially when they happen to have a ball that they are willing to share with you.

It is no secret that I found the first year of getting you to sleep extremely challenging, and I have to say that the novelty of you embracing sleep has still not worn off. When you're tired, I ask if you'd like to go to bed and have some milk. You giggle then gallop towards the stairs, climbing onto your bed as soon as you can. Speaking of climbing, in the last month you have started to climb onto the table on a regular basis. We removed the front of your high chair as it was a source of constant frustration to you, and this has aided your ventures onto the top of the table. I have lost count of the number of times I have turned around to finding you standing there in the middle of the dining table, and the moment our eyes meet, you grin then run on the spot until I lift you down.

You are a treasure and we love you.
All my love,
Mama

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Frenchay Moor

On Sunday we discovered the beautiful Frenchay Moor, which is only five minutes down the road from where we live. I had no idea it existed, and got just a little bit excited by the discovery. These are the kinds of adventures that make my heart happy. Time with my little family, breathing in the Autumn air, enjoying the beauty in nature that never fails to inspire awe of God in me, and the fun of not quite knowing where we will end up. Watching Ruby's joy as she collected dandelions and presented them to me, saying, 'these are for you', her happiness as she swung on a rope swing for the first time, and Jude's glee at having wide open spaces to gallop around - these are such small but precious moments that I want to remember.
There was only one point where we thought we might have got slightly out of our depth when we reached a dead end, and the only options were to walk a really long way back with two tired children, or trespass on someone's property where there was a clear sign saying, 'Private property, do not trespass'. We chose the trespassing option, which involved scrambling up a muddy hill then jumping off a ten foot wall. Ruby's attitude was amazing. When she listened to John and I considering whether we could all make it up to the top, Ruby said, 'Yep, I reckon we can do it. Let's have a go!' The children weren't at all phased by being passed over the high wall, and I only sustained minor grazes and an elevated heart rate.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Old Down Country Park

 On Monday 28th August, we celebrated seven years of marriage. It was a Bank Holiday, so John was home from work. We packed a picnic, swung by the shops to buy a fresh baguette and some chocolate croissants, and drove to Old Down Country Park. I love that it is only fifteen minutes away from our home. We have so many wonderful places on our doorstep. I have been twice before, but today we managed to explore more of the grounds than I have on previous trips. (Both of my previous trips were with Jude as a newborn, and our capacity to spend hours away from home was much more limited.)

In the time between leaving our house and arriving, the sun had come out, and we realised we had not packed any suncream. So John dropped us off and went to find a local shop to buy some. While he was away, the children played on the trampolines and explored the vegetable patch. Jude discovered the ripe raspberries so we picked a few and popped them in our mouths. We found squash too heavy for us to lift, and courgettes almost ready to pick. I dreamed of having enough garden one day to grow all of this produce ourselves.
We had our picnic in a clearing that had views out to the Severn Estuary, which was beautiful. Jude roamed around between the trees, climbing up and down little mounds and enjoying the freedom the outdoors brings. Ruby and I practised handstands and cartwheels - a theme almost every day this Summer.
 There is a beautiful wildflower meadow that leads to a lake. Ruby did cartwheels through the meadow while John walked ahead with Jude in the sling to try and get him to sleep. We sat by the lake and watched the dragonflies and butterflies dance across the water. It was so peaceful and beautiful there. The views across the Severn Estuary were stunning. We ended the day with Ruby taking all her clothes off so that she could play with some other children in the three giant paddling pools that were filled to the brim and overflowing with water. She had so much fun, jumping in and out of each of the pools, immersing her face and throwing her wet hair back over her head, water spraying everywhere. This is what childhood is about. Enjoying the simple things, carefree and happy. Being outdoors as much as possible. I don't know quite how I am going to fill our days when the rain is relentless and the sunlight even more fleeting than it is now. 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Kilver Court Gardens

Over the Summer, we have been on a few lovely day trips to places that are a short drive from Bristol. At the moment, I would say that forty minutes is Jude's maximum capacity for a car journey, although even that is often too long, and he loses the plot for the last stretch. One Sunday morning, Ruby had an uncharacteristic lie in until 9am, which made it impossible to get to Church for 9.15am. So we embraced the empty day, and decided to go on an adventure to Kilver Court. I didn't know much about it, other than what I had read on this blog. The photos of the garden were enough for me to know that I wanted to go there. We packed up a quick picnic, then set off as soon as we could to limit the chances of Jude falling asleep in the car. (I know that one day, these kinds of details will not be a factor in decisions about days out. So I am writing them down to remind myself that even in the early years when going on a day trip wasn't entirely straightforward, we did manage it.)
We were the first people to arrive at the gardens, and it was such a beautiful place to explore. Kilver Court has an interesting history - it was originally built as a lace mill and the owner of the mill created these gardens and a boating lake for his employees to enjoy. The gardens are truly beautiful. It was a peaceful place for John and I to relax and feel refreshed, and Ruby and Jude are at the age where they love places like this. There are endless opportunities for games of hide and seek around the viaduct arches, little rivers and fountains everywhere to dip toes and throw stones, steps to jump off and grassy areas for Ruby to practice cartwheels and handstands. They were happy for hours.

While Jude napped in the sling with John, Ruby and I explored the Great House, which is a really beautiful homeware shop. I love this kind of place for stocking up on gifts and greetings cards. Ruby loves smelling scented candles as much as I do, so we happily spent an hour sticking our noses in candle jars! We ended our time there with coffee and cake in the cafe. Being a baker, I am rather selective about cake that I choose to spend money on, so I was delighted to see that Kilver Court's cakes are made with spelt flour that's milled at the nearby farm of the owner. I love knowing where my food has come from (the more local, the better), and that the ingredients used are high quality

Thursday, 31 August 2017

How dinner is made

Dinner.
It's cooked in the inbetweens.

In between
climbing flights of stairs, simply because my son wants to climb
immediately.
Peel the onion
Chop then stop and heed
invitations from my daughter to 'come and see this'
her latest acrobatics in the garden.

In between
Playing dominoes,
Finding keys
oil in the pan
heat on
soffrito sizzle

In between
blowing up balloons
opening cups then closing them again
and again and again
resolving sibling disputes over a fishing net
wondering what on earth my son is eating now?
Bottle cap - choking hazard,
Please don't let him die.
It's out, he's fine.
Pop the chopped aubergine in the pan.

In between
kitchen dance parties with the Lumineers
to lift our spirits one more time
while missing the postman because we
didn't hear the doorbell chime.
Add the tomatoes, sizzle and stir.
Get the blade for the blender out.

In between
deciphering toddler screeches
and dishing out snacks at 4.50
wondering what in the world has happened to me?
I never thought that I would be
handing out snaps when dinner's coming shortly.
Aubergine balls rolled,
gymnastics displays watched again,
son prevented from choking on a small wooden figure,
blitz the breadcrumbs.
Stop to console daughter who changed her mind
about having bare feet outside,
as good a reason as any to have a little cry.
Chop, chop, chop, sizzle & fry.
Tiny progress.

Then.
Rethink my whole plan
and
Pop a frozen quiche in the oven because I don't even like aubergine.