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

It's cooked in the inbetweens.

In between
climbing flights of stairs, simply because my son wants to climb
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.

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

Thursday, 24 August 2017

on photography

Lately I have been missing this space, and the way I used to come here to document the details of our lives that I wanted to remember with some of the many photos I take. Over the Summer months I have managed to take more photos with my DSLR than I have in a long time. So often when we're going out as a family, I run through the mental checklist of everything I need to take. Before children, the list was keys, phone, purse, water bottle? Check. Let's go. With children, the list has quadrupled in length to include nappies, spare clothes for both children, water bottles for both children, snacks, sun hats, sun cream, wellies, coats, baby wipes, toys for distraction on car journeys, anti-bac gel, tissues and the kitchen sink thrown in for good measure. By the time my bag is filled with all the paraphernalia, there is rarely space for my camera, so I usually default to just using my iPhone.

I have been thinking a lot about creativity recently, partly prompted by the book, 'Big Magic', and partly it's just an ongoing thought process I have. Growing up, I remember feeling a great disappointment about my ability to create with paint in a way that reflected what my mind had imagined. My Dad gave me my first SLR for my seventeenth birthday, and I remember a pivetal moment being when I processed the rolls of film that I shot during my gap year travelling that I realised I could capture something that I was proud of. I love the way that photos allow us to remember the beauty in an even greater detail than our memories allow. There is something more detached about photography in that you are making art from something that already exists, whereas with painting, the skill lies with the painter to create from scratch. In photography, I discovered a creative outlet which didn't make me feel disappointed with my creativity in the way that I had with painting.

With the digital age of photography, I have thousands more photos than I would have if I had carried on shooting with film, and while I am consistent in making photo books with my phone photos, the same cannot be said for my DSLR images. They just sit on my memory card, in my computer and in in a couple of hard drives. Back in June, I started a photography organisation course to get on top of every single one of my digital images, which will help hugely when it comes to making photobooks based around particular themes. Revisiting some of the photos I have taken over the years reminded me again why I loved this blog and the place it held for my storytelling, and inspired me to keep on doing so. 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Meal Plan #6

The weather is feeling decidedly like Winter rather than Spring at the moment - so much rain, wind and grey skies. I feel half tempted to start eating soups and casseroles again, but instead, I am going for good hearty meals, not much meat and plenty of flavour, with a little bit of Summer fruit thrown in to help bring the tastes of Summer to the table, even if the sun is not shining and I am still donning my Winter boots every time I leave the house. 

Meal Plan #6
Monday: Loaded jacket potatoes (mix the cooked potato with tuna, spring onions, cream cheese, cucumber and any other delights we fancy)
Tuesday: Chicken Fajitas
Wednesday: Rainbow salad & bean burger falafel in wholemeal pitta breads
Thursday: Salmon Carbonara
Friday: Easy Pasta Bake (Make a sauce by mixing lots of finely chopped veg - carrots, celery, mushroom, courgette, sweetcorn, peppers, etc with a can of Campbell's condensed mushroom or chicken soup.)

Also eating for lunches...
Sweetcorn fritters
Quinoa & spiced chickpea salad
Homemade bread with mushroom & goats cheese dip
Cheese & Tomato on Toast
Watermelon, Feta & Mint salad

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Don't forget the roses

I started writing this post at the beginning of December 2016 in the week leading up to us moving house. It has taken me a long time to finish writing it for so many reasons. I needed the dust to settle after moving house and I needed time to adjust to life in a new home before I could finish writing this. The wonderful thing about a blog is that the stories shared don't have to be complete because they are part of a bigger story that is ongoing. It's the details of our days that become part of a greater story and I want to paint those stories with words and pictures, so that in the years to come, when these current stories become old memories, we can look back and remember with greater clarity than our memories allow.


'Don't forget to pack the roses' I think to myself as I walk down the garden in the dark, making a mental note of what not to forget when we move house. We built this garden from scratch - it was just a rubble yard when we moved in three and a half years ago. Those David Austin roses were a present from my parents and their beauty astounds me. I will happily leave everything else in the garden - even my beloved peonies - but not the roses. I need to bring that bit of beauty with us. I collect the warm laundry from the tumble dryer in our garage at the bottom of the garden and wonder how many more trips I will do from the house to the tumble dryer in these last days before we move.

We have chosen this. We didn't have to move house - no one made us, or forced us to, but still, it feels bittersweet. There is often a sadness that comes with leaving something behind. Last night I dreamed about sleeping in our new home, with the sound of rain pounding on the skylight Windows. I am looking forward to that. It's such a comforting sound to me.


One week into living in our new home and I find myself parked by the roadside, holding my screaming baby and crying myself. I miss my old house. I miss the light and space. That golden light that flooded in whenever the sun shone. Why hasn't the sun shone yet since we moved?  I miss being able to walk around my bed without cracking my shin on the corner of the bed. Again, we have chosen this. But this feels a little like mourning.

That was the home where we brought home our babies from hospital. It was the home where we had lovely neighbours and a good amount of space. We thought long and hard about moving, and even once we had sold our house and had our offer accepted on the new house, I questioned time and time again whether this was the right move. John was always more certain. He took the attitude of, 'if our things don't fit in this house, just get rid of them! We don't need to live with much!' We viewed other houses that offered far more space for the same amount of money, and after each viewing, I would say to John, 'are you sure?' Then we would discuss the pro's and con's again. Every time, we decided that this would be a good move for us in terms of location within the city. But I struggled to get past the space we were losing for the benefits we were gaining.

Those first few months in our new home were hard. We moved in the Winter when the trees were bare and the rain was relentless. There were so many days where it felt like the sun never fully rose and I wandered around this house that was yet to feel like a home, wondering, 'where is the light?' on a daily basis. I didn't venture into our garden for a good long while. But when I did, I discovered a whole wall of climbing roses. I couldn't help but smile and think of the two little rose bushes that I had been so desperate not to forget. I wanted to bring life and beauty into our new home, and those roses represented that for me. And yet, there was beauty already here. Much to my delight, I discovered that the previous owners had also left a potted peony. They could have taken it with them, but for some reason, they didn't. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.
As Winter made way for Spring, our walls slowly filled up with pictures. We still have a big pile of unhung photo frames in the loft, but what I have realised is that new spaces call for changes. I loved all of the photos and artwork we had in our old home. But somehow, they don't all quite seem to 'fit' in our new home. Not in terms of space, but feel. Life has moved on and changed a lot in the time we spent in our first family home, and our photos weren't really representative of that. I realised back in December that we hadn't printed a single photo of Jude since he had been born in May. 

It takes time for a house to feel like a home, and slowly we are getting there. Where our last house felt like a ready made space that required little changes, this new house inspires me in ways that our last house didn't. And that surprises me. I don't know why, exactly, but it does. Spring is now in full swing and we have grown accustomed to our new home. We have plans and dreams of how to put our own mark on it, and that feels exciting. The birdsong is so much greater here than where we used to live, and we never tire of watching the squirrels scurrying up the tree trunks and along our garden wall. (We do, however, tire of them digging up our strawberry plants!) The clematis and violas are in full bloom and our daily trips to the park are so enjoyable. We have precious friends living round the corner and it truly is a gift to live in such close proximity to people who we can share life with. 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Meal Plan #5

It's been a while since I shared my meal plan, hasn't it? Having a plan for what we are going to eat helps me enormously in that it means I rarely let myself get to 5pm when both children are starting to fall apart, and find myself standing in the kitchen and eating peanut butter sandwiches instead of cooking anything because all cooking inspiration evades me at 5pm. I have also found it really helpful to prepare as much of the meal as possible in the morning, when both children are happily playing, I prioritise cooking over any other housework, because ultimately, bellies need to be fed more than floors need to be cleaned. Here's what we've been eating this week.

Meal Plan #5
Tuesday: Orzo pasta with roasted cherry toms, mozzarella & spinach
Wednesday: Bean Burgers on homemade Granary rolls
Friday: Lasagne (from the freezer)