Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Letting it all go

For the last few months I have been suffering terribly with self doubt and lack of confidence. It's been horrible and it's something I try and hide, only confiding in a few trusted friends. It's resulted in me getting really anxious and panicky. I've never wanted to blog about it, because it's ugly and I only want to fill this blog space with beautiful things.

I find it hard to let go of anything, to admit I'm not coping to me is a sign of failure. You see I love my job and I'm quite good at it, I love being a mum and think I'm quite good at that job too, but somewhere between trying to be good at everything I am putting myself under such pressure and losing. I feel like Wurzel Gummidge with different heads for all the different 'Emma's' I need to be!

In admitting my feelings to my husband, my friends, I have had to let go. Let go of perfection. Let go of my stubborn pride. Let go of trying to be the best mum. Let go of caring so much of what other people think of me. It's hard and this is just the first step.

This post is part of the Let it Go Project: a collection of stories leading up to a beautiful releasing ritual, hosted by Sas Petherick on the 30th of January. All the details for this free event are here. And you can take part! Be inspired by other posts in this project, and share what you are ready to let of of on the Let it Go Project Community Page!

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Sunday, 26 January 2014

This is no ordinary bag!


This is no ordinary bag, it is an Ally Capellino 'Frank' rucksack. I have been lusting after one for years and thanks to Gemma at the wonderful Foundation, this one now has a home with us.

This bag symbolises my desire to fill my boys lives with endless adventures. The kind written about by Enid Blyton, that involves a packed lunch of apples, homemade cake and ginger beer and a day spent outdoors. Adventures that will shape their childhoods and give them memories to last their whole lives.

The bag is British made, from waxed cotton and is practical whilst being beautiful too. It has padded shoulder straps and space for flasks, cameras, pocket books, sandwiches, swiss army knives, even a picnic blanket!

A huge thank you Gemma for sending me Frank it was so kind and I promise to take good care of him. Whilst some women need to have a pair of 'feel good' jeans or little black dress, Frank gives me all the inspiration I need to create some Blytonesque adventures!


Foundation is an independent boutique in Cheltenham and Stow-on-the-Wold, a treasure trove of beautiful clothes and accessories, voted by The Telegraph as one of the top fifty boutiques outside London. Check out their wonderful blog full of inspiring posts from recipes to gorgeous interiors. Soon they'll be a new website so wherever you are in the world you too will be able to order from their gorgeous store.

Dragon bread





It is Chinese New Year this Friday, year of the horse, and we were inspired by the fabulous book Baking Bread with Children by Warren Lee Cohen, to bake this weeks loaf in the shape of a dragon for good luck and prosperity.

Friday, 24 January 2014

learning to weave






I recently enrolled on a short weaving course in the evening and I'm really enjoying it. We've been learning all about how to set up and use a loom and the different weaves that you can do. It's really therapeutic!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

"a brown loaf?" asked the brown bear


This week our #52loavesproject loaf of the week was made using the same recipe as last week, but using Wessex Mill half and half flour. I measured the salt this week (instead of the boys) which has led to a better taste, although it is still very 'cakey' in texture, so I need to figure out what I need to do to remedy that. Our kneading was much better too, due mostly to having a good soundtrack to knead to, although we did get a little sidetracked by some funky kitchen dancing!

On our baking playlist this week was:

1. Wear It On Our Face by The Dells
2. Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5
3. Jump In The Line by Harry Belafonte
4. Miss You by The Rolling Stones
5. Roar by Katy Perry
6. Candy by Robbie Williams
7. Movin' on Up by Primal Scream
8. Can't Keep It In by Cat Stevens
9. Love me Again by John Newman

A combination of mine and my ten year old sons favourite dancing tunes, which may explain such a curious mix!

sunshine for the soul


         

We have just spent Sunday doing lots of garden chores in the sunshine. As the shoots are pushing their way through the warm soil, we too turned our faces to the sun and planted bulbs and chopped lots of wood and refilled the bird feeders we made a few weeks ago. 


We rewarded our hard work with hot chocolate outside with our favourite toffee waffles and planned what seeds we would plant this year. With all this sunshine, I thought I'd have a sale in my shop of my favourite things to grow - bluebell, foxglove, heartsease and pumpkin seed packets are now just £1.55 each, happy growing!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Sharing my Little Black Book with Crumbs Magazine


I was really excited to be asked to share my Little Black Book with Crumbs Magazine. It was really difficult to choose as we are blessed with so many amazing places to eat in the Cotswolds, but eventually I whittled it down! It is in the January edition out now, here's where you can get a copy. 

Sunday lunch? 
The Black Horse in Cranham serves the best Sunday Roasts (apart from my mum’s of course!) I always choose roast beef, which comes with huge Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, plenty of veg and the most delicious gravy. Afterwards we walk it off in the surrounding Cotswold beech woodlands.  

Quick pint? 
The Woolpack in Laurie Lee's Slad Valley is my favourite pub, my husband and I had our first date here! Sit with a pint of Pig’s Ear real ale by Uley Brewery and enjoy the views across the valley to Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's Laurie Lee Wood and Swift's Hill nature reserve. 2014 marks the centenary celebrations of Laurie Lee's birth and there will be lots of fantastic events; from walks, art exhibitions, open gardens and a cider festival. 

On the go? 
The Wiggly Worm Charity has recently launched the Little Green Wiggly Machine, which is the most enchanting vintage 1970's Citroen van. By day it serves delicious street food and by night it's a food poverty pop up, taking hot nutritious food to communities in Gloucestershire who need it. It's an ingenious idea and can often be found in The Abbey Grounds, Cirencester and at local events. 

Posh nosh? 
The Daffodil is in an old art deco building formerly Cheltenham’s first picture house, it has been restored into the most beautiful restaurant with original sweeping staircases. It’s been a favourite of mine since it opened in 1998, but I really don’t get much opportunity to visit these days!

With the family? 
Cowley Manor, near Cheltenham is a lovely country hotel and spa set in the most beautiful grounds. The bar menu is perfect for families with a wide range of dishes to choose from especially for children, the lounge has lovely big sofas and there are even board games to keep the little ones entertained.

A lovely cuppa?
Hobbs House Bakery in Nailsworth can always be relied on for the most delicious treats, I love bread and real butter and fell in love with their soda seeds loaf after being given a bread box as a new baby gift. Above the bakery there is a cafe by day and bistro by night, serving thoughtfully simple dishes that showcase the finest local ingredients. 

Hidden gem? 
The Ethicurean restaurant is amazing, serving entirely seasonal and ethical food, which is mainly sourced from their most beautiful walled kitchen garden that Peter Rabbit would die for! I'm still thinking about the heritage tomato and ewe’s curd salad I had in September it was that delicious!

Breakfast? 
The Bertinet Bakery in Bath has a small cafe with toasters on the tables, we love this novelty and order their buckets of bread and tea loaves to toast which we lavishly spread with butter and jam, before buying chocolate croissants to take home too! 

Cheeky cocktail? 
In spring my local hedgerows burst with the white umbellifer blooms of the elder tree, each year we pick the flowers on a hot sunny day (making sure we don't strip the tree and leave some for wildlife) and turn it into elderflower cordial and champagne! 

Comfort food? 
A Winstones Ice Cream of course! Like so many locals we swarm to the small factory on Rodborough Common on sunny days to sample this delicious organic ice cream made with milk from the cows that freely graze the common.

With friends? 
I had a lovely meal out with friends at The Tavern in Cheltenham recently; they use seasonal and local ingredients and serve retro British/US style food. I ordered the most delicious 12-hour marinated steak in a brioche bun with shoestring fries, I also love the decor and friendly staff. 

Romantic dinner? 
The amazing Giffords Circus tours village greens around the Cotswolds' every summer with a vintage inspired show. After the evening performance you can dine with the performers in the Circus Sauce Restaurant tent, which has the tiniest kitchen housed in a showman's waggon. The food is locally sourced and delicious and makes you want to run away with this enchanting circus troupe as you dine under the romantic twinkly circus lights. 

The places that didn't fit in! 
The Canteen, Nailsworth - the boys love this relaxed cafe on the side of the fab vintage shop Domestic Science. Hot Pepper Jelly, a cafe by day and bring your own booze restaurant in the evening in Suffolk Road, Cheltenham. Stroud Farmers' Market - award winning market, always buzzing and busy, expect to queue for the best cider from Days Cottage, vegetables, eggs and cheese. Star Anise vegetarian cafe in Stroud does great croissants and Fat Toni's pizza also in Stroud is amazing with sour dough bases and great toppings to choose from. 

Address book...
The Black Horse, Cranham www.theblackhorsecranham.co.uk
Giffords Circus tours the Cotswolds' from May - September www.giffordscircus.com
Laurie Lee Centenary Celebrations www.laurielee.org
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust Swift's Hill and Laurie Lee nature reserves www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk 
The Tavern, Cheltenham www.thetaverncheltenham.com
The Woolpack, Slad 01452 813429
The Little Green Wiggly Machine www.thewigglyworm.org.uk
Hobbs House Bakery, George Street, Nailsworth 01453 839396 www.hobbshousebakery.co.uk
Winstones Ice Cream, Rodborough Common, Stroud www.winstonesicecream.co.uk
The Ethicurean, Wrington, www.theethicurean.com
Bertinet Bakery, New Bond Street Place, Bath www.bertinet.com/bertinetbakery/bakery.php
Cowley Manor, near Cheltenham www.cowleymanor.com
The Daffodil Restaurant www.thedaffodil.com

Sunday, 12 January 2014

a quiet corner of my own



My beloved leather chair was just not holding up to the battering of three boys in the lounge, so I've had to move it to my bedroom in order to save it! It needs re-upholstering but I haven't got a clue about going about that, so will continue to preserve its modesty by hiding the bald patches with my favourite blanket knitted by my grandma, with all the odds and ends she had left over.


The cushion was embroidered by my mum in the 70's and as a child of the 80's I didn't used to be that keen on it, but now I love it, her stitch work is amazing!


An old wooden box found in the garage and mounted on the wall is now my bedside table as the chair takes up so much space. It houses a few of my favourite books and a shell trinket box that I bought with my pocket money when I was six from a shell shop in South Wales.



I have commandeered the clamp lamp that I'd originally bought for the boys bunk bed, but I think looks better here! It was from the Plumo sale a few months back.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

the 52 loaves project...

the big boys teaching their little brother how to knead!

For years I have tried and failed to bake a loaf of bread. For those of you that can bake bread, you wonder what an earth I could do so wrong? But each and every time I've attempted a loaf I have produced a wonderfully heavy brick much to my husbands amusement. On Instagram I noticed that Lou had made her new year's resolution to bake a weekly loaf, this is it I thought, my chance to be rid of my bread baking demons and join in. So last night the boys and I rolled up our sleeves and attempted our first family loaf.

We chose the Baker Brothers simple white tin loaf, the first recipe in their book and basic enough for our tentative start! I plundered the cupboards for some Shipton Mill finest white bread flour that I had left over from my last disastrous bread baking attempt, and realising I didn't quite have enough for the recipe, supplemented it with 100g of Wessex Mill half and half flour! Both originally purchased on a bread baking whim.

The boys helped me out measuring and arguing over who did what, although they all enjoyed the kneading bit. The bread didn't rise as much as I expected, so we left it over night. I wonder if the yeast was too old (must check the sell-by date!) or whether we actually didn't knead long or well enough? Or if our kitchen was warm enough, anyway, we baked the loaf for breakfast this morning and it was edible! It was a little salty (note to self: watch the children measuring things out!) and a little 'cakey' as it hadn't risen as much as it should BUT, and I repeat, it was edible!


Bread baking demons be gone! I'm going to try the recipe again next week, to see if we can improve, but I can't tell you how smug I felt sat down eating our own bread for breakfast, straight from the oven. I predict Hobbs House bakery sales will now plummet as a result!

Monday, 6 January 2014

plaits


I just pinned these two images on Pinterest and thought how lovely they looked next to each other. The beautiful plait picture is from here and the wool picture is from Ravelry. I do love a plait don't you?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Making bird seed feeders



The weather is truly awful here strong winds and heavy rain, we haven't braved a trip outdoors today! Instead we've been thinking of the poor blackbirds that we usually see in our garden who must be struggling in this weather. We decided to make them bird seed feeders from some coconuts that the eldest boy won at the school Christmas fair. They are simple to make but need tools and adult supervision.

You will need: 
Coconuts
String
Saw
Drill
Lard (one packet)
Mixed bird seed
Oatmeal & raisins (optional)
and a lot of patience depending how many children you have!


Simply melt the lard over a low heat, removing as soon as melted and add your mixed bird seed, making sure the lard coats the mixture as it needs to set hard.


We then drilled holes to release the coconut milk and daddy sawed the coconuts in half.


We added oatmeal (uncooked) and raisins to our mixture as an extra treat for the birds. We tied string through the hole in the coconut to hang it up and filled it with the mixture, leaving to set in a cool place before hanging them up outside.


We are now just waiting for the birds to arrive!
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