Friday, 18 July 2014

It is better to GIVE than to receive...

I genuinely believe in this saying.  This and 'Never let the sun go down on an argument...' (which was one my late Father lived by too).

Anyhow, there have been lots of opportunity to truly live this rather than passively believe over the past few weeks.  Things have been a little strange in the lead up to summer holidays in our home.  Sadly, both my children are experiencing the wrath of other children at school presently and if I'm truly honest, I've found my own anxiety creeping up as a result.  It is such a difficult path to tread I think - between trying to intervene at school and ensure this behaviour does not spiral into sustained bullying and that of needing to help my Littlie's toughen up, grow emotionally and build some exposure to different experiences and how to deal with them. A hard lesson for both child and parent I think.  All I can say is roll on the next week til the holidays start - I think everyone is more than ready for them!

Anyway, I digress; opportunities for giving:

# Baby Shower - my friend is about to have her third child - it's very exciting as she is one of my closest friends.  The baby shower was actually cancelled as she just felt it was too much so close to the birth but I had already made my token:


It's only a fruit cake, iced and decorated with sugar icing daisy and buttons but it was really lovely to create - from having the idea to baking it and decorating it.  I chose to mix up yellow icing in different shades as they are having a 'surprise' and buttons - because baby will be 'cute as a button'.  She lives close by and my Littlie's delivered it to the door at tea time on Sunday - another surprise.  Yep, the delight of giving.

I have another gift that I've crafted for baby but I'll share that once he or she has arrived!!

# Fundraiser - another dear friend is living through her father-in-law's health deteriorating through terminal cancer.  A fundraiser for the oncology department and local hospice was held this week and I donated this:


Made at the same time as the above and it was not expected by the larger family - which made it all the sweeter to give.  Of course I donated monetarily but giving something made by myself felt like I could help in a more personal way - no matter how minuscule.

# Food Bank Donations - TESCO recently had an initiative where they would give 30% on top of all food donated to the Tressle Trust during a specific time-frame.  We couldn't give a lot but a couple of tins of beans and tinned tomatoes isn't going to blow the bank balance.  I do sometimes feel conflicted over the issue of food banks - the media does play a part in villainising certain elements of society on benefits but many donations are given to working families living below the breadline too.  Regardless of my political standing, I think if a child can have a full tummy to go to sleep as a result of donations like mine then I've played a small part in something positive.


# Time - in this time of financial restriction one thing that I choose to GiVE is my time.  There are many examples of this - largely at the local school which I find immensely rewarding.  For the past couple years I've run an art club each week for 10 children on rotation (plus my own 2) each term at the local primary school.  I've enjoyed this immensely - satisfying my own need to be purposeful whilst sharing my enjoyment of crafts and children.  The end of this school year will mark the end of this period of volunteering and it will mark the end of an era.  I've enjoyed playing a part in helping other children experience a wide range of crafting activities they wouldn't otherwise do and giving my time in this way has had a positive impact on all involved.


I do enjoy giving... why?  I LoVE to consider something that will be meaningful to someone, observe the recipient's reaction to their gift and often their sheer surprise just gives me a warm glow.  I don't have a lot of material / financial stuff at my disposal to give but I am a good listener, a good, loyal friend and if I can help someone through something or raise their spirits then I will do.  I do also think that being aware of our wider social environment can help us gain perspective on challenges in our own lives and the struggles that others may go through too.

So, do you have any sayings that you live by?

Take care until next time; I will be popping in sporadically over the next 6 weeks, as and when I get a bit of time.  I shall have a wonderful time in September catching up on your lovely blogs in more detail!  I shall however continue to read any comments you may care to send me and will try to pop by and provide little updates here - but the free time I have will be markedly reduced - I can't wait for the school holidays to begin!!

J9 x

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

A Non Essential Need

We fully embrace a simple life in our household.  We have simple needs and live relatively frugal lives.  In the main...

I have however been seduced by a non essential need... one was a spontaneous case of the incredible wantie's.  Jooles of Sew Sweet Violet - one of the earliest most beautifully creative blogs that I followed, is a very talented lady.  When she posted here about her designs of bunting I knew we had to give the Tilda teal and pink set a home!!!


The quality of stitching is fabulous and I do so love her choice of fabrics.  Once they arrived they were so stunning and I had the perfect place in mind for them in my new kitchen!  I could picture the bunting in my minds eye before our extension took shape and I actually ordered a second identical length to adorn my new kitchen walls.


They fit the space perfectly and I am thrilled with how they look now I've finally put them up in their fated 'home' (the walls had to be built and painted first hence the delay!).  Thank you lovely Jooles for your crafty skills - it is always a delight to receive a beautifully wrapped, purple package from you!


And the second, was a need born out of my productivity of the crochet kind.  You are probably aware that the wonderful Lucy has joined up with the Wool Warehouse.  I confess I took a look and it prompted me to purchase one set- the colours available were far wider than I currently have access to - so some wonderfully colourful yarn made it's way to our home.

Oooo the potential crochet loveliness...

Photo courtesy of Wool Warehouse
Both of these purchases have brought me such happiness and will continue to do so - one because it adorns my kitchen and brings colour to my days.  The other, because I shall enjoy the endless combinations and crochet creations I can make over the coming months.  Plus I have to say - both provided admirably quick service.

Who said the buzz from retail therapy was short lived?! Hee hee!
Have you made any non essential purchases lately?

J9 x

Friday, 4 July 2014

Friday Happies

::  Enjoying the Unexpected Spectacle of Dragon boat Racing


Last weekend we met the Hubbie's bro and family at Coate Water Park in Swindon.  It has become a regular meeting point for us and has lots to amuse.  On this occasion, we chose not to take the wheelchair and so sat on a clear area of grass by the reservoir - just a short distance from the disabled parking.  We were not aware that the annual event of Dragon Boat racing was taking place.  It was a really pleasant surprise and although it meant the area was lots busier, we all really enjoyed watching the steady stream of boats race in pairs in this beautiful location.


It was lovely to sit together, catch up, play ball and enjoy being together - with the added bonus of the dragon boats racing.  We all enjoyed watching the boats race, the swans, geese and coots swim - whilst we picnic'd and relaxed.

::  My Littlie's Sitting Quietly...  Feeding birds from their hands.


At the reservoir you can buy small cups of grain for 50p.  We bought two cups full and the children passed a blissfully happy time feeding the bigger birds.  They were bold enough to feed the geese up close and then tempted the pigeons to feed from their hands.  This brought so much pleasure I cannot even begin to express it!!  Little Lady especially was in raptures.  A simple pleasure indeed.

::  Admiring the stunning abundance of Marine Life in our Wonderful World


Little Man's choice of birthday treat was to go to the aquarium.  He is the child that will be staring at the tank long after all the other children have moved on (including his sister).  He gets so much enjoyment from learning about and watching creatures of all kinds but has a special fascination with marine life.  We have a passion in common here and it is a really positive experience for both of us to bond over this shared love.  I have always been in awe of the range of colour, shape and sheer variety of the 'hidden' life in our oceans.  Little Man shares this enthusiasm and it was wonderful to enjoy this experience with him.

::  Feeling Blessed in the Sun's Warm Rays:


The sun continues to shine in our part of the world.  We are not used to such long spells of sunshine in the UK and are so very grateful to wake up to the sun shining each morning.  Lots of water play taking place to help us stay cool and this photo shows Little Man warming up after about an hours play in freezing cold water.  He is such a chilled dude.  The care free nature of childhood eh?!  

Happy weekend folks!  I hope there are many happy moments for you to enjoy in the coming days.

J9 x
Today I'm inspired by Gillian to share my Friday Happies!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Glorious Bake

No... I'm not talking about the wonderful weeks of sunshine we've been experiencing in many parts of the UK at present!  I'm talking about baking cakes, bread, puddings... opportunities for yumminess.

I thought I'd share some of the naughty bakes created and eaten in our home over the past month.  I try to use half fat butter / margarine to try to reduce the calory content but a little bit of what you fancy and all that!
Quite often my bakes are spontaneous.  We have a larder cupboard which is stocked with essentials meaning I can bake on a whim.  Lately this has been pudding requests...  more commonly at present these are being eaten later in the evening as supper.  This trend has started due to requests for specific 'fancies' during an evening family meal or because bruised fruit has been brought home uneaten in a lunch box - and I do so hate waste.

We've had upside down pineapple sponge - delicious while warm with either ice cream or custard.


This is simply made: sliced ripe pineapple laid out in a single layer covering the bottom of a shallow sponge tin and then covered in plain sponge batter.  This took literally 15 minutes to bake from start to finish - 10 minutes of which was cooking time.

Another 'after main meal make' was this ripe banana chocolate sponge - made with two rather battered bananas and an all in one chocolate sponge mix.


On Father's Day I made some rather lovely balsamic vinegar and sweet tomato bread rolls...









...and some delicious lemon drizzle cake! These were presented on Father's Day over lunch when we had 'high tea' - with tea pot and posh plates!!

I do love it how the children are picking up on the experience of having afternoon tea.  It's not a hurried rush at the table but a slower paced munch and chat... and with family, tea and cake - in my view these are the best times!











Little Lady can weigh / measure, mix and bake a cake independently now.  This week over tea the request for chocolate cake was made and I had to say 'no' and explained it was to do with my pain levels but I would make one the next day.  Little Lady promptly volunteered her services and rather than quash her enthusiasm I showed her the cupboard and sat watching her from the kitchen table.  Awesome.

Once cooled we melted some chocolate and sprinkled some edible silver stars on top.  A very tasty, freshly made pudding.

I bought some marvelous silicone guards for the racks in the oven (because I was constantly burning my fore arms as I put cakes in and out of the oven on the metal racks and the addition of these guards has markedly improved my pleasure (and safety) in baking as I don't have blistered burns any more!  If you are a little rushed or a clumsy cook I would highly recommend them.

I'm trying hard to reduce my weight and have been attending Slimming World for 6 months or so.  I struggle with maintaining a lower weight with limited exercise but I have to admit that fresh cake doesn't help!  I can mainly resist but I did participate fully in Little Lady's chocolate cake and in our Father's Day celebration.  Ooops.  I'm in it for the long haul this time though - I've accepted that I do comfort eat and attending a group where I have to weigh is the way I can control these tendencies.  

Although these 'ad hoc' cakes often don't look too pretty - and they are NEVER complicated recipes (I prefer the 'shove it all in a bowl and mix' effort) I always like to present them on nice china.  I get real pleasure from using my charity shop finds in our everyday life rather than saving for best.  It definitely adds to the experience for me - and as the children are now reaching for certain plates when laying up it seems to add to it for them too.

Please don't think that cake is all we eat ;0)  Overall we have a healthy diet with an occasional homemade treat at tea time.  The added bonus being homemade of course is that the cakes have no preservatives in!

I've taken the odd shot of home cooked evening meals but food is really hard to photograph with a point and shoot camera.  I really have a desire for a new camera...  hey ho.  I'll make do with a cup of tea and very small slice of cake for now!!

Until next time,
J9 x

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Lego Batman Cake for the Birthday Boy

My Little Man celebrated his seventh birthday this week.  He's not so little anymore...  He is growing into a fabulous young man - kind, gentle, happy and content.  He enjoys school - maths especially and of course, LoVEs playing with his friends.  He is our blonde, blue eyed, easy going, fun-to-be with, super chilled boy who is learning to assert his will on his very strong willed sister.  So much personality development and growth during his sixth year - who knows what his seventh year will bring!


In late September he started playing football for a local team and has developed so much in skill and confidence over this time.  He has been awarded Man of the Match three times during these months and made lots of friends.


The toy of choice at present is Lego and we take some everywhere we go - he even plays with it in the bath.  He adores outdoor play of all kinds especially those involving a ball.  He has above average hand eye coordination meaning he is so fun to play tennis or catch with!  As you may guess, I'm super proud of him - just watching him, seeing life through his eyes and spending time with him brings me so much happiness.

OK Proud mother's 'Birthday Gush' over...

Regular followers of this blog may remember that birthday cakes are made into a bit of an event in our house.  The children pretty much choose their next birthday cake subject the day after their birthday - and of course this may change a number of times over the ensuing year!  I learn a little bit more about sugar craft at each attempted cake but am certainly no professional.

This year 'Lego Batman' was Little Man's request and the grand unveiling is really something they look forward to.  I started by making a basic 'all in one' sponge batter (scaled up using 10 eggs!) and baked them in two large roasting tins. Once cooled I stacked the two cakes (using butter icing as the glue) and then cut to shape. Once I was happy with the shape I butter iced them and then used royal icing (which I'd dyed to the relevant colours) to add Batman's suit and shape his detail.


I'm pleased with the result - but don't think it's my best effort.  It's really large and I don't work well on this scale...I think the board is around 60cm long to give you an idea.  Plus Lego is typically very angular and I don't have the appropriate equipment to shape successfully which is a little frustrating.  I'm thinking I'm going to buy a flat sugar icing moulding tool, which would give a better / smoother finish in future.


The important thing is that Little Man LoVED it!!  Bless him.  We did a number of rounds of blowing out candles - his sister has a go too.  So much happiness from little wax sticks!!


I can't believe how quickly time passes.  Childhood is such a precious time I do sometimes wish I could press pause and slow its progress.  I love being a mother and at these milestones I try to create opportunities for lasting memories for us all.  I hope Little Man's lasting memory of his childhood is not of the stuff but of the games played, food enjoyed and his special cakes.  Because into each cake sculpture I pour so much LoVE. With each layer of sponge or icing detail added I hope the effort shows how much I care... if not now, then at some point in the future.





As each birthday passes I like to reflect on previous birthday cake posts and take comfort from the rhythmic nature of our lives.  It also helps to remember how much the children enjoy their special cakes - primarily when late on the eve of his birthday the cake was still unfinished!!

But the effort is worth it.  Especially when you're greeted with a beaming smile like his...


Take care for now,
J9 x

Delighted to be joining in with Inspire Me Tuesday

Sunday, 22 June 2014

May Half Term Catch Up

A crazy 3 whole weeks have passed since the children had a week long holiday from school - and the Hubby had some well deserved holiday from work.  Time is currently flying by - maybe it's the weather raising the spirits or enabling us to live each day fully?  But we certainly managed to pack a lot into that week.





The Hubby, kids and Grandpa took a trip to Wembley to watch the Queens Park Rangers (QPR) v Derby Play off Finals.  This was a huge deal for the men as avid QPR fans and the kids really enjoyed the pre-match excitement of getting dressed, kitted up and the journey.  I painted their faces to add to the sense of occasion.
Gladly they won - which made the experience for the children.  Free QPR flags were on each seat and so the children were delighted to wave them and chant!  Their first trip on the underground too.


After a short rest and repack at home, we then journeyed on to Cornwall to stay with my Mum and visit my siblings / cousins and those truly fantastic beaches.  This was a lovely relaxed time - the weather was very kind which always helps.


We went to Gyllanvese again - a popular choice for our family and my sister's - a good all rounder; shells, surf, sand, volley ball and great rock pools!  We arrived at 11 and didn't leave until 6!  It was a fantastic day with so much activity out at sea to watch.  We found out later this was due to the Fal River Festival - but we simply enjoyed watching the numerous, stunning yachts, sail boats and trawlers moving across the waves.


We're always a little reluctant to leave my childhood home.  The children adore my mum's village park and are very close to her partly because we see her quite often despite the miles between us - and partly because my Mum played such a huge part in their care whilst I was recovering post accident.  I love their relationship and it brings me great joy to see them spending quality time together.

There are four weeks left now until the children break up for the school summer holidays in our area.  I literally cannot wait - I do so love the summer hols.  I have to take time to restore my health in the meantime so that I can manage over those weeks but it is so worth it!  Little Man celebrates his seventh birthday this week so I'll pop in next week to share his birthday cake requests!!

Hope you have a happy weekend,
J9 x

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Pastel Prettiness

I have spent the last few weeks in my home, pottering, rearranging, resting in order to help my body recover from over exuberance which I am no longer physically capable of.  I had succumbed to trying to please others, reverted to trying to do more and said "Yes" lots, which meant I overdid things and there were dire physical consequences.  As a result, other than the school run during each day I have been trying to simply enjoy and love my home.






On Monday I cleared my dresser of its contents and selected different items from my cupboards.  I polished the shelves and slowly chose different items for display. The tones soon took the shape of pastel prettiness. I love these shades and in rummaging through the cupboard shelves for appropriate items I was amazed at how many pieces were of this pastel palette (charity shop finds mainly).








I do enjoy looking around different rooms to find suitable items and 're-finding' treasures that have been housed in cupboards out of sight for storage.  To take them from the cupboards, touch them, remember and enjoy their shape or pattern.  These treasures may have memories attached to them - the pink wooden love heart was given for mothers day last year, this cup and saucer was my mothers and Little Lady made the bird too.





I stacked some of my beloved cake stands (all charity shop finds) to create height in the display (and also because they are just pretty!!)  I arranged some paua shells which we found on a beach in New Zealand on a fantastic holiday myself and the Hubby had pre children in the top stand.  In the next I added selections of sea glass and worn pottery pieces found across beaches in Cornwall and my 'rock heart' (which the Hubby found on Dawlish beach and gave me when we were dating 18 years ago - when we were 18!!)










I do enjoy using an eclectic mix of items - natural beach finds, vintage, treasured gifts, artwork... the possibilities are endless.    
There was an extra crochet bee left over from my crochet mobile project - a little smaller than the others produced and I think it looks pretty buzzing around at the top of the dresser!  



The little pewter fairy pot in the right of this photo was a birthday present from my lovely mum years ago.  All these treasures give me so much pleasure - their sentimental value is immeasurable and I really enjoyed allowing myself to take the time to immerse myself completely in a bit of home loving.





I do really love this area of my home.  You may remember both the dresser and the table and chairs in the foreground of this photo are both charity shop finds which I've 'done up'.  I haven't been to a charity shop since before Christmas (money and overload of 'stuff' meant I chose abstinence) but I have really enjoyed 'shopping' around my home and gathering treasured items together.


I realised that in writing about this I still haven't shared my finished kitchen - the extension that was completed at the end of last year.  I feel that this project has only recently been finished off - shelves added and the homely, individuality has taken shape. That's a post I'll write soon - I promise!!




Enjoy the rest of your week!
J9 x