30 June 2016

June in Photos

So June, you have passed in a blur.  A blur of wonderful weather and lots of time outside.  It is the month of our favourite home ed camp, to celebrate the summer solstice, a highlight of our year.  I have once again joined in the Photo Scavenger Hunt hosted by Hawthorn Spellweaver so here are my photos inspired by words and words inspired by photos for June.

Stone


I already mentioned that we attend a get together to celebrate the summer solstice, it is a wonderful time surrounded by friends in the beautiful countryside.  We are always blessed with the weather.  On the afternoon of the longest day we always have a small ceremony at a small stone circle sited in the woods close to where we camp.  In the middle we create a small altar which is the centre point of our circle.

View


A little further on from the stone circle, a short walk through the woods takes you to a stunning view of the sea.  I could never tire of this view which changes throughout the day as the tide changes.  As you come out the dappled sunlight of the wood the world suddenly brightens and the colours change completely.  This photo was taken in the late evening light.  It is a truly special place.

Sky


It is rare, in these parts, for the sky to be completely void of clouds.  The hilly nature of the terrain around here ensure that they are nearly always a feature.  It is possible to forecast the weather from the cloud types, a skill that Cameron has learnt through a recently project on the weather.  Clouds may, sometimes, bring rain but they also give you the most amazing sunsets.

Trees



I could spend all day in and amongst the trees.  I have so many pictures that it was hard to choose which one.  In the end I chose one of the area of wood just above where my tent was pitched for our summer solstice camp.  It is the place I go to mediate in the early morning, a place to watch the beauty of the sea, to listen to the birds singing, to gain some peace and quiet in the hustle and bustle of camp.

Water


I have alluded to the sea a few times all ready, so it just had to have a picture for this category.  This is the view from my place of meditation.

Dwelling 



A place of marvel, a wonder of nature.   This was once the home to a wasp.  It lays its egg in the the fresh buds of our native oak trees.  The grub releases chemicals which causes the leaf bud to distort in shape resulting in a round green gall with a central chamber housing the grub.  Not only does it release chemicals to get the tree to build it a house it also does so to get the tree to divert nutrients for it to feed on.  By August the chamber has become more brown in colour and come the autumn it will most likely be empty, if it hasn't been opened and eaten by a predator, with a small hole from which the adult wasp has emerged.  The adults are < 2mm in length.  Next time you pass an Oak Tree look out for them, the Oak Marble Gall.

Garden



My garden is lush and fertile this year thanks to the wonderful weather we have been blessed with.  After the cold, cold summer of last year my garden looks like a completely different place.  Everything I have sown has germinated and grown into strong seedlings and in some cases good small plants.  These are my bean seedlings waiting to be planted out, they are sat patiently waiting on our wormery.  I just need to make some space for them!  I hope I continue to be blessed with good weather and haven't just tempted fate by raving about how good it has been.......

Gate



Back in April I featured a photo from my favourite local woods, a place steeped in memories for me and, I should think, a good many other people.  There are so many features about this wood that I love in particular this gate.  It is in full working order and engineered to open both ways, it serves no purpose at all as the fence boundary is long gone most likely removed as part of metal collections during WWII.  I remember the first time I came across it and wondered who might have used it, how many hands have touched it, where they were going and why.  I still ponder this each time I walk past it.  The eagle eyed will note that this photo was not taken this month!


Leaf



When we first started to create our garden I wanted it to be full of either edible or interesting and unusual plants.  I forget where I discovered this particular plant, Actinidia kolomikta, but I loved that the leaves changed colour in the sun.  We planted it about twelve years ago and it is now a lovely mature plant covering the trellis it was planted by.  It provides a good shelter for the bird box attached to the back of the trellis.  Our climate means that in some summers the foliage remains a resolute green, but this summer it is a blaze of colour greens, whites and pinks.

Flower (my choice of category)



I just love these flowers, Orange Hawkweed, that have taken up residence in my garden.  I have no idea how they arrived but they are a most welcome visitor which seems to be thriving.  I love that they flower in groups and the heads open up in the sun and close when it is wet or at sunset.

So now we head into July.  A month for a family holiday which means I will be offline for a week or so at the beginning of the month.  I will catch up with you all on my return.  I am hoping to schedule some blog posts to publish whilst I am away, time permitting.........

Looking forward to all that July as to bring, including the photo prompts!

24 June 2016

In My Kitchen



I love to cook, good food is really important to me.  If you are anything like me you spend a large amount of your life in the kitchen preparing good nourishing food to eat, so this is what has been going on in my kitchen this month.  If you would like to join in you would be most welcome, leave a link in the comments section.

June has been a full month, days full of mostly being outside enjoying the sunshine.  We have eaten so many meals outside either at home or whilst out and about.  It has been mostly about salads with the odd warmer meal thrown in the mix for those, rare, cooler days.  This post is a little later this month, we were away for our annual summer solstice camp and I completely failed to factor in writing a blog post before we went away.  Better late than never!


I rekindled my love for an old recipe book on my shelves this month.  It is one of those books which rarely fails to let me down.  I discovered a section on breads that I hadn't previously noticed.  The recipes are a mix of yeasted and batter breads, the latter being more like a savoury cake.  I tried two.  A savoury nut and a cottage cheese and dill.  The picture is the nut bread which was definitely the better of the two, I have made it twice this month and we have eaten it with salads, hummus and bean spreads.  I am going to try freezing it next time I make some as it makes a big loaf which hasn't been keeping in the heat we have had, the birds enjoyed it too!


Sometimes digging through old recipe books for new ideas can remind me of favourites that I have forgotten.  So carrot pie made it back on to our menus this month, a pie that looks dramatic, tastes wonderful and is really easy to make.  It has a pastry base and a filling of cooked onion and carrot mixed with cream and cheddar cheese, egg and herbs which you cook for 45 minutes.  It is delicious hot or cold and I just love the way it looks when you cut into it.


We celebrated a birthday in our house this month.  Alice turned seven.  She told me exactly what she wanted to do on the day, including the guests she wanted to invite and the food she wanted to eat.  Her chosen guests meant that the menu had to be gluten, egg and dairy free so my usual birthday cake was out as were all the recipes in my recipe books.  The result was a vegan cake which was incredibly rich, fed all the party guests and kept us going in cake for nearly a week afterwards!  I used this recipe which looks nothing like mine (I don't think my blueberries were the right variety to give such a purple shade to the top layer) it didn't suggest what size of tin to assemble all the ingredients in but clearly I used something much bigger.  However given the richness I think this size was perfect.  We ate lots of salads before the cake, beetroot and feta, chickpea, red rice and a green one accompanied by lots of potato wedgies.  It all got eaten a sure sign that I got it right.

One thing about being busy is that you forget to take photos so I don't have any more to share.  Courgettes are back in our veg bag now and we have been enjoying a courgette and cheese bake and lots of delicious salads.  The asparagus season lasted a long time this year and we have been eating the salad I shared last month every week, I could never tire of it.  We have tried a butter bean and brie salad, a new to us mixed bean salad and lots of salads made with whatever is in the fridge and the garden.  I have started to cook a curry each week which has introduced us to some more new recipes all of which have been delicious.

I have had quite a few conversations about meal planning recently, it is something that I have done for a number of years now.  I am not evangelical about it as I know that it doesn't work for everyone however it does save money and time and I am sure it could help to reduce food waste if more people did it.   Planning means that when I have the time and feel inclined I peruse my recipe books looking for new ideas for meals.  When time is precious and I am tired then I throw together a menu of old favourites the list of which is always increasing!  Are you a meal planner?

I am not going to share a recipe with you this month, I hope you are ok with that.  I will be back in July with hopefully a few more pictures and a recipe for share.  In the meantime I need to go off and do the weekly shop.  What have you been cooking lately?

15 June 2016

Resting and Recharging










A week or so ago we had a bank holiday weekend here in the UK.  What that means is that we get to have Daddy at home for an extra day.  Now I don't know about you but often I get to the weekend and I want/need a rest and time to catch up with all the jobs around the house that I don't have time for during the week.  Saturdays start with gymnastics in our local town which seems to make the morning disappear in a flash, the afternoon seems to end before it has started and before you know it is Sunday night, my list of jobs is done and we are on the cusp of a new week.  Whilst I need weekends like that to keep on top of things it is good to occasionally to put the chores aside and do something completely different.

I know that everyone will have their own idea about what they would do to have a rest and recharge but for me it has to involve the whole family, be outside and away from our house.  It is all to easy when you are at home to be distracted by the wafting dust, the ironing pile or the sewing lurking on a chair, all things that I need and (sometimes) love to do but not all the time!  Doing something completely different is a good change.  When we saw that the bank holiday weekend was forecast to hot, sunny and dry we knew that we had to go bivving somewhere. The children, when asked, opted to canoe rather than walk, so canoeing it was.  The weather forecast was right it was wall to wall sunshine and the winds were light making canoeing a dream.  Despite the busy car parks once on the lake it was much quieter, there are a few hot spots where people congregate, but we mostly had the lake to ourselves.  This is somewhere we have camped over night before, so after pootling up and down the lake we went to our favourite spot to set up camp.

Life is pared back to the simple.  Gathering wood for a fire, collecting water for cooking and drinking, cooking and eating simple food.  There is time to stop, to watch and soak up what is going on around you.  Each time I went up stream to get water I paused to watch and listen to the birds, mostly listening as the leaves provide the perfect cover.  On one occasion I went back to 'camp' for our binoculars and Cameron as I could see a bird flitting about but couldn't be sure what it was.  We woke to sunshine streaming into the shelter and the soft slap of an early morning swimmer, despite the early hour we got up to soak up the beautiful morning, Alice and my husband took a dip whilst I cooked date porridge and sipped my cup of tea.

Arriving home later we all had a skip in our step and finished the three day weekend with lots of jobs completed and feeling happy and most definitely recharged.  What is your favourite thing to do to put the bounce back in your step?

08 June 2016

The sun is shining......





....and whatever people say about the weather, when the sun shines all is good. It makes you smile, puts a bounce in your step and lightens your load however heavy it is. A sunny winter day is so much easier than a dull grey day, but sun in the late Spring/Summer is the icing on the cake.  Getting out of the house is so much easier when you don't need loads of layers to stay warm, although there is a pile of other bits you just need to take with you isn't there!

We British are good at weather, talking about it is one our nation's pastimes we are never short of topics as it is so very unpredictable (climate change notwithstanding).  Last summer was cool, very cool.  I wore tights, the thick winter kind, most of the season.  The cool summer was followed by a beautiful autumn a welcome change and then followed by an extremely wet winter.  I do live in a part of the country that experiences cooler temperatures as the norm but seeing the sky and the sun occasionally makes the grey days more bearable.

These past few weeks have been wonderful, surpassing all my expectations, most of May and all of June has been wall to wall sunshine. we have had temperatures higher than parts of of the UK south of us which is exceptional!  We are loving it and making the most of it.  Our village pool has reopened and we have finally managed to make use of it a couple of weeks after it opened.  We have had some wonderful walks, nature days and I discovered that the UK Wildlife Trusts were doing a fun initiative 30 Days Wild for the month of June which I thought it would be fun to sign up for.  It doesn't require you to go on long walks everyday but to find your own way to connect with the 'wild' that is all around you.

I thought it would be fun to try a see what happens approach, so far we have watched the Blue Tits going in and out our nest box, seen House Sparrows mating, done a hedge transect, paddled in a stream, swum in a lake, had lunch outside everyday and watched a spider descending down a line.

The weather is forecast to be hot and sunny for the rest of the month, so I am told, I for one am not complaining......

What about June where you are?

02 June 2016

Seven






Last week we celebrated the end of Alice's seventh year around the sun, a year packed with adventure and lots of unexpected happenings too.  She wanted a party this year, last year we went camping as a family, and a few weeks before her birthday told me who we were to invite, it was a lengthy list six friends plus siblings we had fourteen extra people in our little house.  It was the perfect occasion and it never felt that there were that many people around even when we squashed round the table for lunch. Luckily the rain that was forecast never arrived so much time was spent outdoors.

Like all the years in a child's life it has been one of big changes, it has felt to me like a transition time, a time when she is on the cusp between one world and another.  These words, Alice, are for you.

You started the year not really knowing your numbers or any of your letters, you were frustrated by your, as you saw it, lack of drawing skills comparing yourself to yourself to Cameron who has a few years head start on you.  Your preference was to play with one child at a time, you didn't like to play in big groups of children although you loved attending our groups you wanted one on one play even there.  You were starting to look to me for help with your learning which caught me on the hop as Cameron was much older.

You mastered those numbers, slowly at first getting those dreaded teens wrong, they the wrong way round according to you and elevens and twelves those daft numbers that follow no logic were a little behind them.  But as I got the measure of how you learn, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your patience, you mastered them, more than mastered them you were manipulating them within a few short weeks in ways that I would never have expected.  It was a time that make me glad I had paused for thought when considering your education a few years earlier, school a greater possibility than for Cameron.

Excited by your number learning you wanted to try the letters too so we got started.  I could soon see you were not ready and we quietly put that to rest until a few weeks ago when you started asking again, the time feels right now.  I have created a entirely new project for us both to share and you are loving it, excited each day we work on it.

You haven't given up on that drawing, I am so glad, you have found your own style and tackle everything and anything without hesitation.  I have always admired your tenacity you came close to giving up but I am so glad you didn't.

I love that when we are sharing books together you ask so many questions relating to the story.  In fact your questions have taken on a new level, enquiry is at the heart of them.  You are trying to make sense of the big wide world out there, with slow steps.  I am here my love to hold your hand wherever it takes you.

You have made lots of new friends this year.  Your best friend is the one you made first, one that I hope you are in touch with for many years and decades to come.  You are both strong willed characters but you could play for hours and hours together and do, happily.  You are both sad when you part.  We started attending a new group, to us, just over a year ago so that we could meet children your age.  You made one friend early on who you played with every week we were both there but you struggled when she wasn't.  She wanted to join others and play in a group, you weren't sure.  You were unsure how that kind of play worked, but you have got it sussed and now you have the confidence to join other groups of children at play even when you don't know them all.

You are moving away from me ever more.  You have spent whole days at friends houses and two nights away from me on sleepovers.  I thought it would a few more years before that happened but you have been so happy (and tired) when you returned that I know that you have really enjoyed yourself.

You are my outdoor child.  You would spend each and every day outside all year round, this is one of the few bits of you that is like me.  We have camped so much this year an activity which always makes you so happy.  You especially loved our wild camping when we walked miles carrying everything we needed, your little legs taking you where we needed to be and loving every minute of it.  You are so much more grounded and happy when you have had time outside.

And then right in the middle of your year round the sun you got ill, really ill.  You are a healthy soul, bouncing back from any illness quickly most lasting no more than 36 hours.  You rarely pick up coughs and colds.  This was different and knocked you and me sideways.  I hope that was a one off.  I know that it has knocked you in more ways than one.  It took us both a long time to really properly recover and there are still parts of us that haven't.  I hope that time helps with that.

I am looking forward to your eighth year round the sun.  I know that it is going to bring more adventures, I can't wait........

Happy Birthday my love.

SixFiveFourThree

27 May 2016

May in Photos

So May, you have been a busy month but a really good one with it, good busyness is the best kind don't you think?  I am ready for a rest now.  I have once again joined in the Photo Scavenger Hunt hosted by Hawthorn Spellweaver so here are my photos inspired by words and words inspired by photos for May.
Path


 A path on a walk we took on one of our Wednesday nature days.  I love this place it is a few minutes drive from my house, close to a busy motorway and yet we never see anyone when we walk here.  It feels like you are in the middle of nowhere.  The forecast was for rain showers all afternoon, undaunted we set off and had a beautiful afternoon in the sunshine with patches of blue sky and big white fluffy clouds.  I could have stayed out till dark, we were late home this picture was taken at 5.30pm and we still had a fair walk back to the car.

Hairy


A daisy flower fairy with slightly mad hair, taking pride of place on our birthday ring.

Edible 


 Wood Sorrel. Sprouting up everywhere at the moment with its delicate wild flowers.  The leaves have a slightly citrusy taste, if you haven't tried one look out for them next time you are in a wood.

Small


Actually make that tiny, or maybe minute!  A Gorse Shieldbug, one of the topics of our nature study  this month.  Cameron remembered a good place to find gorse so we went off on a hunt to find them in the wild, having learnt about them at home.  Our research paid off as not only did we Alice find the bugs themselves we also found the eggs (also Alice), the bugs are 10 - 13 mm the eggs are significantly smaller.  The gorse was absolutely amazing, a feast for the eyes and nose the bushes covered the hillside and were carpeted in flowers, their wonderful scent filled the air, the smell was divine.

Poem


When I have said my evening words,*
And my clothes are folded on the chair,
And mother switches off the light,
I'll still be six years old tonight.
But, from the very break of day,
Before the children rise and play,
Before the darkness turns to gold
Tomorrow, I'll be seven years old,
Seven kisses when I wake,
Seven candles on my cake!

*we always talk about the good parts of the day and share a poem together.

Hands


Alice making labels for her homemade party bags.

Vintage


This sign rather amused me especially as the gate itself was padlocked shut!  The observant may notice that it is an old railway sign, so it was a necessary message in its day, owned by the company who included the Mallard and Flying Scotsman in their rolling stock the latter came past our house not so long ago.  We see quite a few steam trains rolling along the line at the end of our garden so we have become a little blasé about them passing, we were eating lunch and could hear it coming from a way off, steams trains have a particular sound, we looked up noted it passing and carried on eating it was only later that we discovered it was the Flying Scotsman!

Shadows


I am blessed to live in a beautiful area, full of wide open spaces some of which are spoilt by ugly electricity pylon lines.  On an early evening walk this month I was struck by the beauty of the sunset reflected in this large puddle not realising that I had managed to capture one of those pylons in my picture too!


View from a Window


I did take several pictures when I took this one but managed to delete all but this one!  This has already appeared this month, but I do love it so I hope you don't mind me including it here too!

Flower (my choice of category)


Remember those gorse flowers I mentioned?  Here are some of them, I can still smell them when I look at the pictures.

My busyness this month has meant that I have had days at a time without getting online.  I know that I have not been visiting blogs like I usually do.  I shall be coming a visiting soon, I am sorry I have been a little absent!

Looking forward to what June has to bring, including the prompts for photos.......

19 May 2016

In My Kitchen


I love to cook, good food is really important to me.  If you are anything like me you spend a large amount of your life in the kitchen preparing good nourishing food to eat, so this is what has been going on in my kitchen this month.  If you would like to join in you would be most welcome, leave a link in the comments section.


I always start off the Spring with good intentions to forage for wild food throughout the growing season, getting excited when the wild garlic puts in an appearance and never really going much further until the rosehips and blackberries appear in the Autumn.  I do hope that I manage better than that this year!  But I have been out picking wild garlic leaves this month and whizzing up batches of pesto, I used almonds this time.  I always pick a good quantity of leaves, from several different places to ensure that I am not compromising the plants in one particular place, and freeze some of the batches for use during the year.  We don't eat huge amounts of pesto but it is much nicer to eat your own.  There were a few leaves left over so I just had to make some scones with them as I had been seeing recipes for them all over the web in April.  I made a small batch as scones taste so much better the day they are cooked and I don't think they freeze terribly well.  We ate ours with a bean spread.  Delicious!


I think we may well have eaten salads every day this month, certainly my children would have you believe so, not salad again I hear them cry whilst they tuck in and eat every last mouthful!  They have been a mix of made up recipes with anything I had to hand, they are often the best and the most impossible to recreate as I never have the same bits to use up from one week to the next, and recipes that were both new to us or tried and tested.  The one on the far right above has tofu in it which I thought was delicious but the rest of the family decided they preferred the smoked tofu salad I make, this one was marinated and baked.  The rest are all grain based with rice at the top and pearl barley and couscous at the bottom.  I have been adding nuts and seeds to the made up salads, particularly toasted ones.  I soaked a big batch of pumpkin seeds overnight and toasted them on a low oven, sprinkling a bit of chilli powder over them first, until they were crisp, they don't last long round here.  They have been enjoyed in salads and as a tasty snack.  The first picture in the post is a beetroot and feta salad that we all adore and would eat every week of the year, I do make this every week we get beetroot in our veg bag.


I mentioned in my March in my kitchen post that I was on the hunt for tasty recipes for breakfast.  I tried two this month.  A Banana Bread with Millet in it, which got eaten so quickly that I failed to take any pictures!  It was delicious with yogurt and/or apple puree.  It was one of those recipes with a very long list of ingredients which usually that means they take forever to make, but not in this case. It required some forward planning as the millet needed to be cooked first before adding to the mix, but it was a two bowl method, one dry, one wet, mix together, spoon into tin and into the oven.  The other recipe was a Breakfast Bar.  It was from a book I was given earlier in the year, one that I thought was going to be great but has actually turned out to be a disappointment and is rather hard on the wallet.  Again these were banana based this time with oats and a few other ingredients, they were ok but I don't think I would make them again however I may use the recipe as a basis to have a go at coming up with my own take.  I can see that these would be really useful when camping or out walking as they were good and solid and didn't fall apart like so many of this type of bar do, so watch this space I might be sharing my results at some point!


We have entered the, very short but rather lovely, Asparagus season here in the UK.  We get a handful of spears in our veg bag each week for about a three to four week period.  Each year I try to add a new recipe into my repertoire and this year I found a salad that I thought sounded good and it was, so I thought I would share it with you.  It is based on a recipe I found in a book from the library, I have tweaked it slightly but if you would like to see the original it can be found here

Lentil and Couscous Salad with Almonds and Asparagus  

100g Green Lentils (I always soak mine overnight)
360ml Water
200g Wholewheat Couscous
8 Asparagus Spears cut into approx 3cm sections
1 Small Red Onion, chopped fine
45g Capers
2 Large handfuls of salad leaves/watercress
40g Almonds thinly sliced

Vinaigrette
5 tbs olive oil
3 tbs apple cider vinegar

Put the lentils and water in a saucepan and simmer until cooked, if you have soaked them overnight they will cook quicker.  If needed, drain, then run under cold water and transfer to a large bowl.

Cook the couscous by your preferred method, I always melt some butter and gently fry a crushed clove of garlic in the butter for a minute before adding the couscous and coating with the garlicky butter then add the water and simmer until cooked.  Add the couscous to the lentils.

 Steam the asparagus until just tender, rinse under cold water, drain and add to the lentils and couscous.

Add the red onion, capers, salad leaves and almonds.  Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together and drizzle over the salad mix together and serve.