Tuesday, 21 August 2012

from the bottom of the garden

We have a section of the garden devoted to raised beds. Not my doing - the work of the people here before us. Anyway, I'm afraid I haven't made best use of them. One holds half a dozen giant sunflowers, a mass of sweet peas and cornflowers. Plus a handful of sugar snap peas and dahlias waiting to bloom. And a lot of weeds.

 Here are the boys doing their planting months ago. And here is a selection picked today. The tomatoes are from the greenhouse. Which I water when I remember. Which is not enough considering the heatwave we have been having.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

slip cover

We have a good quality sofa we bought before we had the boys. It is goldy-cream at one time in its life, now sporting lots of stains. I didn't want to dump it so have been looking at various options to recover it. And ... drum roll ... TA DA!

It wasn't the easiest thing to choose fabric/ agree with husband/ stop procrastinating/ cut fabric/ piece together. But we are thrilled. And I'm just a bit proud of my efforts.

We went here. There were some beautiful designer fabrics at £6.99 a metre. Plus amazing linens... very tempting. You have to go with an open mind as to what might work. There are rooms and rooms of fabrics - many incredibly good quality. We both loved the 100% wool tweed but need washable cotton. I was sooo tempted with a Liberty bottle green large scale design - but had to let it go as the colour was wrong. (At £6.99 I will probably be thinking about it for years!) Do you do that? Think back to what might have been.... 

We combined the Designers Guild wavy print with this bold woven stripe. I cut out generous pieces using the current cushions and base before prewashing everything. There are various guides online if you want to do your own slipcover. I found I needed extra fabric so I could line up the pattern - and would probably go for a solid cover to save that complication.

 We visited Stockwood Discovery Centre with some great friends this week. And a very talented man drew the boys. Fab! £2 well spent.

Friday, 10 August 2012

the zoo zoo zoo, how about you you you?

 Wow, a beautiful day at Whipsnade Zoo. We took a deep breath and renewed the membership... and had a thoroughly good time. Lots of children, the warm sunshine, and ice cream. What more could anyone want?

Monday, 6 August 2012

Olympic Fever

Wow, it has been an exciting games for us! Everything feels so close and relevant ... with GB doing so well. (It is best not to say too much about Australia! I did wear my green and gold on Saturday - hastily sewed a rosette). The four of us went to Earls Court and saw Men's volleyball with GB V Poland in one match. A great atmosphere.

I also delivered the boys to Keith and they watched football at Wembley Stadium... really once-in-a-lifetime opportunities abound this summer. And we are loving the action on TV.

Are you enjoying London 2012?

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

flamstead scarecrow festival

It is nearly that time of year again...

we have a large amount of newspaper, glue and mess all over the kitchen table as we have just started our scarecrow for the annual festival. It is our first year in the village and the boys have chosen a very child-friendly theme. No clues, yet.

Click here for the village link and more information.

Monday, 30 July 2012

roald dahl museum

Around 30 minutes from us, in Great Missenden, is the Roald Dahl Museum. All 5 of us went yesterday and enjoyed it for the 2nd time. The boys sat in the writer's chair, listened to a storyteller, and LOVED creating their own animation with plastic dinosaurs.

 It shows us what a great, interactive museum could be. Along with plenty of inspiration and writing tools for the authors of the future. Story bags, a craft room, fridges with hundreds of magnetic words. We were in our element!e
We haven't read Matilda together yet... but I would love the musical to be our Christmas/ birthday treat for the boys.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Gus is two!

I have been incredibly tardy with the blogging. Again.

The lovely iphone which I use for photos at the moment has stalled. In that it phones and messages ok... but refuses to send photos for me. And I have not been using the camera for a while. I am a little embarrassed by my lack of technology-knowledge! I have reset the phone a couple of times (after interesting conversations with someone in India), and visited a vodafone store. No luck as yet. I will keep trying.

Anyway - here is another photo to share of the gorgeous Gus. And his oh-so-proud big brothers.

We went quite light on gifts. He has a new stroller and baby doll (thank you to good friends for the latter). A lovely hard book about Jonah. A wooden zigzag car run. A talking and singing soft dog (!) And a super balance bike like this from Granny and Pop.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

from the garden

There is a beautiful climbing rose covering the arch in our garden. It is a white mass at the moment. I cut a branch off and added greenery and herbs. Lovely.

I remember a time when I would place ornaments carefully on bookshelves, make mini arrangements in tea cups, plump the cushions numerous times a day. Now I am lucky to discard dead flowers or tidy away the lego that seems to constantly make its way to the mantle piece. That would be family life, then.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

white rabbit sweets

These are far too good. I am not sure that the boys will get any more... find them at Jimmy's Chinese Supermarket opposite ASDA in Dunstable. They are creamy and vanilla flavoured chewy lollies - sort of like   milko chews... but better. I remember using the 30 cents or so we had to spend at the Yanchep National Park swimming pool to buy milkos. And we would make 30 cents last the WHOLE day.
Also feeling nostalgic for other treats from my childhood like: freezas, cherry ripes, minties, mint patties, Billabong icecreams...

dad's day

A super-easy and effective bit of card making can be found here. The three of us sat down to make cards for Father's Day tomorrow. You just need a permanent maker for the written word and a box of oil pastels. I think Fred's choice of colours is the most effective (top right). As simple colouring and then messy scratching was involved - very popular.

Sunday, 10 June 2012


 I have a bit of a battle sometimes to get the boys 'crafty'. In my view, there is nothing nicer than to spend some time making... sewing.. baking... And here are their recent efforts. Outstanding! They loved it and became so involved.
 Freddie chose a large square box that would slot in nicely to the Expedit IKEA unit in their room. And made a room. Sisal carpet on the floor, stripy wallpaper. Hanging pictures from old photos and the window cut-outs. Some electrical tape came in handy to 'finish off' the edges and frame the pictures.
Harry was always definite about doing a castle. (There is a body there on the right hand side - fallen from the turret during a bloody battle.) Harry also painstakingly made gunpowder barrels from stacked bottle tops, again wrapped in the electrical tape. All his own ideas.

I put the success of this down to the boys being able to envisage a final product - and the idea from this book. DIY Kids. The projects here are done by children, and this helped the boys have a real vision of what they could achieve - one that wasn't 'adult'.

Friday, 8 June 2012

a jubilee handknit

 We have had the most wonderful jubilee weekend - which has stretched into a week, really. There has been street parties, village parties, parades and even a flotilla (the latter watched from the dry sofa, thank you).

And this lovely cardigan came from a stall on Sunday - at the National Trust event at Dunstable Downs. mary has a range of beautiful handknits. This was £18 which I think was very reasonable for the quality and the work that has gone in. There is also an ebay shop.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

just around the house

 Here is one of the two lovely new shades we have bought for the lounge. Every purchase is being made carefully... we looked and looked for what we needed. Not too small, short enough to hang, simple...not too difficult, you would think. Even Ikea - where we have bought some faves - let us down.

We came across this option www.wallpaperlampshades.com on ebay. Perfect! A basic drum shade can be covered in anything you like, but there are lots of great options. The pricing is very reasonable, we also bought the specially fitted 'diffuser' that sits underneath for each shade - total £40 each. Much much less than anything designer we had seen on the scale. (The diameter is 45 cm). The quality is excellent and we are really happy with our orange textured wallpaper choice from the stock. It picks up the orange from our favourite picture - a large canvas from an aboriginal artist, Margaret Scobie.

Also around the house... many lego models. I thought I'd share this with you :

 Of course, it is a lego ambulance for looking after injured people. With a radiator under the patient's head to 'keep him warm'. The spare helmets are for emergencies I think. From Harry.

Friday, 18 May 2012


After some lovely bunting and 'queenie' aprons, here is a batch of jubilee rosettes. Beautiful! The aprons look great, although I haven't picked up a good photo of them - they are now residing in the 'coffee dog' down the road here in Flamstead. Hip hip hurray for the Jubilee!

The village is having its own 'jubilation' celebration in a couple of weeks.

I have my own reason to celebrate but will keep quiet for a week or so unless everything is done and dusted. (No, I'm not pregnant, before you ask).

Monday, 14 May 2012

tim minchin

After being treated to a gig last week, I am turning into a Tim Minchin groupie. He is fab! A very talented comedian / musician, who is well worth a listen...

Here he is in London last week in the iconic 100 Club. Thanks brother Jon for getting me at ticket.

I was sewing my bunting last night and scrolling through songs on Youtube. A great way to spend the evening!

You might like this one :
inflatable you

(it is a bit rude - be warned).

Friday, 11 May 2012

For Harry.

As a teacher, I have used praise and rewards for all sorts of reasons. It can be so effective to single out individuals for their efforts. Maybe we don't do this so much as adults, to other adults.

Harry was on the school praise bench today. He was sooo proud of himself. And he was up seeing the Headteacher for his efforts yesterday as well. And it was because, in his words, he 'did good sewing'. Well done little bloke.

Harry seems to have really calmed down an matured at the moment. He has sometimes been a bit more challenging than my oldest but that is so much part of him. He gets so engrossed in what he is doing, it is very difficult to pull him away from his 'building' for example. So we might pop upstairs at 9 o'clock and there he is, scraping through the lego searching for the last couple of pieces he needs.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

jubilee loveliness

I am back to a little sewing at the moment. And a frenzy of cutting out for some jubilee bunting. You can't go wrong with the old red, white and blue... I have mixed up some new celebration fabrics (I bought them locally in a great shop in Hemel - www.patchworkcorner.co.uk) plus some old favourites including the stars and the vintage blue flowers you can see. It is amazing how much better the old rotary cutter works with a sharp blade - lethal that it is though. I am notorious for slicing my finger whenever Keith sharpens the set of Global knives we have. so am keeping my fingers away!

I am making rosettes (£4) and strings of 3m bunting (£18). All beautifully finished, of course! Let me know if you would like to place an order. If you read this blog you'll know that my creativity comes in spurts so there is no guarantee of lots of these being made! I get a little distracted by ... children, fundraising, job applications, washing the floor... you know what I mean.

Monday, 30 April 2012

anzac day

Last Wednesday was one of the most important days in the Australian calender - ANZAC day. It remembers all of the servicemen and women who served in conflict... and marks the first time Australian troups joined with New Zealanders in the Gallipoli theatre.

Mum was good enough to organise for me and my brother to attend the service at Westminster Abbey. It was beautiful and moving. And a real time of reflection. I was so glad I battled the rain and awful weather to go along.

While we have chatted to the boys about the importance of the occasion, I think they will forever have 'the biscuit link in their head!' They had a tin each to take along to school on Friday.

This recipe from the Nursing mothers' Cookbook is a favourite - but there are lots available if you do a search online.
ANZAC biscuits (Makes around 40)
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup SR flour
1/2 cup plain flour
3/4 cup coconut
3/4 cup sugar (raw, brown or white)
1/2 tspn bicarb
2 tblsp boiling water
125 g butter, melted
2 tblsp golden syrup

Mix all dry ingredients together, dissolve soda in water and add to melted butter and golden syrup.Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Place in tablespoons on greased tray. Bake in a moderately slow oven 160C for 15 minutes.
If you leave them in the oven a bit longer, they go quite crunchy - a lovely alternative to the slightly chewy finish they have. Experiment!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

easy pizza dough

I thought I had posted about this... but came across some photos. We had friends visiting and we made our favourite pizza dough.

As you can see, the boys overloaded on the toppings. And not all was eaten. But I thought they were delicious.

Here is the Stephanie Alexander recipe we use, and I have my mother-in-laws old Kenwood so the dough is kneaded in that. (Rather noisily, it must be said)!

1 tablespoon instant dried yeast

1 teaspoon salt

400g plain flour

olive oil

1 cup lukewarm water

Mix the yeast and salt together. Mix 1 tablespoon olive oil with the water and beat into dry ingredients with a dough hook. Knead until mixture is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. (this can be done by hand but will need 8-10 mins) Grease bowl with 1 tablespoon oil. Transfer dough to bowl and then cover with plastic film or a tea towel and allow to rise in a draught free place until doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hrs). Knock back dough , then fold gently into 4 and allow to rise again, covered for 35 -40mins.

Press out two pizzas from the dough with your fingers. Add toppings, bake for 15 mins in pre-heated 220 oven.

I'm afraid the boys beat the living daylights out of their pizza dough and it went a bit tough! But they had fun...

back at school

I am sitting with a slightly scarey statue on a bench at Knebworth - we had a brilliant day there last Friday.

Thanks goodness, I say. The boys are back at school. I do love having them around - and not racing out the door every morning - but it is definitely time for them to be back in the classroom.

Talking of which, I may soon be back in the classroom myself. An interview this week and I may be teaching in September. Fingers are crossed - I am very excited. And am certanily ready for the challenge of school life again.

Gus has had a lovely few days with his Grandma and Grandad. He is chatting away (his own language, that is!) and certainly understands what we are saying. We have spent the last few days doing stuff around the house. The new place meant we needed a mower, outdoor garden furniture, seeds to plant...

And for me, exciting news that Mum is visiting from Australia. She arrives on Friday. I can't wait. To see her, to go shopping together, for her to get to know Gus and for the boys to enjoy their time together. It is countdown time.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

fred's sewing

Freddie is missing one of his little mate's birthday parties this weekend. He is so disappointed...so we have the lovely Isaiah and his brother Reuben over today.

It will be busy but as the boys are the same age as our two, they do have fun. I have pizza dough rising on the side ready to make up for their lunch. That should take up a few minutes. Plus most of the time out in the garden and all will be good.

And Fred sewed this drawstring bag to go with the 'Crazee beans' (!) for Isaiah's birthday present. I love this wood grain fabric from Ikea.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

fairy cakes

This is the sort of 'cooking' the boys love - sweets, icing and shop bought cakes.

And we have a lovely trayful ready to take to visit Mead Open Farm with our friends. Now the boys are outside in the sunshine and I get to finish a few jobs. Got to love Asda fairy cakes.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


Gus is having a great time poking pasta into play-doh...

And here comes that annoying sneeze...


more baking!

These biscuits were made with some kind of equipment for torture... the cookie press. I mean, is it really worth the effort to load and push the dough through the elaborate nozzle-thingy??

The boys were bored after five minutes so I had to finish off. They taste nice, though. I think I might get the hang of it after a bit of trial and error (mostly error) ... on the other hand it may be off to the charity shop. I still have have the batch of dough waiting in the fridge. Mmmm.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

sticky sausages

Super super easy tea for the boys tonight. Mini pork sausages (the ones that come in tubs with questionable contents) in the frying pan with a splash of soy sauce and a spoon of honey. They went down very well with beans and bread and butter. Couldn't be simpler!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

flamstead pool

Thanks to some very hardworking volunteers, we are lucky enough to have a heated outdoor pool here in our village. It sits just at the back of the village school, behind a lovely newly erected fence. The grounds of the school have a field for impromptu football games and also climbing equipment.

It has just been re-painted ready for a summer of fun. And as an extra treat (for the mums as well as the children!) the Markyate Firemen came along to fill it up for us. Instead of garden hoses taking three days, it was done in two and a half hours. Fantastic! And thank you to the chaps.

We have made use of the pool in the past, but expect a lot of visits this summer. By all accounts the heating system is all good - and I will be down on the sweet shop/ entrance rota to help out. If Gus allows it, that is.

If you are local, get in touch with me and I'm sure I can pass on any details. There will be the chance to have structured swimming lessons in the pool, but alos lots of free-swim time in the afternoon. Having a 'season pass' works out the best value.