Saturday, 24 September 2016

Balancing Act

A very busy few weeks has left us feeling breathless and in much need of a rest.  The Autumnal Equinox has been the perfect opportunity to bring life back into balance.  Light and darkness are equal.  The weather remains mild and sunny but the wheel has well and truly turned; summer has melted into autumn.
Pumpkin spice lattes in the crockpot.  We have reached that time of year when I just want the house to smell of cinnamon and cloves.  I sat on the doorstep in the sunshine with my cuppa.  It was a day devoted to relaxation.
Last week we blackberried our way up and down the hedgerows in order to make apple and blackberry crumble.  And today I baked a Mabon spice cake.
The secret is in the frosting.
It's a cross between icing and meringue and it tastes quite lovely.
The perfect way to round off an Autumn Equinox family feast.

We are feeling our way into our weekly rhythm.  September is Not Back to School month but it does mean a return to our regular activities and it feels like the beginning of a new year in our Home Ed journey.  Life moves on, times change - Honey has exchanged Rainbows for Brownies.  We have outgrown Teddy Tales at the the library but a brand new Home Educators' group is starting so Mondays will still be our library day.  Dare I say it?  Our weeks are full but looking more balanced this year with activities spread out nicely across the week rather than too many things happening on the same day.   I am cautiously optimistic that this year we won't end up doing our usual thing of rushing around all over the place.  What we crave right now is balance.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Too Much To Catch Up!

This has felt like the busiest, fullest summer for many years.  I have neglected my blog and I have barely had the luxury of reflecting.  I have been 'doing'.  It has been an amazing time with family and friends, holidays and day trips but it has been quite exhausting!  There is no point trying to describe all that we have got up to illustrated by hundreds of photographs.  Too much time has passed since my last blog post and so it will go largely  undocumented here.  There are, however, a few images which I will share as a way of bridging the gap between then and now.
Guests throughout the summer weeks meant food.  Shopping, cooking and baking.  Meal planning and meal making took up a lot of my time.  Breakfasts, picnic lunches and evening meals.  Lots of cups of tea!
Late in the season, it was September already, and Charlotte visited.  Such a joy to see all three of my children together again.  She is about to embark on her career, beginning her first job as a nurse in a few short weeks time.  Those years at university which seemed long at the time feel fleeting in retrospect.  She is truly flown the nest and I couldn't feel prouder of her.
We spent many afternoons on various beaches.  We met friends and our Home Ed group; we took our visitors for sunny picnics and paddles in the sea.  Our third summer of living here and I am still discovering the best places to go.
Some very dear friends have left and returned home to America after three years living nearby.  It was an extremely sad goodbye and they will be sorely missed by all of us.
We fitted in last picnics and playdates in the sun.  There will always be a gap where they once were.
We holidayed in July and August but September saw us packing our suitcases once again.  We had the wedding of one of my oldest friends to attend.  On the way we stopped for the afternoon in Gloucester and explored.
What an absolute treat to see these two happily married.  To catch up with faces from a lifetime ago.
And the cousins reunited, playing with Virtual Reality - hilarious!

A family calendar hangs on the kitchen wall and at last we have reached a place where it is less crowded with scribbled dates.  We are settling back into our usual rhythm.  I am planning on a quiet autumn!

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Late Summer

The season has been sweet.   Late summer has been all about plums and visitors.
The plum tree in our garden is still loaded with plums despite picking them every day as they ripen.  I have no idea why the fruit harvest is so abundant this year.  I have been kept busy as I don't want to waste any of this precious fruit.
The plums are delicious to eat straight off the tree but I needed a recipe too.  A seasonal pudding to enjoy.
Plum pie.  Delicious.  Not much more to say- except that I have made it several times over the past couple of weeks.  One is sitting on the cooling rack right now as I type.
Jam.  We have very many jars of jam to see us through the winter thanks to our raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.  Why not make a few jars of plum for the shelf too?  This batch certainly set well and it tastes divine.  I am still harvesting and baking and jam making today.  I know that it will come to an end, but for now I am making the most of the goodness of the season.

We have had family to visit.  We are expecting the arrival of more visitors over the next week.  When we entertain visitors it is like a holiday for us too.
Blessed with gorgeous weather we have enjoyed traditional seaside treats with cousins.
There have been a great many beach days this summer.  I have no idea how many more are to come but we are at that time when it seems sensible to make the most of each day of sunshine.
It feels like a time of year to spend a little money on a few last treats before the holiday season winds up.

Who can resist?  We spend all year saying this sort of thing is too expensive  but suddenly it all seems justified in the final dying days of late August.  After all, if not now then when?

Personally, I hope for a hot, sunny September which will draw out the last drops of pleasure before the wheel finally turns.  This is my favourite month.  A decadent rose, slightly past its best, going out in a blaze of glory!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Images From Our Summer Days

We are still lost in summer.  We are greeting each day as it dawns and following our inclinations.  I have been snapping pictures.
One evening Joby really wanted to make 'feather pens like they had in the old days'.  He had been collecting feathers for a couple of days and Justin had a new penknife and a bottle of ink so we were all set.
It was a bit tricky at first,
but then they were away!
We have had a visit from some very dear friends.  A truly lovely weekend.  It was wonderful to catch up with Karen, an old friend and an ex-colleague.  Someone who has known me from what feels like a previous life.  I treasure these connections.
One evening we watched Justin in a 10K race and cheered him on. He did well and we felt proud of him!
They spent an afternoon at a birthday party and I felt grateful for new friends too.
The weather has not been warm every day, it was unsettled over the weekend with a choppy sea under a grey sky and bursts of rain.
But now the heat and the sun has returned.  The garden continues to yield fruit.
It is time to harvest the plums!
And this morning the little ones requested to do the washing up!  We have a dishwasher but they wanted to do it the traditional way announcing that it is their 'new hobby'.  I don't know how long this new hobby will continue so I thought it a good idea to take a photograph.  Here it is - my children voluntarily washing up ... and loving it!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Lost In Summer

Another day, another picnic.  The rhythm of our summer.
We headed out of the front door without rushing.  No need to hurry there or back.  Our destination was the beach.
The little ones quickly made friends with a little girl they met playing on the sand and some serious rock pooling ensued.  A lady came over and asked us if we wanted a spare fishing net they no longer needed - yes, we did.  In the end their buckets were filled with crabs, shrimps and a little fish.  We watched fascinated as a crab devoured a small piece of bread but when he turned his attention to the tiny fish sharing his bucket it was a bit upsetting and all of the critters were swiftly returned to the sea!
Everywhere we go they make a new friend.  Honey is open-hearted and incredibly sociable; she is remembered in shops and cafes and our local greengrocer's where she chats away to the owner each week.

Yes, she is certainly a character!
It was a soft, grey, overcast afternoon down on the beach.  In the distance the fair sparkled and made a striking contrast with the muted tones.  It was warm but a few splashes of rain fell as we packed up to head home.  Even in the depths of summer there is a tiny hint of the autumn, which is surely following on its heels, when the weather changes as it did this afternoon.
Back at home Honey decided to don her Mrs Santa Claus outfit (as one does in mid August) and build her birthday lego.  She loves lego and has a real aptitude for following the instruction booklets.  I struggle and get the pieces back to front because to my mind a drawing does not accurately resemble a three dimensional object.  She can look forward to many happy years of effortlessly building IKEA furniture in her adult life!
I pottered in the kitchen and made a batch of garlic bread using half rye flour and half wholemeal flour.  A very satisfying accompaniment for our carrot and coriander soup.  Yesterday the weather was far too  hot to even think about a pan of soup bubbling on the hob; tonight a warming supper was more than welcome.  And I noticed that darkness is falling earlier than before we went away on holiday.  A reminder to soak up as much light and warmth as possible over the next few weeks.  We are lost in summer but we will emerge into the autumn as the wheel inevitably turns.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

A Festival Beside The Sea

Another glorious sunny day.  We caught the train to Paignton, met up with some  local Home Educating friends, ate a picnic lunch and explored the Children's Festival which is taking place throughout this week.
Days out have got considerably easier for me since I bought the little ones a rucksack each - now they can carry their own lunches and drinks whilst I feel a little less like a packhorse!
The Children's Festival was great.  There were lots of activities to take part in which were either free or for a very small charge.
We enjoyed a little pavement artwork.  We had our own patches to work on.
The results were impressive!
Amongst other things we watched a magic show, painted some models, and held a couple of owls.
This fairy lady was doing very impressive things with a glass ball (which I now know is called Contact Juggling but at the time seemed like actual, real magic).
We walked along the seafront and enjoyed the waves.  I have missed the sea this past week.  I could smell the sea air almost as soon as we left our front door today and it was exhilarating.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Cotswolds Camping

We have just returned from a week of camping in the lovely Cotswolds.  This was a new place for us and we enjoyed it very much.  We camped with another Home Educating family, old friends of ours, and as usual the children jumped out of the car and immediately picked up their friendships where they had left off the last time we were together.
We were utterly blessed by the weather.  It was hot, dry and sunny all week.  Camping is so much easier when the sun shines!
 I loved exploring all of the historic villages and market towns with their warm stone buildings and thatched roofs.  I did wish some of the roads through the towns were a bit less busy though, the heavy traffic spoilt the peace and quiet a little.
We must have walked miles.  We were busy back at the campsite too - there was a woods with a tyre swing and lots of logs and branches to build dens with.  We bought pen knives and whittled sticks into wands.  The little ones made necklaces out of decorated wooden discs sliced from branches they had found.
We were roughly twelve miles from Oxford so it was an obvious day trip for us.  We wandered around the beautiful and inspiring university buildings and soaked up the atmosphere in Balliol College.  We also visited the Story Museum which was just lovely and the perfect way to round off the day.
On another boiling hot day we visited Upton House, a National Trust property.
Throughout the week we stopped in tea rooms for indulgent afternoon snacks.  There is certainly no shortage of tea rooms in the Cotwolds!  One day, Joby left me a message on his napkin.
He makes my heart melt ...
We visited the Rollright Stones and admired the view from the ancient stone circle.
And this is my impression of the gentle landscapes of the Cotswolds and Oxfordshire - golden stone buildings, golden fields of wheat (the harvest was well underway during our visit), golden sunshine and vast expanses of blue sky.
I have spent much of my life in more northerly landscapes and whilst I can easily appreciate the wild beauty of such places I sometimes experience a bleakness there which leaves me cold.  Here I found warmth and light.
Every day ended with us sitting around our campfire late into the night.  Crocheting, stargazing, setting the world to rights.  It was a great holiday but, as always, it is lovely to be home too.