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.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Happy Birthday Honey!

I can't believe that Honey is seven years old!
The big day was yesterday. The sun shone.  She wanted to have a party at home, a Princess Tea Party just for girls (and Joby of course).
Justin did a fabulous job with the cake.  I found a 1970s Cadburys recipe book in a charity shop and it is filled with many years worth of birthday cake ideas.  These whimsical, homely, nostalgic cakes are an absolute delight and transport me straight back to my own childhood. In fact, there are a couple of cakes in there that I remember my mum baking for my sisters and I many moons ago.  It immediately became a family tradition for the little ones to choose their birthday cakes from this book and challenge our artistic skills!
As the party wasn't happening until tea time we headed out for the nearest cycle track.  With a mixture of excitement and trepidation Honey set off on her much longed for new bike.
Despite the occasional wobble she was soon a tiny speck in the distance.  I am struck by her growing independence, her energy and her capability.  She is changing so fast.  Once again I am seized by the simultaneous desire to slow time right down and to embrace eagerly the future which lies ahead.  We have no choice, we just have to keep on along the road one step at a time and enjoy each moment as it is gifted to us.
The road is filled with such moments of colour and beauty.  If only I could stop myself dwelling on the past and worrying about the future!

Back at home (and firmly in the present moment)  it was time to put the finishing touches to a very special birthday tea.
Honey wanted all of her favourites.
Heart shaped sandwiches, jam tarts, popcorn, crisps ...
Strawberries, fairy cakes and of course...
the best china (or in our case all the second hand cups and saucers we have lovingly collected from charity shops over the years).   Much to the delight of the children the cups were filled with sweets rather than actual tea.
Honey's guests seemed to have a good time.  They made crowns.
Played party games.
Whacked a pinata until it showered everyone with yet more sweet treats.
And finally, blew out the candle on a toadstool house birthday cake.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Lammas

Yesterday we celebrated Lammas, the grain harvest, and baked bread together. It was a rain soaked day so it was actually lovely to spend a relaxed day at home, cosy in our kitchen.
The actual bread making I approached with a certain amount of trepidation.  I have had a few disappointing results with bread making over the past couple of  years.  I had a duff batch of yeast and sort of lost my confidence!  I was armed with a different brand of yeast and mix of plain and wholemeal flours.
  And yesterday, everything went swimmingly.
It was very satisfying to have a home filled with the gorgeous smell of freshly baked bread.
The whole day was an oasis of calm in the middle of a typically busy week.