Monday, 9 June 2014

boys and fire

My mother recently introduced Jude to Ed Stafford on the discovery channel at her house. He has since been quite besotted, wanting to learn every survival method, identify food from poison, categorise bugs and of course build fires! He began yesterday, trying to build a fire with simply dry sticks. He actually stuck with it for a impressively long time. I am not sure how or where he was going wrong, (to be honest I just left him to his own devices, he was very engrossed and determined) however I suppose I didn't really think he would produce fire. Of course I knew that it was possible to create fire with these minimal supplies, but I have never tried or created it myself. Jude went on to talk about Mr Ed and how he made fire with just 2 pieces of wood and that he managed to keep it burning for 10 whole days. I love it when I see my children take on a interest all of their own. Not orchestrated or planted by me. The passion behind what he was explaining to me was real and all consuming - I loved that. So, although I couldn't help him create fire in the way he was hoping, today I did offer extra supplies of cotton wool, petroleum jelly and a spark. He was away.
All that was missing were some marshmallows and sausages! I vow to be able to create fire with just sticks with my son, within a year or two!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

this week in my garden

Ok, so the pumpkins are now growing nicely and have been planted out in the bed with the carrots. We had 1 failed seed, which I was actually pretty disappointed about, I'm not entirely sure why, probably my controlling side sliding forth! ;) Anyway, we still have 7 healthy plants and our fingers are crossed that these are going to give us the giant pumpkins we are hoping for this halloween!

2 sunflowers were big and hardy enough to be put in their reserved spots in the garden. Jude and Elsie's plants took quite a beating through both weather and bug attacks. They are both currently in the house where I am nursing them better. I think I brought them in just in time - thankfully they are already starting to perk up!

The strawberries are ripening beautifully to the excitement of ALL the children. It was nice to see just how happy a home grown ripening strawberry could make them. I think we all managed to eat one today and the decision was unanimous - they were truly amazing!

The blackberries are erupting (and soon to be taking over the garden), purple beans are in and my apple tree has 1 teeny tiny apple on it (very weird tree). Haha :)
Another week in our garden. See you next time. 

Sunday, 1 June 2014

this week in my garden

It's been a while, but I am back! :) I am going to start posting pics and updates on our garden throughout the summer. I do also rent an allotment nearby but I can't take much credit for that as it is pretty much handled entirely by my dad - thanks! However, I did pop over there today to do some watering and took a snap (on my phone) of Max helping me out.

I am really hoping for some success this year and will be using all of the little tips and my (very little) experience and knowledge of trying to care for this garden over the past few years to help me out. I feel confident that things are looking good, so fingers crossed!

This year we have:
Little gem lettuces. One lettuce died after planting out which is why there is any empty space up in the top row. The rest have taken well and apart from a few minor slug attacks they are progressing nicely. 

A lone chilli plant - I can't remember the variety. We also have 8 seedlings grown from seeds given to me by my brother. There are 2 different varieties. - one which is supposed to have a super great flavour and the other which will apparently "blow my head off".  Haha :) We probably won't keep and plant out all 8. I will either give some away or pop them in at the allotment.

We have strawberries in abundance! To think this lot started with only 5 plants! We literally have hundreds and did so last year. This is the 3rd year for these particular plants and they are totally thriving. Apart from a good mulching I would say that strawberries are a particularly easy grow and very rewarding. I am compiling a list of exactly what yummy things I am going to do with these babies! 

This is my first time growing onions and I haven't started off particularly well! I used onions sets and planted them individually covering them as I went. Obviously this was a mistake as I often forgot where I had planted the last one and ended up putting in another too close! Now they have come up you can see that they haven't got a great deal of room to expand - oh well next time I will remember not to cover them over until they are all in and well spaced! This patch of earth is plagued by my old borage plants - they are sprouting daily! Although I love borage - not this year, not that spot, not right now... :)

Rhubarb is going strong - it grows, I cut it down, we eat it, it grows back and so on...

The carrots have taken well. Sorry for the stray clothes peg in the first pic - my children can't reach the line properly and just yank down the things they need/want leaving forgotten/broken pegs behind them! I can't wait to pull one of these up. Jude asks me daily if he can pull one now - I think he is as anxious as I am. Yummy!
The other side of the bed is waiting for some pumpkins that I'm currently growing from seed in the house. We are hoping to plant, grow, harvest and carve our very own pumpkins this year. I so hope that we are successful!

The 2 troughs are what Jean and Jude made at a B&Q workshop recently. They are growing a few different variety of flowers in them (I can't recall which ones but the are supposed to be 'great for kids' haha). A whole bunch of Jude's seedlings were eaten and we are none the wiser of the culprit. I have moved them up on top of one of the sheds for security measures and to hold up our ever growing sunflowers. We have 4 sunflowers this year, one for each of the older children. (Iris did have her own but we gave it to my dad for him to grow at his house.) My children are very competitive (mainly with each other) and when it comes to sunflower growth it can get pretty intense around here. The small one belongs to Elsie (so fitting really) and she is not HAPPY! I think it's sweet. We will be planting these in the ground shortly.  I'm excited to follow their progress!

We have 2 cherry tomato (my favourite ) plants sandwiched between some other plants that I do not know the name of! The children chose a plant each last year (which they planted themselves) and they have been going strong ever since! 

We have fennel, sage and lavender.

I was so happy to get this shot of the bee on our blackberry bush - which is totally out of control I might add! Complete mind of it's own! :)

 The bamboo is all ready to allow the beans to climb but I haven't managed to get these in just yet. I am really excited about watching these grow. The colour looks amazing - purple beans are served!

We also have a small apple tree (yielding approx 4/5 apples per year if we're lucky) and a patio cherry tree (again not much fruit, children eat them as they grow so nothing ever to harvest). I would love  a full size apple tree - I definitely think this is something that will be happening in my garden very soon. :)

My garden also consists of box beds, blankets of all varieties (wet, dry, muddy take your pic), hoola hoops and various other garden toys, chairs, a trampoline (with new net), a stilted play house, swings, bikes etc... and a selection of sheds! 

Now that I have shared what is going on and getting started, I am excited to see my garden progress and hopefully GROW over these next few months! I am hoping to upload each Sunday - see you next week! 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

A Blueberry winner (EGG FREE)

When it comes to baking (or any recipe for that matter) I have to admit I cannot help but make my own amendments / adjustments and substitutions - it's just my way. I will usually look up a basic recipe for what  I have in mind and then set to work. With many allergies to contend with and little time on my hands I will first decide what needs to come out / go in and then I like to simplify. By simplify I mean - throw it all in the mixer, turn it on and done. I have no wish to spend time creaming, adding ingredients bit-by-bit and such like - or least not right now. Any extra time I have I would rather focus on main meals. Sometimes my re-creations work wonderfully and inevitably some fail. Today was a good day. Today I had soft blueberries that not even the baby would touch. I couldn't bring myself to throw them out and so my Egg Free Blueberry Muffins were born! I didn't manage to take pictures of the process and so wish that I did! However, I did manage to record my ingredients, measurements and method and am so pleased with how they turned out that I absolutely have to share them here!
Top right muffin missing! I'm guilty - it was the taste test! :)
Iris and Elsie are both allergic to eggs - although Elsie can now tolerate baked egg (Iris cannot at all). The original recipe called for 2 eggs, it was also a step-by-step method. My new recipe now barely resembles my template but it was still a great starting point. I was genuinely surprised at the texture of these - light, fluffy and well kept together. These muffins were not just "good for being egg free" they were honestly the best blueberry muffins I have EVER HAD!

12oz Self-raising flour
1tsp Baking powder
2oz Softened butter
2Tbls Coconut oil (any state)
2Tbl Apple sauce
3oz Caster sugar
2Tbl Honey
Grated rind of 1 lemon
9oz Milk
6oz Blueberries

Line muffin pan with cases and pre-heat oven to 190. Put all ingredients (except for the blueberries) in to your stand mixer and turn on minimum for about 2 mins (I'm sure that you can probably do these by hand, just mix for slightly longer). Batter will be quite thick - this is how we want it. If you have more of a "dough" add a dash more milk but not too much.. Stir in the blueberries by hand and share the mixture between the 12 muffin cases. Bake for 25 minutes. Muffins should be nicely golden. Leave in muffin tray for 2 mins, then transfer to wire rack for cooling. Muffins are best served warm.
Apart from on her birthday Iris hasn't eaten "cakes" (because of her egg allergy). She really enjoyed these - 2 of them to be precise! She was saying "mmmm" the whole time and loved dipping her finger into the blueberry jammy bits. I will definitely be making these again and my to advice anyone reading this is to give them a try too!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

What my baby eats

Iris is now 14 months old and we are still doing well with BLW (baby led weaning). Most mornings she is so hungry that she actually wants me to feed her. She has either blueberries or strawberries (usually while her porridge is cooling) and a cup of water.

This is what happens when she is let loose on her porridge alone. One thing I must say about BLW is that it is extremely messy - a lot messier than regular spoon feeding. Obviously with 5 children I don't expect meal times to be mess free, however the clean up process is huge and no less than 3 times a day!!! BLW is still definitely the right choice for us and our family - it allows us to all eat together and no one has to wait.
Iris will usually have 2 snacks a day - one mid-morning and one afternoon. Her snacks usually consist of: Fruits - apples, grapes and clementines (she doesn't like bananas no matter how I try to disguise them). Vegetables - sugar snap peas, carrots, cucumber and cherry tomatoes.
Organic natural full fat yoghurt
Iris will not allow me to feed her any of her meals (apart from her porridge). I often give her double the portion size to account for the loss of food which inevitably ends up on the floor. 
I am still nursing Iris 1-2 times per day but have tried to get her drinking cows milk but am not currently having much success. Iris only drinks water. I did give her some pure orange juice diluted slightly but she didn't like it. I will probably be done breastfeeding within the next month (or two)! I don't usually make or buy any special "baby" foods or snacks. For lunch and dinner Iris eats everything that the rest of the family has. Initially I worried whether Iris was getting enough food but she is now a chunky, happy, cuddly baby and I am really glad that BLW has worked for her and our family.

Thursday, 5 September 2013


5th September, 2013
I just wanted to share a great writing challenge that we have joined. It is called the 100 word challenge and is aimed to get children writing more, (be it online). The required 100 word count is not too daunting for reluctant writers (like I have) and therefore is a great once per week lesson. The way it works is: over on the 100wc website a caption of words is posted once per week. Your child then needs to create 100 words including the caption. For example, this week the caption was "suddenly I heard a crack". The caption can be included  either at the beginning, end or middle of the 100 words. You post your completed piece, to your own blog (I set up a new blog specifically for this) and then linky it up to the 100wc website. The child's writing can then be viewed by other writers/children, teachers, volunteers and comments can be left providing thoughts and feedback etc...

Jean is a reader but not so much of a writer. Actually to say that she 'isn't' a writer is slightly misinforming. She has ideas, many ideas but she would prefer me to write them for her. Last year she managed a whole 700 words of writing (over several weeks) and found herself in the local paper after being shortlisted for a short story contest at our local library. Aside from the odd letter here and there, writing isn't something that Jean would necessarily choose to do. I am all for going with your strengths but I feel this is something I need to help her with as once she gets started it is beautiful.
Check out the 100wc website and take a look and my little ones blog/piece if you are so inclined! :)

Thursday, 29 August 2013


29th August, 2013
After reading about the benefits of soaking, sprouting and fermenting, I decided to try my hand with a little sourdough. There are some great instructional guidelines all over the internet, but I used this one. With my first batch I only managed 1 loaf of bread and a single batch of pancakes before I noticed mould growing on the inside of my mason jar. Damn! I had to toss the lot and start again. Sometimes the tiniest of things can contaminate your sourdough starter and begin to grow! I took a lot of care over my second batch, lovingly naming it Steve. Or was that the first batch? Yes, the first batch was Steve, the second Dillan. I fed, and cared for Dillan daily and have reaped the bountiful rewards. Spice cake (don't make this if you don't want to eat the whole thing in one go, like I did. It was also supposed to be covered with cream cheese frosting but the fork got the better of me), crackers and bread. I'm loving this batch and I'm loving knowing how it is aiding our gut! I tried 2 different bread recipes, one with spelt and one with unbleached white (I know, I know). Although personally I enjoyed the Spelt loaf (pictured above) which was an adaption from this book, it was very dense and the children had a few objections. Once it was toasted they accepted it, but I found and tried this recipe which had much more rise and was a lot lighter. Mine came out very much like the photo on the recipe. I would definitely recommend trying sourdough and perhaps baking with it once per week. 1 loaf, some crackers, a pancake batch and dare I say it spice cake! (I'm going to add grated carrot to mine next time, oh yes...)
Completely unrelated photograph but I loved the way they made the little pulley for their toys. True teamwork!
Below I have a chubby baby. I love the chunk! I love her soooo much and her brother and them all! p.s. She now has chicken pox, a whole 7 weeks after our first spot appeared on little Elsie. This has been one long road that I will be glad to see the back of!