Thursday, 29 July 2010

These Little Things

The first blackberry of the season, and all the promise of those heavily laden brambles.

I have a shelf above my cooker on which I occasionally stick little notes to myself to remind me of things I need to keep in my mind in order to not get bogged down by the every day stuff. To the left is my note, and on the right is Simons response. (Mine reads 'tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?' and Simons reads 'maybe watch a bit of telly and have a sit down')

We are chalk and cheese, he and I, but share the important things, like our sense of humour. And I love that it is often our differences, not our similarities that make us strong, as we fill in each others gaps.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Throwing In The Towel

We escaped to the beach yesterday. It was just one of those days when you know you're on to a looser from the outset. Fin had surf school and although he only had to be dropped of at the meeting point in our local town, and was then being taken by mini bus to the beach, we decided to follow. A decision made about 6 minutes before we had to leave, so Fred had no trunks, Jack had no jumper and we had 1 towel between us!

The sea is so warm at the moment and that, of course, means jelly fish, lots and lots of them! Most of them are these chaps who are moon jellies, and according to different sources will either not be able to puncture human skin, or will occasionally give you a 'nettle like sting'. They are deadly if you happen to be plankton!
We did see what I'm 99% sure was a lions mane jelly though, which sting a bit worse, but it was only a little one and I didn't have the camera on me.

And just because it really was that sort of a day, we got ice creams.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Easy Bunting- for Victoria

                                                                           picture by Jack!
We recently made bunting as a present for two little girls. It was truly easy peasy and I really loved the fabric we used to make the ones shown above.

This is the finished bunting for Honey. I love the colours of this one!

And this is Phoebe's, although you can't see the lettering so clearly here.

The fabric I used for Honeys came from a market near my Mums place in France, and I phoned her and asked her to pick me up some more if there was any left. This she did the following morning, then made her way to Victoria's jewelry stall. Victoria is getting married later year and was sat at her stall making bunting for her wedding.
End result- I get a phone call from my Mum on Victoria's phone from in the middle of a market in the Dordogne asking me if I can tell Victoria how I make my bunting.
So this, Victoria, is for you!

Easy Bunting-
You will need, quantities dependant on how much you want to make of course,
Fabric, cut into 9 inch wide ( or however long you want your flags to end up) strips,
Bias binding, long enough to accommodate all the flags plus enough to be able to tie it up at each end.
Thread to match the binding, if you're worried about the little details!
you will also need pinking shears.

Very faint chicken scratch diagram explained-

Step 1- measure 8 inch (or however wide you want your flags to be)intervals along the top of your fabric, stagger along the bottom by measuring in 4 inches first, then 8 inch intervals. Using your pinking shears, cut between the mark to create your flags.

Step 2- Lay the bunting, right side up, along the inside edge of your bias binding and pin in place. Sew along the top of the bunting to join the flags to the binding.

Step 3- Fold the top of your bias tape over and pin in place. It helps to iron it flat at this point. Sew along the front of the bias binding, right side of flags to finish. don't forget to sew all the way along the tape to finish the ties at each end. The back of the bunting will have 2 lines of stitching at the top, while the front will just have one.

It is possible to run step 1 and 2 together by folding the bias tape in half and ironing before hand, then placing the flags in and pinning in place. You would just have to be more careful, and it can be tricky to keep the flags in place as well.  

Happy bunting!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Elements of Self; The Mask

I am continuing with Shakti Mama's Self Portrait challenge suggestion of 'The Mask'.

I have been thinking about this a lot, about the masks we wear. I feel that I wear a mask most of the time. Not make up, as I have almost completely given up wearing make up altogether, but other masks. I think I hide behind the mask of Parenthood a lot now, but I think I have had other masks as well. And all these masks have been part of what I do, or what I think or where I'm at, but still, not quite me.

In a previous incarnation as a road protester and body piercer I have worn masks of body jewelery and pink hair. I loved those masks, they were fun, but not quite all of me. I like that if you look hard at my face you can still see the marks left by that mask!
I have worn the masks of nice clothes and make up when I worked in fashion retail. They were also fun, but more like playing at being someone else than any kind of reflection of me.
I have worn other, less pretty, not so admirable masks, but they were nothing like me and I shook them off rather than carry them with me
And I wear my sensible country-life middle class earth-mother mask now. This one definitely fits better than others I have worn, but still conceals as much as it advertises.

I had a conversation with the Chair of Governors at my eldests old school last year some time. I had written a letter of complaint about an awful sports coach at the school, I'm good at letter writing, and she was impressed with the letter and trying to persuade me to stand as a Parent Governor. I explained that there was no way I could do that as I just wasn't Governor material. We got into a fairly in depth conversation about what I meant by this, and it sort of boiled down to the fact that I felt I was still playing at being a grown up, like I was still just trying to justify my right to parenthood, just as I had been doing as a teenage mum. I explained, rather sheepishly, that I didn't really feel any different to how I did at 15!

She said she didn't either! And in fact was always waiting for someone to point a finger at her and yell 'fraud, you're not a real, sensible, mature adult at all!'

She went to work (she's a physiotherapist) and told her colleagues about our conversation, and they all felt the same!

Maybe we just gather different masks as we go, fitting one to our needs at every stage of life, so that actually the only time we don't have our mask is as a baby.

When I talk to couples in my birth preparation workshops I always teach them about the sacredness of the moments following birth. The incredibly powerful biological bonding period that occurs straight after the baby is born. I implore them to protect this period and make sure that it is them who get to see their baby's 'original face'. And maybe that is what we see at that moment, maybe that is part of what is so profound about the face of a new born baby. It is completely, utterly and entirely maskless.

So, in honour of the masklessness of tiny children, and as I feel I almost consciously use my children as my mask most of the time, I decided to let them make my mask for this challenge.

Jack ( 5 yrs old, eccentric genius, love his world and wish I could see it through his eyes) went first

Fin (11yrs old, going on 15, Guitar God, catapult maker, kitchen explosives expert, no lover of house work)was next. I let him do this about a year ago and the result was beautiful but he's a very different young man now!

Then Fred ( 2yrs old, loves strawberries, waves, insects and saying 'beautiful' and 'delicious' as often as possible) had his turn. He was slower and more careful than both his brothers, and I truly enjoyed the process!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Lets Get Real- Self Portrait Challenge

Mmm, This is trickier than I was hoping, and not just because my ancient laptop keeps freaking out every time I use the 't' key.

I am always amazed how the universe provides. Sometime it deliverers just what you needed in the nick of time, sometimes it produces something before you were even aware that it was missing, and at other times it presents you with just what you need even though you may feel a little uncomfortable about it. This definitely falls into the latter category.

I have been reading Shakti Mama's post about posting a series of real unedited self portraits on your blog as an honest expression of ourselves and as a way to make friends with our internal and external images. I was inspired to take part by Childhood Magic's post in response to the challenge.

I don't hate the way I look. I am short (about 5ft 3) and have always struggled with my weight, usually successfully. I have never been skinny but I have often felt happy in my own skin, which I am grateful for. I have put on nearly a stone since we moved into the 'project' at the end of January due to various health problems that I'm not quite ready to post about just yet. I'm am not happy about my current appearance and have got into the habit of hiding behind the camera, rather than facing it head on.

My problem with my appearance isn't just vanity. I teach Natural Active Birth classes which involve a lot of health advice and yoga based exercises, and I feel that a teacher in that situation should look a certain way in order to be taken seriously, and at present my external image doesn't fit my internal one. I am no less able, but I feel it compromises my credibility somehow.

I also feel such empathy with both of the above posts. The wavering energy flow that can lead to feeling sometimes that you just aren't quite 'you' at times, and the hiding behind photo's of our children so as not to leave our own comfort zone. Events of the past few months have really knocked my confidence and sense of ability and I feel it shows. I think you can see it in my face, but that may be my own perspective.

So, I decided to join in. Just take some photos of me, up close and personal as it were. And I am going to try to join in with the full 8 week challenge. I am going to try to post an honest self portrait on Sunday for 8 weeks. Having decided to do this I am going to do it, but like I said at the start, I am feeling well out of my own comfort zone here, far more so that I expected.
 So here I am, sat at my computer, tired from having a very hectic couple of days, and blotchy from having eaten things I knew I shouldn't and drunk things I definitely shouldn't. 

I was blowing a bit of cotton off the top of my camera and took this one by accident in the process, but I thought it showed a different aspect, as it were, so I put it in anyway! 

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Green Man Festival

To try to explain the Green Man festival would take too long, and I'm not really sure I can! I know it's over 700 years old, and has its roots firmly in the 'old ways' as it were. There is an amazing procession that starts off in the centre of Barnstaple and makes its way, complete with samba bands and green people, and signs saying 'follow us to Pilton', and works its way from the centre of Barnstaple up to Pilton, which is a very old and previously separate part of the town. The procession works its way up Pilton high street, and into the Rotary Gardens. 


There are stalls demonstrating things, like spinning and felting, and leather work. There are places where the children can make things out of recycled materials, or have a go at french knitting. There are people dancing, and lying around on the grass in the sunshine. There are three stages spread over the length of Pilton high street playing rock at the bottom, folk in the middle and what ever else they have going at the top.

The Bluebell Group had a stall again, and I made a billion scones! It looked beautiful and a lot of thought and hard work went into it.

We set up opposite these folks, the Free Play truck. They had peg looms, and fleece, and bits of leather, and the children were entertained in there for hours. Particularly handy as there was a massive down pour shortly before the procession started. Note the slightly soggy looking Fred who has had his saturated trousers removed. I hung them to dry under part of the stall and whilst I took the children off for a wander, and apparently they were nearly sold! Frankie recognised them just in time!

They all made leather bracelets and felted balls, and Fin particularly appreciated the activities on offer, spending a lot of time quietly and patiently learning how to use the materials.

I really love the Green Man Festival. I love the noise, the stalls, all the performers, the greenery, the music, and the general ancient feel to the whole thing. I love how people dress up like hedges and do things the way they always have, and often have no idea of why! Just because that's what you do! Love it.

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Generation Game - A Walk in the Woods

My Mum has always walked in the woods. All my childhood we would walk on Exmoor, and those walks would nearly always be in the woods. Most of my childhood memories are of playing in woods, both with my Mum, and off on our own around where we lived.

And we love being in the woods.

I took my Mum down to Halsdon Woods because I knew she would love it. We talked and walked and planned further walks through the woods once she returns.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The Generation Game - Saving Toads

My Granny lives near the Grand Western Canal in Tiverton. We walk up there frequently when we visit her, and her and my Grandpa walk along it almost daily. Whilst my Mum was staying, and a few hours before they were due to come up to our house, they went for a walk together up to the canal.

My Mum said she had thought the little things all over the tow path were spiders at first, but as they got nearer she realised they were tiny tiny toads. There were thousands of them, all leaving the canal and making there way over the tow path and into the fields and hedges.

Lots of them had been trodden on by walkers and dogs and the horses that pull the barges, so my Mum and my Granny decided to save a few and relocate them to North Devon!

They walked back to my Granny's house and found one of her numerous and diverse pieces of Tupperware, one with ventilation holes in the lid!, and went back to the toad procession and carefully picked up five little toads.

We are a bit of a toad loving family here. My Mum's potty about them, and my brother and I have always been fascinated by them, and I'm pleased to see that my boys seem to have the same reptilian love!

We took them out of the village and down a footpath to where a tiny trickle meets a slightly bigger stream. Its damp and stony and perfect for toad resettlement.

I'm sure they will be very happy there.

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Generation Game - Rosemoor

There are some things in my life that I am immensely grateful for, some things that I am lucky enough to have that I know few people have, and one of those things is my Grandparents, my children's Great Grandparents.

And this past week we have been lucky enough to have four generations of my family here, and have been out and about loving summer and feeling blessed. We have been to Rosemoor to see the William Morris exhibition (photographs not allowed). Rosemoor being one of the other things I am lucky enough to have, just down the road.

My Mum came over from France for a week, and drove my Granny up from Tiverton several times during her stay.

I cannot tell you how much I love these women, or how much they both mean to me, or how wonderful it was to have them both all to myself for a few days.

Well, when I say all to myself I did have to share with the children. To be honest really Fred had my Granny all to himself and I had to share!

She does love children, my Granny.

Having my Mum around for a whole week was like all Christmases come at once. I don't think there is another person on Earth who I would rather spend time with. And I don't think that's sad either! She's cool, my Mum!

Rosemoor was in full bloom and typically beautiful. We had a lovely afternoon of rose smelling and Fred chasing. If only every week could be like this.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Just a Few Pots, Honest

When we were in the process of moving to our house I swore faithfully that I understood that the back yard was for cutting and sawing and storing, and definitely not for pots and planters.

But I lied, well not so much lied as found the situation to be different once we got there, and therefore had to change my standing on the situation.

The problem is that I am used to having a garden and having somewhere to go outside. We have almost no outside space here and having the little that we did have look like Steptoe's yard was starting to really take its toll on me. So I got my pots back from the woods and filled them very economically with cuttings and gifts and the odd  purchase from the school fete.

And now the back yard is a nice place to play, or hang the washing out, or just visit as an alternative to being inside for a moment or two.
Almost all the stuff that was out there is still out there, it's just organised a bit better and stacked in around the corner, mostly out of sight.
Just don't look around the corner!

A Little Bit of Pipework

We have made a little progress this past weekend. The floor boards in our bedroom and in the hallway came up so Simon could lay pipework in readiness for changing the passage of water through the house.

The mess was minimal, and the job was relatively small, but it still took up most of the weekend, and did put the size of the whole project into perspective somewhat!

When I say the mess was minimal, it was only minimal upstairs. We had to replace some of the floorboards with the reclaimed floorboards we had stored in the dining/store/workroom. Unfortunately they were behind absolutely everything else and now the dining room looks like it had been struck by a small localised tornado! 
Once it was done though, it felt really good to have started on this next leg of our journey to our finished home.