Wednesday, 30 July 2014


A "band...tail...like mummy...up high...hair" was requested this week. How could I not oblige?
Very keen to be a big girl now.
With her sat on my knee, having her hair brushed into a ponytail, I was catapulted forward a few years to when this will be part of the before-school routine. Stay a little girl for a long while yet please.

Sunday, 20 July 2014



This girl loves hats. Favourite hat games currently include making daddy wear the police hat when he chases her (for non-payment of food from the kitchen/shop/cafe), making the rocking horse wear a bedtime hat (because everyone wears a bedtime hat, right?!) and using them as hiding implements. I think it's time for a proper dressing up box.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Year in Books: July

June's been a stop-start month month for reading. I haven't stuck to one book and have ended up flitting between a few. It's not the way I like to read really - I forget who's who, what's been going on, and don't get to be fully immersed in the plot. Must try harder in July.

I started June reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt (yes, she of The Goldfinch fame) which I was enjoying. Took some concentration at times, and had the beginnings of a dark, dark edge (which I think is why I haven't picked it up for a few weeks). One to keep at I think. Perhaps a  book for reading in the daytime, instead of attempting to read a few pages before bed when my brain is zonked and I can't remember what I'd read the previous day...

When needing some light relief from The Secret History, I reached for one of my bargain Persephone books, picked up in a local charity shop for a few quid. Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd was the book of choice (chosen partly as Todd also wrote a childhood favourite of mine; Worzel Gummidge!). The light relief took a while in revealing itself though, as the book starts on a desert island, with Miss Ranskill desperately digging a grave for her shipwreck companion. Miss Ranskill does eventually get to leave the island, and is rescued by a Navy destroyer. She arrives back in Britain in 1943 to a land of make-do-and-mend, simple food and hard work - all of which seems very familiar to her after surviving on the island. What is less familiar are coupons, blackouts and bombs, all of which she faces with much confusion (and amusement for the reader). Satirical, witty and with fascinating insights into the mindset of the wartime population, it was definitely an enjoyable read.

I've recently picked up Longbourn by Jo Baker after my mum passed it on to me. As an Austen fan, it appeals - it tells the story of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the servants. I'm only a few chapters in, and laundry and chilblains seem to be key features so far, but I have high hopes.

And as goes the phrase 'good things come to those who wait', I happened upon a hardback copy of Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood which has been on my to-read list since before it was published. Looking forward to getting my teeth into that one over the next few weeks too.

Joining in with Laura's The Year in Books link-up.

What have you read recently?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Why I Write

I recently had an email ping into my inbox from the lovely Sarah, aka Mitenska, asking if I'd like to join in the blog hop that has been making its way around the internet of late. Feeling very intrigued and flattered, I said yes. The theme of this blog hop is 'Why I write' - a topic I was looking forward to getting my teeth into. Good to have a set topic and structured questions too, as most of my writing these days is whatever I want it to be. 

So, here I go. Why I write.

What am I working on?

I currently have a few projects on the go...

You can find me over at  Garlic and Sapphire (the Sarah Raven blog) where I get to write about all things gardening: flowers, growing your own fruit and veg, and seasonal loveliness. 

I've recently joined the writing team over at This is Your Kingdom  too which gives me the best excuse to visit lots of the places that I love, take lots of photos and then write about our day out. 

With a slight nod to my old job (pre-motherhood I taught a class of five year olds), I also write for School Explained - a website for parents that explains the how different topics are taught within school, and I keep their education news section up to date. It's good to have a link to my old life, and to keep up-to-date with the latest heinous crime Gove has committed so that I can sympathise with my friends still in the profession...

And I suppose my blog is something I'm constantly working on - although of late, it seems to have dropped to the bottom of the pile  in terms of priorities. But I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of writing in my little patch of the internet regularly again soon. I have a stash of draft posts that need resurrecting, so that'll be a good start. 

I should also really be working on the children's book I keep stopping and starting. It's in dire need of a heavy edit - perhaps that's a job for the next few months...

How does my writing differ from others in my genre?

Firstly, I can't claim to know exactly which genre I fit into. I post a lot of photos, but wouldn't call this a photography blog. I also write about my toddler, but I don't think I come under the title of 'mummy blogger' (yeuch) either. I suppose there's the overarching idea of 'lifestyle blogger' but I'm not sure I share enough of our 'lifestyle' to qualify. It's funny, in real life I'm not a huge one for sharing things (in a laying oneself bare kind of way, not a eating all the cake to myself kind of way - although...) and I think that reflects itself over here. I don't detail the minutiae of our life (on reflection, perhaps I do, seeing as I share photos. And pictures often speak louder than words) and I like to keep some things out of the public sphere. I know I'm often guilty of just showing the good bits of life as those are the ones I want to remember. And that, really, is what my blog is to me - a way of remembering and recording. In the same way that you wouldn't put a photo of every tantrum or leaky nappy in a photo album, I don't write about the screaming child as we drive down the motorway/vomit in my hair incidents (doesn't mean I don't remember them though!)

But back to the case in point, genre. I don't think I am (or want to be) defined by an absolute genre. And how does my writing differ from others? Well, apart from overusing parentheses, ellipsis and exclamation marks, I think everyone has their own distinct writing 'voice'. If I was given an anonymous post written by the author of one of my favourite blogs, I reckon I could have a good go at working out who it belonged to. We are all individuals after all. And to quote Oscar Wilde (c\o Emily McDowell) 'Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken'.  (I should also mention here the brilliant Emily McDowell print which reads 'I will not compare myself to strangers on the internet' - an easy trap to fall into I think and one I have to remind myself of from time to time). 

Why do I write what I do?

Most of the time (especially at the moment), photos come first. They tell the story, which I can then embellish. I write about places I've enjoyed visiting, things I've enjoyed making, books I've enjoyed (or perhaps not enjoyed) reading, and things we've been doing at home. 

Whilst at university, my writing was limited to essays about novels and the psychology of education, and when I started teaching, lesson plans, letters to parents and reports took up all my writing energies. Then suddenly, with the advent of my maternity leave, it all stopped. Soon after becoming a mum, I found I needed something else. A channel for my mind and and an outlay for creative thinkings. Something that could be almost a challenge if I wanted it to. In stepped my blog, and it's been keeping my mind ticking over on the most sleep-deprived of days ever since. 

How does my writing process work?

With a toddler around for most of the day, apart from the hallowed quiet of nap time, writing ideas are often scribbled down on post its or on lists as they come to me. I've recently invested in one of these weekly organisers to help me keep track of what's going on. I'm finding it's helping me organise my writing in a much more productive, less pressured way. Instead of starting the week thinking 'I need to write this, this, this and this' and I can work methodically through them over the course of the week: much better! (Not rocket science really, you'd think I would've organised myself like this at a much earlier date. It appears that only stylish stationery is the answer after all). 
Depending on the hour of waking in the morning, I can either be civilised and sit down to write at the dining table in the evening, or I'll flop on the sofa in front of the TV with my laptop warming my knees and get distracted by Pinterest/Facebook/A.N.Other website while I try to string a sentence together. 
So with when I'm going to write, and where I'm going to write sorted, the only thing left is 'what?'. Generally, I just sit down and chuck words at the screen. I edit as I go; deleting sentences, swapping words around or consigning the whole thing to the draft folder if I'm too fed up with it/not brave enough to press 'publish'. 

So that's me and how and why I write. It's turned into rather an essay, so thanks for sticking with it if you've got this far. Technically, I should now be passing on the blog hopping baton to a few more bloggers, but as far as I can see, pretty much everyone on the internet has already done it. So, with that in mind, and knowing how interesting and inspiring it can be to read about other people's writing processes, please feel free to leave a link to your own blog hop post in the comments box as I'd love to have a read. 

Benjamin Franklin quote from here

Sunday, 13 July 2014



Podding the peas for tea. I'd hoped it would convince her to eat a few, but no such luck.

Saturday, 5 July 2014



Tis jam-making season, so we headed to the fruit farm this afternoon. This little one was very excited to pick the 'dorberries'. Our afternoon had a commentary of 'no ready...no ready...no ready....ready!' as she checked them all. After our basket was full, we headed back to the farm to see the chickens, sit on the tractor and play on the swing.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

The Garden Diaries: June

From these photos it appears that the theme of June in the garden has been colour. Every shade of the rainbow (I should've taken a photo of the red roses outside the house to complete the spectrum) seems to have sprung up in the garden at some point this month.

cotton lavender / beautiful apricot rose / I want to say this is a relative of the hibiscus - I'd better have a look back through the blog archives as I'm sure my mum identified it for me! / penstemon - I'm growing to like these more (probably something to do with me hacking the plant back so it doesn't feel like it's taking over the garden quite so much) / hydrangeas - love that pink and zingy green together / mange tout flowers / mini magenta geraniums / dark purple mange tout (the proper name escapes me - if anyone wants to know, just shout and I'll dig out the seed packet) / more penstemon (I think) / cornflowers are coming thick and fast / passion flowers are loving the sunshine / broad beans - can't wait to eat these.

P.S. Thank you for all the anti-cat tips for my veg patch - a combination of filling up the raised beds with plants, putting sticks into bare patches of soil and the cat-scarer-noise-machine seem to have done the trick. (Unfortunately, the charming cats now use other areas of the garden as their toilet, but at least I have some tricks up my sleeve now!)

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Knapp and Paper Mill Nature Reserve (plus a new venture)

A few months back we visited the peaceful spot that is the Knapp and Papermill Nature Reserve run by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. Warm spring sunshine, birdsong, and a toddler happy to wander were a good combination for a lovely Sunday morning.

I recently joined the team of writers at This is Your Kingdom (if you haven't visited the website before, do! It's jam-packed with so many lovely recommendations of things to do and places to visit) and my first article for them is now up on the site. I can see that writing for TiYK is going to be a very good excuse for visiting lots of lovely local places, and taking lots and lots of photos. I can't wait! I've included the article in this post, or you can also read it here

Just a few miles along a winding lane leading out of Worcester lies the Knapp and Papermill Nature Reserve. A little secret slice of wildlife and woodland.

It was spring and our wander began in the old apple orchard where we saw trees laden with mistletoe and encrusted with sage green lichen. Robins darted from branch to branch, while butterflies visited the piles of apples carpeting the floor beneath each tree.
From here, we walked to the daffodil field (so called because it was previously used for commercial daffodil growing), which is now covered in wild flowers and grasses. Edged with woodland on one side and Leigh Brook on the other, it’s a peaceful spot. All we could hear was the background rush of the weir, the distant hammering of woodpeckers and the buzzing of sleepy bees drawn out by the spring warmth. With the sun on our faces, it was a great way to spend a Sunday morning.
The path continues along the winding brook, through woodland, past the site of the old mill, and back down to the orchard again. There’s plenty of space for little ones to explore and run about, plus the added lure of spotting the various birds and animals that frequent the reserve.
We didn’t walk the full trail as little toddler legs were getting tired, but now it’s summer, we’re looking forward to returning to see the orchids in the wild flower meadows and to try and spot kingfishers. And this time we’ll go armed with a picnic as there’s a lovely picnic area just before you reach the orchard.