Wednesday, 28 September 2011

I recently bought a refill for our car air freshener. I know a lot of people would say that such a thing is a waste of money, but if you had the pleasure of riding in our car during the wet, wet Winter months, you would know that the smell created by the damp is quite simply, not pretty.

As I plugged in the refill and the fresh aromas came through the air vents in the car, I could feel that there was a memory attached to the scent of the air freshener. Does that sound funny to 'feel' a memory? Well, it's the most fitting way I can think of describing that feeling when you know there is something very familiar about a scent but unless you give it some thought, it remains just a familiar feeling. 

So I had a little think and then I remembered. Eva Ibbotson. The aroma of my car air freshener brought back memories of listening to audio cd's of Eva Ibbotson's stories as I drove the hour long journey to Bath and back last Winter for my PGCE lectures. Rather than resenting the drive, those audio cd's made me look forward to getting into the car each morning & evening, so that I could find out what was going to happen next. 

I love the way God has created us with incredible senses, and the way we associate different memories with different scents. Here are just a few of the associations that came to mind as I thought about memories & smells.

:: Hugo Boss Orange perfume will always remind me of Barbados
:: Freshly baked bread takes me back to my Saturday job as a teenager, arriving at the bakery at 7am come rain, shine or snow, ready to serve hungry customers
:: DKNY woman takes me back to my first & only experience of Glastonbury, just after finishing my A Levels
:: the smell of woodsmoke reminds me of Uganda
:: honey suckle reminds me of cycling home to St Werburgh's on Summer evenings
:: Fairy liquitabs will always remind me of the first time I met John {I adore the smell of a good laundry product!}

This list is so short compared to what must actually be stored in my grey matter - I suppose  I need to smell the scents to remember the memories.

what about you? what scents do you have attached to memories?

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

if you go down to the woods today

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at Blaise Castle (the beautiful place where John proposed to me, and where we went on our first date), with my good friends Ros & Hannah, and Baby Rachel. (She's fabulous - have I mentioned that before?!)

It was a surprisingly mild afternoon, but the slippery mud & wet grass underfoot reminded us that Autumn is definitely upon us. 

I do love Autumn, at all of its stages. Yesterday, I appreciated that there was still an abundance of green on the trees & the golden shades of Autumn have not yet fully consumed the branches of every tree.

I think the highlight of the afternoon was when Rachel (11 months old) went on the roundabout with 3 other children, and made a boy (approximately 20 months) cry when she got all excited and climbed into the middle of the roundabout where he was sitting, and held onto his leg. She just wanted to be a part of the action & be brilliantly sociable (just like her mother), but he wasn't loving it. Rachel is already learning how to swing independently on the swings - she figured out that if you rock back & forth and do a little jiggle, the swing speeds up. I have to say that this is brilliant entertainment, and our laughter was contagious - the toddler on the next swing was laughing along with us. 

 Pure joy.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

a lovely surprise

I have mentioned before how I love post. I love to send it and I love to receive it, especially when what lands on my doorstep is a complete surprise. When I came home on Thursday, there was a fat parcel at my feet as I opened the front door, with handwriting that looked strangely familiar but I couldn't quite place. The writing looked just like my Nanny's writing, except I know that her hands are too greatly affected by arthritis to be able to write anymore. Intrigued, I opened the package to find this wonderfully fat book with a pretty pink cover inside, and a letter, revealing the identity of the handwriting. It was from John's Granny (who will be turning 90 in December - her husband turned 90 this year too). Having read this book, she had thought of me, so popped it in the post so I could enjoy it too. I am pretty sure it will just make me want to have my own cupcake shop even more than I do already!

I took the book to the park for its photoshoot (the ground was too wet for me to sit and read outside), and I couldn't help taking a few photos of the colours of Autumn that are showing themselves all around.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

above the trees & on my knees

I love that my job continually challenges me to look out for opportuntiies to teach children in new ways, and to use the world around me as an aid to what I do. This meant that on Sunday afternoon, I took a little stroll to the woods by our house to collect the first Autumn leaves to fall this season. It felt so good to be traipsing around in my Winter boots, camera in hand, breathing in the fresh evening air & enjoying the changing colours around me. And this is what I saw:

 I didn't spot the little stripey snail until I looked through my camera 
 As I walked through the woods, I spotted dots of bright green colour amongst the undergrowth. I got down on my knees to take a closer look, and realised that there were tiny apples, scattered by the dozen, through the woods.
hello baby snail and baby slug! enjoy your snack 
I am already noticing the skies changing at dusk as Autumn approaches & am excited about the beauty of the sunsets to come as the days grow shorter. Autumn is such a beautiful season.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The highlight of my weekend was receiving a surprise visit from my parents. Having taken my younger sister to start a new chapter in her life at Liverpool University, they took the opportunity to pop by and see me. Sadly, John wasn't here to see them too, as he as been sent to China again for two weeks.

My Mum & her three sisters have been going through the painful process of clearing their Mum's house of all her belongings, as she is no longer well enough to live independently. As a result of this, I feel very fortunate to have inherited some of my Nanny's beautiful belongings Amongst the items my parents have collected from my grandparents' home, was the wedding dress of a relative of my Mum's whom she knew as Aunt Lucy (although not a direct Aunt). Aunt Lucy had made the dress herself & it was beautifully unconventional for a wedding dress, and would not look out of place if worn at a wedding today - a true vintage. My Mum shares the same slender figure that her Aunt Lucy had, and so she slipped the dress on - I wish I had had my camera to hand so I could show you it.

Among the collection of items I have inherited / adopted from my Nanny was a set of playing cards, carefully stored in a leather case. I love to think of my Nanny & Grandad playing card games, & wonder if either of them was more competitive than the other, or if my Nanny plays games like my Mum, who can't help winning, but tries to avoid doing so, because she would rather someone else had the glory. 

I love that we are never too old to learn something new, even if it is just a little thing. Like learning a clever little trick for cleaning glass that my Mum taught me yesterday while I was cooking lunch & my Dad was playing beautiful tunes on the guitar in the background. By simply pouring some vinegar & a handful of rice into a glass receptacle, and patiently swilling the liquid around, the glass becomes clean & brilliantly shiny! So now, thanks to my Mum, some of our glassware is positively gleaming.
After my parents went home, I spent a quiet few hours collecting leaves, listening to the dulcet tones of Foy Vance, and having a 9pm coffee & chat with my wonderful friend Ros, whom I love as though she were family.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

play dough

Do you ever find yourself wondering what to do at 9.40pm, when you're all alone at home? This is the situation I found myself in this evening. So, I made some playdough, with lashings of red food colouring, because e-numbers don't matter when they're not being eaten.

Even though this playdough is for school, I would highly recommend having your own personal supply, in case you are ever in need of a little stress reliever. 

Good playdough recipes are sought after amongst Early Years teachers, so I thought I'd share the one I found, just in case you ever finding yourself with nothing to do, or wanting to make a brightly coloured gift for someone...

250g / 1 cup plain flour
250ml / 1 cup water, with generous splash of food colouring 
2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
2 tbsp cream of tartar (this helps with the elasticity & longevity of the dough)
135g / half a cup of salt
1. put all of the ingredients in a pan & heat over medium heat, stirring continuously until a smooth dough has formed.
2. remove from the heat, leave to cool, then PLAY!!!

teeny tiny playdough cubes, surprisingly satisfying to squish between your fingers

Monday, 12 September 2011

we ran.

 Please excuse my tomato-face, messy hair, and the portaloo in the background - just see them as little pieces of evidence that I did actually run the half marathon!

A few months ago, John happened to mention to his parents that the Bristol Half Marathon would be happening in September. A short time later as I was about to go to bed, John said, 'my parents have signed up to the half marathon. I'm going to sign us up too.' Or something along those lines. Minutes after this conversation, the realisation dawned on me that I'd be running those wonderful 13.1 miles again & that it would come around all too soon.

While I haven't felt at the peak of my running game, there have been a few things that have helped me along the way. The first is John. He has had such a positive attitude towards training for the run, and has this wonderful way of embracing a challenge & all it holds, rather than running in the opposite direction. The second source of help came in the same form, but from two different places. I had just read this blog post by Elise, where she mentioned a book called Born to Run by Chris McDougall, when I got a text from my little brother, asking if I'd heard of Born to Run, and if I'd like to borrow a copy.

When I got my hands on Born to Run, I didn't want to put it down. I savoured the words and inspiration about how people can be ultrarunners, running 100 mile marathons in phenomenal times, without getting injured. Incredible. It's the kind of book where you want to write down quotes every other page. 

'Instead of cringing from fatigue, you embrace it. You refuse to let it go. You get to know it so well, you're not afraid of it anymore.' - Chris McDougall

I wanted to get to the stage where I could embrace fatigue, and keep thinking & feeling 'easy, light, smooth, fast' as I ran. I think the reality is that to get to this stage, a lot needs to happen, and while I knew that I would not get to this stage in the short time I had to train for the half marathon, I felt inspired, that if people can run 100 miles, I can surely run 13 miles without much complaint. 

Race day arrived, along with all of John's family - his brother had even flown in from Grenoble for the event! Surprisingly, there was sun (it's feeling a lot like Autumn around here), and a good amount of wind. I felt like I plodded through the 13.1 miles, going slow & steady. We all completed the race & I think some of us are more enthusiastic than others about running another one! John decided to raise money for Tearfund, and his fundraising came to the grand total of £575! (His work kindly contributed £250 towards the total - they very generously double the amount of money any of their employees raise - up to £250!)

Although in my mind, 13 miles should be a relatively easy distance to run (with training), when you compare it with 100 mile marathons, the stark reality of what can happen to our bodies when we put them through their paces came home to me yesterday. A good friend of mine sent a text with the tragic news that someone she knew had had heart attack & died during the half marathon. He was a young, fit & healthy man, newly-married, who ran regularly. While our bodies are capable of amazing things, this goes to show that life is so very fragile. My thoughts & prayers are with his family.

Sunday, 11 September 2011


On the first day back at school sans children, I went into the staffroom & found a big crate, full of edible treats that had grown in our school garden, with a message on saying, 'help yourselves'. I didn't need to think twice about this offer and went happily home with a bag of onions, beans, apples & rhubarb. 

I love it when the time of year comes around for certain seasonal produce, and you get to dig out recipes that have been stashed away for the right season. I had a couple of rhubarb recipes waiting in the wings, and here's what came out of my oven a few hours later.


Rhubarb Cake
300g rhubarb
juice of half a lemon + zest
165g self raising flour
175g unsalted butter
80g caster sugar
95g light soft brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

for the topping
25g unsalted butter
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp light brown sugar or demerera sugar
6 tbsp oats

1. Preheat oven to 180C / gas mark 4
2. Grease and line an 8" square tin.
3. Trim the ends of the rhubarb & chop into 3cm chunks
4. Mix the rhubarb with the lemon zest & juice, and set aside
5. In a spearate bowl, whisk together the flour, butter, sugar, eggs & vanilla extract
6. Fold in half the rhubarb & spoon the mixture into the tin, spreading evenly
7. Scatter the remaining rhubarb on top of the mixture
8. In a food processor, blitz the ingredients for the topping together. I made up the topping, and so just added a bit of this and a bit of that - so my quantities are not precise - feel free to do the same!
(if you don't have a food processor, just mix the flour & butter first, then stir everything else in.)
9. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 50 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean
10. Serve warm with cream or creme fraiche. (It's also delicious cold.)

Saturday, 10 September 2011

a little newness

Welcome to my new space!

In some ways, things are very similar around here. I've just aimed to freshen things up a little with some new photos & links in my sidebar and a new domain name. 

I hope you like the small changes I have made. I have added a few pages to my blog which you can find the links to just below the header. Please note that they are a work in progress - particularly the recipes page - as I have included a lot of recipes on this blog over the years and I now have the grand old task of trying to get them all together in one place. My hope is to bring a bit more order & organisation to my blogging with these new additions.

You might also notice the button in my sidebar entitled, 'my little shop'. This is a bit of a brave step I have taken with the support & partnership of a wonderful friend. We have opened up our very own little shop on Folksy called Sewing Family Tree. If you click on the Folksy button, it'll take you there.

I'll be filling you in a bit more over the coming weeks about our shop. Please feel free to visit us on Folksy, and please be kind if you have any feedback - we are a little nervous but incredibly excited about the little-big opportunities it gives.

Please feel free to let me know if there's anything else you'd like to see happening on this little blog of mine -always love to hear from readers - it makes blogging that much more exciting when you know who's popping by.

This is really just a continuation of my blogging at running for grace, so I have imported the posts over to make it feel a little more like home. My most recent posts are missing, but hopefully they'll come over in due time!