Sunday, 29 June 2014

The 52 Project: 26/52

Dear Ruby,
This week you have devoured egg tartlets like it's your job, been desperate to eat my granola (much to my delight - I would love to carry on the legacy of homemade granola in our family) and cut your third tooth like a pro. You are growing strong, little one, and I love it.

Friday, 27 June 2014

photo books part one // introduction, format and frequency

This post is part one of a five part series. You can find the other posts here:

For some time, I have wanted to share with you a couple of the photo books that I have made since Ruby was born. As I started to write the blog post to share these with you, I found myself writing a very in depth post about how I go about selecting the photos that go into these books. It got me thinking about the different elements that come together to create the process of making photo books, and I have decided to write a series of posts, to share in a little more depth with you how I go about this process. It is my hope that perhaps this series might inspire you to be pro-active in doing something with all of those wonderful memories you have documented in photos, but that are currently hidden away on memory cards or phones.

This series will cover the following topics:
- Format and Frequency of making photo books
- Photo sharing on social media
- Very basic, user friendly photo editing tools
- How I decide which photos to include in a photo book
- Photo organisation

Format & Frequency of Making Photo Books
I take a lot of photos. This has been the case for many, many years, but even more so since digital photography and smart phones entered my life. I have developed a reasonably efficient system for organising the photos I take on my digital SLR, but when it comes to my phone, things are a little out of hand. I currently have 1,600 photos on my phone, and I have run out of storage space in the iCloud, so none of these photos are backed up. I preface this post with all of this Information, because I am sure a lot of you will be nodding in understanding that you too are in a similar situation.
At Christmas time last year, I came across the idea of making photo books from Instagram on a quarterly basis as a way of doing something more with iPhone photos. I would love to be able to tell you where I found this idea, but I am afraid everything I had within me was consumed with loving my newborn baby and learning how to keep her alive, so details like this have slipped right out of my memory. One of the stumbling blocks I have found in the past with making photo books has been the overwhelming feeling that comes when I'm sat at my computer with hundreds and hundreds of photos to choose from. It is very easy for the process of making a photobook to take many hours to do, and so having learned about being overwhelmed from past experience, I was keen to create order out of my photos before chaos descended and it all began to feel like an impossible task.

The idea of making a photo book every three months from photos that I had gradually curated and shared each week via Instagram felt totally achieveable, even with a newborn baby. With the two photo books that I have made so far, they have both included about 50 photos each, which is a very manageable number of photos to deal with at any one time, rather than hundreds, or even thousands, which is what I would be faced with if I left it a whole year before making a photo book that includes snapshots of our first year with Ruby.

In terms of the format of my photobooks, I knew that I wanted them to be hardbacks, as these will be far more durable once they are exposed to little hands. In the past, I have also printed softcover photobooks, and have loved these too, so if you're looking for a slightly cheaper option, I am sure that you will love the end product of the soft books too.

I chose to print my photobooks with Blurb, as I have used this company in the past and been very pleased with the quality of their books. I toyed with the idea of printing through Artifact Uprising, who make beautiful products, and are a small company, but as they're based in America, this bumps up the cost of shipping, and adds in a whole lot of air miles that I could avoid by printing through Blurb.

I plan on making all of my Instagram books in the smallest size available through Blurb, which is 7" x 7". The square format works perfectly with the square format of Instagram photos, and this is a lovely size that is manageable for small hands. The prospect of filling up a bookshelf with these photobooks over the years excites me no end, and I cannot wait to get started on my third book at the end of June. I see this excitement as a very good indicator that this plan for quarterly photobooks as just as achieveable as I had hoped it would be at the outset.

{back covers of my two Blurb Instagram books}

I would love to hear from you on this topic - do you print your digital photos, or make photobooks? If so, do you try and make them on a regular basis, or is it a more ad hoc thing for you? Please feel free to share your ideas, thoughts and questions in the comments!

{All photos included in this post are from my Instagram feed, taken with my iPhone 4s.}

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

miniature egg tartlets

As I typed the title of this post, it dawned on me that I have made a lot of 'miniature' things over the years: brownies, meringues, lemon cloud cookiesdrawstring bags, and now tiny little tartlets. There's something very pleasing to me about making bitesized food, and now that I have a baby to feed, I have even more reason to bake things on a small scale. This week, I have made these little egg tartlets, which have been very well received by my daughter. They're so simple and quick to whip up, so I thought I'd share the recipe here. This is a very versatile recipe, and you could chop and change the ingredients as you wish, just keeping the egg mixture the same. Next time I think I might add some grated cheese and a bit of chicken.

Miniature Egg Tartlets
ingredients: makes 10 tiny tartlets
2 eggs
1 spring onion (scallion)
a few slices of courgette
a handful of fresh or frozen peas
1 tbsp whole milk

1) Preheat the oven to 180C / gas mark 4
2) Slice up the courgette and spring onions into small pieces
3) Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan then transfer to a jug.
4) Heat a small amount of coconut oil, or any other kind of oil in a frying pan and fry the courgette and spring onions until they've softened (about 4 mins).
5) Add the eggs and a tablespoon of whole milk to the jug with the butter and lightly beat together.
6) Grease a mini muffin tray then pour the egg mixture into each hole.
7) Add a small amount of each of the vegetables to each hole
8) Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.
9) Leave in the tray to cool for a few minutes, before transferring to a cooling rack. If you don't transfer the tartlets to cool, they will become slightly soggy.
10) Give to your little one to devour, or enjoy them yourself!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

quiet thoughts on parenthood

I find this experience of raising my own flesh and blood to be such an intriguing one. I look at this precious girl whom I have known since before I saw her face, and am still amazed that she is mine. I feel this deep familiarity with her that comes from growing her for nine months, coupled with an awe and wonder at who this little blue eyed beauty is that I get to care for every day. She is incredibly familiar and totally surprising all at once. I have a feeling that the whole journey of parenthood might just feel like this.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Notes to myself

Dear you,
Start carrying a pen around with you. At least three times last week you were out walking, and you had both the urge and the opportunity to just sit and write while your daughter sleeps. Take these moments because you will not get them back. Even though your writing has become very scrawly through lack of writing recently, there are times when thoughts and sentiments need to be written, not typed. Be kind to yourself when you realize, yet again, that you have not followed up this thought. It's not a big deal, but you will never regret taking time to write. Remember, we write to remember.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The 52 Project: 25/52

'A portrait of my daughter, once a week, every week in 2014.'

Dear Ruby,
We have spent a lot of time outside this week, enjoying a lot of sunshine. It is such a joy to watch you at work with your hands. You were particularly taken with this strong, tall blade of grass in Auntie Hannah's garden, and spent a long time trying to uproot it. I love watching you explore the world around you, little one. 

The 52 Project: 24/52

 A portrait of my daughter once a week, every week in 2014.

(I was unable to post a portrait last week, so I'm playing catch up this week.)

Dear Ruby,
This week you attended your first wedding of our friends, Jamie and Suzie. You met some of my old university friends for the first time, slept through dinner and sat on a giant chess board. Here's to many years of happy celebrations ahead of you (and possibly a little learning of how to play chess, if you spend enough time with your Grandad). 

Friday, 20 June 2014

Five Minute Friday: Release

When I discovered this whole community of bloggers who participate in Lisa Jo Baker's Five Minute Friday link up, one of the things that appealed to me about it was the invitation to just write. If only for five minutes, to write without editing or too much thinking, to ignore the inner skeptic and just let the words flow. And yet in recent months, I have felt at a complete loss for words and so I have not given myself the opportunity to sit and write. My inner critic has been speaking loud and clear, and so I have avoided participating. But there's something in me that misses writing more than a recipe. And so today, here we go...

The sun is shining powerfully as a leave the house this afternoon to take some post to the post box that stands in its regal red splendour, just around the corner from our home. The first thing I notice as I walk, aside from the sleep that is already closing in on my baby, is the music that's blaring and declaring its presence. I scan the street to discover where the music is coming from, while noticing how my mind makes the immediate connection with the music. Leftfield. Release the pressure. As I reminisce about the years gone by since I discovered Leftfield, I realise the blurring of lines that has happened with the passing of time; a blurring that means I cannot pinpoint when I first heard their music, and the present blurring of music - this is not Leftfield, it just sounds very much like them.

On my journey home, I note that the music has stopped, and for some reason my thoughts have travelled to the moment during my labour when I had just been transferred to hospital. After eighteen or so hours of labour at home, I needed assisstance, and the first thing the midwife assured me of, was release from the pain with the help of an epidural. I had never wanted an epidural before I knew what the all consuming contractions of labour would feel like, and even in these final stages of labour where my body felt weak in a way that I had never known, I knew that release from the pain was not what I needed. I needed to be able to feel what my body was doing. Because for me in that moment, release would have felt like loss.

Monday, 16 June 2014

sewing lately // miniature drawstring bag

We recently celebrated the first birthday of a good friend of our family, and as part of his present, I made a little drawstring bag for him to keep his wooden eggs in. I understand that drawstring bags are one of the first sewing projects children undertake at school, but I have never made one. There's always the chance I missed out on that opportunity in my textiles classes, as I was banned from using the sewing machines. My teacher got rather fed up of me creating yet another 'bird's nest' - the term she used to describe the mess I made when I started sewing with the cotton incorrectly threaded in the machine, causing the needle and bobbin to get into a big old mess.
Needless to say, my sewing skills have come a long way since those days, and I am pleased to say that I am able to sort my bird's nests out these days. However, I do still get a good number of things wrong in my sewing, and my first attempt at a drawstring bag did not work out so well. I am very much a visual learner, and I struggle to preempt potential mistakes, as I cannot visualise how something will look once I have reversed the fabric and turned it the right way out. This is a bit of a shortcoming when it comes to sewing, as almost everything I make requires an element of sewing the fabric while it is inside out, so that seams are hidden when you turn the fabric the right way around. Once I had made my mistake, it was far easier for me to see what I needed to do differently, and my second attempt turned out just right.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Walled Garden

I have lived in Bristol for almost ten years now, and it still amazes me how much of the city and the surrounding areas I have yet to properly discover. Last week, my good friend Hannah invited me to go on an adventure to The Walled Garden with her two daughters, and I was excited about visiting a beautiful spot in the countryside that I have not been to before. The reason behind this trip was to provide an opportunity for Hannah's daughter's to see a Potter's studio. They have been reading a story in the Bible about a Potter, and to make the story more tangible, Hannah had the great idea of visiting a potter she knows, whose studio is at The Walled Garden.

It turned out that the potter was not in his studio when we arrived, but we visited another artist whose studio was open, and I loved all of the colourful paintings that adorned the walls of her studio.

Despite the slight disappointment of not being able to visit the potter, we had the most wonderful time, exploring the gardens and eating our lunch with the mot incredible view as our backdrop. The Walled Garden is the kind of place that I dream of discovering - a place filled with beautiful colours, where all that you can here is the breeze in the trees and the gentle hum of bumble bees enjoying the flowers. There is also a lovely restaurant that is part of the walled garden, and we saw the chef harvesting a few edible crops to cook with, as we sat and ate a delicious cheeseboard.

I did not want to leave behind the beauty of the garden, but sadly I don't think they would take too kindly to me setting up camp there, so I will just have to make sure that I return for a visit in the very near future. 

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

burger buns

Every now and then, my husband gets a craving for a burger. His most recent craving occurred on Sunday, and as I had all of the necessary ingredients for bread rolls, I decided to bake some, rather than buying them. The recipe is almost identical to the one I use for a standard white bread loaf, and the main difference is just in the process of making the bread, and adding a glaze before baking.
Our daughter is at a wonderful stage when it comes to food. She is so interested in everything, especially whatever is on our plates, or in our bowls. As you can imagine, finding time to photograph food has become slightly more challenging since having a baby, and I tend to try and wait until she is having a nap before whipping out my camera for a little food photography. Needless to say, this doesn't happen anywhere near as frequently as it used to, but today, I decided to involve her in the photoshoot.
I want Ruby to grow up seeing me do the things I love, and these rolls provided the perfect opportunity for not only Ruby to observe me in my happy place with camera in hand, but for her to try something I have baked. In the time it took me to place the rolls within arms reach of Ruby, then turn around to get my camera, she deftly swiped a roll from the pile, just as I anticipated she would. The next half an hour was spent like this:
The only thing these pictures don't capture are the giggles and happy noises emitted between mouthfuls of bread!

Burger Buns / Bread Rolls
ingredients (makes 12 buns)
500g strong white bread flour
20g unsalted butter at room temperature
7g salt
10g yeast
320ml water
1 egg for glazing

1. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and gradually combine, either with your hands, or with the dough hook of a freestanding mixer.
2. Once the ingredients have come together to form a dough, knead the dough for 5 - 10 minutes, until it's glossy and stretchy. If your dough is sticky, put a little bit of oil on your hands. If this does not remove the stickiness, add a little dusting of flour to the dough.
3. Lightly oil a bowl and place the kneaded dough into the bowl. Cover with a tea towel to stop the dough from drying out, and leave in a warm place for an hour to double in size. It is fine to leave the dough for up to three hours if you wish.
4. Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out of it by folding it in on itself, then shape into round buns. If you are wanting to be precise and have identically sized buns, weigh out the dough into 70g portions before shaping.
5. Place the dough balls onto two lightly oiled baking sheets. Leave a good sized space between them to allow for expansion, but don't worry if they end up touching each other once they have risen, this is not a problem.
6. Place the trays inside plastic bags (or inside a plastic container with a lid, if you have one that is large enough). Ensure that the plastic from the bag is not actually touching the dough.
7. Leave to prove for one hour.
8. Preheat the oven to 200C / gas mark 5.
9. Once the rolls have risen and doubled in size, remove from the plastic bags, and brush with a little bit of beaten egg.
10. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Monday, 9 June 2014

around here

discovering the most wonderful places just a short drive from my home. (More on this later in the week.)
sewing miniature drawstring bags for babes that are celebrating their first birthday
lying on the grass
growing orchids and roses. I have been incredibly happy to see my orchid flowering for the first time in four years. I am not very good at keeping plants alive, and orchids have always seemed particularly delicate to me. When we moved into our new house, I put our near-dead orchid on our kitchen windowsill and kept resolving to give one last go at taking good care of it. A couple of months ago, I finally removed it from the opaque ceramic pot that it has always lived in, so that the roots could get some sunlight, as I have been informed that this is essential for growth. This was the turning point, and within a couple of weeks, there was a fresh shoot appearing! I have watched with increasing glee as the orchid has gone from strength to strength, and was so excited when the first bud burst open last week!
eating al fresco in the morning sun. The novelty of having a little bit of outdoor space in our home has still not worn off, and we have lived here for a year now. Our view might not be very pretty yet, but basking in the morning sun? It's glorious wherever you're sat.
excited to start reading the River Cottage Infant and Toddler cookbook

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The 52 Project: 23/52

'A portrait of my daughter, once a week, every week in 2014.'
{Captured post-bath time, pre-massage before bedtime. The light in our room is my favourite at this time day.}

Dear Ruby,

This week you have been on an adventure to the most beautiful garden your Mama has ever seen (The Barley Wood Walled Garden in Wrington), swum underwater for the third time in your short life, eaten amazing amounts of pea purée, cried at the noise of celebrations at your friend's first birthday party and seen your first theatre production. What a wonderful week. 
With great love, 

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The 52 Project: 22/52

Dear Ruby,
This week I have marveled at your physical strength - the way you're now able to push up on your arms and look around the room with your enquiring face is a wonder to see. You are developing this beautiful determination in reaching out for the things that you'd like to hold - even when they go beyond your reach - you keep on trying. Keep it up, little one, you're doing beautifully.