Monday, 29 February 2016

The 52 Project: 9/52

Dear Ruby,
Some highlights from this week included visiting a Montessori Nursery (you didn't want to leave), going for impromptu walks in the wood at dusk, collecting walking sticks wherever we go, and travelling to Southbourne for our first holiday of the year with our friends Tim, Becky and Wren.
There has been a consistent theme to our conversations this week, which has been about where things have gone.
'Where's Grandad gone? On ship? Where's Tim, Becky, Wren gone? Where's shops gone? Where's park gone? Where's baby gone? Where's bread gone?' 
'Gone' seems to be your default when thinking about the location of where something is. I love witnessing you make sense of the world and the people that are important to you. Keep asking questions, little one.
All my love,
Mummy xxx

Monday, 22 February 2016

The 52 Project: 8/52

'A portrait of my daughter, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby,
Our Sunday afternoon's this year have been characterised by walks in Snuff Mills - we have been so many times now that I think it's ingrained in your internal clock - this Sunday at 4pm you said, 'see water wheel, go for walk?' We hadn't intended on going this week. It was yet another grey, dreary afternoon, and I was quite happy with the prospect of staying at home for the rest of the afternoon, but we took little persuading from you to go and see if the water wheel was working at Snuff Mills.

You've ridden your balance bike a lot this week - it's amazing to see you growing and now that you are a bit taller, you're able to pick up a bit of speed on it as you negotiate the rocks, puddles and slopes of the alley behind our house. Here's to many more adventures and explorations on two wheels.

All my love,

Mummy xxx

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Fruit Bread

When I was a teenager, I worked as a Saturday girl at a bakery in the town I grew up in, from the age of fourteen until I was nineteen. The pay was appalling (£2 an hour), but it was a really fun place to work, with one of the very obvious perks being lots of free food. At the end of every Saturday, we would bag up any leftover bread and cream cakes that we wanted, then throw the rest away. If ever there was a loaf of fruit bread left, our boss would tear it in half and give one half each to me and Emma, my fellow Saturday girl. We would then tear out the middle of the loaf and eat the lot. It was absolutely delicious - soft, sweet dough with just the right smattering of sultanas and spice.

I have never lost my love for fruit bread, but I only attempted to make it for the first time a couple of years ago, after seeing a Mary Berry recipe for a hot cross bun loaf. I have made a variation on Mary Berry's recipes a good many times now, regardless of whether it's Easter or not, but seeing as Easter is approaching, I thought I would take the opportunity to share my version of the bread here. I love this toasted with butter for breakfast, or as an afternoon snack.

Fruit Bread
50g unsalted butter
90g sultanas or raisins
50g dried cranberries
450g strong white bread flour
7g yeast
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp mixed spice,
1 tsp cinnamon
50g light muscovado sugar (I've also used light brown sugar & this is fine too)
150ml full fat or semi skimmed milk
zest of 1-2 lemons
1 egg

1) Melt the butter and let it cool.
2) In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a freestanding mixer, combine the flour, sugar, spices, zest, yeast and salt.
3) Heat the milk with 5tbsp (75ml) water until warm to the touch.
4) Lightly beat the egg with a fork
5) Pour the cooled butter & beaten egg into the mixing bowl.
6) Gradually pour the warmed milk and water into the mixing bowl, either while the mixer is on (with dough hook attached), or with a round bladed knife.
7) Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes until it's smooth and stretchy.
8) Take the dough out of the bowl and stretch it out a little bit. Add a good handful of the dried fruit and fold the dough in on itself, then knead a little to distribute the fruit. Repeat this process until all of the fruit is added.
9) Lightly oil the mixing bowl, then return the dough to the bowl to prove. Cover with a damp tea towel (this stops the dough from drying out).
10) Leave to prove until the dough has doubled in size - this takes about an hour, but it's fine to leave the dough for 2-3 hours.
11) Using sunflower oil and a pastry brush, grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper, then oil the paper. If you don't have a loaf tin, you could either make rolls, or a round cob loaf, or any shape you fancy, really! If you're making a cob loaf, all you need is a baking tray.
12) Once the dough has risen, remove from the bowl and knock the air out of it, by folding the dough in on itself. Shape into a loaf, then place into the prepared loaf tin, or baking tray if using.
13) Place inside either a large plastic container with a lid, or a plastic bag for the second rise. If using a plastic bag, make sure the bag is well away from the dough, then tuck the edge of the bag underneath the tin / tray, creating a little tent for your dough to rise in.
14) Leave to rise for another hour. Pre-heat the oven to 200C / gas mark 6. (For the second rise, it's quite important to bake the loaf after an hour - you can't leave it to rise for 2 hours and forget about it, otherwise the dough will over ferment and deflate.)
15) Bake for 15 minutes, then cover with foil or greaseproof paper to prevent burning, and bake for a further 10 minutes.
16) Remove the loaf from the oven - you can check if it's fully baked by removing it from the tin and tapping the bottom of the loaf in the middle. If it sounds hollow, then it's baked.
17) Place on a wire rack to cool as soon as the bread comes out of the oven. If you leave it to cool in the tin, it'll go soggy.
18) If you wanted to add an Easter touch to this bread, you can pipe crosses on the top with a paste made from 2 tbsp plain flour and 2 tbsp water.
19) Eat warm with butter and enjoy!!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

The 52 Project: 7/52

'A portrait of my daughter, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby,
You have recently become enamoured with two pull along toys that we have had since you were tiny. You like to bring crocodile or giraffe with us when we go for 'just a little walk round block', as you put it. Your crocodile is also a xylophone and click-clacks along in a slightly tuneful way as you pull it along the pavement. Last night, you wanted to take the crocodile to bed with you - I love that of all the things you could choose to take to bed, you want a metal and wooden crocodile. But then again, you have never been into cuddling soft toys or conventional comforters - I have a photo of you from when you were about six months old, asleep in the buggy holding a wine cork!
This photo seemed very fitting for this week's portrait, as it depicts a classic morning scene around here. You are fresh from the shower, only halfway dressed and it took about half an hour to get to this point. On average, it's taken us an hour to get ready for the day each morning this week, because you would just rather get on with other things.
You have recently started using metaphors, making sense of the world around you by comparing one thing to another. What is intriguing is that whenever we talk about how something smells, your one and only comparison is to peanut butter ('smells like peebee butter'). Coffee? Smells like pee bee butter. Chocolate? Smells like pee bee butter. Laundry detergent? Smells like pee bee butter. Perfume? Smells like pee bee butter. Roses? Smells like pee bee butter. I love you.
All my love,
Mummy xxx

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Pregnancy @ 28 weeks

Dreaming about my daughter having her hands covered in poison ivy and eating Swiss chard tart. I have never come into contact with either of these things. Definitely pregnancy influenced dreams.

Searching for the perfect woven wrap. I love carrying my babies close to me, and am excited to buy a wrap of my own this time around, having borrowed one to use with Ruby.

Managing to walk 10k steps most days. Cycling a little bit.

Reading anything other than pregnancy and parenting books. (Just finished The Rosie Effect and currently reading The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared.)

Sewing slings for baby dolls (for Ruby and as gifts).

Studying my Montessori course in every spare naptime and evening. Feeling the baby kicks are going to be synonymous with my studying during this pregnancy, as it's in these pockets of time when I am still that I feel him move the most.

Imagining what this labour and birth will be like compared to Ruby's (and looking forward to the prospect of trying to have a home birth again).

Wearing maternity leggings pretty much constantly. I love them.

Baking lots of salted caramel brownies and posting them around the UK (you can order them here).

Taking iron supplements, due to a drop in my iron levels since the first trimester.

Feeling like I should be sewing for this baby, but needing to prioritise studying. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

around here //January edition

I started writing this post at the end of January, then somehow, I find that it's already the 8th February, and I still haven't finished writing it! I thought I'd go ahead and publish it anyway, as I would like to remember some of the highlights from a rather dreary month. While I don't want the weather to entirely influence my feelings about the month of January, it's a well known fact that lack of sunshine and a lot of rain are not particularly conducive to feeling on top of the world. Here's to celebrating the little things in life that brighten up rainy, grey days.

Favourite Book: Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian.
The break over Christmas kick-started me into reading again - a habit I tend to neglect for long periods of time. I read Michael McIntyre's autobiography, and Do No Harm by Henry Marsh. In the new year, I started reading Goodnight Mister Tom, which has been sat on our bookshelves for a long time now. I loved it. There were a couple of parts which had me sobbing, but I don't mind reading books that make me cry. It's quite cathartic, really. It's one of those books where I couldn't wait to get back to reading it, and thought about the characters a lot, even when I wasn't engrossed in turning the pages. That's a sign of a good book for me. I have also read The Rosie Effect and am just starting on The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. 

Favourite Cake:
This was a cake order I made for a 4th birthday party - a 10" chocolate cake covered in chocolate fingers and smarties. I loved the process of arranging all 280 smarties on top.

Favourite Photo:
I have no idea what this plant is, but my eye was drawn to the way that it was mirrored by the adjacent plant, both with two seed heads (is that what they are?! I am no botanist!) on a single stem. The dull hues also sum up how the weather has been for most of January - lots of very overcast, grey, wet days.

Favourite Meal: Pie Minister / Chicken pie that we cooked.
Sadly there's no photo to accompany this one - the pies were devoured too quickly. Pies have been the flavour of the month for me. We've actually only eaten pies twice in January, but I have thought about them a lot. I think it's just the way they feel like a hearty Winter meal, and I have been craving that kind of meal during the long January days. I baked this chicken pie recipe and it was delicious. I left out the mushrooms and lima beans - I think I might have added peas instead but can't quite remember. One Friday in January, Ruby and I caught the bus to meet John for lunch at Pie Minister. They make incredible pies. You know when you eat a meal that you have been thinking about for a long time, and it is even better than you were hoping for? That was my experience at Pie Minister. It was the perfect lunch for a wet, cold January afternoon.

Favourite form of documenting life:

Right at the start of January, I saw this idea on Instagram of a diary where you can write one sentence a day. The diary spans five years, so by the end of that time, you can glance at any date and see what you were doing on that particular day over five consecutive years. I loved the idea so immediately ordered three, figuring they would make great presents. I am thoroughly enjoying taking a few minutes at the end of each day to write a sentence about what has happened - I so easily forget from day to day what we have done and who we have seen, and this is such a lovely, simple way of helping me to remember!

Favourite Place: Snuff Mills

I wrote about Snuff Mills here, and it has featured in a number of the portraits I have taken of Ruby in January. This is because we would often get to Sunday afternoon, feel in need of fresh air and due to the lack of beautiful light, I didn't take many photos throughout the weeks of January, meaning I would get to Sunday and still need a portrait of Ruby for that week. So, off to Snuff Mills we would go. Ruby has become enamoured with the water wheel that's right by the entrance, and it is a frequent topic of conversation as to whether the wheel will be turning or not each time we go for another walk there.

Favourite Coffee: Square Mile Red Brick Seasonal Espresso

John and I both love coffee, and this blend has been hitting the spot during January. So much so, that we are both changing the way we drink coffee to have much less milk (I have always been a lover of latte's) so that we can enjoy more of the coffee flavour.

So there we have it. A little list of a few things that have brightened up the month of January for me.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The 52 Project: 6/52

'A portrait of my daughter, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby,
You have recently started asking to go for 'walk round block', and we are quickly discovering that this means that you'd like to walk to the swimming pool or the park in the hope that you might get to do some jumping, or watch children swimming, which is significantly more than just a walk around the block. Suffice to say, if ever we suggest going out for a walk - to the shops, library, around the block, or better still, to Snuff Mills to see the water wheel, you tend to jump at the chance. 

This week has been a funny one, punctuated with a fever and sickness, needing to rest, making a quick recovery and seeing lots of friends and family who came to Bristol to visit this weekend. One of my favourite moments of the week was when we were all eating dinner together and you looked up at me and said, 'I love you so much!' without missing a beat, you turned to Daddy and said the same thing - this is the first time you have ever verbalised your love for us and it made my heart feel very full. What a treasure you are. 

All my love,
Mummy xxx

Monday, 1 February 2016

self portraiture part three

Way back in February last year, I resolved to try and start taking self portraits of me and my daughter, due to the distinct lack of photos of me in any of our photos. I want my children to be able to look back through the memories that I have captured in photographs and see that I was very much present with them in those moments. I haven't managed to follow through with this with any kind of consistency, but perhaps I can change that this year.
In among all of the grey, rainy days we've been having lately, there was one afternoon last week where the sun came out and flooded our living room with its beautiful golden glow. I picked up my camera and started snapping away, taking photos of Ruby absorbed in her play. Before the light passed, I located my camera remote and invited Ruby to come and use it - she was keen to have a go at taking photos before I even suggested this, so it worked perfectly. The remote is far more manageable for her tiny hands than holding the cumbersome camera is, so she had the joy of taking most of these photos.

I appreciate that they are far from perfect - some are out of focus and my hair is a mess post-swimming lesson - but I am ok with that. Photos are rarely perfect, but the point is that they capture the moment, and that they feature me and my daughter together, which is how we spend our days, but is rarely ever captured.