the birds and the beads

Well hello…it’s been too long since I’ve written. I just wanted to update on a few small but nice things we’ve been doing over the past few weeks.

‘Feeding the birds’… Now, I don’t know if we’ve actually fed the birds, or in fact if many birds are still around; such is my lack of knowledge of wildlife. But we made these bird feeders, using yogurt cartons…inspired by Gillian’s blog. Basically, melting lard (which stinks!) and mixing it with seeds, oats and nuts, then setting it in the fridge. We made three; one fell apart removing it from the carton so we hung two outside. 

I feel like I should be following up with a photo of some beautiful bird feeding from them in our garden. But we haven’t checked much…after a couple of days, they were still hanging there, looking untouched. And as I write this, it’s dark outside so I can’t tell you. But it gave us an activity.

It’s been Hama Bead Central in the house. Again, inspired by Gillian’s blog. I have heard of Hama beads before but for whatever reason, just not ever tried them or caught the vision! Well, after seeing photos of some, I thought ‘patterns’…….

and that means ‘Numeracy’ people!! 

We ordered a box of 2400 and got through them in the first day. So I ordered a box of 6000 and we haven’t got many left. I think I’m going to put the remaining few away for a bit. Man, they are addictive. But so fab! The older two have sat and concentrated on them for ages. Initially, they have preferred copying some of the suggested pictures of penguins, sea horses and princess ladies, but have latterly moved on to making their own patterns. Matt and I haven’t needed any persuasion to sit with them and do it ourselves. We talked about shapes, repeated patterns and symmetry.


Here is a selection (yes, just a small selection) of our work this week…

We are really into reading chapter books with the elder two at the moment. We have finished ‘Pinocchio’ which was really funny, fabulously written…and a bit scary and weird at times to be honest! Something that helped set the ball rolling in reading a book with very few pictures, I found, was that at the start of each chapter, there was a sentence giving you an outline of what was about to happen. That really spurred us on to read the chapter and created excitement and expectation in the kids. I am thrilled we have finished it. We are generally reading chapter books at bedtime when Matt can read to Joseph and keep Rafi happy (who generally just likes to eat books).

We’ve now started reading The Famous Five, book 1. They got the whole Famous Five and Secret Seven series for Christmas (thank you Oxfam Bookshop) so I’m looking forward to sharing those adventures. There seems to be a ‘read aloud revival’ going on at the moment, especially among the blog world. Loads of brilliant reminders about how important and wonderful it is for children to be read aloud to….even older children and teenagers who can read independently….nurturing family life and relationships as much as their own language skills. I find this really affirming because it’s something we do a lot of and we all really enjoy. I’m hoping to build up the hours we spend reading together even more.

I have finally finished my first ‘smelly old book’ (‘Winds of the Day’ by Howard Spring)…it’s taken a ridiculous amount of time to read, partly because I just don’t have much free time and partly because, although it was a relaxing and enjoyable read, it wasn’t gripping at any point. But I’m happy to have read it and now trying to decide what to read next….a shelf full of smelly old books eagerly await.

Wintery colds and coughs had each of us wiping out at different points this week. We spent three full days at home without going anywhere, but I was reassured by how much time we can now happily spend at home. On each of these days, I successfully ‘threw the kids out in the garden’ (lovingly, you understand) for at least half an hour. They like me to set the timer on our iPad for this. Even on a wet blustery day, they went out (heading straight for the tree house, armed with a flask of hot chocolate and three cups…I’m learning people!). This gives me some quiet minutes to sit down and recharge a little….my aim this week is to spend absolutely none of this time wiping, tidying or cleaning up, because before I know it, it’s over! Just sit woman.

I am a frustrated knitter at the moment, with many projects I want to do and many obstacles in the way….lack of knowledge, skill or the right yarn. I really dislike not having a knitting project on the go. I should probably just practice something while I wait. I’m hoping to get on with it more this week. I had a knitting class booked last week and had to miss it due to feeling grim…a bit poorly but more just sheer exhausted with looking after a poorly Rafi who was very clingy and whingey all week. So exhausting. We are all much better now 🙂

Our week finished on a high. We skipped their swimming class, not being well enough I decided, but then on a whim, I took them to the Bristol City Library. I had sussed out the joint the previous weekend and knew it had a great children’s area and I decided it would be good to just get out somewhere. We stayed, playing and reading in the library for ages, then ventured to walking outside passed the magnificent cathedral and fountains and up the hill, exploring more of the city. The kids were on such a high and we ended up having lunch out…one of those rare times where everyone is on super form, happy to be living with each other… and Rafi slept in the pram! So our Friday film didn’t get started until about 4pm and I felt we had certainly earned it after all that illness and hard Hama bead work 🙂

Hope to see you here again soon, thanks for reading x





We’ve turned a corner since the new year. Perhaps it’s partly my perception; a new year has begun and things must be different, right? Spring is on it’s way or something. But I’ve really noticed change. Good change. The kids and I are more than adjusting to being at home so much and not having the rhythm of school five days a week. I rarely need to help them find ‘something to do’. They’re better at it. And there’s lots of good play and that happens easily. There are many sibling fights; I doubt that will disappear, but they are short lived and the eldest three are playing a lot more altogether. Joseph is growing up and becoming more of a playmate for the elder two, so he’s not left out so much. We are finding rhythms to our day that work well, such as reading together, house jobs and even quiet rest times, and the kids are more a part of jobs around the home and preparing meals. 

I am making much more fuss over our evening meal and really enjoying it. One of the kids will help me cook or chop salad while another sets and decorates the table. They enjoy picking out a jug of flowers or craft they’ve made and a candle, which we always light to remind us that “Jesus is the Light of the world”. 

I’m trying to have most of the tidying up done before Matt gets home…over Christmas, we moved a lot of the toys into bedrooms so it makes this easier! It’s a calmer, nicer space for Matt to come home to and then, after dinner we can relax a bit more and let the meal linger (for Matt and I anyway, the kids see little point in sitting around the table once their food is finished!). I often go out for a quick ‘blast’…walk/run as soon as Matt’s home and then quickly shower and change into comfy clothes or PJs for dinner. I enjoy it so much more after a bit of exercise and a shower, knowing there are no more jobs to be done. It’s time to relax.

We’ve freshened up the family menu a bit, just to bring a bit of change, but are still working on a three week meal planner. I find it wonderfully helpful to have it planned out. There’s nothing very ‘domestic goddess’ on there, just family favourites that are quick and easy to cook…spaghetti meatballs, casseroles, fish cakes, curry and rice. 

I enjoy making the simple meals more special just by using pretty dishes, making tasty side salads and using our favourite cups and napkins. And a glass of wine is a welcome symbol that our evening has begun. 

I’ve enjoyed thinking this through a bit more. I want our evening meal together to be special and a place of connection….it’s a work in progress but it’s now one of my favourite times of day. It used to be like feeding time at the Zoo..chaotic, loud and frustrating because it wasn’t the atmosphere I wanted. Remembering that it’s me who sets the tone and models this mealtime to them…inviting them to join in making it all helping to change it for the better.


Leigh Woods

We’ve discovered Leigh Woods in the last few days and had a gorgeous afternoon there yesterday. There are acres we still haven’t discovered yet. It’s full of paths to walk and some of them have ‘difficulty ratings’ for cycling so Matt is hoping to go with the kids and bikes soon. 

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and I remembered my camera this time, so got a bit snappy happy. Indulge me if you will.

I think the play area has been built or developed by Bristol Steiner school. Leigh woods is National Trust owned although it’s free to enter. The play area was fab with lots of logs to balance on, a few swings and ropes and a fab stick den! In fact there were stick dens all over the woods that people have made and left for others to play in.


This was my favourite bit…..steaming hot chocolate out of our flask. One of my better prepared afternoons; appreciated by all of us.


lemon curd

We made lemon curd this week. I was enticed by the photo in this recipe book, when we were searching for lemon cake. I love anything lemony and have never made it before. Separating eggs seemed a bit of a hurdle but was surprisingly easy in my hands. I have to confess I didn’t let the kids help me with this bit. Joseph was asleep on the sofa and missed the whole thing. 

It’s delicious!

I now have three jars which I need to find homes for. I can’t possibly eat all that after seeing what goes in it! 

So far, I’ve spread a couple of oatcakes, but I can only think of other terribly unhealthy ways of eating it…like dripping it over ice cream, meringues or layering a cake. As if it needs more fat and sugar! Would be tasty though…..hmmm.

rise and shine

Rafael wakes me early. I feed him in bed for as long as he’s happy, but after about 30 minutes, he wants to be up. I never really want to get out of bed (does anyone?) but once I’m out and downstairs, I find I’m enjoying the early morning; the quiet, the hot tea, the chance for some undisturbed reading or knitting. Even the darkness; it gives me chance to create a cosy room. Once the kettle’s on, I enthusiastically set my scene – fairy lights on (all year round!), lamps on, fire on if it’s still chilly, relaxing music on the CD player. Rafi will happily play and explore for a while and I’ve been delving into a set of magazines Matt bought me for Christmas. Taproot; thoughtful writing, beautiful photographs and illustrations, and no adverts. Making, growing, building, nurturing. Simple living inspiration. There’s so much goodness in them. A lot of ideals mixed with a lot of reality. There’s much that inspires me and a little that is beyond my interest or capacity (‘Making Spruce Beer and Vinegar’??)

After an hour or so, if I’m lucky, Rafi is filled up and sometimes ready for another nap. I creep back upstairs to tuck him in, hoping not to wake anyone else. This morning, I’ve managed it and am contentedly snuggled under my own knitted blanket (the joy!), pencil and notepad in hand, cherishing the moments to myself. I know it won’t be long before those little footsteps come down the stairs. I’m happy to be awake, up and ready to greet them when they arise.

Oh, and here’s the first one. Moment over.

What we’re enjoying this week 20

I love the way Keziah placed the people in our nativity set…they look like they are lining up waiting to take a bow, knowing they are about to be put away for another 11 months. Boo hoo. I love this set and always want to keep it out…but it wouldn’t be special and enjoyed so much throughout December then would it?

Well, happy new year…..a week late, but that’s me! Here are a few pics from the last week of our 2013. 

Watching The Gruffalo…

We enjoyed a bit of Christmas TV with a big TV set borrowed from the office. It was nice to watch a few things together, especially the four part Nativity series which the kids hadn’t seen before. My other favourite is the Snowman..such wholesome watching! The tv has now gone back and we are trying to readjust our screen time again!

 I’ve made it about halfway through my first smelly old book!

It’s taking ages to read, mostly because when I get a chance, I’m more likely to pick up my knitting needles. But I’ve had at least one nice evening in front of the fire with the book. It’s written in a lovely old fashioned way but I’m still waiting for something significant to happen. It’s certainly not a thriller and maybe not being gripped by it is why it’s taking so long to get through! I will persevere….

We had a great tidy up on New Year’s Day. I love a good celebration clear up. Out with the Christmas tree, a little furniture shift and more toys moved into bedrooms. There is too much stuff down here and we need to spend less time tidying up! I enjoyed myself setting up a new book shelf and putting books into groups, where we have them….Topsy&Tim, Mr Men etc. 

We needed to open up the room a bit more so I can see where Rafael is heading and what he is chewing, now he’s on the move. I can’t take my eyes off him for long.

I knitted a few of these cotton face cloths for Christmas gifts. Not one of them was perfect…grrrr. But I enjoyed the knitting and could knock one up in a couple of sittings. They were nice wrapped in tissue paper and wool, with a lovely smelling soap inside. Ideally I’d love to make my own soap. Ideally….

I did a bit of reading up about making soap a couple of months ago and discovered it involves dangerous chemicals which shouldn’t be anywhere near children, so I was a bit put-off. It will have to be an exciting Saturday night activity with Matt. Well, I’ll let you know if it ever happens.

Spot the mistakes. Or actually, don’t bother. I should have given it a steam iron to finish it well but this was finished very close to the wire. When I took the photo, we were really supposed to be getting in the car to go…Matt was juggling all the kids and trying to get out of the house. I was really pushing my luck! 

I’ve found a knitting workshop on finishing techniques and correcting mistakes, which is just what I need, so I’m looking forward to that soon. I’m hoping for a lot more knitting and making this year. 

Well, I think 20 weeks in our first term here rounds up the ‘What we’re enjoying this week’ posts quite nicely. I’m going to try and write posts more little and often now, so hopefully I’ll be back here again soon.