Treasures

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Getting hold of a wider range of goods and services without using the car usually involves a journey across the estuary, and what a delight it is. A short walk takes us to our local ferry and a bumpy ride over the sea transports us to Fleetwood, a town packed full of interesting architecture and a good range of independent shops.

Designed by Decimus Burton in the 1830’s, the town was originally designed to accommodate the working classes in  ‘golden sands, sea, air like wine and breath-taking views across Morecambe Bay on clear days.’ It certainly felt that way as we enjoyed a beach side picnic today.

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A train load of books in Fleetwood Library…

And so to more domestic matters…..

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Planning this year’s harvest- inspired by the permaculture movement we are going to plant some full-size trees this year..more later

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Finding a much prettier alternative to filter cartridges

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A handwritten letter from a dear friend on the most gorgeous notepaper

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Making naan to go with our lentil and tomato curry.

The Beauty Of Zero Waste – part deux

Having a family can certainly add to the waste we produce, an estimated 1/2 tonne of disposable nappies are produced every year per child- nappies in landfills take up to 500 years to degrade and around 200, 000 trees are lost each year to make disposable nappies for babies in the USA alone. The arrival of a baby often means that we are inundated with ‘essential’ items from well-meaning family and friends or from exhausted shopping trips in a vain effort to secure the one item which we believe will make our lives easier.

The simple truth is that having a home with just a few good-quality baby items make parenting much easier on both our health and pocket.

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Baby bathing essentials: muslin cloths, baby balm in a glass jar from a good friend, coconut oil and a gorgeous washbag made by a lovely lady.

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Toddler mealtimes- metal cutlery and enamel ware espresso size cup – perfect for little hands

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Washable nappies from Bambino Mio and bamboo wipes from Ma Petite Chou

For those precious spare moments….

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Fountain pen from Allan Lloyd in Kendal, ink, blotting paper and writing paper- for those times when only handwritten letter will do.

 

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Shopping kit

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Woodstore, wormery and apple trees ( taken last May)- for time spent in the garden ( either alone or with my little boy) – bliss!

Why far fewer toys mean a happier and healthier child.

Children with too many toys struggle to focus properly and fail to gain meaningful experiences through play.

Our son turns one next month and we have made a special effort to limit the number of presents he is given this year. We have requested that people do not buy him gifts, asking friends and family to join us for a small celebration instead. Many studies have shown that a child who has far fewer toys experiences more enjoyment from them and will take far better care of their belongings.

Professor Kathy Sylvya of Oxford University writes about the harmful effects on concentration in a study of 3000 three to four year olds, her research showed a link between greater development of perseverance and intellect when children had fewer, well chosen toys and parents who spent time reading, singing and playing with them. Her research shows that giving children too many toys or the ‘wrong’ toys may actually be harming their development. She suggests a ‘distractive element’ in some toys may lead to children to struggle to focus and subsequently play and learn poorly.

Family homes also benefit from far fewer toys. We have a small basket in our living room with some simple wooden blocks, board and fabric books and a puppet. These toys are brought out when we play together with our baby and tidied away in the evening when it is time for bed. The adults in the house gain a restful living space, free of visual distraction and our son learns to take care of his special things. In his bedroom he has a compact shelving unit with some special toys for now and later on as he develops, wooden toy vehicles, a few books, some gorgeous hand made toys and a small selection of music making toys. Like any other family, these toys use used throughout the house and garden during the day, but are carefully returned to their designated place at night. The result is a restful home, pleasant for the whole family.

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It isn’t easy to achieve this, reminding well-meaning friends and relatives that you place more value in experiences and time spent is difficult. In our cash rich-time poor society it is so much easier to purchase a gift than to consider something that may add more meaning and value to a child’s life.

Next time you need to express your love why not consider the following ways to enjoy your time together?

A special day out -a picnic in the park,visit to a nature reserve or a trip at the beach?

An hour or two teaching a new skill-Spend some time baking scones, making pizzas or kneading bread together and treat yourselves to a cream tea at the end. Build something together such as a cardboard car or fort, defend it from invading armies and retreat for essential ’emergency’ supplies.

A special experience– a treasure hunt or scavenger hunt in the park or garden, a visit to see a seasonal display such as a bluebell wood or falling leaves in Autumn or exploring a castle or stately home.

A special journey – a trip on a steam railway, a seaside tram or funicular or a bicycle ride.

The memories of these special times will last a lifetime and are far more likely to be enjoyable and developmentally beneficial to our children.

Please share your stories and ideas, have you managed to make a birthday extra special ? We would love to hear from you.

 

 

Discovering why less is always more

Living with fewer possessions brings benefits to both our mental and physical health.

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CC and our baby boy outside of the tiny lodge we stayed in ( less than 400 square feet)

I lived in North America for five years, working as a nanny for a wealthy family. The house in which we lived was several thousand square feet and required many staff to maintain and clean; a housekeeper, cleaners, handyman, deep-clean teams, teams to clean the chandeliers, plant maintenance, pool maintenance, car ‘detailer’, gardeners- a seemingly endless stream of people coming and going from the house. Living there certainly crystallised my ideas on living in large homes, it wasn’t for me.

When my husband and I moved to the UK we lived in a small apartment (furnished with the obligatory van load of Swedish flat-packed furniture). It took mere minutes to clean, a quick sweep with the hoover, a scrub of the bathroom and a light dust took a fraction of our time. It cost us little to maintain and insure and we were able to work on a self employed basis with no fear that we would struggle to meet our living costs. As we stayed longer, our landlady requested a rent rise and, after seeing her drive up in a brand new Audi, we decided that it was time to invest in a home of our own.

We learned a lot of lessons in our first year of home ownership; maintaining a hundred year old house took a lot of money, especially when its former owners had resorted to the cheapest fixtures and fittings. Our aspirations of a beautifully decorated interior were soon drowned in the reality of the expense involved in rewiring old sockets, supporting Victorian chimneys (where former owners had ripped out fireplaces) and generally keeping things in working condition. Home ownership was an expensive and time consuming business.

We learned that decorating took a lot of time and effort and rarely transformed our rooms in the way we had envisioned. As with any older house , one job would inevitably throw up other problems to resolve, plaster falling off stripped walls, floorboards butchered by 100 years worth of plumbing and wiring. Gradually we sold our modern flat-pack furniture on ebay and replaced it with much less expensive second hand furniture which seemed more suitable for our older home.

When our baby boy arrived last year we prepared a new room for him to grow into, changing the large double for a day bed and providing shelves for toys and books. Decorating the room took the form of new cushions and bunting attached to the cornice as well as a few simple toys ready for him to use and enjoy.

Nothing prepares you for life with a baby and just how much time is spent caring for them and interacting with them. Our days became very full and chores such as hoovering, dusting and laundry were tackled at speed. We began to resent chores which seemed to be unnecessarily time consuming such as dusting all of the china on our welsh dresser and moving multiple items to dust and vacuum around them. The house, which had once felt so cosy and homely, now felt like a large obstacle course, full of items which were adding an inordinate amount of time to our daily routine. Added to this, there seemed to be a constant influx of toys and equipment for baby and, despite our best efforts, these seemed to multiply daily.

Around this time I started to read and follow some simple living blogs and podcasts, convinced that there had to be a easier way of life. Gradually we de-cluttered pieces of furniture, clothes, books and ornaments, selling or donating them to charity. I sold more than half of the clothes I owned and got rid of a triple wardrobe. I sold all of the china on our Welsh dresser and gave away the top half of the dresser, leaving only the cupboard at the bottom. As each item left our home, the effect was instant, the atmosphere seemed calmer, the air fresher and my mood lighter. I found time to garden and read again, activities which I had previously had no time for.

Items which we sold or donated helped to give us more money towards our holiday in Wales and numerous trips out with our baby boy. As we carved more and more space for our family in our home we felt better and better about ourselves and our house.

As we gradually got rid of possessions which were no longer adding any value to our lives we felt better and better and found more and more items to pass on, de-cluttering becomes quite addictive. Stuff which had sat idle for years will now hopefully be used by its new owners. Resources which would have been used to produce new versions of what we sold and donated will now not need to be extracted and precious energy will not be needed in their manufacture.Most importantly, we now are firmly determined that no more items will enter our home unless they are absolutely essential.

During our recent holiday in Wales we were determined to pack very lightly, just two outfits each ( we had access to laundry ) and two books and a set of blocks for our baby boy. We loved how freeing it felt and how simple it was to pack and transport our luggage. Packing has now become a challenge which we relish, we are determined to pack only carry-on when we visit Canada this summer and, thanks to friends of ours who have generously offered to loan us baby equipment, I think we will manage it. I certainly look forward to a simpler summer.

 

 

 

The BBC is supposed to be impartial so why are they denying the Greens a chance to have their say?

BBC action petition

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Growing up, the BBC was a wonderful institution providing a wide range of programmes for everyone. Sadly this organisation now seems to be riddled with corrupt practices and deliberate censorship.

The BBC ‘s coverage of environmental issues consists of the odd comment from Chris Packham, the one presenter who seems to voice concern about our nation’s dire environmental record. Countryfile, their rural affairs program, paints an idyllic picture of rural Britain which only exists inside the minds of a brainwashed middle England. Meanwhile environmental issues are simply swept under the carpet, the term Climate Change never enters into airtime vocabulary.

Now it seems that they are deliberately blocking the green vote by refusing to allow the Green Party any air time for party political coverage. Yet UKIP and the Lib Dems have both received three slots each.

In the last election well over a million people voted for The Green Party, whose voice is getting stronger with numbers growing greater every year as people become dissatisfied with a corrupt political system which serves only the very rich.

If you believe, as I do, that we should live in a democracy and the greens should be given the chance to share their ideas with the people of Britain, please sign the petition on the above link and champion democracy for everyone. Thank you !

 

Simple Bread Recipes

IMGP0857.JPGMaking BreadWhen I was growing up my mum and dad used to make bread all the time and I would often find it in my packed lunch. I often bake on days when we don’t have anywhere we need to be, simple bread takes time to rise (prove), it’s the original slow food, but it’s so much tastier than anything you can buy and a thrifty choice for those on a tight budget. The first recipe makes around 16 rolls or 2 full-sized loaves.

Simple Bread ( mum’s bread)

1Kg Strong Bread Flour (any will do)

1 sachet of yeast

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1/2 tablespoon liquid honey

1 teaspoon salt

660ml water (1 pint) of lukewarm water

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of your dray ingredients and pour in the water, honey and oil. Spread the fingers on your hand to form a paddle shape and mix until well combined.

Empty the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for at least five minutes. ( push the dough with one hand, stretching it away from your body) leave your ball of dough in a warm place until it is twice as big (around 40 minutes)

Empty your ball of dough onto a floured surface again and press until  the air is expelled. Form into 2 loaves or 16 buns and leave on an oiled baking sheet to roughly double in size.

Bake in a hot oven (200C) for around 20 minutes. Tap your buns on the bottom to check that they are done, they should sound hollow.

The second recipe is for Wheaten or Soda bread, it is even easier and takes a mere 40minutes from start to finish. We have relatives in Ireland and they would regularly send us home with a suitcase full of this delicious bread! Made with white flour, it’s known as Soda bread, with wholewheat it’s known as wheaten bread

Simple Soda Bread

450g of white or wholemeal flour

1 tsp baking soda

400ml buttermilk

1 level tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 230C

Sieve the flour, salt and baking soda into a large bowl.

Make a well in the middle, pour in the buttermilk and then mix with your fingers (spread your fingers apart to form a rigid comb shape). Mix until all of the flour is combined but don’t overdo it.Gently roll the dough into a ball and place on a floured baking sheet.

Using a sharp knife, cut a cross in the top of your ball of dough and prick each quarter twice to let the fairies out.

Put into your oven for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200C and bake for a further 25 minutes. The bread will be ready when you tap on the bottom and it sounds hollow. Wrap in a tea towel immediately after you take it out of the oven.

 

 

Spring Cleaning

*   ‘The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.’ (The Wind In The Willows- Kenneth Grahame – 1908)

*     There is something in the air at this time of year, a discernible change in temperature, the beginnings of the scents of spring narcissi and the sounds of birds working industriously nest making, when one will suddenly wake with the urge to sweep away the dust and grime of winter and throw open the windows to let the sweet new air blow through the house. Our Easter holidays have seen us taking time to clean our little nest. 

*    First the windows inside and out to let in the spring light. Use a large bowl of soapy water and dry with newspaper. I recently saw an advert for a Karcher window washer; what a waste of time and energy !, Newspaper is by far a better method and leaves windows looking beautifully clean.

*   Next an overhaul of the utility room, repainting the dresser and hanging some jaunty bunting.

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*      A really good scrub down of all surfaces with a spray of vinegar solution and a paste of sodium bicarbonate.

*    And finally some spring propagation of tomatoes, courgettes, marigolds, sweet peas using our rather lovely paper pot maker. This is particularly useful for peas and other legumes that don’t like to have their roots disturbed as they can be planted directly into the soil and will bio-degrade naturally.

*   Although the weather started with Arctic winds sweeping the country, the weather pattern has changed direction and the sea frett has begun to move over the land, bringing with it the warmer, damp air and the smell of the sea in our coastal village. This has meant the opportunity to begin our little garden once again.

*   I was inspired by the planting in Kirby Lonsdale ; where every little house really made the best of their outdoor space.

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*   Followed by the obligatory cream tea – this time at The Royal Hotel on the main street.

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*   This beautiful old building welcomed us with a roaring fire and squashy settees.

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*   Making the most of the time left of the Easter holiday we visited an old favourite – The Hazelmere Bakery and Tea room in elegant, Edwardian Grange-Over-Sands.

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*     A beautiful walk from Kents Bank along the shore line to Grange – crossing the railway and up through the town and finally the reward of what we think is the best afternoon tea in England !

*     Yesterday saw us enjoying the food market at Parrox Hall- a medieval house which is across the road from our little terrace.

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*   Then making a large pot of soup with the vegetables we bought.

Recipe For Simple Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

Splash of vegetable oil

Knob of butter

A selection of root vegetables in any quantity

A tin of tomatoes ( optional)

2 Litres of Vegetable or Chicken Stock

2 or 3 bay leaves

– Chop your vegetables roughly; (you could use a food processor but sometimes I like to chop by hand and listen to Radio 4 .)

– Heat your oil gently and add a knob of butter.

– Gently sauté your vegetables for around 2 minutes, then place a lid over your saucepan and let cook until your vegetables begin to soften ( about 10 minutes)

– Add the stock and tomatoes ( if using) and simmer gently for around 20 minutes.

– Remove from the heat and blend using a hand blender ( or use a potato masher to squish the vegetables to a rough pulp)

Delicious !

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Thoughts On Packaging(and marking)

*     As a teacher I get through some 10-15 biro pens every year, all of which end up in landfill, are unpleasant to write with and produce unsatisfactory splodges of glutinous semi-dried ink. A recent government emphasis on ‘showing’ that I give feedback has meant that now all books are to be marked with two sentences; one for a positive comment and one for further steps. This of course ensures that I have around 180 sentences to handwrite each and every day – and sometimes 210.  As a dedicated professional I have always given detailed feedback to my students usually by speaking to them individually with smiles of encouragement for their efforts. It seems that it is easier to ‘assess ‘ my teaching through a quick glance at my books to ensure that I am ‘assessing’ properly ( this of course makes it much easier for an inspector/advisor to see at a glance, rather than have to dig deeper and watch carefully as well as listening to children’s thoughts and feelings). The children also use disposable handwriting pens and use some 3- 4 per year.

*     As children we were rewarded with being asked to purchase a fountain pen when our writing was deemed to be of a good standard. These were proudly purchased by our parents, often entailing a special trip to a pen shop and buying the best pen they could afford. Our pens were a thing of beauty and a prized possession, built to last for years and certainly not destined for landfill. As I seem destined to continue having to write for at least 2 hours a day I felt it was time to invest in that feeling again; thus I am now the proud owner of a fountain pen ( fine nib) with refillable plunger and green ink, I’m not sure that I could say that writing has been a delight, but it’s certainly a lot more bearable ! I just have to now convince my headteacher that the children need these too !

*     And speaking of things of beauty…….

Wooden hand-made tools

*     Look at these gorgeous handmade kitchen utensils my mother in law sent us from Canada; they were made by a gentleman as part of Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto, an open air museum. They are so beautiful, fashioned in hard wood, tactile and ergonomic, a far cry from what is available in most kitchen shops. They even stir better than their more modern style counterparts. Thank you so much CC’s ‘Mom’ ! We love them.

*   January has also seen us visiting two of our favourite places – Bowland for a very muddy ( ankle-deep !) walk around Nicky Nook and an overnight stay at the CB Inn with CC’s mum in Yorkshire.

We hiked to the top of Nicky Nook and enjoyed a very cold and wind-swept Coffee and Christmas Cake.

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*    Beautiful Bowland

*  The stunning Yorkshire Dales

Walk from the CB

The Dales

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*   On a more domestic note, and trying to reduce packaging I have been making my own granola bars, courtesy of another fantastic recipe from Gill Holcombe:

Recipe For Granola Bars

Makes 16

4oz butter

4oz golden or maple syrup

1/2 lb rolled oats

4oz dried apricots

4oz dried cranberries

4oz nuts

2oz desiccated coconut

2oz flax seed mix

1. Lightly grease and strip line a small tin ( 8 X 10 inch)

2. In a large saucepan melt the butter and syrup together.

3. Add all of your dry ingredients, mix well.

4. Press into your tin and bake at 170 C for around 30 minutes until they look golden.

5. Leave to cool in the tin ( thoroughly cool – don’t be tempted by taking them out early because you can’t wait to get at them; which of course I never do !)

6. Remove from tin and cut into squares.

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Autumn Pleasures

*   Autumn is my absolute favourite time of year here, the chance to have cosy nights by the fire, the abundance of hedgerow fruit for picking and despite going back to work, the chance to have lovely long walks enjoying the scent of the leaves and the smell of wood smoke. We began our month by bottling the Sloe Gin we had left ‘steeping’ in our cupboard, the addition of cinnamon has given it a lovely amber colour; we’re hoping to give these as Christmas gifts this year and as they’ll need at least three months in the bottle I hope they’ll be ready ! We’ve had a little tipple and it tastes lovely.

Our First Sloe Gin

Recipe For Sloe Gin

1 lb Sloes- wash well

1lb caster sugar (I’ve used 8oz because I don’t like very sweet things)

0.7 litres of cheap Gin

Cinnamon sticks

Sterilized bottles

(Makes two  0.7 litre bottles)

1. Thoroughly wash the sloes, removing any bits of branch. Place in the freezer for at least a week.

2. Fill a larger Kilner jar with the sloes, add the gin and then mix in the sugar. Add the cinnamon sticks to the mixture.

3. Place the jar in a cupboard or larder. Swirl the contents around every few days or so.

4. After two or three months sieve the contents through muslin a few times until the mixture looks clear.

5. Pour into sterilised bottles and add a pretty label. (I’ve used my lovely Cath Kidston ones CC bought for Christmas last year)

*   CC has also been enjoying the Good Life and has made a beautiful woodstore for our logs from a recycled pallet I found in school. He thinks it’s a bit wonky but I’m delighted ! It should ensure that our wood has time to season and dry before we burn it.

CC’s wood store

*   After spending three weeks away this year sadly my vegetables did not stand a chance against the caterpillars and slugs and a wet summer ensured that the slugs have bred bountifully ! It was quite upsetting to see a garden full of plant skeletons where all my lovely vegetables should have been. I was cheered enormously by a very generous gift which came right our of the blue from friends of our who stayed with us at Easter – they’ve sent a lovely selection of goods – including COPPER SLUG RINGS !!!! , I’ve been wanting to try these for a while and I will now use them to sow Bok Choi in my planters – I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. THANK YOU so much guys – a wonderful gift.

*   On the brighter side apparently it has been a very poor year for butterflies so I can console myself believing that my little garden became a temporary wildlife oasis. The meadow in miniature is now fully grown and Gerry and Flo have been let loose for the first time yesterday to munch to their heart’s content , they were extremely excited !

*  My brother has been spending weekends here and we’ve had some great days out together as a family . I finish with some pics of last weekend.

The Definition of Hospitality

Resolving to see more of our suroundings in 2012, we made an early start to our good intentions with a fell walk around Grange-Over-Sands. Despite a what would be euphemistically known around these parts as a ‘bracing’ wind ( gusts of up to 100MPH on peaks) we hiked to the hospice overlooking Grange. The hospice was built by some inspiring Victorian gentleman to provide shelter for fell walkers and is suitably (and not a little eccentrically) equiped with stone seats, poems and a lookout post boasting a rather ingenious rotating wooden arrow pinpointing local landmarks via a key.

As keen (if not infrequent) walkers we are suprised on many occasions to find the most wonderful conviences in the most inconvient to build places. On a recent holiday in the Isle of Skye in Scotland, we were grateful to seek shelter in a ‘Bothy’. Perched atop one of the most wind-swept and challenging gradients was the best equiped shelter we had ever found, it boasted full glazing, chairs, rugs, a fireplace, shovels, first aid kit and bunk.

Inspired by the philanthropy we had enjoyed , CC and I decided to be hospitable to our little feathered friends and made some pinecone feeders for them to enjoy.

How To Make A Pine Cone Feeder

– Tie a length of string to the large end of your pine cone.

– Melt some far in a double boiler (a mixing bowl over a large saucepan of boiling water will do)

– Stir in some wild bird seed and dried fruit.

– Allow the mixture to cool a little and the press into the spaces on your pine cone. Finish by rolling in extra seed.

– Cool the cones before hanging them outside.