Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Home:: decorating

Do you ever post photos of a beautifully arranged corner and know that just out of shot there is chaos? I do it all the time and it does make me smile. I think it must be a blogging skill, to be able to focus on the tiny whilst ignoring what is not beautiful.

We have been in our house for over 15 years now. That is such a long time. When we moved in we did a flurry of decorating and made big changes to the house. Now though she is looking a little tired - carpets are worn, walls are a little bashed (teenagers seem to have trouble knowing where their bodies begin and end) and despite my constant decluttering we still have too much STUFF. I am declaring this summer the summer of decorating - our old home needs a facelift. Meanwhile I focus on the tiny corners of loveliness...

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Life :: Lately

June is such a busy month for us - it is full of birthdays, trips to pick up uni kids and of course it is exam season. This year is also Finn's last year at primary school and we have been ticking off the lasts; last summer fayre, last sports day, last school performance and all too soon it will be the levers service which is always emotional.

For years now late May and early June has meant exams. It is a time when my big ones need mothering again and we are busy with soothing words, nutritious meals and suggestions of early bed times. It is a time of high pressure and the house has felt a little off balance. We were all happy when they finished!

We have been managing to have fun too - I had a birthday trip to Gifford's Circus which was as brilliant as always. This year we went to a performance at Blenheim Palace which offered an amazing setting for the circus. Tragically my camera was really playing up - I could not get the light setting right and so my photos of the show are a mess.
After the show we ate in their travelling restaurant which was amazing. the food was just so good - lovely fresh ingredients and interesting. Finn declared the bread the best he had ever tasted! It was also a beautiful place to eat - why wouldn't food taste great when you are eating under canvas, jugs of wild flowers on the table and pretty lights twinkling? It all just adds to my dreams of running away to the circus...

I have been a much more diligent instagrammer  recently; do follow me there if you don't already.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Cook::Cheese Scones

One of our favourite lunches when we are on holiday or at the weekend is cheese scones. They hold memories of when Finn was a toddler and we would make these after he had been to his gym class. We eat them warm, straight from the oven with butter and a little salad. Based on a very old Delia Smith recipe, I can now do these from memory. They are very quick and easy and can go from idea to on the table in about half an hour.


150g SR flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp mustard powder
Some snipped chives (optional but pretty)
Good pinch salt
25g butter
75g cheese (cheddar) grated
1 egg
2-3 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6, 425F or 220C

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and mustard.
2. Rub the butter into the flour mix until you have a breadcrumb texture.
3. Next stir in 2/3 of the cheese.
4.In a jug mix together the egg and the milk. Stir that mixture into the flour until it all comes together. Sometimes te mixture feels a little wet = I simply add more flour at this point or use plenty when I'm rolling the mixture out.
5. Roll the mixture out to a depth of about 2cm. Sometimes I just form the mixture into one large round or we use the cutter for a more delicate scone.
6. Place the scones on a baking tray and sprinkle the tops with the remaining cheese. I do this on the tray so that stray bits of cheese get baked and I get them all melted and gooey as a cooks perk when they come out.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes on a high shelf.
8. Serve as soon as they are cool enough to handle with plenty of butter. They are not a health food...

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Raising Adults::Lets Talk About Sex

Warning::this image has NOTHING to do with the subject of the post but image choice was not obvious...

So here's a post I've had in my head for some time but one that I was unsure about writing. Did it fit in my world of baking and flowers? Well a couple of things have happened recently that has convinced me that this is a post that I need to write. A couple of weeks ago I read this post by Sali Hughes in The Pool (have you discovered 'The Pool' ? It's fab and I totally recommend a look if you haven't) about sex education. I am also a big fan of 'Practising Simplicity' and the way that Jodi combines her lifestyle posts with ones about parenting questions. I also have children who are certainly old enough for sex to be part of their lives. For those of you who don't know two of my children are in their early 20's.

Part of the joy of having adult children is that your family begins to grow as they bring home their partners and you get to welcome more young people into your life. Part of this deal though is that you have to be comfortable with whatever sleeping arrangements you are prepared to offer. Are you prepared to allow your child to sleep with their boyfriend/girlfriend in your home and how do you decide that?

I am certainly not a prude about this issue and happy to have children who are in happy loving relationships. However there is always a moment when the boyfriend/girlfriend stops being the occasional visitor and practically comes to live with you. Then you have to decide what you are, or are not, happy with. Without really knowing it we have sorted out a set of 'ideals' in our home that seem to be working for us...

1. Help your child understand that they are precious and that no one ever, ever gets to do anything to them that they are not happy with. This is the hardest thing for any parent to give their children and it demands tenacity. In my job I see many damaged children who have terribly low self esteem. It is these children (mainly girls, but not always) who tend to be the most promiscuous or are the ones trapped into posting (very) revealing pictures of themselves on the internet. It makes me feel sick just to think about it.
I will never forget Dawn French talking about her father and how he made her believe that she was the most beautiful girl on earth and that any man would be lucky to go out with her.  That struck home with us as parents and we have worked hard to make our children believe that they deserve respect and should expect it as well as give respect in return.
2. Have the sex education talk with your children. If they are old enough to have sex then they are old enough to talk about contraception without thinking that it is too embarrassing. I have discussed it with all my children once they were in a relationship, especially the boys. Girls get a lot at school but I am never convinced that the boys get a good enough message. A baby is a wonderful and precious gift but it is for life and the responsibility of both parents. For life. If they don't want that responsibility then they need to make sure that they are part of the contraception decision and not just assume that the girl has it covered. 
3. There are house rules. Never assume that the partner can stay - we like to be asked. Also I expect to meet and have a conversation with anyone staying in my house and preferably, for the first time at least, over dinner. I also like to have breakfast with them; no sneaking out of the house in the morning.
Oh and I want to hear NOTHING - I think you know what I mean! In my head, despite all my sophisticated ideas, they are still my pure and beautiful babies and I want to keep it that way.

So far these are working well for us. The older ones all have long term partners (from several months to almost 4 years) and we are in the happy position of really liking them all. We have muddled through - you have to, this is an issue that tends not to get discussed in the baby manuals!

If you have older children what have you done or if you aren't there yet what will you do?

Monday, 8 June 2015

Cook::Lemon and Almond Madeira Cake

This cake came together as a happy accident and the result of the fact that I didn't have quite enough flour. I really like plain cakes - I don't have an especially sweet tooth so too much icing often feels sickly to me. I also love almonds and lemon. With this in mind I decided to substitute the missing flour with almonds and I was very pleased with the resulting cake...

240 grams unsalted butter (softened)
  • 200 grams caster sugar
  • grated zest and juice of unwaxed lemon
  • large eggs
  • 210 grams self-raising flour
  • 90 grams almonds

* Preheat the oven to 170ºC/gas mark 3/325ºF.
* Cream the butter and sugar, and add the lemon zest.
* Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of the flour for each.
* Then gently mix in the rest of the flour, almonds and lemon juice.
* Bake for 1 hour or until a cake-tester comes out clean.
* Remove to a wire rack, and let cool in the tin before turning out.
You will need a loaf tin (23 x 13 x 7cm / 9 x 5 x 3 inches), buttered and lined.

You might notice the lack of Madeira - that is because it is called this because traditionally you sipped a glass of finest Madeira whilst eating the cake...Seems a shame to break such a noble tradition! I love a tradition - don't you?