Friday, 14 February 2014

Date Day: Clifton

On Wednesday - after the school run, the Hubby and I managed to 'escape' for some quality time together.  Time to just catch up and chat over a casual coffee outside our normal four walls.  It was a much needed breather considering the speed of change and his crazy workload at present.

Once the children were safely deposited at school we decided to head towards Bristol into Clifton Village via the stunning Clifton Suspension Bridge.  The weather was hideous - it has rained every day since I posted about the Somerset floods here and the situation is set to get worse as two more storms hit the south coast of England this weekend.

First port of call was the Boston Tea Room - a lovely coffee shop with an eclectic vintage / industrial style decor.  A place to warm up while the storm raged outside.  As the winds blew, I savoured the textures of the wooden surfaces...

...and supped a lovely creamy cappuccino...

...whilst watching the rain pour down outside and trickle down the windows.

We really couldn't stay out in the weather for long - to put it in context the wind was so bad that the Clifton Bridge was closed after we'd used it in one direction - the first occasion it has been closed in 150 years.  The attached video actually shows the huge suspension bridge moving in the wind!

Whilst in the village we popped into a few independent shops selling artisan makes and tempting homeware - we also window shopped in the glorious Victorian Arcade which was visually stunning.

 A quirky gorilla hung from the end of the ceiling arch which made me smile - despite the age of the original building the space really did suit him.

Prices in the 'homey' boutique shops were beyond our budget but it was very enjoyable to look.  I was inspired by colour combinations in different pieces of art that were displayed and found my creative senses were sparked by the shapes and textures on show.  I'd lost some motivation recently on the crafty front and this visit has revitalised my creative mind.  Plus I struck lucky in a charity shop - a Marks & Spencer fairisle style jumper for a bargainous £3!  The historical passage of time demonstrated in the architecture of this area is very inspiring too but I especially loved the frontage of this building - grey and red - who knew?!

And opposite that building was the most stunning vintage ambulance.  OOooh. Such loveliness!

Despite the weather, it was nice to get some grown up time together - we've not managed it in a while and it was good to prioritise us over the [never-ending] list of jobs!  We celebrate Valentine's as a family day - to celebrate LoVE generally so it was also good to mark Us as a couple too.  We reaffirmed our wish to spend a date day together every month and I am already looking forward to the next.

I will announce the winner of my GYB giveaway in the next few days.  Little Man is off school with a sick bug and the coming week is Half Term here in England so I will undoubtedly have even less time online than normal but I shall endeavour to catch up with Blogland when I can!

Hoping you are feeling some LoVE in your part of the world,
J9 x

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Natures Harvest & Sustainable Preserves

With the return of the house to a new normal, I've found myself with a little more time on my hands.  After the initial rush of tackling the clutter post Christmas - and rushing to get homemade birthday presents finished for friends - the lull in activity did come.

In large part it was welcome - a little rest is good for the soul after all.  But since my accident, I do struggle with a need to be 'productive'- especially once the chores are done and the children are at school, it sometimes feels as if my role as stay at home mum is defunct.  To combat this I set myself tasks to do which support the family and our more frugal way of life.  One of those things is to make jams, jellies and chutney from the fruit that was harvested from our apple trees... and berry picking which happened this past autumn. 

I did add some jars of chutney I'd made already to the homemade hampers I gave as Christmas gifts to family.  I also froze some fruit I didn't have time to use in the autumn and last week made more chutney to enjoy over the coming months with cold meats and cheese using recipes I'd not tried before.  They'll mature in around 3 months and hopefully taste lovely then!

Another way to satisfy this need in me is to grow a little produce in our veg patch - it comprises a small raised bed and over the past years we've had good success with courgettes and dwarf French beans.  These are ideal for chutneys and work wonderfully as additional vegetables in homemade meals (while fresh).  2013 was no exception with 27 courgettes being collected from a very small space.  I would love to have an allotment but my physical health just doesn't allow this although I enjoy selecting what we will try to grow each spring in our little space.

My parents were my tutors in this way of life.  I'm the only person I know that preserves in my 'real / non blog' world - so many of my friends say they enjoy the results but don't have the time.  My Father had a truly inspiring garden.  As a family of 5, we lived off it throughout the spring, summer and autumn.  Colanders of strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants, rows of potatoes, runner beans, swede, onions - simple, sustainable vegetables and fruit - plus chickens for eggs.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of my late father leaning on his fork tending his crops after work.  It would have been his birthday yesterday and it left me reflective on all the things that he imparted that still live on in me and my family.

Plus vivid memories of my mother stirring her huge preserving pan filled with jam or hanging a pillow case from a nail in an out-house to strain bramble fruit through to make jelly preserves.  She still does this now and is an amazing preserve maker - her preserving pan is older than I am and has had much use!

As a child in my home village, we'd also get more fruit from neighbours who didn't want to waste their 'glut' or didn't like the look of their windfalls.  Windfalls are great for jamming - it just takes time to peel and cut out the bruises.  With the Harvest Festival at the local chapel, there was the following harvest auction, where we'd buy boxes of home grown produce for pennies to go towards the chapel roof or some other community project.  Now that produce gets used by Food Banks and it's no longer possible to capitalise on - but they are such happy memories.  So much opportunity for chutney, jams and jellies plus a whole number of pudding and baking opportunities!

The cycle continues as my children enjoy foraging for blackberries and picking apples from the trees during late Autumn.  We go blackberry picking around the fields of two of my friend's farms and usually have a good haul - enough for jamming and lots for apple and blackberry crumble!!

If I can provide an element of such inspiration, understanding of sustainable living and simple joy to my children I feel sure that I will be doing something worthwhile...  There is something immensely rewarding to yield a crop from something that has minimal negative impacts on the environment and is essentially Free.  And during this period in time where cost-effective home making is beginning to be more valued again by more families, I wholeheartedly choose this simple path. 

It is sustainable for our body, mind and soul.  I shall be proud to pass this on to my children and create new memories based on this way of life.  Memories of picking apples on daddy's shoulders and mummy stirring her preserving pot.

The natural rhythm of these Simple Things and the cycle of it all is a real JoY.

Thanks for reading and welcome to all my new followers.  Remember there is still time to enter my giveaway here - just drop me a comment on that post before the 13th!

Enjoy your week whatever you're doing, J9 x

Friday, 7 February 2014

Today I'm...

::  Relieved that the hubby has been redeployed.  This means he still has a job although he is being moved to a very different role.  Sadly, it is a backwards move meaning markedly less money each month.  But nevertheless, we are grateful for him to have the security of a job.  Hopefully less money will mean less stress in the workplace and here's hoping we'll return to an improved work life balance!  We're going to go with the flow and see what happens...
 ::  Trying to embrace these moments, roll with life and focus on family.  So many changes happening here at present.  Desperately trying to see the positive and improve what I can affect.  Focusing on nurturing my family, planning meals on a monthly rather than weekly basis to ensure that our diet is homemade, nutritious, varied and inventive all within a tight budget!  Thank goodness for Aldi!

::  Re-establishing my love of reading.  Finally making the time to read more widely than craft and cookery books thanks to some novels on loan from my Sis.

::  Loving my decoupage knobs.  I finished these this week - there are four knobs on my dresser which I've painted and all of them have been decoupaged with these Cath Kidston tissues.  They look rather cute against the Aged White background.

::  Laughing at the photo-booth images of our family at the bro in law's recent wedding.  (We've ordered these from the company but haven't received them yet hence the watermark appearing on these copies).
::  Smelling the fragrance of my hyacinths (which have been in flower for a good week) which provide so much happiness - smelling gorgeous!!

::  Looking forward to a weekend where there is NoTHinG at all in the diary (excepting a football match for the boys on Sunday).  Pure Bliss - and a real rarity at present so I will fully PJ it up!!  Instead of smelling the roses - I'm smelling the daffodils and heady hyacinths!

::  Wishing you well for the weekend ahead.  Take care and enjoy whatever you may be doing,
J9 x