Friday, 18 July 2014

It is better to GIVE than to receive...

I genuinely believe in this saying.  This and 'Never let the sun go down on an argument...' (which was one my late Father lived by too).

Anyhow, there have been lots of opportunity to truly live this rather than passively believe over the past few weeks.  Things have been a little strange in the lead up to summer holidays in our home.  Sadly, both my children are experiencing the wrath of other children at school presently and if I'm truly honest, I've found my own anxiety creeping up as a result.  It is such a difficult path to tread I think - between trying to intervene at school and ensure this behaviour does not spiral into sustained bullying and that of needing to help my Littlie's toughen up, grow emotionally and build some exposure to different experiences and how to deal with them. A hard lesson for both child and parent I think.  All I can say is roll on the next week til the holidays start - I think everyone is more than ready for them!

Anyway, I digress; opportunities for giving:

# Baby Shower - my friend is about to have her third child - it's very exciting as she is one of my closest friends.  The baby shower was actually cancelled as she just felt it was too much so close to the birth but I had already made my token:

It's only a fruit cake, iced and decorated with sugar icing daisy and buttons but it was really lovely to create - from having the idea to baking it and decorating it.  I chose to mix up yellow icing in different shades as they are having a 'surprise' and buttons - because baby will be 'cute as a button'.  She lives close by and my Littlie's delivered it to the door at tea time on Sunday - another surprise.  Yep, the delight of giving.

I have another gift that I've crafted for baby but I'll share that once he or she has arrived!!

# Fundraiser - another dear friend is living through her father-in-law's health deteriorating through terminal cancer.  A fundraiser for the oncology department and local hospice was held this week and I donated this:

Made at the same time as the above and it was not expected by the larger family - which made it all the sweeter to give.  Of course I donated monetarily but giving something made by myself felt like I could help in a more personal way - no matter how minuscule.

# Food Bank Donations - TESCO recently had an initiative where they would give 30% on top of all food donated to the Tressle Trust during a specific time-frame.  We couldn't give a lot but a couple of tins of beans and tinned tomatoes isn't going to blow the bank balance.  I do sometimes feel conflicted over the issue of food banks - the media does play a part in villainising certain elements of society on benefits but many donations are given to working families living below the breadline too.  Regardless of my political standing, I think if a child can have a full tummy to go to sleep as a result of donations like mine then I've played a small part in something positive.

# Time - in this time of financial restriction one thing that I choose to GiVE is my time.  There are many examples of this - largely at the local school which I find immensely rewarding.  For the past couple years I've run an art club each week for 10 children on rotation (plus my own 2) each term at the local primary school.  I've enjoyed this immensely - satisfying my own need to be purposeful whilst sharing my enjoyment of crafts and children.  The end of this school year will mark the end of this period of volunteering and it will mark the end of an era.  I've enjoyed playing a part in helping other children experience a wide range of crafting activities they wouldn't otherwise do and giving my time in this way has had a positive impact on all involved.

I do enjoy giving... why?  I LoVE to consider something that will be meaningful to someone, observe the recipient's reaction to their gift and often their sheer surprise just gives me a warm glow.  I don't have a lot of material / financial stuff at my disposal to give but I am a good listener, a good, loyal friend and if I can help someone through something or raise their spirits then I will do.  I do also think that being aware of our wider social environment can help us gain perspective on challenges in our own lives and the struggles that others may go through too.

So, do you have any sayings that you live by?

Take care until next time; I will be popping in sporadically over the next 6 weeks, as and when I get a bit of time.  I shall have a wonderful time in September catching up on your lovely blogs in more detail!  I shall however continue to read any comments you may care to send me and will try to pop by and provide little updates here - but the free time I have will be markedly reduced - I can't wait for the school holidays to begin!!

J9 x

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

A Non Essential Need

We fully embrace a simple life in our household.  We have simple needs and live relatively frugal lives.  In the main...

I have however been seduced by a non essential need... one was a spontaneous case of the incredible wantie's.  Jooles of Sew Sweet Violet - one of the earliest most beautifully creative blogs that I followed, is a very talented lady.  When she posted here about her designs of bunting I knew we had to give the Tilda teal and pink set a home!!!

The quality of stitching is fabulous and I do so love her choice of fabrics.  Once they arrived they were so stunning and I had the perfect place in mind for them in my new kitchen!  I could picture the bunting in my minds eye before our extension took shape and I actually ordered a second identical length to adorn my new kitchen walls.

They fit the space perfectly and I am thrilled with how they look now I've finally put them up in their fated 'home' (the walls had to be built and painted first hence the delay!).  Thank you lovely Jooles for your crafty skills - it is always a delight to receive a beautifully wrapped, purple package from you!

And the second, was a need born out of my productivity of the crochet kind.  You are probably aware that the wonderful Lucy has joined up with the Wool Warehouse.  I confess I took a look and it prompted me to purchase one set- the colours available were far wider than I currently have access to - so some wonderfully colourful yarn made it's way to our home.

Oooo the potential crochet loveliness...

Photo courtesy of Wool Warehouse
Both of these purchases have brought me such happiness and will continue to do so - one because it adorns my kitchen and brings colour to my days.  The other, because I shall enjoy the endless combinations and crochet creations I can make over the coming months.  Plus I have to say - both provided admirably quick service.

Who said the buzz from retail therapy was short lived?! Hee hee!
Have you made any non essential purchases lately?

J9 x

Friday, 4 July 2014

Friday Happies

::  Enjoying the Unexpected Spectacle of Dragon boat Racing

Last weekend we met the Hubbie's bro and family at Coate Water Park in Swindon.  It has become a regular meeting point for us and has lots to amuse.  On this occasion, we chose not to take the wheelchair and so sat on a clear area of grass by the reservoir - just a short distance from the disabled parking.  We were not aware that the annual event of Dragon Boat racing was taking place.  It was a really pleasant surprise and although it meant the area was lots busier, we all really enjoyed watching the steady stream of boats race in pairs in this beautiful location.

It was lovely to sit together, catch up, play ball and enjoy being together - with the added bonus of the dragon boats racing.  We all enjoyed watching the boats race, the swans, geese and coots swim - whilst we picnic'd and relaxed.

::  My Littlie's Sitting Quietly...  Feeding birds from their hands.

At the reservoir you can buy small cups of grain for 50p.  We bought two cups full and the children passed a blissfully happy time feeding the bigger birds.  They were bold enough to feed the geese up close and then tempted the pigeons to feed from their hands.  This brought so much pleasure I cannot even begin to express it!!  Little Lady especially was in raptures.  A simple pleasure indeed.

::  Admiring the stunning abundance of Marine Life in our Wonderful World

Little Man's choice of birthday treat was to go to the aquarium.  He is the child that will be staring at the tank long after all the other children have moved on (including his sister).  He gets so much enjoyment from learning about and watching creatures of all kinds but has a special fascination with marine life.  We have a passion in common here and it is a really positive experience for both of us to bond over this shared love.  I have always been in awe of the range of colour, shape and sheer variety of the 'hidden' life in our oceans.  Little Man shares this enthusiasm and it was wonderful to enjoy this experience with him.

::  Feeling Blessed in the Sun's Warm Rays:

The sun continues to shine in our part of the world.  We are not used to such long spells of sunshine in the UK and are so very grateful to wake up to the sun shining each morning.  Lots of water play taking place to help us stay cool and this photo shows Little Man warming up after about an hours play in freezing cold water.  He is such a chilled dude.  The care free nature of childhood eh?!  

Happy weekend folks!  I hope there are many happy moments for you to enjoy in the coming days.

J9 x
Today I'm inspired by Gillian to share my Friday Happies!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Glorious Bake

No... I'm not talking about the wonderful weeks of sunshine we've been experiencing in many parts of the UK at present!  I'm talking about baking cakes, bread, puddings... opportunities for yumminess.

I thought I'd share some of the naughty bakes created and eaten in our home over the past month.  I try to use half fat butter / margarine to try to reduce the calory content but a little bit of what you fancy and all that!
Quite often my bakes are spontaneous.  We have a larder cupboard which is stocked with essentials meaning I can bake on a whim.  Lately this has been pudding requests...  more commonly at present these are being eaten later in the evening as supper.  This trend has started due to requests for specific 'fancies' during an evening family meal or because bruised fruit has been brought home uneaten in a lunch box - and I do so hate waste.

We've had upside down pineapple sponge - delicious while warm with either ice cream or custard.

This is simply made: sliced ripe pineapple laid out in a single layer covering the bottom of a shallow sponge tin and then covered in plain sponge batter.  This took literally 15 minutes to bake from start to finish - 10 minutes of which was cooking time.

Another 'after main meal make' was this ripe banana chocolate sponge - made with two rather battered bananas and an all in one chocolate sponge mix.

On Father's Day I made some rather lovely balsamic vinegar and sweet tomato bread rolls...

...and some delicious lemon drizzle cake! These were presented on Father's Day over lunch when we had 'high tea' - with tea pot and posh plates!!

I do love it how the children are picking up on the experience of having afternoon tea.  It's not a hurried rush at the table but a slower paced munch and chat... and with family, tea and cake - in my view these are the best times!

Little Lady can weigh / measure, mix and bake a cake independently now.  This week over tea the request for chocolate cake was made and I had to say 'no' and explained it was to do with my pain levels but I would make one the next day.  Little Lady promptly volunteered her services and rather than quash her enthusiasm I showed her the cupboard and sat watching her from the kitchen table.  Awesome.

Once cooled we melted some chocolate and sprinkled some edible silver stars on top.  A very tasty, freshly made pudding.

I bought some marvelous silicone guards for the racks in the oven (because I was constantly burning my fore arms as I put cakes in and out of the oven on the metal racks and the addition of these guards has markedly improved my pleasure (and safety) in baking as I don't have blistered burns any more!  If you are a little rushed or a clumsy cook I would highly recommend them.

I'm trying hard to reduce my weight and have been attending Slimming World for 6 months or so.  I struggle with maintaining a lower weight with limited exercise but I have to admit that fresh cake doesn't help!  I can mainly resist but I did participate fully in Little Lady's chocolate cake and in our Father's Day celebration.  Ooops.  I'm in it for the long haul this time though - I've accepted that I do comfort eat and attending a group where I have to weigh is the way I can control these tendencies.  

Although these 'ad hoc' cakes often don't look too pretty - and they are NEVER complicated recipes (I prefer the 'shove it all in a bowl and mix' effort) I always like to present them on nice china.  I get real pleasure from using my charity shop finds in our everyday life rather than saving for best.  It definitely adds to the experience for me - and as the children are now reaching for certain plates when laying up it seems to add to it for them too.

Please don't think that cake is all we eat ;0)  Overall we have a healthy diet with an occasional homemade treat at tea time.  The added bonus being homemade of course is that the cakes have no preservatives in!

I've taken the odd shot of home cooked evening meals but food is really hard to photograph with a point and shoot camera.  I really have a desire for a new camera...  hey ho.  I'll make do with a cup of tea and very small slice of cake for now!!

Until next time,
J9 x