Muddy boots

Muddy boots
Messy hands

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Don't you forget about me

Dear Muddy Bootsters,
I am writing to apologise for my severe lack of posting over the past month or so. I know there are no real excuses and, yes, having a blog is a big responsibility which should not be taken on lightly.
So what can I say? I have been busy with the day job, with developing my online craft business, with looking after the incredible edibles over the summer holidays, and, sadly, I have had an unexpected bereavement. At present I don't want to write about the sad things, but they are there as a constant, affecting my thoughts, dreams and actions.
There is so much going on in my life at the moment and I do find writing therapeutic but I cannot currently seem to find the time. week my lovely little Sausage will start school (a rather exciting but heart-wrenching time) and I will find myself, very temporarily, with a few more windows of time. So I will, I hope, be able to catch you up on some of my happenings and musings and get back into the swing of writing.
In the meantime, I would love to hear from any readers that may still be hanging on in there in the blogosphere. What have you been up to over summer? Do you have any goals or dreams at the moment? Do you have a child just about to start / just started school? Just a friendly 'hello' would be lovely ;-).
Yours apologetically,
Green x

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Turning a gloomy day orange

Phew, I have not had time to post for ages as I have been rather busy with work,  craft fairs and life in general. Family life as been tricky as Cheese is currently wading through a sea of tweenage hormones and causing arguments and rifts. There have been end of term activities such as sports days and dress up days and Sausage has had his starting school introductory sessions.

I have been feeling utterly exhausted due to a combination of the littlies' night time waking shenanigans and associated musical beds, plus a new episode of anaemia.  I have had some long, tiring days at work and I think, even though I only work part time, I really 'feel' the generalised increased irritability and fatigue that comes towards the end of term.  Having a husband who works in education seems to amplify the end of term feeling as he gets busier, then suddenly  there is a lovely lull.

Things have been feeling rather gloomy of late due to health niggles,  the things mentioned above and some awkward friendship moments. So, as ever, I am trying to be positive and appreciate life's simple pleasures.

Today I am thinking about orange!  Orange is a lovely bright colour and it was my favourite as a child. Orange is (sort of) the colour of my lovely dog Wobble and of foxes who have today received a temporary reprieve with the government's decision not to repeal the fox hunting ban (hooray - for now!).

It is a very drizzly, gloomy day here in Cornwall so I have raided the fridge and have turned a pile of slightly wobbly carrots into carrot and lentil soup and carrot and orange cake. Yum. I love soup and cake and they will both be ready soon to warm and cheer. Sausage helped to make the cake and that made him happy as we haven't baked for ages. In case you are interested here are my recipes:

Carrot and lentil soup:

I am not giving exact quantities here as I am a 'bung it all in' kind of soup maker but I used, approximately, 100g red lentils, 3 medium carrots,  one onion,  one clove of garlic,  a slice of ginger,  a teaspoon each of ground coriander and cumin seed. This makes approximately 3 portions.

Cook the onion in a glug of olive oil until soft, add the spices, ginger and garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the rinsed lentils with enough hot stock to cover plus a bit more. Bring to the boil then simmer until soft, adding the carrots after about ten minutes. Add more stock as necessary.  When cooked allow to cool a little then puree, taste, reheat and season to your liking.  Serve as it is or with chunky bread and butter, cheese scones oe similar.  I like it with a topping of toasted sunflower seeds and some grated cheese.  You may want to experiment with more garlic or some chili.

Carrot and orange cake:

175g each of sugar (I use brown), selfraising flour and sunflower oil
3 eggs
140g carrots,  finely grated
Grated zest of one orange
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Whisk all ingredients except carrots together unit smooth and well mixed. Fold in the carrots.  Add a splash of orange juice to loosen if necessary.  Pour into a prepared tin (I make this in a 7" round tin but it works in a loaf tin). Bake for approximately 45 minutes until well risen,  golden and a skewer comes out clean. Top with a simple orange icing or buttercream. Enjoy with a cuppa whilst waiting for the sun to come back out.

Since starting this post I have prepared and eaten lunch with Sausage,  taken a phone call from the school nurse, been used as a ladder and resting place by a small kitten and taken the cake out of the oven. I was going to photograph the soup but, erm...I was too hungry.  I will try to photograph the cake in between icing and eating it!

It is still raining and grey outside but my tummy is full and warm and I am snuggling up with my littlest. I need to make the most of these times before he starts school. But that is another story.

What do you do to brighten up gloomy days? Until next time,

Green x

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Brown paper packages tied up with string...

It seems to be party season for the children at the moment, with a party each to go to for the next few weekends. This is lovely for them but with it comes the inevitable gift giving.
I love presents and genuinely love the feeling of giving somebody a gift. I also enjoy receiving presents - who doesn't? But...I tend to suffer from 'present angst', in that I so desperately wants to give a present that is just right that I sometimes end up not giving one at all. Then I feel terrible. But, that is another story. For now we are dealing with birthday gifts for children we barely know.
There are several issues for me and one is of consumerism. If my child is attending a party with between ten and thirty children then the party boy / girl will be receiving presents from ten to thirty children, as well as from parents, grandparents etc. The thought of that big pile of 'stuff', half of which may not be wanted, fills me with horror. I would never turn up empty handed but our gifts of choice tend to be books, partly because we are a family of book lovers and want to share the joy, and partly because it is usually appreciated and used or at least re-gifted. If we know the child well we will buy something relevant for them that we know or hope they will like. My children have only ever had small parties but even so the pile of gifts has seemed huge.
The next issue is financial. We are not well off and like many families we sometimes struggle to make ends meet. We don't want to disappoint the children by saying they can't go to a party but when the expectation is to turn up with a proper present, gift wrapped with a card it can be tricky. There have been times (now) when we are counting the days until payday so we can go food shopping, so to buy a present involves spending on the credit card. This ultimately makes things worse. So, do you turn up with nothing, buy on the credit card or... take something homemade?
The issue of homemade or even second hand presents is a tricky one. The word homemade is often synonymous with substandard, undesirable, even shoddy. It doesn't have to be that way though. Even if you are not a 'maker' there are things that can be made, repurposed or re-gifted. It still feels difficult or even slightly shameful though, but why? I make things that people are willing to pay money for, but I still feel a but awkward about giving homemade presents! There are prejudices, snobbery and the idea that people will think you are cheap. Also, just because some people like what you make it doesn't mean everyone will. As for second hand presents, I personally don't see a problem with this if the gift is something that you think the recipient will love. But what would you think if you opened a gift that was obviously second hand? There have been some positive developments in gift giving with the popularisation of charitable donations and poverty busting gifts such as those available through Oxfam. (other charities do this too).
There is a lot of emotion tied up with gift giving. I can remember feeling physically sick one Christmas when a scary relative gave me a nasty brown jumper and I could not say thank you. My mum was great at knowing what I would like, but again I felt a gut-wrenching sadness on a couple of rare occasions that she have me completely inappropriate presents. Maybe that's partly why I agonise so much about what to give people.
It can't just be me that has this problem, and I am sure parents everywhere struggle with birthdays. It would be great if we could all work together to change the focus of gift giving. Here are just a few of my ideas for non purchased gifts (there are loads online so I won't go on forever).
Homemade foodie gifts such as fudge, cookies, chocolate bark wrapped in cellophane or little treat bags. Penny sweets in a pretty/ decorated jar.
A simple notebook covered in pretty fabric or paper and a pencil decorated with washi tape, tied together with ribbon.
A favourite book of yours that you think the recipient would love, with a handwritten note attached.
Handwritten or printed vouchers for e.g. babysitting, cooked meals, cleaning, playdate or other 'services'.
Framed drawings / photos.
The most important thing is that the gift is given with love and not just for the sake of it. Obviously it's a bit different for Children's birthday party gifts but if your child knows them well enough then with a bit of thought you should be able to come up with something together that their friend might like. How about your child writing a poem or story about their friend and framing it? Or any of the above ideas would work if relevant and tailored to the child.
On a final note, we are going to a party tomorrow for a little girl we barely know. Will I be 'brave' and give her something homemade, or will I rush out and use the credit card? What would you do?


Thursday, 18 June 2015

Striking a balance

My little world had been changing recently.  We had the big move to Cornwall back in December and that was a lot of upheaval but the good kind. Mr Green has his new job  which has already expanded and the children have their new schools and nursery.  I have a new part time job in which I get to indulge my foodie passion and experiment with new recipes.  I have the blog which is slowly coming together (I now have some pictures,  woohoo!) And I have my felting.  I have taken the plunge and launched a facebook page and etsy shop which feels both scary but exciting.  I am networking and trying to be proactive.  And finally,  we have a new addition to the family,  a gorgeous baby boy. Ok, no I haven't had a secret pregnancy - he is a gorgeous little kitten who is a furry bundle of love and mischief.  He is already enriching our lives and improving my mental health.  However,  it's very hard to get things done in between cuddles and playtime.


So, although things are going in the right direction I still feel a little like a headless chicken.  I seem to have lost the ability to prioritise and sequence.  It is tempting to keep checking page views on my blog, tweaking my layout, check likes on the facebook page or activity in the etsy shop or editing my listings. And it is tempting to keep cuddling the kitten. 

The house is a mess, Sausage is watching too much tv, we are going to bed too late and I'm not devoting enough time to actually making things.  I need to get organised and feel that I almost need a military precision schedule in order to accomplish all my daily tasks from the mundane to the more exciting.  I have a lot of balls in the air and I don't want to drop any. So I need to become more organised and productive and stop procrastinating.

It would be wonderful to hear tips and advice from my readers if you have any gems of wisdom.  Right,  I'm going to put down my phone and the kitten and start on my jobs. Maybe I'll just make a cuppa first...;-).

Monday, 15 June 2015

Mr Bloom's garden of Eden

We watch a fair bit of Cbeebies in our house and Mr Bloom's Nursery is a bit of a favourite (not just with the kids). I love the fact that there is a children's television programme about vegetables that is successful enough to be award winning and have spinoff shows and live tours. We were very excited to hear that Truro born Ben Faulks (aka Mr Bloom) was coming to the eden project for their green fingers gardening festival.  We love the eden project and visit regularly,  but despite having only just visited during half term for their science event we found ourselves back again yesterday. 

We arrived in time for the last show of the weekend by which time it was fairly quiet.  We bagged some seats,  bought the obligatory delicious ice cream (highly recommended) and waited in eager anticipation.

Pop along and say "'ello"

 Ben appeared in the potting shed promptly at 3.00 pm and began the show with a song. He spent the next 40 minutes engaging children and adults alike with songs,  games and humour.  Sadly he did not have his entourage of talking veggies with him but instead brought out a series of baby veggies complete with dummies and swaddling blankets.  The children took turns babysitting Beverly the cauliflower,  David the marrow and Cindy the pineapple to name a few.

Mr Bloom with David the baby marrow

Vegetables were discussed,  both the growing and eating of them, and a few children were given vegetables to take home.  We marvelled as one boy steadily munched his way through an entire green pepper!

The atmosphere was lovely and children and parents joined in with singing and clapping.  At the end of the show everyone seemed happy. I'm sure there are a few mums whose hearts were a flutter being so close to the twinkly eyed celebrity in his trademark combats and tank top. It's great to see that someone who started out doing street theatre has done so well, and fantastic that he has made kids more interested in vegetables. Does it work? Well, when I asked Sausage what he would like for dinner his reply was...cauliflower!

Saturday, 13 June 2015

All the small things

I try my hardest to be a positive person: I count my blessings and try to model kindness.  I try to solve problems rather than dwell on them. I do struggle to maintain the positivity though, especially when I am tired and hormonal.  I desperately try to use positive parenting but feel very guilty when things go wrong and I shout, nag and become negative.  I try to keep my words kind but sometimes they are not. I want my children to know I love them and believe in them, but there are times when actually they are really annoying,  unkind and rude and I want to hide or run away!

I have struggled with depression and anxiety for more than half of my life (on and off) and can easily feel overwhelmed by challenges.  The challenges seem to be growing at the moment,  especially as we approach the teenage years at the same time as having a preschooler. There is a lot of fighting,  negativity and general bad feeling between the siblings.  This saddens and frustrates me. In order to prevent 'going under' I want to rekindle some good feelings. If I feel better myself I can be more positive around the kids and maybe some of it will rub off on them.  So here is a list of my top 5 warm fuzzy moments from the last week:

1.Whilst on a walk with Sausage he commented on how lovely it was going for a walk together. He stopped regularly to look at plants and insects and was sad when we found a dead bumble bee and this sparked a lovely conversation about bees and why we need to care for them..

2.The other morning Cheese came into my bed for a cuddle for the first time in several years and he has been particularly cuddly and has told me he loves me several times. 

3.Apple, on discovering that Sausage was poorly,  put him to bed, gave him a cuddle and offered to be his nurse.

4.Every time I made something new all the family were really kind,  positive and encouraging.

5.When I went for a blood test Apple and Sausage were both worried that I would be hurt and after reassuring them they were still really kind and Sausage held the tubes for the nurse and was really interested. 

There are lots of other good moments and Mr Green has been lovely as ever. I still really appreciate the fact that I live in a beautiful part of the world and can reach fields,  hills and beaches by walking for a few minutes from the house.  I get to see a huge range of flowers,  plants,  butterflies and wildlife every day.

I really, really want to try and encourage the children to be kinder to each other and to others. I know all siblings argue but I really find it sad when I see how negative and unkind they can be. I want them to have happy, supportive relationships. After reading this post we are going to start a family 'kind club'. Our first mission is to write letters and draw pictures to send to friends and family members we feel we have neglected recently.

We are going to make positive place mats - each of us writes our names and draws a self portrait then hands the paper to each family member in turn. Everybody writes down something good about each person so they end up with positive statements about themselves from all family members.  These can be laminated and used as place mats.

I would love to hear how you find ways to nurture positivity and promote harmony in your families. I'll let you know how we get on.