If I could give you one gift it would be to see yourself through my eyes and then you would see how special you really are.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Number 4 Den Building

When I was a child my mum was the school lollipop lady, so when she, my then baby brother and her lollipop stick headed out early, my younger sister, our friend Lou and I were left home alone for what I remember as hours but could only have been 20/30 minutes before we headed off to school ourselves. I don't think of this time with any fear, no what I remember was our back room with an old rickety wooden table that we turned upside down and would then sail off to exotic places, fighting pirates and watching out for sharks. It's funny how this memory sticks with me so clearly, another is of my mums friend Joy who lived on the outskirts of London with her two children, we would head off to visit for the day most holidays, I really remember the wet days where she would lay out an indoor picnic, once with indoor fireworks.

I suspect this is where my love of forest school comes. As a child I wasn't allowed to roam the fields that surrounded our village and certainly today we wouldn't let our children head off out at breakfast with a jam sandwich and bottle of juice not expecting to see them until dinner time. But, it didn't mean that I didn't dream of such things. How many of us would entertain imaginings of living in the woods or a cave for a few days like Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog did in my favourite famous five stories. Of course the sun would shine brightly, we could light a fire and would have fat sausages to put on sticks and cook over the embers followed by enormous marshmallows and there would be nothing to scare us when we curled up in our den made of flowers and ferns to sleep for the night.

Forest school somehow bridges a gap, it provides our sometimes cotton wool wrapped children with an opportunity to be out, at one with nature and for our children, I truly believe this is where they thrive and flourish. Our child 4 in particular is at his most content being outside, he doesn't do well caged up. Or maybe it's me that doesn't cope well, there are lots more reasons to avoid the no word indoors, come down from the window sill, play on the carpet, your crayons are for colouring on paper (not the walls), shower gel is for in the shower (not the living room floor and furniture). Can you run in the hall, it's dangerous in the kitchen. Outside he can run, twirl and whirl about, he can climb the apple tree, dig in the vegetable patch hunting for worms to feed the chickens ( child 3 calls him the worm murderer) or jump on the trampoline. He can shout and scream, singing and laughing letting the breeze carry his noise away. So we have cleared a patch at the end of the vegetable patch and covered it with bark, with branches cut from the apple tree we have edged it with a fence and planted sunflower seeds to grow to great heights in the summer and sweet pea seeds to scramble over the fence adding colour and sweet smells. Our neighbour was cutting down a huge bush so we took the branches and have built a den. The local mechanic let us take some old tyres from his workshop and we have filled them with gravel, sand, mud and water. Last week we held on to the baked bean and chopped tomato tins and painted them with red, yellow and blue enamel, strung them up on string so they now hang over the fence, clinking in the wind or being used to make music with a wooden stick. We added a bug house to the shed and, and  There is so much more to do, we are planning to spray a piece of wood with blackboard paint, build a fairy garden, make dream catchers using chicken feathers and other feather finds, paint stones with luminous paint and using old juice and milk bottles add a water wall.

Please sun keep shining, Pinterest fans please keep sharing your den ideas we are planning a year of outdoor imaginings, who wants to come and play????



Monday, 13 April 2015

Waiting for a rainbow

Once upon a time I loved the holidays it was a time to slow down to be together to have family time. There were no lunch boxes to be made, no early mornings and no after school clubs.  Nowadays it's different, I don't exactly dread them, I just don't feel quite the same way. No longer are they a time to slow down and unless the days are organised, family time can be disastrous.

When everything runs smoothly, life here is fantastic, the house is full of noisy laughter, imaginative games are played, computer games are shared and books are read. Outdoors they hunt bugs, build dens or practice acrobatics on the trampoline.

Unfortunately, more often than not the fun and games morph into sibling battles, the sharing becomes vying for attention, and the imaginitive games become bickering, slanging matches. All normal behaviour except that we have a traumatised child in our midst. A traumatised child who when ignored will do what ever it takes to reclaim his place as the centre of attention. This is usually violence of some sort, biting, hair pulling or throwing something.

So not only are we dealing with a baby of the family whose position has been usurped by a new and younger sibling but that new sibling comes with his own set issues. This means that when child 3 goes into melt down because she doesn't get her own way or because she thinks that our attention is taken by her younger brother there is a massive knock on effect with child 4. He just can't cope with temper tantrums, the shouting and screaming, the slamming of doors. He then spirals out of control, he hits out at those nearby, he shouts and screams and then attaches himself to one of us just in case we take him or leave him somewhere.

It is actually quite exhausting, I find that sometimes I have to take life an hour at a time, trying to plan ahead ready with a distraction to prevent the next battle breaking out.

Our Easter break peaks when we celebrate my Aunts 80th birthday, our tribe congregate at my parents, that is my sister and her 3 boys, my brother and his 2 children, our cousins including 2 more children and the 6 of us. After a fortnight of screaming, destruction of property, fighting, biting and bruises caused by flying cars I was to be perfectly honest full of trepidation. 11 children ranging from the traumatised 3 year old to the 21 year old uni student with every possible age in between in 1 house. Do you know what it was a fantastic celebration, the champagne and prosecco flowed, mum had created a treasure hunt, the older kids took all but our child 4 down to the field for a game of football. Everyone had a whale of a time with a few of us making it to the local family run pizzeria that evening. A very noisy crowd of us and yet  Child 4 took all the fun in his stride, maybe because he wasn't the centre of attention, maybe because he is beginning to feel that unconditional love vibe, the one that starts no matter what. Maybe because he feels like he belongs, my mum said the other week when they dropped him home he said "this is where my home is" as they drove up the road. A move forward as up until then he would ask where his home was even when curled up on the sofa in our arms.

None of this is to say we are at the end of our journey, I am sure that we will still stumble along the route but sometimes when we least expect it the sun breaks through the clouds, lifting our hearts. Showing us what life can be like.

Sunday, 5 April 2015


 My most favourite chocolate recipe is a decadent chocolate mousse recipe that was originally stolen from Good Food Magazine many, many years ago and since then has been modified to fit numerous occasions. The base is two ingredients - chocolate and double cream and it can be served sprung from a round springform cake tin easy to be sliced or dished into small individual glasses

I've used it as a filling for birthday cakes adding strawberries or raspberries as a layer too. I've made three flavours layering them for a stunning dessert. Dark chocolate, topped with milk, finished with white chocolate and dusted with grated chocolate and raspberries. You can add your favourite alcohol, brandy, baileys or Tia Maria or a splash of orange juice, a spoonful of coffee granules or peppermint flavouring.

It can be made a couple of days before or freezes beautifully.

This weekend I've baked my mums recipe for chocolate cake doused it with cassis and topped it with billowy spoons of mousse and finished it with mini eggs, blueberries and raspberries.

All you need is
250gms chocolate
568 ml double cream

Soften chocolate in microwave, add 1/4 cream and melt together. Melt Slowly as chocolate burns really easily in the microwave.
Whip up the remaining cream until it looks like a really thick milkshake.
Fold in the chocolate.
Spoon into individual dishes or into a cling film lined spring form cake tin leave for at least a couple of hours to firm.

Perfectly delish chocolate decadence!!!!!