Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Day Ramblings

A year ago I wouldn't have been expecting to be blogging on Christmas morning as I didn't even have a blog. But here I sit on December 25th at 9.05 on my tod. Even the cat has gone out for a wee. The kids (22,22,19 & 18) were all out last night so I don't expect they will be up very early today. They love going out on Christmas Eve because EVERYONE is home.

 I remember doing the same where we grew up we'd always go out on Christmas Eve and some people would pop into Midnight Mass on the way home too! The other time we all headed home was Carnival week which is in August. It's a fabulous week run by a voluntary committee who put on a ridiculous amount of activities and entertainment from kids kite making workshops and creature hunts on the beach to cocktail evenings and live bands, all squished in one week. It's brilliant and when my kids were small we'd always go 'home' and rent a cottage for a couple of weeks. Some of the locals also take the week off too either because they're helping or there's so much on it's like being on holiday at home. So I'm sure the kids had a great night, there's a half eaten Subway on the kitchen worktop so someone was obviously hungry on the way home. The table is set, most of the food is ready to go, the sofa is swivelled round so they can get to the tree and unwrap pressies, I just need them to wake up!

I've tried to be frugal this Christmas as I'm sure like everyone else too, I'm skint! Not as skint as someone who is homeless or people in war torn countries, I do appreciate that but doing the single Mum thing it is a bit of a stretch sometimes. My Dad said he'd sent a cheque for the kids for £100 and I said 'Great, that'll pay for their lunch!'' But I have split it and given it to them really. There still does seem to be quite a pile under the tree though and the last couple of years the kids have bought me gifts too. We never did the 'pretend' gifts from the kids when they were little or make them 'buy' for each other. If I'd given each child a fiver to buy for all their siblings it would have cost me an extra £60. I like handmade things and when they were little a handmade card was the best thing ever. I knocked up a home made wreath for the front door the other day which is now sagging into more of an oval than a round but hey ho!

I received a parcel in the post earlier in the week (if you followed the Vanessa Vodka Saga below you'll know hers arrived safe and sound too) from my friend Esther. I'd ordered some handmade Christmas decorations from her sister for the kids. I opened the parcel and there were the beautiful hand stitched decs; fat robins, Christmas stocking and reindeer. But there were two other packages too. One tiny one which I opened and it made me cry! It was a pices of pale green worn sea glass with silver wire curled around it and made into a pendant. Weirdly on the windowsill next to me I had a silver chain in a little bag that I didn't know what to do with so the two fitted perfectly. Thank you Esther. The other package had a label on which said 'This has been bought to you by the ancient system of bartering' I had seen Esther's crochet work on facebook - although I have known Esther for many years we live far apart - and she had made some beautiful stripy hats. I had asked her for one and said I didn't want mate's rates, I wanted to pay proper full on price. My sister had seen this comment and had bartered something she had made, I'm guessing a print, so the hat had been made by Esther and 'paid for' by my sister. Honestly I felt such a sense of love and joy at that moment. Proper Chrsirmas spirit in the air.

Later on in the week my mate Sue popped round with her daughter and grandchildren. I met Sue at a Christmas Eve drinks party when my twins were a few weeks old, her girls were 11 and 13 and scooped up the babies and that was that. They used to come down after school and play with them. As they got older they babysat, as they got even older my kids became their bridesmaids and ushers at their wedding and now that 11 and 13 year old and their older sister have seven children of their own so it's like we're going full circle. At the risk of sounding like a disney movie I suppose that is the circle of life. Anyway we had a fabulous morning with Sue and three of the grandchildren; oldest playing a console game with my oldest and the youngest two covering baubles and cardboard bunting in glitter. It was so lovely to have some little children in the house, felt full on festive!

Yesterday my mate Jude popped round for a mince pie and a coffee. She has bought me a present and we don't do presents but we do take the micky out of each other relentlessly so I'm expecting a laugh when I open it.

Later on I have the ex in-laws coming. Mrs Ex In-law loves Christmas and since the ex and I split up we haven't seen them much so I thought I'd get them over. She always makes me a Christmas cake and pudding and the kids love Grandad's sense of humour. I did get a text from the ex a while ago saying 'Do you know my Mum is coming to yours at Christmas?' Well yeees, cos I invited her! We've also got my Mum and her partner too. This year my Mum has started losing her memory which was a shock at first because she's only 70 and a bright, organised spark. Always does the cross words, wins the pub quiz, house is neat and immaculatly organised. But now she can't remember people's names including the Grandkids and many other things but the plus point is she's quite happy. Her old self would have got quite cross about not remembering but this 'new' Mum is really happy and seems very content. So today could be interesting!

Someone asked about Mr S - well we don't live together, he'll be waking up in Bristol waiting for his 3 kids to get up and then he has his parents and nieces and nephews over for lunch. We'll get together on Boxing Day when my kids will see their Dad. It's always a juggle for families at this time of year and compromise is just part of that. The older I get the more I realise it is about the people not the things in life in general. It's about being thankful for what you have got, not what you haven't.

I've seen a few ranting blogs about commercialism and expectations at this time so I've set up a faceyb group called . Handmade Christmas - Keep it Simple  I have been photographing things I've made for a Christmas pdf for next year - or it might even be an e-book if I can get my act together! - so started the group to swap ideas and perhaps barter a bit as Kate and Esther did above. If you want to join in go and have a look.

Well the cat is back in and laying on top of the radiator and the kids are still in bed! Have a fabulous day xx

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Vanessa Vodka Saga

Well I decided to run a little festive GIVEAWAY on facyb cos I'm nice like that. No, really I am! I set up three of my gorgeous vodka flavours on the windowsill with the light behind them to get the whole amazing colour thing going on.   Then posted the pics on facebook and asked people to guess the flavours. I had some great guesses from sage and onion to rhubard, ginger and honey to apple. But no one guessed all three correctly so I went with the funniest answer which was Vanessa White with ''essence of love, a sample (yuck) and Dentist's Mouthwash'' 

The correct answers were Elderberry, Cinnamon and Cranberry - that's the fabulous pink one.


The giveaway was a bottle of one of my home made vodka liqueurs and I chose Elderberry & Blackberry which I call Hedgerow Vodka. I wrapped it in bubble wrap, encased that in clingfilm, another roll of bubble wrap and cardboard and finally brown paper and loads of selloptape. I went off to the Post Office to post it and two other parcels today. There was no queue, I was pleasantly surprised at that and quite pleased because I was nipping out in my tiny lunch break. I popped all three parcels on the counter and said 'Second class please.' She looked at me with raised eyebrows and said 'Oh, they're not Christmas presents then?' What? She seemed to be insinuating that I had the gall to try and sneak some parcels in the post less than a week before the big day and expect them to be delivered right on time. What I wanted to say was 'No, of course they're not you silly woman.' But I just politely said 'No.' She came back with 'Right well what is in them then?'

Now I am old, I know I am, but post (I feel) is quite a personal thing and back in the day it was nobody else's business what I received OR posted. So I find this question a little rude. I told her there were shoes in one, craft stuff in another and then I kind of got an inkling the VODKA was going to be a problem. I said (quite honestly cos that's how I roll) a small bottle of home made vodka. She asked me what alcohol percentage it was? Really? I have no bloody idea love. I'm one of those drinkers who just drinks it. I don't drink and drive so I have no real reason to look at the percentage - obviously my Health Advisor mate will be leaping up and down and shouting at me for not knowing how many units I'm drinking, yeah, yeah, yeah Jude - The only time I do look at the percentage is when I go to the pub and have a few ales and I like to start on a weaker one and work my way up, that's Mr S's theory and I like it.

Anyway, she almost sucked her lip over her teeth and then said actually it didn't matter WHAT percentage it was (why ask then?!) it still needed to be packaged correctly. I said it was wrapped in two rolls of bubble wrap with kind of shrink wrapped clingfilm in between, then cardboard and then brown paper. She said 'but no polythene?' I said no but half a roll of cling film which was looped over the ends every which way you could wrap it and then sellotape. She said 'Well that's not exactly waterproof is it?' I beg to differ. She said that it needed to be in a polythene bag. I repeated that it is in two layers of bubble wrap the first one is encased in cling film which is about as watertight as you can get. She said it wasn't. I bit my tongue and she produced a LEAFLET. She smoothed it out on the counter and read it to me, she then took a pen and asterisked the bits I obviously couldn't comprehend and passed it to me with said bottle of vodka. 

I could not speak, the man on the next  counter looked at me as if he'd been there too. At this point I considered saying 'Oh my goodness, do you know what I've just remembered I put a Poundland bag round it which should hold it all together really well' But I'm not a liar and I'm guessing she wouldn't have believed me anyway. She went on to tell me that Royal Mail scan each and every parcel and if it is not packaged properly they will destroy it. Destroy it. Yes, DESTROY it, and they won't even tell you, you'll have no idea. I expect I would have had some idea when Ms White said 'Oi, my vodka's not arrived.'

So I left. I realised on the way to the car I should have asked her for a carrier bag and a roll of tape and done it there and then but that's bloody hindsight kicking in again. I considered driving to the next Post Office up the road but didn't have time. So I came home and was still fuming so I phoned Royal Mail Customer Service instead. Amazingly they answered really quickly and I asked them to define what POLYTHENE meant in their leaflet as it does not say bag anywhere. The lady understood my frustration (she'd been well trained!) and said it meant a plastic bag. So there we are, a plastic bag wrapped round a bottle of vodka will hold all the broken glass and liquid without it leaking. Isn't that amazing because when I've ever put broken glass in a plastic bag it has usually ripped it, I must be doing it wrong.

The leaflet was fascinating, do you know that you can not post human ashes, safety matches or filth (?!) but guns for sporting use and live creatures, insects and invertebrates are fine.

So Ms White, your vodka is going back to the PO, I shall wrap it in tons of carrier bags and it will take you a week to unwrap. I shall tell the other post office that it is home made elderberry cordial and not vodka. Enjoy!

A day later..... Re-packaged in a bin liner, shoved in a box with those things that look like Wotsits all around it and armed with my correct postage leaflet I headed to my usual post office. I said 'Second class please?' She said '£2.60 please' and that was it. Posted

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Don't be expecting glitter and sparkle just yet!

Hello there, are you feeling festive? This is not going to be one of those blog posts about having made the perfect Christmas Cake Nigella style (go easy on the snow scene love) or all my handmade cards and the turkey I've lovingly raised then slaughtered and had hanging in the garage for two weeks. It's not too festive in my house yet, although the daughter is home from Uni' and she made some mince pies last night. Jamie O's mince pies to be precise. I forgot my daughter was an expensive baker and as I went out the door I shouted 'If we need anything from the shops text me!' I meant eggs, butter, salad, bread, you know, that kind of thing. I get a list of...

  • Creme fraiche
  • Flaked hazelnuts (I don't think they exist outside of London)
  • Filo pastry
  • Normal pastry (Need more information girl)
  • Dried cranberries.
So at about ten o'clock last night she produced these beautiful filo shapes piled with mincemeat (we already had that) and dusted with icing sugar, served with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side. Quite delicious but probably not what you need just before bedtime

He also liked the actual real reindeer but after that made me focus solely on trees. I was all for buying the traditional CHEAP and PROPER old style tree but the kids have grown up with the whole no-drop spruce thing going on from when there was money in this house so yes, you guessed it we've got one of those. Anyway it's been in the pond for a week so it won't be thirsty when it comes in.

The Shed
I sent youngest up into the loft last night to get the tree stand out and he came back with nothing. In some scenarios the boy is a genius but show him a fridge full  of food and he won't see the milk right under his nose. He can always spot pizza though. So I wasn't surprised that he couldn't find the stand. But it turned out he was right and it wasn't there - so this morning I ventured into the 'once was a playhouse is now a shed' and there it was buried under essential - I'll need it one day - bits and pieces. 

Newer and oldish - spot the twisted screws, hefty tree that year!

As I carried it in I noticed the old tree stand from a couple of years ago by the back door - I must get up to the tip one day!

So now it's ready to go up this evening, how exciting! I love doing the tree, I get the Christmas tunes on and pick up all those decs that I've bought over the years or that the kids have made and they all make me smile. We've got the classic pine cones rolled in glitter; Playgroup circa 1998 to White Paper Angel Doilys (Frogwell School) circa 2000 moving right up to glitzy silvered and antiqued baubles and little beaded things from that shop that used to sell all the cushions and candles and went bust. The Pier! (Knew I'd remember it eventually) The thing I love about our decs is they don't match and there are LOADS of them. I don't do much to the rest of the house but the tree is HEAVING! 

When the kids were little I started buying them a dec each every year. The theory was that when they left home they would have a 'starter kit' to take away with them. But I have grown to love these baubles and I'm sorry kids, but I'm keeping them.

BUT by far the funniest festive thing this week was receiving a parcel yesterday. It was addressed to me and I didn't remember ordering anything. I opened it to see this message...

Now I went to Ynot festival in August purely to see The Temperence Movement and if you haven't seen them and like bluesy rock check out  Only Friend then go and buy a ticket, although they are selling even faster than the hottest hot cakes so be quick. 

The festival was ok but the security staff were miserable buggers and I told them so in my online feedback which I also put my name on. I mean if you asked to look in my bag and then just held it and squeezed it a lot and I said 'You've just crushed my crisps' You'd expect a flicker of amusement wouldn't you? Nope, dead pan miserable bugger face. That wasn't the only incident, they were like it all weekend. So, amongst other things all very constructive, I said I wouldn't be back. 

 I think they must have thought they'd try and cheer me up and send me a Ynot hoody for Christmas. How very hilarious of them. I love the #yolo and #The Pogues - I wonder which Fairy Tale in New York insult they think fits me best? Whatever, I am not wearing said hoody.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Welsh Walk

We had a fabulous weekend (after I'd got the Keep it Simple pdf loaded up - in the same titled blog post below if that's what you're looking for)  We set off early on Saturday morning across the Severn Bridge - which I absolutely love, so glad Mr S was driving because I get quite mesmerized by it (and that wind turbine at Reading)  there was a great sunrise behind us which tinged the Welsh sky pink

The Severn Bridge

We headed to the Brecon Beacons and were aiming for a little car park by a reservoir so that we could walk towards Pen Y Fan which is the highest point in the south of Britain. We parked up to find other people already there. Now, Mr S is not a fan of crowded walks which is why we'd set off early (we went to Scotland earlier in the year and were sometimes walking by 7.30 am, I kid you not!) But by the time we'd kitted up they were long gone. It was beautifully bright and sunny and although it was cold I knew I'd be taking my fleece off somewhere up the first hill.

Off we went - he'd warned me there were some boggy bits and just for the record let it be known that I really detest bogs. There were a lot in Scotland - I have no idea  how you can have a bog UP a hill, surely it should all be at the bottom! - but the worst one was in North Wales a few years ago near Harlech; I was cold and we were a bit lost (doesn't happen now with GPS maps and stuff) and we had to walk across this HUGE bog and it just sapped all the energy out of your legs. Every bloody step was an effort. I just focused on a dry stone wall in the distance and promised myself a bit of chocolate when I got there. When I did get there I realised that I'd stupidly bought some Greene and Blacks ultra loads of percent cocoa stuff which did not melt in my mouth like a piece of Dairy Milk would have done. Anyway, I do not like bogs so was pleased to find this walk pretty unboggy.

Up the first hill, quick stop to take off my fleece! - and a bit of a steep last piece where I saw these wonderful rectangular rocks

The views from the top were great but it wasn't the clearest of days and I'm still using my little camera as the SLR is broken so no stunning long distance view pics. It was blowing a gale at the top, well not an actual gale but it was very windy. If you'd put anything on the ground it would have blown away fast. So we donned more layers and gloves and hats. There are no photos of me in THE HAT. I love my hat, it's the best £4.99 I've ever spent. Green and fleece and snugly. But everyone is used to me and big curly hair - sometimes people say 'You know her, the one with the hair' -  so if I tuck my hair in a hat people don't think it looks like me. My best friend actually laughs and Mr S wouldn't take a pic and he said 'I don't want any evidence of you in THAT' Well regardless, I LOVE my hat.

We headed along the top towards Pen Y Fan and it got winder and windier and then  there was a ridgy bit - not ridgy like climbers would call a ridge, but ridgy for me. And goodness me on that bit it was an icy blast. My fingers were going numb and my head felt like I'd eaten several tubs of ice cream it really hurt. Another stop to change gloves for my padded ski type really cold weather ones and add my proper winter coat with hood, over my lovely hat. Mr S did the zip up and sorted my hood out as I couldn't do much with the big fat gloves on.

That hood made such a difference. By the time we got to Pen Y Fan I was warm, the wind had died down and there were LOADS of people everywhere. I hadn't been up there for about 10 years and I was married then and about four stone heavier and I remember letting the dog pretty much pull me up to the top! I took a photo of the poppies from Remembrance Day at the top as I knew a fellow facebooker had taken her children up to lay some there.

We headed back down the wonderful stone path which takes me ages because my knees are just rubbish so I usually say to Mr S 'See you at the bottom' He was heading up the next hill anyway and I was going to take the low road. As I slowly made my way down some lads RAN down the hill next to me, I stopped in absolute awe and watched them. I was tempted to shout 'I hope you appreciate those knees!' as mine were just singing to me but decided that would definitely make me a mad old woman so stopped myself.

I have to say the lower path was just lovely, no people on it, just me. So beautiful to be walking along there on my tod. Unsurprisingly Mr S was waiting for me at the other end, he'd been up and over the top quicker than I'd done the low path but I reckon that was because I kept stopping to take photos. We walked back towards the reservoir and the car with a noisy bunch of 20 somethings behind us discussing how they were going to share their remaining two slices of pizza. They were so noisy we left the main path and headed towards the reservoir buildings spotting this fabulous green reindeer on the way - he's just hiding there until Christmas Eve!

So, a great walk and then back to Bristol and the pub for a couple of well deserved beers and something to eat.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Keep It Simple (pdf)

The culmination of the Screw Work, Let's Play 30 Day Challenge

TA DA! Click on the blue writing :) Remember to subscribe to the blog or like my FB page if you want to know when the next one is out, thank you xx

by Niki Willows!

Hello my lovelies. Oooh there have been tears this evening! 

We're off to the Brecon Beacons tomorrow so I decided to upload 


tonight! Woo hoo! 

I didn't want to make you wait until tomorrow night when I know you've been sat there twiddling your thumbs waiting all week. No? Well may be not, anyway, had the file all stored on THE CLOUD (oooh get me and my new technology skills!) But NO it was all scrambled and a right mess. Turns out oldest's laptop doesn't have some version of word that I needed SO I'm now in youngest's room whilst he's practicing a bit of slap bass (google Ben Harper if you want to hear some) as I'm trying to load the thing up - it has been almost an hour of faffing so far. Is it worth it? You tell me

It was more than an hour - I ended up driving up the M4 to the other half's in Bristol. As I turned off the motorway I remembered that I'd left both my walking poles and walking boots at home so had a tearful moment in the car. I don't really do tears so you can tell how STRESSED I AM!

Then I got to Bristol at 6.30 and am now uploading this at 8.30 So thanks to my partner, Martin, who has the patience of MANY saints and to Sam for bringing my walking boots and poles over!

Actually I'm very proud of it so have a flick through and if you like it (or if you don't) give me some feedback...

Bit Of A Rant

I've had this rant whizzing round in my head this morning. It's day 29 of the 30 Day Challenge so getting ready to 'Launch' the project or they also call it 'Shipping' (good video about shipping here if you want to find out more ) and having got to this point it has made me really THINK. Think about a lot of things, but to be honest I am a bit cross to have got to 47 and realised through this project that the thing I love doing is taking photographs. 

Now for anyone who has known me for any time at all will know that I am never without a camera. I have loved taking photos for as long as I can remember. The first time I can remember is a trip to Whipsnade Zoo from Burrowmoor County Primary way back... The CROSS bit is that I didn't follow this love of photography and I'm furious at that 'careers' teacher who asked me what subjects I was good at and told me to be a Hotel Receptionist or go in the Army - can you see any similarities between the two because I can't.

I didn't follow his advice I went and did two years at Norwich City College taking Preliminary Social Care. Which I enjoyed, I thought I'd quite like to be a nanny which I did - also could be described as hired skivvy depending on the family you were working for. Ended my nanny career on a farm in Berkshire with a lovely little cottage and a car and still stay in touch with that family.

BUT I am so cross with the school system for asking you what your best subjects are and basing their advice on your whole future career on that. They NEVER asked me what I was good at outside of school, never asked me what I was interested in, what I LIKED to do, what things I couldn't stop thinking about or couldn't wait to do at the weekend.

This came to a bit of a head a couple of years ago with my youngest. The older three had all done 6th form, had a year out and gone to uni. Pretty much doing things that they were interested in but fitting the school/6th form/uni model that schools favour. Youngest was/is a bright spark, really good at sciences (AGaT; Able, Gifted and Talented in Chemistry) and maths. He toyed with the idea of doing something Physics/Chemistry based. When he was at home although he got his homework done and got the 'right' scores and grades, when all that was done, he drummed. He played the actual drums (we have great neighbours!) and he drummed on the table at meal times, he drummed with his feet if his hands were busy, he hummed music, he watched music, he listened to music, he went to see bands and he drummed some more. He drummed at Parent's Evening with his fingers and I would sit there saying 'Charlie, STOP drumming and listen' He thought about doing Music for A Level and they told him they wouldn't have him because he wasn't achieving his Target Minimum Grade in the subject. They probably said that at one of those parent's evening WHILST he was drumming.

So he decided to go to College to do music. No one in the family was happy about this, he was the bright spark, he could do so well, wasn't he going to go off and be an amazing chemist? I thought long and hard and knew school wasn't the right place for him. He was always asking teachers questions that they didn't have time to answer and it frustrated him so much. I didn't know what to say. In my soul I knew he was a drummer boy and I said 'Follow your heart Charlie.' 'WHAT?' said my daughter 'Don't be bloody stupid!' Physics son phoned up saying 'No Mum, no, make him go to 6th form, he's throwing everything away.' But I left it to Drummer Boy and he did go to college and he has loved every minute. He eats, sleeps, breaths and absorbs music through every pore.

Last night was the college gig. The new First Years are incredible - they bravely kicked it off with a female singer and Whole Lotta Love and they pulled it off, just fabulous. The Second Years were doing their own compositions and there was my boy, doing his thing; singing, playing bass AND drumming. And he looks like he's right where he is supposed to be. AND his siblings all think he's bloody marvellous and extremely cool :)

The same thing happened with my sister; bright spark but also extremely creative. She got pushed the uni route, got a first in law, woo hoo, fantastic we all thought. But years later LISTENED to her creative voice screaming inside (she would say that's far too dramatic) and now is a Printmaker and Sculpturer. (spell check tells me that's not a word but I'm leaving it in)

Anyway, back to me being cross, hmmm I seem to have calmed down a bit now. I'm all for education but surely it's should be about the whole person, not just what they can do in the dinosaurs that our schools are? Do kids learn abut managing a budget, how to do what you love, how to work collaboratively in a community? May be they get some bits of that but school is a factory that we put them into and they are supposed to come out the other end in a neat box. Well my box was being kicked from the inside with bits of 35mm film sneaking out of the edges and proper old flash bulbs popping away that smelt funny. I'm sure you've seen the Ken Robinson animation that sums it up so well? If not WATCH IT!

I got kind of head hunted recently. Then I was told that if I was offered the job I'd need to go back to Uni for two years because I didn't have the correct teaching qualification. I already have a degree in Early Years Education and an adult teaching qualification. But I didn't have the RIGHT qualification, the right piece of paper. I could have talked about the subject standing on my head easily, and I may not have that particular qualification but I have a hell of a lot of experience in the subject matter and a lot of experience in talking about it to people. But yeah, I'm not a qualified teacher. So I said no, I won't come for an interview but thanks for thinking of me.

I just don't think that the best qualification for a teacher is a degree in teaching. You need to know about the subject too. And really I think that all teachers should be doing a couple of days a week working in the field that they teach about, otherwise whatever they say is something they've read rather than what they KNOW because they've done it.

That got me thinking about my own teachers and people that I have learnt from. Moira the OT was a fabulous lady, managed to teach without telling you and that is such a skill, learnt oodles about children with SEN from her. David Bruce who I nannied for taught me all about wine and a little about beer and a lot about not judging people by their background rich or poor. Ruth Parsons, my friend from the woods, teaches me something new each and every time I see her and she's not even trying to, actually so does my yoga teacher also Parsons, may be it's the name. Julia at my old job taught me to have a go and to let people that you were managing have a go and just to see if things would work. But the only teacher I really remember from school is Mr Jones Music (not the Welsh one, we had two) who would take us to church to practice for the carol concert and play them jazz style if no other teachers were about. And I didn't take music.

My best teachers have been people who were not teachers but people who are well rounded and passionate about what they do, and people who are not afraid to share what they do. They are not people who think 'Oh if I show her that she might do it better than me and nick my idea' They are sharers and I think we need more of those.

So back to ME (haha!) and photography. I've enjoyed the project and am so pleased that it has made me focus on what I love again. Although the project finishes tomorrow I will continue to play and to create because I should have been doing that all along x

ps - this is one of my sister's prints, I think she's amazing

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Sore knees!

Hey Beautiful people, I hope you're having a great day. I have had a sore day. You may have seen my earlier photo of the boy's climbing wall in progress. Well when he was little he used to leave his toys all over the floor, then it was clothes and now it's bits of wood. Ok so they weren't exactly strewn across the floor like Lego bricks aged 7 (gosh didn't they hurt your bare feet!?) they were laid neatly along one side of the hall,  BUT his bike was in pieces on the other side of the hall. Now despite the fact that I'd been through the hall about 27 times already that day for some reason on the 28th time, may be it was 29, I tripped over the bloody wood and landed on the bike. OW! I have considered taking a photo of my knees for you but it's not a good look. Cut and bruised and swollen. Pretty ugly actually.

Luckily I was working at home all day today because although I can get my trousers on if I move it HURTS! So I've been in trackie bottoms all day, well classy. Both sons have been telling me to 'Man up' Cheers boys. Son away at Uni was most sympathetic on the phone - I love you best Joe! - Anyway the wood is now moved, hopefully he'll tackle the bike tonight.

Big night tomorrow night, youngest son is playing in the college gig which is always a great night out. If only they had a bar too, honestly it would be like a mini festival.

I've just about finished the weekend freebie. Just need to work out how to merge two word docs which is proving a bit tricky at the mo. In the meantime this is what is happening in the garage!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Sneak peek and thank you

Thank you so much for all of the positive feedback on this little blog; lovely inbox feedback with some great ideas on facebook, kind comments on here and some people who know me in real life actually spoke to me about it. So thank you, thank you, thank you - I'm bowing, can you see?

I've been working on my project this evening, I'm quite excited about it so wanted to give you a peak! Here it is...  


So there we are, can you see what it is yet? Honestly you'll love it and it's FREE anyway so how can you not! I showed it to youngest son who said 'Did you take the photos Mum?' and I said yes and he told me he was very proud of me. Bless him what a cutie. A six foot two cutie but one all the same. 
So all will be revealed on Saturday as long as I can sort out the technicalities of not having a laptop, being in Bristol not home and pdfs, websites and the 30 Day Challenge. It'll be fine!

Here is a little pic for you of some Fairy Food, it's already on faceyb so sorry if you've already seen it.

Meanwhile in my garage my oldest is building a climbing wall, like you do. So here's a picture of that too. I'm sure it fits all building regs and follows all HSE standards but he will be using a big mattress as a crash mat just in case! 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Leaves and Children's Cameras

I've been playing with leaves a lot for my project and last weekend found these amazing red ones, maple I think. It was  also a still day so I could go out and really play. I liked the colour against the green grass. I'm putting lots of ideas into a little booklet which will be free on here, so watch this space :) 

Dead simple isn't it? If you're working with children they can make shapes and then take the photos themselves. PLEASE don't buy those awful 'children's' cameras. Why on earth would they want a clumsy big bright plastic thing with massive buttons when they have tinier hands than ours and are much more technically able than we were at the same age. Buy a drop proof waterproof camera by all means but leave those horrible plasticky things in the toy shop because that's all they are.

Friday, 22 November 2013

What's in a name?

Now there's a question. What IS in a name?

 I've been asked three times this week if I changed my name to Willows because I'm a foresty/outsidey person. Well firstly I am NOT that person. I currently have a desk job and sneak outside when I can! But no I did not change my name. This is the very name I was born with. My Dad's family are Willows and it's a Lincolnshire name. I was once married and I didn't change it then either, I really like my name. And to be honest, it was quite handy when I got divorced because I didn't need to change anything! So there we are Willows is just who I am and it is rather nice that I like to be outside and am a Forest School Leader too.

I've also been asked why the blog is called Rounded & Grounded - well I'm pretty round and I like to think I'm grounded! No, really it came out of a conversation I was having about the education system (don't get me started on Gove and 2 year olds in school and targets and how we MEASURE children...) I was saying that the thing all children need, despite what our education system tries to force them into, is to be rounded and grounded. And the lady came back saying 'I like your bit about being rounded and grounded' and I thought hey, that's not a bad name for the blog. So there you go, here it is!
Two fabulous FREE publications that are always in my work bag are these two below -

Health and Safety Play Statement - perfect common sense for anyone working with children

Mud Kitchens pdf from the fabulous Muddy Faces

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Suuuuuny Wiltshire!

Oh it is just beautiful outside today. The rain was LASHING at my window last night so I was surprised to see it so sunny this morning. We're 3/4 of the way through this 30 Day Challenge and tonight there's a big meet up of some of the people involved up in Laaandon. If I'd been more organized, and if I'd had any leave from work left, I'd have gone as we're in the city this weekend anyway. But, no leave and the usual lack of organisation SO there's also a mini-meet up in Bristol - yay for the South West! - so I'm going to that.

I haven't walked into a bar on my own for many years so arranged to pick another SWLPer up from the station and then she texted to say 'Had you thought about the train?' Well, blow me down, no I hadn't! I am so used to bombing (within all speed limits anyway) up and down the M4 to see the other half that I forget I can get the train there too. So, get me, I'm going on a train. To meet a group of strangers. I'm sure it'll all be fine. No, really - anyway if I go missing it's the Watershed between 6.30 and 9 so you can start the search there.

So my project is about free outsidey things and I'm currently uploading a lot of photos to photobox cos I want to print them off and make my pdf a little like a scrapbook with my writing in too. I even bought some beautiful drawing inks last night in case I fancy adding a little colour. Then my sister reminded me that I'd been bought some on a BIG DAY OUT in London when we were children - and she was away at Brownie camp. She wasn't happy at all. And she STILL remembers it, ooops!

So here's a couple of sneak preview project pics. Let me know what you think - although so far I have told no on about this blog except fellow SWLPer Keira who is doing some marvellous family things with her children. I expect we could link that onto each other's blogs at some point.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Setting Up An Outdoor Play Project (pdf)

  Well you may think I'm getting carried away now with a second post on day one, blimey! But no, this is to test if I can upload a pdf thingy as I said earlier. Well, it turns out I can but only after several hours of messing around with gmail and various pages of Chinese - seemed to be the default setting! - and a good hour of help from my extremely patient son Sam. Thank you Sam, I seriously would have frisbeed the laptop across the room.

ANYWAY here we go, a very tiny little pdf about setting up a play project, just because sometimes people ask me that kind of thing. To be honest the same very basic principles would work for pretty much any group. So, pdf on How to set up an Outdoor Play Project here
Woo hoo, finally got round to creating a blog only to find out that once signed in I have previously created two other blogs - obviously many moons ago!

So here we go then; primarily a place to put outsidey stuff which I already do on good old faceyb but sometimes, quite frankly, I just want to run on a bit more than I do on there. Unbelievable I know.

So I've started this thing called the SCREW WORK, LET'S PLAY 30 DAY CHALLENGE (SWLP) - capitals because I do think it's worth shouting about. It's a project to play with what you love doing, so key things have really been to find out what it is you DO love doing! And then get right stuck into the process and with daily prompts from the SWLP team they kind of poke, cajole and guide you along the way to create SOMETHING to share at the end of the 30 days. That date is fast approaching. 

I'm kind of sure I know where I'm going, my idea is to create a free pdf (or similar) giveaway of outdoorsy ideas that are very visual - I do love taking photos! - I just find that some people struggle a bit with what to do outside so I'm hoping this publication will be something they can have a quick look at or stick in their bag to take out and it will give them a starting point. And we all know that once you start playing you can just go with the flow with kids. They will always take play a step further than anything we'd ever thought about.

So the blog is for me to have a mad ramble every now and then and a way to share the pdf thingy - although I currently have no idea how to do that but I will learn!

Faceyb link here

So many gorgeous colours about at the mo, beautiful beech trees here on the road to Colerne.