Kids

Moments for which there really should be a word.

The Days May Be Long

I’ve just put a small boy to bed, teetering with exhaustion and glowing with pride at having completed his first day at school.  So proud in fact, that he has been wearing his new uniform since dawn and only agreed after much discussion that it should be removed not only for bathtime but also for bed. It is hung carefully in clear sight of his bed, lit by the nightlight so it can be admired at all times.

Everyone warned me that the day your child starts school is one of those watersheds, where the world spins a little more slowly on its axis, and the past four years flashes back in technicolor glory, from the tininess of hands and feet, the warm solidity of toddler thighs, the milestones of weaning and walking and talking… until suddenly you watch your child, so brave and expectant, in school shorts which look impossibly large and grown up, waving you off from the classroom door.

On the one hand I am so proud to have grown this amazing man-in-waiting who can take life in his stride and who views everything as the next great adventure; on the other I want to freeze this time forever to preserve the magic of these wonder years before he grows any older.

At the moment, I am required to play a starring role in all of his games; that of the beautiful princess, who must be rescued from danger (dragons, pirates, husbands; anything which might distract me in fact).  There is little to indicate me for this role in anyone else’s eyes, but for Harry this is my natural place and I participate willingly, even if this requires me to climb grubby trees and sit there for hours whilst he rushes around at ground-level, or to wedge myself into the impossibly small cupboard under the stairs which doubles as a castle dungeon.  Occasionally, Harry forgets to rescue me and I find him playing with Lego, oblivious to the cobwebs in which I am covered.  Still, I am all too aware that soon I will be required to maintain a low profile when games with friends are afoot, so I will make the most of my time in the princess spotlight.

All this came back to me as I sat in the school car-park today, clutching the wheel and bracing myself to drive away.  In every car in the car park this scene was repeated; mascara being reapplied, husbands being called and debriefed on the recent partings, and everyone being brave and taking a deep breath.

In the end it was a triumph; a brilliant day for Harry with no tears or drama.  In fact, the only thing that Harry found shocking was that at lunch they were served only half a jam-tart each for pudding, and not a whole one (Harry is a man of healthy appetite).  Despite this reportedly Dickensian approach to food, the signs are good and I couldn’t be more relieved.  It’s one of those days where you feel like a million miles have been travelled… but travelled well.

____________________

Regular followers of this blog will know me as a lover of words, so when I stumbled across this beautiful collection of untranslatable words (below) via Pinterest which capture specific feelings or moments in time, it resonated perfectly with my current heightened emotional scale.  The authors collected eleven words which in different languages define something perfectly, and appear to have no direct translation.  The piece itself is lovely, but equally fascinating is the response it has gathered whenever it has appeared; the list of new words just grows and grows as readers around the world add more, as in the comments here.

11 Untranslatable Words From Other Cultures

For me there is just one word which is missing from these lists and deserves to be invented or declared; that mixed feeling of pride, nostalgia, anxiety and infinite, reckless love which hits you like a wave when your impossibly small child turns to you at the door of his new classroom and waves you goodbye….

We should name it, I think.

The Great Blackberry Caper

Homemade Blackberry Jam (and other recipes)

We’ve been mercifully distracted from preparations for the start of school, and have spent all our free time over the last few days foraging in hedgerows.  The unusual combination (for England, anyway) of endless sunshine interrupted by intense downpours of rain has ensured that nature is putting on a glorious show as the seasons turn; blackberries are everywhere you look; acorns are likely to fall from the sky and render a nasty ding to your forehead should you be foolish enough to stand still, and the air is perfumed with cider as a million windfall apples quietly ferment in the grass. (Do I sound a little tipsy and effusive?  Blame it on the apples..).

blackberry picking

Harry has proven to be a stoic and unflappable blackberry-picker; whilst I bumble along, shrieking and tossing my pail in the air with fright every time a bug walks over my hand, Harry tuts gently and gathers our fallen harvest before starting over again.  We returned home a little sweaty and scratched up, but with enough blackberries to fill several baskets and make for a weekend of berry-tastic cooking.  We started with our favourite… JAM!!

blackberry jam recipe from katescreativespace


I’ve found through trial and error that presentation is everything when it comes to homemade jam, and minimises the chance of recipients gingerly clutching their gift whilst stealthily examining the jar for mould, unconventional ingredients or smeary fingerprints. I made berry coloured labels for ours and then cut disks to cover the lids from a print-out of the photo above (at least there’s no doubt about the contents..).  Sparkly thread covered the rubber band and completed the look.

decorating jam pots

with approximately a bathtub’s worth of berries leftover we decided to invent a new recipe; blackberry crumble bars, which combine sponge cake, blackberries, jam and crumble, and thus contain all the main food groups.  All the ones we’re interested in anyway..

blackberry crumble bars

blackberry bars recipe

Exhausted – and deliciously full – we decided to abandon all further attempts in the kitchen and instead to package up our leftover berries and take round to friends and neighbours.  I found these pretty trays on sale and added labels with recipe suggestions, and then Harry practised his balance and co-ordination skills with moderate success…

blackberry gifts

And now, in a further fit of procrastination as I avoid all school-related thoughts; what to do with our first apple harvest?  We taste-tested these, and once we’d managed to un-shrivel our taste-buds, roll back our eyes and breathe without gasping, decided that they are probably a little too tart to be eating apples.  If you have any to-die-for recipes for cooking apples I’d love to know; at the moment I’m just enjoying their beauty and scent as they adorn our kitchen table (but I know I need to act soon….).

apples on kitchen table apple harvest

Have a great weekend, when it arrives!

Kate

A Palette for the Palate

paintbox cakes

 

How is your week going?  I’m having a slightly misty-eyed, bittersweet one here as I savour the last few days before Harry starts school (school! How did this happen??) – or preschool, to be precise.  But still, it somehow feels like the end of the free-wheeling freedom days of toddlerhood as well as a hugely exciting next step.  But more on that next time.  For now, when I have time off work we’re making the most of the lazy summer days, sometimes with big adventures requiring packed lunches, pirate swords and sunscreen, and sometimes just chilled-out messy play that practically requires us to stay in our  pajamas all day and then simply wipe down the house at teatime.  Yesterday definitely fell into this category as we refined our cake decorating skills…

coloured paintbox cakes

I sliced a store-bought madeira loaf cake into small squares and then mixed up a large bowl of  white icing (icing sugar & water, until it drops smoothly from the spoon), before spooning a dollop into a myriad of little bowls.  Together, we stirred in food colouring with toothpicks, watching what happened as the colours changed and deepened.  If I were an Alpha-Mum or parenting goddess, I would share with you how this was an excellent opportunity to teach colour blending, and how Harry’s vocabulary expanded to include words like ‘Cerulean Blue’ and ‘Magenta’.  Pfff!  Of course not; it was just messy, sticky, and brilliant fun.  We discussed what colour slime would be; whether pirate blood is the same red as our blood, and why girls always like pink (in Harry’s view) – all the crucial topics that matter when you’re 3yrs old.

Making paintbox cakes

 

making paint box cakes

Our efforts were surprisingly tasteful (and unsurprisingly tasty); it certainly impressed us.  I can imagine making a slightly more chic version of these to serve as petit fours at a future party or dinner; how cool would it be to have a huge palette of these tiny cakes that are just sized to be the perfect mouthful? And look, they’re so small you’d practically burn up more calories eating them than you consume in the cake itself….

paintbox cakes on chalkboard

 

cakes on a plate

How to Stay Cool in a Heatwave

homemade fruit juice ice lollies

We’ve had an unprecedented, glorious 3 weeks of unbroken sunshine here, with soaring temperatures and cloudless skies.  It seems to have sent Britain into a state of national shock, with people shedding clothes at an alarming rate and lying, spread-eagled, on every available patch of grass and scrub to soak up the precious rays.  Relatedly, hospitals report new levels of burns admissions and ‘injuries caused by misuse of poolside inflatables’ (there’s a Bill Bryson-esque post in itself there, I can’t help feeling).

Here, we’ve been rather more careful, and instead have been experimenting with ice-cream and lolly making.  In fact, we’ve frozen pretty much everything we can find in the cupboards these last few days, working out what tastes good and what was better left un-meddled with.  The kitchen has become a sea of brightly-coloured dribbles and splashes, and Harry has been diligently working his way through a variety of lollies, giving each one the lick-test for success or failure.  Here are our biggest successes;

Homemade Fruit Ice Lollies

Homemade Ice lollies

We made these by simply pouring our favourite natural fruit juices into ice-lolly moulds and freezing; simple as that.  No e-numbers, no scary preservatives, and a super-quick ice-lolly that you can even justify eating for breakfast (well, it replaces a glass of juice, right?).  You can, as we did, add a drop of food colouring gel to make them more beautiful – most natural juices are pale amber in colour, so feel free to jazz them up with a dash of the brights.

fruit juice lollies

You can find plastic ice-lolly / popsicle moulds like these in many stores, but if like me you prefer to use wooden sticks instead of the plastic handles and can’t find a mould which fits wooden lolly sticks, you can customise the plastic ones very easily (and it’s a great way of making large numbers in batches for a party).  Two foolproof ways; either cover the top of the filled mould with tin foil and pierce the wooden stick through, or (for the very precise-minded); place a piece of tape across the opening, and another at right angles so that you have a taped cross, and make a small incision at the centre before threading the stick through and down into the juice. If you don’t have special lolly moulds, you can make fill & freeze paper cups or even muffin cases using the foil & stick method – silicon works particularly well.

Our other favourite recipe was frozen yoghurt*…

organic frozen yoghurt pops

I made these in exactly the same way, by simply pouring into moulds, adding sticks and freezing.  As you’d expect, frozen yoghurt pops are much creamier and smoother than juice-based lollies, but seem wonderful immune from drips  - ours were mess-free, albeit they were consumed very quickly..

raspberry frozen yoghurt pops

*Yoghurt or yogurt?  Anything goes apparently, as far as the spelling is concerned; the only thing which is universally agreed is that it tastes divine..

yoghurt lolly

If you’re making batches of these, take the moulds out of the freezer when frozen solid (2-3hrs, we found), and after a couple of minutes ease the lollies out of the moulds.  Wrap each one in freezer paper to avoid them sticking together and place back in the freezer; then simply refill your moulds and start over again.

Are you an ice-cream or ice-pop connoisseur?  Any recipes we should be trying just as soon as we work our way through our current stockpile?

Have a great week.

Kate

How to make the news headlines without leaving the couch

I’ve just discovered a wonderful time-waster which I had to share; a write-your-own-news headline generator, where you can type in whatever news story you like and then download for free. You get a jpeg of your newspaper which you can email to a friend, or print out and turn into a card, as I did the story below which I wrote for my brother Tom as he picked up the keys to his first ever apartment;

newspaper-2

Thoroughly distracted by now with the fun opportunities the headline-generator offers, I’ve been busy documenting everything over the last couple of days, tacking bulletins to the fridge and, like a true newshound, letting nothing go unreported.  Including, of course, the Fathers’ Day scooter race between Harry (3) and Daddy (considerably more than 3);

newspaper-3

Do give it a go – but not when you have anything sensible you’re required to be concentrating on instead – just click on this link and fritter away hours practicing your cub reporter skills!

Before I sign off (and I’ll be back later in the week with a super-quick decor DIY), thank you to all those who reached out to check that I survived my wilderness experience; more details below …

More

In Praise of Fathers, new and old…

fathers day hat

When your husband also becomes the father of your child, there’s no question that the relationship changes immeasurably.  You go through things together that you could never imagine as a footloose, fancy-free couple (childbirth, for one…); through a whole roller-coaster of adrenalin, hormones, thrills, spills and life-shortening panics… and most fundamental of all, joy.

Now, on this fourth occasion of Fathers’ Day, we are celebrating the general awesomeness of Daddy in a variety of ways, big and small.  We have a special honorary party hat ready for A to wear at breakfast time on Sunday (above), which I designed on my PC and then taped into a cone before decorating with braid … and then to complete the ensemble, some home-made LEGO cufflinks – a very satisfying quick craft;

LEGO cufflinks for fathers day

I ordered some blank cufflink backs on Ebay and asked Harry to select some Lego squares from his toy box. Harry is obsessional about Lego so it also commemorates this year’s passion and a favourite Harry/Daddy past-time.  Attaching the Lego bricks with Superglue makes for a very strong bond, and we were delighted with the end result.  Some men may hesitate at the thought of making such a flamboyant style statement, but we know our man well; he has been known to wear Superhero Cuffs to work and has his own dressing-up box after all (I know, I know; some things you just have to accept as unique in a marriage…)

lego cufflinks close up

lego cufflink on cuff

Tucked into his card will be a hand-made book of vouchers, giving him various treats such as time off to do Man Things (usually involving bikes, the watching of sport, rummaging in the garage and other such male pursuits), dinner and also a few activities which Harry can get involved in, like telling Daddy a great story on request.

dad vouchers 1

dad vouchers 2

dad vouchers 3

I’ve included a download of my printable below if you want to make one of these; I simply cut around the vouchers and clipped them into a book made from leather-look card stock.

fathers day voucher book

And on the subject of fathers..

One of the lovely things about writing this blog is the connections that it creates.  Usually with strangers who reach out and share stories, comments and feedback which lead to virtual friendships, but perhaps even more surprisingly with the people whom I already know and love.  When I wrote about typewriters here in February, I had a letter from my father who shared how it had brought back vividly the memory of receiving his own first typewriter, as a reward for passing a school entry exam;

‘..my parents promised me that if I passed the exam I could have a typewriter.  My recollection is that the life-changing letter came on a Saturday morning in June.  That very same morning we went off to a small shop in centre of Coventry, and I became the hugely proud possessor of an Olivetti Lettera 22.  It was one of the most beautiful objects I have ever owned.  The smoothly stylish Brancusi curves, the elegant typeface, the fluid touch of the discreetly rounded keys, the leather carrying case fusing design perfection and total practicality.  It was love at first sight…

..It was a brilliant object in its own right (and something my parents must have struggled to afford –I believe it cost £26 which in the mid-1950s, in our household, was a small fortune), but it has also become a symbol of that transition to a school that opened the doors to a future that would have been beyond my parents wildest imaginings – the opportunity of a grammar school education, university and … the world’.    
I was incredibly touched by my Dad’s letter, which went on to say that though the typewriter is long gone, it has always been for him  the talisman of the life-changing opportunity that a great education gave him.  This year for Fathers’ day my Dad will unwrap a vintage Olivetti Lettera 22, sourced on Ebay from the loft of one careful owner, who was delighted to know it was going to someone who would cherish it.  He is banned from checking my blog before the weekend, so hopefully the secret will be kept…

lettera 22

To Dads everywhere, here’s to you; may you have a glorious weekend…

fathers day voucher book

Fathers Day Voucher Book COVER

The Little House

The Little House in Winter

House-painting can be a relentless, unforgiving task.  Slaving away in the burning sun and occasional rain, painting never-ending woodwork atop a wobbly ladder.  My advice?  Buy yourself a house that’s all of 8 foot high and you’ll find you can paint it in approximately an hour, including varnishing.  Trust me; it’s enormously satisfying.  A little small, perhaps, for the whole family, but perfectly proportioned for a 3yr old.

You may remember we bought a second-hand playhouse (above) for Harry’s birthday last winter, and it has sat looking picturesque but slightly weary through the harsh winter months.  Soon after buying it I added curtains made from tea towels and a slate ‘Little House’ sign, but we waited until the Springtime before tackling the interior.  Last weekend I gave it a proper overhaul, painting sills and gables, planting up hanging baskets and turning the bare interior into a proper bachelor pad. If you’ve time for a cup of pretend tea and a plastic cake, come on inside and have the tour…

the little house sign

When the playhouse was delivered, the inside was bare wood – and somewhat battered from having legions of small feet pattering in and out over the years in its former home.

playhouse renovation

We gave it a couple of coats of whitewash and glued inexpensive carpet tiles to the floor, and then decked out the interior with Harry’s play BBQ, table and chairs…

playhouse interior

harrys kitchen diner

All of these furnishings have simply been moved out from the playroom for the summer, freeing up some valuable space indoors.

Here’s the ‘loft’ sleeping platform before….

harrys loft before

And after…

little house loft

Above the sleeping platform hangs – securely –  a watchful angel; in reality a photograph I took of a folk-art Christmas decoration I bought years ago in New England.

little house angel

There’s enough space to hang your hat above your pillow, and a clock to wake you from a nap, should the bird chorus outside fail.  A decorative driftwood garland hangs by the ladder, and some well-worn old linens make for a comfortable den to retire to with a favourite book.  The paper animal garland was leftover from Harry’s first birthday party a couple of years ago and has found renewed purpose in bedecking the playhouse walls – I give it a few more months before it is declared too babyish and relegated to the (real) loft.

play loft

Do you remember Harry’s Hardware Store (below)?  With the advent of warm weather this has found a natural home inside the playhouse, where young drivers can park their scooters, pedal cars and balance bikes at the door and come in for tools, coffee or petrol.  It does a roaring trade..

harry store main shot

playhouse with built in store

Externally, The Little House is ready for summer; I exchanged the faux-topiary balls of winter for some low hanging baskets which Harry and I planted up with strawberries; they are just reachable for 3yr old hands, but tantalisingly out of reach for slugs.  Geraniums burst from the window box, mirroring those of the main house, and a passion flower climbs alongside the door.   A bird box mounted near the eaves will hopefully attract residents next winter, and a brightly painted cockerel weather vane adds a distinctive finishing touch.  And finally, I can’t forget our sunflowers, which now sit along the side of the Little House, where they can turn to the late afternoon sun, protected from the mayhem of small people crashing in and out of the playhouse itself.

The Little House in Springtime

the little house exterior

Work over, we all hunched inside for a celebratory cup of tea, served up with a hard, wooden play sausage and half a head of garlic.  Whatever else Harry does in his life, I doubt that a future in the kitchen beckons.

amish star

And finally, before I go; this week Pinterest is launching formally here in the UK, to great excitement.  For those who haven’t yet come across it, Pinterest is a very visual way of collecting together all the things you love, by ‘pinning’ images to your boards from all across the wide world of the web.  For those who are already converts, you can find me (and images from all of the projects on my site) here, or by searching under pinners  for ‘Kate Curates’; for those who are new and want to explore for the first time, you can register using the link here.  One word of advice; don’t do this if you have a deadline looming, or a child soon to wake from a nap, or indeed anything which requires your undivided attention for some time; it can be absolutely, deliciously addictive…

How to impress with your watercolour skills, even if you have none…

watercolour stencils DIY from katescreativespace

You can bet your bottom dollar that the likes of Turner and Kandinsky refined their watercolour skills over decades, diligently painting day after day as they mastered the art of pigment on paper, water and brush.

Not us, oh no.  This is, after all, the home of slapdash crafting where most projects take less than an hour and benefit from the accompaniment of a glass of wine.  And I’ve discovered, somewhat by accident, that using basic stencils can create impressively accomplished results with very little skill.  It’s a great thing to try when you have a few minutes to spare, and the results are likely to be as good if you’re 8 as if you’re 80 (and there’s not much we can say that about).

watercolour palette

A few basic materials are all you’ll need; simple stencils, watercolour paints and something to mix them in (I used an inexpensive plastic palette), heavyweight paper and brushes.  The choice of paper is the most important thing; using 300gsm paper will help the paint flood within the stencil but then be quickly absorbed, reducing the risk of it running.

DIY materials

Once you’ve chosen your stencil and assembled your paints and paper, simply hold it in place lightly with your fingers and brush your chosen colours into the stencil.  Work quickly, so that the colours can mix before they dry.  Warm colours work beautifully together (pinks, oranges, reds and golden yellows), as do cool ones (blues, greens, lemon yellow), but there are no rules.

bird in pinks

If you have a steady hand, you can whip your stencil off straight away; otherwise, wait for the paint to dry completely.  I’ve found the best technique varies from one stencil to the next (I guess it’s to do with the shape); for my hummingbird I was able to lift the stencil off instantly and the still-wet paint retained a perfect silhouette.  For the pigeon at the bottom of this post, it took 20 minutes patient waiting and a cup of coffee before it could be successfully revealed.

watercolour stencils tutorial

Once I’d done a few stencils, I began experimenting with rubber stamping, into both wet and dry paint.  Make sure you do this with the stencil in place to get a clean finish within your chosen shape.

watercolour stencil and stamp

watercolour pigeon with stamping

pigeon stencil how to

I used these bird stencils, but letter / monogram stencils would also look wonderful .  If you don’t have any stencils to hand but do have craft punches, simply punch out a shape in a sheet of thin plastic or cardboard, and use it as a stencil.  Use the finished paintings for cards, gift-tags or collage, or even frame them as paintings in their own right.

So; a morning’s artistic activity where you should be able to refine and develop your prowess in the space of an hour.  Much better than a lifetime spent starving away in some bohemian artist’s garret and waiting for the muse to strike…

stencil painting

Come tell me a story…

Fun with the Storybox

Storytelling is big in our house.  From tales of the little people who live behind the skirting boards, to the owl family up our chimney; from the lego men who come to life after bedtime and party hard in the playroom all night, to Mummy’s magic shoes which dance when anyone steps in them; we weave stories into the fabric of our days almost without thinking, and Harry loves it.  Experts may say that we are storing up untold problems and creating a fantasist; I like to think that we’re just unleashing Harry’s imagination throughout the wonder years before the real world starts to hem it in.

And indeed, Harry  loves telling stories too.  ’My turn, my turn!’ He’ll exclaim as we sit around the table, or bundle into bed together.  And Harry’s stories are a delight, though they tend towards repetition and rely heavily on goodies and baddies, robbers and jail, and cars.  Oh, and usually someone falls into a giant vat of mud at the end.

This week we introduced The StoryBox, and it’s transformed our tales.  Filled with random but enticing words – like custard, mud, helicopter, sword and pirate – each person has to pick out a word and use it to begin their story.  Whenever you run out of narrative steam, you choose another word and have to incorporate it.  At three-and-a-half, Harry grasped the idea immediately and loves the unpredictability of what might come next.  It gives him triggers to keep his own story going, and it also allows him to direct – or perhaps sabotage? – our stories too, by pulling out words and insisting that we now need to add in a huge pile of elephant poo – or grandma on a motorbike, or a slimy monster, or whatever is written on the card.

The StoryBox Game

To make this I used a sturdy giftbox and filled it with chips of foamboard to which I glued interesting words.  I chose the names of family members, comic concepts and ideas involving mud, poo, custard and slime, and current obsessions like Lego men, the emergency services and all forms of transport.  And I added in a few completely new words, so that we could explain them and continue to expand his world.  It’s helping with Harry’s word recognition too (though you have to shut your eyes when actually choosing, to add to the drama and unpredictability…).

make your own storybox game

Some very cool stories have emerged.  Like the one where Granny had to rescue Daddy who slipped on a banana whilst escaping from the naughty pirates, who she then chased  on her scooter before making them jump into a big bowl of custard that they had to eat all up before going to jail.

Making stories

You can make this at home in just a few minutes, and it can be as simple or as finessed as you have the energy for.  For the five-minute version, scribble a host of words onto scraps of paper and place them in a hat, shoebox or bowl for family members to pull out.  For the lux version, you can print them out and glue to something more substantial as I did, and decorate a special box to keep them in.

If you want to use my graphic (below) for the cover of your box, you can find a printable version to download at the bottom, albeit one without Harry casually strolling through the pages..

StoryBox

I will keep adding words to our game as Harry’s vocabulary expands and his interests change, to keep it fresh and ensure that the StoryBox retains a firm place in family life. And now I must go; apparently there’s a cross-eyed camel running loose in the garden, and we need to find a saucepan full of sausages to tempt it over with.  No rest for the wicked…

Storybox Main Graphic

Weekend notes

weekly shop

You just know it’s going to be good weekend when you go to the supermarket and find all the Spring bouquets discounted to £1.  Even then, buying flowers for yourself is somehow deliciously decadent.  Add baguettes, fresh figs, french cheese and drizzling honey and you have a sunshine feast in the making; never mind that I forgot the far more crucial household staples (domesticity will never come easily to me; lack of effort, I suspect…).

The same trip took me past a haberdashery store which was selling roll-ends of fabric; I bought some majestic raspberry velvet which will easily see Harry through a childhood of Harry Potter cloaks, wise man nativity outfits and Santa hats, plus a length of this cheery tea-party cotton for which I have a myriad of ideas; it will hang over my desk till inspiration settles.

time for tea

And on the theme of lovely-but-unnecessary purchases, the postman delivered me a long-awaited and utterly impractical lukrecja cotton apron from Polish company COOKie.  Whilst serious cooks would doubtless throw up their hands at the skittishness of my apron, I am giddy with adoration for it.  In its defence, it is made of heavyweight industrial cotton and designed for the kind of heavy-duty labour a kitchen skivvy needs.

lukrecja apron

Undermining this defence completely is the publicity shot for the apron (below), with the tagline  ’it is easy for Lukrecja to leave the kitchen to buy vegetables whilst absent-mindedly forgetting to wear clothes under her apron’.  Hmmm.  Completely mad, and all the better for it.  I have been waltzing round the kitchen in my jeans and apron, twirling and admiring myself in the oven door and every other reflective surface.  Dinner has been late.

LUKRECJA bicycle

In other despatches from the weekend, we’ve been channeling our inner Picasso, making a homemade picture for Harry’s grown-up brother who has recently moved house.  Harry adores Chris, so going to Chris’s first grown-up house is a very big deal.  In real life, Chris and his girlfriend Emma look as if they have stepped from the pages of an Abercrombie catalogue.  Harry, in the manner of Lucian Freud, has chosen to render them looking rather simian and obese, with no hint of flattery.  He stood back to examine them, then waved his hand dismissively; ‘they are done, mummy’. A 3yr old artiste.

Harry draws BIG, so I took his two pictures and scanned them in, adding the names and date, then mounted the print and placed it in a simple silver frame; he is immensely proud of his efforts, which manage to look stylish and understated in C&E’s hip neutral living room.

picture gift

The sun has shone this weekend, almost throughout, causing Britons up and down the country to hurl off their clothes and lie on every available patch of grass.  It’s a cultural kind of carpe diem; sunlight is so rare and cherished that we tend to overreact completely to the melting of frost and make the most of every ray of warmth.  In a rather more domesticated reaction, we hung washing on the line for the first time this year, and Harry tackled the spring-cleaning of his playhouse (for about 5 minutes; he gets that staying-power from me).

spring cleaning

We’ve planted our sunflowers, turned over a couple of flower beds and then there’s just been time, as the spring sunshine fades today and the air cools again, to lie on the still-damp grass and look up through our magnificent magnolia tree, which has suddenly burst into bud and bloom.

Heaven.

magnolia skies

I hope you had a lovely weekend too…especially those who planted sunflowers with us; let the race begin!!

Kate

The Great Sunflower Race 2013!

The Great Sunflower Race begins

This time last year, we launched our inaugural Great Sunflower Race, pitting our horticultural skills against family, friends, neighbours – and you.  We painted our pots, googled top tips, and Harry and I then watched in glee as our seeds germinated seemingly overnight, sending out perky shoots and promising great things.  We tut-tutted over my husband’s barren soil  - his seedling eventually grew about a foot before peaking and retiring – whilst watching our stems shoot heavenward.

…They were eaten as an appetiser by a passing deer the following week.

But there’s something about the British spirit of perseverance against all odds; a relentless optimism  combined with a constitutional patience that causes us to quietly join queues and wait in line even if we have no idea what we are waiting for.  Some argue that it is this spirit which has won wars; it’s certainly the same dogged optimism that compels us to try again this year – and with such passion and fervour!

Once more Harry and I have had a fun time packaging up seeds into tiny envelopes to give away to old friends and new, so that the race can begin in earnest;

sunflower packets 3 copy

great sunflowe race master

And once again we’d love you to join us, if you have a patch of soil or even just a doorstep – the beauty of sunflowers is that they need very little space.  Choose your seeds, fill a pot and throw your virtual hat into the ring via the comments below, and we’ll have regular progress checks on sunflower growth spurts around the world.  Let the great sunflower race begin!