Friday, 31 December 2010

Where I was 2010

2010 ended as it started - with snow here in East London.

 Wellies in the back garden - January 2010

Footprints on the way to school - November 2010

But in between these two monochrome episodes, there has been sunshine, travel, colour and adventure.  So much more than I expected, in what I considered at first to have been a largely quiet, reflective, undramatic year.

My feet have seen a great deal of London throughout the year.  Sometimes just part of everyday life, and sometimes exploring.

Walking home from the tube - March 2010

Yomping over Hampstead Heath - Mothering Sunday 2010

Colourful scarf and coat, outside school - January 2010 

Shadows at Kew Gardens - April 2010

Shadows and late summer sunshine in Walthamstow Market - September 2010

Tottenham Court Road tube station - September 2010

Greenwich Observatory - October 2010

I made a couple of trips to Oxford to see my family, but not as many as I would have liked.  Our longest trip was over Easter, when I took the children to the fantastic Black Country Museum in Dudley, near Birmingham.

On a coal heap at The Black Country Museum near Birmingham - April 2010

On a pontoon by the edge of Port Meadow in Oxford - April 2010

Oxford shadows - April 2010

We had just two camping trips this year - to Exmoor in May, when we travelled light with great success and wild camping in Sussex, with friends, in July.

Feet and friends around the campfire at breakfast time - Sussex, July 2010

Summer sunshine on the South Coast - Sussex, July 2010

Camping weather - Sussex, July 2010

Pyjamas and crocs - I must be camping - Exmoor, May 2010

Poor nail varnish choice - Exmoor, May 2010

Coffee at dawn - Exmoor, May 2010

And the reason we didn't do so much camping this year was because I decided I wanted a much bigger adventure than usual, in what might well be the only school summer holiday where I don't have to work. 

In July the four of us drove down to the South of France, where we stayed with my parents for two weeks.  Then G flew back to London and I stayed on another week in France before driving to Switzerland with the children for adventure and exploration.  While we were in France we did some very long, demanding hikes with the children - and then made it up to them by letting them swim in the pool for hours at a time.

Walking boots and hiking pole on our long Espinas walk - Tarn-et-Garonne, France, July 2010

A glass of something nice in the evening sun - Arnac, France, August 2010

 Poolside - Arnac, France, July 2010

Trying to keep my toes in the shade - France, August 2010

Much better nail varnish choice - France, August 2010

My trip to Switzerland was the realisation of a very long-held dream.  And happily it exceeded my expectations, and I am currently plotting how I may be able to get back there very soon.  I loved Switzerland.  I found it a little surreal - neither German, French nor Italian but somehow a mixture of all three, plus an essence of something completely Swiss.  I loved the walking signs, the delicious yogurts, the mountains, the lakes, the wood carvings, the efficiency, the politeness, the madness and the flowers.

O and me on the deck of the boat crossing Lake Thun - Switzerland, August 2010

On the platform at Interlaken Ost train station - Interlaken, Switzerland, August 2010

My favourite 'Wanderweg' walk sign - Switzerland, August 2010

Muddy boots and jeans, halfway down Harder Kulm - Switzerland, August 2010

Evening relaxation in our appartment in Interlaken - Switzerland, August 2010

Boots and alpine flowers, high up a mountain - Switzerland, August 2010

On a Postbus - near Brienz, Switzerland, August 2010

Alpine flower - Switzerland, August 2010

I also managed to sneak in a very brief visit to another place I've always wanted to go to - the city of Nancy in Eastern France, near the border with Germany.  A good name for a city I think.  We stopped off there for a night on our drive back from Switzerland to the channel ports.  After the refreshing mountain air of Switzerland, the 40 degree heat that greated us in Nancy was a shock to the system.  But the city was as delightful as its name, and is another place I want to go back to and explore more.

In some much needed shade, under a tree - Nancy, France, August 2010

And the rest of my year was mostly spent at my sewing machine.  I have no photo of my right foot on the pedal, but there are plenty of pictures of me trying to get a good shot of something I've made.

New summer top, with fabric from the V&A - London, June 2010

Sewing with jersey - London, November 2010

It has been an extraordinary year.  A precious year.  A probably never-to-be-repeated year, which I shall always look back on with great delight. 

Happy New Year!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Photos of our Christmas - part IV

Christmas Eve. A calm, quiet, peaceful, bright and anticipatory day.

rolls still fresh and warm, for lunch, with soup

the last few presents get wrapped and labelled

sunshine casts shadows though the stained glass in the door, onto our Christmas cards in the hall

even though I've cooked these dishes so many times before, I still check oven temperatures, timings and quantities

G has the lurgy, but still wants to play Magic with C

Wishing you all the very best, healthy, and happy, Christmas!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Photos of our Christmas - part III

Christmas holidays require some sort of baking I think.  It doesn't matter what you are baking, because the important thing is that the house is filled with the warm, sugary aroma of sugar-and-butter alchemy that makes you feel snug, tucked up and loved.

This morning C baked some mincemeat flapjacks, that just made the whole house smell incredible.

And they taste incredibly good, too.

I was baking as well.  I made some quick chocolate cupcakes, gave them thick cream cheese icing and then decorated them with my little Christmas tree sprinkles (these are Christmas trees of which I definitely approve!).

The buns are deeply chocolatey, yet light and soft in the middle.  The recipe comes from Domestic Goddess, because I don't think anyone gets more chocolatey than Nigella.

And because we can't just live on a diet of cake, I have also filled the house with another food which just smells of the essence of Christmas.  Clementines - small, sweet and demolished at a truly astonishing rate by us all, as we each grab one whenever we walk past the bowl.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Photos of our Christmas - part II

It turns out that today was all about the games.  I listened to Chopin and sewed all morning with the promise that I would then play games with the children all afternoon.

In between ironing seams, I taught O how to play Patience.  She is the sort of child (as I was) who could quite happily sit and play Patience quietly by herself for hours - even days - on end.  It is a game that makes me think of my Grandpa, who loved it too and who taught it to me when I was about O's age. 

Then when I had finished sewing we all embarked on a raucous game of Settlers of Catan.  This is possibly my favourite board game of all time and over the years I have bought it for pretty much everyone I know, I am so in love with it.  I bought it from this fantastic games shop  which has been a great source of inspiration over the years, but I see you can also now buy it from Amazon.  You need three or more players, but it is very straightforward for anyone about seven or older, so a perfect family game.

This is Cam battling very hard, right before I beat him with one move to spare!

And then when I went off to make well earned cups of tea for everyone, the children got out Pass the Pigs.

I find it very disconcerting that my children love this game so much, becuase I first learnt to play it at university, where it was the ultimate drinking game.  Different piggy combinations resulted in different swigs of drinks being knocked back.  Am I sharing too much?  The children just think the pigs are cute and like the idea of throwing them about and filling in the scorepad.

Other favourite games around here at the moment are:
  • Scrabble - C was given it for his birthday, and he and O love it as much as I love Settlers of Catan.
  • Carcassonne - O's favourite and another great discovery from Green Knight Games.
  • Magic The Gathering - G and I have loved this for years.  We taught C when he was about seven, and I really need to teach O as well now.  It is a staple of camping trips and long train journeys, as it is so transportable.
  • Uno and Happy Families - these were hot favourites while we were in France over the summer, but I am sure they will be putting in an appearance over Christmas as well.
What are your favourite board and card games?  Do you love playing games over the holidays, or do they fill you with festive dread?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Photos of our Christmas - part I

To mark the darkest day of the year, I cut some evergreens when I went outside to feed the chickens this morning.

Now we have ivy on the mantelpiece.

And vividly scented, vividly coloured stems from the mock-orange bush (Philadelphus) on the table.

From now until Christmas Eve I will be sharing, each day, a few photos of what Christmas is like in our house.  Cake and board games may feature quite heavily.

Monday, 20 December 2010


So sad not to be eating up his Granny's mince pies, but more than ever in need of one to lift his spirits, he decided to make his own.

He made 24, but needed to make sure they were of a standard worthy of his Granny, so he subjected one to Quality Control.  Chef's privelege.

O busied herself with Hama beads.

And I wrapped presents and then ventured out in the snow to put more straw in the eglu.  Although I've had them so many years, I still can't quite believe that the chickens will be okay in these icy temperatures.  But they are absolutely fine. Beatrice is even still laying me an egg most days.

And I stopped to admire the ivy hedge, weighed down with snow, glittering in the sunshine.