recipe for happiness

Two handfuls of generosity,
Two heaped cups of patience,
One heartful of love,
One headful of understanding,
and a dash of humour.
Sprinkle with kindness,
add plenty of faith and mix well.
Spread over a period of a lifetime
and serve to everyone you meet.

My own recipe for happiness would have to include eating peas!  They’re ”my favourite and my best” whether cheery or blue.  I still remember my excitement the first time I blogged about growing peas, so delighted was I with the pictures snapped with our new camera.MOSAIC - peas

Searching out these old pea photos from my earliest blogging days is not only nostalgic (especially now we’re allotment-less) but also a little poignant.  I recall taking them so vividly but for all the 332,363 hits on my blog only 18 people have ever seen these.  It’s a strange and curious thing looking at blog stats like that.  By contrast the most popular post, ’5 ways with… a ton of damsons’ has been viewed 13,100 times!  Who are all these people?   I’m obviously not alone in my love of foraging and preserve making.

Lovely as it is to see people finding my recipe archive years later, I still have a soft spot for those first few posts from the Summer of 2009.  I’m rather surprised that peas haven’t inspired my cooking more really -  512 blog posts later there’s just one pea recipe in the archive (pea and tuna kedgeree).  I guess it proves I just love them on their own too much and now E is here they don’t even make it into boiling water!23-8-14 - Oxo bowl_shelling peas 4B

© ‘recipe for happiness’ from Thought for Today

November 20, 2014 at 8:00 am 1 comment

wordless wednesday


November 19, 2014 at 8:04 am 4 comments

Happy Little Soles for a busy little boy

E measuring feet 4BSo what was I talking about last month? Oh yes, the importance of shoes that fit properly and the benefits of opting for barefoot designs for toddlers. The second of my barefoot shoes reviews is thanks to Happy Little Soles who specialise in sourcing and stocking a wide range of barefoot shoes to suit every type of foot and every situation, from school shoes to snow boots.   Happy Little Soles is owned and operated by Kate from her home in Truro and although she regularly welcomes customers by appointment for shoe fittings most orders are sent out to people who have gained the confidence to measure and fit their children’s shoes themselves.
E measurig feet close up 4B
For parents like me, who don’t know where to start, Kate has produced a really useful sizing guide to assist with this which includes a downloadable PDF for measuring feet at home (a tape measure along the sole of a wriggly foot while taking a photo is definitely not the way to do it!).  Kate explains

Many people leave measuring their child’s feet to the ‘experts’ in shoe shops but I have seen many problems caused by ill fitting shoes in children whose parents have always taken the trouble to get them properly measured and fitted.  Our mission is to help educate parents to become confident about fitting their children’s shoes themselves.  Many kids aren’t relaxed enough in a shoe shop to really feel whether a shoe is comfortable or not so as parents it is just one more skill we need to develop – no one cares about our children’s feet as much as we do!’

HLS sizing guide image

After a helpful email exchange about what size and style of shoe E had been wearing (UK6, narrow toe end), was now wearing (UK7, round and roomy toe end) and providing actual length measurements for both feet (right 14cm and left 14.5cm) Kate selected Livie and Luca and See Kai Run as brands best suited to wide feet. Kate assured me it’s usual for children to have different sized feet and the shoe fitting challenge is striking a balance between enough toe room for the bigger foot while not being too baggy, which can cause tripping, on the smaller foot. Kate recommended adding 1cm for growing room and sent us these shoes.

Collage - HLS barefoot shoes

Playing shoe shops
It’s tricky persuading a toddler to try on new shoes when you have a ”shoes off in the house” rule and he looks at you with total confusion – “No Mummy, I don’t want to go out”.  He proved to be very co-operative thanks to an extra-pair of hands from my friend Jennie, a very experienced Clarks shoe fitter.  I sowed the idea of playing shoe shops with E and by the time Jennie arrived we had the toy till and money all ready. It was quite something working through 3 pairs of shoes – most of the photos were just a blur of a boy testing out the bounce-ability of his new footwear.E trying zebras 4B

1 -  ‘Zebra’ by Livie and Luca (UK 7/shoe length 15.7cm)

E chose which pair we tried first – he was rather taken with the face and little tufty mane on his Zebra shoes.  They’d have been a great first shoe for E as a new walker thanks to the thin, flexible rubber sole, padded ankle collars and easy to open velcro straps.  The toe box is particularly roomy so ideal for wide feet (once children become active, confident walkers their feet, like the rest of them, lose their chubb so the whole way you buy shoes is worth adjusting too).  E measures a G width, using a C-H Clarks scale, but by trying the Zebra shoes I discovered he’s actually not that wide.  The conventional way of measuring width around the foot is misleading because it takes no account of the widest part of the foot, the toes.  What it actually measures is volume so a narrow, deep foot could measure the same as a wide, shallow foot.Collage - Zebra shoes 4B
Ways in which the Zebra shoe illustrates this point (making it the wrong shoe for E):

  • very roomy upper to accommodate deep/wide feet.  Too baggy for E (Jennie could fit a whole finger inside).  The best indicator of a good fit is the ”ripple” test when smoothing the leather with your fingers.  Excess material in a shoe that’s too big still creates friction when the foot moves and can cause blistering
  • plenty of room round the ankle and flexible velcro straps to tighten/loosen.  For E’s narrow ankle a whole finger width space doesn’t create the right ankle support and could feel like it’s slipping off and cause him to curl his toes under in an attempt to hang on to it.
  • shoe length seemed shorter than his other size 7s.  There was little growing room in either shoe (1/2 a thumbs width for his smaller left foot where Jennie recommends 1 thumbs width).  A size 8 would seem more suitable lenghtwise but likely too long for his smaller foot and exaggerate the width issues already encountered. So not the shoe for us but would have made very sweet first shoes on his chubbier, new to walking feet.See Kai Run foot image 4B

2 -  ‘Kanoa‘ by See Kai Run (UK 7/15.5cm length)

After handling the very soft, flexible Zebras these Kanoa shoes felt quite stiff (but not by comparison to conventional shoes).  This style is aimed at older children (it has a scuff resistant toe cap) so the firmer sole is more sturdy and durable for the outdoor antics of an active toddler.  See Kai Run is one of the most popular brands for wide, deep feet so with my new knowledge about E’s foot shape and how to tell if a shoe is a good fit it came as no surprise when Jennie was able to pull it straight off.  This was the most valueable thing I learnt from playing shoe shop  – if a shoe is done up as tightly as possible but can be removed easily by holding the child’s leg in one hand and gently pulling from the back of the heel with the other then it’s too big. Further demonstrated by a finger down the back of the heel E was soon giggling and asking Jennie to pull the other one off so he could see it fly out of her hand! Also not the shoe for us but great to know there are options beyond the conventional measurements for children needing a wide fitting shoe.
COllage - See Kai Run 4B
3. ‘Scuttle‘ by Livie and Luca (UK6/shoe length 15cm)

It was third time lucky with trying on the Scuttle shoes as they were the perfect fit. Nice and snug around the ankle thanks to the adjustable strap, enough wriggle space across the width of the toes and no ripple across the top of the shoe. They were such a glove like fit though Jennie couldn’t recommend keeping them as there was no growing room in the toe end at all.  We were somewhat surprised by the difference in sizing between our 3 pairs of size 7 shoes but when we rang Kate with an update she pointed out the Scuttles were a size 6 (easy to be confused as the US size is listed first on the box).  Although the next size up would provide more growing room than the size 6 Kate pointed out the sole would be the same size as the size 7 Zebra shoe we had rejected so she didn’t feel it would be suitable.  Collage - Scuttle

The Scuttle is listed on the Happy Little Soles website as suiting a medium to wide foot so it confirmed the need to start again with selecting a brand more suited to a medium width foot.  Kate kindly did just that proving the importance of talking to someone who knows about the fit of different brands, trying several in the same size and the ease of doing so at home (this took 1.5 hrs from start to finish!)

‘I am not particularly hung up on the feet being a particular size, it is the shoes that are the size.  That’s why we measure every pair of shoes we stock at Happy Little Soles with a special internal sole measurer and list exact length measurements”. 
Bobux Fast Forward
4.  Fast Forward Trainer by Bobux (UK7/length 15.8cm)

Kate chose Bobux I-walk as the brand to send us for our second game of shoe shops.  This time E was less co-operative and it took about 30 minutes to even persuade him to put the shoes on.  He didn’t mind the tickly foot measuring part stood with his heel against the wall in a shoe box lid and it was interesting to find 3 weeks later his feet had already grown as predicted by Jennie (now 14.5 and 14.8cm – or perhaps my measuring was more accurate second time?).  In the end I had to resort to letting him play with my camera (the photos were rubbish anyway, these taken on my phone even more so but needs must!)
Collage - Bobux shoes
Described as suitable for all seasons Fast Forward trainers are made from child safe eco-leather (oil nubuck leather and suede).  They’re anatomically shaped to allow toes the freedom to move and grow unrestricted, have a non-slip rubber sole with multiple flex points, cushioned heel collar and adjustable straps.  My busy little photographer made little comment about his shoes but making no efforts to take them off spoke volumes about how comfy they were.  While he was sat down Jennie shared another valuable fitting tip about the difference between checking the position of the toes in a shoe while sitting (toe naturally pushes to the front) versus standing (the correct toe position you want to assess).  As illustrated in the photo above while squatting it seems like there’s little growing room in the shoes but standing up this was not the case.

To get the perfect fit for E Jennie recommended fastening the straps as tightly as possible as being secure around the ankle is the key to a good fit.  When asked if he wanted to try the other pair of Bobux shoes he said ‘‘no I want these ones’‘ confirming what we’d thought – a great fit now and in the months to come as his feet grow.
All that remained then was to pay for them.

J – How much do you think your shoes cost E?
E – 11 pence I think
J – that’s very good value isn’t it
E – mmmmm, maybe eleventy pounds pence but I will give you this £50
Bobux outside 4B
E’s loving his new custom selected, home fitted barefoot shoes and they’ve coped well with soakings and mud when I’ve been too slow to warn ‘that’s a bog boot kind of puddle not a shoe puddle”. Now we’ve discovered the benefits of barefoot shoes I think there’s no going back and with such a wide choice of brands and styles coupled with Kate’s unrivalled product knowledge there’s no reason to. Kate even has a loyalty scheme to encourage this as if the quality of service wasn’t reason enough to come back time and again!HLS logo jpeg
Disclosure: I was sent these shoes for the purposes of this review (and kept the best fitting pair). I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

November 17, 2014 at 7:00 am 3 comments

wordless wednesday

e with milkshake

November 12, 2014 at 7:00 am 1 comment

packing bags of confidence and kindness

“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world.
It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”

Aug 2014 - E and Levi superheroes 4B
Let’s pack happiness into our children so the baggage they take into adulthood is goodness, confidence, and kindness instead of packing bags of hurt, struggle, and loneliness that will weigh them down for life.”

Both these quotes are by L R Knost, an author and Mother who really knows her stuff when it comes to gentle parenting approaches. Her website is a great source of inspiration and I can’t help but feel encouraged when I read a blog post like
200 ways to bless your children with a happy childhood and can mentally tick some off. A handful of the ways in which we hope we’re blessing E with a happy childhood …..
1. playing in the rain
2. choosing new books from the library
3. climbing and exploring
4. building towers and knocking them down
5. making funny hats for lego people
6. baking cookie cutter shaped bread rolls
7. playing dress up
8. singing and dancing around the room
9. holding him through the tears when he’s upset
10. sharing a milkshake
11. saying ”I’m sorry” when we make mistakes
12. sharing stories of our childhood
13. saying ”I love you” every day
14. giving second chances
15. modelling what we’d like him to learn – kindness and confidence.
E lion cape

November 11, 2014 at 6:53 pm 2 comments

between bites

E and Grandad at the table Nov 2014
“Surrounded by the people who matter,
gazing into the faces we love,
we count our blessings and share our burdens, reliving the daily dramas
of missed buses and skinned knees.
We raise jelly glasses and champagne flutes,
toasting accomplishments in classrooms and boardrooms.  And over homemade casseroles or haute cuisine,
relatives become loved ones and acquaintances become friends.

The table is where we mark milestones, divulge dreams, bury hatchets, make deals, give thanks, plan vacations, and tell jokes. It’s also where children learn the lessons that families teach: manners, cooperation, communication, self-control, values.

Following directions. Sitting still. Taking turns. It’s where we make up and make merry. It’s where we live, between bites.” – Doris Christopher

Quote from a terrific blog post about the importance of eating together as a family on the AHA Parenting website

November 6, 2014 at 10:02 am Leave a comment

wordless wednesday


November 5, 2014 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

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