a first birthday (in pictures)

Having passed the 6 month anniversary of Luca’s first birthday last month (woops!) before sorting through the photos from his special day, here’s how we celebrated him.  Euan was off school with chicken pox and it was so lovely to have him home with us – it really wouldn’t have been the same without E there to “help” unwrap and play with L’s presents!  And it was lovely to have a birthday cake making helper.

November 17, 2017 at 9:53 pm Leave a comment

musical stories inspired by life in Gloucester

Imagine it’s 2010 and you’re reading this in the week that I actually wrote it ….

‘Sorry I haven’t a clue’ on BBC Radio 4 was broadcast from Cheltenham a couple of weeks ago and Jack Dee set the scene by saying ‘Cheltenham is often referred to as the gateway to the Cotswolds‘.  Proud ‘mmms’ rippled through the audience and then laughter when he added ‘and if that’s the case then Gloucester is the ASDA of the Malverns’.  Having lived in Cheltenham for the first half of my life and Gloucester for most of the second half I can happily say I’d choose ASDA City over Cotswolds Town! Gloucester has a lot of heart and is a down to earth patchwork of people and cultures and with a rich history.  

We’ve lived in Gloucester for over 12 years and made some good friends here.  The naming of ‘best friends‘ that seemed so important as a child ceased being necessary when I married my best friend in 1998.  Our dearest friends come hand in hand with lovely others now so how could I possibly single out any one person, other than G.  Well I couldn’t but I completely understand the affection with which some people are able to name that one special ”best friend” in their life.  G is one of them when it comes to our friend Dan.  And what makes Dan worthy of this title?  Well, I won’t embarrass him by sharing all his wonderful qualities and endearing quirks here but the strength of Dan and George’s connection is tied to their shared passion and talent for music.  They’ve created some of the most moving tracks I’ve had the good fortune to smile, sway and cry to and I’m sure the quality of their music making is rooted in the depth of their friendship and their openness to love and let go in equal measure.  Music reviewer Stephen Morris said ‘their music is as sumptuous and gorgeous as it is poignant and imaginative”.

Nocturnal City Journal album cover copy

(click on the album cover to listen to Nocturnal City Journal)

The music Stephen was referring to was ”Nocturnal City Journal’‘ , an album of 10 tracks telling the stories of imaginary residents of the old worn out historic English city of Gloucester.  Big Blue Sun made a limited run of CDs and once these sold chose to make their music as widely available as possible on-line.  So you can listen and download any of their 4 album recordings from Soundcloud or Bandcamp.   

One of my favourite Dan/George collaborations is ‘Wisdom is Blue’ which contains the thought provoking lyrics

”How come making war can be called keeping peace? 
How come lovers are the ones we mistreat? 
How come everything is equal till you’re sitting in my seat? 
Wisdom’s a colour and the colour is blue.” 

Thanks for bearing with me if you’re still reading thus far. It probably seems a bit random to have tweaked this post rather than hitting delete on 7 year old copy. But it serves to remind me how G’s need to craft beautiful, meaningful music runs through him like the writing through a stick of rock.  Although Dan no longer lives in Gloucester G continues to be inspired by the City we live in and has been awarded funding by the Arts Council to develop his creative practice making music inspired by and performed in 8 iconic spaces around the City.

G recorded his first piece of new music last week in St Mary de Crypt Church with a choir and string section.  It’s going to be an amazing musical journey you can follow each month via his Musical George Moorey Instagram page.

G is such a natural networker and collaborator and his SPACES project is bringing together not just musicians but writers, poets, photographers and film makers.  Each performance is being filmed and will culminate in an interactive trail next year as part of Gloucestershire’s History Festival.

Image credits:  Dan and George with guitars on the beach in Brighton in 2007 – shot by Tom Oldham.  Photographs on Big Blue Sun album cover and the Spaces project photographs – shot by Shane Young.  Film maker Chris Watkins discussing documenting the St Mary de Crypt recording.

November 17, 2017 at 1:28 pm Leave a comment

wordless wednesday

November 15, 2017 at 1:44 pm 2 comments

melting wax crayons

With a craft loving 5 year old and a curious 1 year old it’s inevitable that things like sharp pencils and chewable crayons will find their way into the baby’s hand. Euan wouldn’t have known such things existed when he was this small yet Luca is growing up surrounded by interesting craft materials and big kid toys that make his baby things seem, frankly, rather dull. I had the bright idea to melt down E’s collection of crayons so that L would stop trying to put them in his mouth. The result was just different shape wax crayons he put in his mouth but hey, they’re no longer thin and stick like and E and I had a lot of fun making them.





To make wax crayon shapes

  • soak the crayons in water for easy removal of the paper wrapper
  • break up the crayons and place in a muffin tin or silicon shape mould
  • Bake in the oven at 150 degrees for 30 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  • Enjoy hours of fun decorating a large cardboard box with your new wax crayon shapes (L just loved putting them in and out of our zippy wallet).
  • .
    please note:  this will ruin your silicone tray we discovered so please don’t use one you love making chocolate shapes or cakes in!  Some other blog posts recommend heating at 200 degrees for 10 minutes but I didn’t fancy taking something that hot and liquidy out of my oven with kids in the kitchen.  I think a slower cooler melt time enables the different colours to remain slightly separate.

    November 7, 2017 at 11:38 am Leave a comment

    playing with the OXO mash maker food mill

    When E was a baby the first foods he tried were strawberries, avocado and chickpeas. We hand fed them to him or mashed them lightly with a fork and gradually expanded his palatte with food from our plate (although he didn’t have meat or bread until he was well over one). We didn’t consider pureeing having read about the benefits of baby led weaning where baby learns to chomp and then swallow rather than getting used to spoon fed purees and then having to learn to chew more solid food. We started using Nom-Nom Kids pouches as he reached pre-school age as smoothies were a convenient way of getting fruit and veg into him (and keeping his packed lunch chilled) but that was the extent of my food blending.

    Baby L has had a slightly different introduction to food, determined by the busy-ness of life as a second child, rather than any planning on my part. He started sucking frozen banana at 5 months of age to ease teething pain and quickly took to grabbing things straight from our plates. He’s quite the fruit monster and will happily try anything as long he gets to hold it himself. Apart from making smoothies to drink we’ve not really mashed his food too much for him.

    It might seem odd therefore to accept the challenge of reviewing a product specifically aimed at pureeing food for babies. I thought it would be fun to see if the OXO mash maker baby food millwas a gadget with a longer shelf life than the first 6 months of baby’s food journey. Baby L is 18 months old and I immediately had thoughts of easy fruit sauce dressed yoghurt puddings, fruit pureed pancake fillings, and making all sorts of dips to encourage L to snack more on veg. We started simply, mashing single fruits and big brother E was thrilled to be able to help. The blade in the mill is neither sharp nor easily accessible for little fingers so we even let Luca have a go. To compare mashing results we took two avocado’s and hand mashed the first (top photos) with a fork for the same amount of time it took to mill mash the second avocado (bottom photos – that’s a drizzle of Worcestershire sauce in the second picture not a past-its-best avocado!).

    The thing I love about the mash maker is its compact size. I’ve learned the hard way over the years that bulk making recipes is false economy when you grow tired of the same thing after 2 days or the flavour changes from being chilled in the fridge for too long. The Oxo mash maker is a small one cup amount and it takes little effort to use it as a feeding bowl that you just happen to turn the handle on to transform your own meal into mash. You can spoon feed baby straight from the food mill too so there’s no extra washing up created and it’s really portable for taking out to restaurants if eating out. We’ve always opted to give the kids food from our plate rather than buying a something-with-chips kids dinner. We played restaurants with last night’s dinner and a small portion of everything on E’s plate and this is how it turned out:

    Amazingly having mashed this mini meal for the purposes of the review L just picked up a spoon and started eating it! (he’d already eaten some of his veg and had climbed down from the table). I was really surprised as he generally refuses when I attempt to give him food on a spoon – perhaps that’s more to do with wanting to do everything for himself rather than what I’m actually offering. And in a week where he’s hardly eaten anything chewy due to sore gums he happily finished off this mashed version of dinner. I wonder if he’ll feel the same way tomorrow when he trials the pureed peas we turned into dip with a sprinkling of mint and drizzle of cream (E found these tricky to work into a mash as we just defrost our peas to preserve the nutrients rather than boiling them). We used the OXO baby food freezer tray to save some portions safe in the knowledge that the silicone lid would prevent any freezer burn or altering of the flavour.

    This is such a versatile item to have in the kitchen and not just for baby food. Whizzing up a few raspberries made a lovely, naturally sweet coulis for some Greek yoghurt which E then instantly turned into home made sugar-free raspberry yoghurt.

    E’s verdict? “I loved my yoghurt and look I’ve licked the cup completely clean”. And he had because the OXO measuring cup I’d served it in was not only a perfect baby portion amount but a 125ml measuring cup shallow enough for a small tongue to reach the bottom of. He’s requested it for all future pudding eating!

    As the OXO mash maker food mill was developed as a product for babies starting their adventures with food I thought I’d also ask a friend with a 6 month old baby what she thought of it. “I smooth pureed all of my daughters food when she was a baby and it seemed to create an aversion in her to try anything more lumpy and she seemed to gag a lot when she did eat chewy food well into toddlerhood. So with my son I read up on baby led weaning and liked the idea of that approach. The mash maker is a good middle ground for us as we can use it for first flavours and chewier foods and gradually adjust the smoothness to a slightly lumpier version by just not milling it so much”.

    The possibilities are endless with this lovely little gadget.  We’ve also now made a chunky hummus with chickpeas and yoghurt and baby L’s current favourite is a beetroot dip.  It’s great to know I can just pop it in my bag when we go out and be pleasantly surprised by what he’s interested in trying out with the simple turn of a handle. It would make a terrific gift for first time parents, afterall babies grow out of baby clothes gifts so quickly and this would continue to be useful long after the weaning stage is finished.

    Disclosure:  these products were sent to me by OXO UK to review.  I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own. 

    November 3, 2017 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

    wordless wednesday

    November 1, 2017 at 12:55 pm 2 comments

    a bedbug glow for bedtime

    I first bought a Lumie bodyclock long before I became a Mum. I liked their unique dawn simulation feature and the thought of being woken by a gradual sunrise in the room. And to be honest, in the midst of a long, long season of infertility, I was reaching desperation point and ready to try anything to reset my body’s natural rhythms. I had read an article by Dr Christine Northrup which talked about female menstrual cycles synchronising with the lunar cycle in bygone days before modern living, diet and stress contributed to hormonal cycles becoming erratic. So I purchased my Lumie bodyclock for my gentle sunrise wake up and twinned it with complete darkness for sleeping (we’re talking total blackout with bin liners taped to the window frame!). Thankfully the sum total of all the little things I changed, but mostly successful fertility treatment, resulted in our beloved Euan. Our Lumie clock then became invaluable for its dimmable light feature for peaceful night wakings and has not had a single night off since (ensuring safe passage to our room for night time visitors!)
    We’ve now purchased a brilliant new multi-purpose bedtime light from Lumie for the boys which has been developed in consultation with Sarah Ockwell-Smith, an expert in infant sleep. The Lumie Bedbug is perfect for creating a calm atmosphere while getting ready for bed, for reading stories and can be left on overnight as a nightlight. Whether the Bedbug is dimmed down low for feeding, changing or sleeping or bright for bedtime stories the light emitted is white light which is less disturbing to natural rhythms than other red or blue nightlights on the market.
    Our bedtime routine with E has always included dimming the main light to encourage the natural production of melatonin. We’ve then used a cat nightlight from IKEA for torch-like reading which emits a pale blue or green glow. I didn’t realise that this kind of light can be as stimulating as using screens right before bed! So cat light has now been relegated to lighting up dens and daytime play.
    When it’s time to sleep the bedbug light can be turned off all together or set to gradually fade like a sunset, from white light to a soothing orange. It can be set to fade off after 15 minutes or fade to nightlight for a reassuring warm glow all night long. If you need to check on your baby in the night the light controls are silent so you can easily increase or decrease the amount of light without disturbing baby. For now Bedbug is in E’s room but we intend to swap bedrooms next year so the boys can share the larger bedroom. It’s good to know the Bedbug lighting will suit their need not to sleep in total darkness and that E’s later bedtime won’t disturb his little brother if he reads by the light of the Bedbug.

    Update:. We’ve been staying at G’s folks this weekend and the Bedbug has been invaluable with us all sleeping in one room. The first night I faded it to off and I didn’t twig that each time L woke and cried (5 times by morning) it was because it was too dark for a room he’s not yet familiar with. Tonight he’s just woken to the pale orange glow of the sunset mode and between hearing the cry of “Mumma” over the monitor and walking upstairs to help him back to sleep I found him sat up on the mattress just quietly looking at his friendly Bedbug.

    October 24, 2017 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment

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    A first birthday fruit stack tower #nipitinthebudblog #gloucesterlife #duplo #firstbirthdaysugarfree I was reminded of these ridiculous German Hilds Blue radishes I grew once when @happyacrefarm posted their giant spud picture today.  I say grew but I actually just forgot about them and they did this all by themselves! 
#nipitinthebudblog #growinggiantveg #oversizedvegetables #gloucesterlife Remembering fondly this little guys first birthday earlier this year with a simple "in pictures" post on the blog.  He loved all his goodies from @babipur.  They've all been merged with his brothers collection of #habatoys #holztigertoys now of course and in years to come the photos will serve to remind big brother that they're not all his!  #lovebabipur @Regranned from @musicalgeorgemoorey -  First SPACES trailer #spacesgloucester #nationallotteryfunded #sontronics #focusrite #discoverdecrypt - #regrann Making sweet pickled crab apples #nipitinthebudblog #gloucesterlife #onefromthearchives #crabapples #foragersdelight #
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