Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Autumn nature table

This is our nature table for autumn. We really enjoy this ongoing project and everyone likes to find something to put on the table - golden coloured leaves, nuts, berries and interesting shaped twigs and pieces of wood currently adorn the autumn cloth. A couple of apples and a corn cob sit underneath a Cretan windmill brought back from a long ago holiday. A wonderful poster of fungi is pinned on the wall and the cider jug is filled with seedheads, rosehips and an ear of wheat. We made a leaf mobile from coloured paper and it hangs in front of a favourite sunflower picture. Our walks will bring in more treasures as October turns the trees into glorious deep colours, and later, the orange and black of Halloween decorations will have their place.
Each season is special, and I love to celebrate the turning wheel of the year. I do have a soft spot for autumn though - for us it is full of brisk walks, cosy fires, warming food, birthdays and other family celebrations, and then thoughts turning towards Christmas and New Year. It is a wonderful time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In praise of Papa Soup

My Dad is the ultimate soup maker in our family - possibly even the world. He takes carrots, leeks, onion, turnip* and pearl barley, combines them with a stock and produces the most amazing soup you have ever tasted. I have tried so many times to replicate his recipe, but I just can't achieve that unique taste. I don't know what it is - a kind of lightness, yet it is so full of flavour.
It is a basic Scotch Broth, but is known in our clan as Papa soup. It's fame has even spread to Canada, where he spends his visits to my sister making Papa soup for my nephews and all their friends. The last time he went to watch one of the boys at baseball training, several of the Moms came up asking if he was the famous Papa, and how much their sons loved his soup. He was more pleased than he let on.
Anyway, James and I were delighted today when he arrived with a large tub of freshly made Papa soup - just right for lunch with a few slices of toasted Scottish plain bread.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blog Action Day

Thanks to MrsL at Unbought Delicacies for bringing this to our attention. I've signed up! Click the link on the sidebar for more details.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Harvest Feast

On Saturday we went to a Harvest Feast organised by Linlithgrow - a local climate challenge project which aims to get people buying and eating local food as well as encouraging growing your own. It was a very well attended event and the food was delicious. The event was held at Bonnytoun Farm, a fantastic estalishment producing local organic and free range meat, fruit vegetables and flowers. Here are some shots from the day.

Preparations for the feast.

James and John having a go in the Welly Throwing competition!

The band played all afternoon. Great stuff!

And the food? Well 3 clean plates and bowls says it all really. John is holding tightly to that glass of farm brewed beer :)

Lots of local apples - James said this was his favourite - he even ate the core!

Time to go home.

Gift of Jewels -

I received my Gift of Jewels in the post on Saturday morning. It was so exciting to go to the letter box and see the bright yellow hand addressed envelope, covered in airmail stickers lying on the mat. I tore it open and some bright photocards tumbled out, just like a shower of jewels. They were various scenes; two indoor still life pictures- glowing and warm, a cool shot of long feathery grasses and a sepia print of a patch of ethereal pale flowers. The card itself was an image of gem like colouring pencils with beautiful words penned inside.

Life is rich
Beauty is everywhere
Every personal connection has meaning and
laughter is life's sweetest creation.

Thank you so much Margie. I simply loved this gift and I am so pleased to have met you.
Margie and her sister Kath share a fantastic blog She lives in Canada - just 5 miles away from where my own sister lives! So - you are right Margie - every personal connection does have meaning.

Thank you again - and many thanks also to Se'Lah for organising the Gift of Jewels project. What joy and love has spread around the world from your wonderful idea.

Monday, September 14, 2009

When does learning happen?

One of my favourite books in Learning all the time, by John Holt. Here he relates accounts of how children learn from everyday life, and how that delight in learning is conditioned out of them at school. I have been privileged to observe this learning process in my son, James, who will be 3 in November.
James is now of the age where we are being asked" When does he start preschool?" every time we are out. It gets wearisome, butI don't really want to get into the intricacies of our family life with the woman from the corner shop, or the bus driver, so, for now I just answer - "He's only 2!".
But he will not be going to pre-school or nursery. He will be continuing this marvellous expansion of his learning at home, directed by his own needs, interests and desires.
Today, learning happened at 5.30 am, when he just had to get up and play some game with his diggers and trucks. Fortunately, my husband volunteered to get up with him, and when he brought me a cup of tea, he commented on how he could almost see the neurons firing in James's brain - he was full of it. Talking his game out loud in long, complex, sentences, he was obviously working something out that had been on his mind.

I took over at 7.30, and the learning continued. We read a couple of comics - Roary the Racing Car. We made a cut-out tool box from the magazine, and then played a complicated game of fixing cars and buses - the sofa cushions being the cars. All this was entirely instigated and directed by James - I was there purely as a facilitator and gofer - it was such fun too!

The whole day has been like this. One learning event after another. Going to the DIY store with Dad, coming home and making a seesaw with bits of wood, making his own sandwich for lunch, playing the piano and singing along to his own tune, helping make dinner, picking plums, dividing pastry for the pie, using the leftover paste to make yet another birthday cake, singing all the words of Happy Birthday - all these activities were a small part of his own agenda for the day.
He is still going now, I hear him pretending to be a snake "I'm gonna eat oo Dad"

Now, thankfully, a 5 am - 10 pm full on day is relatively unusual here, but sometimes it happens. If we were shackled to other timetables, this day would have been so different, so I am truly fortunate that we have that freedom. I imagine how stressed I would be by such an early start. I might have lost my temper and shouted; harassed and nagged everyone into getting ready for work and school, cutting short any play or fun. "No time, no time!", in the rush to be out the door, far too soon. James would not have had the opportunity to do all the things he did today, unless he was at home. No-one would have played with him for hours on the living room floor, in just the way he wanted to, or let him help cut mushrooms for the risotto that he asked me to make for dinner. He might have come home, tired, clutching a piece of paper with blue paint slapped on it as evidence of his creativity, but would he have been told to be quiet when he began to play the piano and sing joyously as he did after tea today? Would he have been laughed at or ridiculed for playing with his Barbie campervan - organising a trip to the beach for some of his toys?Would he have been able to do these things anyway, or might he have been told to do some other box ticking activity instead? I do not want to endanger his gentle unfolding in any way by subjecting him to the shoulds and should nots of this society and certainly not by it's clock.

Instead, we were able to forget time and just go with the flow. It was only place to be. Seventeen hours of present moments - learning all the time.

Please visit Debs at Muddy Bare Feet, who is hosting Home Education Blog Carnival today for International Freedom in Education Day. There are so many inspirational posts there, much more coherent than this sleep deprived one. Night Night!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Celeriac and Pear Soup

This recipe took my fancy while browsing through Country Homes and Interiors magazine the other day. I am always looking for celeriac ideas, and local pears are plentiful right now, so I made it for lunch today. It was so delicious that I thought I would pass it on. It is actually very similar to a Celeriac and Apple soup that i have made, but i think I preferred this. We had it along with a homemade cheese and herb scone. Sorry the picture is blurry - I just can't find good food stylist when I need one :)

25g Unsalted butter
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 medium celeriac (celery root) peeled and cut into small chunks
1 litre vegetable stock (I used marigold bouillon)
4 ripe juicy pears (mine were a bit hard)
a few leaves lovage, flat-leaved parsley, celery or celeriac leaves shredded, as a garnish (oops forgot to shred)
Salt and pepper

Melt butter and fry onion until soft
Add celeriac and stock - bring to a gentle simmer
Cover and cook gently until celeriac is soft (20 - 30 minutes)
Blend until smooth
Reheat gently and scatter with shredded (or not) herbs.

Very easy, very tasty.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

So much going on.

This has been such a busy week, that I have not had time to update the blog. So - here is a whistle stop tour. This week has been all about...

Kenneth packing. Heading off to University.

A last snuggle up together.

Room for independence - middle window, blind half down - the place to be. Mum left her camera in the car, so no interior shots.

Lots of plums

and more plums. Lots of jam - more jam - bottling and 2 more trees to go!

Gorgeous grandson,

Picking up Mum and Dad from Edinburgh airport after 6 weeks in Canada.

Happy Birthday Kristine - 20!!!!

Comparing sun tans - Kristine and Dad!

James makes another birthday cake.

Have we forgotten anything Mum?

Oh yes - Kenneth came home for the weekend. Fresher's week is hard work!

Hope you have had a good week.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Mother of all Camps

Last week we went to The Mother Magazine family camp, held on a beautiful piece of land in North Yorkshire. OK - the weather was rainy and windy, but it was the start of Autumn and the sun did come out in between. We had a fantastic time. I met so many great people, some I knew either personally or as online friends, but many new friends too. It was so good to be with people on the same plane and just to relax. Lots of cooking and community stuff to be done though - so any relaxation was not your sit back on a sun lounger with a best-seller and a Malibu type of thing - it was all go. What I mean, I suppose is just looking around and seeing - a group of boys running around the field with sticks - off on some daylong adventure, mothers breastfeeding their babes wherever they happened to be, barefoot toddlers running up to their Mums for a quick nurse then running off again, people actually being nice to children, eating together and just chatting. Here are a few snaps from the holiday. I didn't take many though - too busy doing things or connecting with wonderful people.

Dawn light.

The hub of the camp - Organisers' yurt - Kitchen yurt and Recreation yurt. The small shelter in the foreground was to protect our musicians from the fairly persistent rain on the previous night.

The fabulous roundhouse - scene of the magical ceremonies that we were privileged to attend. Little Rhiannon's naming ceremony - a very joyous occasion, and a Blessingway for Amelia and Vedina - a truly moving experience. Both these were led beautifully by Veronika - editor and publisher of The Mother. Gorgeous Samantha - mother and doula, led a birth stories session in this space, and the Men's Circle was held here (very mysterious and secret, but I will find out!)

Very authentic looking sculpture outside the roundhouse.

The view from out tent. Our neighbours were Anna, Joss and baby Leon. A really lovely family -it was a true pleasure to meet them.

Sitting in the sun was possible, while some of the older children helped to build the campfire ready for the evening.

Food was very important. With 150 people to feed for 4 days it was always going to be a priority. All organic, wholefood, vegan dishes. I have never had such delicious meals. I .miss them

My husband on kitchen duty - actually he only ran over to stir he pot when I came to take the photograph. He was on the salads that day - he did learn to make a pretty yummy vinaigrette though :)

Alex and Siobhan came over from Ireland and enriched the camp with their presence. Alex is a powerhouse of activity and ideas. He led sessions on baking sourdough bread in the clay oven, and built a hot tub with the help of some of the men and boys. You can read more on their lovely blog here

Siobhan was the kind of person who just seemed to make the place brighter by just being there. We were really glad to have met them and their gorgeous children. John learned a lot from Alex about sustainability, and just talking to him helped us to later clarify some of our ideas for the imminent 'retirement'.

I just loved the compost toilets. They were magnificent edifices and there is something so right about not using gallons of water to flush.

The washing up area - always hung with brightly coloured, flapping tea towels, like Buddhist prayer flags!

And John, taking a short break in the sun. I am so glad we went to this camp - it was definitely and enriching experience for us both.

Edit - Now the magazine is in danger of closing, due to falling subscriptions. Please click here to find out more about this precious resource.