Sunday, 31 July 2016

Sunday Afternoon With A New Camera

Today was a fairly typical Sunday in the Harris household - a slow start, church and an even slower, lazy afternoon. We didn't go much further than across the road to feed our neighbour's chickens, rabbits and to see to their plants. The cafetiere was refilled, the golf was on continuous, new magazines were opened and devoured. The lawn was mowed, Wilf had a typical number of tshirt changes,washing was dried and as usual, by the end of the afternoon, the children completely stripped off and were running around naked pre-bathtime.

The only difference to today was that I had a new camera to document our lazy Sunday moments, to capture the children as they played and record the looks on their faces that, as parents, we often see and know so well.

I've been wanting to invest in a new camera for some time as all I've used up until now has been my trusty camera phone. I've been trialing a camera (*update* an Olympus e-620 for those interested) and this weekend made the decision to go ahead and buy it. I've got SO much to learn but can't wait to try and master it. These photos, taken today, are a glimpse into our afternoon. They're all *unedited* (something else I need to master) but they're my starting point and I hope you enjoy them. I've got plans to shake things up a bit with this blog and look forward to sharing more photos as things move on.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

A Summertime Project

A few weeks ago I treated myself to a Modern Watercolour workshop with Emma Block, a Saturday filled with inspiration - from the stunning surroundings of The Forge in Bristol where it was held, to the sumptuous shared lunch and of course the teaching.
I'd had my eye on a workshop with Emma for some time but living in Cardiff, the usual location in London just seemed too far. So when a date came up in Bristol I had my fingers crossed that we'd be free (and that Sam would say yes to going solo for the day!)
I'm a huge fan of Emma's work and style of Watercolour and loved her natural, laid back teaching and encouragement as we all got to grips with it. As only a professional can, she made it look so effortlessly easy to do, needless to say even after a day I was only JUST getting to grips with colour mixing!

With the Summer holidays upon us and a busy/questioning/time demanding/fun seeking four year old on my hands everyday, I've decided to start 'a summertime project' to help me practice what I leant that day and find moments of calm that are just for me. The garden is BLOOMING at the moment and my project is simply to paint one flower every day (read, as many days as possible.) Whether that's painting it picked and sitting pretty in a stem vase or sat on the grass next to a towering bush of dahlias.
Last night after our first day of the school holidays, just after bedtime I snipped a pale pink and pistachio hued hydrangea from a pot on our patio. I sat at the desk in my room, warm from the day's sunshine, opened up a brand new sketch book and tried to remember the tips Emma had given us.

I've already forgotten so much of what I learnt that day but I'm hoping that with daily practice I can hone some Watercolour skills and enjoy a few mindful moments to myself.

I don't want to be too precious about the pages in my book (easier said than done for a perfectionist) and will give myself a chance to make mistakes, find my own style and find out what works for me. As you can see from my attempts below, some things have worked out better than others - the painting bottom left looks more like an abstract bunch of nipples than delicate hydrangea blooms (hence the Instagram cover up!)
The slower pace of summer months give us a great chance to turn attention to things we otherwise don't have time for. Whether that's painting the shed, starting a book that's been gathering dust on the shelf, making jam, planning a special celebration or perfecting the art of tomato growing.

Do you have a summertime project you're already working on or would like to start? I'd love it if you joined me in sharing what you're up to. I'll be sharing my watercolour progress on Instagram using the hashtag #asummertimeproject, please do feel free to tag your posts too. Let's find time in these halcyon days to celebrate creativity, learn a new skill or two and inspire one another in the glorious summertime ahead (rain or shine!)

As always, thanks for reading. X

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Summer as a Mum Boss

The Summer holidays are nearly upon us and, for some of you, they may already have started. As a Mum who juggles both work and parenting (the official Instagram title being 'Mum Boss') I've thought long and hard about how I'm going to tackle the six weeks ahead.

Juggling is a tricky act at the best of times and, this year, work has fallen into the gaps of nursery and nap time and evenings. I love what I do and feel very lucky that I can balance work and home life, I always get to be there for nursery picks up and end of term shows and don't have to think of the logistics of 'time off'. The 6 week summer holidays will throw this carefully balanced routine up in the air, and I've had to decide how I'm going rearrange things. I want to whole heartedly enjoy summer days as a Mum (my last holidays with Wilf before he starts school, waahhhhh!) without feeling the pressure of work and I certainly don't want to have to work EVERY evening in order to catch up on the days. So, somethings got to give.
From Tuesday this week I'll be extending my lead times on Not On The High Street to give me a bit more time to get those lovely personalised orders hand printed and out of the door. The same will be the case for any personalised orders made via the little maldod shop. At the moment I try to get these dispatched within a couple of working days but this will be extended to ten working days over the Summer.

All other orders (including non personalised items) will be wrapped dispatched on Tuesdays and Thursdays/Fridays. Of course if, like me, you leave things to the last minute and need something popped in the post at short notice, you can always drop me a line with a plea and I'll always do my best to accommodate.

I'm hoping that by pencilling in some structured work time I'll get the right balance for us all. We've already started making lists of things we want to do over the Summer, camp fires and ice creams are the top of Wilf's list. We might even revisit our lucky dip 'fun jar' which we put together last Summer, you can read the blog post I featured it in here.

Things will change again from September when Wilf goes to school full time and Anwen has some nursery days. Fingers crossed these changes might even get me some more evenings back as we head into the Autumn (or not, if last Christmas was anything to go by!)

If you're a Mum Boss I'd love to know how you juggle work and home life and, if you have children of school age, how you'll be handling the Summer holidays. There's no winning formula but I know that sharing strategies and tips is always helpful. Please do leave a comment below, I'd love to hear from you.

Thank you as always for your ongoing support for my small business, you'll never know quite how much it means. As a little extra thanks you can enjoy FREE delivery until Midnight tomorrow (Monday 18th July) when you spend over £10. Just enter 'schoolsout' at the checkout. You can visit the shop by clicking here.

With love and wishes, for a fun filled Summer.
Lowri x

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Saying Thank You

I read a quote recently which was something along the lines of  'A thank you given promptly, thanks twice.' It spoke to me straight away and stirred just a few pangs of guilt as I know that I'm not always the quickest to send a 'thanks'.

The truth is a like to do thank you's the proper way, writing them down on a note that can go snail mail. There seems to be fewer and fewer reasons to send post these days so anything I can do to put pen to paper makes me happy. I've learned though that it can often take me a while (understatement) to get round to my written thank you's and an immediate text is a much better (and polite!) course of action.
Having said that I'm quite determined to instill a habit of gratitude in my kids and, belatedly or not, like them to help with sending thank you cards after their birthdays. It's just over two weeks since mine and Wilf's birthday and I'm pleased to report that we've made good headway with our cards so far, some have even been delivered!
I thought I'd share just a few tips picked up along the way:
  • Make a list! I find it MUCH easier to write a list of gifts that have been given that I can refer to when writing cards, and who doesn't love a list just for an excuse to tick things off ?! I used the above free printable from Fraser & Parsley, which you can find here. It was so useful to have when Wilf was ripping presents open at his party and I could quickly jot down who they were from, before the card/tag was taken from the parcel.
  • Have a set of cards at the ready. As with my good intentions to write thank you's, my downfall in getting them out promptly in the past has been down to my intention to MAKE them too! Well, this time round I admitted defeat before I even started and made sure I had a good supply of lovely notecards to hand. I bought some cards which would double up for both Wilf and I, two in one cards saves on postage! I also used a lovely set of elephant notes from Fraser & Parsley which matched the invitations I sent out and went to those who came to his party. They have such a lovely range of party stationery, I actually couldn't wait to write in these and wrote them the evening of his birthday (leaving space for his handwritten name of course!)
  • Keep a stash of stamps. Another downfall in my letter writing escapades is that however quick I am to write a note, putting it in the postbox is entirely different matter! Having a set of stamps ready so that the card is good to go next time you're passing a box, gives you much better odds to actually send it promptly too.
I'd love to know how you say thank you and whether you have any tricks up your sleeve to help you stay organised. Do drop me a comment below, I love hearing from you.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Fathers Day Gift Guide (for the last minute types!)

If you're anything like me then you might just have woken today, realising that time is running out to buy the special Papa in your life that special gift!
AND if you're a Mum of little ones you also might be realising that there's not one but TWO gifts to get sorted! So, I thought I'd give you a helping hand and show you a few things I've got up my sleeve. I've left you links to everything but get your skates on ladies if you want to avoid 'next day delivery charges!'
First up is this excellent set from Gruff Beard, a great company I met at the Ppodd Market I went to yesterday. They specialise in products especially for beards, great for any hairy fellas but lovely and soothing for stubbly faces too. They've got a 15% discount code on giftsets, closing today, which you can find on their site here.
Next up is The Jamie, a trio of succulents courtesy of the masters of letterbox flowers Bloom & Wild. I received this box last week and failed dismally at keeping it a secret from Sam (of course I wanted to take photos!) but he was chuffed to bits with his new greenery. Neatly tucked into a bed of Reindeer Moss, the trio comes in a tray and with a mist spray to help look after them. They've made a great addition to our hall shelf already!

Something else that has been a massive hit with Sam recently is his new Fitbit. A clever watch like gadget which has him keeping an eye on his steps, heart rate and 'stairs climbed' all day long. His average steps is a whopping 18,000 a day! The recent flurry of golf days has definitely helped but he genuinely doesnt stop, he puts my meager attempts to smash 10,000 to shame (yes we're husband, wife and 'fitbit friends'!)
Our good friend John (Lewis) are stockists and can you find them here.
I could hardly write this post without mentioning Papa Bags. It's such a pleasure stocking this range, including the ever popular Mamas Bags, from The Gray Store. They're a brilliant size for holding all manner of manly items, from iPad to wallet, keys and phone. Or why not fill it with luxury smells (Molton Brown Black Pepper is a hit here) or even a Gruff Beard set.
Order yours via the little maldod shop, here, by 12pm tomorrow (Tuesday) and it'll be in the post first class for you the very same day!

So there, some gifts guaranteed to delight those special Papa, Fathers and Dads in your life. Whatever your plans to celebrate them this Fathers Day I hope you all have a wonderful time. 

Friday, 10 June 2016

A Super Hero Party

This year, turning 4, Wilf's birthday celebrations centered around super heroes. Yes, Spiderman and his merry band of marvel friends have well and truly infiltrated our house. I'm going with it, embracing all things super and, being the party theme Monica Gellar that I am, made sure that wherever possible his party this year had certain 'kapow' to it.

The party followed the usual pattern for kids parties at our house - manic present opening (me trying to quickly scribble down what was given and from who), garden fun and food, pass the parcel, musical statues and chocolate cake. You just can't beat a tried and tested party formula at this age!

With thanks to some fabulous decorations and partywear from Meri Meri, we managed to turn our house around in an hour. I kid you not, we arrived home with two tired children after a birthday swim at 3pm, Sam went straight out for provisions and I got to it with the decorating. Obviously we took short cuts, I simply DIDN'T have time to bake a big cake (Colin the Caterpillar to the rescue) and squash in a jug and cheese and pineapple sticks was about as fancy as things got. However, come 4 pm, Wilf and his guests didn't bat man (nearly!) an eyelid and had a great time.

It was great to have such eye catching decorations that transformed our breakfast table into a mini banquet, fit for Superman himself. I love how just a few key pieces from a collection can pull a theme together and it definitely made things a LOT easier for me when I was running around. Meri Meri's collection (here) has plenty of choice and they have a great range of themes that I look forward to trying next time, here's hoping Anwen's into 'Rainbows and Unicorns' by the time she turns 3!
Our fancy dress basket was strategically placed to invite some 'custom' made costumes, should guests which to have a delve. I made the party hats two years ago for Wilf's second birthday and they're still going strong. Getting them out for every party is a tradition I'm so glad to have started.
The masks went down well and, as you can see, Sam fully embraced the theme too. The less said about my attempts at face painting the better (note to self, buy a full pallet and brushes next time.) Just look how seriously they're judging the final of musical statues!

I'm pleased to say that I did manage to redeem myself on the baking front (just) when Wilf had a second little gathering and we all enjoyed chocolate icing cupcakes - the perfect fuel for little heroes, busy being super.
With thanks to Meri Meri who kindly gifted items from their Super Hero Range.
Please note that all opinions expressed in this post are my own and it was written of my own accord. 

Friday, 3 June 2016

Pizza On The Plot {An Allotment Update}

Things are growing at a ridiculous pace on the allotment at the moment, so here's a little update on what we've been up to (before it turns into a fruit and veg jungle!)
I last posted an update on here mid March. At the time we were still preparing the ground, digging in manure and getting the beds ready (you can find the post here).

We've now got plenty in the ground, our spuds went in on Anwen's birthday (mid March), the onions are in and doing well, and the broad beans and climbers are coming on nicely too. I've even managed to negotiate a small patch for some cut flowers, although it took quite some determined convincing! So there's some sweet peas climbing up a branch like frame which I can't wait to pick.
One of my highlights down there recently was a coffee and cake morning we hosted last month. I'd planned to let all the other plot holders know with plenty of notice but, naturally, I left it to a last minute email the day before! We invited anyone who fancied joining us down there for tea/coffee and cake (which ended up being Sam's legendry salted caramel milionaire shortbread!)
Despite the short notice, so many plot holders showed up (more than we've ever seen all at once) joined us and we even had an impromptu seed and plant swap. Lots of people commented on how much they enjoyed and I've got a good feeling about planning something else over the summer. I'm sure weeding and wine or a mid summer bbq will go down well!
The kids love each and every visit down there. They've discovered a little sandy patch on a neighbour's plot where they take themselves off to most trips.
They help out with the watering too. Although I'm quite thankful we've relocated this butt for now as Anwen has been quite over enthusiastic about giving EVERYTHING a good soak.
We've also enjoyed a few pizza nights down there (one being last night while the kids are still at my parent's). Sitting on buckets eating pizza next to the strawberry patch is my new favourite thing!
Our strawberrys have gone wild this year. We bought 6 small plants from Aldi last year and planted the runners we had from them. These two photos were taken just a few weeks apart and it looks like we're going to have a great crop. I might even get a jar of jam out of them.
The raspberries (and whole fruit cage) are getting going too. The gooseberry bush has some fruit on it already and I'm looking forward to trying some new recipes out. We're harvesting rhubarb like there's no tomorrow and thoroughly enjoying scoffing it as compost on our cereal. You can read my post with a rhubarb cordial recipe here.
Hopefully it won't be too long before we're harvesting even more and I'm sure things will change very quickly from here on. 

I'll be back next month with another update. If you've got any tips or recipe suggestions I'd love to hear them!