How to describe me?

Photographer, creative-type, marketer and mother just about covers it.

I'm based in the rolling countryside of West Oxfordshire and living the rural dream baby!

My boy is growing up

Over the last few months there’s been a shift. It was subtle at first but now the change is monumental. My boy is growing up. And I’m nowhere near ready for it.

It started slowly. A couple of weeks after his ninth birthday in February, he gradually lost interest in our joint bedtime story, preferring to play his guitar in his room while I read to his brother in his room each evening. Bit by bit, he’s become content in his own company at bedtime, often not even raising his head from his book when I finish reading to Xav and pop in to kiss him goodnight.

There were just a few signs, but now the shift is visible, more like a rift. Right before my eyes, my boy is pulling away from me, gaining more independence and needing me a little less each day.

He barely glances behind him now as he schleps off for nights away with his Cubs pack. His beloved old monkey used to be the first thing he’d reach for when he came home from school. Now he’s often forgotten about until bedtime and more often than not, ignored even then. He used to delight in telling me all about his day, but now I hardly get a word.

This morning, he shrugged his hand free from mine on the school run, declaring “Mum, you’re so embarrassing” and I have to confess, I felt the world stop at that moment. Those four little words shot right to my heart and suddenly it dawned on me. My boy really is growing up and there’s not a thing I can do to stop it.

When he was first born I recall people urging me to enjoy the early years as they go so fast. Back then, I thought they were mad, but now, nine years on, I know what they meant. In another nine years he’ll be eighteen, off to Uni, travelling the world, driving my car, raiding my wallet and staying out all night. And I have to say, somehow, that doesn’t seem so far off at all.

So tell me, how do you let your beloved first born become the young man he’s destined to become? How do you resist the urge to smother and care for him just that little bit longer? How do you avoid being an embarrassing mum? How do you ride the storm of the months and years to come as a mum whose entire reason for being the last nine years has been to care for and love that little boy who’s growing up so fast and doesn’t need so much of the hands-on?

Does it get easier? Because today, I feel like a bit of me has broken.

Photos from top:

Louis at 3 months old | at 11 months | at 2 years 9 months | at 4 years 8 months | at 6 years 2 months | at 8 years 3 months | on his ninth birthday.

STILLS: A WEEKLY COLLECTION (8/52)

Oh dear, no post for a whole week but it’s been half term here so there’s not been a lot of time for blog posts.

We had a lovely half term. Drawing, playing Lego, heading to Cotswold Wildlife Park and finally getting a chance to visit our old favourite, the newly re-opened Oxford University Museum of Natural History (hoorah!), taking a run out in our beloved old campervan and recharging our batteries at home.

February half terms carry few expectations but always deliver lots of happy times.

STILLS: A WEEKLY COLLECTION (7/52)

1. Making pompoms. It’s a little bit addictive.

2. A new stack of books for the dark winter evenings. The top one is our Book Club read for February. It’s a surprisingly easy read.

3. A pretty typical morning scene in our house.

4. Louis’ science party for his 9th birthday. Enormous fun was had blowing stuff up, making sherbet and spinning candy floss.

5. Goggles, a plastic apron and a mouth full of sherbet, what more could a boy want?

6. The aftermath.

7. The piles of washing never seem to get smaller do they?

These are a bit of a mishmash of stills from the last two weeks, I’ve been a bit remiss in keeping up!

Joining in with The Beetle Shack’s Stills: A Weekly Collection linky

TA DA! My new website

I’m delighted to say my new website is now live. For ages I’d been meaning to overhaul my old website to better reflect the two strands of what I do - photography and marketing consultancy - but I was really struggling with how to do it. After all, the two are hardly common bedfellows are they?

But then it all came into focus. Initially inspired by and later borrowing heavily from the design of Lottie's site (thank you again to Lottie and her extremely talented husband for letting me!) a plan was formed, images were collected, a good friend co-opted to build it and ta da… my new all singing, all dancing photography and marketing website is born.

We’re still ironing out a few creases, but the new site is much more reflective of what I do and I’m dead pleased with the weddings portfolio in particular. Rather than showing a selection of shots from a range of weddings, I’ve gone for a story-telling approach so you can choose a wedding by style from the eight featured weddings and then see a mini snapshot of that wedding, from start to finish.

There’s also now a whole new section on my marketing consultancy so I can finally explain what I get up to on that side of things and advertise my services to new and potential clients - yay!

Winter and the camper van

Owning an old VW camper van is 80% joy and 20% guilt/worry. Perhaps surprisingly, the biggest guilt/worry isn’t the EYE-WATERING expense of keeping a 40-year old van on the road, it’s actually going about our life and leaving poor Dennis in his garage for sometimes weeks at a time, yearning for a run out somewhere, anywhere.

Fortunate then that we love a winter jaunt in the camper van. Chugging along wrapped in 10 layers (the heating is non-existent), warming up on hot chocolate (and sometimes the tiny gas burner itself if it’s super cold) and scraping ice off the inside of the windscreen. They’re all part of the experience.

It’s poetic. The stuff childhood adventures are made of. Muddy boots leave dirty prints all over the chequerboard floor, sleeping bags roll around in the back and melamine cups clunk satisfyingly against each other as we roll down another country lane.

Last Sunday we chugged up Cleeve Hill in Gloucestershire. It was magnificent. Simply magnificent.

Breakfasts in our house.

I posted a shot of Louis at breakfast time earlier this week which got me thinking about breakfasts. Breakfasts in our house are always a rush. Except on weekends when the pace of life slows agreeably. 

On a school day, it’s cereal, pancakes, fruit or yoghurts. Mostly quick and invariably messy. 

The conversation revolves around after-school club schedules, arguments about who has the most juice, endless reminders to hand in homework or lunch money and then corralling to get jumpers on and clean teeth.

At weekends, it’s often more of a brunch affair. Not because we’re sophisticated urban types, but more because we’re lazy and rise late. It’s croissants and bacon if we have friends staying or toast and chocolate spread, porridge and sliced bananas. Hot frothy coffee and numerous cups of tea get us going.

At weekends, there’s lots of chattering, a fair amount of bickering, rubbing of sleepy eyes and making plans for the day.

With the whole weekend stretching out in front of us, Saturday breakfasts are my favourite. Give me a sunny morning to eat it with and I’m in heaven.

How do you do breakfasts? Are yours just as rushed on weekdays?

STILLS: A WEEKLY COLLECTION (2/52)

1. My lovely boy lost in his maple syrup pancake at the weekend.

2. Spelling practice, late-night drawings and his Foundation-year photograph - Xav’s noticeboard contents.

3. Louis made his own Golden Snitch. He loves Harry Potter and reads the books avidly. Finding this little creation (he made it overnight) in his room one morning last week was a very special moment. So proud.

4. A melamine tower in the kitchen. A little colour on a grey day.

5. Homework. With a little furry companion.

6. The sweetest black grapes. Gone in 60 seconds. Literally 60 seconds.

7. Pens and paper everywhere.

8. A dinosaur and a candle together as windowsill companions. Obviously.

Joining in with The Beetle Shack’s Stills: A Weekly Collection linky

STILLS: A WEEKLY COLLECTION (1/52)

I like the ritual of a weekly linky. Last year I photographed weekly shots for Nature in the Home and came to the end of the 52 Weeks of Happy project. This year, I’m putting my hand up as the new girl in the delightful Em’s (she of the Beetle Shack) Stills project.

A weekly collection of images, posted each Sunday. Not quite a daily documentation, more a hint of the every day, a prompt for me to watch and capture the bits of life that happen as we rub along together in our little world. These are my first shots (a little late, but who’s counting?).

1. The first hyacinths of the season for me. Plonked on the table as the perfect antidote to packing away Christmas last week.

2. The nightly ritual of lighting a candle and opening a good book.

3. Fireside reading.

4. The daily list of gear to take to school. By the back door as a last-minute check-list. Now if only I’d consult it once in a while…

5. Morning light. And yes, I did smirk that the forgotten-ball-under-the-bed tones nicely with my bedlinen.

6. Airing the spare bedroom for a grandparent visit next week.

Joining in with The Beetle Shack’s Stills: A Weekly Collection linky

Happy New Year…

Just popping in to wish you all a Happy New Year. We’re back to our routine of work and school today so it seems apt to pick up the blogging baton once more.

We had a great Christmas. It was relaxing, fun, sociable, abundant and pleasantly hectic in equal measure. We spent time with family and friends, went for long bracing walks, watched films and played together. It was fab.

I’m not sure what this year holds for us yet. We’re making no big plans, but I do want to work harder, earn more, spend more time together as a family and make more time to read.

I had a quick review of last year's plans before writing this post. To my shame, I didn't make it to one single exhibition or gallery last year but we did pretty much everything else to a greater or lesser extent. We didn't go camping nearly enough though - a combination of weather, Spence's band playing at festivals on all the big weekends and a lack of planning I'm afraid. 

I’m determined to put that right this year though. So tell me, where should we take our little old camper van this year? I’m thinking a weekend or two in Cornwall and longer breaks to Northumberland, Suffolk and a trip to Brittany to see friends - any hints and recommendations?

A spot of Christmas crafting

Last week, I made a vat of mulled wine, warmed some mince pies and welcomed six school mums round to make a ton of wreaths to sell at our school Christmas fair.

Wreaths are a great PTA fundraiser. We sell ours for £8 each and forage all of the greenery, holly and pine cones ourselves, meaning all we have to purchase are wire rings, moss, wire and ribbon. This year we sprayed some of our cones silver and added mini baubles too, but overall, our costs were under £35 and we made over £300 so a tidy little profit for a couple of nights’ work.

If you’re planning a bit of a festive fundraiser next year, this is how we make our wreaths. Note: it is essential to drink mulled wine and eat as many mince pies and/or chocolates as you work…

Step 1: mossing

We split the jobs over two nights, mossing all the wire rings on the first evening. Working around your ring, you push clumps of moss onto the circular base and secure them by looping wire around the moss as you go. You’re aiming for a good, solid and slightly bulging mossy ring onto which you’ll then wire your foliage base. Sadly I didn’t take any shots of this stage - too much time spent gassing and eating chocolates - but you will need gardening gloves (the moss is wet and cold) and a pair of scissors or secateurs to cut the wire.

Step 2: adding your base foliage

This is the fun bit. We find that proper fir sprigs are best as they bulk out nicely and make a generous base for all the other bits you add. Fir from leylandii are nice for accent bits, but tend to make a flat and rather sorry looking wreath if that’s all you use so try to forage the real thing if you can. Our haul included spruce and pine branches, sprigs of bay and laurel, variegated and green holly and some gorgeous little bits of evergreen that I don’t know the name of…

Then you simply grab a bit of foliage you like the look of, cut the sprigs into short clumps (about 8cm long) and bunch them together before wiring onto your moss base. Work in a clockwise direction so all your foliage clumps are facing in the same direction and build them up in layers for a nice plump base. Secure the first loop of wire by twisting the two ends around each other and pushing into the mossy base at the back, then you simply loop the wire in and out of the ring, securing your foliage clumps as you go.

Step 3: adding accent foliage

Once you’ve added your base foliage, it’s time to add a bit of adornment. I find adding slightly longer clumps (10cm or so) of holly or another contrasting foliage type in clusters around the base foliage works well. In the image at the top, you can see I’ve added 3 separate clumps of holly, positioned so the berries appear in a rough triangular pattern around the main foliage. Again, you secure these additional bits with wire, pushing the ends into the back of the moss ring.

Step 4: adding pine cones, baubles and bows

We use a lot of pine cones on our wreaths. They’re free, they look wonderful and they can be sprayed for a bit of variety. We wrap stubby lengths of garden twine around the base of each then simply twist them in groups of three into the foliage base of each wreath. 

As well as cones, this year we used mini silver sparkly baubles and matt baubles in all sorts of earthy colours. Matched with a wired ribbon, they looked fab.

Step 5: getting creative with other adornments

We tend to keep our adornments low cost as we want to maximise our PTA profits, but if you were so inclined, adding dried orange and apple slices look wonderful (although you’ll need to be careful to store your wreaths somewhere dry to avoid soggy fruit) and bunches of cinnamon sticks work a treat.

How about candy canes? Or tiny pom poms? The list is endless.

Joining in with Lou’s Nature in the Home series which ever so fortuitously this Wednesday, is all about Christmas wreath making!

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