Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday musings

Lots going on here as we move into the summer months:

I was lucky enough to steward on the Beekeeping association stand at Gardener's World Live a few weeks back. This gave me a free ticket. So I took my neighbour and we indulged in a day of bees and beautiful flowers. 

My gorgeous baby sister turns forty and we went to her party last weekend. I think a great time was had by all. 
The end of term approaches and that's changes for all concerned: Master Beehive the elder waves goodbye to Keystage three as he moves into his first year of GCSE exams! Scary to think he is that old already!
I'm leaving my current job at the end of term. I'm hoping something will come up before September, but I really want to get back into working with older children and sadly, where I am, is not going to give me that opportunity.

I'm also hoping to find more time to create... 

The elder Beehive is off to Belgium on curriculum enrichment week next week and the middle one is doing a variety of things including a day at Harry Potter world! Then, they're done! Eight weeks of summer. Eight weeks of no clubs, no early mornings, no crazy rushing...I'm sure I'm not the only mother in the world who is relishing this prospect and the thought of long sunny, lazy days.
Cider bottling has been going on here, we are quite a production site!

And finally our new queen is laying. We had the first small taster of honey last weekend. Some excess comb taken off and chewed... yum. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

I'm a jogging runner, get over it!

It's been a while...again...sorry...but haven't you heard, I have a hobby...well, if you're pals with me on facebook you're probably tired of hearing (sorry about that, but you can always ignore!).

Since January, since I started on my desire to lose at least a stone of weight from my 'edging towards later life' body, you know, the time when most stuff begins to head south in search of your feet and things are not quite as elastically pingy as they used to be...well, since then I've been at the gym. But then a good friend of mine drew me over to the dark side of life, the side where upon I get up at silly times of the day and haul my frequently tired and lead laden legs around a field several times, or I choose to stand in the cold making life changing decision about my attire on a Sunday morning, debating should I run in a base layer or not.
This is 'running'!
Although, it is debated as to whether what I actually do can be classified as actual 'running' and not more of a slightly speeded up form of jogging. Either way, I'm not sure I really mind.
I know that the purists may argue this with me and I can indeed see their point, after all, if you wear padded lycra shorts and muddy fox attire, swing your leg over what is these days called a 'road bike' (yup, what happened to the good old fashioned Raleigh racers...I now own a 'road bike' and it's more like a tightrope on wheels!) are you no less a cyclist if your speed takes you under a certain distance per minute?
If you strap your canoe to the roof of your car on a bank holiday Monday and head off on the M40 to a local boating lake or one of the many local canals, but you prefer to cruise leisurely through the waterways rather than bombing around as if you're doing slalom, are you no less a canoeist?
How about all those bloody slow lane swimmers? Maybe they're really drowning, but doing it in style, therefore we should think of a name for them too?

Anyway, I really don't care if you call me a runner or a jogger, this new found hobby/sport is keeping my busy and happy and fit. Whereas four years ago when I first ran 10K in Edinburgh it was a HUGE thing, my regular weekend race is now a 10K race and I'm working up to challenge myself to the Brighton half marathon in February. One of the things I love about doing this is the mental hurdles that it causes me to overcome. The voice inside my head who visits me about halfway in telling me to stop, give up, walk, go home...the fact I can beat that voice and make my body do what I want it to do (within age-realistic reason, I am over 40, that isn't going to go away!) rather than accepting that my body is taking over me. Personality wise I have a tendency not to stick at things that take longer than I want to achieve results, or I can take forever to finish a project or if I think I'm not going to be fantastic at it, I quit. The brilliance of running is that the only person you're in competition with is yourself. You 'have' to finish what you've started, particularly in a race, the drive, the crowd, the superficial at all), the calorie loss, the muscle tone, it's a win-win.

So, I apologise if you are bored listening to me prattle on on facebook about personal bests or running conditions. I apologise profusely if you're Mo Farrah (the actual RUNNER!) reading this (he pops in here a lot you know!). I also apologise if I answer the door these days in some rather awkwardly placed padded lycra or you pass me lolloping down the road when you're in your car with my rather heavy over pronounced gait that makes me look like an absorbalof being consumed by the pavement (no, seriously...running/lolloping photos are NEVER attractive!). You can call me a jogger, I won't mind, you can ask me why I bother to run and I'll tell you all the above, you can tell me that my sport can only possibly be a hobby because I'm hardly an athelete and I'll tell you I'm happy I have a hobby/sport after many years of wondering why these nutters did this kind of stuff...I'm happy to be a nutter with them all (if not a slightly slower jogging/lolloping/pootling/healthier one!!)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Climb every mountain...

Well, 'tis done!

12 hours and 20 minutes of it.

We're back after, what I can only describe as, a pretty gruelling charity challenge doing the 5 peaks in the Lakes.

We all met on Friday evening, that is Mr Beehive, myself, the guides and the rest of our comrades for the duration, at a local campsite in the Langdale Pike region. We intially set up the campsite and began team building by preparing a meal for 20 on four burners with two vegetarians and a vegan amongst us and limited pots.

A cold night followed with little sleep of any worth or decency. Temperatures fell below freezing and despite wearing all our base layers under all our clothes, using season 3/4 sleeping bags, we were still kept awake through cold and Mr Beehive's pillow had frozen to the tent by the next morning!

An early rise with a 6am wake up call, some seriously 'hearty' (read that as lentil knitting) style museli, a cold wash and then layering up for the day ahead.

We parked the cars up at a farm at the bottom of Dungeon Ghyll and began our marathon (well, half really) efforts up Crinkle Crags, Bow Fell, Esk Pike, Great End and then the Capitain (sic) of all...Scarfell Pike, the highest peak in England.

I could spend hours giving you blow by blow accounts, but really, you'd be bored to tears.

It was far from easy. It certainly pushed me close to my limits of both physical and mental endurance. The ups were hard and tiring, the downs, wearing on the knees. The distances challenged my ability to stay calm and some of the ridges pushed me to my boundaries if not out of my comfort zone. The tireder we got, the harder it became.

The final summit, Scarfell, all 900+ metres of it was a mixed joy. Sheer thrill of achievement was tinged with the fear of the 4 hour descent we'd yet to master.

If truth be told, this was probably the hardest part of the day. We'd already walked up and down summits for over 8 hours. Every bone was aching and I had nerves that were occasionally shooting electric sparks of pain up to my hip from a slip earlier in the week in a particular supermarket that would catch my unawares, particularly as I moved from one rock to another. Each step just seemed further and further away and the path we were aiming at, despite seeming not far, appeared as a distant mirage on the horizon.

Incredibly, 12 hours and 20 minutes after we'd parked our cars early that morning, we were passing back through the farmer's gate and returning to our cars...perhaps a little unsure of our ability to physically operate the clutch!

I am so proud of  Mr Beehive and myself

It was an outstanding day. The weather was kind to us and the sun shone. Our noses burned and WE. DID. IT !!!! 13.6 miles (or more!) of seriously tricky terrain, rocks, boulders, scree and little grass. 13.6 miles of ascent followed by descent followed by further ascent.

The bump to the right of the picture was our starting point!!

The scenery was beautiful, the views at the tops, breathtaking, in fact one of the guides from the Lakes themselves, said that our view from Scarfell was probably one of the best he'd ever seen in all his years up and down the mountain!

To top it all off, we have managed to raise over £3000 for the National Eczema Society. We've been blown away by the generosity of family, friends and colleagues (HUGE THANK YOU to all of you!!!!) and there's still time to donate by using the link on the side of my blog.

Will we do it again? Er, perhaps not next week, but will we do something as challenging again, something to push us to our limitations? Indeed we will. We might push ourselves to do the 100Km Thames Path walk next year and maybe I will enter that ballot for the VLM for 2016 ...just you'd best start saving your pennies for another charitable cause next year.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

It started with a kiss...

Well, more like a terribly unflattering photograph which equated to a kick up the bum.

We knew we were going to do this climb to raise money for eczema research because this was a subject very close to our hearts. Many of you know, our eldest has suffered dreadfully for the last three years in particular, leading to stays in hospital as the skin is a barrier to infection, so when your skin is broken all over, you are susceptible to strep or staph or any other infection. He's also been on skin and oral steroids repeatedly and has been on the receiving end of mickey taking at school and numerous curious stares or questions. All of which, we have tried to give him the tools to cope with and help educate others so that they will be more understanding. However, we feel that more can be done nationally and this is why we're climbing five peaks in the Lakes on Easter weekend. But not over the course of a weekend, no, in 12 hours! Yup, a little bit barking.

So, this all sounded good on paper last autumn when his eczema was at its worst and my mama bear instinct had gone into 'save the world from eczema' overdrive.

However, it wasn't anything we were particularly doing much about. Five peaks? How hard can that be eh?


So fast forward a couple of months. We've just had Christmas, well, that is me, my chins and I....the photos were less than flattering. I was at least a stone heavier, if not two if I'm truly honest, but that's more because I do have ridiculous ideals in my head and appreciate that I am 5ft 8 and have the build of someone who is always going to remain in the 10 - 12 category rather than 6 - 8. In fact, size 8 and you will probably be able to snap someone of my height and stature, so, as I said, ridiculous theory.

BUT, something was needing to be done. I wasn't going to get far up mountain peak 1 if I did armchair exercise with the remote control.

We joined the gym. Yup, he and me...
We started, intially, on a six week programme. Then I was lead astray!
I began to get high on the endorphins after doing a work out. 2 times a week became three! I watched my crazy pal, Soph, do three half marathons last year starting from the same couch I had been sitting on.
She fed me runner bumf and showed me elicit hang outs for 'mummy' runners.
I had been running on the treadmill, but not since 2010 had I set foot on the pavements.
So, one morning, I decided to see how a treadmill compared to the hills and fields around me.

Mwahahahahaha, how we laughed!

So, jumping through pot holes, dodging tractor pitting, rabbit holes, cars and wearing fluorescent orange in order to be seen, I began a slow but committed journey to the asylum  becoming 'a runner'. My arse wobbled like jelly at first. One morning on my pre awake run across the fields, I saw FOUR hares! They fled when they saw me...probably assuming I was a genetically modified carrot panting towards them - (Woody Allen anyone??)

A gigantic breast in a scene from Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex

 I saw sunrises that beat any extra half hour under the duvet. I bought kit that I never thought I would be seen dead in. I wore out a pair of shoes...yup, can you believe it!! Yay, Run Forrest Ruuuuun!!!

1 mile to begin with, then 2.5, then 3.5 and my first 5K in 6 years! Then an increase to 5 miles, then 6.5 (that's 10K) and another race on Sunday (10K), a half marathon in the wings for October and the VLM not seeming such a' mad thing that other people do' in my sights for 2016, a full stone lost, muscle gained and the ability to run/walk up a hill without dying. I'm not fast, but I'm a robin ;-)

I think I'm nearly there for those peaks.

So, that's my training, the other half is in the gym twice a week and comes home very sweaty. He has also needed to tighten his belt, but he doesn't have the nutty runners bug like I do, which is probably good because at least one of us needs to remain sane and, if he ran too, who would cheer me on from the side lines on race days???

So BRING 'EM ON !! Is where I'm at now, feeling better than ever, stronger and more mentally prepared. 22km seems no where near as daunting as it did six months ago (although I am aware that 22km undulating is far superior to 22km on the flat!) my biggest fear now is the weather. If it rains and we get wet feet, the rest of the walk will be hell, despite having changes of socks. So, please pray or plead or whatever you do for some decent weather that isn't wet at least.

See you over the hill (s) !!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Ducks and Daffodils

It's officially the first day of Spring tomorrow, according to the Met Office, but really, the weather has been messing with us so much. Yesterday and Wednesday actually kid us into thinking that maybe Spring is coming. The front garden is a sea of beautiful purple crocuses...well, bar one straggly yellow one that seems to have escaped the meticulously planned theme!

However, today we are watching the rain rush down the road outside the front window again and, on my first day off since half term, the plans I had for sorting out the duck shelter(...oh, we're getting ducks...did I tell you?) and putting up the fence to protect the beehives have been well and truly scuppered.

So yes, ducks! I managed to convince Mr Beehive as he has such a love of duck eggs, that we could house our newest members to our little farmstead in with the hens. Well, okay, so I convinced him whilst lifting a rather large tin bath that I found in a little antique shop for only £25, out of the car! I guess my persuasion tactics tend to be a little fait accompli before I've even really gotten going. I firmly believe in the 'tell it how it is' way of communication! So, I wanted to apply some mastik around the seals to ensure that we kept the water in and also try out my siphon contraption to see if we could easily empty the water rather than having to lift the bath up or use a jug or bucket to empty and refill. But for now, the rain has got the better of me...although there may be a bright side: if the bath retains the rainwater that has fallen in it, then the mastik won't be there's a positive thought!

Half term is over, it went with such a rush as per usual. I never feel I have enough time to do the things I want to do with the kids and miss our homeschooling days for this reason. Still we made it to the Dr Who exhibition in Cardiff and met up with our lovely ex-au pair for a couple of days.

So for lack of outside jobs, I've instead made bread and cake as it is a sort of bread and cake kind of day. Oh and there is one more thing in favour of ducks....they certainly won't mind all this rain!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Itchy Gypsy feet

Half term is upon us - yay! However, yet again the weather is nothing short of hideous - not so yay!

I do have a raft of jobs awaiting me outside in both the barn where the beehives are patiently waiting another coat of paint and in the greenhouse where the seeds are screaming at me to put them in the propagator but I can't stand the thought of either task today, it's just too cold. Not a sharp, snowy type cold as we were used to in Connecticut or Edinburgh but a type of cold that ensnares your bones and chills you to the core. I simply cannot summon sufficient enthusiasm to do more than knit today and fiddle about online.

I'm on a perpetual mission for the perfect crust to my bread:

so I've been researching proving baskets today to see whether or not they are a waste of money or actually worth their outlay to improve my bread. My conclusion to all this is that the jury online is still out, thus Messers Ebay and co have provided me with a supplier of proving baskets that are not too expensive for me to carry out this experimentation for myself, so watch this space.

Yesterday I briefly popped into town. Our town is not one that over excites me unfortunately. It is a very basic market town that has the usual culprits in rather boring mainstream stores and nothing particularly independent or exciting. I do miss Edinburgh for this. Wherever I've lived in the past I've always managed to sniff out one or two really fun places to hang out or visit. In Belgium I loved 'Le Pain Quotidien' (whilst no longer particularly independent after they're springing up all over now!). After dropping the boys off at nursery, a friend or two and I would meet there at their gorgeous rustic trestle tables for breakfast (you will start to note a bread and food theme!). In Wilton in CT there was the Cafe at Cannondale Station as well as Whole foods (okay, so not exactly independent per-se, but heaps better than Tescos!) and Anthropologie. Edinburgh was inundated with vegetarian cafes, unusual shops and ... an Anthropologie - excuse me whilst I moan in pleasure at all the lovely vintage style homewares that they brought over to the UK... oh yes please !

Where I am now however, seems to lack lots...We have no good independent cafes or book stores, there is a knitting shop but my kids refuse to come in with me because it smells of fish...and...there is a certain je ne sais quoi and a surplus of pensioners that's for sure *sigh*. We don't have a particularly fab market...there is a weekly one selling fruit and veg, cheap birthday cards that you get sent by your granny and lots of pop guns...don't ask me!! Every so often we do have a wonderful french, farmers or artisan market. We have recently acquired a health shop, but it's in its infancy and the shelves are still lacking somewhat. Oxford has more vibrancy, but it's too far for a quick trip and needs to be a day planned in somewhere. We do, on the otherhand, have more pound shops than I've ever seen in one place and as the day progresses, the local factory that roasts coffee beans becomes staler and more bitter in the air....I'm not really selling my town am I?

I'm a closet hippy and more of a nomad that I like to admit; I'd love to live in Portland in Oregon

photo from

 or Oxford or perhaps Stroud would float my boat.

 Canterbury was lovely when we went at Christmas.

Edinburgh was awesome but too far north (yeah, I know, not as far as Portland) and San Francisco still has my heart! However I am fairly easy to please: A GOOD coffee shop that brews its own, a good indy bookshop, a wool shop, a cooperative grocery store (not 'The' Coop but a wholefoods coop) and that'll do to start with!

BUT there are somethings to be salvaged. We have a tourist information bureau that also doubles as a cooperative for local craftspeople and some of the gorgeous items in there can make for lovely gifts. So finding these beautiful ceramic bee buttons which will make the perfect addition to my latest WIP did lift my spirits slightly. I have also discovered a large wholefood cooperative in Northampton.

At least I can put today to good use now as I have an excuse to sit on my bum and knit more of her sweater whilst planning a trip to The Daily Bread in Northampton next weekend!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

A mini spring clean in February!

I'm not sure quite what this weather is playing at at the moment, but it's giving me whiplash, not to mention the bulbs that are bursting through and the birds that are not eating the seeds from the feeders and building nests frantically because there is some kind of muddled early spring.

It has been a 'glorious' day here today, cold, yes, but no rain, lots of blue sky. However, the forecast is predicting further gales and rain overnight tonight. I'm not sure if we're going to get any snow this year but I sure wish this wet weather would do one!

I don't work outside the home today so it's always nice to be able to use a day to its fullest to catch up on the things that need doing.
I was able to hang washing out on the line which seems to be dry too...This to me, is always a sign that spring is coming when you have days mild enough to dry a load within just a few hours.

I also took the opportunity to install some brushwood fencing over existing wire fencing in order to give our hives a little bit of security from the road and prying eyes. It's bizarre that people do steal beehives, but...they do and I want to try to minimize the risk as much as I can.

I work part time and on my days off I always aim to do around an hour or so in the gym. I then decided today once I'd done the grocery shop, to come home and have a good sort out of our utility area.

We have been granted planning permission (yay!!!) for the old garage/barn/outhouse that we currently have, to be knocked down and a new structure built in its place. We intend for this to be a garage with a kitchen and store at the back to enable us to take all our produce making ie: cider, smoking, honey production etc to a separate kitchen from our one indoors. It will then have an upstairs space with a bathroom which we may use as a studio for Mr Beehive to work from home in, or as a guest room to enable us to have guests over without having to lever three or more kids into the same room. However, with this taking priority and eating most of our finances, storage and organisation in my utility is not and whilst the kids continue to grow, so do not only the amount of shoes, but also the variety too.

Inspired by threads on pinterest I decided I needed to do something that made it look a little more organised, so here is the end result courtesy of an existing piece of Ikea shelving found in the back of the garage.

That's better! Can you spot my new bee jacket?

Tonight I'm going out with some new friends from the beekeeping society, it will be both interesting and probably totally overwhelming, but I figure that to do this properly, I'm going to need friends in the know. A friend from orchestra is a member of this group and she has invited me along, so I am going to have a rare evening out from home and maybe even a sneaky midweek pint as I'm not driving ;-) Dutch courage you know!