Home of The Small Art Company and a bit of British all sorts about my family, kids, home, art, mixed media, craft, photography, illustration, travel, cooking, organisation, teaching... Good to see you:)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Amusing British Place Names

Hoghton Bottoms, Jockey End, Old Leake... Yep, these are all actual places in Great Britain.

Is it just me or does anyone else love looking at maps?? Maps have always fascinated me. Give me a proper map over a GPS any day! When we're on a journey I love looking at all the odd place names. There's Mr W trying to drive and me reading out obscure little village names.

What about Lacey Green or Snig's End? There's Turton Bottoms and Newton with Scales. Or how about Pickup Bank, Fenny Drayton and Foul Mile?

It's not just funny names that make studying maps so enjoyable, it's also the wealth of information you can gather. When I was about 11 I used to have penpals all over the world and I was always looking at the atlas seeing where they lived. Did they live near the sea? The mountains? What was the climate like? What could they grow in their country? What animals lived there?

I even love looking at the stats pages - population, languages, birth rates, death rates, education... everything really! I can look at an atlas for hours.

I'm looking forward to a long car journey this summer when we go camping. Wonder what places we'll come across this time? Need to make activity packs for the little Ws though so I can study the map in peace!!

I'll leave you with Throop, Bozeat and Slacks of Cairnbanno.

Any of you live in any of these places? Or maybe you live in another amusing place?? Feel free to add it to the list!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

How to create non-fussy eaters!

I've always had lots of comments about how well my kids eat. I'm a little bit proud of this! Sometimes I felt a bit of a failure when it came to mummy stuff (won't go into details right now, but let's say, these things were out of my control and I shouldn't have felt bad), so I've worked hard to get my children to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

I thought I'd share with you some things I've done and that have worked for us. Please understand that I'm certainly not criticising anyone who does things differently. These are just some ideas that you may find useful!

I started Little W and Toddler W on 'solids' at about 4 months. It was just the baby cereal and rice you can buy in the supermarket. We always varied the flavours so they got used to lots of different tastes.

Make your own
At around 6 months we moved on to Annabel Karmel. Someone recommended 'New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner' to me and I decided then that apart from the baby cereal, I didn't want to ever give them premade food. And I never did! They've never had a jar of baby food. I really enjoyed making all their food from scratch. I used to spend a few hours every Sunday peeling, chopping, steaming, pureeing... But it got them used to textures as well as flavours. It was also such a good feeling knowing exactly what went in their food.

Now, I know not everyone has time to do this, but you could try with just one or two meals a week. Some recipes I also made enough of to feed all of us, like the spaghetti bolognese.

"Go on, try it!"
The other thing I did (and still do) is to let them try everything. I'd never say, "You won't like that, it's too spicy," for example. I'd let them try it and quite often they surprised me by liking it. Sometimes I'd give them a warning of what to expect! Like, "It's quite sharp/bitter/spicy" but never, "You won't like it".

Give it to them again
If they ever left anything on their plate or said they didn't like something, this wouldn't mean I'd not give it to them again. I actually gave it to them the next time we had it. I've heard it can take about 20 tastes of something to become fond of it and I found this is true. They may leave the lettuce the next 5 times I gave it to them, but eventually, they would eat it.

Don't make a fuss (that means you, by the way!)
I never made a fuss of anything they'd not eaten. I just asked if they'd finished and then took it away. I have to say, this sometimes made me want to cry! All my hard work felt wasted, but I know now that maybe I just gave them too much, or they just didn't feel like eating much that day.

Never make them something different
The one thing that every parent can do is easy! Don't give in and make your child something different!! It's probably not an issue at toddler age, but once you give in, you're giving yourself a lifetime (well, until they're about 18) of cooking different meals. If Little W says he doesn't like something, I just say, "OK, you'll be hungry then." If he refused to come to the table, I'd let him get on with it. Mr W and I would talk about our days, completely ignoring him and would always find that he'd come over in the end, start eating and often finish his meal.

"Mummy loves this!"
Lastly, we've always made sure we enjoy our food (or at least appear to!).  Everything was always yummy! As Little W's got older, we've been a bit more honest and he knows there are things we're not so keen on (not much though, as we love our food!), as of course, they have to know that it's OK not to like everything. But I wouldn't do this when they're very young. Little W is four now, Toddler W is two.

So now, they eat well, they always look forward to their meals. They know many fruits and vegetables. They love helping me in the kitchen. And they often ask for fruit as a snack. Not always, but that's fine!

I'm sorry if I've made all this sound oh-so-perfect! Like I said, it's not meant to upset anyone or make you feel you're doing things all wrong. Being a parent is hard work and I certainly don't find everything easy. It's just when it comes to eating, I found I was quite good at getting it all to work. Hope you find some of these tips useful:)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dining Room Tour!

This week I'm linking up with Kelly's Korner again for the dining room tour!

We're very lucky to now have a conservatory, as we used to have our dining table at one end of the living room and the TV at the other. Well, I say, "at one end", but they kind of met in the middle. Here's the view from the outside. You can just see one of the dining chairs on the left...

And here is the table. The tablecloth is a wipe-clean (very essential!) William Morris design. To the right you can just make out our new handheld vacuum. It's a Black and Decker and it is soooo good! I use it several times a day to clean up crumbs from the kids. I love it!

On the table we have a Splat Man coaster that the kids bought Mr W for Fathers' Day. I need to buy two more as they fight over it every mealtime! Don't think Mr W has actually used it yet.

We also have these coasters that we bought in Australia on our honeymoon. There are more somewhere, but here are a few:

This is a new addition. It's not actually hung up yet, but this is where it will go. To the right is the doorway to the kitchen. Anyway, I created this artwork on Tagxedo. I chose about 200 words that are special to our family - names, places, books, toys, TV programmes, food, pets... Some are too small to read, but I like the fact they're there, all making up Great Britain. I had to play around with the layout a bit to get the most important words bigger, but I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

This is one of the cupboards we have in the conservatory/dining room/play room/utility room (!):

That Mickey Mouse French memo board is in Little W's bedroom now. Behind it is a photo box my brother bought me. The three canvas boxes I keep lots of my craft bits in.

On the top of the cupboard is this tomato plant. It's grown so well in here!

There's also an iron and a photo frame:

I bought it years ago, but recently discovered I'd only ever put one photo in it. I really must dig out some more as I like the frame and need to display it!

This is one of our bookcases. I prefer the darker ones in the living room, but I think the lighter wood probably goes better in the conservatory. It's rather multi-purpose. The top shelves have my books, the bottom has the kids' puzzles and books and the very top has a robot made by Little W! Here you can see some Union Jack flags we still have up from our Jubilee celebrations...

These are my recipe books:

This is the other end of the room:

And these doors lead into the living room:

Also at this end is the kids' craft area:

Finally, this is the view to the left of the conservatory:

So, there you have it - our dining room, with a lot of uses!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagel Recipe

This is my absolute favourite bagel ever! When I used to work in the West End (about a 30 second walk from Selfridges - not good!), there was a tiny bagel place I often bought lunch in. I've no idea if it's still there, but I would always order the same. This is quite unusual for me as I love experimenting with food and rarely order the same meals in restaurants even if I've loved it before.

Anyway, this is what you need to recreate for yourself:
  • Poppy seed bagel (as you can see from pic, this is a sesame seed bagel, as Tesco didn't have any poppy seed ones. Not quite the same but it was still very tasty!)
  • Cream cheese
  • Sandwich salmon
  • Black pepper
  • Lemon juice
Toast the bagel, spread with cream cheese, lay a slice of salmon on top, sprinkle with black pepper and add a drizzle of lemon juice. Enjoy!

Just to add, I asked for this bagel when I was in Vancouver and they had no idea what I was talking about! I ended up with cheese and chive. I thought this was amusing as Vancouver is known for its salmon. One of those things I love about travelling... Maybe Canadians think salmon's a really odd thing to put in a bagel??

What's your favourite bagel?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

10 Minutes in the Life of a Supply Teacher - the Electronic Register

I seem to have started following a lot of teacher bloggers lately, without realising they're teachers. I've found them through craft, home and family blogs. Anyway, this has made me think that I really should blog more about my life as a teacher. Some of you will understand exactly where I'm coming from, others may have had no idea what we teachers have to endure! And a few of you may just laugh a little, or a lot. With me or at me, I don't know.

I first encountered electronic registers about 4 years ago when I started supply teaching. Now, I'm all for modern technology in the classroom, but for the kids, not for the teachers. What benefit electronic registers have, I don't know.

 I got married the day after completing my first year teaching. We went to Australia on honeymoon. The pic above is Cape Tribulation. 

At around 8.45am the Head will tell me sternly there's an assembly at 9 sharp. "Don't be late," they say as they walk away. Great, I think. 10 minutes to get 30 children in class, shoes changed, sat down, the dreaded register taken, lined up (quietly) and into assembly.

So... bearing in mind, this could be children I've never met before in a school I've never set foot in before, I usher them all inside. Sometimes kids come into class by themselves from about 8.40, as they arrive at school. This is very different to schools in London, where they all line up outside, the bell goes and you go and collect them. Schools in London also tend to start at about 9 o'clock, 10 minutes later than schools in Hertfordshire. Another difference is that kids here have to change from their school shoes into their plimsolls. London kids just traipse in with dirt and maybe a bit of dog poo, which then goes all over the carpet. Better that they change I guess, it's just another thing to do in those precious 10 minutes.

This is how I feel sometimes! Taken in Iceland. I decided on holiday here that I wanted to become a teacher. I'd previously thought about it in Sri Lanka but never went ahead... Travel always makes me want to do new things!
 Anyway, once I've finally got them all sitting down, I turn to the computer screen. This in itself isn't good as you can't see the children. I then realise I don't know the password, so have to send for help. Often there's a wonderful TA who knows useful things like passwords. So, once I'm 'in', I start calling the register. With paper registers, I simply say, "Alfie", glance up, see Alfie waving at me (or maybe it's Ryan playing tricks) and put a red mark next to his name. Nowadays, I have to turn around, look (I know, I know, this doesn't sound like a big deal, but remember - 10 minutes!), look back at the screen and try to remember which button I'm meant to press.

So, once I've got through all the names, I then have to take the dinner register. This used to be a simple process: school dinners, packed lunch or home. There were never very many of the latter. Now... Oh boy, now, I have to find the shiny printed menu (usually stuck on the wall, but not always). Then I have to work out what week it is. There's a little calendar at the bottom, but that requires me having to know the date. The date? Seriously?? I haven't even thought about the date at this point in the day. Sometimes the kids will know what week it is. Children can be amazingly helpful. They don't usually trick me here, although I suppose it would be their loss really.

 Taken in Bruges during a much-needed Easter trip in my PGCE (teacher training) year.
Right, so it's week 2. Now, listen carefully. There are 3 options. You can have the red option - roast gammon, the green (vegetarian) option - vegetable bolognese. And apple crumble and custard afterwards for both, or the yellow option (a school packed lunch) - tuna roll followed by strawberry yoghurt. Finally, you can have your own packed lunch or you can go home. Now, I'm 100% behind Jamie Oliver and his Healthy Schools campaign, but having such a varied choice just prolongs the electronic register agony.

So I have to read out the menu and start the register again. I hope that I will remember the children who are absent, so I don't waste precious seconds calling their name, looking for them and finally asking the class if they're here or not. And again, I have to remember which buttons relate to which option.

This is Hayes Hill Farm in Essex. Nothing to do with teaching here, but I'm including calming photos in this post. These are the images I must have in my mind in order to stay sane!!

Finally! The register is done. "Quickly children," I say, hoping to appear calm, but really thinking, oh boy, we're going to be so late! "Line up quickly and quietly ready for assembly."

We run walk (sorry, no running in the corridor) to the hall and I breathe a sigh of relief as I discover we're not actually the last class to arrive. I get the children sat in neat rows and then sink into a chair, most happy that someone else can take over for the next 10 minutes or so. Hang on... did I press save and send...? Aaargh!

And the day has barely begun...

Click here for a previous post on the funny things kids say.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chicken Stuffing Recipe

Mr W does the weekly shop with the little W's on a Saturday while I do tutoring. He always has a fully prepared list (I'll post about my menu planning soon actually) and goes through it before he leaves. Last Saturday I actually heard him read "stuffing mix" but he came home with stir-fry. It wasn't even written in the stir-fry section!

Well, this meant I needed to make my own stuffing for Sunday dinner when my parents came over. Luckily, this recipe needs very few ingredients, most of which you're likely to have in the cupboard anyway.

So, to make around a dozen stuffing balls, you'll need:

  • 160g breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 apples
  • Some herbs like sage, thyme or parsley

To make, simply mix the breadcrumbs (I just put a couple of slices of bread in the food mixer to make breadcrumbs), chopped up apple and the herbs in a bowl, add the egg, mix some more then roll into balls and place on a greased baking tray.

I cooked them for about 30 minutes on whatever temperature the chicken was on - around 180 - 190 degrees.

As for how much of the herbs... well, I think this is down to personal taste. I don't often measure things like herbs, just trial and error.

And here's how they turned out...

They were pretty yummy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Craft Space Link Party - please join in!

Welcome to my first link party! I know there's lots of you out there who love to share your craft spaces, so please add your link below. Link parties are a great way to get more followers and to find likeminded bloggers for you to follow yourself.

I'm planning to host regular link parties. Some of the topics I'm thinking of are:
  • craft tutorials
  • recipes
  • kids' recipes
  • kids' craft ideas
  • local free/cheap days out
  • favourite recipe books
  • best ever holiday
  • camping recipes
You get the idea! I did post a little while ago about my craft space, but I've expanded somewhat since then. Now I'm concentrating more on my illustrations, this is where I work (not been painting today as you can see - it's not usually this... well, empty!):

I'm very lucky to have the conservatory. It's nice and bright which is perfect for painting. Well, it's often bright, not so much with the weather we've been having lately! This is my view:

 And this is where I do all the PC stuff:

It's a little cramped. I like to call it organised chaos.

Polymer clay work I do sitting on the settee with a board on a little table. Basically, I kind of take over the whole downstairs of the house!

So, come on, please come and join in the party! I look forward to seeing all your spaces:)

(Edited to add some rules. Just getting the hang of this link party thing! )

  1. Please link to your specific post, not the whole blog
  2. Please link back to this blog, either in your linked post or another post
  3. Please try to visit and comment on others' links
  4. Have fun!
Linked up to A Bowl Full of Lemons


Sunday, June 10, 2012

How to come up with an Initial Idea for a Children's Picture Book

I can't believe it was a year ago that I posted my first assignments from the children's book illustration course I was doing. I did intend to post them regularly, but that never exactly happened!

Anyway, I said that I would take you on my journey through my illustration 'career', so here we begin... Oh, I should mention that everything I blog about with regard to getting a children's picture book published, will be something I've learnt from my course, something I've discovered through experimentation and success or failure, or just things I pick up on through this process. I am, at the time of writing, unpublished and make no claims to be an expert! I'm just kind of taking you on my journey. I have no idea where we'll end up, but that's all part of the fun eh?

This is the list of posts I'll be writing. I'll link back to here every time I post:

1) Thinking of an idea
2) Writing the text
3) Character development
4) Storyboard
5) Dummy books
6) Final sketches
7) Finished illustrations
8) Making a full size dummy
9) Submitting your book to a publisher

Right then, the first step in creating a children's book is the initial idea or concept. Kind of obvious really, but I thought I'd share with you different ways you can come up with an idea and the sorts of stories that children are interested in.

If you spend time in the children's section of a bookshop, you'll notice that a lot of books nowadays are about real life. That is, stories are often about really quite ordinary, everyday, events. It almost seems old-fashioned to write about monsters or fairies and other worlds. Although, I have to say, I love stories about other worlds. I vividly remember as a kid, climbing into my wardrobe and pushing the back, just wishing, hoping, that I would fall out of the other side into a snow-covered forest. It never happened of course, but that's not to say that 25 years later I don't still secretly wish it could!

I'm not saying that these sorts of stories won't get published (I have quite a few stored up in my mind and on scraps of paper, notebooks... wherever), just that ordinary events seem to be quite popular at the moment. This could be because it's so hard to come up with another Narnia or Alice in Wonderland, the Magic Faraway Tree - something so original it will stand the test of time for many generations of children, or maybe it's because children nowadays just prefer something they can relate to a bit more. I hope it's not because kids just think these kinds of stories are silly.

So... you need a story that children can relate to first of all. I don't mean that unrealistic things can't happen in the story, just that 'it' can happen to a boy or a girl on their way to school or something. Think of Flat Stanley or Spaghetti Eddie.

One of the most important things to remember is that the child (or child animal) has to be the hero of the story. You can never have an adult save the day, that just won't do! Humour is also important. And something for the grown-ups too - a little something to make Mum or Dad smile, after reading the same book every night for a week (or a month). Do remember though, for a picture book, keep it simple.

Where do you get the ideas from then? Well, I guess you need to look at the world through a child's eyes. What is important to them? What do they care about? If you have children of your own, watch them play, talk with their friends or siblings, what do they love/hate? Sometimes just a word they utter or a question they ask can be enough to generate a whole story. And if you're a teacher - hey, you've got 30 kids coming up with some gems every single day! One of my favourites, which I think I've mentioned before, is "Miss, when did we get colour?" I thought he meant colour TV, but no, he actually thought the world used to be in black and white.

The book I'm working on at the moment is something I know Little W (my son) would love to happen to him. Although it's impossible, it's not beyond the realms of comprehension.

When I think up ideas, I do a brainstorm on paper. I always do these for anything I'm trying to come up with ideas for. They're so useful for generating further possibilities. 

So, now you have your idea, you need to get writing. Hope it's  been useful for you. Check back soon for the next post on how to write the text for your picture book.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Tour of my Little English Kitchen

Right, it's not often you get two posts in one day! I'm making the most of the kids being in the garden with Mr W! I've even scheduled a post for tomorrow...

I just found this blog via Blog Train, where Kelly invites you to link up pics of your home. I love looking around other people's houses (interested not nosey!!), so thought I'd share mine. This week it's kitchens.

I'm very proud of our little kitchen. As with the rest of the house, Mr W has done everything himself (with a bit of help from me!). This is the island counter, which I could absolutely not be without, taken from the hallway door. I love our double sink as well. I don't know how I'd manage with one sink now! The window looks out into the conservatory now, which is where we eat. You can also just see the bunting from our Jubilee celebrations still hanging up...

This is our new kettle and toaster. Love the creamy colour:

 Here you can see the washing machine and oven. This is exciting stuff I know! You can also see to the right, some steak knives that were a wedding gift from an old Canadian friend of mine.

This is a carrier bag holder with an Aboriginal design that we got in Australia:

This is the corner with the Microwave and there's a blender tucked away there too. This corner gets piled with junk! The door you can see leads to the living room.

This is my magnetic memo board. You can just see two of my London postcards as well:

Here you can see the fridge with a behaviour chart on it as well as various magnets (some made by me) and there's a couple of lovely poems about how precious children are. I read them now and again when I'm waiting for something to finish cooking. They always make me smile. You can also see the ironing board tucked away in there, next to the cupboard. The door to the right leads to the hallway.

This sign hangs above the entrance to the conservatory. I like the vintage style and also the fact that it has my name and I erm... don't drink tea!

Last up is the freezer with lots of little photos of friends and family. And there's also a calendar Little W made at Nursery as well as a magnet he bought in the Lake District last year:

Hope you enjoyed your little tour. Go and take a look at Kelly's blog for some amazing kitchens. Be warned though - most are American and they are HUGE!

Insects up close!

One of the reasons I love macro photography is that you can see so much detail in things, often far more than with the naked eye, especially with living things like insects. Often a macro photograph is the only way I can really see all the little markings and characteristics of an insect.

Thought I'd share some close-ups of little creatures found in my house and garden...

And if you're not so keen on any of the above, here are some buds just for you:

As well as macro images, I now have a section on my redesigned website just for altered photography. Take a look here. I love altering images - the effects you can create on the PC are fascinating! Remember, all images are available to buy (£12.50 for an unmounted 10" x 8" or £8.50 for 7" x 5"). I ship all over the world:)

Friday, June 8, 2012

A big hole and saving water

As some of you will know, Mr W is very much into household projects. If he's not setting up a camera or an alarm system, it'll be something for the garden.

Actually, the other week I went into the porch and this woman started shouting, "Intruder detected! Householder has been notified!" or something like that! I got the shock of my life. And she didn't stop either. It went on and on. A quick e-mail to Mr W and he said to press the button on my new keyring (that I hadn't even known I had). Eventually, the woman stopped shouting.

Anyway, back to the garden... With the current hosepipe ban and having a lot of plants to water, Mr W decided to invest in a huge container to save the rain water, so we could still use the hose. He's been digging the hole for a few weeks. Not continuously of course, just when he gets a spare couple of hours.

You can't really tell how deep the hole is, but it's nearly 6 foot.

And here's the container in place. We had oh so much fun putting this in and pulling it out again when it got wedged halfway and more dirt had to be dug out.

Anyway, it's filling up nicely with all the rain we're having again. We just need to concrete over the top to extend the step from the side alleyway and fit in some sort of pump.

I have to say, although I sometimes raise my eyes at Mr W's little projects, they always do have a use! I like this one simply as we're saving so much water and that can only be a good thing.