22.06

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Remember our trip to France last summer, with an 11 month old Ottilie who seemed so grown up to me at the time but now in photos looks like the littlest chubbiest baby ever!? Well, 10 months later, we went back for round two!

Ottilie and I kissed Jason goodbye at the airport last Saturday, and headed off to the Pyrenees for a girls’ week away with Tania and Freya. And whilst I’m going to be straight with you and confess that travelling with a toddler isn’t quite as easy as travelling with a baby (good LORD, the tantrums!!!) , we still had so much fun!

Ottie was in her element with eggs to collect daily from the chicken coop, horses to ‘feed’ grass to (thank you Hugo for pretending to enjoy it and making my little girl so happy!), and homemade crepes with jam that were better than any I’ve ever tasted before. In fact, we all ate so well I’ve come home resolved to try and recreate some of the delicious recipe’s that Tania’s wonderful Dad made us whilst we were there. First on the list is a chickpea curry that was one of the tastiest and most comforting I’ve ever had, and a ratatouille of dreams.

A few snapshots from our week away…

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^^ My water baby, never happier than when busy in the garden with a watering can. Wonder where she gets it from? ^^

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^^ I’ve been desperate to rescue some ex-battery chickens for the longest time, and am even more keen now after our week in France! They make the most charming noises and one in particular is so keen to be a part of the family, she’s learnt to fly the fence and escape! I just think they’re the sweetest. Would it be madness though to take on chickens, alongside two babies and working from home and the veg patch and everything else? ^^

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Ottilie is completely and utterly obsessed with Auntie ‘Taya’, and asked for her from the moment we woke up in the morning (usually at around 6am, yikes!) until when we went to bed! <3

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^^ There’s nothing quite like seeing your baby running around free in the countryside, covered in grass and mud and completely content. ^^

I feel as though I learnt so much about Ottilie’s personality this week, how much she is like me and loves the comforts and familiarities of home. She found being away quite difficult for the most part, and I’ve always had such dreadful homesickness whenever I’ve travelled ever since being little that I guess it shouldn’t have come as a great surprise. Her behaviour was so challenging at times but despite how hard it was, it’s made me a better parent in the long run I’m sure. The learning never stops as a Mother, does it? <3

(P.s. We used biodegradable Naty nappies instead of our usual cloth whilst away, and they were great! Not a single leak, even at night. I don’t like them as much as Kit & Kin biodegradable nappies though, I’ll be using those on the new baby when he or she is born and is too little for our cloths!)

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Shout out to this jumpsuit for being the most comfortable non-maternity maternity outfit ever! Granted it’s not the most flattering and makes my bump look ginormous (at 6 months I swear I’m as big as I was a good few weeks further on with Ottie!!), but what it lacks in flattery it makes up for in comfort! I’ve linked it below, if you’re in the market for an adult onesie ;)

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* Photos of me by Freya Dowson.

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Posted in FRANCE, SUMMER, TRAVEL

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15.06

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We seem to be all about growth, round these parts.

Living in the middle of the countryside, as we do now, I’ve never been so in tune with the rolling change of the seasons. The hedgerows are swelling, narrowing the lanes that lead up to the fields from our house and groaning under the weight of elderflower, wild roses, and brambles. I monitor the latter’s growth most expectantly, with blackberry crumbles and pies and jams on my mind.

Ottilie is changing and growing faster than ever, too. She still has just one volume- loud- and bellows long strings of words from morning until bedtime (‘get downstairs Teddy, no dogs upstairs!’). I find she seems suddenly keen to do things independently, likes to sing a medley of nursery rhymes to herself during bathtime, and is fascinated by seeing what happens when she throws things from a height.

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And then there’s my growth, of course.

My bump seems to have suddenly become big and rounded, and with stomach muscles already relaxed from carrying Ottilie, it’s been a quicker process this time around. The baby stretches and rolls and punches away inside me, reminding me that it’s very much as real and present as its attention-absorbing older sister. Maybe it knows I sometimes forgot I was pregnant during the early weeks, and is making up for time now it can make its presence felt?

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I find the stretching, swelling, expanding nature of pregnancy strange at times, difficult to adjust to. It feels as though my body isn’t my own, and I worry it won’t ever be mine again. But I remind myself that I worried about this during my first pregnancy, and when I was breastfeeding, and yet eventually, somewhere in the gap between one journey of pregnancy and feeding ending and this one beginning, it was mine again.

I’ve never once stopped to appreciate it though, and often look back at photos from the past few years and wonder what it was exactly I was so concerned about, at the time. This body of mine was strong and lean in the two years leading up to my wedding, and yet I didn’t give it credit then. It softened in pregnancy and carried a baby girl safely and healthily from womb to earth, and was able to nourish that baby girl’s chubby arms and thighs and cheeks during the first year of her life.

And now to do it all again? It’s a gift, simple as that.

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I’m writing this to capture this moment of gratitude and contentment, before it slips away. Commit these happy thoughts to my laptop screen so that I can look back on them in weeks, months, years to come, and remember this season of growth.

And also because it feels good, cathartic in the way that writing often is, to admit to myself how complex this funny old relationship is with my body, my self. I remembering worrying first time around that it meant I wasn’t grateful enough for my pregnancy, or that it meant I was too silly and self absorbed to be a good mother. Madness, of course.

I think it’s normal for our perception of growth to waver and change. Well, it’s my normal anyway, and never more understandable than at a time when our body must expand so fast the skin can mark, crack, and split.

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So I’m writing this for my future self, who will look back on these photos one day and wish she hadn’t ever wasted time fretting over her body, and instead wish she’d appreciated this season of life, this six month baby bump, this growth, for all that it is.

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Posted in COUNTRY WALKS, PREGNANCY STYLE

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15.06

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1. Watching Ottilie devouring fresh peas straight from the pod in the garden, with little soil-flecked fingers and joy on her face.

2. The morning pot of coffee. I’m not awake until it’s on and brewing…

3. Baking a loaf of bread and it coming out *just* right! I find bread tricky at times so it always makes me happy when I have a real win.

4. Finding my favourite La Roche Posay serum in a French pharmacy for about two thirds of the price it is in the UK! I stocked up…

5. Our first taste of homemade elderflower cordial, so delicious and refreshing! And we’ve frozen some in little ice cube moulds to add to gin and tonics later in the year, when I’m no longer pregnant. I’d like a cold one ready and waiting for after I give birth ;)

6. The look of delight on Ottilie’s face when she saw Jason at Arrivals in Gatwick on Thursday. She was so happy, and it made my week!

7. Having my Mum feel the baby kick for the first time <3

8. Fajitas for dinner. I always eat at least one more than I really am properly hungry for, but they’re so delicious I can’t stop!

9. Rediscovering old blogs, the ones that made me fall in love with blogging way before I even thought of starting my own. Have you ever read David Lebovitz’ work before? I’ve loved it for so long now, there’s just something about the way he writes that captures my imagination and makes me want to head straight for the kitchen. Either that or to get on the first train to Paris!

10. Ottilie having had her first truly happy nursery session after a difficult first month! She made a little friend, joined in with all the activities, and was just generally a different child to how she’s been for all her other sessions so far. It made my week!

What’s made you happy this week?

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Posted in 10 THINGS

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12.06

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T H E   S E A S O N   O F   G R O W T H

Oh, June. The dreamiest of months, where the plants seem in a race against one another to show off who can grow the tallest, climb fastest, sprawl widest. I’m utterly obsessive about my daily (okay twice, or sometimes thrice daily) wander down to the vegetable patch to observe, tend, harvest, and water, and now that there’s often a pod of peas or two to snack on whilst I’m down there, all the better.

The jobs seem as constant as ever this month, with successional rounds of seeds to sow, the first row of potatoes to harvest, and a jungle of tomatoes to support in the greenhouse. My most-used phrase these days seems to be ‘I’m just popping outside to do X/Y/Z, be back in 5′, and half an hour later I’m still outside, with hands caked in soil and half a dozen jobs ticked off my endlessly updated to-do list.

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Like peas in a pod…

If there’s one most important thing I’ve learnt so far this growing year (and there’s been many things I’ve learnt), it’s that I can afford to sow three, four, five times as many pea and bean seeds and still have plenty of space to spare! In fact, that’s been my lesson in general this year, that it’s much better to have spares, extra spares, and a few more as backups rather than too few and risk being left with gaps in the beds and a sparse crop!

Especially since things like peas and beans ripen just a few at a time on each plant, I’m learning that to gather a really decent harvest in one go you need a LOT of plants! They really are so delicious though, sweet and tender straight from the pod and wonderful cooked into a pasta or risotto dish.

I’ve just sowed a new batch of petit pots peas (the variety is ‘Calibra’) to take over when the ‘Kelvedon Wonder’ main crop peas are done, and will be sowing some broad beans to overwinter in late autumn this year ready for the following spring.

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(Between Ottilie and the dogs, who all are more than partial to a pea pod or two, it’s a wonder I’ve even managed to get a look in this year. Roll on the sugar snaps!)

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Flowers flowers everywhere… 

…some bringing the promise of food, and others merely for show!

It was actually Ottilie who put the ‘Lady Salisbury’ sweet pea seeds into a little tray of compost back in January of this year, with more care and dexterity than I ever expected from her tiny, then-16 month old fingers. And now look at them! They’re the most gorgeous variety, with each bloom having a unique pattern of lilac tinging around its white petals. I cut the first little bunch today, actually, and Ottilie was so proud to carry the tiny vase I’ve put them in into her bedroom and up on the mantlepiece.

And much less delicate, but equally as exciting for the promise they bring, are the courgette flowers! Big, bold, blousy- a screaming yellow beacon amongst the muted green and brown tones of the vegetable patch. It’s the ‘Soleil’ courgettes that are first to flower, two plants ready and raring to go with at least five little courgette babies on each and a couple of fruits already a few inches long and only a week or so away from harvesting I should think.

I’m sure I’ve said before but growing my own courgettes last year absolutely ruined all shop-bought varieties for me, in fact, I’ve not bought a single one single before last summer’s glut began! I’ve got three varieties all romping away in the garden right now, and am already dreaming of the light summer pastas, ratatouilles, risottos, curries, pickles, and even cakes I plan on making with their fruits this season.
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 ^^ Always and forever tending to trays of seedlings- above are purple sprouting broccoli and winter savoys on the left, mixed radicchio on the right, and just out of shot is my next tray of lettuces ready to go…

In the greenhouse are trays of swedes, winter carrots (attempting multi-sowing in cells!), kales, cabbages, and some more runner beans all sown just this weekend, because I promised my mother-in-law an ample summer supply of her favourite runner beans and so must deliver! ^^

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Now, I like to think that so far this year I’ve done okay. Most things have germinated, I’ve overcome issues with imbalanced soil and still-unidentified diseases in my broad beans and a courgette plant that sulked for weeks after planting out, but lettuces? That most easy, foolproof of crops? It’s been a nightmare!

One variety of seeds just would NOT germinate, despite me trying another packet of the exact same type, and all those I’ve got to planting-out stage have grown so very slowly I’ve only just begun picking the odd leaf here and there! In fact, most have stubbornly refused to grow at all ever since planting out…except the ones that were munched to the ground by rabbits, and now have come back as full, beautiful lettuce heads.

Nature, eh. I don’t know, sometimes!

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And lastly, happy and flourishing are the ‘Chioggia’ beets, a pink and white striped variety I just can’t wait to cut into and taste, the ‘Swift’ first early potatoes are up and mostly eaten and all completely delicious, and a supposedly mini, two-foot wide Savoy cabbage that is just beginning to heart up and is my pride and joy!

What’s growing for you, this month?

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Posted in GARDENING, KITCHEN GARDEN, SUMMER

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