Sunday, 30 November 2014

Mum Levels Up

It was Mum's birthday today and she chose for us to go antiquing and then eat unlimited salad at a local pub chain. It's wonderful that both me and Dad love doing both of these things too! Here are some photos from our day:

Here we are, in the sun and at the antique place in Chorley. We had lots of fun here, and got excited about it's recent expansion!

I did my usual bunny spotting and found a nice beige one. It's bit bigger than the one my brother and sister-in-law got me for Christmas last year.

There was a lovely sunset today, and we stopped by the road to take photos.

And here's with her unlimited salad - she was so excited and happy about this! Yaaay! :)

I had a lovely day out today with the rentals. Bought a couple of Christmas presents but may have fallen in love with them myself so I'm going to have to do some serious thinking! Haha!

Happy birthday mum - hope you enjoyed your day! :)

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Christmas Markets: Manchester 2014

It was a crisp Autumn day here in Manchester, and I ventured out into the super busy Manchester City Center to meet my friends Damon and Jenny.

Zan next to Manchester Wheel :)

It was such a lovely day, I couldn't help but get excited about how wonderfully blue the sky was and how it matched my coat :) Anyway, Jenny, Damon and I went to the Christmas Markets to stuff our faces with delicious treats again only it was so packed that it was difficult to move! And also very difficult to take photos without people in them! So here's the only clean shot I got:

There's our giant Santa-that-doesn't-look-like-Santa! Been a good few years now - I wonder when the next generation of Santa will arrive in Manchester! :)

We took many opportunities to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere around us, and had a great time catching up. We did a bit of Christmas shopping too, but battling the crowds got a bit too much. We met up with my other-friend Andy and went to have some Korean food in a lovely quiet little restaurant ate more delicious food.

I had a lovely day in Manchester today. Even though the one in London is huge and impressive, I still like our little one in my home city. I'm almost done with all my Christmas shopping and I am feeling blessed again to be surrounded by good people. Hoorah!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Winter Candle Jar

While pootling on pinterest, I found some really nice candle jar pins that I wanted to try out. It's been a while since I've done any paper art so I thought that this would work well with the festive season coming up. Here's how it turned out:

I really love how the light shines through, and how the shadows are cast too.

Instead of spray-mounting my winter landscape to my jar, I simply wrapped it around the jar and secured it with some bluetac. This way I can use my jar for other things when Christmas is over :)

I might have to make a few more of these coming up to Christmas, but I don't seem to have many jars hanging around. My dad always seems to take them to the recycling bin before I can get to them! Anyway, this was really fun and simple to make and it's totally made it to my pinterest board of completion. Woohoo! :)

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Festive Snacks :)

Whenever I see my brother-in-law, we always end up talking about baking. It's a hobby we both picked up over the last few years, and when we get together, we compare notes and discuss future bakes. This weekend, we started talking about festive bakes - maybe a panettone and some mince pies? It got me all excited and I'm looking forward to doing a little research and a little baking.

All this Christmas food talk gave me massive cravings, and made today's trip to the supermarket slightly dangerous. Luckily my wallet escaped danger with just one festive snack, which I have to describe as the most Christmassy crisps I have ever seen:

BBQ star crisps. Aren't they awesome? I really love them!

There may well be a massive bowl of these next to the panettone and mince pies at Christmas. Hahaha. But for now, I will enjoy my cheerful crisps on my own as I prepare for my up and coming bakes! Nom nom nom!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Pootling Through Oxford

After an epic day at the London Christmas Markets, Angel, Fiona and I decided to drive back up to Manchester via Oxford. We drove through (really very bad) rain in time for a nice morning service in a really pretty church. And of course we were blessed with the opportunity to hang out with more lovely friends, Nadia and Pat, and of course my dear brother and sister-in-law! Hoorah!

We had food and then had more food, and chatted and had fun - it was really good to hang out and just be. And then the rain stopped in time for us to take a group photo :)

There we all are! I rock at taking these pics! :) Hahahaha :)

It has been a lovely weekend away - I don't think I've seen so many people quite so spontaneously for a long time! I'll have to try and arrange something else like this, maybe swing into a different city for lunch and tea and lunch and tea over a number of days. It could be a really funny mini adventure! :) Hahaha.

I had a really great time with Angel and Fiona, spending a lot more time with them than I have for quite a few years. It's great to have such great sisters around me, and I'm feel very blessed to have them as part of my life.

I guess all remains to be said is hoorah for friends, and hoorah for a great weekend away!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Christmas Markets: London 2014

I'm in London with my friends Fiona and Angel here to visit the Christmas Markets in Hyde Park. We stayed with my sister and James, and met Damon and Jenny here and had a lovely afternoon and evening in London. Here's what we got up to:

Us girls heading into the Winter Wonderland - a massive Christmas Market.

Here is Chris, trying on some of the Christmas wares.

We had to stop for a Bratwurst - such deliciousness!

Nom nom nom!
(Technically my second bratwurst of the year, but the first with friends :) )

Fiona was really excited to see fire at the Christmas Markets because she was cold. We were excited about it because, you know, there was fire at the Christmas Markets.


We battled through the crowds and browsed some of the shops. This little piece caught my eye - I thought it was so sweet!

When it got dark, the markets took on a new character - here's the big wheel, illuminated and busy! We didn't go on because it was expensive, but it was impressive and the queue was really long.

We decided to try our hand at some archery. Don't we all look really professional?

We eventually met up with James and Damon and went to eat in China Town, an afternoon of snacking on delicious Christmas themed food still left us room for tea! We then treated ourselves to some delicious desserts - mine was called Mango Lovers:

This had mango ice cream, mango pieces and mango syrup with sago and tapoica pearls on shaved ice. It was awesome.

I had a lovely day out in London today, catching up with the girls and enjoying the excitement of seasonal events. I wish I could have taken more photos, but there were soooo many people around, it got really difficult to move about, let alone photograph! No matter, it was a great day!

We ate well today, and I have been so excited by all things I saw and did today - I feel 100% Christmassed now, and ready for the day itself! Hoorah for the London Christmas Markets, and hoorah for a great day out!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Settlers of Piz-an

I met up with my friends Shazia, Lee and Dave today to eat pizza and play board games. We had decided a while back that we would make our own pizza so we pooled our resources to create some delicious goods. Lee even went all the way and created a board game shaped pizza!

Here's Shazia putting toppings on one of the pizzas.

Here is Lee, constructing his board game themed pizza - there's definitely a tell-tale shape there.

Ladies and Gentlemen, a Settlers of Catan themed pizza. Or as my sister called it, Settlers of Piz-an. 
The ham represents brick, the broccoli is wood, the sweetcorn stands for wheat, the olives kinda looks like ore, and of course the cauliflower looks like sheep. Of course. Amazing.

Here's Shazia, eyeing up the pizza as it just arrives at the table. It was delicious! And they turned out really good!

And here's a stylish photo of the game we played tonight - Carcassonne.
The little people are called Meeples. It's the Best Word Ever.

I had a really good time tonight! Hand made pizza, a new board game and great company - an awesome combination! I again feel so blessed to know these great people. And my belly was blessed with really great food. Yay! :)

Monday, 17 November 2014

Blessed

I have been blessed with family and friends. So very blessed. But I am not one for gushing, or hugging, or expressing all of this out loud. I am much more of a note writing, postcard posting, subtle type. I know that this can throw people, especially those who like to hear out loud that they are loved.

So sometimes I do the next best thing I can think of that can show people that they are loved - by feeding them. Being able to provide food for a person at the most primal level is a way to show a person that they cared for, and that they are loved. At least, that's how I see it.

And because of that, I eat with friends a lot. Today, I ate with Lisa:

We went to a nice little pub with very nice food. :)

I am blessed with many wonderful people in my life, and I want them to know how wonderful they are. So thank you all for being great, and I hope to get round to feeding you all one day :)

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Three Happy Things

I've been pretty busy over the last week or so, but I allowed myself some time off today, and got some stuff done that I've meaning to do. Here are three of these things:

I cleared a space in my room for my personal Christmas tree. It's not finished yet, but doesn't it look marvelous already? I love it sooo much!

I asked my Dad to hang up my one and only piece of wall art/the ex-printing-stamp-drawer display cabinet for my favourite little things. This makes me soooo happy!

I baked something I've been meaning to make for a while - a cake within a cake, hoorah! In case you can't work it out, that's a star shaped (coffee flavoured) section in a normal victoria sponge cake. It's very yummy! Yaaay! :)

It's been a really nice day - I'm glad that I was able to relax a little but not too much :) My room looks awesome now with the new additions and I'm sooo pleased that everything looks just as awesome as I imagined it to be. I still got me some work done and that makes the fun all the more awesome too. Hoorah! :)

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Minty

I met up with my friends Angel and Fiona today to plan for a mini adventure to London. It was fun to sit around the table and laugh, chat and catch up with each other's lives.

Aside from eating good food with good friends and randomly bumping into others, we didn't really do anything of great interest to anyone else. Ohhh, I gave Fiona a late birthday present which caused a big "awwwwwww" in the restaurant:

This is a tiny green rhino. Fiona has called it Minty (gender unknown for now)

I've had a few very busy days at home, getting PhD work done, putting together a new cohort of Pop-Up Adventure Play's Playworker Development Course as well as getting psyched for a trip to Australia that we have coming up! It's all really exciting and exhausting at the same time. There's only so much excitement a girl can take in one go without fizzling out.

Or, of course, it could be the sugar crash after the ice cream I've just had. Hahaha. Onwards and upwards!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Cake International!

Today, my sister and I woke up at the crack of dawn to meet in Birmingham to attend Cake International - a big cake show at the NEC. My sister is a keen baker and cake decorator so this was right up her street and I was totally there for the excitement and sugar!

There was SO much to look at, pine over and admire. But nothing made me squeal with glee more than meeting Martha from Great British Bake Off, the show I've been following closely this year! We accidentally stumbled on her presentation right at the start of our day!

Here she is, doing baking demonstrations that I was busy not listening to cos I was going "oooh Martha" at the top of my voice as my sister tried to shush me.

Here we are with Martha! Yaaaaaay! :) (Eeeeee!)

Then we (I mean, I) calmed down a bit and we had some serious cake nerd time. There was so much on offer from fondant to sugar paste, cake boards to rolling pins. There were little things, huge things and everything in between. It was amazing, and sooo much fun. And oh, there were so many delicious samples to try - nom nom nom sugar rush! :)

Look at the detail in this cake decoration. It's paper thin!

And look at this homage to Avatar! It's lifesize and incredible. The detail is astounding.

Here's my sister, not being able to make a decision due to having waaay too many options.

I think this was one of my favourite cakes - it was one of the international entries for the cake competitions. It looks real right? But nope, completely made of fondant and clever cakery. Amazing.

Here's a close up cos I couldn't get enough of it.

And here's a pink and grey sheep cake.

Who has time for these intricacies? Wow.

It was such a busy, buzzing atmosphere, alive with creativity on a slight sugar rush. There were soooooo many people and soooooo many suitcases! Yes, people brought suitcases to the show to carry all the stuff they bought! We didn't get anywhere near that much stuff but I could appreciate that blocks of icing can get pretty heavy. But seriously, suitcases? I kept tripping over them. Crazy!

I had a really fun day in Birmingham today with my sister - it was our first time to a show like this and we were genuinely impressed with what we saw! I think if we had a little more time, we would have had a longer look at the cake competition entries - they were maddeningly detailed! It humbled me a little knowing that home bakers are making cakes to that quality. I don't think I could compete!

Anyway, hoorah for a great day and hoorah for super duper cakeyness!

Stories in Print :)

I'm super chuffed today. I got a copy of Fraser Brown's Play and Playwork 101 Stories of Children Playing and it came through the post today! Hoorah! Apart from it being an awesome book filled with great thoughts from my amazing Professor and PhD advisor, it also features me in it! Hoorah!

Two of the stories I have written are in it.  Fraser has called one of them "Let Battle Commence" and was written about the block party Pop-Up that I hosted ages and ages ago. The other one is called "Street Party Food" which you all exclusively had access to ages ago cos it was on my blog!

Look at it! It's sooo exciting!

I've only glanced at it so far, but it seems to have some really good stuff in there! Stories from playworkers of all walks of life and about loads of different things. Fraser tells me that having read his drafts, his publishers seem to understand playwork a lot more now - so if you're interested in finding out what life as a playworker is like then this book is for you!

Apart from being chosen in a regional competition to have my poem printed in a book when I was 12, this is the first time I've been published in a book! My name is in there and everything - twice! It's even in the index! It's soooooo cool! I'm even more pleased with this because Fraser selected my stories from the masses of playwork stories he received to put into his publication! Yaaaay! I'm chuffed to bits and am calling it my first published work as a playworker. Hmm. I probably should start writing more stuff now that I'm a PhD student and everything....

Hoorah for being published, and hoorah for the unleashing of playwork stories into the big wide world!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Fireworks and Sparklers

My folks and I went to Heaton Park to watch the big bonfire and fireworks display. It was a very cold evening but the wait was worth it, and when the voice from nowhere (a new addition this year) started counting down, we had 15 minutes of spectacular fireworks synced up with classical music - an excellent touch. Hoorah! Here are some photos:

Here's an atmospheric photo of the bonfire. Okay, okay we didn't get very close.

Fireworks time!

The fireworks were pretty awesome - combined with the music, we oohed and ahhed lots.

I tried a few different things with the camera - this one was cool.

It was really exciting to see the fireworks. It was also really nice to go to the same fireworks display that I have been for years and years. It's a good spot to be in, in a community that I have been part of for the majority of my life. It was good to know that even though I've moved away, I can still drive back there every so often and be part of the action.

And of course, there are little things that make me feel at home, nomatter where I go. One of those things are sparklers. I love sparklers. And my Dad joined me in sparklering this year too :)

As long as I have sparklers once a year, I think I will feel at home.

I had such a nice day today. Fireworks, bonfire, oh and I met up with Nancy too. It's so good to see her. It was a good day. A very good day. Happy Bonfire Night!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Lessons from Hannah, and other stories.

As I sat in my room working today, I overheard the neighbours playing with their grandson next door. I've never seen this kid, nor had an opportunity to say hello because wherever this little boy goes, he is surrounded by an entourage of adults. It's all the more prominent when they're "playing" in the back garden. I put playing in inverted commas because I can't see over the fence to see what they're doing. All I know is that whenever the little boy is outside, there will be a group of adults with him, and every few seconds the whole group of adults clap and give an enthusiastic "Yaay" in response to, what I can only imagine is something the kid is doing while playing because they're certainly not doing anything else. I can see them. This only happens on sunny days but it's always lasts for a solid hour, and is hard to block out when you're trying to work.

Today, the mini-entertainer and his loyal audience were back again. Listening to the yaays of these adults got me thinking: Do I do that with children? Do I know how to draw the line between parenting and playworking? Can I strike a balance between my own adult agendas and the child's agenda?

It made me think about my adventures with Nina and Hannah the other day. I walked with them to the park nearby with a backpack full of stuff that the children might need and a heart full of joy. I praised when praise was due, and handed out water when it was requested. I felt needed somehow, but also sidelined. I felt like a parent and a playworker at the same time.

After playing for a while on the fixed playground, I pointed at some trees in the distance and suggested that they might be fun. So the girls ran over to the trees and started to inspect them. Nina is older and started climbing first. She climbed high and fast, and was very happy with her achievements. She shouted the word "can't" many times as she ascended into the trees, but I watched her body and the way she was feeling the tree and knew that the words "I can't" was a habitual phrase - she was totally capable. There were only a couple of times when her words rang true, and that's when she froze on the way down from the trees. Instead of just shouting the words "I can't" in glee as she was doing previously, she asked me in panic to get her out. I didn't question, I just responded, got her out of the tree, and she was off, to the next tree.

Hannah, however was nervous. Being a little younger, she was eager to try, but not quite as daring yet. She knew her own limits, but wanted to copy big sister, so she did. But Hannah was funny. Hannah knows her limits so well that when Nina dared us all to shimmy up the tree to take a photo, Hannah simply sat at the bottom on the branch, looked up to me and smiled and stayed there. No amount of cajoling or coaxing from big sister changed this. Hannah knew where she was comfortable, and though she said "I can't" aloud in echo of her sister, she always found her way of saying "I can", and that's where she stayed.


Thinking back on this I wonder - was I being a playworker that day, or was I playing the absent mother? How much of what I was doing was in the best interest of the child, and how much of it was me, trying to be the cool family friend? What were my motives for the day?

But then I think about Hannah. Little Hannah knew what she wanted. She asked me for water when she needed it, and told me to step away when I got too close. She requested assistance when she couldn't work out how she got stuck, and most importantly told me to make things stop when she wasn't comfortable with something any more. Children know what they need and in the park on Saturday, I met those needs, just as a playworker meets the needs of the child. I didn't need to worry what I wanted to be during these exchanges, is was more important that I was what Hannah needed me to be at any given moment. Sometimes I was the protector from the scary dogs. Sometimes I was the provider of tissues. I was a keen competitor in races as well as confidant in conversation. Nina mostly needed me to give her space, so I watched from a distance and provided space and time for exploration. I was even "Suzanna, The Rescuer" at one point which I was surprised at too! Whichever role I had, it was the most important that I was present when they needed me and absent when they didn't. A playworker is whatever role is necessary for the play to continue.

So while I have no idea what's happening with the entourage of adults next door, I really hope that they are meeting the needs of the child. The little boy may need to be applauded constantly - fine. A playworker does not judge. But I do hope that this child does occasionally get some space to explore the world around him, and actually get to discover and play. In a few years time, I hope that I hear him in the back garden on his own, doing whatever it is that he wants to do with minimal adult supervision. And maybe one day, if his adults step away for long enough, I'll even get to meet him. Who knows.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Doodle Me Beardman

I've been busy doodling something, but I wasn't sure what it was until a couple of days ago. Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like you to meet Beardman:

Beardman is really beardy!

He took a while to draw. About 4 weeks on and off.

I really liked doodling beardman. When he was just a weird pattern, it was quite therapeutic to draw. As he gradually became more of a thing, the pattern became hair, and then the hair became beard and then ta dah! Beardman! I really like how the image evolved, and love the texture that I somehow drew. I love how lines can become so much more than just a line. Doodling gives me so much room for creativity and play! Yay for doodling! :)