Wednesday, December 22

The Shepherd Solstice Celebration



In an attempt to get rid of the commercialism of the festive season and with my love of all thing Mother Nature and Steinery, I'm trying to honour seasonal celebrations. I was excited about the winter solstice yesterday and planned a day of warmth and fire and reflection and general family cosiness.

It was a right royal disaster.

Here are the highlights.

  • Took half an hour to get everyone wrapped up for a winter walk in the snowy wood, then both children started crying because they were cold after 10 minutes and we had to come home.
  • Planned a lovely solstice lunch - everyone got or getting over colds, no-one hungry, no-one ate anything.
  • We baked frangipane mince pies, which stuck to the tin and were a crumbled mess.
  • I acted out The Yule Faeries story for Gwen and Molly using various wooden animals in place of fairy dolls - Molly knocked all the 'fairies' on to the floor. Gwen lost interest and wandered off.
  • Crafting ended with Gwen, who hates any sort of organised craft activity, just painting glue onto pom poms.
  • Lit candles all over the house, which Molly promptly blew out.
  • The yule logs for the fire were damp and fizzled out, so bedtime milk and stories by the fire was a bit nippy.
  • While the babies slept, I had visions of me and Mr Meep sharing a bottle of mulled wine in front of the roaring fire, discussing the year that was and the year that will be. Instead, he played on the Wii in the lounge while I sat in the kitchen sorting out my old Good Food magazines.

    This so wouldn't have happened in SouleMama's house.
  • Monday, December 20

    Molly is 18 months old


    Dear Moll,
    18 things about you on your 18-month birthday.

    1. You have crazy bonkers hair.
    2. You are always filthy.
    3. You can hum along to Tomorrow from Annie - in tune!
    4. And you also a fan of Baa Baa Black Sheep, especially now you can join in with the 'Yessshir, yesshir' bits.
    5. You make a squeaky noise when you see a cute animal.
    6. You give us huge grins of delight then use both hands to smack our cheeks at the same time.
    7. You can say hiya, yes, shoes, ball, bubble, apple, dark, bye-bye, more, kiss, cwtch, eyes, hot, hat and duck. Oh, and shit, which I think means 'sit', but was also echoed repeatedly after your dad dropped something in the kitchen the other day.
    8. You've had a snotty nose for 18 months.


    9. You spend all day trying to climb on top of the dining table...
    10. ... and throw whatever is on the dining table on to the floor.
    11. You eat apples in a very unique way.
    12. In other fruit-related news, you like to take one bite out of every item of fruit in the fruit bowl, then put it back.
    13. You love a cup of Roibos tea.
    14. You only like books with flaps in them.
    15. If there is some dirt within half a mile of you, you will find it and poke your fingers into it.
    16. You love cats.
    17. You are not a fan of beards.
    18. You offer people kisses accompanied by a 'mwah' noise.

    Happy half birthday, my sunshine solstice girl x

    Sunday, December 19

    Snot and Snow



    All four of us have various degrees of achey limbs, snot, fevers and general yukiness. Plus we are snowed in. It's not ideal.

    However, I did manage to get out with Blod yesterday and the snow is rather spectacular around the village. There was also quite an amazing Blitz-style party atmosphere going on in the local pub. Shame we were all too sick to join in - bah.

    Monday, December 6

    10 Things



    1. Moll speaks! She says 'cwtch', 'kiss', 'shoes' and 'yes'. It's lush.
    2. My new job is rather lovely and I get to go to lots of music and theatre performances - we even had a brass band doing the official switch-on of our office christmas lights last week.
    3. And I'm going to London on Thursday - all day ON MY OWN. Wow. A quick photoshoot, followed by a lovely wander around a few galleries, hanging about in coffee shops and maybe a lovely light supper. And a two-hour train journey with a cuppa and a good book. Bliss. Eek!
    4. Two months into my antenatal teacher training and I have encountered my first knitted boob. Bizzare to say the least.
    5. We love the hipstamatic - so flattering, I look NOTHING like this in real life, plus it makes my messy bedroom look artfully dishevelled.
    6. Celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary with lemon tart and Leffe yesterday.
    7. Have piled on the pounds, but can not seem to find a single minute to fit exercise in at the moment. Help!
    8. I seem to be the only person who takes their children to the park in the snow.
    9. Christmas is, quite frankly, stressing me out. My head is going to explode with the consumerism.
    10. However, looking forward to twinkly lights and mulled wine and open fires and spending time with some mumpets.

    Monday, November 22

    Things Gwen Likes - a Poem


    For Gwen, because she turns three and a half this week and she always asks me to read my poems to her, especially the one about peas.

    Building blocks and dressing up
    Roibos tea in a sippy cup
    Making cakes, licking spoons
    Opening the curtains to spot the moon
    Singing songs from Wicked and Annie too
    Talking about the time she “did lots and lots of poos”
    Impressions of Elvis from Fireman Sam
    Recalling the party where she ate some ham
    Her cousins, Ralphi and Emily
    Eating chips down by the sea
    Made up stories, tickly backs
    Telling off Moll when she tries to smack
    Endless games of Hide and Seek
    Boily eggs every day of the week
    Funny monsters in her dreams
    Stealing my lovely Neal’s Yard creams
    Putting on the iPod for dancing in the kitchen
    (Ting Tings tunes are especially bitchin’)
    Doing the bottom dance, changing her knickers
    Drawing, cutting, play dough, stickers
    Lunch at Chapter, bouncing on the bed
    Helping me to make the bread
    Her dog hot water bottle, Frank
    Laughing at the Welsh for crab - ‘cranc’
    Swimming with Bampa, everything pink
    Playing with water in the kitchen sink
    CBeebies on the ‘puter on a Saturday
    Going on the carousel in Cardiff Bay
    Making dens all over the house
    Being chased by the Gruffalo (she’s the mouse)
    Tales about fairies coming to tea
    Isn’t it amazing being three? (and a half)

    Friday, November 19

    Number 11



    Number 11 from the list. Making toffee is really hard, as it seems to go from 'too runny' to 'burnt' in about five seconds.

    I've also done number 30 on a rare date night with Mr Meep. Jamie's was sublime and surprisingly veggie-friendly. We had the full works. Yum.

    Monday, November 8

    The Highs and Lows of Autumn

    On sunny autumn days, we go looking for fairies...



    On rainy autumn days, we stay home and bake...



    But today, I'm at home with two floppy, snotty, sick children and not feeling too clever myself. So we are flopping about, snuggling under my nan's Welsh wool blanket, drinking lots of Roibos tea, reading endless stories and watching Mary Poppins. I may also have consumed half a pack of chocolate Hob Nobs.

    Friday, November 5

    The Great Fish Eye Incident




    I've been photographing dishes for a charity recipe book over the last few months. It's been so much fun - I've met all kinds of people from all over the world, been invited to people's homes to photograph and chat to them while they're cooking, then - best of all - got to eat with them at the end.

    My friend L and I have eaten the most amazing freshly-fried felafel; an enormous, delicious Palestinian feast; a crazy Egyptian carb-fest involving pasta and rice together; a sticky cake from Georgia... actually maybe this explains why I've put on a few pounds of late.

    Anyway, the whole thing has just been fab - apart from the incident with the Congolese food.

    L and I are both veggie, so we've chosen to photograph the recipes that are veggie-friendly. Or if there's meat involved, we've brought someone else to eat with us, so we don't offend the host.

    The day of the Congolese cookery session, we realised that the recipe involved fish. It was just the two of us, no-one was around during the day to come with us, so I made an executive decision that we should just crack on and eat some of it after it had been cooked. I have dabbled with fish-munching in the past, so didn't have a problem with a one-off fleshfest. L was not so convinced, but said she'd just close her eyes and pretend it was alfalfa sprouts or something.

    So off we pootled to the cooking session. Betty, the cook, had all the ingredients out on the kitchen counter - aubergines, spring onions, peppers, garlic, something called cassava leaves that looked a bit liked spinach...

    The recipe involved a kind of veggie curry, the fish served separately, then some rice. Perfect. We could just have tons of rice and curry then a little bit of fish.

    Betty started chopping and I started snapping. It all looked so fresh and inviting and lovely. Until she got a bag out of the fridge with two whole fish in it. Two whole fish with eyes and gaping mouths. Two whole fish that she proceeded to slice open and pull the insides out off - placing them in the kitchen sink.

    L looked a bit pale. I was holding my breath and trying not to gag.

    I moved over to the pan of frying veggies, which smelled all garlicky and lovely. Betty came over to give it a stir and add some more ingredients. She had a huge carton of something red. It has African writing on it, so I couldn't see what it was, but it looked like some sort of tomato puree. Betty picked up the carton and poured tons of it it into the veg - about half of the 2-litre bottle.

    Betty didn't speak much English, so I asked her friend what it was. "Oh, it's palm oil'" he said. Oh. A whole litre of oil. In one dish. Oh.

    Betty obviously didn't think it was oily enough, because she then grabbed some groundnut oil and added another half a litre of that. Eek.

    So the lovely fresh veggie dish was now more like an oily vegetable soup. But there was one missing ingredient. Betty got two tins of Asda SmartPrice sardines out of the cupboard, smushed them up with a fork, then stirred them into the oil slick. Blee.

    I started to lose my appetite.

    A bit more cooking and a bit more photographing later and the feast was ready. Betty laid the table, we sat down, and she brought out three big serving dishes. One with rice, one with a greasy green sardiney sludge, and one with two whole fish, still with the eyes and the gaping mouths (albeit disguised by a bit of green pepper and onion).

    Betty served us all. A huge mountain of rice, tons of the green stuff, and on the top - a fish head with eyes for me, a fish head with eyes for L.

    I ate very slowly and gulped down an awful lot of water. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see L twirling the fish round and round with her fork.

    Let's just say that we didn't have second helpings.

    That night, I dreamt of fish eyes. I still had an oily residue in my mouth the next morning.

    A few days later, Betty sent an email to us. "Thank you so much - it was such a privilege to cook for you. You are such enthusiastic people."

    I'm thinking of applying to RADA.

    The book's out in a few weeks - it'll be a great stocking filler (about £5), so watch this space for details of how to get one (you could even recreate this dish for yourself - yum!).

    Sunday, October 17

    Number Two



    Number two from the list.

    Yay, I did it. Managed to run most of it, even if it was very slowly, and finished it in 2 hours 55 minutes.

    I'm elated but aching.

    Next year, sub 2 hours 30. Bring it on (well, when I can actually walk again).

    Thanks to everyone who sponsored me. And if you didn't, you can do it retrospectively here.

    Sunday, October 3

    35 things

    Over a month since my birthday, but I've been mulling this list over while I've been going for a run. So here's what the next year might bring...

    1. Go camping with the girls DONE - AMAZING! MORE OF THIS NEXT YEAR.
    2. Complete the Cardiff half marathon DONE!
    3. Enter a 10km race and run the whole thing
    4. Live and run the household on less than £1800 per month NOT POSSIBLE, BUT DID IT ON £2K
    5. Make some cushions for my lounge and bedroom DONE - WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY NAN.
    6. List all the books I read this year DONE!
    7. Plant a sunflower playhouse in the garden DONE - BUT IN THE WRONG SPOT. WILL DO ANOTHER ONE NEXT YEAR.
    8. Learn to make prints in the darkroom DONE - MAGICAL!
    9. Throw a party, just because DONE - THE EASTER SATURDAY AFTERNOON TEA PARTY WAS RATHER MARVELLOUS.
    10. Go to London on a gallery trip DONE - SQUEEZED IN PORTRAIT GALLERY AND THE V&A ON A WORK TRIP.
    11. Make toffee apples for Halloween DONE!
    12. Declutter my house, one room at a time WORK IN PROGRESS. ADD TO NEXT YEAR'S LIST
    13. Then go to a car boot sale and flog it all
    14. Grow strawberries and raspberries STRAWBS YES, BUT NOT V SUCCESSFULLY. TRY AGAIN THIS YEAR.
    15. Try to walk, swim, run or cycle every day DONE - GOT INTO A HABIT AND IT'S PART OF MY DAY, EVEN IF ONLY A STROLL WITH BLOD.
    16. Paint a picture for Gwen's room
    17. Pimp the horrible IKEA wardrobe on our landing
    18. Make elderflower champagne/cordial
    19. Try to buy everything secondhand DONE - LOVE EBAY!
    20. Have afternoon tea DONE!
    21. Go to the theatre more DONE - FAVS WERE CIRKUS CIRKOR AND AVENUE Q.
    22. Write more poetry DONE! 'THE TIDY UP SONG' (WITH MUSIC BY DAVE) IS A FAMILY CLASSIC.
    23. Take more photos DONE!
    24. Lose the baby belly ERM...
    25. Have a night away somewhere with Mr Meep
    26. Toast marshmallows on a bonfire - CHEATED AND DID IT INDOORS ON OUR LOUNGE FIRE ON THE WINTER SOLSTICE.
    27. Make more interesting breads DONE - YAY FOR THE BREAD MACHINE.
    28. Find the perfect winter coat NO BUT FOUND A WHITE FLUFFY ONE THAT I LOVE.
    29. Have a monthly date night DONE!
    30. Eat at Jamie's Italian - DONE! ABOUT FOUR TIMES.
    31. Buy new underwear - DONE!
    32. Photograph a pregnant woman
    33. Climb the Garth alone once a month
    34. Invest in some decent waterproofs COAT DONE, BUT STILL NEED TROUSERS.
    35. Write letters

    Friday, September 10

    Cupcake love



    Banana spiced cupcakes with cream cheese vanilla icing by Emma and Gwen.

    Do pop in for one. I'll put the kettle on.

    Monday, September 6

    All happiness and sparkliness and loveliness


    AKA The post with way too many exclamation marks

    I got the job - wee-hee! I am the part-time in-house journalist/copywriter at a drama school/arts venue. I have wanted to work in the arts for a yonk and it's sooo hard to get in, but now - I'm in. We will be penniless but happy.

    Gwen is officially being unschooled until further notice. Yay! I may start her in reception class next autumn, she may go to Steiner for a few mornings after Christmas, I might just keep her home until she's five, six, seven... who knows?

    I got 75% for my photography module - an A! Whoop, whoop!

    I had a lovely birthday with loads of fab cards and pressies - a Pip cup and saucer, lots of Teapigs, books and chocolate, and a fab Crumpler camera bag and a flash. I'm a lucky lady.

    I've also had an amazing holiday in Yorkshire with glorious sunshine and a couple of meet-ups with the very lovely and mumpety family Atom.

    On the flip side, I weighed myself and since the small ginger shouty one has gone off the mama milk, I have piled on the pounds. Am I the only woman in history to gain the baby weight when the baby's turned one? Note to self: When the baby starts eating food, you need to stop scoffing cakes (well, some of them anyway).

    Tuesday, August 24

    Motivate me


    Hello lovely people.

    It's less than two months until I run the Cardiff Half Marathon to raise money for the Hardship Fund at Welsh Refugee Council.

    I am slightly flabby, very unfit and pushing 35.

    Oh dear.

    Your money could help a creaky-kneed jogger to get fit enough to complete the course without collapsing. Just £10 will get her in her trainers and running on the old railway track, instead of slumped on the sofa with a cuppa and some cake. £20 could even see her wrapped up in a giant piece of tin foil with a big smile on her face at the end.

    You can sponsor me here.

    Please give anything you can to give me the motivation to get training. I don't think strolling around the park with the dog really counts.

    You will be rewarded with good karma and feel-good vibes all day long.

    Thanks in advance.

    x

    Saturday, August 21

    The Meep Harvest Festival


    When we moved into our house 2 years ago, we inherited a jungle of a garden with an enormous fig tree. Last year, I made fig and port sorbet, but never got much further as I was getting to grips with the whole newborn/toddler combo.

    This year, I have been so excited watching the figs ripen and couldn't wait to crack on with some fig-related cooking. And first of all, fig jam. In fact, the first batch of jam I have ever made. Ever. And it tastes yum-diddly-umtious.

    I've also been tackling those unharvested courgettes and have made some marrow chutney. And now it's hedgerow harvest time, we have gone apple and blackberry bonkers. I have a tart in the oven, a crumble in the fridge and the most amazing-looking kilner jar of blackberry vodka doing its thing on the kitchen worktop. Next up, rose hip syrup. I love August.

    Monday, August 16

    Muslim for a day


    Although I don't follow any particular religion, I like a bit of pick 'n' mixing fom them all. I take a sprinkling of mindfullness from Buddhism, add a handful of Pagan seasonal festivals, a dollop of world peace from Baha'i, a dash of vegetarianism from the Hindus and Seikhs and a sprinkle of singing from the Welsh chapels to taste.

    But 15 years of catholic education put me off organised religion for life. I'm a humanist instead. I believe in kindness, equality, empathy, gratitude and general mumpetness - all the good stuff that you get from religion, but without the divine power stuff.

    Despite this, I find religion absolutely fascinating.

    My friend H is I suppose what you'd call a reformed Muslim - brought up as a Muslim, he fell spectacularly off the wagon in his uni days and now, at the ripe old age of thirtysomething has gone back to his Islamic ways.

    As it's Ramadan at the moment, H is fasting. No food or water from sunrise to sunset. Every single day. For 30 days. Cripes.

    Curious about all things religious, I was cross examining him about it last week. Why do it? What's it all about? How on earth do they manage it? Don't they feel ill? He explained the idea of Ramadan being a time for reflection, thinking of those who are hungry every single day, the feel-good factor when you taste that first bit of food after sunset. He thinks that everyone should give it a try for just one day.

    So, as an exercise in self-control, empathy and gratitude, I said I'd do it. And today was the day. My usual Monday morning involves a huge bowl of porridge with nuts and seeds and all kinds of yummies thrown in. There'd be lots of fruit for snacking, a nice big houmous/avocado sandwich at lunchtime and the obligatory little sweet treat at about 2pm. Today - nothing. Just me and the sound of my hungry belly.

    At first, it wasn't too bad. By lunchtime, I was struggling a bit. By the time I was preparing the girls a delicious bowl of pasta pesto and green veggies for their tea, I was salivating. By 7.30, I was ready to start chomping on Blod.

    At 8.40pm, the fast was over. I lit a candle, served up a simple sweet potato curry and rice, turned off the I-Pod and ate in silence by candlelight. It was calm, peaceful and all about the food. I appreciated every single mouthful.

    Amen to that.

    Sunday, August 15

    Good things, bad things



    Bad thing: Feeling like my life is one big chaotic mess, with no time to do anything, and doing everything that I can fit in really badly.

    Good thing: Sweet things from my big girl remind me that the chaos doesn't matter: "I like you and you like me - but who is the loveliest?"

    Bad thing: My new haircut is a disaster, making me feel even more minging than I did before.

    Good thing: I managed to run (with a smidge of walking on the really steep bits) 3 miles last night.

    Bad thing: I despise my haggered face and post-baby body shape.

    Good thing: But I met a lovely young man this week who thought I was 27.

    Bad thing: Still having dilemma about whether to send G to school in September (it's full-time every day for the nursery class here - she's only three!) and sick of every other person telling me she's bored with me at home and "she needs it".

    Good thing: A neighbour saying "you're such a fab mum", just at the right moment.

    Bad thing: Impending redundancy from part-time job.

    Good thing: But have interview for another, much groovier one on Thursday.

    And amidst all the chaos, there is always chai, books, baths and cake.

    Happier blogging will resume shortly.

    Monday, August 9

    Things I would like for my birthday


    I am turning - gulp - 35 in a few weeks. You're probably wondering what to buy me. Here's a handy list to help you make up your mind.

    Anything from my Amazon wishlist, especially some vegan cookery books
    A big huge cake (carrot, of course)
    A flash for my camera
    Subscription to a photography magazine
    Voucher for a go in the Harrogate baths
    Some cute hair clips
    My fave Montezumas Orange and Geranium chocolate
    Theatre vouchers
    Goodies from Neal's Yard
    Another baby (just casually slipping that one on the end of the list there... la, la, la...)

    Sunday, August 1

    Mothers and Daughters


    Phew, after eight weeks of trying to fit in looking after two tinies, working, freelancing and completing my photography project, I've done it.

    10 images of Mothers and Daughters are here.

    This project's really suffered from my lack of technical knowledge, especially photographing in low light, but I'm generally happy with it (although, met up with the rest of the people on my course yesterday and their stuff was waaaay better than mine).

    Need another project now. Any ideas?

    Wednesday, July 28

    10 Things Molly Has Eaten Recently


    Cute, eh? But wait 'til you hear what's she's been chowing down on when my back's turned for - ooo - all of five seconds.

    Suncream
    Vaseline - swiped from the shelf in Boots
    A piece of white chalk
    A piece of pink chalk
    Some very small pebbles
    Some old ham from a discarded sandwich (someone else's)
    Most of the mud in my garden
    Half the beach
    A fag butt
    A dead fly

    ETA 11. A marigold 12. A bar of soap

    Saturday, July 24

    Close, but no biscuit



    Been to the Photomarathon exhibition today. I didn't win anything, but there were lots of dots stuck on my entry, so I asked what they meant. One was to say I was in the final 60 (out of 400!) for my overall portfolio, the next meant I got through to the final 30 (eek!) and the other meant I was shortlisted as a category winner (eep!). I'm over the bloomin' moon.

    Gwen was chuffed to see her nose on display in a public exhibition.

    Next year, world domination...

    Wednesday, July 21

    Babies in a pod

    I'm going to photograph some baby twins tomorrow for a project I'm doing on Mothers and Daughters. Doing a bit of research, I came across this bundle of cuteness from an amazing American photographer (who also actually gets to photograph actual births!).



    I am squeaking with delight while typing this.

    Broody, me? Nah, don't know what you're talking about...

    What with Moll now officially being a toddler (she walks!), we know have no babies in the house. Boo. And indeed, hoo.

    In other news, I am am starting my training to be an antenatal teacher in September. I'm so excited. I love birth. I love babies. Yay!

    Monday, July 19

    How to Survive a Rainy Sunday



    Dress up in fairy dresses, set up a tripod and take a series of self portraits
    Eat lots of coffee and walnut cake
    Drink lots of chai
    Make a cup of beans with a toastcuit for dunking
    Write a silly poem about tidying up
    Get your husband to write a tune for it
    Make monsters out of PVA, googly eyes and glitter

    See, you really don't need a telly.



    The Tidy Song
    Pick up the tea set
    Pick up the blocks
    Don't forget the cars
    And that smelly old sock
    Grab that pile of teddies
    Move that manky apple core
    Scoop that half-chewed custard cream
    Off the blinking floor

    Chorus

    Let's tidy up
    It's tidy time
    Get stuff cleared away
    It's time to move the mess
    That we made all bloomin' day
    Let's tidy up
    It's tidy time
    It's time to go to bed
    And then we'll make the same old mess again

    Verse 2

    Let's de-glitter the table
    Put your drawers back in the drawer
    Let the cat out of the wardrobe
    He's not hiding anymore
    Squashed strawberries on the sofa
    Splattered paint all up the wall
    Sometimes it seems as if
    We'll never tidy up at all

    Chorus
    Let's tidy up
    It's tidy time
    Get stuff cleared away
    It's time to move the mess
    That we made all bloomin' day
    Let's tidy up
    It's tidy time
    It's time to go to bed
    And then we'll make the same old mess again

    Thursday, July 1

    Date night




    Last night, the little croutons stayed with Nanna and Bampa, so Mr Meep and I had a rare date night.

    On my way home from work, I stocked up on lovely M&S picnic goodies, like melt-in-the-mouth marinated artichokes and stuffed (di)vine leaves and olives and all kinds of yummies. I got home, we stuck it all in a rucksack, filled our little Kleen Kanteens with sauv blanc (me) and wheat beer (him), and trekked 45 minutes from our house up to the top of the Garth mountain in the sunshine.

    On the way up we picked wild strawberries from the hedgerows, trod in a cowpat (me) and said hello to lots of sheep.

    We picnic-ed at the top while looking across Cardiff and over the Bristol Channel. As we were finishing our picnic, we watched fireworks going off in Cardiff Bay.

    It was perfect.

    Monday, June 21

    Happy Birthday Molly

    DISCLAIMER: This post is not for the feint hearted.

    I wonder how many people have this on their kitchen chalk boards?



    Yesterday was Molly's 1st birthday. As she was too little for pressies, we marked the occasion with a little ceremony in the garden, where we buried her placenta under a blueberry bush (her favourite fruit).



    It was warm and sunny, just like the night she was born just a few feet away in our bedroom.

    And just like the night she was born, we had a little toast to Molly and ate some cake.

    My friend B says it's all a bit "knit your own lentils".

    Happy birthday, my summer solstice sunshine girl.
    x

    Sunday, June 13

    Photomarathon 2010

    Yesterday, I took part in my first ever Photomarathon, probably the most mentally gruelling creative challenge ever, ever.

    Basically, you get 12 topics in 12 hours and you have to produce 12 photos, no more no less. You pick up four topics every four hours, then get free bus and rail travel to whizz all over Cardiff taking pics.

    Sounds lovely, but actually very hard and very tiring (but lots of fun). I went everywhere from Cardiff Bay Asda to Penarth Pier to Roath Park looking for inspiration. Last night I even had a recurring dream about trying to photograph a topic.

    Here are my pics, and these were the topics.
    1. Your entry number and giant 2. Aroma 3. On a shoe string 4. Inspiration 5. Up in the air 6. Arc 7. Seven 8. Fail 9. Old school 10. Contemporary 11. Backwards 12. Identity

    I also tried to make mine fit together as a set, by including something red in each one. Talk about making it hard for myself.



    Don't think I'll win any prizes, but I had a great day out. Can't wait for the exhibition in July and see what everyone else came up with.

    And today? Been to the beach, painted 15 children's faces at Gwen's friend's birthday party (have progressed from butterflies and cats and now can do Spiderman and vampires too). Now off to Mr Meep's gig (he's in a gothic psychadelic folk band, don't ya know).

    But first, the children are at nana's, so it's Earl Grey and the Observer on the sofa. And a little bit of my lovely chocolate vegan cake (you would never tell it was not the real thing).

    Thursday, June 10

    3 encounters with James Dean Bradfield

    The reason I like Cardiff is, even though it's a city, it's small enough to have a community feel. There are circles that we mix in and people that we see all the time. There's the arty crowd from Chapter, voluntary sector workers, baby-wearing Steiner mammas... Wherever you go, you see people you know or familiar faces. (And if you go to the Farmers Market on a Sunday, you see all of them).

    One person who seems to hang around in all the same places as us is James Dean Bradfield.

    Encounter Number 1
    It was New Year's Eve 1999 - the night the Manics were to play their Manic Millennium gig at the Millennium Stadium. Mr Meep and I went into town to do a bit of shopping - never my favourite activity. It was packed,
    I had that horrible winter feeling of cold outside = thick coats = overly central heated shops = hot cross Meep. Everyone was pushing and shoving and rushing about. I had an existential crisis about the futility of the human condition (this happens every time I go to shops, especially Asda). In the midst of all the chaos, someone showed me that it wasn't all bad. Grappling through hoards of people trying to get into the Gap sale, someone stepped back, held the door open, smiled and said "After you." It was James Dean Bradfield.

    Encounter Number 2
    Fast forward to 2008 and Gwen about 18 months old. She's just got her first pair of shoes and, as with socks before them, her favourite game is to pull them off and fling them at passers by. We are in M&S stocking up on picnic food. Again, I've got a shop-on as it's lunch time and busy. Gwen doesn't care, she's busy yanking her shoes off. She struggles with one for ages, eventually gets it off and lobs it out of the side of the pushchair. It hits a bloke in the back. He turns round. "Oh, I'm so sorry," I say. "No problem'" he says and smiles. It was James Dean Bradfield.

    Encounter Number 3
    Tuesday night, I was at my photography class. It's break time and I'm faffing about at the cafe counter, pondering the merits of a soy hot chocolate versus a peppermint tea, and wondering whether to get the cookie with the smarties or the white choc chips. A couple behind me are looking at the menu too - I think they've got their eye on the curry of the day. I let them go before me. The man says "Thanks" and smiles. Who was it? Why, it was James Dean Bradfield.

    What lovely manners he has.

    Wednesday, May 26

    Gwen is Three



    Dear Gwen,
    Wow, you are now a bona fide little girl. The baby stage is long gone and the toddler years are a dwindling memory.

    You are a long-limbed, articulate 3-year-old girlie girl who likes:

    Boily eggs
    Dancing to songs on the iPod (current fav: Best of You by the Foo Fighters)
    Getting nakey
    Having a shower
    Making up nonsense words
    Wearing dresses, especially if they twirl
    Talking - a lot



    Your catty
    Telling people your name
    Whispering about naughty things like spitting and smacking
    Your cousin Emily
    Baking bread
    Making cakes
    The seaside
    Picnics
    Knickers



    You don't like:
    Bees, flies and other buzzy things
    Trousers
    Soya milk

    You are most likely to say:
    "I'm going to wear something from my Summer Collection, I am."
    "Can I wear your dress when I'm a bit bigger?"
    "Shall we have a little chill out?"
    "Actually Mammy, I'm going to have breakfast FIRST, then get dressed AFTER."
    "Can I spit when I brush my teeth? Is that OK? Yes?"




    You say funny things every single day. You breastfeed your teddies. You make imaginary games out of random objects. You like Emmy the Great's debut album. You tell me off if I'm grumpy.

    You rock.

    Happy birthday, snail.

    Love, Mama
    x

    Friday, May 14

    11 months



    Dear Molly,
    You are almost 11 months old and you have sunshine in your soul. Every day you cwtch and snuzzle and grin and coo and giggle and explore and make the cutest little noises as you get to know the world.

    You learnt to crawl at 8 months and have now progressed to pulling yourself up on things and bouncing up and down with excitement at your new-found abilities.

    Your gurgles and shouts are also getting a bit more communicative. Pulling toys out of a box is accompanied by a sort of 'Ta-da!' sound and things you like the look of at lunchtime are met with an inquisitive 'Oooooo' noise.



    You like playing peek-a-boo, tearing up paper with your teeth, crawling around with socks and teddies in your mouth (just like Blod), playing the bongos, climbing up my legs, strumming the guitar, cake (oops), Blod's water bowl, dancing when you hear music, digging the soil in the garden with your fingers, trying to put your hands in the toilet bowl, clapping, exploring the vegetable drawer of the fridge, and eating sand at the beach.

    In fact, for someone so sweet, you can be a bit unsavoury. The other morning you did a stinky poo, then weed on the carpet as soon as I took your nappy off, then did a huge burp, then sneezed and produced two green snot trails, then sicked up over me - all within about half an hour.

    But whatever you get up to, you just have to flash me your big gummy grin and all is forgiven, my stinky, sunshine girl.

    Love,
    Mama
    x

    Thursday, May 6

    Making me smile


    Cute summer shoes
    Nakd bars
    Marina and the Diamonds (especially when Gwen sings along)
    The expression 'mooching about'
    Dreaming of a cohousing community
    Weekend food swaps with my neighbour
    Notebook gorgeousness (the pages are pink!)
    Two small people napping in the afternoons - at the same time

    Wednesday, May 5

    Gwenisms


    When I'm a bit bigger I'm going to have pink contact lenses, made of strawberries

    Is there milk in your boobs? Is it cow's milk or soya milk?

    This t-shirt hasn't got any armsleeves

    Are you wearing a milkbra?

    Where's that snail gone? Has he slimed away?

    Monday, May 3

    An Amelie Moment

    As I seem to be incapable of taking nice pictures of my family, I've enrolled on a Photographing People course. This week, we looked at self portraits and I came over all Amelie Poulin.

    Tuesday, March 30

    Oh how I wish I was Sophie Dahl

    Oh how my life would be perfect if I could just be Sophie Dahl.



    Gorgeous Sophie.

    So incredibly beautiful.



    Articulate and intelligent.

    Those amazing eyes.



    An impressive selection of dresses.

    Writes rather lovely novels.



    And now, she cooks as well.

    Oh, how my life would be perfect if I could just be Sophie Dahl.

    (And she's named after my favourite lentil-based Indian dish.)