Here's how to make easy vegetable stock from kitchen scraps. This is my quick way to make sure we always have fresh stock to hand for soups, stews and thinning down sauces while still keeping things flavourful. The best part is you can make this as you go and freeze it in small batches in ziplock bags. Need more stock? Grab a few extra bags from your freezer!Read More
So the start of 2017 hasn't been as healing as many of us had hoped. Usually, the New Year means a tidal wave of 'New You' messages, diet adverts and 30 day challenges. This one has felt more like something we can't get a foothold on yet. It's felt hard to find the positive some days.
I'd planned an entire podcast season around the prompt word 'healing' and it felt timely. Guests were lined up that were political, insightful or just downright mindbogglingly inspiring. I had dates in my diary for releases. I was ready to champion the action we could take and offer up podcasts designed to keep us feeling we had community and heart and soul. Somehow though, I'm sat here in February and my diary doesn't have one deadline to do with A Playful Day written down.
While I was looking at the many New Year launches, I started to notice that the answer offered was always 'more'. Sat here on a Sunday night with Florence and the Machine for company I can't help but wonder, what if more is the problem? When did doing more become such a thing? What about less? Wouldn't less bring better life balance and happiness?
So, I decided. 2017 will be my online gap year.
Pretty snazzy huh? Florence is thrashing out lyrics asking "What are we going to do? We've opened the door and it's all coming though" and I'm smiling. Isn't that exactly how 2017 has felt so far with big news stories and scary politics and so many of us struggling to grow a business with rising cost of living?
So this online gap year feels like a pretty good fit about now. I'm going to be removing any planning or schedule for the foreseeable future. For a while now, I haven't been feeling like the online world is the fun playground I wanted it to be. There's things happening across the world that are weird and frightening and I want time to digest that and think about how I can subvert that message of hate and distrust. I don't want to be more noise in an already saturated space. I want to grow some roots and just live outside the bubble for a bit.
But let's keep in touch ok?
I have a few jobs that are making me so happy right now. If you're a fibre artist, you might like what I'm creating as the newly appointed Brand Manager at The Fibre Co. The team there make me feel good every time I check in for today's assignments and the yarn doesn't hurt either. Then there's creating features at Project Calm Magazine. I have workshops booked in and collections I'm shooting images for so there will be things and news but it's not going to be just about me, A Playful Day. If you'd like all this in a handy newsletter, I'm going to send those out to show you the world I'm hiding in. Come along. Gap years are about where we travel together right?
The podcast might come back, I might get back to blogging regularly and get The Taste. Who knows? I'm just saying I'm open to possibility and if you are too then do, please, reach out. It's always good to create inspiring things together and I have plenty of that booked in for 2017. There was a daring whisper of retreats and I'm seeing how that will fit in with these new roles I'm settling into with inspiring brands I've admired for a while.
So I'll be around, like that friend you bump into one day after a while and has lots of news. I'll be sharing what I'm up to on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter (@aplayfulday across the board) and I'll let you know about new projects you can be a part of via the newsletter. Or I'll just be quiet and that's ok too because the thing is, to be successful, the answer isn't always try harder or do more. It's to think about why you feel the need to do that in the first place.
I'll be right back. You take care now xxx
"I use creativity to get my moments of peace. It is an anchor."- Melanie Barnes
In this episode I’m sharing a conversation with a mother and blogger that felt very important to include in this season’s discussion of family. Creativity is a big theme for this podcast and the events in our life can very often impact our focus. For any of us who have been entirely lost in crafting and making in the face of life being a little more than we can bear or suddenly discovered we can create when given the time and space to do it, I’m sure you will relate to today’s guest.
Melanie Barnes writes and creates online as Geoffrey and Grace and I was glad to find her a few years ago. I was instantly drawn to her reflections on gratitude and life that didn’t leave me feeling guilty for the life I felt I should be living compared to those online. Melanie’s words and images are beautiful but not untouchable and so it will come as no surprise this interview was gentle and thoughtful.
In this episode we touch on issues of fertility, our identity as mothers and the difficult assumptions people make around choosing to start a family. It mattered to me that this was a very audible voice and I'm thrilled Melanie was so willing to explore her experiences with us.
"Tell her your troubles, she's a good listener"
These words, whispered in my daughter's ear one evening sealed her love for our beautiful coastline. My tiny 3 year old, who has become positively wild from her new life of catching bugs in meadows, stills each time she sees the sea. It was during a recent beach visit recently that she turned to me in complete awe and asked why I love the sea so much. After giving her the simplest answer I could, that I pour all my feelings into the sea, I noticed her staring at the waves in a way that I recognised well. Turning our thoughts over to the sea has become a habit we're growing together and just like Mama, she's letting the sea figure it all out for her. I sit quietly, watching her stare at the waves and before long her words and questions start to come. When she's done, we leave all those words there on the beach, for the tide to take away for us.
We find ourselves running regularly to the coast, eager for its vastness, its simplicity and its constantly changing shape. In Winter we greet it with flasks of warm milk and blankets but Summer is where the exploration starts in earnest. No longer weighed down by woollens, waterproofs and bracing against the ferocious wind that cuts through even the thickest layer, we scramble, dig, paddle and forage. A beach is my favourite playground and I'm so grateful that it has become my daughter's too.
So, when Hannah of Seeds and Stitches dropped me an email, asking me what my simple summer pleasure was, my mind turned instantly to our beach days. I grinned and thought of the longer stretches of light that's meant after school beach foraging extends to evening picnics at last. Sand in the bed is now a near constant and I'm entirely ok with that. Knowing how I love to soak in the best of days at the beach, Hannah invited me to share that joy as part of a new ecourse launching this week.
Hannah understands that Summer takes a little run up sometimes. Before long, gardens will be abundant, summer holidays just round the corner and travel companies will be vying for your last minute attention. It can start to feel as if Summer is getting way from you so Hannah's latest collaboration to help address that feeling seemed perfect. The project is called Stitch + Forage and is a new seasonal living project created by Hannah with Herbalist Natasha Richardson. Born out of a mutual love of wildlife, nature and a desire for a more mindful, joyful life, Stitch and Forage is designed for people with a touch of wild in their hearts. A self-paced E-guide that aims to inspire you to find easy affordable ways to incorporate slower, gentler, wilder living into your daily rhythms without compromising on style. The course is split into 4 modules: Forage, Make, Gather and Tend, and features contributors such as myself, Melanie of Geoffrey and Grace, Laura from Circle of Pine Trees, Sara from Me & Orla, and Rachel from The Foraged Life.
Stitch+Forage is now available for preorder and includes free resources with the sign up at the following link:
To get a little sneak peak of what we've all been creating together, you can also check out the hashtag #simplesummerpleasures on Instagram or Twitter. For my part in Stitch + Forage, I've included a loving look at how to make the best of the coast. I often fear prime time beach trips but have since realised there's more to enjoy than elbowing for room behind a windbreaker. I'm sharing ideas and activities for you and your family to find the same joy my daughter and I find from trips to the coast.
Happy Summer folks. Here's hoping it's a balmy one......
A few month's ago I was lucky enough to be invited to curate a knitwear collection for Knit Now Magazine. Given a blank canvas, I suggested the concept of 'A Slow Moment'. The collection began from the words "Nest. Be still. Be creative & soak up some mid afternoon sun in sleek, comfortable knits". I gleefully filled a Pinterest board with beautiful blankets, this season's pastels and then a good slathering of rustic/ grey love for the designers to ponder. We then turned it over to the designers to see what they made of it.
As the pitches started to roll in, Kate, editor in chief at Knit Now, sent me an email "Do you think we should include a cookie recipe?"
The reply was simple.
"The answer is always yes to cookie recipes"
So I set about reworking my first ever recipe on this blog, Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies. In the interests of thoroughness, Little One and I made quite a few batches. Dutifully, my little girl taste tested each meticulously and I wondered if oatmeal cookies could replace an entire meal. When they're a little chewy and filled with Chocolate Orange, I think cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner is the only way to go.
When the time came to generate some suitable images for the publication, my mind drifted to cosy Sunday afternoons with legs curled beneath you and a stack of recipes books and knitting to plod through. I decided to shoot a little tin of the cookies at Deans Court as their recently renovated holiday cottages are the perfect backdrop for slow afternoons like these. I made tea. I nibbled cookies between shots. I pondered whether adding chocolate orange to everything was acceptable. (These are the places your mind goes when you spend time shooting knitwear and cookies.)
The cookies were such a hit that if you're in Wimborne over the next few weeks, you'll find the cookies featured in Squash Court, the wonderful kitchen garden cafe at Deans Court. They've even shared the recipe for these delicious treats on their blog.
If you're too weighed down by your knitting to bookmark them via Deans Court or pick up Issue 59 of Knit Now, you can pin this mini version included below. For the full method and all my tips for chewy oaty goodness please do check out Deans Court or Knit Now. If you want to see the amazing job the designers did with the design brief, drop over to the pattern pages on the Pinterest Board, A Slow Moment and pick up the latest issue of the magazine. It's a pretty special feature.
175g/ 6oz butter
275g/ 9 ½ oz Demerara sugar
1 medium egg
4 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla essence
350g/ 13 oz rolled oats (the less processed the better)
140 g/ 5 oz plain flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g Terry’s Chocolate Orange, chopped
55g Hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1. Preheat oven to 180®c/ gas mark 4 and grease large baking sheet.
2. Cream butter and sugar together before beating in the egg, water, and vanilla essence.
3. In a separate bowl, mix oats, flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda before gradually stirring this into the butter mixture.
4. Once fully combined, fold in the chocolate chunks and hazelnuts.
5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins or until cookies are golden brown.
And here's a handy pin for you to save for your next baking session:
It's Sunday and once again I'm sat, music on (today Nina is telling me birds are flying high for those interested) and I'm gathering my thoughts. I've realised I always want to blog on Sundays lately. It's possibly because I take most of my photos at the weekend and have time to think outside of the frantic busy pace of the working week. I can't help but feel there's something else at play here though. There's something to be said about giving yourself time to think about what you want to share with the world.
That's what got me thinking about Slow Blogging. Slow Blogging is a movement to reclaim these online spaces and share thoughtful posts that we feel more invested in. When you blog or work in an industry that exists predominantly online, it can feel like you must keep up with the fast pace with which your creations are consumed. Bigger follower numbers, regular blog posts, new images and quick fire Twitter chats seem vital to your continued success. The level of burn out I see from people who lose themselves to beating the stats is so heartbreaking.
Yet, I've noticed something lately that gives me cheer. The content getting the deepest interaction and engagement, is the content telling the most heartfelt stories. I'm not necessarily talking about huge emotional moments, more a sense of investment from the person publishing the blog post or image. I sense that the online world has started to hit 'Peak Click' and now we are looking to root our experiences in real life too. Events and gatherings springing up from online hangouts are happening with more frequency. Also I'm fairly sure that the posts that go viral lately are those which speak to us as people not consumers.
Is it just me?
It's meant that I'm really looking forward to the next workshop I'm teaching in a week at A Yarn Story in Bath. We'll be exploring how to tell your story online if you're a creative business owner or blogger. There's a few spaces left and I would love to sit and hear what makes you tick as a creative person and then help you to get that story online.
It's not about stats and it's time we stopped being consumed by them. I understand it's frustrating to feel there's a vast echo of nothing when you post and believe me, I've caught myself feeling like I need to churn out content for the sake of keeping my voice heard. What I'm advocating is a gentle storytelling combined with some serious reflection about what you truly want to achieve. The two do not need to be mutually exclusive. My own experience has been that Slow Blogging builds an audience much more effectively. I love to see regular commenters and chat on Twitter with people reacting to what I've chosen to share. It feels more like a flow of conversation between long distance friends.
If you would like to join us to think about how you're presenting your story online, you can join us at 10 am on Saturday 6th February 2016. All details can be found on A Yarn Story's website here, including tickets.
If you want to read more about what others have to say about the Slow Blogging movement, you can find some thought provoking posts pinned on my Pinterest board, Love your Blog. If it has struck a chord, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
In the last 2 podcasts, I've been exploring the theme 'Capture' and gathering stories from creatives who record and share their creativity using a rich variety of media. In exploring this word, I've thought a lot about Instagram and the many makers I've discovered thanks to community hashtags. It made sense to invite Melanie and Danielle onto the blog today to share their Slow Living Project. You can find Melanie as @geoffreyandgrace and Danielle as @hippieindisguise.
Please introduce yourselves and your online spaces
Hello, I am Melanie, the mother behind the lifestyle blog Geoffrey & Grace. I wanted to create an online space that would be a home for wholehearted and creative living, as they are two things that are fundamental to how I live my life. I am a writer and maker and have a big love for photography. Along with three other makers I co-created Margot, the beach hut makery.
D: And, hello, I’m Danielle. I am a mother of two, working full-time as a government advisor, pursuing my artistic interests on the side through photography, blogging and creative collaborations. My website is Hippie in Disguise, where I focus on art and adventure with my children, with a slow, eco and minimalist focus. I like to share stories, interviews with inspiring parents, minimalists, creatives, small brands and shops. The space is also home to my nature-based creative projects, like my Mother Nature leaf dress. In addition, I’m currently on the editorial team at Enfants Terribles Magazine, a European children’s fashion magazine focused on play, creativity and imagination. Basically, I don’t sleep.
How did you both meet?
We found each other on Instagram. When I had the beginnings of the idea for a slow living project, I knew I wanted to collaborate with someone, and Danielle was the first person I thought of. I thought the project would be just her sort of thing, and I had a feeling I would enjoy working with her.
D: Like so many friendships, we met online, through Instagram, as Melanie said. Social networks have been an amazing source of inspiration for me, but also a new way to connect with people who share my interests. I love that social networks enable us to connect with people regardless of geographic location.
For those who have not discovered it, what is your Slow Living hashtag?
It’s a year long project with the aim of helping others (and us) think about how they can have a piece of ‘slow living’ every day. Each month we choose a different theme to focus on, for example the first month looked at exploring the world around you (#slowliving_explore), and this month we are celebrating the change of the seasons with the hashtag #slowliving_bloomandharvest. We want the hashtag to help people think about those precious moments of stillness that are there every day, but we are sometimes in too much of a rush to see.
D: Melanie said it well, the Slow Living Project, as I like to call it, is about bringing people together and inspiring each other around the notion of slow living. For me, slow living is really about presence, about living in the moment, fully, wholeheartedly, without that time travel forward and back that our minds are want to do. There are monthly themes, for example, in September we focused on ‘create’. Over the course of the year we want to look at all the different ways we can bring a slow living approach to our lives, through the seasons and holidays, in the home and outdoors, with family and friends.
Why did you choose to collaborate in this way?
To me Instagram is all about those special little moments that are captured and shared. Plus, photography is one of the things that helps me slow down and find some stillness. It therefore seemed obvious to use Instagram as a way to create a community (through the hashtag) and disseminate some slow living. This seems kind of obvious to write, but when we slow things down, there is the opportunity to be more wholehearted and present with the moments we have. I think it’s those wholehearted, connected moments, that keep us all going.
D: Both Melanie and I are very visual people, we love to capture moments visually and to view others’ images for inspiration. We thought sharing slow living moments visually would work really well and would attract people, it also sets aside any language barrier that might come with capturing and sharing moments through the written word alone. Even though not everyone can read our blog posts, as the hashtag travels through the Instagram network others can pick up on it through context and by viewing the images under the hashtag gallery, and then join in.
What have you enjoyed the most about people's contributions to the hashtags?
It’s so lovely to have a glimpse into other people’s lives through the photos they share and the captions they choose to write. I am continuously inspired by the community that is growing as a result of the hashtag. I also love that the slow living hashtags are continuing to develop and be used even when we have moved on to another theme.
D: Well, obviously, there is the visual and intellectual inspiration the images provide. But, what I’ve loved most is seeing the many ways people interpret the same word. Each theme has captured people’s imaginations in different ways, and this has translated into a beautiful range of captured moments. I underestimated the variety we would see, it has been a lovely surprise.
Finally, how do you like to capture the month's theme and bring everything together before moving on to another month's focus?
We have a list of words that we are hoping to use throughout the year. Each month though, we think about what the following month means for us, and what it might mean to others. We then talk about a suitable word that will capture people’s imaginations and inspire them to want to get involved.
Danielle and I got to meet last month through FaceTime and it was great to be able to talk face to face. Otherwise, lots of emails are exchanged as we both have been struggling to select the photos that are our favourites for the month. There are so many beautiful images shared in the gallery, and we always have a very long shortlist. We do a monthly ‘blog round up’ about the project on our blogs, and between us we aim to convey the spirit of the community over on Instagram as well as the wonderful creativity that is present in the gallery.
D: We each take our own approach and individually choose our favourites from the contributions and then compare notes to see which we have in common. These common favourites are shared through Instagram in a grid of 4. Then we each post our individual favourites to our blogs -- which usually requires a lot of further trimming down, as we usually have 30 favourites each! So, it’s always a nice surprise to see what Melanie posts and how she strings the selections together. I like that we take our own approach to selecting and curating the images. For me, I tend to choose images that reflect a diversity of interpretations of the theme, I’m also a little biased toward images that had a particularly insightful caption or images that capture children through the theme. We like each month to have a fresh focus, so based on how the month develops and what we see in the gallery we choose a new theme from our brainstormed list of ideas that will allow people to expand their thinking around slow living and capture something new.
Karen Templer's Slow Fashion October has given me plenty of food for thought. Her prompt last week (SMALL) and this week (LOVED) has helped me make connections that I hadn't fully appreciated up till now.
I don't craft particularly fast. I am not a speed knitter and I rarely find time for other making such as crochet or embroidery despite a keen interest in both. When I complete a project I'm thrilled but more often than not, I move on to the next thing as it's the creation that I crave more than anything.
In my mind, my daughter and I wear hand knits all year round without any need to 'top up' with store bought items. Our sweaters are plentiful and there's the right accessory for every weather condition. I'd make simple skirts and a play apron for little one that would be a quick afternoon spent on the sewing machine rather than a guilt ridden click on a website for a ready made.
In my mind, I'm living the life I crave: not consuming but creating. I rework clothes with hand stitching, sewing, patching or modifications which means that I don't need to constantly buy new. I am able to Make Do and Mend because I have the skills and time with which to execute these tasks.
However, the reality is that I don't even make half as much as I wish and what's more, those things I do create have been slowly given away over the last few years.
In searching my wardrobe for my most loved and cherished handknit while I prepared to respond to Karen's words 'Small' and 'Loved' made me realise that there is a limited supply of handknits in my wardrobe despite many years of knitting diligently. My ruthlessness when it comes to clutter means that handknits that are not being used quickly find themselves repurposed or donated. I recently gave 8-9 pieces like this to the collection for Syria, grief stricken that families would have come to us so cold from the water just to head into Winter without a handknit to bring them comfort.
So this tells me a huge amount about my crafting and I've started to question how functional it really is. Am I whimsically creating or am I trying to clothe my family? There's joy in both and making something because it makes your heart sing to do so is certainly not a wasted endeavor in my humble opinion.
However, as I look at my tired looking hand knit socks that I rarely photograph, I realise that the most functional items of my handmade wardrobe are the smallest and least celebrated. In my life it would seem that warm feet and cosy toes triumph over all.
What about you? Do you have a few go to items that you've made?