Saturday, 21 January 2012

a bump in the road

Friends, I have spent a long time away from this space. Increasingly busy family life (three children at school has greatly increased our commitments in that area), time spent working on Natural Mothers Network and a difficult-to-put-my-finger-on-it lethargy have stopped me from posting for some months.

In December, I found a lump in my breast. This week, it was diagnosed as cancer. We are in a tailspin, as you can imagine. I don't have any obvious risk factors, breastfed all the children, eat well, and have no family history. "Why me?!" is the obvious, but unanswerable, question.

I am going to try to start posting here more regularly again. It's such an important record for our family, and I originally started this blog as a focus for all the positives in our lives. Right now, positivity is more important than it's ever been. But I have also started another blog - My Bad Boob - to chronicle my journey through breast cancer.

I share the new blog with a disclaimer: it may not be a pretty space.

If you are still visiting Mama Chalk, thank you for your patience. Blessings on you, and blessings on me.

Monday, 19 September 2011

tuesday's child

Born on a Tuesday in the early evening, on a beautiful Indian Summer's day, Imogen brought a bright vivacity and a tender heart into our family. My dark-haired, home-birthed vbac baby arrived a little late to her own party, but made sure we knew she had finally made it! Such a gentle little soul she has grown into...sometimes a dreamer, sometimes a scamp, but always - always - full of wonder and love for everything around her.
We wish you a very happy fifth birthday,
dear Imogen.

Monday, 8 August 2011

exciting news

I am thrilled to share some exciting news with you. I have had the great honour of being asked to join my dear friend in launching a new online community space for families interested in living more naturally.

Rebecca and me at the Staverton Fayre last summer.

Rebecca Watkins, who I have had the pleasure of knowing for the best part of 20 years, is the person who first introduced me to the ideas of living more simply, of taking greater care over the food I eat, and of parenting by instinct. We met when our eldest children were newborn babies (those 'babies' are now approaching adulthood!) and we now have seven children between us. Through our families' emigrations - us to America and them to France - and subsequent returns to England, our friendship has remained strong, and we have continued throughout the years to share a yearning for a simple, natural lifestyle.

A few months ago, Rebecca and her husband John realised that whilst there are plenty of parenting websites and communities on the net, there was a definite lack of social networking geared towards families choosing to live gently and parent gently. A seed was germinating.

John, me and Rebecca at their wedding in 2001.

Natural Mothers Network aims to provide a place where families can come together and share the parenting journey. You can start a blog (perhaps you already blog but would like a space where you can concentrate on another aspect of your family life - gardening, health or education for instance), there's a chat cafe, a webzine and the facility to network with like-minded families. For a lot of us, it's easy to feel a little isolated sometimes; I have friends who are the only person they know of in their local area using cloth nappies, for instance. The internet has provided the opportunity to connect with like-minded friends wherever we are in the world. We are hoping to create a space where you'll find lively debate and discussion about the topics that are important to families, whilst still being a supportive, friendly environment.

Becoming a member of Natural Mothers Network is free, quick and easy. We also have a Facebook page and a Twitter account (naturalmothers) - we'd love it if you joined us over there (and bear with me while I get used to tweeting!).

We have some big plans in the coming months...sponsored giveaways, guest writers, book reviews and more. Come check us out!

Friday, 5 August 2011

technical difficulties

For some reason, Blogger is not allowing me to post comments - on this blog or any other Blogger account. When I go to sign in, it just redirects  me to my 'anonymous' comment and the whole process starts over again. So I am not ignoring you! And if anyone knows how I can fix this, I'd be grateful for advice.

this moment: the s'more the merrier

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

inspired by amanda soule

Monday, 1 August 2011

recipe: blueberry herman pancakes

My grandparents had a little cabin in the North Woods of Minnesota. As a child, I did not realise how lucky I was to have the experience of spending long, lazy days on an unspoiled lake at the edge of an endless forest. It wasn't fancy. 'Having a shower' meant slinging your towel around your neck and descending the hill to the lake, where you'd hang your head over the edge of the dock, counting to ten before plunging it into the icy water. 'Using the facilities' meant picking your way through brambles to the little leaning-over outhouse, praying that you would niether collect splinters in your bumcheeks nor become the victim of a marauding bottom-biting spider.

But it was the stuff memories were made of: learning to play gin rummy, baking kolaczki with Grandma, canoeing out to the island and toasting s'mores on the campfire. And there was a special treat for a child growing up in the tropical heat of Florida - blueberry-picking. Those dusky, purplish marbles we plucked from scratchy bushes seemed so exotic to me. I savoured every berry, popping each one into my mouth and rolling it around on my tongue before squishing the juice out sharply between my teeth.

When I first came to England, blueberries were hard to find. But now, like most things, they are readily available in the supermarket (during the summer months, at least). I bought two punnets the other day. When the impatient children had given up on begging to eat them right away, I sneaked a round little berry into my mouth. Pop! Not quite as sweet and juicy as I remembered. But close.

Blueberry Herman Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup
The sour Herman starter, buttermilk or plain yoghurt balances the sweetness of the syrup and the sharpness of the blueberries.
makes about 16 4-inch pancakes

for the pancakes
2 C plain/all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp white sugar/honey/barley malt syrup/sweetener of your choice
1 C Herman starter (if you don't have any starter, you may substitute buttermilk or live yoghurt)
2/3 C vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 C milk
1 C blueberries

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients, including the Herman starter, in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Stir dry ingredients into the wet mixture, mixing well - don't worry if your batter is lumpy. The batter may be used right away, but it improves if left for at least half an hour and can be kept, covered, in the fridge for a couple of days.

Preheat your pan (I like to use a well-seasoned cast iron skillet) to a medium heat. You should not need to oil your pan because there is oil in the batter. Drop 1/3 of a cup of batter into the centre of the hot pan.  Right away, drop 6-10 blueberries into the batter in the pan. When the top of the pancake is full of little bubble holes, use a spatula to turn it over and cook on the other side for 30 seconds or so. Pour syrup over and eat immediately, or keep warm in the oven until all your pancakes are ready.

for the blueberry syrup
1/2 C blueberries
1C golden syrup (or maple syrup if you're feeling indulgent)
1/8 C water

Place the water and the berries into a small saucepan on a medium heat. Cook until the berries begin to break down. Reduce heat to lowest setting and add the syrup. Stir and keep warm until needed.