Happy Tracks in the Snow

sustainable parenting working from home children books yoga storytelling Woodcraft environment

calm after the storm February 1, 2008


So the fifth birthday has come and gone, complete with 34 small boys dressed as pirates and 2 small princesses watching the antics of a grown man dressed as a pirate (aka Captain Barnacle / Mr Brown’s Pig). Turning 5 made Gabe question his own mortality with a lot of discussion about death and the apparent belief that he was now that much closer to his own…

This week also saw me jumping neatly out of my comfort zone to perform in the Bristol Storytelling Festival’s Storytelling Slam Competition thingy. No I didn’t win but I didn’t make a fool of myself either and was even voted for by real people and everything. I chose a Cuban folk tale from Barefoot’s ‘Riddle Me This’ by the wonderful Hugh Lupton – a brilliant book about riddles and puzzling tales.

I have to confess to being one of the transgressors who’s tangled up in the Inland Revenue’s website problems, still haven’t filed my return as it’s still down, painstakingly reconciling stock in and out for the books was fun, especially as I hadn’t kept my records up-to-date. I won’t even bother to say it won’t be like that next year!

Next week is Chinese New Year so I’ll be running all over Bristol doing special Tatty Bumpkin sessions at nurseries, schools and the like with my big papier mache dragon head… Some activities to come on that…


Dates for your diary January 21, 2008

Filed under: Barefoot Books - titles,Bristol news,storytelling — paulabrown @ 6:40 pm

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  • National Storytelling Week begins – 26 January – in Bristol this has manifested itself as the Bristol Storytelling Festival
  • Shrove Tuesday (Barefoot Book recommendation: Mama Panya’s Pancakes is a great book with a Kenyan pancake recipe!) – 7 Feb
  • Chinese New Year – 7 Feb (recommends Great Race)
  • World Book Day – 6 March
  • St Patrick’s Day – 17 March (Paula recommends Barefoot’s Tales of Old Ireland)
  • Vegetarian Week – 19 May (Barefoot’s Herb The Vegetarian Dragon!)

Wassailing January 18, 2008

Filed under: Bristol news,environment,garden,the kids — paulabrown @ 9:59 am


** Saturday Wassail in the allotments behind the prison off Bishop Rd in Bristol 2-4pm **

Wassailing refers, among other things, to the practice of singing to trees in apple orchards in cider-producing regions of England. Wassail is an ale-based drink seasoned with spices and honey. It was served from huge bowls, often made of silver or pewter and often passed around the room to be shared – known as the Loving Cup. The Wassail bowl would be passed around with the greeting, ‘Wassail’.

Wassail gets its name from the Old English term “waes hael”, meaning “be well”. It was a Saxon custom that, at the start of each year, the lord of the manor would shout ‘waes hael’. The assembled crowd would reply ‘drinc hael’, meaning ‘drink and be healthy’.

As time went on, the tradition was carried on by people going from door to door, bearing good wishes and a wassail bowl of hot, spiced ale. In return people in the houses gave them drink, money and Christmas fare (special foods eaten during Christmas time e.g. mince pies) and they believed they would receive good luck for the year to come.

The contents of the bowl varied in different parts of the country, but a popular one was known as lambs wool. It consisted of ale, baked apples, sugar, spices, eggs, and cream served with little pieces of bread or toast. It was the bread floating on the top that made it look like lamb’s wool.

Apple tree wassailing is a ceremony which involves drinking to the health of the apple trees.

The Apple trees were sprinkled with wassail to ensure a good crop. Villagers would gather around the apple trees with pots and pans and made a tremendous racket to raise the Sleeping Tree Spirit and to scare off demons.

The biggest and best tree was then selected and cider poured over its roots. Pieces of toast soaked in cider were placed in the forks of branches. The wassail song was sung or chanted as a blessing or charm to bring a good apple harvest the following year.

This custom was especially important during a time when part of a labourer’s wages was paid in apple cider. Landlords needed a good apple crop to attract good workers. Wassailing was meant to keep the tree safe from evil spirits until the next year’s apples appeared.

Thanks to Woodland Junior School in Kent for that info!


Outdoor Fridays and other fun things December 26, 2007

Filed under: Bristol news — paulabrown @ 8:54 pm

A friend of mine, Tamar, organises ‘Outdoor Fridays’ for preschoolers to do something… well.. outdoors.

This Friday they are meeting outside St Werburgh’s cafe at 10 for a walk up onto the hill.  Last time they went it took about 2 hours and they walked a circular route but we could go and come back the same way if we wanted to make it shorter.  Bring a drink and snack to have at the bench at the top of the hill – there are lovely views from there.

Also check out Pirate Pete’s Harbour Pirate walks at weekends at 2pm and look out for Talk Like a Pirate day coming soon…


Christmas… October 5, 2007

Filed under: Bristol news,parenting articles — paulabrown @ 7:47 pm


So it’s going to come whether you like it or not and I have only 3 things to say on the matter:

1) Please enjoy my Christmas haiku:





Over by the 26th of December.

Teachers please don’t comment on the un-haiku-ness of this haiku, I wrote it when I was 13, so young did my dislike of Christmas begin. Years have gone by and children have eroded this into first apathy and now downright enjoyment of this tinsely and elongated festie. Now you’ll find me making homemade tree decos while humming an absurdly modern version of the Holly and the Ivy…

2) please buy Barefoot Books as children’s Christmas presents – consider it fair trade or something to buy from a mum struggling (literally) to rear her family and make a living at the same time! www.mybarefootbooks.com/PaulaBrown. Slightly daft Christmas CD by Putumayo is featured in image above, music from around the world and lots of fun.

3) if you live in Bristol, are self-employed, not working or your office Christmas do is downright dull, email me at paulabrown@mybarefootbooks.com to join us on our not-employed Christmas do – a motley crue of full-time mums, self-employed loners, those who tend to make a spectacle of themselves at their office do and need to give it a miss this year. Last year we went to the One Stop Thali cafe and were serenaded by a man playing a saw, yes a real saw. Where will it be this year? Who knows but it’ll be serene, we might even have 3 glasses of wine this year and maybe even dance…

So do join the tired-mums-and-dads-Christmas-dinner, more fun than it sounds!


Singing in the rain – the tale of a very soggy Street Party! September 24, 2007

Filed under: Bristol news,parenting articles,Paula recommends,the kids — paulabrown @ 9:17 pm

So the sun shone all week and has done since but the afternoon of the street party was a wet one. But more bonding was done under the slightly leaking canvas of our gazebo than would have happened dotted about the street at tables in the sun!

People brought pictures of one of the first airplanes every manufactured in Britain (about 2 miles away at Filton where British Aerospace are based) taking a little trip using the now Bristol Rovers ground (about 50m from our street) as a runway. There were pictures of street parties for the Jubilee and Di’s wedding, some hot dog consumption and a lot of banter. Nige (DH) had made the kids a go cart out of old bike bits and they loved not having cars on the street and whizzing down with too many of them bundled in!

Check out Streets Alive website if you fancy having one yourself (they are Bristol based and apparently we are the street party capital of Europe with one small area having over 25 in the summer!). I highly recommend it and it was the easiest and cheapest party to organise as we kept it dead simple! Photos to follow!


Peace August 9, 2007

Filed under: Barefoot Books - titles,Bristol news,parenting articles — paulabrown @ 9:58 pm


So the next thing I’m working on is Peace Day – International Peace Day is Sept 21st and another Barefoot Books stallholder and I are organising a peace tree. Basically we are sending leaf-shaped card in various greens to many Bristol schools for them to decorate and write messages on, forming their own peace tree. We’re going to have another one at the central library which NCT, Rainbows etc groups can decorate and a storytelling / children’s (Tatty Bumpkin) yoga session with a peace theme to match.

It coincides with the release of One City, Two Brothers, mentioned before in another post. I have a competition – visit www.mybarefootbooks.com/PaulaBrown to find out which King the two brothers have to stand before – answers on an email (paulabrown@mybarefootbooks.com), correct ones picked at random on 1st Sept and will win 4 tickets to see Chris Smith’s workshop in Bath at the Children’s Literature Festival (the first festival of its kind ever, so go support it! www.bathkidslitfest.co.uk).