Mrs Fox's Garden, Hertfordshire

The snail with the deformed shell that we allow to roam the rockery, he's been around for a few months now.
I posted the other week about our allotment and linked up to Mammasaurus' "How does your garden grow..." linky.  Well, I got a right ticking off from the garden.

What, not good enough for you?
Not flat enough, productive enough, edible enough, photogenic enough...?

You get the idea.  So, I thought I had better even it up with a post on the garden too.  How about a little tour.  Here, let me take you around in 5 quick steps, it's not a big garden:

1.  It isn't flat - One of the original negatives when we first saw our house is that our garden is on a steep slope.  The slope makes it rather hard to photograph.

The garden looking from the house to the studio at the back

Previous owners of our house terraced the garden with an awful lot of concrete. The concrete has meant a four year "greening up" process.  That is still on-going, hence the orange plastic fencing below.

The garden looking from the studio down to the house.

2.  The Pergola - As I mentioned to Jean (notsupermum) there is always a bit of a struggle between the garden and the allotment.  Time is never on your side with two small children, two small dogs and a small business to run.  But there is nothing I enjoy more than a sunny day, friends over for a meal, all of us sat out in the garden and the children running around like loons.  I love to cook, I love to eat (& drink a good wine) and I love to have had a hand in growing the things I eat.  The pergola has a grape vine growing over it, houses our garden table and chairs, providing shade on those (occasional) sunny days.  From the grapes we've made a just about palatable white table wine and from the vine leaves, dolma, that we make just as soon as the leaves are big enough. As you can see this year they've a bit of a ways to go yet.

3. The Studio - The garden is a constant source of creativity and inspiration.  So when we decided that the horror of a garage at the top of the garden should be knocked down and rebuilt as a smaller garage with a garden room, initially to be my studio.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

There she is in all her pristine glory, still not quite finished, but we all love the new garage/studio.  There is a playhouse for the children under the stairs, Storage under the balcony for all the gardening items and in the roof for everything else.  The balcony is a sun trap beloved by the dogs and wonderful for growing on my plants.

4.  The plants that rule the garden:  Aquilegia it has self-seeded into every nook and cranny in the garden, now so cross pollinated that I have no idea what colour any of it will come through, I enjoy the surprise. The common name for aquilegia is "columbine" which comes from the Latin for "dove", this is apparently due to the resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves clustered together (look a the pink one below to get what I mean).  Even though it is almost a weed in our garden I still love it, both the shape of the flower...

and the shape of the leaf, which reminds me of a ginko leaf.

5. The plants that rule the garden: - Forget-me-not before we had children we had Bilbo, our basset hound, he died four years ago and we were so bereft.  Our vet sent us a condolence card with a packet of forget-me-not seeds. They are now so abundant in our garden that they are in direct competition with the aquilegia for every one of those nooks and crannies.  While they may be small they are persistent, stubborn like our basset hound was.  And while they may not have the immediate impact of the aquilegia they have a tiny perfectness that I truly love.

For more beautiful pictures of gardens check out:

Mammasaurus - How Does Your Garden Grow?

Mrs Fox's May Crafty Box - Growing

Lara the cat agrees that Mrs Fox's Crafty Boxes are fun for the half term holidays!

We love to get pictures from our little crafty foxes and this month's box has obviously been a big hit in Lara's household.

This month's box was based around growing things and so here you can see our little herb seed pots all planted up and ready to flourish.

If you are interested in our kid's craft boxes you can order one on their own, they are £10.50 +p&p or a whole year of crafty fun.  Drop us an email,


Making trees.

Our latest Crafty Box is all about turning crafty little fingers green and in more ways than one.  Firstly, there is actually some herb seed planting to be done and metaphorically, this is where their small hands take on natures most prolific hue.

Our third box houses some other crafts involving creatures you might find appearing at this time if the year, those hungry little caterpillars and beautiful dragonflies.

green kids craft box nature

dragonfly mobile kids craft

OK - no real reason to mention this on this post but I feel I must also mention a little bee that Nina 'Fox' designed for our third box as I have fallen in love with it and left the studio the other day with one printed on brown paper.  I have no idea what to do with it but I just wanted it - so I took it.  It was made for the growing chart on the box above but only when it's enlarged can you see how beautiful it is.  I made her print them out bigger so that we could add them to the box.

Anyway, I digress (as I often do)... this post is about trees and actual green (though mostly brown with just green finger tips) hands because an additional craft idea for this Crafty Box involved getting a little bit mucky and making some decorative blossom trees.  A craft which anyone can do at home using 'household tissue paper'.

For the first Hand Painted Tree:

  • On a piece of A4 paper, paint the bottom half-ish pale green and the top half-ish pale blue.
  • Put some brown paint onto a plate and with your fingers together, put your hand into the plate or paint your hand with a paintbrush.

  • Put the heel of your hand near the bottom of the green half and keeping your fingers firmly together, gently rub your hand up and down very slightly.
  • Put your hand back into the paint and this time, spread your hand out and at the top of your brown ‘trunk’ make 3 spanning hand prints.

  • Wash your hands and then, using green paint on your finger tips, dot leaves along the ‘branches’.
  • Wait for your painted tree to dry.
  • When the paint is dry, screw up little pieces of tissue paper (we used tissue paper from a shoe box but you could use toilet paper) and stick them over the branches to create your blossom.  We also found some green tissue paper and used it to make scrunchy leaves but any green paper would work.

kids craft blossom tree

For the Kitchen roll tree:

  • Cut down from one edge of the roll to about a third of the way down.
  • Paint the outside of the roll brown and the inside of the cut parts and then fan them out and down.
  • When the paint is dry, use green paint to colour any parts the brown paint missed.
  • Stick on scrunched up balls of tissue paper to produce blossom.

blossom tree kids craft

Tom, 4 last week & Eve, almost 6, both each did just one of these crafts but they were both impressed by each others work and wanted to have a go at making a tree the other way.  They needed no help with this at all, from painting to scrunching to sticking, which was refreshing for a change.  

kids painted craft tree

Eve was full of compliments, 'Tom's tree looks just like a real tree!  I want to make one too.'


Ladybird Tuesday - Plants and How They Grow

I have been extremely remiss on my Ladybird Tuesday posts for the last few weeks, while the lovely Mrs C has soldiered on alone.  Mrs Fox's Crafty Boxes, our wonderful children's craft boxes,  have been taking up all our time.  This months box will be going out this week and it's all based around the theme growing.  So, my Ladybird Tuesday post is very 'on-trend'.

Plants and How They Grow is a Ladybird Natural History Book by F E Newing, Bsc & Richard Bowood with illustrations by Ronald Lampitt and is part of series 651.

Ladybird Tuesday - Plants and How They Grow

"A plant is any member of the vegetable kingdom.  Everything which  grows in the ground is a plant: flowers and vegetables, grass and ferns, bushes and trees.  In this book we shall find out about plants and the wonder of growth; how they grow, feed, live and reproduce themselves."

This is a book that I bought from a charity shop a few years ago.  We have an allotment as well as a small garden and I am an avid (though untidy and unskilled) gardener and have many gardening books.  This book however approaches plants from the stance of a botanist.

It defines the parts and process of a plant, it's growth and survival.

Roots, stems, buds, leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds are examined, and their role in the plants structure and lifecycle illustrated with simply experiments.

Food, warmth and light are defined as the essentials for life and experiments to demonstrate this described.

The different types of plants are also shown; trees, ferns and mosses, water plants, grasses etc, along with fungi, which I'm sure I was taught in biology was not a plant at all.

My favourite page is the above, on parasites and the sundew, mostly because I love mistletoe and have always wanted to grow carnivorous plants.  I'm impressed that this group of plants is covered, it's a good choice as I think they are such interesting plants, likely to capture a child's imagination and spark an interest in plants that could last a lifetime.

The final page recommends botany as a hobby; "There is no end to the delight in finding out about plants, from the smallest wildflower to the greatest tree, and getting to know their species and their ways."

I had forgotten how good this book was at explaining the wonder of living nature and suggesting ways to explore, observe and record it.  My little Una Fox loves helping on the allotment and in the garden, has a little flower press that she got for her birthday last year and already loves taking photos of flowers, maybe I will suggest we make a little project of this - Let Operation Botanist Fox commence...

This post is part of Ladybird Tuesday started on the Being Mrs C blog, take a look at her posts here.

The rest of Mrs Fox's Ladybird Tuesday posts are here and if you have a collection of Ladybird books, please do feel free to join in.

Pulse - London

Magnetic wallpaper by Sian Zeng
Magnetic Wallpaper by Sian Zeng

We Mrs Foxes went to Pulse-London on the weekend.  Pulse is a trade show that brings together over 600 of the latest lifestyle brands in London organised into five distinct show sectors: Home, Gift, Fashion Accessories, Wellbeing and Launchpad.  So, although Pulse is not exactly aimed at the children's market we wanted to have a look at what was out there, catch up with some favourite designers and see what was new.  The Launchpad section brings together the "hottest new inspirational design-led products", designers new to Pulse in plain English, and was by far the most exciting section. Here are some of our favourites:

Sian Zeng's magnetic wallpaper (see above) is fabulous.  It illustrates a fairytale forest with hedgehogs, frogs and houses.  Magical creatures including birds, flying pigs, geese riding lamas and speech bubbles can then be added to the paper, all held in place magnetically.  Her cushions, prints and cards are in the same vein, and I want her stuffed cloth scissors for my studio.

Jack the Clown Beakers

Butterscotch and Beesting have added to their remarkable circus of wonder, which was already one of our firm favourites, with Jack the clown ceramics above and more from Bumblewick Beesting, the magician whose circus parade creates gorgeous patterns on homewares including lampshades and cushions.

Ruby Ruth Dolls

Ruby Ruth Dolls are handmade partly from recycled fabrics, with huge button eyes.  We loved them, Mrs Jackie Fox found herself drawn to rubbing their oversized tummies again and again.  Jenny, their creator, told us she is also working on a stop frame animation with these characters.

Ketchup on Everything's U is for Unicorn

And the great retro kids prints by Kay Vincent from Ketchup on Everything.  She creates these wonderful animal alphabet designs on prints, placemats, posters and tea towels.

Lion Paper Costume

OMY Design and Play is a French company whose playful graphics cover prints, vinyl stickers, placemats, posters and the wonderful paper costumes above.

Sinead O Moore's porcelain tealights

Finally, nothing to do with children this one, I just loved Sinead O Moore's beautiful, fragile porcelain ceramics.  The tealights are exquisitely delicate, like the petals of a flower, and it is my birthday next week so I will be treating myself.  You can find her at Greenwich Market in London most Sundays.

So many clever, creative people it was all very inspirational.


The Fox's Allotment

I do like to get the little foxes outside as much a possible, gardening is one of our pleasures.  But this year, until the last week or so, it has been quite a feat to maintain my enthusiasm for the Great British outdoors, thanks to our miserable weather.

The tomato seedlings above are in the studio at the moment, where I've discovered a use for some of those uneven pegs that were rejected from the last Crafty Boxes, (see here for my post).   The little foxes and I did most of the initial seed sewing in the garden a couple of weeks ago when there was a brief break in the weather.

We have an allotment.  We waited for over a year before being offered a large plot next to the gate house to the manor house in the village.  We are very fortunate that it is a large plot backing onto fields and separate to the rest of the allotments in the village that are opposite the church.  It makes it much more relaxing for me and my loud, rambunctious family to not feel like we are disturbing anyone else.

We started our seeds a little late this year, but now that they are under way this week we've been seeing things really springing to life in our greenhouse.  

In the greenhouse we have;
cavolo nero,
and various types of cucumbers, courgettes and squash.  While in the ground there are our potatoes, broad beans and a few remaining onions.

After our late snow and harsh frosts I am still a little nervous of planting anything else straight into the ground. But his Friday the weather was so good, we had to make a quick watering trip.  As we had the camera with us, Una took some pictures of the spring flowers.  This is my favourite, beautiful bluebells:

Also linking this up to Mammasaurus and her How does your garden grow? linky.

Bank Holiday Sunshine & Cinco de Mayo Party

We had a wonderful Cinco de Mayo party thanks to the colourful and super easy to make party kit from Happythought 

I love making things with my daughter, we were up late in the studio getting ready for the party, and she made the whole thing fun.  And what wonderful bank holiday weather for a change!


Cinco de Mayo Party Kit from 'Happythought'

Happythought's Cinco de Mayo Party Kit

You know me, any excuse for a party.  So as the weather is finally showing us some mercy I am going to have an impromptu Cinco de Mayo Bar-B-Q on Sunday and Happy Thoughts Papercraft - I love this company! - are the place to go for my partywares.

Happythought's Cinco de Mayo Party Kit
Above are some of Happythought's printable projects for Cinco de Mayo.  In case you didn't know Cinco de Mayo is the celebration marking the defeat of the French Army by Mexican soldiers at the battle of Puebla in 1872.  I used to live in California and Cinco de Mayo was a fab celebration with pi├▒atas, beer, Mexican wrestling, amazing food and foul tasting Mexican candies.  

Happythought's Cinco de Mayo party kit is an instant download containing party invites, cupcake wrappers and toppers, popcorn boxes, play figures and ornaments, a loteria game, garlands, party signs and lots more.   It's listed here and costs $5USD, which is only about £3.20. 

On the Happythought site there is more information about Cinco de Mayo, free printables (the Lucha Libre masks above are free to download), craft and video tutorials.

I bought Happythought's peacocks as a craft for Little Una Fox's birthday party and I can vouch for how easy the printables were to create.  Ellen & Harry at Happythoughts design beautifully clean and simple craft, party and decorative items that you can download and print yourself.  They also create beautiful silhouette prints of your children at a very reasonable price.  And I am only a little jealous that they are raising their children in the sunshine of Chile.  Go take a look at their site for more. 

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