Monday, 22 April 2019


Hello and happy Easter! I didn't mean to leave it so long between posts, I thought I'd have so much free time this holiday to blog (hahaha) but our days have just been so full in the nicest possible way, with many happy times to document and share here. I haven't even had time to go through all the photos from this bank holiday weekend, that will have to be another post. 

The weather this holiday, bar the odd wet day, has been beautifully dry and sunny. It has at times been cold, but has now warmed up to almost summery temperatures and it's made everything so much easier and more enjoyable. No wet dog walks with muddy dog or wellies, no bored, cooped up children. Instead we've been outside so much, just in the garden or going further afield and enjoying days out.

John's parents came to stay with us for the second week of the holidays and it was really good to have some unhurried, quality time with them. We've also had lots of time just the four of us, in the park, cooking and eating together, hanging out in the garden, just pottering.

We've enjoyed some excellent days out, The Mary Rose Museum and West Dean Gardens being particular favourites. West Dean Gardens is one of my favourite places to go, especially just to wander up and down their incredible historic glass houses.

I've also enjoyed a bit of quiet magazine reading this week with two biannual publications, one bought, one free: 91 Magazine is probably my favourite magazine right now, and absolutely worth every single penny, and I am so excited when my copy lands on the doormat. I read it cover to cover, appreciate the absence of adverts and find it endlessly inspiring. 

South Coast Journal is a new free magazine stocked in the Chichester area and I am especially excited about it because I was involved in the content, producing a feature around summer eating for them. It's a great publication full of really strong content and I'm really proud to be a part of it.

Small pleasures have featured heavily this week, with little treats like a good flat white coffee and a piece of lemon curd slice eaten in the sunshine, or an early evening pint in a pub beer garden. I really cherish those first few meals eaten outside in the spring after so many cold, wet months. 

There has been crochet this week, of course, but not as much as I'd hoped. I'm on the home stretch with this ombre shawl now, with just the border left to do. I don't think it will need much blocking which is just as well as it's so enormous, I don't know where I'd have space to lay it out, stretch it and pin it. The garden?

I also made a start on this basket which I'm loving - you crochet with the light brown cotton over two strands of the chunky cream yarn, giving a woven effect and more structure to the basket too.  

My luck with second hand books continues, as I found a few more Observer reference guides this week, two from a second hand bookshop, one from a charity shop and one more posted from a friend.

The rainbow grows. The appeal for me is largely visual with these little books but, for those wondering, I keep all the covers and I dip into them from time to time. Well, flick through them really. They are so useful, especially the ones on wild flowers and plants. 

All my spring flowers have gone over now in the garden. I rescued this raggle taggle posy of the only tulips not destroyed by the football, a few narcissi which still smell so sweet and the last of the muscari.

Now I need to think about what's next in the garden, pull up the bulbs, plant some sweet peas. It pains me to say this, but what the garden could really do with is a little rain, but not until I'm back at work please.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Blackbirds and Eggs

Hello! Thank you for your kind comments on my last post, helping me out with the identification of my Spiraea "Bridal Wreath/Veil", and generally buoying me up with your kindness and warmth. The Easter holidays are rumbling along quite pleasingly here. Week one was super productive as I powered through my to do list; passports were renewed, admin dealt with, trips made to post office, car garage, vets, and tedious financial jobs attended to. And now John is on holiday and his parents are staying with us for the week, and I've declared myself on holiday too.

Don't be fooled by the glow of morning light on the herbs on kitchen windowsill - while still sunny, it's turned very cold, with a sharp north-east wind cutting through any warmth in the spring sunshine. 

I spent some pleasant hours stitching this blackbird embroidery hoop last week, from the latest spring Craftpod. It's been a long time since I did much hand sewing and I'd forgotten how good it is for me, how much I enjoy the process of the embroidery while my brain can wander here and there, half listening to the radio, half concentrating on the task in front of me. Very mindful, very soothing.

I like this hoop a lot; the colours, the bird, the eggs - it all feels so cheerful and optimistic.

My good luck with second hand books continued this week, when my parents returned from their holiday with some gems for me: a copy of Tender, by Nigel Slater, and two more Observer guides to add to my collection. The copy of Tender is well thumbed and much loved, falling open on well-used pages, but this just makes me want to use it more. The most enchanting parts of the book for me so far are the photos of Slater's incredible garden. Long, narrow and sheltered, it's beautifully planted and feels more secluded than you'd imagine for a terrace in central London, and so much more grown-up than our wide, square lawn, littered with footballs and bordered with shrubs and battered tulips. 

You'll notice a few duplicates in my collection, but happily I've arranged to swap them with friends. It's win-win.

Bella had a friend from school sleep over last week. She took so much pleasure in getting everything ready, making up the beds, choosing snacks, planning what they'd do. She suddenly seemed awfully grown up.

But then I took this photo earlier today at Fort Nelson...

This museum is just a few miles away and we go there so often (it's free and ideal on rainy days) but I still love this room, the kitchen, the best. 

I'm still working on my shawl. It seems to be taking absolutely ages to make, and I think it's going to be really big when it's finished.  I'm really enjoying the pattern and colour pooling though. 

I decided recently that my Easter decorating game could be so much stronger, and bought some wooden eggs with hooks, to hang from an Easter tree. When I say Easter tree, I mean a few dusty old branches of pussy willow that I have had for about four years. I bought these smaller ones and these larger eggs. I really like them plain, as they are, but sprayed a few white and copper for a bit of variation. I might crochet a couple of eggs too, if I have time.

Angus spent £3 of his pocket money on a little travel version of Battleships last week. Every night, he and John are hunched over the kitchen table, plotting moves. It warms my heart.

I'll leave you with a photo of Ziggy and his adorable nose. This was taken in Bella's room, where he'll spend as much of his time as he can, curled up on her bed. He sneaks upstairs early in the morning and she lets him into her room to sleep on the end of her bed. It's a good thing she's an early riser. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Pockets of Lovely

That's the best way I can describe the last few weeks: 90% nose to the grindstone, but with pockets of loveliness that make everything okay. Better than okay. 

The two weeks leading up to the end of term were exhausting: full days, busy evenings and weekends, while fighting off (and eventually succumbing to) a horrible head cold. The Mother's Day weekend was a little ray of actual sunshine in the middle of it all and we spent most of it gardening and doing jobs outside.

The first gardening weekend of the the year is always a big one, so quite a few hours were spent cutting, weeding, tidying, sweeping, planting, moving things around. There was a trip to the tip, an afternoon spent washing two cars during which the vacuum mysteriously stopped working (it's since started - a protest, perhaps?) and a huge washing mountain. 

But then there was also a lingering lunch outside in the warm sun, time spent sat in the garden on the bench with a cup of tea and a magazine.

I have two of these magnificent shrubs, above, in the garden. They are absolutely weighed down by tiny, frothy white blossoms at the moment, they look like they are covered in snow. Does anyone happen to know what they are called?

On Mother's day Bella and Angus made me breakfast in bed. I don't particularly like breakfast in bed, but I kept that thought to myself and pretended I hadn't smelled the burning downstairs or heard them come clattering up the stairs with a tray, shushing each other. There were sweet cards and gifts, a bunch of tulips and a lovely dinner at my parents. You see? Pockets of loveliness.

And now we are here in the Easter holidays. It's just been the children and I these last few days while John works, and we've fallen into a routine of mornings at home, afternoons out with the dog. There's been a fair amount of spring cleaning here. During term time I only manage to keep on top of housework in the most superficial way, so I rely on the school holidays to have a bit of a sort out and do things properly. I've cleaned not just the oven but the whole kitchen too, emptied out cupboards, washed and packed away winter things, taken bags to the charity shop, cleaned windows and under furniture not just around it. The weather has been nice so I've also done a huge amount of washing and ironing too. While completing these tasks does bring a sense of satisfaction, I'm a bit fed up with the housework now, and looking forward to getting out and about over the rest of the Easter holidays. 

But in amongst the scrubbing and sorting, you find little moments of happiness, like finding a copy of Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries III in near perfect condition in the charity shop for £2.50.

Like picking flowers from the garden and putting them in a vase on my bedside table. The droopy tulip was a result of Angus kicking his football right at my planter full of blooming, fragile flowers and beheading half of them.

Like taking Bella and Angus to the library and watching them choose books, and then pick out things they think the other will like too. We use our local library a lot, it has a well stocked children and teen section and the kids pester me to go every couple of weeks. 

Like making salted caramel cupcakes with Angus. Without any prompting or interference from me, he pulled a baking book off the shelf (Hummingbird Bakery: Home Sweet Home) and spent an hour going through it with a pack of post-it notes, highlighting things he wanted us to bake together over the holidays. Everything contains either chocolate or buttercream and involves every pan in the kitchen, and quite a lot of time, but bless him.

Like watching signs of spring emerge in the woods on our dog walks and seeing the first bluebells of the year.

Like crocheting my shawl, and delighting in the colour changes as it grows.

 And best of all, coming downstairs on Sunday afternoon to this sight in the garden.

You've got to look for these moments, haven't you? Enjoy the small stuff, be thankful for the moments of happiness, when they occur. I've been feeling very flat lately - a combination of tiredness, worry about so many things (Brexit mainly, and money) and an uncharacteristic lack of energy and enthusiasm - but I think you just have to keep on putting one foot in front of the other, looking for the positives, being thankful for what you have and looking upwards.