Saturday, 13 November 2021

A Stitch a Day: October

October's section of my Stitch a Day sampler is complete and I think it was my favourite so far. All those warm oranges and browns, plus October does gives lots of inspiration for different things to sew. As ever I am trying to capture the personal, everyday parts of my life but also the more generally seasonal things, useful for those days when nothing happens apart from work and sleep. I always start at the outer edge and work towards the centre, and we have: 

  1. acorn
  2. carrot
  3. hedgehog (he lives in the garden under the decking)
  4. toadstool
  5. butternut squash
  6. pine cone
  7. sycamore seed
  8. bracken
  9. oak leaf
  10. squirrel
  11. sycamore leaf
  12. books (ibrary visit)
  13. burgers (a parents' evening well done treat)
  14. toasted marshmallow
  15. rake sweeping up leaves
  16. clementine
  17. ginger and white chocolate cookie
  18. pumpkin
  19. wood burning stove (first fire of the autumn)
  20. roasted squash soup
  21. billy button dried flower
  22. boots (my new pair of Doc Martens)
  23. pint of beer (London)
  24. carousel horse (again, London)
  25. pumpkin pie
  26. macarons (bought in Greenwich market)
  27. shopping bag
  28. tulip bulb
  29. bat (Halloween)
  30. branches (from our gardening and trimming bushes)
  31. popcorn (cinema trip to see the new James Bond film)

Sunday, 7 November 2021

A Break

Two weeks ago this weekend, John and I spent a very nice weekend in London with our friends. Children and dog spent the weekend at the luxury five star accommodation that is my parents' house where they were all completely spoiled and had a wonderful time, while John and I enjoyed some child free time doing the kind of things the children don't always want to do, like visit art galleries.

We arrived Friday evening, straight from work and, after dropping off bags at the hotel and a quick change of clothes, met up with our friends for a drink then went a wonderful meal here. The food and service were excellent but the best thing was the atmosphere: a restaurant full of the sound of people talking, laughing clattering cutlery - that sound I missed so much during the lockdowns of people just enjoying being together.

On Saturday morning we caught a boat up the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich.

This was a lot of fun and I did think the kids would enjoy seeing London by boat. 

We spent a very happy couple of hours wandering around Greenwich village, looking at the market and buying food for lunch from the street food stalls. There wasn't time to see the observatory or look around the Cutty Sark boat but, again, I did think Bella and Angus (especially Angus!) would enjoy Greenwich and mentally book-marked it for a future trip to London.

We spent the rest of Saturday exploring central London, stopping now and then for coffee, just enjoying not having a particular destination or small children to entertain.

We spent Sunday morning in the Tate Modern. We probably saw about a tenth of the exhibits but it was so good and I did think the children would enjoy it too - lots of talking points with the different exhibits and installations. 

The views from the gallery windows are so good.

A few souvenirs did find their way home with me, including these fingerless gloves (wrist warmers?) which I bought at Greenwich Market. They are incredibly warm and I have been wearing them all week.

I also bought this excellent tea towel from the Tate Modern gift shop. I love the names of all the colours, so full of history.

It's hard to read the names from the photo but if you go here to this link for the poster, you can see it in more detail and with a much better quality photo too.

The rest of half term was spent battling germs and trying to impose some sort of order on the house and garden. We don't have a cleaner and I don't have much free time, so the most cursory housework gets done during term time. The essentials: changing beds, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, mopping the kitchen floor. So during the holidays I do like to try and have a good sort out and clean, the kind of cleaning where you move objects and furniture, rather than dusting around them....

Both John and I came down with a shocking head cold which left us feeling really quite wiped out and low on energy, but as always there were walks to be had with out little four legged terror. 

He only sits for treats. Don't go thinking he's well trained. 

But the woods really are glorious at the moment. Being around trees in the autumn (and the spring, for the bluebells and wild garlic) is one of my favourite things. 

With the help of my endlessly kind parents, we did a lot of work on cutting back bushes and shrubs in the back and front gardens over half term. I also planted up this flower bed (the old shed used to live here) with a fig that had outgrown its pot and a camellia for spring colour, plus a bay tree because I like to have one in the garden for cooking. I really wanted a border that would attract pollinators, so back in August I planted an echinacea and a couple of lavenders. Then, over half term, I moved some of the dahlias I grew from seed last year which have almost finished flowering. Our garden always looks its best in early summer so I really wanted plants which would do well in August and September. I have planted the dahlias quite deep, and plan to over-winter them in the ground, cutting them back to about 6 inches when the leaves start to blacken after the first frost and leaving the tubers there. I'm not sure what to do about the dahlias in pots, whether to leave them or take out the tubers and store them in the shed. But at the moment they are still flowering. In November!

There was baking, including this very good apple and ginger cake. It uses a lot of ginger, which is fine by me, but does need to be eaten up fairly quickly as the apples on the top of the cake go mouldy if left in the tin for more than a few days. 

I have started - tentatively - to think about Christmas althought that's all I've done so far, think about it. I recently bought a really wonderful book called Zero Waste: Christmas and have found it to be one of the most inspiring craft books I've seen for a really long time. It's brilliant. This advent train reminded me so much of the toilet roll nativity set the children and I made when they were really little (that seems like a different life!). I don't think I'll make this but there is a whole section with "scandi-inspired" crafts and decorations that did really speak to me....

Sunday, 31 October 2021

October: pumpkins and baking

Some of the more interesting things I did in October:

Finished my cotton crochet top. Intended as a summer top, I have worn it lots this autumn over a long sleeved t-shirt or denim shirt. It's loose, versatile and easy to wear.

I sorted and aired all my knitwear in anticipation of colder weather. I examined my crocheted jumpers (the orange one, the yellow one, the cream one) and looked at which I wore the most (the orange one, because it's lighter weight). Then ordered lots of yarn in different colours to make this jumper which I think will be one I wear a lot. 

I discovered the baking blog Jane's Patisserie and baked these incredible cookies: ginger and white chocolate. I am not normally a fan of a dark or milk chocolate chip cookie - I prefer oatmeal and raisin or white chocolate cranberry - and I love anything with ginger so these were amazing. I did slightly reduce the cookie size though, so that they might last a bit longer in the tin and not be eaten in one day.

I had another go at a pumpkin-shaped sourdough loaf and was really pleased with how this one came out. All you do is tie four lengths of string around the dough before putting it in the oven. Next time I might try adding a little pumpkin to the dough, and maybe some spices. I don't vary the flavourings of my sourdough loaves - I like the sourdough flavour as it is - but it might be fun to try something different. 

I love butternut squash and cook with it year round, but I do like it when all the other squash varieties start appearing in the supermarkets in the autumn. I like to roast squash until it's really caramelised around the edges and sweet, then add it into soups, salads, curries etc. 

Quite often I mix it with a grain and other vegetables and eat it as a warm salad. This one is roasted squash with cherry tomatoes - added half way through the cooking time - bulgur wheat, pine nuts, feta and some chopped herbs. It's nicest warm but still good cold. I make loads and then put it in the fridge in individual containers ready for my lunches at school during the week. 

More interesting squash varieties are currently scattered around the house. They will become soup next weekend I think. 

I have been working away on my Stitch a Day sampler for October, really enjoying all those warm golden and orange colours. 

And there are the walks. So often I struggle to find the time but always feel better for being out in the fresh air, even if it's just for an hour. We've had blustery beach walks, humid and overcast forest walks and rainy pavement ones in between. The weather has yet to turn really cool here, and it has been a pretty mild October so far. I think we've lit the fire twice and only put the heating on a handful of times. 

We've had a good half term overall, the highlights being a trip to London (more on that later) and the lows that both John and I have had really horrible head colds, the kind that linger and leave you feeling really wiped out. Over half term too, typical. But lots of pottering and reading has helped and I'm feeling a lot better which is just as well as it's back to work tomorrow.