Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Colour Collaborative: August: Dress

Dresses - more than any other item of clothing, I think - have power. They let you imagine yourself in a different way, how you might feel in them, what kind of day or night out you might have, A good dress, the right dress, can fill you with confidence, and while I don't want to be judged by my appearance I do want to feel strong and attractive in the clothes I choose to wear.

I saw this dress in a shop window in Chichester last May. John and I were celebrating my birthday (three months late as he'd had a nasty ear infection on my birthday in February, and then we'd moved house and lost track of time) with shopping and lunch out while the children were at school. I saw the dress and I wanted it, I wanted it to fit so badly. I tried it on, just to see what it would look like. I loved it. Knee length and well cut, the dress was full and swingy with a nipped in waist and deep pockets. (I love pockets on a dress).  I bought it, justifying it to myself. I'd just applied for my job and said it would be my congratulations present if I got the job or consolation prize if I didn't, and it was kind of my birthday after all.

You see, I'd already imagined myself in this dress. Not what I'd look like in it, no, but what I'd do. What kind of day I'd have in my new dress, the places I'd go, the people I'd see. Everything about the print and pattern said summer and sea. It's bright blue colour made me picture clear skies and flapping sails, made me hear the intoxicating sound of ropes clinking against boat masts and smell the salty sea air. The orange piping cheered me. I like nice little details, and this dress was full of them. I pictured myself wearing it while sipping a drink in a pub beer garden or sitting on the harbour wall, overlooking the boats, Perhaps I'd even wear it to the beach. But in my mind's eye the sun would be shining and I'd be carrying a straw bag and it would be carefree and warm.

There was just one catch: my legs. I don't much like them, which is partly why I live in jeans or trousers all the time. I know, it's such an affliction. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing actually wrong with my legs, they just lack shape and tone and don't meet a media-standard notion of perfection. Thread veins are my enemy and I'm pretty sure there are some varicose veins there too, lurking and ready to pop up and say hello. Perhaps you also have a body part which you don't like very much too, which stops you wearing things you'd otherwise like to wear? A perceived imperfection which is invisible to those around you, who hadn't noticed because they were too busy listening to something funny and interesting you'd just said.

My poor legs. My long, strong limbs which carry me around every day, take me up and down stairs, take me all the places I want to go. My healthy legs which supported the weight of two heavy babies, which, when stretched out, let me run or cycle. My flexible legs which, when I sat with my back against the wall, bent my knees and placed my heels together, made a diamond-shape in which Angus loved to sit and read with me when he was smaller.

And then the realisation: it's not dresses which give you confidence, but age, and I've reached a point in my life where I couldn't give a monkeys what my legs look like in a dress. I'm happy to have a pair that work, frankly. So I bought the dress and I've worn a lot. It's a swine to iron but it's comfortable to wear and people pay me compliments when I do. I've mostly worn it to work, to the school summer fair and a family barbecue. No drinks in pub beer gardens yet - maybe next year. Or maybe even this year, if September is nice! Now, there's a happy thought to end on.


Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

Annie at Annie Cholewa
Sandra at Cherry Heart
Jennifer at Thistlebear
Claire at Above The River
Sarah at Mitenska

What is The Colour Collaborative? 

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Purple and Gold

Hello! We are back from our week away in Derbyshire, feeling rested and well, and we've come through the other side of the washing mountain and lived to tell the tale. This comes with a "long post" warning so...sorry. I took a lot of photos. Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip back up north and thought the Peak District a rather spectacular place with a ruggedness which reminded me of the Yorkshire Dales. Even arriving in the pouring rain, after a nightmare seven hour car journey, I thought it looked wildly beautiful, with pink and purple hedgerows and yellow golden fields every where you looked. 

We stayed not far from Matlock in a place called Darwin Forest. I'd really recommend this place as it's very family and dog friendly and in a great location for exploring the Peaks. 

We shared a cabin with my lovely in-laws (and their Jack Russell, Alfie) and it was very cosy indeed with everything you'd want including an amazing power shower which was a lot better than our crappy one at home. And I never thought I'd love wood cladding so much!

On our first day, ready to explore in the sunshine and in search of a local National Trust landmark or similar, we found ourselves on top of a place called Stanton Moor. 

Angus had thoughtfully colour coordinated his outfit to match the local landscape.

The purple heather was just stunning and in full bloom everywhere you looked, completely covering the tops of the moors.

That view is one of my mental postcards, stored away to pull out and look out in the middle of winter.

The reason for our trip to Stanton Moor was to see the Nine Ladies Stone Circle. I know,  I know, another stone circle - we are not doing a tour of them, I promise - but show me a National Trust or English Heritage landmark and I'm there, before you can utter the words Middle Class. Now, I did not really research the stones before we left, but I was expecting them to be big-ish, like maybe the same height as me. 

They are, as you can see, much smaller, but no less interesting and you can climb on them too. But we'd walked a while to find them and kind of built them up to the kids, and so the whole thing did remind me a bit of that scene in the film Spinal Tap.

Other highlights included:

:: Bakewell, a pretty Peaks village made famous by the cake of the same name. There is a trend here for couples in love to inscribe their initials into padlocks (love locks) and then attach them to the bridge, a controversial tradition which began on the Pont des Artes in Paris. I don't really get it, if I'm honest. Have you ever attached an inscribed padlock to a bridge?

:: A picnic lunch at Monsal Head, a beauty spot with the most giddying views down into the valley.

:: Heights of Abraham, to ride the cable cars over the valley and explore the caves below. Absolutely brilliant fun, all of it.

:: Matlock Baths, a strange and lovely place which feels like an English seaside town but is completely landlocked. 

With it's faded grandeur, arcade machines, tourists and many fish and chip shops all along one street, it's more like Scarborough or Blackpool than a Peaks village.

:: The "Plague Village" of Eyam. I can't recommend this place enough, with it's charming cottages, excellent volunteer-run local museum and rich, sad history. Well worth a visit.

And then we have Chatsworth House

Oh my word. 

It is a spectacular stately home, in all it's over-the-top, gold-windowed opulence. A part of me is deeply uncomfortable with the display of eye-watering wealth, of the contrast between the lives of those who have and the have-nots, especially after visiting Eyam the day before. But the other part of me shoved that socialist out of the way and ran around screaming "Pemberley!"  "Mr Darcy's house!" and  "LOOK AT THE PAINTED CEILING!" 

I thought the children would be bored. They were fascinated (for about an hour, and then they wanted lunch).

My favourite part was watching these two people doing some kind of restoration work on the rug. I'm not sure exactly what they're doing, but it looks time consuming and skillful.

That's always the really interesting thing, isn't it, getting a glimpse into the inner workings of a stately home, of what goes on behind the closed doors.

You'll be relieved to know that in between all that visiting and day tripping there was swimming, bike rides, football, reading, crochet, eating, drinking and a fair amount of lazing around too. And it's so good to be home.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Sun and Cloud, In and Out

Oh, you lot are so lovely! Thank you so much for your generous comments and for your votes, I really appreciate it.

We continue to meander our way through the school holidays in a generally happy fashion. I am always cheered (maybe that's not the right word - bolstered? encouraged?) to read that other blogging and Instagram friends have their parenting peaks and troughs as I do, that it's not just me shouting and exasperated. But generally it's been a good couple of weeks and our days, spent at home and out and about, manage to retain a slow, relaxed pace. Last Friday I met some friends down in Southsea for the morning with our children. Southsea is a fun, buzzy, slightly touristy area and just the kind of place you want to be on a sunny day. The sea was so calm and the air really still and warm. Beautiful. As I drove down there I had a little moment of excitement and I thought "we really do live by the sea now!" I sometimes forget, despite the incessant squawking of the seagulls.

The weather continued to cooperate all weekend thank goodness, and on Sunday afternoon we hosted a family barbecue to celebrate my parents' ruby wedding anniversary. We are so at the mercy of the weather in this country, and it's a blessing when it works out how you hoped, and it was a lovely, carefree, easy afternoon with lots of delicious food and noisy children running around the house and garden. A while ago, remembering one I had from my childhood, I bought the kids a space hopper. Do you remember them? For some reason they love to use it on the trampoline - for double bounce action, I guess - or else they play a game where they hit each other with it really hard then do an exaggerated fall and roll, while laughing so hard they can barely stand. I like to watch them. I also noticed the children in their school using a LoLo ball recently. I used to love my LoLo ball so much! I must've been about Bella's age when I had mine and I was so good on it, I could bounce everywhere. My pelvic floor and vertigo mean I tend to give all bouncy things a miss these days, but hey ho, it's nice to watch the children having fun.

John and I had a night away in a hotel on Monday. A whole 24 hours without responsibility, space hoppers or children! I feared I might have built it up too much in my head but it was just as I'd hoped. 

We stayed on the banks of the Thames and it was very pretty, despite the constant drizzle and white skies.

At home, I've been busy with the paintbrush. My parents were getting rid of this garden bench and, scrounger that I am, I kindly offered to take it off their hands. I'm helpful like that.

A few hours of sanding, priming and painting later we have this beauty. John muttered about the bright pink metal work but I think it's fabulous and a big improvement.

I had a really lovely morning shopping with Bella a couple of days ago. When did this happen, that my daughter and I would do these things together? We had lunch out and everything. She's good at shopping, no surprise there. I found really nice skirt on the Cath Kidston sale and decided to splurge and buy it. Even half price (£80 reduced to £40) I thought it was pretty expensive, but I'm glad I bought it.

It will be good for work and in the summer I can wear it with a t-shirt and sandals, and I think the darker colours would make it wearable for winter too, with some tights and a cardigan maybe. But look at those ric rac stripes! So pleasingly wiggly!

I also treated myself to a new cookery book, A Modern Way to Eat. I've been dithering over this one for months but when I stayed with my friend Abigail recently I pretty much read her copy cover to cover and decided to just buy my own. 

I've been reading it in bed (armed with a pad of post it notes, as is my habit) and I think that this book might be a really good investment. Although all I've baked from it is cake so far. Today I made the Super Raw Brownies above (not really like brownies, more of a refrigerator cake but very good) and the Salted Caramel Brownies below (like real brownies and pretty amazing too.)

As well as the brownies, I also baked Abigail's Tea Loaf and a batch of biscotti.

I know, that's a lot of cake for one day, but there are two reasons. One, it rained (and thundered) solidly for most of the day and baking is how I help shift the inevitable low mood which bad weather so often brings me, and two, we are about to go on holiday and we must have cake. With John's parents, we'll be staying in Derbyshire for a week, near Matlock. I've bought new magazines, borrowed books, chosen my crochet and embroidery projects...I am ready! Please let it not rain every day...

Has anyone else noticed that it suddenly seems to get dark so much earlier? Angus commented on it tonight and Bella asked earlier if autumn was "nearly coming". Despite the deliberate slowness and pottering-like nature, of our days, I can't help but notice that we are slowly and inexorably moving from mid to late summer. Apples are on the trees, blackberries are in the bushes, and it's dark by 8.30 pm now. It doesn't matter that I'm still in full summer holiday mode, whether I like it or not autumn isn't that far off.