Sunday, 21 September 2014

A Sunday

8 am, in the bathroom, and the air from the window is cool. (The windowsill is where the orchids go when they start to look a bit twiggy and dead. When they are blooming again they can come back into the general population of the house.)

9 am, and I've snuck back into bed with a cup of tea and my book. The sun is shining, it looks like it might be a nice day.

10 am. We're all up and ready, beds are made and rooms are tidy.

11 am. In our local park, letting the kids blow off some steam.

12 noon. Back home with Radio 4 on in the kitchen while I make a start on some bramble jelly.

 1 pm and it's lunchtime. Bacon sandwich and brown sauce.

2 pm. A crafternoon is calling and the modelling clay is out. Bella made cave people for a project she's doing about the stone age. Angus made an alien and a monster. I made beads. 

3 pm. One hour later and the figures are baked, cooled and dressed. Tomorrow I'll buy some grey paint so Bella can finish her paper mache cave.

4 pm. John gets home from work.

5 pm and we go out for fish and chips for tea. This time with just the four of us is welcome and precious.

6 pm. Dessert. It's called a Brandy Snap Dream. I've never yet eaten a whole one but I keep trying.

7 pm. A bit of Octonauts viewing before bed, his reward for getting through the Sunday night chore of reading book and spellings.

8 pm. Sofa,  a cup of tea, an episode of Lilyhammer on TV, some crochet. That pleasant Sunday night slump feeling.


A photo an hour (ish) over a whole day. It's fun to do this, to remember to get the camera out and use it. It's a pretty typical Sunday all in all, nothing special, just a lot of pottering around the house. How did you spend your Sunday?

Friday, 19 September 2014

Friday Happies

1. This morning, after dropping the kids at school, I went for a walk. Twice this week I ran past the same bramble bushes and wanted to pick some fruit before the season finished. It's a pretty walk, even on the most grey and damp of mornings, and I spent a peaceful hour enjoying the solitude.

2. My bounty: 3 pounds of fruit, ready to be turned into jelly and crumbles over the weekend.

3. New earrings (from etsy) to go with a new little black dress which has a copper zip down the back and, more excitingly, the opportunity to wear both tomorrow night when we go out into town for a friend's birthday drinks. 

4. I don't know if it's because the nights are drawing in, but this week I've really enjoyed going up to bed early with some herbal tea and a book. I make myself a little nest in bed, with lots of cushions and pillows, and settle in for a good hour of reading. Crime fiction is often my preferred genre when it's dark outside, and I'm currently enjoying this and can highly recommend the whole series of books.

So, some quiet happy things to end a quiet, busy week. We've all been fighting off various germs lately, trying to keep coughs, colds and viruses at bay with mixed success. It's the time of year, of course. It's been damp and mild here, sometimes humid, which kind of annoys me - I wish it would just cool down more now so that it feels properly like autumn. Cold, crisp and sunny, that's what I'd like please. I've got new woolens to wear!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

On The Mantel: September

September. A month of transitions and new starts, the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. Holiday memories are fading with the long days as the nights draw in. It's month for foraging and harvest, for planning and preparation.

On my mantel this month: A crocheted garland which reminds me of bunting and beach huts and two star fish bought on holiday in St Ives. I like to keep these reminders of summer up for as long as I dare. A bunch of gladioli in a chunky cream vase. I like the way their shape says summer but the tones of their green stems and dark red leaves hint at the months to come.  A Hockney postcard bought in Saltaire over the summer holidays and two candles in glass and wood holders, a gift from my Granddad. And the clock. The clock is always there.

Would you like to join in? Do you have a particular area in your home, a mantel, kitchen dresser, table or shelf, that marks the seasons and the rhythms of family life for you? It's not about styling or making things looks beautiful necessarily (although that is fun). It's more about the meaning behind beloved objects and pictures, and the place nature has in our lives, and the way we humans like to surround ourselves with treasures and memories throughout the year. 

Monday, 15 September 2014


We didn't make it to the coast this weekend, but we still found ourselves by the water. We decided at the last minute on Thursday night to join John's family who were staying in the Lake District over the weekend. We drove up on Saturday, stayed one night, then back to Leeds on Sunday. A flying visit, but still a very restful one. 

We walked to the edge of Lake Coniston, Bella and Angus taking turns to hold the dog's lead. We collected treasures not usually found in the city, like wool or "sheep fur" as they called it, and white feathers. We climbed and explored. Back at the campsite, we sat outside drinking tea and chatting, listening to the silence. There wasn't a breath of wind, it was so quiet. Not wanting to cook much, but knowing we were in the middle of nowhere, we'd brought lots of nice M&S food with us, posh ready meals. We sat around chatting with John's parents and drinking wine, feeling cosy in our mobile home as it got darker outside. 

On Sunday morning we woke to sheep wandering across the campsite. We pottered in our dressing gowns and I actually read the paper for the first time in ages. We did the crossword while we drank our coffee. At home I wouldn't make time for that, I'd be too busy doing something non-essential. It was nice to be fully in the moment. After breakfast we drove into Coniston and wandered around some more. The lake is quite hypnotic - we must have spent an hour just sitting in front of it while the kids threw stones, watching boats come and go, looking up at the hills.

The Lakes are such a magnetic, calm place, quite unlike the Dales. The mountains are all around you, all of the time and you are quite literally in their shadow. It all feels a bit Arthurian. On a grey day I can see how it might feel oppressive. But this weekend, in the hazy, cloudy warmth, with the leaves and fern just beginning to turn from green to brown, with autumn just around the corner, it felt calm and tranquil. Restorative.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Friday Happies

Thank you for all your supportive comments on yesterday's post, it really was encouraging to know that we all strive for some kind of balance in our daily lives, and that we all go through times of needing a break. It's part of the ebb and flow of life I suppose. 

1. Rolling on with this week's celebration of simple goodness, I give you the humble sourdough loaf. I bought this at a cafe/deli nearby on Monday morning (after meeting a friend for breakfast straight from the school run, there is no better way to begin the week, let me tell you) and ate it all week. I had it for lunch on Monday spread with bramble jelly, then on Tuesday I made a cold roast beef and mustard sandwich. On Wednesday and Thursday I had it toasted with soup or scrambled eggs. It was magnificent. I wish I could make my own.

2. The weather this week. Just beautiful. Misty mornings, warm sun, golden light. The very beginnings of autumn but you can still wear sandals. 

3. Baking. These are raisins soaking in tea for tea loaf, but I also made chocolate coca cola cake and lemon syrup loaf. Full cake tins make me happy.

4. I began work on my summer embroidery this week. Those French knots leaves were a dream to sew, so satisfying and tactile. 

5. A new mug. There is always room for one more, and I never let a full to bursting cupboard tell me otherwise. This is by a really lovely French company called Mr & Mrs Clynk who I am most enamoured with at the moment, and bought from here. I'm told the gift shop at Yorkshire Sculpture Park stocks their products too, even better, I feel a trip there coming on sometime soon... It feels really lush when you wrap both hands around it to drink from as it's so curvy and plump. I hope I am making sense here and don't sound like a mug fetishist. But some mugs are just...right. 

Thursday, 11 September 2014

On Blogging

I lost my way with blogging a bit over the summer. It's hard to keep it up on a regular basis when you're away on holiday, or visiting family, or hosting family. The longer I leave it, the more there is to say and the harder it is to get going again. Blogging works best for me when I'm back in my usual routines, as I am now. I do sometimes worry that my posts are repetitive, but I don't think you can blog for any length of time and not have this worry. Some of the things I most like writing about, like the change of seasons, what I'm making or cooking, what makes me happy - well, there is going to be some inherent repetition in that. And that's ok.

I remember when I first started blogging, almost three years ago, reading something online about how to write a blog, and one of the things that particularly stood out was write little and often. And when I started my blog, I did that, for no-one starts writing a blog when they're pushed for time, you start when you have space in your life a new venture. I can't post as often as I once did, but I would like to post more frequently.

I've been able to spend a little more time on this space lately, and I've enjoyed that. I've added three new pages (Craft Projects, Friday Happies and Press & Sponsors) to the sidebar on the right, which all feels a bit tidier. I've been meaning to get all my tutorials in one place for ages and it was satisfying to do that. Do you remember, ages ago, when I wrote about our mantel, and how I like to follow the seasons and what's happening in our daily life through what I display up there? I'm going to write about this once a month, starting next week, and it will motivate me to be more creative.  I'm going to cook something in our new slow cooker once a week, and post about that too. (Thank you so much for the book, website and recipe suggestions by the way, I've noted them all in my blogging notebook.) I've got ideas and I feel engergised and inspired. September always does that to me, it's my New Year.

But this blog would be nothing without you lot, you lovely readers and commenters. Thank you for your interest, your support, your friendship. I started my blog to share and to connect with people, and they are still the reasons I love to blog now. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A Zigzag Chevron Cowl

Ever since I learnt to crochet, I have been both tempted and terrified by The Ripple. That delightful up-and-down pattern, made by increasing and decreasing stitches, has always appealed to me but I was so scared of The Dreaded Foundation Chain, the counting, the precision. But, as always, when you try these things they are generally never half as hard as you think they'll be, and so I am very excited and happy to share my new crocheted cowl with you today. 

It's not technically a ripple, but a zigzag or chevron design. The difference is that the points are sharper here whereas a ripple has softer, wave-like shapes, but the principle and pattern are very similar as far as I can tell.  I used this really excellent tutorial from the blog Meet Me At Mikes.*

Last January, I made this cushion, and found I was left with a lot of leftover yarn in small-ish amounts.

I really wanted to use those same colours in one project again as I think they work really well together, and some kind of scarf of cowl seemed the most likely outcome.

My zigzags are random in pattern and width, so that the cowl looks a bit different depending on which side you look at. I like this, and can be seen arranging and rearranging it in the hall mirror before I go out.

I know, it's not that cold yet, but I can be found wearing some kind of scarf or cowl on pretty much any day of the year, and one of the reasons I love autumn so much is all the cosy woolen accessories I can wear.

The join is pretty subtle - you can see it here, but once it's on it's not noticeable.

I really love how it turned out. The colours are not really "my" colours (what, no mustard yellow?!) but sometimes it's nice to have a change. I looks great with my denim jacket and my charcoal grey raincoat, and it's very warm and not at all scratchy. I know many people find wearing wool next to their skin very uncomfortable, and I do find that with rougher types of yarn, but cashmerino really is incredibly soft. Oh, and it doesn't pill either, another bonus.

And what about the pattern I was so scared of, The Ripple? Well, yes, it is just as addictive and satisfying as everyone says. You get sucked into row after row, up and down, and just want to keep going. I can really understand why it's such an enjoyable stitch to work on as well as look at. The foundation chain can be tricky - I had to concentrate hard on that - but once you're a couple of rows in it becomes hugely gratifying to work on. One day, I will make a ripple or chevron blanket. One day.


For those who are interested, there are some colour and stitch details below.

I used the following eight colours: (Seven are pictured above, plus some extra dark grey I had in my stash.)

340011 - Dark Brown
340049 - Taupe/Pale Grey
340054 - Rose 
340058 - Dark Grey
340100 - White
340204 - Baby Blue
340600 - Pale Pink
340607 - Pale Lilac

I used Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino on a 3.5 mm hook. The length before being sewn together into a cowl was 80 cm or 31 inches, and there were 80 rows crocheted in trebles. It is 38 cm or 15 inches wide from top to bottom, which gives 5 full up and down zigzags or chevrons. The total weight is around 200 grams which, since I used 8 colours, is around half a 50g ball of each colour.

* The pattern (which is actually for a blanket) is all worked in double stitches - I adapted it myself to work in trebles, and shorted the length of the foundation chain.