Sunday, 26 August 2012

Beside the Seaside, Beside the Sea

We have spent the most glorious day on the beach with my family. It is the August bank holiday here in the UK, and we are enjoying a three day weekend. I feel that by spending it at the seaside, I have spent it properly, which I realise is ridiculous. Despite gloomy weather forecasts predicting wind and rain we had hours of sunshine today.

It was a bright and blustery day with big, scudding clouds and constantly changing light. Not warm enough for swimming, but certainly warm enough to be outside all day. The views across the Solent were crystal clear. You could almost see the individual houses on the Isle of Wight across the water.

I could not stop looking at the clouds today. Look at that bright, silvery light.

Bella surveyed the view. John says she has copied that stance from me.

My parents have a beach hut on Hayling Island. We have had a beach hut there since before I was born, and many sunny weekends of my childhood were spent there. It was wonderful to take Bella and Angus there and see how utterly happy they were. Although, after an initial exploration of the beach hut, they ignored it continued with normal beach behaviour; running around, digging holes, throwing sand everywhere and shouting.

The inside is like a shed but much prettier. I can imagine how fun it would be to really go to town with decorating the interior of a beach hut - whitewashing it, making cushions and curtains and tablecloths in matching's probably just as well we could never afford one.

We flew kites...
...explored the fun fair...

...and bought ice creams.

By the end of the afternoon, the view had changed completely. The air was hazy, the light grey, and the wind cool. 

John taught Angus the universal male art of throwing stones into the sea.

Happy days.

The kids fell asleep in record time tonight. Also, John has really caught the sun. He has hilarious streaky red arms, neck and face from careless sun cream application. He is radiating heat. He had to go and find some after-sun in Mum's bathroom. Of course I am distracting him from his discomfort by laughing at him constantly, good wife that I am.

I hope you are all enjoying your holiday weekend, whatever you may be doing. 

Friday, 24 August 2012

Out and About - Saltaire

We had the nicest day out with my some friends and their children during the week. Bella  and Angus and I went to a park near Salts Mill, which is a huge old building converted into shops, restaurants and a fantastic David Hockney gallery. It is worth a visit just to see the Hockney art and to browse some seriously nice interior design shops. The mill is in Saltaire, a beautiful village on the outskirts of Bradford, which is deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage Site, full of imposing Victorian industrial architecture with views right up on to the moors.

We met at the mill, then walked over the canal to the nearby playground. The children ran around and shouted and shrieked while we drank coffee in cardboard cups. A local youth group turned up and started doing some graffiti art much to the amusement of all the small people. We had an impromptu picnic lunch from a local deli and Mr Whippy ice creams from the ice cream van. Then we wandered over to a beautiful wide, open green space next to the canal. We bought more coffees. The children fed the ducks and played football and rode their scooters and bikes up and down the flat, wide pathways. The Victorians knew a thing or two about building public parks. It threatened to rain all day but didn't. 

I love days like that.


Tomorrow we are off to my parent's for the week, for a dose of Southern air and the seaside and lots of family time. Rather annoyingly, the weather forecast is wet and windy so I'm no sure how much beach time there will be. I may camp out in the beach hut anyway, with a cup of tea and some crochet. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Bella the Photographer

A couple of weeks ago we had a very lovely relaxed and sunny day at Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds. We took the camera and Bella took all these pictures. I encourage her to use the camera as much as she wants (providing she is careful!) and love watching her snap away. As a child, I remember having to really think about every photograph I took on my first camera so that I didn't waste the film, and then the feeling of surprise and excitement, or disappointment, when the photos came back from the developers.

How different it is now. Bella clicks away, taking as many as she wants, as do I, knowing that they can all be edited when we get home. She has a camera, a little pink plastic VTech, but I think she knows that it is a "toy" and that our camera is where the real fun is to be had. 

I love to see her different perspective on the world through the camera lens. I often wonder what she really intended to photograph. In the above shots, it is the Abbey, my sister lying on a blanket, Angus's arm, her feet, and me doing some crochet. All very random, yet she managed to capture so much of what we experienced on that day; beautiful historic buildings, lounging in the sunshine, bare feet and bare arms, and a little recreational crochet.

Does anyone have any tips on how to encourage and nurture this interest in photography in children? Or maybe I should just continue to let her use the camera as much as she likes.


I will delay showing you my Christmas crafty nonsense until at least September, when we can pretend that it is Autumn. It was very amusing to read your wildly different comments and feelings on the C word. Clearly not everyone shares my love for early festive planning! But that is ok. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Day to Day

Here are some of little things that we have been seeing and doing daily over these last few weeks...little holiday rituals and observations that make us happy.

  • Watching the tiny harvest of raspberries ripen in the garden. These just pop up every summer. I do nothing to them and each year we get a handful, enough for Bella and I to eat straight from the plant.
  • Playing with the cars - one of Angus's extra special car parks on show here, it kept him quiet for about an hour.
  • Dipping strawberries in chocolate.
  • Baking a cake for Free Cakes for Kids. A wonderful charity where volunteers provide birthday cakes for families who, for whatever reason, can't provide one themselves.
  • Brewing endless cups of tea in my 50p car boot mug. How much tea is too much tea?
  • Admiring, picking and photographing these sweet peas. They are the only thing that I seem to be able to grow, and they are especially pretty in the late afternoon sunshine.
  • Building train tracks in the early morning. Yesterday I challenged myself to use every piece of track we had. John said maybe it's time I went back to work.
  • Making a friendship bracelet for my sister, Katy. I love the fresh, summery colours she chose.
  • Watching the sky. Sun hats? Sun cream? Raincoats? Wellies and waterproofs? Honestly, you never know with the British summer. It is true that we are a nation obsessed with the weather.
The days are starting to blur together now, but in a nice, unhurried way. I am never sure which day of the week it is. I just want to say hurrah for the little things. It's always the little things that make me most happy. And wine.

One last thing - we have finished a bit of Christmas craftiness. I don't know whether people find the mention of Christmas a bit offensive at this time of year. I don't. I LOVE Christmas and, as John works in retail (and I used to work in retail), we are used to thinking about it and planning for it and deciding where we spend it months before normal people. So, would you like to see the project, or shall I save it till a more appropriate time? Thoughts please. :-)

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Country in the City

We don't live in the countryside, we live in the middle of a big old smokey Northern city, but we had a fun weekend pretending otherwise. It was hot and humid with leaden grey skies and I was on a mission to get Bella and Angus out and about, in the fresh air, enjoying our surroundings, trying to recapture some of what was so magical about our holiday.

We visited a nearby farm, climbed on tractors and fed goats.

We spotted unusual coloured ladybirds.

We tried to go blackberry picking, but found that none were ripe yet.

We admired wild flowers.

We walked and looked at our surroundings.

We also baked, made dens, sewed, played, and pottered. But the highlight of the weekend was my friend Rachel's birthday party on Sunday afternoon. A house full of friends and their children. A table groaning under the weight of about fifteen different types of homemade cake, delicate little sandwiches, canapes, trifles and, my personal favourite, lime and basil macarons.  Prosecco was drunk from vintage china tea cups. It turns out that this is the perfect way to drink fizz in all standing-and-chatting situations, as you can put your canape or sandwich on the saucer, leaving your other hand free to remove the seventh mini cupcake from the sticky hand of a toddler already high on sugar because he licked the icing off the previous six.

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend. It looks like the weather got pretty hot in some parts of the UK. A big "hello" to my new followers, and thank you for visiting and reading and commenting. Seriously, thank you. x

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Summer Fruit Jam

I like making things called "Summer Fruit", Mixed Fruit" or "Jumbleberry Jam". So liberating. You can chuck in anything you have in whatever quantities you like. Fruit and sugar. You know it's going to taste nice.

This is about 60% raspberries that I picked, 30% from a bag of frozen mixed summer fruits, and 10% supermarket strawberries that were looking a bit tired so they went in too. I nearly had a perilous boiling over moment. 

The delightfully over the top jar decorations were inspired by some I say on Jooles's Sew Sweet Violet Blog. I love a bit of jam pot decorating, and I thought why not go all out with huge labels and matching ribbons. I will save these for gifts I think. 

Oh, I love making jam. 

In other news...
  • We have gone crafting mad this week. We have cut, glued, stitched, stapled, painted and coloured. 
  • We have visited one farm and two soft play centres. The kids have caught up with friends in the day, and I have caught up with friends in the evening. 
  • We finished watching The Bridge (now what will we do??). 
  • Bella did some fantastic cycling in the park, her confidence has increased enormously. Ever since the purchase of her Hello Kitty helmet, she is awfully keen on riding her bike.
  • We had a happy, no-filling visit to the dentist.
  • I baked two chocolate cakes. 

The end of the week was wet and for the first time in four weeks I am starting to feel school holiday fatigue. Trying to get that sensitive balance of children and activity right. Aiming for happy, entertained children not overstimulated, screaming craziness. Hoping for quiet play at home, not bored "What are we doing today Muuuuuuum...?" whining. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I don't. Yesterday I got it wrong and after an afternoon of bickering, whingeing and flopping threw them both out in the garden in their wellies and shut the door shouting "Go and play"

How are you coping with the summer holidays?

Thursday, 16 August 2012

A Little Bit of Bling (Mollie Makes Magazine)

I like to think this is what Dorothy would wear if there was a running scene in The Wizard of Oz.


Pumps/sneakers - £6
Glue £3.85
Sequins - £2
Tweezers and Issue 15 of Mollie Makes - already lying around the house.


Take one pair of cheap and boring shoes from your local supermarket. Spend a happy afternoon with glue and sequins making them as pretty and sparkly as possible. 

This is part of my mission to make one thing from each month's Mollie Makes. I was given a subscription for my birthday and I have challenged myself to get creative each time one lands on the doormat.

Bella wanted to join in (of course she did!) We asked Angus if he wanted to help too. He sauntered over, looked at what we were doing and said "no thank you" and sat down and played with his trains. Fair enough.

Bella decorated her old gym shoes from last year. They only cost about £3, and she will need a new pair for the new school term, so I was quite happy for her to unleash her inner artist on them. She says they are her new party shoes.