Monday, 29 April 2013


Inside: We woke to this on Saturday morning so abandoned our plans to get started on the exterior paint jobs. (As I'm sure you can imagine, we were devastated by that turn of events...)

Outside: So then of course the sun came out, but a cold wind blew and the rest of the weekend was a typical April mixture of sunshine and showers. This is my neighbour's forsythia. Isn't is glorious? I wish mine had blossomed like that.

Inside: We tried a new breakfast recipe from this book: Persian eggs with halloumi. Very tasty, the oily juices mopped up with sourdough bread, but next time I would use less cheese and more tomato.

Outside: The grass had it's ceremonial first cut of the year.

Inside: The filing cabinet was tackled with similar gusto, as I did battle with old bank statements and the paper shredder. We have a very mature and responsible attitude to filing in this house which involves ignoring the bulging folders for as long as possible, then a day long purge accompanied by lots of muttering, huffing and under-the-breath swearing.

Outiside: My first run in weeks on Sunday morning, accompanied by two very good friends and lots of resolutions to go more often.

Inside: New trainers for Bella (hot pink and white with Hello Kitty designs, the last word in cool) for outside PE lessons at school in the summer term. She will be very unimpressed when they get muddy.

Outside: More garden foraging for posies.

Inside: Name labels were sewn into new school summer dresses.

Outside: The new wooden growhouse was assembled and will soon be - I hope - bursting with growth, once I get around to re-potting the sunflowers, basil and tomatoes that are currently residing on the kitchen window sill.

Inside: Another new recipe tried from my Mother's Day gift, Jaffa Cake Cupcakes. Plain sponge cake, with a little spoonful of marmalade hidden inside, topped with chocolate buttercream and mini-jaffa cakes. Very, very tasty.

So there we have it, a weekend that was all about the changing of the seasons, a weekend of firsts and of the new, of sorting and clearing and planning, of getting the house and garden ready for the coming months. Not exactly a bumper "look at me!" weekend, but one of those quietly productive ones that are so pleasing.


Many thanks for all your kind words about friendship in response to my last post. I know that my friend and I will stay in touch - we have the wonder of the internet to help! There is email, Facebook, Skype and probably other ways that haven't even occurred to me yet, not to mention good old hour long chats on the phone.

Friday, 26 April 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...28/52

Hello there! It's Friday, the end of a long week. The weekend is upon us and so it feels like the best time to join in with Jen at little birdie with this week's happy things.

1. My friend Rachel. We met at antenatal classes six and a half years ago when we were both expecting our first babies. I've met up with her every week since then for coffees, lunches, in soft play centres, at toddler groups and birthday parties. We've had many hurried conversations about anything and everything snatched in between feeds, tantrums, nappy changes, endless trips to take toddlers to the toilet. On Tuesday morning, while all our children were occupied at school and nursery, she came over for a coffee. She brought her knitting and I did some sewing. We sat on the sofa and had an uninterrupted conversation and it occurred to us that it was the first occasion in the whole time we've known each other that we'd met up in the week without any children around. As you can see she is heavily pregnant with her fourth child, so there will be another baby around soon. But it's bitter sweet, because she and her family will be relocating to Bristol this summer and I am going to miss her friendship and our regular get-togethers so very much.

2. Watching Angus watch Peppa Pig. Great big belly laughs.

3. Signs of growth inside. Hello sunflowers.

4. Signs of growth outside.

And hello new followers! It's very lovely to have you here, thanks for coming and you are so welcome. Have a great weekend everyone. x

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Foraging For Flowers

The challenge: find or forage for flowers or plants, either from the garden or elsewhere, and bring them into the home. Well, it was slim pickings in my garden, I'm afraid. The only stems worth picking were forsythia, daffodils, and a yellow and green shrub that I'm afraid I don't know the name of. 

But I like a challenge and I love these arrangements. I chose clear glass mason jars as I felt there was as much colour and interest in the mix of stems as in the blooms. And, best of all, we have yellow; bright, sunny, joyful yellow, a colour I adore. Especially right here on the mantle piece against the grey wall. 

Joining in with Lou's inspiring Nature in the Home series over at her blog, littlegreenshed.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Crochet Lately...

It's been nothing but crochet on the creative front round here lately and it's high time I shared some with you. I've just completed another cotton baby blanket using the same pattern and colours as this one.

The only difference is that this blanket is edged in green, a safely gender-neutral colour. It's for my friend Rachel who is expecting her fourth baby in three weeks, and she and her husband chose not to find out the sex.

I am more than a little relieved to have finished it in good time, I have to say! It came out well and I do love that pattern. It looks nice on the back of the sofa. I did start entertaining thoughts about making a huge version of this blanket, in pale dove grey rather than white, to go on the sofa...I'll add that to the growing list in my head called Blankets I Want To Make, a sort of imaginary work in progress. 

I have been working on this cotton granny throw for the last couple of months, on and off, in between other things. The long rows of trebles are so soothing, it's crochet at it's most relaxing. The pattern is from issue 21 of Mollie Makes magazine. Remember how I was going to make one thing from each issue throughout my year long subscription? Well, the last thing I made was these coasters but don't worry, I have not forgotten. After this throw, I quite fancy doing some embroidery from issue 22, and making a tote bag from issue 23. 

And finally, you see that tiny cream-coloured circle hiding in the middle there? That's going to be the nose of the snake I am crocheting Angus for his birthday, which is in a few weeks. Yes, I am cutting it fine, but I am very motivated by a deadline so, once I've done the tricky increase and decrease of the snake's head, I'm hoping the main body of the snake should work up quite quickly. Wish me luck...

Sunday, 21 April 2013


Inside:  Pancakes for breakfast, the best way to start the weekend.

Outside: The blossom on the trees is so late this year and I am appreciating it all the more because it took so long to arrive.

Inside: Finishing another crochet baby blanket as fast as my little fingers can. 

Outside: Visiting The Oldest Sweet Shop in England for pick & mix (Bella and Angus), liquorice gums (John) and for me a quarter of Coltsfoot Rock, which I buy at any opportunity it as it's so hard to find.

Inside: And I ate them over the weekend, and enjoyed every crunchy, crumbly, sweet, aniseedy bite.

Outside: Children + playground + sunshine = happy.

Inside: The anemones bloomed and they are glorious. Ten days after I bought them they are still going strong, brightening up the house.

Outside: Two walk in the woods, deep in conversation.

Inside: The pasta pot bubbles and steams. We eat a lot of pasta.

Outside: Hazy views of the Yorkshire Dales.

Inside: Angus performs his daily check on the sunflower seed he brought home from nursery before Easter. The look on his face when it first pushed up through the earth! Pure, innocent joy and wonder. I think he thought he had to look after a pot of soil.

Outside: Three explore the rocks.

Inside: Huevos rancheros and pasta puttanesca.

Outside: Stunning Brimham Rocks - I can never get over how the rocks just look so precarious - how do they not topple over??

Inside: The coffee table, the centre of the living room. Magazines, cups of tea and coffee, books, flowers, tv remote control - it's all here, but rarely this tidy.

Outside: It's like Where's Wally but you have to find the robin instead.

Sixteen photos from the last 48 hours. 

I had high hopes for this weekend. The stars aligned; Friday was payday, it was John's weekend off, the sun was going to shine...all good! And good it was, the first warm(ish) weekend of the year. I was desperate to get out of Leeds on Saturday and luckily so was John, so we headed to the Yorkshire Dales to enjoy the sunshine. I made him drive so I could crochet in the car. We spent a very happy day with no agenda or schedule, and went to Pateley Bridge first and then to Brimham Rocks. Today we all went swimming, ate pizza for lunch, washed the car, pottered in the garden, did some chores. 

It was a happy balance of busy and rest, of time inside and time outside. I hope you enjoyed your weekend as much as I did mine. 

Saturday, 20 April 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...27/52

The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.

Joining in as ever with the lovely Jen at little birdie, here are my happy moments from the last week:

1. Blue skies! Always a joy to look at and the feel of the sun lifts my spirits. We've had a mixed bag of windy weather this week, but today the sun is shining.

2. Some new reading for the weekend, and a delicious pile of magazines that I have not had time to explore.

3. The garden is slowly, slowly coming to life. We are looking everywhere eagerly for signs of growth and may even be able to pick a few blooms to bring into the house soon.

4. Asparagus risotto. We are having a meat-free week, although we are eating fish, and it's been fun and refreshing to try some new dishes and cook more creatively. Honestly though, I don't know how healthy that dish was - all vegetables taste amazing when cooked with a lot of butter and parmesan and drunk with a bottle of sauvignon blanc.

It's Saturday morning and it's John's weekend off. I am trying to shake off the tiredness that comes from two small people choosing to rise an hour earlier than usual - at the weekend too, thanks kids -  and focus on the day ahead. The sun is shining, the sky is blue. It's probably freezing outside but never mind, we're British, we'll wrap up warm! The weekend stretching ahead of us feels full of promise. I'm going to make another cup of tea and some pancake batter now I think. Enjoy your weekend lovely people! 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Salade Nicoise

I always associate this dish with long lunches in French cafes on holiday, when in truth I probably only ate it once or twice in France, and about one hundred times at home. This is one of my favourite meals to eat when it looks like summer might be on it's way. Big lunch or light supper, it's an easy and rewarding dish that never disappoints. I don't know if my version is an authentic salade nicoise; I use gem lettuce, tinned tuna, eggs, new potatoes, green beans, black olives, tomatoes and anchovies. Some use capers - I don't, but not for any particular reason. I quite like capers.  Some use tuna or anchovies, but not both. Some add onions - I don't as I think the flavour dominates too much. I like my potatoes, green beans and eggs to be warm, so I cook them right before I eat this, rather than straight-from-the-fridge cold. If you wanted to make this with a little more ceremony, it would be nice to sear some fresh tuna instead of using tinned.

It's a recipe of handfuls, really - just increase or decrease depending on appetite and preferences. For two people, I would use:

1 gem lettuce
a handful of new potatoes, maybe 6 or 8 little ones per person
some green beans
3 eggs
1 tin of tuna
a couple of tomatoes, sliced, or a handful of cherry tomatoes
some black olives
3 or 4 anchovies, chopped

Boil the new potatoes and green beans until they are cooked. Drain and set to one side. Boil the eggs - I like mine with the yolks still a little soft (although they are a little too soft in the photo above!). Wash and tear the lettuce, and wash and chop the tomatoes. Open the tin of tuna and drain. Cover your bowl or plate with a bed of lettuce, then roughly arrange all the other ingredients on top.  I make a simple French dressing for this: olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper and a smidge of sugar, shaken well in a jam jar. Drizzle over the salad and eat. 


Thanks for your brilliant, brilliant comments on my last post about children's bedrooms. So many good ideas and suggestions for storage (an issue for all parents it would seem!) and ways to create a room that will grow with the child. I realise I didn't mention Angus or his room at all. Angus has the "box room", that tiny third bedroom that so many British houses have, the room that we always used as a nursery. Big enough for a single bed, a couple of pieces of furniture and not a lot else. It's not an issue now as he tends to spend most of his time playing downstairs, where most of his toys are, and often he plays in Bella's room with her toys. His room is mainly for sleeping, which is ok as he's still little. But I'm aware that his needs will change too, and I'm sure that in a year's time I'll be tearing my hair out wondering how to make him a fun space to play and sleep in. I think the answer might be a cabin bed.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Thing About Children... that they just keep on growing. Growing and changing. Just when I think I have it sussed they move on to the next new thing, leaving me to catch up. Their needs, their wants, their hobbies and favourite things, they just keep on moving. Also, my children seem to have a lot of stuff.

We've been tinkering with Bella's bedroom these last few weeks, trying to create a bedroom which reflects her personality, gives her space to play and meets her rather, err...demanding storage needs. We refreshed the paint on the walls in a most disorganised and sloppy fashion. We went through cupboards and drawers, sorting as we went, filling five bags for the charity shop and as many for the recycling bin. We had a thorough spring clean and changed arrangements and moved toys and books around. But it's still not right and it's very much a work in progress.

Take this wall with the chest of drawers and wardrobe - she can't reach what's on top without standing on a chair.

These before and after photos look depressingly similar! I did tidy, honest.

 Even after a big tidy up it needs something to break up all that white.                                  

The pink wall has gone, along with the grubby fingerprints and peeling wall sticker that had been there since she moved into this room when she was two...

...and it's now clean and fresh with a picture ledge like the one we have in our room. We'd bought two and found we didn't need both so we used the second shelf here.

 Bella absolutely loves this shelf. She made the little arrangement you see below and has changed it six times since, putting her favourite books on display. It's deliberately high on the wall so that everyone who sits on her bed doesn't bang their head on it.

This little bedside table (just an old Ikea bedside cabinet with the door removed) which has served us so well for so long looks tired. It holds picture books perfectly but the trouble is, Bella doesn't really read those picture books so much anymore. For a bedtime story, she prefers us to read a chapter of an "older" book with her, something like Roald Dahl or Pippi Longstocking, or she reads her school reading book. The routines are changing. 

She likes somewhere to sit and write and draw, but she will soon have outgrown this little table and chairs, and need a proper desk.

Bella's main wish is lots of space to play which she has as it's a good size double room. She needs a proper bookcase I think; I would like to find an old one and paint it but the reality may well include a trip to Ikea for a small white Billy bookcase. Then she can reach all her books easily whenever she wants. I'd like to make her some new cushions in some brightly coloured fabric I've been dying to use. And crochet her a blanket (that's a long term project, definitely!). And do something to break up that big white wall. 

I found one box of picture frames in the under-stairs cupboard, and another under our bed. The black frames once held photos in the hall, and most of the white ones were on the wall above our bed before we decorated our bedroom. A collection from various places over the last ten years, none of them expensive of precious, but when I laid them out on the floor I had an idea. I think I will paint them in bright colours and hang them in a square arrangement similar to the one below.

Then Bella and I can fill the frames with pictures, embroideries, postcards, all sorts of pretty things. Again, another long term project.

How do other parents manage the storage issue? How do you create a room that will grow with your child? Any thoughts gratefully received! Although Bella annouced last night that she wants to share her room with Angus and have bunk beds. I think she actually wants the bunk beds a lot more than she wants Angus there, but she knows she can't have one without the other!

Last of all, thanks for your macaron suggestions. A couple of you recommended Nigella's How To Be A Domestic Goddess, which I have, so I will try that recipe. I will not be defeated by some egg white and ground almonds!