Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013: A Year in Pictures

January: Snow and more snow. A wintry weekend away to the Yorkshire Dales; marmalade; cake; lots of snuggling under blankets and walks to and from nursery with the sledge.

February: Hearty food; my birthday; Valentine's biscuits. Kite flying and beach walking.

March: More snow; knitting; Easter and spring flowers. Painting the bathroom yellow and the bedroom white; hot cross buns.

April: A wonderful anniversary break in Copenhagen; the garden comes to life; spring cleaning. Weekends spent in the garden centre and doing lots of crochet.

May: Warmer weather; bluebells; Angus turns four. Lots of time in the garden and flowers in the house.

June: Long, light evenings; lemon curd; day-tripping to the Yorkshire Dales and the Northumberland coast. Making jam and picking wildflowers. 

July: Gloriously hot weather, a proper summer; buttercups; strawberries; gifts for teachers. Summer days spent at village fairs and lavender farms, and being tourists in London.

August: Busy and colourful; visiting family, visiting friends. A fantastic fortnight in France; sun, swimming and long, leisurely meals outside.

September: Back to school; the tomatoes are harvested; sunflowers. Picking blackberries; crochet and Yarndale; pickles and preserves.

October: Days out in the autumn sun; Bolton Abbey; apples; falling leaves. Blankets and cushions; pumpkins and nature tables.

November: Temperatures drop; Bonfire Night and sparklers; woodland walks; making Christmas gifts. Celebrating big birthdays and domestic pleasures.

December: Birthday and Christmas preparations; mulled wine and party bags; sparkle and glitter. Bella turns seven; food, family and coastal walks.


One of the best things about blogging is the way you can look back over old posts and remember things anew. It was especially fun going all the way back to posts from the beginning of this year, they seem such a long time ago now. I like the way a rhythm emerges from each month; without me intending it, certain images, colours and themes arrive and then leave again in the same cyclical way that the seasons come and go. 

I'm glad I write this blog. It gives me a place to record and celebrate the things that are special to me. It was fun to look back and see what 2013 gave me and I'm wondering what 2014 has in store. Should you want to, you can see my review of 2012 here. I'll put together a round up of this year's crochet, knitting, sewing and general creativity in the next few days. In the meantime. thank you so much for visiting and reading, and I very much hope you get as much pleasure from this space as I do. Will you join me in 2014? 

I wish you and your families much health and happiness for the year ahead! 

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Our Christmas

Well hello! We are back in Leeds after a blissful Christmas week spent on the South Coast staying with my parents. I feel a bit like I've been on holiday. The only downside was the weather, which managed to be cold, wet and very windy most of the time. But it was still pretty wonderful, and a much needed break from everyday life. It's a long and photo heavy post I'm afraid, but I wanted to share some of my week with you.

We spent most of Monday sheltering from the wind and torrential rain in a pub in West Sussex with my friend Abigail, her husband, and their two daughters. The good behaviour of four small children meant we had three whole hours to sit, eat, laugh and catch up and it was, as ever, lovely to spend time with such very dear friends. The wind on Monday night was awful, very loud and quite unsettling, but the storm seemed to blow itself out by morning and so on Tuesday we went for a walk as we were all rather in need of some fresh air and exercise. 

Drains were overflowing, water was lying on the fields and it was so very gloomy. We had to drive through a very scary and quite deep flood in a main road to get to our destination, Emsworth mill pond, and I did rather hold my breath as I drove through the seemingly endless pool of water and hoped that we wouldn't float away. The low light and stormy skies made everything look almost black and white.

On Christmas Eve I slept so badly - I was convinced the children were going to wake at some awful hour and I kept waking up, wondering it if was morning yet, then couldn't get back to sleep as I was so excited to see them find their stockings full of presents. Eventually they woke at a very respectable 6.30 and came into our bed to open their presents. Moments like those are a reward for parents for the broken sleep, the night feeds and the tantrums.

It was just the four of us plus my parents on Christmas Day. We went out for another walk (Langstone Harbour this time) in the morning then came home to open some presents. The rabbit was a big hit, I am relieved to say. She is called Rosie and I've made her a scarf and am under strict orders to produce another dress and a nightie too, sharpish. Angus's dog received a luke warm reception. He smiled, then put it carefully to one side and proceeded to ignore it all day. But he likes it and when he's feeling sleepy or affectionate he goes and gets it and plays with it. It sleeps next to him at night. I caught him pretending to feed it a chocolate coin today.

I find it fascinating to watch Bella and Angus open their presents as they are so different. Bella is excitable and impatient and cannot rest and play with anything until every last gift is open. But Angus will open one gift and then go off and quietly play with it (usually while lying on his tummy right in the middle of a busy thoroughfare) and forget about the other parcels lying under the tree.

Boxing Day was a gloriously busy affair with both my sisters, their partners and children. joining us for the day. Fourteen of us squeezed around the table for a lunch of cold turkey and ham, salad, pickles, bubble and squeak, smoked salmon, quiches and tarts. It was delicious and more than a little chaotic.

We ended our week, and our visits to different parts of Chichester Harbour, with a walk around Bosham, a small Sussex coastal village rich in history which I am very fond of. Again, more leaden skies. The sun only seemed to shine when we traveled on the M1 this week.

We fed stale bread to the unnervingly tame ducks and swans, then wandered around the village.

As the sun started to set we walked across the causeway that appears at low tide and we rewarded with beautiful views back to the village.

I fall under a bit of a spell when I visit Bosham, and dream of living in one of those cottages which line the water's edge. Some places do that to you. But judging by the number of sand bags I saw in doorways this week I imagine it's not so idyllic after all, especially when the weather is bad and the tide high.

So, there is our Christmas. Well done if you made it to the end. I had my fill of family, food and sea air, and am very happy. I hope you enjoyed your Christmas too.

Friday, 27 December 2013

The Colour Collaborative: December - Celebration

For me, December is a month packed full of celebrations. Of course there is Christmas, one of the biggest events in our calendar; whatever your religious views, it's a celebration of light, warmth, family, food and joy as much as anything else. And then there are the birthdays. Bella was born on the 18th of the month. My sister, Anna, celebrated hers on Monday, the 23rd. And today my other sister, Katy, shares her birthday with her son, my nephew, Jeremy. It's busy, happy and more than a little chaotic.

When I think back over the last few years of December celebrations, I can't think of a single colour that sums it all up, that represents celebration for me. If anything, I'd say it's a bit like a rainbow glitterball, or a box of Quality Street chocolates. Every colour is used in abundance with a fair amount of glitter and sparkle thrown in for good measure. Nothing is really very planned or coordinated, but everything is full of meaning and memory. 

Traditional colours for this month are usually green, red and white, all colours which appear in nature at this time of year. Holly and mistletoe, leaves and berries, wreathes and branches - even in the bleakest, darkest midwinter month the hues and tones we find in the natural world outside will bring interest and colour into our homes. I am constantly drawn to these colours when I think of Christmas - they say Christmas trees, candy canes, Father Christmas and candlelight to me.

I use red in the stockings I made Bella and Angus, in the poinsettias that line my kitchen windowsill every December, in the fake berry wreath we hang on the front door. I don't decorate with red much in our home - I sometimes find it a dominating, jarring colour - but in winter it's warmth is welcome.

There is the green of our tree, of course, and the greenery I bring indoors and string about the house each December. Sometimes bought, sometimes foraged, it always reminds me that spring is ahead.

Our tree decorations are an "eclectic" mix. I look with envy and awe at my friends' perfect, colour coordinated, elegant trees. I was chatting about Christmas trees with some friends recently and said how much I'd like to just decorate a tree with white lights and nothing else one year. No, they said. It would look too municipal, too much like the big tree the council puts up in the town square each year. I won't ever do it though, as I'd be too sad not to use the decorations that belonged to my Grandma, like that mustard yellow bauble from the seventies above. And the green stocking she knitted, or that awful bright pink bauble above that Bella brought home from school two years ago. It's hideous and I treasure it. Nothing on our tree matches but that's fine. It's a family home not an interior design magazine.

And then we have the primary brights of primary school Christmas cards and toilet roll nativity sets, the bright, glittery blue of this saltdough "A" Angus brought home from school last week.

And the rest is a muddle of colour; some orange in the piles of clementines and satsumas we buy and eat at this time of year, white in the light from the candles dotted around the house and in the snowy icing sugar on top of the mince pies, pink and purple in the winter sunsets and boxes of sweets and chocolates. And all colours are there in the piles of presents under the tree, with their shiny ribbons and glittery bows, and in the rainbows of smarties I always seem to use to decorate birthday cakes.

What colours sum up December celebrations for you? Traditional and Nordic with red, white and green? Minimal and elegant with white, gold and silver? Or modern and bright with hot pinks, purples, yellows and oranges? Or are you a bit like me, all of it thrown in for good measure?

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.


I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas celebrations. I'm looking forward to sharing some of our Christmas with you in a few days.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Hello! Just a short post today to wish you a very MERRY CHRISTMAS, wherever you are, however you are celebrating it. Thank you so much for your friendship and support this year. I am already looking forward to sharing 2014 with you and hope that your Christmas is merry and bright and generally full of joy.

We are staying with my parents this year. It's the first time we've been here for Christmas in eight years (John's job always prevented us from travelling far at this time of year) and so it's very special to be here. There are three family birthdays this week, too - both my sisters and my nephew - so the days are busy and full. I am particularly thankful that we are safe and warm and have working power while so many are experiencing travel nightmares, floods and power cuts due to the recent storms. We had a very cold and windy walk this morning then spent this afternoon watching Elf while I frantically crocheted John's scarf - I should just about get it done in time - before going to a beautiful Christingle carol service at church. Now, I'm upstairs writing this and I can hear pans clattering and drinks being poured downstairs. Bella and Angus are excited. I am excited! I love Christmas. 

I'm off to watch Carols and Kings now, drink some Pimms and join in with the festivities. Happy Christmas to you all. 

Gillian x

Friday, 20 December 2013


Oh my goodness me, I am glad it's Friday. What a week! It doesn't matter how well I plan, how organised I think I am, the last week of term is always busy. Add into the mix a birthday, Christmas preparations, lots of socialising and evenings out, plus a foolish plan to hand make all my gifts, and it gets hectic. It's been lovely though - there have been school carol concerts in the church, Indian meals and all sorts of festive get gatherings. Yesterday I made 72 mince pies. They were mini ones, but still. Last night at book group I drank mulled cider for the first time; it's wonderful stuff, and I'm not someone who particularly likes cider. 

Thank you so much for all Bella's birthday wishes. We started the day by opening presents in bed, then she chose Nutella on toast for her breakfast. After school we went out for pizza for tea. She had a nice day, I think. Plus her second upper-front tooth fell out while she was eating her garlic dough balls so the tooth fairy visited on her birthday, which was very exciting, and she now has a huge gap which is adorable. Do you remember the two dolls I made for my nieces? Well Bella liked them very much and requested one for her birthday. She picked out the dress fabric and everything - really, I was powerless to resist! The arms are straight this time but the legs are a little wonky. I was worried she wouldn't be that interested in her, but ever since she unwrapped the doll she hasn't left her side. She sits her up at the dinner table (where I moved it far away from the spaghetti and meatballs - I would have actually cried if there was a tomato sauce incident) and she sleeps next to her in bed, and when we go out she and the doll (who is called Maddie, apparently) "hold hands". Honestly, I cannot tell you how deep-down happy this makes me. It was worth it, the hours spent hunched over the sewing machine, for this, and it gives me high hopes that she'll enjoy her rabbit for Christmas. 

I also made Angus a dog* this week for Christmas. I felt that Bella had received a lot of handmade love and I wanted to make him something too. It was an absolute bugger to make - very, very fiddly, it's actually quite small - but incredibly cute. I'm not sure if he'll like it or not. I'm worried it looks a little feminine, but when I wrapped it in a piece of wool felt for a blanket and tucked it in the suitcase I liked it a whole lot more. I've made him a t-shirt with a fire engine on it too, to be on the safe side. They'll have other toys and books which we've bought as well. I'm not putting all my eggs in one handmade basket.

We've almost finished wrapping the presents. I have one left to make - a scarf for John - which will be an eleventh hour job but something I can do anywhere, like in the car. It should be ready in time. On Sunday we drive down to my parents' house where we'll be spending Christmas this year, hence my urgency to get these last minute things done now. I am woefully behind with all my blog reading, I really am, but I will make some time to do this over the weekend. And hello new followers, it's lovely to have you here!

* The pattern is from issue 18 of Mollie Makes.

Monday, 16 December 2013

It's That Time Of Year

When the sunrises are so spectacular that you run and get the camera, even though it's a school morning and you're in a rush and there really isn't time.

When the sun hits the mini glitter balls on the Christmas tree and sends tiny sparkles of light dancing all over the ceiling and walls.

When the mantle piece gets Christmasified (yep, I'm pretty sure that's a word).

When the Christmas edition of the Radio Times goes on sale and the highlighters come out. When you buy pink poinsettias in Aldi for £1.50 and wonder why you've never noticed them before and vow to buy them every year from now on, so pretty are they.

When the sewing machine is smokin'.

When you discover the wonder that is a hemostat, and realise that yes, it actually makes a thirty minute job of turning the arm of a doll the right way out take thirty seconds. Seriously, it's the best £5.91 I've spent in months, just brilliant. 

When you find yourself making ten crochet flower hair grips for ten little girls because, you know, you've got nothing else to do really.*

When you waste time messing about with alphabet beads.

When a production line of party bags appears on the kitchen window sill.

When birthday cakes are baked and iced (buttercream and smarties - my speciality).

When candles are lit and blown out and a little girl is almost seven.

When it all gets a bit crazy and stressy, but you go along with it, because it's fun and it's that time of year. Then, after the birthday party, if you're me, you can go out for the evening with some other mums from school who you don't know that well but it turns out they're really nice, and drink much too much, and sing Material Girl very badly on a karaoke machine, then stumble home at 1 am. That too.


*Flower pattern from here.