Friday, 30 May 2014

Friday Happies

1. That morning when it stopped raining just long enough for us go out for some fresh air and jump in some puddles, when we visited Morden Hall, a beautiful National Trust property in South London. (I took lots of photos and I'll do a post soon - it really was a breathtakingly lovely spot.) Time with my lovely Abigail, time with her girls, my goddaughters.

2. That same afternoon, cuddled up with Angus, watching Frozen ("...♫...Let it go...let it goooo... ♫...") and drinking tea. I liked the film very much, but I enjoyed the cuddle more. 

3. The way this embroidered blossom, made up of hundreds of tiny french knots, feels when I run my fingers over it.

5. A visit to the superb Natural History Museum (or the "dinosaur museum" as Angus calls it) on Thursday.

 It was so, so busy, and we probably only saw about five percent of the exhibits, but is was a wonderful day out for the children, and for us. I could stand in the main entrance hall for ages, watching people, just enjoying being in that dramatic space. 

It has been a fantastic half term holiday, full and busy, but with time and space to stop and savour as well. It has pretty much rained non-stop but I did my best to ignore it. We stayed with my dear friend Abigail, who lives in South London, and did lots of touristy things with the children. I also went to my first WI meeting (as a visitor, I'm not a member) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It is just my sort of thing. It was in a pub and people were drinking! I'd expected a draughty church hall and cups of tea. I may look into my local groups and see if they have room for new members. 

I'm completely exhausted. We had a nightmare journey back up north today and what would normally be a four hour drive took eight and a half. The kids were good until Sheffield, then they bickered incessantly until we got home. I aged during that journey, let me tell you, and I'm very glad that we have a reasonably quiet, pottering sort of weekend ahead of us. 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Colour Collaborative: May - Childhood

Some colours from my childhood: pink suede pixie boots; yellow buttercups and the "do you like butter?" trick; pale blue school shirts; the cream and brown stripes on our boat, Kittiwake; pink cloud-patterned wallpaper on our bedroom wall; yellow for "Winchester", my school house; an orange Garfield lunch box; green grass cuttings that set off my hayfever; pale red tomatoes in my Grandpa's greenhouse; the dark brown dress I wore as part of my Brownie's uniform.

But the colours that stand out most, that I remember most clearly, come from books. 

I have always loved books and was what you'd call a bookworm as a child and teenager. I was often accused of having my head in a book, especially on long car journeys, and read paperback fiction voraciously; Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Arthur Ransome, then moving on to Agatha Christie, Virginia Andrews. But since having my own children it's the picture books that call the loudest, that move me the most. The pile pictured above are special. These are the ones I saved from when I was small, took with me when I left home and can never part with. They are none of them classics, I wouldn't expect anyone to have heard of them, but they hold huge sentimental value to me. They take me back in time, back to my childhood.

Primary brights with a seventies tone for camping trips on the beach, for adventure, campfires, swimming in the sea, barbecuing your own sausages, throwing your own handmade party and making decorations, for flares and freedom.

Beautiful cool, muddy colours for a tale of three children who go for a walk one winter's afternoon and find an unloved toy bear, stuck in a tree, who rescue it and take it home with them. A spare, icy palate illustrates knitted hats and scarves, snowy fields, bares trees and a cosy house. I think the illustrations in this book (The Winter Bear) by Erik Blegvad, are individual works of art.

Rosy carnival hues for this story of a rabbit who was never ready, who missed out on the family trips to the cinema, funfair and football because he could never find his mittens; earthy-toned brights for his triumphant trip to the circus, his reward for learning to be organised. (I love the moral - tidy your stuff, kids, or you'll miss out on the fun!)

These are the real colours of my childhood, I think. I was born in 1978 and would say that - in terms of music, fashion and cultural references - I'm really more a child of the eighties. But all of these books were published in the seventies and there is a definite, defiant, glorious retro tone to these colours. No wishy washy pastels, no pink for girls and blue for boys, no glitter or fairies. Just big, fat, gorgeous blocks of colour and tales of children and animals having adventures. These are the colours that stay with you.


There are other childhood books I loved - which are still available - and which I've bought for Bella and Angus over the years, like The Tiger Who Came To TeaWhere The Wild Things Are, the Brambly Hedge stories and Dogger or anything by the wonderful Shirley Hughes. And I've loved reading with them and sharing those stories and colour-filled illustrations, layering new memories on top of my own original ones. I'd love to hear of your favourite childhood picture books, what titles or authors you especially loved and why you loved them.


If you'd like to read posts by the other Colour Collaborative bloggers, please follow the links below:

Annie at Knitsofacto
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.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014


Hello! I hope you all had a wonderful bank holiday weekend. Thank you for all your get well wishes, you are so kind. Despite colds and almost incessant rain, we had a very relaxed kind of bank holiday.

I have a giveaway for you today, very kindly offered by Vinyl Impression. I am really, really excited about this because I adore these wall stickers. The gorgeous typography, the sentiment, the floral imagery; to me they celebrate both spring and home, two things you know I love. 

The giveaway is for any sticker from Vinyl Impression's The Joy Press range. Follow the link to look at the full range. I've picked out my favourites here, below.

Beautiful, aren't they?

To enter:
  •  Follow my blog, either through bloglovin' or Google Friend Connect.
  • Leave a comment telling me which wall sticker your prefer.
The giveaway closes on Friday 6th June.

That's it! Then I'll announce a winner and contact you for your address and then Vinyl Impressions will send the sticker directly to you. 

Please note: All the wall stickers in this giveaway are open to international readers (hooray!) with the exception of the Hanging Flowers sticker, which is open to UK residents only.

All photos are used with kind permission of Vinyl Impression.

Edited to add: This giveaway is now closed.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Friday Happies

It's raining and has been for the past two days, and probably will all weekend long. I am just getting over a horrible cold/throat virus thing that's left me feeling tired and a bit bleugh, a lacklustre.

But never mind, it's Friday! Even better, it's half term next week, yay! No Sunday evening school uniform ironing for me this weekend. No packed lunches to make every morning next week. A break from spellings and reading, after school activitties and rush, rush, rush. And so it's time to dig deep and find those pockets of happiness, to remember those wee moments that made me smile and lifted my spirits this week.

1. Lilac, "foraged" (ahem) from a tree overhanging the old railway line. It smells utterly divine.

2. My new favourite breakfast: porridge, strawberries and maple syrup.

3. The alliums in the garden are looking spectacular.

The bees like them too.

4. A perfectly new, pristine, freshly unwrapped bar of soap. It's like when you break the seal on a new jar of instant coffee with a spoon. I wish I liked instant coffee, just for that pleasure.

5. A spring ritual, taking my patchwork quilt off the bed, washing and line drying it, then packing it away until next autumn. Then it's another joyful ritual to get it back out in six months time.

Hurrah for simple pleasures! I feel better just for writing this post. Have a great weekend everyone. Come back Mr Sunshine, we miss you.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Salts Mill

I thought I'd share some of the best of Yorkshire with you tonight. I've been meaning to write this post since last Thursday, when I met Lucy for coffee at Salts Mill, which is about half an hour from me. But I was too busy, then it was too sunny and I was too busy enjoying the sun, then I was too busy again. 

Salts Mill sits slap bang in the middle of the picturesque village of Saltaire, on the outskirts of Bradford. Founded by Victorian industrialist Titus Salt, it is built on the money from wool and spinning, yarn and textiles, and the huge old mill now houses shops, galleries, cafes and office space. If you ever find yourself in this part of West Yorkshire I really recommend a visit, it's an inspiring and calming place.

The mill itself is a monolithic structure, magnificent and forbidding. The proportions are vast. There are four flights of stairs between each floor, which gives you an idea of the ceiling heights and the sheer scale of the building. 

But inside - oh wow. The space and industrial feel make for a striking gallery/retail space. This is the 1853 Gallery which houses a lot of David Hockney's work, among other things. Those windows! I had to tear my eyes away from them to look at the art.

My destination is always the second floor, home to Salt's Diner, an interiors shop called The Home, and the book shop. The book shop is completely, utterly gorgeous, full of friendly staff and well chosen stock which is beautifully merchandised. Dangerous on the wallet!

The picture windows are immense, framing views of other industrial buildings and the surrounding Yorkshire hills. I spent as much time staring out of the windows as I did browsing stock.

All things considered, I exercised tremendous restraint (in my opinion - John might disagree) and bought this book, which I've wanted for ages, and a selection of postcards of Hockney's Yorkshire watercolours.

 I left the old mill and walked over the road into Saltaire village. I wanted to look around Rad Studio. Last time I came to Saltaire, with Jen, it was closed. What a treasure of a shop, so full of colour and personality.

I love the way the shop windows frame the surrounding scenery so well, so symmetrically. 

It was a lovely morning, a few hours of calm in a hectic week, time to chat with a friend and time alone to wander and browse. Coffee, shopping, art, conversation - food for the soul.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Sun Has Got His Hat On

This weekend we:
  • woke to blue skies.
  • drank iced coffee in the garden.
  • admired the cow parsley along the paths.
  • went to the local carnival.
  • ate ice creams.
  • forked out cash for overpriced inflatable slides.
  • bought a chocolate shake from the cutest caravan.
  • walked home in the afternoon sun past the church.
  • got the barbecue going.
  • drank rose in the garden when the kids were in bed.

Sometimes, just sometimes, the stars align and the weather is glorious when it is John's weekend off. Oh, it was a gorgeous weekend and we made the most of it. This time last year, almost to the day, I wrote a post called Carnival, in which we did very similar things but in the rain. Well, we went again this year and it was sunny and what a difference it makes! Everyone so happy and smiley, enjoying the outdoors, the kids in shorts and t-shirts, me in my flip flops, John wondering if last year's sun cream is still ok to use (I'm never sure - we used it anyway).


Do you remember how I shared the appalling state of our car with you last week? Well, rather hilariously, John found out on Friday that he has to car share to a meeting this week and give a lift to two colleagues. Cue manic car cleaning this weekend. He spent two and a half hours this morning washing and waxing it, vacuuming the insides, polishing the windows, dusting the dashboard. He even bought some upholstery cleaner to get rid of the juice stain! We now have one fragrant, shiny, tidy car. For about a week, anyway.


I have almost finished replying to all the comments on this post. It was exhilarating, reading them all, joining in the discussion. Thank you. Normal service will resume now. 

Friday, 16 May 2014

Friday Happies

Wow. Thank you for your tremendous response to my last two posts, for your thoughts, opinions and conversation. I am working my way through them, replying to each one, but it's taking some time. I so enjoyed your random facts! Thank you for those. And your stories about what you do all day - I feel privileged that you shared those with me, all those different tales of strong and interesting women, working in or out of the home.

There is just something I'd like to say (I hoped I wouldn't need to say this, that it would be clear, but just to be on the safe side, I'll say it anyway): women who work in paid employment - be it full time, part time or as a trainee or student - I salute you! You have my total, true and endless respect. I don't think that my choice is superior, in any way, it's just different. My frustration lies in peoples' lack of understanding of my choices. I would never dream of asking a woman (or man) who worked what she did all day long, if she got bored, if it was "enough" for her. I want the respect to flow both ways. Ok, now I've said that I can relax. I would hate to think anyone felt criticised, that was never my intention. 

I loved my job before I had my children, and my decision to leave work was based on the fact that my job involved weekend and evening working, and was a 90 minute commute away. There was no way we could work my job and John's around a family (try finding a nursery that is open at weekends!) and so I decided to leave work and I hope to return to the workplace in the future. But whether you work or stay at home, whether you have children or not...I just want us all to live our own lives and make our own choices, free of snide comments and lazy assumptions. Let's all get along and support each other. Up the women! 


Anyway, onto my roundup of the little things which have made me so happy this week.

1. You lot. You are my first happy this week - blogging, and the wonderful bloggers I "know". The support, friendship and wisdom I have found in this blogging community heartens me and reminds me that most people are really nice, and we all just want to live and let live.

2. Angus turned five on Monday. Happy Birthday Angus!

I think five is a great age. Angus talks non stop and is full of questions but still has some of the chubby innocence of a pre-schooler. He still has that delicious pot belly and, more importantly, still lets me kiss it. On Tuesday, after dropping Bella somewhere, we walked home really slowly and chatted all the way. I wanted it to last forever and kept slowing down as we neared home. When we got in, I ignored the state of the house and cuddled up on the sofa with him to watch Deadly 60. My baby. I could eat him up.

3. Yesterday I had a pretty idyllic morning at Salt's Mill in Saltaire. I met up with Lucy (She is utterly lovely, funny and friendly - I feel like I know her well, even though we've only actually met in person twice. That's the funny thing about blogging.) and spent a happy couple of hours chatting over coffee. Then I wandered around the mill, looking at the shops and galleries, enjoying the calm and solitude after a frenetic few days. I'll do a proper post about it soon. 

4. A posy from the garden in a pretty new vase.

There's a jumbled mixture of weeds, shrubs and flowers in there. I've no idea what half of them are called but I like them, and I like the riot of May colour against that graphic, geometric pattern on the pot.

5. A steaming hot, perfectly brewed cup of tea. Is it sad that I included this? I've drunk a lot of luke warm cups of tea since having children and really appreciate how much better tea tastes hot. I love tea.

I wish you all a lovely weekend. The weather forecast is fine and dry and we have our local carnival tomorrow, so we'll go along to that. We might even have the first barbecue of the year - exciting!!