Saturday, 28 February 2015


I am wondering where Feburary went. Why is it that, while January lasts for what feels like 3 months, February is over in a fortnight?


Work continues on the house. Nothing that makes me want to take a photo especially - lots of tasks involving gas, electricity and plumbing, doors and windows, sanders and drills. Things that are expensive and do not yield instant, attractive results. 

A man came to talk to us about installing a woodburning stove in this empty fireplace.

I spotted some crocuses growing under a tree in our new front garden. I also spotted some snowdrops, which made me very happy indeed. 

We've painted the three upstairs bedrooms and it feels really good to know these rooms are done, ready to move in to. This blue wall is in what will be our bedroom. I moved the stepladder out of shot. The radio is much more attractive.

I can't wait to get into that room and make it look pretty, faff around with bedding and pictures and flowers. My new throw, a birthday present, needs to be draped over every bed and chair in the house to see where is goes best.


The suburb where my parents live has a resident's association. They plant flowers along grass verges and create garden areas on tiny scraps of public land and in unloved corners. There are daffodils everywhere at the moment.

At the bottom of the hill, on the main road, is a large tree stump. Someone has carved these owls into the wood. Isn't it lovely? It reminds me of the picture book Owl Babies.

A tiny door is set into the bottom of the tree stump. We call it a fairy door. I've no idea who did this or why, as it isn't in anyone's garden but just by the side of the road, but it enchants me.


I blocked my shawl. 

The process of pinning and stretching transformed it, as I hoped it would. (Full post will follow.)


My head is all over the place at the moment as we divide our time between two houses and I am really, really tired. We hope to move in in a couple of weeks and I swing between thinking we've made huge progress and we've made none, depending on my mood. John starts his new job on Monday so it'll just be me up there, painting away. And my parents, who come up and help whenever they can. My Dad has painstakingly re-hung every single internal door in the house as none of them closed (not a single one!) and is currently doing some carpentry in the kitchen. My mum is excellent with a paint brush. My sister popped round on Friday and painted a wall bright Kelly green for me. No-one likes it but me. I'll show them. 

Thank you so much for your birthday wishes and the comments on my Grandma's recipe. I'm really glad you enjoyed it and loved how many of you remembered it from your own family histories. Again, I must apologise for not visiting your blogs more. Things are very hectic again but they will settle down soon. Life will return to normal, and just in time for spring.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Spiced Bread Pudding

My mum has a folder stuffed full of my Grandma's old recipes containing, among other things,  hand written notes, articles neatly clipped from newpapers and those booklets which came free with 1950s electric ovens. I was looking through it recently and came across this one for Spiced Bread Pudding, something I remember my Grandma baking for us as a child, something I loved to eat. I get a thrill out of finding old recipes - especially if they come with some kind of history or memory - as I think that the ones which have been kept and passed on tend to both taste good and work. 

This piece of paper makes me smile and think of Grandma straight away. It smells of her house. It's covered in cooking splatters. It was obviously a favourite recipe, as she took the time to type it out, and the typed print feels as warm and familiar to me as her own handwriting. 

Can you see the watermark? Can you even buy watermarked paper, or Queen's Velvet paper, these days I wonder?

I baked it recently and was over the moon to find that it worked, and that it tastes excatly as I remember it. It's moist, sweet, nutmeggy and very delicious. This is not a pudding really but a tray bake kind of cake, and bears little resemblance to Bread and Butter Pudding (the kind where you butter the bread and then bake it in a custard in the oven which I don't really like if I'm honest, it's too eggy and bland.) This is more like a dense, sweet fruit cake. I've typed out the recipe here, tweaking it. I like it with more spices than Grandma did, I think all that bread needs the flavour, and sultanas are always my dried fruit of choice as they're so plump and sweet.

8 oz or 230 grams stale brown bread, say 5 or 6 slices.
¾ pint or 425 ml milk.
2 oz or 60 grams butter.
2 oz or 60 grams brown sugar.
5 oz sultanas, currants or any kind of mixed dried fruit.
1½ tsp cinnamon
1½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
Sugar for sprinkling.

Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F and grease your tin. Mine was 7" x 10" and I didn't need to line it.

Cut the bread into 1 cm cubes and put in a large bowl.

In a saucepan, bring to a boil the milk, butter and sugar, then pour over the bread.

Mix well and leave to soak for 15 minutes, stirring now and then to break down the bread.

Add the dried fruit and spices and mix well. It should look like a thick, lumpy cake batter by now.

Spoon into the tin and bake for 45 minutes or until golden and firm to the touch.

Sprinkle with sugar and cut into squares.

Be generous with the sugar - the contrast between the crunch of the sugar and the softness of the pudding is the best bit.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Cake and Other Good Things

Good things like birthday cake. Made by my sister, Katy, at my request. Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, my favourite. 

Like hand-drawn birthday cards and tulips and beautiful new vases. I am well-vased now. All my vase and flower vessel needs are met. So many to choose from!

Like a shiny pretty new necklaces, a gift from my best friend Abigail, and indulgent bath products that I'd never usually buy as I'm such a cheapskate.

In case I forget.

Like nearly finishing this shawl. I'm on the border now and it's just a darning and a blocking away from being worn. It's huge. I used almost two 100g skeins of yarn. 

I love how frothy it is. The yarn is called Driftwood but it kind of reminds me of sea foam.

Like a brisk coastal walk this morning. Damn the wind was cold! Everyone had that head down, purposeful look to them, more marching than walking. Getting fresh air? Tick. Exercising the children on their scooters? Tick. Oh good, we can go home to the warm and relax now. 

Like watching these gulls walk on the frozen millpond. They must be a little confused.

Like the sunset from our new bedroom window, taken at the end of an afternoon decorating. It stays lighter a little longer every day. Actually, we've made real headway with the decorating this weekend and the bedrooms are almost done. We've painted one wall in our bedroom the most stunning shade of blue. I'll take a photo. I can't wait to get furniture in there and show it to you properly!

Well, I was all ready to sit here and tell you about what a crappy half term I've had, what with the germs, and the two lots of cancelled plans to see friends, and the seemingly endless rounds of doctors appointments and antibioitcs and painkillers that punctuated our break. I'm quite well now, but when your nearest and dearest are poorly you feel like you might as well be too. Anyway, there's light at the end of the tunnel and, when I sit and think about it, there was lightness in our week too. Like on Wednesday, when I met up with my dear friend Debora and her family, who were holidaying in the New Forrest. I showed her the house - it was so nice to show it to someone! - and we had a pub lunch and a meandering walk along the shore. The kids fell back into their old friendships and paddled and hunted for sea glass. And on Friday I celebrated my birthday. I love birthdays, I really do. Presents! Cake! Fuss! My mum called me Birthday Girl all day which I loved. Like "Morning Birthday Girl!" and "What would the Birthday Girl like for lunch?" I do the same with Bella. In my card from John was a little note saying "I owe you lunch out, somewhere nice and of your choice, when I am better." I'm saving that for a spring day when the kids are at school. So yes, lots of good things when I stop and think about it. 

* * * * * 

Thank you so much for sharing the names of all your favourite toys with me. It was such fun reading the comments! I've come the the conclusion that perhaps my children and I are not so unimaginative after all, since so many beloved toys and comforters are named simply as they are named by their small owners, which is how it should be.  You told me about bears called Big Ted, Red Ted, Blue Ted, Little Bear and Brown Bear, Pandas called Pandy or Panda, Dogs called Doggie. And then there were the really funny ones, like Mr Peebly, Schlumbl, Willem the Cat and Egg Sandwich. Names which have no meaning or significance to anyone other than the owner. Brilliant! Thank you so much. And on that note, let me leave you with a photo or two of String Dog, so named as Angus likes to make him a lead from parcel string and then drag him around behind him, including to the new house where he inevitably got paint on him and that is why he's on the washing line, drying out.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Colour Collaborative: February: Precious

When my first child, Bella, was very small and I was constantly crippled by the fear that I was doing everything related to parenting Very Wrong Indeed, I remember reading somewhere that French mothers didn't give their babies soft toys or dummies as comforters, but instead they used plain white muslin cloths. You know the sort, you'd put them on your shoulder when bringing up an infant's wind, in case of spills. (Oh, that smell when they're nestled into your neck...) The beauty in this idea is that the cloths are interchangeable, washable, and you can have ten of them, preventing anguished pre-bedtime "Where the hell is bunny?" scenarios. Of course, I thought, of course these slim, chic women have found an elegant solution to the comforter issue, and wished I'd known of it before. 

This is what Bella had. Still has. 

Bunny, a gift from my in-laws. It's always been known as bunny, nothing more, nothing less. My children are unimaginative with names for their toys. It's a kind of soft, square piece of fleece with a head attached and it's been through the washing machine many times. We would always put this little creature in with Bella in her cot - with no real idea of any attachment actually developing - but develop it did, for by the time she was one Bunny was a firm fixture in our bedtime routine. 

Angus has one very similar, also a thoughtful gift from my in-laws while I was pregnant. While we didn't know Bella's sex until she was born, we found out that Angus was a boy at the 20 week scan and so this one is blue, for a boy.

This animal is also called Bunny and it is also beloved by it's owner and essential at bedtime. Angus refers to his toy as "he" while Bella's is always a "she". Beyond that, we only know which flipping Bunny is needed by whichever child wakes in the night, calling out and searching for the rabbit lost on the floor. 

I had Pink Ted. (Hmm, perhaps they inherited their lack of imagination from me...?) His pink fur quickly fell off through over-cuddling and he's a poor, sorry looking rag of a bear now. He's in a box in storage at the moment otherwise I'd have dug him out for a photo opportunity. What about you, did you have a much-loved soft toy as a child? Did it have a silly name? Do please tell me, I'd love to know. I've just asked John and he apparently had a bear called Herbert. My sister had a bear called Gruffles. Gruffles?!

These funny looking creatures are precious to Bella and Angus, of course, but they are incredibly dear to me. They capture the baby and toddler years of my children in a way that not a lot else does, and it will be a sad day for me when Bunny 1 and Bunny 2 are no longer needed. For now, I will cherish their smelly, faded, raggedy bodies and be very thankful indeed that I gave my children these daft toys instead of a white muslin cloth. For where are the memories in that? I use my old ones as dusters.

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

Annie at Annie Cholewa
Sandra at Cherry Heart
Jennifer at Thistlebear
Claire at Above The River

And February's guest poster, 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, 17 February 2015

A String Shopping Bag

Thank you so much for your get well mesages. I am almost back to normal now. John (poor bloke) has some antibiotics which should clear up what turned to be an ear infection. Bella is in robust health and Angus, not to be outdone, has a bit of a cough that becomes very dramatic when he has to do something he doesn't want to do, like wash his hands before a meal or eat his vegetables. We battle on!

Anyway, the bag. I think this must be one of the most satisfying crochet projects I've completed in quite some time. Two and a half big balls of parcel string, one 10 mm hook and the whole thing made in under a week.

The pattern is from the excellent book Granny Squares by Susan Pinner which I've used a lot since I bought it a couple of years ago, and most recently to make my blanket. The bag is thirteen granny squares crocheted together using the join as you go method. 

It was fun watching the bag come together and take shape. Once the main section is done you add some double crochet edging and make the handles.

It's surprisingly strong and surprisingly roomy. It stretches when it's full and carried my laptop, slippers and crochet bag when I babysat my nieces for my sister a couple of nights ago.

The only negative thing I can think of to say about this bag is that crocheting with string is not exactly soft on the fingers. And a string bag all on it's own does not make a pretty photo, so I amused myself by buying a baguette and some tulips as props. Ah, tulips. Always pretty. I never go off them.

It wont work as a handbag as things might fall through the holes, but it's already getting lots of use as a kind of hold-all for when I go over to the house and want to take decorating clothes or my camera with me. I thought it might be a good beach bag for towels and wet things, since the material is so hard wearing and the construction allows air to circulate. But I'm mainly going to use it as it was intended, for shopping, even if my purchases wont always be this photogenic.

Sunday, 15 February 2015


Oh, what a week it's been. One nasty, vicious virus has been working it's way around our household and we've all succumbed in one way all another. John is in a bad way tonight, shivering away on the sofa with a suspected sinus infection. He's off to the doctor's tomorrow. I feel better today than I did yesterday, and the day before that, but still a long way off normal. Halfhearted decorating attempts have been made, but none of us have the energy. I can't find my decorating clothes so I wore some good-ish jeans and, what do you know, got paint all over them. Oh, and I've broken out in spots which always happens when I'm ill. 

Anyway, this afternoon we met my sister and her family at the beach and walked a favourite walk. It was so good to be by the sea in the fresh air. The sun was warm and there was virtually no wind. We found a dead crab, played football, collected shells, jumped in the sand dunes and just enjoyed being outside. It was gorgeous. 

I have so much to share with you - a cake recipe, a just-finished crochet string shopping bag, an almost-finished shawl in the most beautifully soft Blue Faced Leicester yarn, paint charts...this week, I promise.

Also, I received an email from the production company behind The Great Interior Design Challenge and they are looking for amateur interior designers. How exciting! I really enjoyed the last series. So if any of you fancy getting involved the details are below:


"Are you passionate about interior design? Do you have a natural flair and creativity and think you have what it takes to improve the interiors of other people’s homes? In this warm-hearted television series contestants will compete to be named the UK’s best amateur interior designer. If you think you have what it takes please call 020 3040 6853 or email in order to receive an application."

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Seven Days

:: It's still winter out there despite the lack of snow and the arrival of daffodils everywhere.

:: An amazing, delicious Cornish pasty for lunch on a bitterly cold day. 

:: Testing tester pots. (And yes, the lounge roof does slope, it's not your eyes. Another quirky sixties design feature...)

:: They can't believe they're allowed to scoot indoors.

:: Bye bye Mickey - Bella has plans for this room.

:: Acrylic felt was a bad idea. I'm making another fox in wool felt.

:: Early morning light at Mum's.

:: Trying something new - crocheting with parcel string, to make a shopping bag.

:: Portchester village, full of charm and quirky, pretty properties.

:: A walk around Portchester Castle.

:: One up, one down.

:: Angus wishes he'd worn his wellies.

:: Bird watching.

:: Flat calm.

:: My love.

And that is what the memory card in my camera held from the last seven days. Different houses, inside, outside, exploring the local area. A bit of everything. The stuff of life.