Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Colour Collaborative: February: Metal

Throughout my teens and twenties I only ever wanted to wear silver coloured jewellery. Solid silver, silver plate. white gold - but never gold. My wedding and engagement rings are platinum, and I notice that many women of my vintage also chose platinum or white gold wedding bands; thin and elegant, coordinated to match the engagement ring, and I wonder if their wedding dresses looked like mine too, this being the early 2000's and the era of the ivory strapless column dress. But I remember that I didn't like gold. I found it showy and too shiny looking, almost tacky, and preferred the quieter shine of silver. How tastes change though - now, I think there is nothing more elegant or timeless than a simple gold wedding band.

Wedding rings aside, my other favourite ring is also silver. I have a pot full of costume jewellery rings - called "cocktail rings" I believe - which I rarely wear, and two diamond beauties I inherited from my Grandma (one which I am almost too self conscious to wear, so much does it scream "mug me") but the ring I almost always wear on my right hand is this one.

Bought on holiday in New York many, many years ago, it was a gift from John. It was probably the only ring we could afford in the shop, and I'd take it over diamonds any day. A decade of constant wear means that the outside is now very bashed and battered but I love the shape and weight of it, and slip it on my finger automatically each morning. 

I have, over the last twenty years, bought an awful lot of costume jewellery; stacks of bracelets to be worn jangling together; chunky wooden bangles; fabulous feathery dangling earrings; long necklaces to wrap around my neck two or three times. I buy a lot less now but still, like a magpie, I am drawn to pretty shiny things and I love buying or making something to wear, usually chunky, colourful items in wood or fimo or acrylic. 

But I notice I am wearing less and less jewellery as I get older and I think it's because I can't be bothered with the fuss. Almost anything worn on my wrist irritates me when I type or write, and earrings make my ears sore if worn for more than a couple of hours. Long necklaces are hidden by the lanyard I have to wear at work and get all tangled up together. Unless I am trying to make a particular effort with my outfit, my jewellery is almost always the same few things; wedding ring, watch, maybe a small bracelet and a short necklace. And I've grown to love gold, to appreciate the warmth and lift it brings to a neckline or wrist, the way it glows against my skin. John gave me the most beautiful necklace for my birthday recently, with a tiny gold dragonfly hanging from a chain, which is short and so sits comfortably away from anything else I wear around my neck. It gives the most beautiful, discreet sparkle and warmth and I love wearing it. 

What about you: do you like wearing jewellery, and do you have a preference for gold or silver, or perhaps rose gold, with it's lovely pink tones? Do you wear a wedding band and if so, what kind did you choose and why? Do you have a single piece of jewellery which you cherish above all others, does it have a particular resonance or history for you? These sorts of stories fascinate me and I'd love to hear about them. 


Thank you all very much for your birthday wishes, so kind of you. 


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
Jennifer at Thistlebear
Claire at Above The River
Sarah at Mitenska will be returning next month. 

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.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Late February Days

We went to Yorkshire and it snowed. We were staying with good friends that we've known for years and years, in their house high up in the hills near Holmfirth, and we'd spent the morning walking off our hangovers in the sun and eating a cooked breakfast. Suddenly the snow came down thick and fast for about ten minutes. It didn't settle. When it stopped we went out for tea: pie, chips and gravy. (Eating is my path through a hangover.)

Then northwards to Durham to see John's family. I "persuaded" everyone that a quick trip to Seaham beach for a walk (for me to look for sea glass) would be a cracking good idea in one degree winds. We would have stayed longer were we not about to lose all feeling in our extremities, but what a lot we found. The trouble with looking for sea glass, though, is that you spend the whole time bending over looking at the ground when you could be looking at the sea or the sky.

We were home at the end of the week in time for me to celebrate being one whole year older. I tried to convince my niece that I was twenty eight, not thirty eight, and she just looked at me through narrowed eyes and really scrutinised my face, then said "I don't believe you".

I don't care. I had a completely lovely day. Friends from near and far sent cards and parcels. New friends from school called in with gifts and flowers which was unexpected and moved me a bit, as I was not expecting that at all. Bella drew me a new family portrait which nearly made me cry when I unwrapped it. My family came round in the afternoon and we sat in front of the fire and drank tea and ate three types of cake. John made a blackcurrant and liquorice cake (so, so, so good) and then my parents babysat so we could go out. A really top day. All birthdays should fall on Saturdays, don't you think? 

And when I look at myself through Bella's eyes I don't think I look a day over twenty eight. 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Make, Bake, Sew, Grow

{ Make }

Making small additions and improvements  to the house here and there; an outside light by the front door, an extra light in the hallway, a plug socket in the porch. Little things which make life more practical, or more cosy, or more welcoming - little things which make a huge difference to how we live in our home.

There's moving around and spring cleaning going on. We bought a beautiful, vibrantly colourful rug for our living room (it makes such a difference - pictures soon!) and this grubby old sheepskin scrubbed up rather well after a gentle, cold hand wash and now sits by Bella's bed.

{ Bake }

There is so much goodness going on in the kitchen this winter. Rushed weekday dinners aside, the weekends are when the good cooking happens - except for Pancake Day when I got up early and made pancakes for breakfast.

Bacon, avocado and tomato rolls for lunch.

On Sundays we often cook and eat something which takes a bit more time and effort - and more often than not it's cooked by John - like a roast dinner, and we have napkins and candles, then sit around chatting for ages afterwards. The children absolutely love it. So do I.

{ Sew }

My Midsummer Sprigs sampler is so nearly finished. Just a few more letters to go! I have enjoyed working on this so much, and have a renewed passion for cross stitch at the moment. 

Work on the corner to corner blanket has started up again. I'm on a mission to finish projects this half term before starting new ones. 

{ Grow }

I moved some plants pots around from front garden to back, so that the daffodils and tulips greet me when I unlock the front door.

Such a simple thing, but goodness, so happy making! 

I'm looking forward to a lot more of this kind of domestic pottering this half term. 


{ Make } Something for the home.

{ Bake } Something from the kitchen.

{ Sew } Something crafty.

{ Grow } Something in the garden.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Signs of Spring

Recently, on one of the greyest of February days, I wandered around the garden peering into corners and searching under trees, the long wet grass soaking my shoes right through. I was hoping for some signs of spring. I knew that my daffodils had come up but beyond that I had no idea. I've avoided the garden these last few months apart from going to the bin and back. Too cold for gardening, too wet to hang out any washing. It's all grey and brown and boggy.

But I was rewarded for my efforts. I found a single crocus under the holly tree in the front garden. (I had to get down on all fours to look, but still, it was there, and I think there will be many more.) Snowdrops are growing along the path down the side of the house and bright yellow forsythia blooms have suddenly appeared here and there. There was the odd random grape hyacinth, a perfectly formed blossom petal that had floated to the ground, and new growth on my azalea japonica which in a few months that will be covered in tiny hot pink flowers. And green shoots everywhere - covered in muddy soil and looking a bit sad, yes - but in a few weeks I will have tulips and hyacinths and other things I know I planted but I've forgotten exactly what.

This feels like the longest of half terms, considering it's a short one at only six weeks. As a family we're alternatively full of cold, getting over a cold, coughing or tired. The children look pale and have dark rings under their eyes. So do I. Hurry up spring! Thanks goodness it's half term next week. I'm too tired to have much Friday feeling going on right now but I'm looking forward to lots of rest. I hope you all have a lovely weekend. 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Mother's Respite: Brighton

Last Sunday, in Brighton: a day out with my dear friend Abigail. No children, no families, just us old friends wandering around the North Laines, reminiscing about the things we bought and the things we said when we wandered around those same streets almost twenty years ago.

We try to meet up for a day out each year, most recently in London, but this year we chose a different destination which made a welcome change. I like Brighton. I feel at home there, I know my way around pretty well and love the quirkiness, the richness and the individuality of the place. We walked where our feet took us under sunny skies and grey, had coffee, browsed shops, had lunch (and a small gin and tonic), walked a little more, were buffeted by the wind on the seafront, had tea and cake. We ate and talked all day basically. 

Now that I'm south coast based and we don't always have to meet in London, I am thinking of other places my friend and I can visit - or revisit - together. Places like Charleston or Petworth House, for starters. But I hope there will be many more trips to Brighton. I like to think that Abigail and I will be wandering around there in another twenty years time, reminiscing about the past, talking about our families, discussing politics and drinking gin at lunchtime.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Winter Project: The Simplest of Granny Square Blankets

A few months ago, my pregnant friend at school was admiring my poncho and we got chatting about crochet. She said how much she'd like a crocheted blanket for her baby. She wasn't hinting, she just mentioned it. I smiled and said something like, if I didn't work all week I'd love to make you one.

I went away and kept thinking about my friend and her soon-to-arrive-baby and how much I love to crochet. About how good it feels to make things for people and give them away as gifts, about how (hopefully) pleased she'd be if I offered to make her something. And so I just started crocheting this blanket one night, working through a bag of acrylic DK scraps in random colours on a 4 mm hook, not really thinking about it too much, just enjoying crocheting the simplest of granny squares, something I hadn't done in a really long time.

I reckoned on about 48 squares being big enough for a baby blanket, ie. big enough to use on a car seat or pram. I love how the colours are soothed and harmonised by the addition of the white border. I used the join as you go method and blocked it before adding a border.

I think I made the whole thing in a couple of weeks. It probably took as long to darn in the ends as it did to crochet. And now my friend has had her baby (a girl, named Luciana, isn't that pretty?) and once she's had time to catch her breath I'll go round with this blanket and hopefully receive some new-baby snuggles in exchange.

Joining in with the lovely Jennifer's Winter Project Link Party.


So, Christmas Cake. Gosh, so many great comments and suggestions! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me, and making me giggle too. 

It seems like a lot of us make it because it's part of our Christmas tradition, rather than for the love of eating it, and we are stuck with lots of leftover cake. I think I need a different tradition and a different cake. 

Freezing it in pieces is a good idea, although I think I'd find it two years later and unwrap it, wondering what on earth it was. (Does anyone else play dinner-lottery with the frozen leftovers that they forgot to label? Chilli? Bolognese sauce? Curry? Let's defrost it and find out!) 

A few of you said just throw it out, and I get that, but I just can't bring myself to chuck away perfectly good food, and I already have an attack of middle class guilt every time I put a manky broccoli head in the bin. You have to have time to tackle leftovers. Time and inclination. Any leftover cake now will be given to the (lucky) birds. 

A few of you asked what's in a Christmas cake: well, it's just what we call a fruit cake, which is a fairly plain cake absolutely filled with dried fruits and sometimes nuts too, baked slowly in a moderate oven or the top burns. A lot of people add alcohol in to keep it moist and for the flavour, which adds to the rich, slightly decadent feel of the cake. Traditionally it's covered in marzipan/almond paste and iced with royal icing (so it looks like snow) but I don't bother with that part. For those who want to make one for the first time and are unfamiliar, then yes, google Christmas Cake and go to someone like Delia Smith for a truly authentic cake. I was thinking that no-one would be wanting to make a fruit cake at this time of year but then Easter is approaching, and I know many people like to bake a Simnel Cake for Easter, so perhaps you will.

Gosh, this cake talk is exhausting. Who knew we all had so much to say on the subject! I declare it closed until next October when I will no doubt be making another Christmas cake, but a very small one, just for me. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Christmas Cake Fatigue

I am sick to death of eating Christmas cake. I know, it's such a hard life. I love to make the cake, it's part of my autumn build up to Christmas, and I like knowing it's in the cupboard, ready and waiting with the jams and chutneys, that's all very satisfying. But it seems like I am the only person who eats it. The kids don't like it. John likes it a little, but not enough to eat a piece every day for a month. And I am rapidly going off it.

I'd take it into work but it contains ground almonds and we're a "nut free" school. I tried to give some to my parents but they have one they are eating. I gave a quarter of it to my sister. But I am still left with loads, it never seems to shrink. I know, it keeps for ages, there's no rush to eat it up, but I want to get rid of it and I don't want to throw it away or feed it to the birds. 

So I have been researching uses for leftover Christmas cake and stumbled across many potential ideas:
  • Christmas Cake Trifle - a possibility, except I don't like trifle all that much.
  • Christmas Cake Pops - I have never made cake pops. They seem like a lot of trouble for not a lot of cake.
  • Christmas Cake Bread Pudding - a possibility.
  • Christmas Cake French Toast - I think this might be a slightly heavy breakfast?!
  • Christmas Cake Ice Cream - stir it into softened vanilla ice cream. Definitely something I can do. 

The most appealing was Christmas Cake Brownies which is leftover cake crumbled into brownie mixture then baked. I used my usual brownie recipe which is:
  • 190 g butter
  • 190 g dark/plain chocolate
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 110 g plain flour
to which I added 200 g of crumbled Christmas Cake.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Melt together the butter and chocolate. Beat together the eggs, vanilla and sugar in a jug or bowl. Weigh out the flour and Christmas Cake. When the butter and chocolate has melted, add the other ingredients and beat together. Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on how gooey you like the centres to be. I use a 20cm x 20cm pan.

I can report that they are very, very good.

The gooeyness of the chocolate goes so well with the dried fruits and slightly boozy flavour to make a rich but incredibly delicious brownie. I am impressed. They are also amazing reheated for pudding and served with creme fraiche, cream or vanilla ice cream. 

I still have a little Christmas Cake left, so if anyone has any other ideas on ways I can eat it up I'd love to hear them.

In other news, I'm getting fat.