Saturday, 29 October 2016

Norfolk: beaches, cottages and trains

I have to confess I was a bit tired and frazzled before half term - nothing major, just the usual feeling that there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done - and was really looking forward to a week off school and work. We all needed to slow down and spend some quiet family time together, and so I was very much looking forward to our week in Norfolk, somewhere we'd never been before. It didn't disappoint, and was as relaxing, enjoyable and restorative a break as you'd hope for. 

We stayed here with Norfolk Country Cottages. The cottage - which I think was some kind of converted outbuilding or barn - was charming and cosy, and the exposed flint pebble walls were a beautiful feature throughout. I was quite taken with them. 

The living space was open plan, just big enough for the four of us and the wood burning stove and exposed beams gave a warm, rustic feel. We hardly lit the stove, actually, as the cottage was so warm and the weather is still so mild. 

There was plenty of room in the grounds for Bella and Angus to roam and play and they made good use of the heated swimming pool, which is shared with the owners who live on the same site. John and I managed to forget our swimming things. Can you believe it? I was really cross.

After a visit to the supermarket to stock up on essentials, our first destination was Cromer, a traditional seaside town on the coast about fifteen minutes away. I liked it a lot; it hasn't been as gentrified as some other towns in the area but has a faded charm about it, and is rich in fishing and maritime history. The kids loved the RNLI Museum and I very much liked the cafe above the museum, with excellent cake and coffee and sweeping views of the sea.

We stumbled upon a gem of a second hand bookshop and spent a long time browsing. Bella and Angus were delighted to find books they'd been looking for for some time - the fifth Mallory Towers book for Bella and Famous Five for Angus - so they were happy.

We spent a couple of hours wandering around Cromer until the light started to fade and we all felt cold. Something about the light in the photo below reminded me of winter; the clocks are about to change and we are already moving towards late autumn.

One place that many people had recommend we visit was the town of Holt, and particularly Byfords. We whiled away a morning browsing the pretty shops and streets of the town before heading to Byfords for lunch. We were early, but already it was busy. The queues are long but it's worth the wait as the food and service are excellent. I love that photo of Bella and Angus inside the cafe below. Not posing or smiling, just being silly and getting along with each other.

That afternoon we decided to take a train from Sheringham to Weybourne on the North Norfolk Railway.

The station platform was lovingly maintained and dressed with piles of vintage suitcases dotted about here and there and old enamel signs. 

Incidentally, something about old fashioned train stations like these reminds me of the opening sequence of The Box of Delights, a 1980's BBC dramatisation of John Masefield's novel which I adore and says Christmas to me like nothing else. I'm sure I've droned on about it here before. But last week it was all dressed for Halloween. 

Anyway, we got off the train at Weybourne, wondering why no-one else was, and found ourselves at the top of a lane, quite a way from the village centre. In the middle of no-where, as Bella said. We had no real idea of what we'd find, but just thought we'd follow our noses and so ended up walking down through the village to the beach, bribing the children with promises of hot chocolate as we went. 

The beach at Weybourne was just breathtaking. A world away from the pier and seagulls of Cromer, it was wild and a bit scary. 

Heavy grey clouds were low on the horizon and the surf was powerful and noisy.

Angus wanted to paddle. Paddle! I said no, fearing he'd either get exposure or swept out to sea, and he was content to throw stones at the water and chase the waves. That boy loves the beach as much as I do and it makes me so happy. We just have to say we're going to a beach - any beach - and his face lights up straight away. 

The weather and scenery couldn't have been more different the next day when we visited Wells Next The Sea; calm seas, blue skies, warm sun. I'll tempt you with a picture of the gorgeous beach huts that line the beach there, and tell you more about the rest of our trip in another post in a couple of days. I have many more photos to sort through!

Our accommodation in Norfolk was provided by Norfolk Country Cottages. All words, photos and thoughts about the beautiful area are my own. :-)

They have a reader offer below for anyone who might fancy a seasonal break:

Stay with Norfolk Country Cottages in November or December and pay no booking fee – saving you £30.  Quote THH2016 on booking.

Terms and conditions: Offer valid for holidays of 3 nights or more with a start date between 4 November 2016 and 31 December 2016. Not valid in conjunction with any other offer. No cash alternative. We reserve the right to withdraw or amend this offer at any time, without prior notice.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Make, Bake, Sew, Grow

Hello! How are you? It's Friday night and I'm feeling good - tired (obviously, when am I not?) but content and looking forward to half term next week. Now seemed like a good time for an autumnal Make, Bake, Sew, Grow post, a little seasonal meandering through my home life. 

{ Make }

I've been nesting, making small changes around the house, adding cosiness and warmth. Lightweight throws have been swapped for blankets, cushions and pictures have been moved around. I've been buying cyclamen and sunflowers, lighting candles in the evening. It's all turned very autumnal around here, very hygge.

I've started making plans for Christmas. (I know, some of you have trouble with the smallest mention of Christmas before December, but I have crafting to do and I need to get it done in plenty of time, so bear with me.) I have lots of ideas for gifts. I'm thinking bed socks, in really luxurious yarn, and Bella and Angus have both requested crocheted animals or birds, like the ones I made last year.

Other crafting plans include my shiny new loom and a bag full of roving yarn in different colours. 

I plan to make a wall hanging for the dining room. That big grey wall needs warming up and I feel like it needs fabric or yarn up there, or maybe something wooden. I've been pinning woven wall hangings and just need to do a bit more research into how to weave (that would be a good start, right?) It seems like a great way to use up yarn scraps and I'm already thinking about the kinds of colours I want to weave with.

{ Bake }

I made a "clean out the fridge" omelette with some soggy cherry tomatoes, spinach and a little chorizo. No potatoes so not quite a tortilla or Spanish omelette, but delicious.

My mum gave me some mixture for a friendship cake.

Similar to sourdough, you have a "starter" which you feed and stir until you're ready to split the mixture, passing some on to friends and keeping some to bake yourself. It's like a light fruit cake and you can put pretty much whatever you want inside, but I like mine with a lot of cherries. 

It keeps beautifully and is very moist, almost sticky. It has a wonderful malty, slightly caramelised flavour. 

I wanted to do something with some plums that were sitting in the fruit bowl, uneaten. I stewed them with cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar and a little water until they started to break down. The smell was divine, better than any scented candle.

I was aiming for something that was half way between a compote and stewed fruit. Not quite fully broken down and mushy, with the fruit still holding a little of it's shape.

I've kept it in a kilner jar in the fridge all week, spooning it on top of porridge and yogurt. I think I like plums cooked better than raw. 

 { Sew }

Most crafting activity has revolved around Angus's blanket and I have just updated the post I wrote about it a few weeks ago, giving details about the yarn and colours I'm using, for those who asked.  And when I'm not crocheting that, I've been making Christmas stockings.

Possibly the best use for leftover scraps of yarn I've come across, the pattern is by Sandra from Cherry Heart and it's really fun to do. I'm even darning in the ends. I'll take proper photos of them soon. 

Work on the sampler (from here) goes very slowly. I've hardly touched it since our holiday and I must pick it up again. Just seeing this picture makes me want to get going on it straight away.

{ Grow }

The garden is slowing down and looking overgrown, but there are still burst of colour here and there. 

The sedum has been gloriously bright, fading from from a deep pink to a dusty brown-purple.

A few geraniums continue to bloom in pots on the front door step. I keep thinking I should replace them with something more autumnal, perhaps a couple of pumpkins, but I like being greeted by the pop of bright pink. They can stay a while longer. 

I'm starting to think about the tidying up and cutting back ready for the winter, planting some bulbs. 

Happy weekend lovelies. 

                                                      {Make } Something for our home, or for me.

{ Bake } Something from the kitchen.

{ Sew } Something crafty.

{ Grow } Something in the garden.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A Moment of Calm

The light is luminous at the moment. There are still enough hours of daylight in each day to keep everyone happy, but it's taking on that softer, more golden tone, and I'm conscious that the clocks go back in a couple of weeks. Our typical Sunday afternoon woodland walks have been either bathed in deep sunshine, making every colour look as heavy and saturated as it can be, or lit by dramatic combinations of showers and rainbows, bright wet leaves against slate grey skies.

Sunsets and sunrises have been dramatic and colourful and I've been taking the time to stop and notice them. Every weekday morning I have the same routine. I get up, anywhere between six and six thirty, and go downstairs to make myself a cup of hot water and lemon. I drink it standing up in the kitchen, leaning against the worktop, while I look at my phone. I deliberately leave it downstairs every night and never take it to bed with me - it's about the only good smart phone habit I have - so each morning I have a little catch up with Facebook, Instagram, emails before everyone and everything else needs my attention. John has left for work by this point and the children are still asleep, so the house is completely silent. It's my little moment of calm and I value it very highly. Lately, I have been treated to the most breathtaking sunrises from our north-east facing kitchen window and I like to linger and look at them while I wake up. But every day it's getting a little darker and next week, I'll miss those later sunrises. I'll be upstairs, rushing around, getting dressed, hustling the children, making beds. Then when I'm back in the kitchen, I won't be staring out of the window daydreaming, I'll be emptying the dishwasher, making breakfast, supervising the brushing of teeth.

So I've been savouring these morning displays of light and colour in the sky as I drink my drink and gather my thoughts. They set me up for the day. 

Do you do something similar? Do you have your own small moment of peace or solitude at some point during the day? I'd love to know.