Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year

I'm not sure that I think 2016 was a particularly good year, if I'm honest. My faith in politics and humanity have been shaken more than once, and I don't think Britain is the country I thought it was this time last year. Personally, we've had our ups and downs over these last twelve months as I'm sure you have too - it can't all be roses every day.

But I spent some time going back over my posts and photos from the last year and there are many moments of joy and happiness, and moments of intense calm and peacefulness too. Whether it's at home cooking or walking in the woods or by the sea, family celebrations or creative projects, there has been a lot to celebrate and certainly a good deal to be thankful for in 2016


walking in the bluebell-filled woods // finally completing my granny squares blanket // a new kitchen // working hard in our garden 



enjoying our back garden // a wonderful camping trip in Derbyshire with friends // an amazing family holiday in the Loire Valley with family



walks on the beach // cooking, lots and lots of cooking // walks in the woods // a holiday on the North Norfolk coast



the changing landscape and wintry light // my first pair of socks // the arrival of Molly // family traditions

How was 2016 for you? Do you have plans or resolutions for next year? I'd love to know what they are. But I hope that 2017 brings you peace and happiness and wish you a very happy new year. Thank you so much for reading, for your interest and friendship. You are a lovely lot.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

These In-Between Days

Hello! Did you have a good Christmas? I hope so. Ours rushed by in a blur but it was all good, if a little busy. I was lucky enough to receive some great presents; useful things like some excellent new gardening tools - my mum actually wrapped up a hoe in wrapping paper - and luxurious things like new jumpers, posh chocolates and necklaces. I also received a cheese plant. How I love my new cheese plant! (If you think that's random, my mum bought my dad a chainsaw, for his wood store. He is delighted.) Bella and Angus had a lovely time and basked in the attention of adoring grandparents. Angus's crocheted chimpanzee was finished at 10 pm on Christmas Eve. We all ate a lot. Molly has quite a taste for roast turkey, it would appear, and is shameless in her attempts to steal turkey legs (straight off the joint resting on the kitchen work top), turkey sandwiches and leftover meat chopped ready for a risotto. 


I do like these days between Christmas and New Year. With every year that goes by, I've come to appreciate and value them more and more. The build up to this time of year is hectic, often frantic. The main event - especially if you're hosting - is plain exhausting. But Boxing Day I look forward to every year; delicious leftovers to eat up, a long walk on the beach or in the woods, presents to enjoy. And the days that follow are even better as we settle into a quiet rhythm of gentle pottering and relaxing. Today our house guests left and while we were sorry to see them go, I did enjoy slowly straightening up the house, looking at and putting away lovely gifts, opening windows, vacuuming and mopping, sorting out the fridge and planning meals that use up all that turkey and ham. The children drifted off to do their own thing, play with their new toys, read their new books. The dog slept in her basket. It was, for the first time in many weeks, peaceful.

I realise I am very lucky not to work over Christmas and, having worked through many exhausting Christmases in retail, I know that not everyone gets to sit around eating chocolates and watching TV at this time of year. But I am so looking forward to the next few days before our next lot of guests arrive for New Year. I have some new books that need my attention, and a jigsaw to keep me quiet. I love jigsaws. Our daily dog walks continue to be a joy (the frost in the woods today!) and we are out and about every day. The weather the last few days has been perfect, cold, clear and still with frosty mornings and beautiful sunsets. I'll leave you with a photo of a frosty umbellifer I snapped on my phone this morning.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Eve

Ah, Christmas Eve, I love you. If it's not done by now, then it doesn't matter. So liberating. Time to relax, pour a drink (some nice fizz we bought at a vineyard on holiday in France back in August) and crack open the snacks.

We are hoping for a quiet, relaxing few days with family; lots of eating and drinking, dog walking, chatting, reading, possibly some crochet. 

Merry Christmas, you lovely lot. I hope you have a joyful and peaceful time with your loved ones.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Beach Walks and Birthdays

Phew, it's been a old busy week here. Between Bella's birthday, Christmas preparations, seeing family and running around after the dog, each day has been packed to the limit. Bella turned ten on Sunday and at her request we went into Chichester to spend her birthday money and to Pizza Express for lunch. My mum threw a little family tea party later in the afternoon and we all gathered together for cake, including Molly, who stole a whole slice right off the dining room table.

On Tuesday we held Bella's party at a local gymnastic centre, and they had an hour on the equipment, supervised by an instructor, followed by a party lunch with all her school friend and cousins. It worked really well. It was, of course, completely exhausting (I do not particularly enjoy hosting children's birthday parties) but Bella enjoyed herself immensely which is all that matters. I thought her choice of birthday cake this year - chocolate, decorated with strawberries - was a grown up choice. Her tastes are changing, although she was over the moon with her Sylvanian Families toys and new doll, so she is still my little girl, even if she is now in "double digits".

We had the most glorious walk on the beach at the weekend. It was Molly's first proper visit to the sea and is was wonderful to watch her sniff and explore. I would love to watch her run on the sand and I really hope we can let her off her lead at some point in the future, but unfortunately her recall training is non-existent at the moment. We have removed her muzzle now and she is happy to sniff and play with larger dogs but not fond of little ones - still work to do there. But what I noticed is that we had four lovely conversations with other dog owners on Saturday - people old and young who we wouldn't normally chat to - about our dog, their dogs, the warm weather (the kids were in t-shirts!) and it was really nice. 

I've found our daily dog walks a welcome moment of calm in these busy days. It's a juggle to fit them in but, once we're out, it's very restorative. We discovered some woodland with a stream running through it just five minutes from our house, and it's become my favourite daily walk with Molly before work. Usually I march us around (I've lost four pounds since we became dog owners!) but yesterday I went with my sister and nephew, and we lingered down there for ages while the kids paddled in the stream, clambered around the woods, looked for big sticks and generally got completely filthy. It was great.

Something shifted today and I felt some of the Christmas pressure lift. My parents took Bella, Angus and Molly out for a walk this morning and then gave them lunch, giving me around four hours alone in the house. Four precious, sweet, blissful hours where no-one shouted "Mum!" or had to be let out for a wee in the garden. It was just wonderful. I basically cleaned everything and then wrapped lots of presents - nothing glamourous, but it was so good to have some time alone to get on with jobs unhindered. My to do list is now shorter and, while there is a lot to do tomorrow (the food shop, collect the turkey, visit my Grandad, ready the house for John's parents who are coming to stay for Christmas), I think there will less frantic rushing around and hopefully a few moments to relax and enjoy this time of year. 

Do you remember that I was crocheting a koala and chimpanzee for Bella and Angus? Well, Bella's koala is finished and wrapped, but Angus's chimpanzee....oh dear. I've crocheted one leg so far and it's highly unlikely it will be done in time for Christmas. I told him this and he said brightly, "It's OK Mummy, you can give it to me on Boxing Day!" I didn't have the heart to tell him that it probably won't be ready by Boxing Day, either.


My fabulous new table cloth is from here and Angus's badger print is from here - these are not sponsored links, just two independent makers/sellers that I like and you might too. 

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Clay Decorations, or How To Stay Sane

It's manic here. Is it the same for you? There is so much to remember, so much to do, and it's always the same at this time of year no matter how organised I try to be. My brain is a jumble of school events (money for shopping day!), teacher gifts (will chutney be ok again?), Secret Santa gifts (you can't get anything nice for £5), work parties (what to wear??), presents to buy and wrap (fingers crossed parcels come in time), food orders to plan for, cards to write, Bella's birthday on Sunday (mustn't forget to phone and pay the balance on her party venue!)....there is literally not room for anything else in my head. It's full. My brain is full.

And so I make clay decorations. Not because I have the time (I really don't) but because I want to and because it soothes me. While my hands are busy my brain wanders off in all directions and my heart beat slows down. Oh, and yoga last night which was a-mazing. I float out of those classes, I really do.

This was my first time making something with air drying clay (I used this one) and it's a really fun craft. Bella, Angus and I spent last Saturday morning rolling and cutting lots of shapes - they were making tree decorations, I was just having fun, seeing what you could do with the clay. I made a few decorations for the tree too and had fun using my stamp set. I like the slightly wrinkled impressed the rolling pin made on this one.

Then I started cutting out stars, lots and lots of little stars. My cookie cutter is maybe 5 or 6 cm wide, so it is quite small. I used a metal skewer to make a hole in the top of each one, and stamped our initials on some of them.

Threaded onto bakers twine, they look lovely strung across our mantel. 

I'm delighted with how they turned out; the white, green and brown together are so calming and I like how the stars stand out against the wood. Easy and effective, my favourite kind of crafting.

The rest of the stars (there must be about forty!) will be used as decorative tags on presents. Just a little something festive to jazz up the brown paper and twine I am using this year.

Slightly less successful was this tea light holder house I made. I used the same model as for my gingerbread house that I made last year, shrinking it by 50%. It's very wonky and the roof isn't big enough at all. Also, some patterned rolling pins would be just the business here to give the walls and roof some detail. But it was still a lot of fun to make. I'm going to work on this idea - imagine a row of white houses along the mantel, all lit up from within...  Next year maybe.

You need no skills or equipment (other than a rolling pin and some cookie cutters) for an activity like this but it is hugely enjoyable and rewarding. It's not messy, and it takes 24-36 hours for the clay to dry, depending on thickness. Once dry the ornaments do need a little sand around the edges, then it's good to go. You could paint or varnish it I suppose, but I like it plain.

Right, I'm going to go and make a cup of tea and read a murder mystery before passing out into a coma-like sleep. One more day of school, one more day of work, and then the holidays....