Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Making the Seasons: January

Hello! Welcome to the first Making the Seasons post of 2018 - a little later than planned, but it's been that kind of month for Lucy and I.

I was worried that I wouldn't have much interesting to show you today, and even thought about skipping a month. But I think it's really important to be honest here and say that yes, January was a difficult month, and no, not a lot of crafting got done, but what little I did do felt really good and helped me a lot.

The kind of projects I choose in January always feel a little more self indulgent than at other times of the year. With Christmas behind me and no birthdays for a few months, I can put aside thoughts of gifts and work on things that are solely for me - jumpers, socks, little things for our home. I like that. 

Something I've been doing a lot this month is buying cheap pots of bulbs from the supermarket or garden centre - hyacinths, usually - and repotting them in pretty bowls and tubs. I don't know why I never did this before - it's so much easier than trying to find plant pots in the garage that fit the plastic pots the bulbs come in.

I always love the spring bulbs that come into the shops in January and feel ready for that fresh lift of green in the house after all the Christmas decorations have been taken down and it's all looking a little bare. It's also a nice excuse to get out some dishes I don't use as much and give them a focus. 

Just gently lift the bulbs from their pot, re-position in your chosen bowl, then top with compost and, if you have it, a little moss looks pretty on top to hid the earth.

These tete-a-tete bulbs don't look very exciting now but in a couple of weeks they'll send up bright shoots of green to cheer up my mantel.

I love how this one looks potted in a clear glass bowl.

I've been crocheting bed socks too, the same pattern as the pairs I made just over a year ago. I just love them - I can't get to sleep if my feet are cold and I wear them almost every night in the winter. I like their warmth, obviously, but also the way they don't dig in and leave an imprint in my ankle which itches, as tighter socks do (anyone else know what I mean?) I think I must get a bit of water retention in my ankles or something. So I'm making myself a new pair in grey and dark blue; sleepy, January colours. I also made a pink pair for my mum. They were supposed to be for Christmas but ended up being an early January gift - luckily she's very understanding!

I've also been enjoying the winter edition of my Craftpod box. These boxes are truly such a delight, I love everything about the choice of projects and the styling. My kinds of projects, my kinds of colours.

This one contains everything you need to stitch this beautiful embroidery hoop...

plus tools and patterns to create your own stamps.

And the element I think I like the most is the self care part, the chocolate, tea, stickers and postcards, little treats that remind you that it's ok to sit down and do something for yourself for a while. Necessary, even.

I found an hour at the weekend and made a start on the winterberry design. I got as far as sewing the branches and outlining just a few of the berries.

That's ok though, I'll finish it in my own time. A project like this is not for rushing, but for savouring slowly here and there in little moments with a cup of tea.

Part of my intention with Making the Seasons was to create in a way that would tie in with the seasons and support me through the months of the year, and I feel that crafting has really looked after me this month. My friend Lucy at Attic24 has also been trying to make space for a little quiet crafting in a very busy month, so do please pop over to her gorgeous, colourful blog and say hello and read about Making the Seasons post. 

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Home Days

January has felt like a long and hard month. Obvious sadnesses aside, the endless days of grey, rainy weather have taken their toll, I have another cold (this winter has been my personal record for colds), and I felt tired and out of sorts. I usually like this time of year, the quiet of midwinter, but this year it's not been easy. I knew on Friday that I just needed to do as little as possible this weekend, and that is what I aimed for. Of course this is life and there are children, dogs, chores etc, so I couldn't just lie on the sofa watching back to back Gilmore Girls (more's the pity), but it was peaceful, and so it was restorative. 

Saturday morning was slow. I have been wanting a waffle maker for some time now and was delighted when John, while doing the weekly shop on Friday night on his way home from work, found one in Lidl for £9.99. It's easy to use, has the prettiest waffle pattern, and they were delicious, so we had waffles for breakfast yesterday instead of our usual pancakes. After various errands had been run, we spent the afternoon indoors, away from the rain. I baked marmalade-rippled brownies, flapjacks, and made homemade pizza for tea. When the weather is disagreeable for days on end, I retreat to the kitchen. The warmth, good smells, noise and mindful bustle always soothe me, and I find the quiet activity more helpful than just sitting and reading or crocheting.

Today, another slow start. I did some sewing with Bella and some knitting. Yes, knitting. Something I have not done in about five years. I recently spotted the Dreaming Jumper at Wool and the Gang and thought two things: one, it's gorgeous, and two, if it really is just four rectangles of garter stitch then surely, surely, this is something I could knit? So far so good -and the wool is sublime - but heaven help me if I drop a stitch. I live in fear of dropping a stitch. This afternoon we went for a long walk in the woods then John cooked a roast dinner while I did the ironing. We were both happy with that arrangement. 

We recently had the strange and sombre experience of visiting my late Grandpa's house to choose items that we might like to keep, as his possessions are slowly being sorted in his house in very slow preparation for it being emptied and sold. It's a desperately sad thing to have to do, but also lovely to think that, all through his family, various books and pictures and other treasures are being put in new places and cherished anew. I brought back some vintage Observer pocket books to add to the few I've picked up at charity shops and car boot sales over the years - I think I have the beginnings of a little collection now - and a pair of framed ship drawings, and the most beautiful model boat that currently sits on the mantel. I cannot tell you how much I love it. I remember it always sat on his book shelves, one of the many fascinating object that filled his house, and I treasure it. It is a thing of beauty.

How has January treated you? It seems we've either had lots of rain or lots of snow in the UK, both of which have their challenges. I am ready for February which I hope will be a month of celebration and happiness. We have lots planned - a day trip to London, a possible weekend in Yorkshire to see old friends, a few nice trips out - and John is off for half term, which is only two weeks away. I just know that something good is gonna happen. 

Sunday, 21 January 2018

January Happies

Thank you for your comments on my last post. Really, thank you, especially for sharing your memories of your own grandparents which made me smile so much. You are such a lovely lot. 

This week seemed a good a time as any for a Happies post. There is lots - even in these days of incessant rain and gloom we are experiencing - to be thankful for, lots to smile about. 

:: Signs of spring, even in the wettest woods on the dullest of days.

:: Spring bulbs. The white hyacinths are drooping now and filling the house with their heady fragrance as they lean over the edge of their bowl. I always love tulips, and these sit in a vase by the talented potter Hilda Carr - whose tactile work I absolutely love - which was a Christmas present from my friend Abigail. 

:: This bookcase, which had previously lived in my Grandpa's house. I love it's shape, the sliding glass doors (puppy proof!), having all my craft books in one place, but mostly the stories and memories it comes with.

:: Exploring the woods with my parents. Watching my Dad carefully explain something about beech trees to Angus, and point out deer tracks to him. Watching Angus soak it all up like a sponge. 

:: The absolute joy that is getting back in from a freezing, wet dog walk, making a cup of tea, and drinking it while I read cookery books and plan what I'm going to cook that weekend. 

:: January rituals. When life seems uncertain or stressful, I take huge comfort from knowing that, one weekend in January, I will make marmalade.

The same as I did last year and the year before that. 

:: And, once I've made marmalade, I'll make marmalade cake, like I did last year. 

 :: Our Sunday night dinners. Tonight I made cottage pie, then tried a new dessert - Nigella's marmalade pudding cake, from the book Kitchen, which we ate with custard. It was a gratifyingly huge hit, everyone loved it, everyone wanted seconds, and it is now my new favourite thing. (We like marmalade a lot in this house.)

It's been a funny start to 2018 so far. I've frequently felt unsettled and restless and spent a lot of time thinking, talking and focusing my thoughts. My approaching birthday, among other things, has made me feel that I'm leaving one part of parenthood, one chapter of my life behind, as I move towards another. I want to do something different, career-wise. I enjoy my job very much but I don't want to do it for the next two or three decades, and I suddenly feel a pressure (which has only come from me) to do something different, something for myself. My thoughts are turning to re-training as I work out how I might balance the cost and time constraints of a career change with family life. 

With all this uncertainty whirling around inside my head, I frequently look at my new print (from the brilliant Goldlion Studio) and channel Kate Bush. 

Have a great week everyone. Onwards and upwards. 

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

In praise of grandparents

My Grandpa passed away at the weekend. It was both a shock and entirely expected at the same time, and it hasn't fully sunk in yet. He had been increasingly unwell since August and moved into a care home during the autumn. He would fade then rally, worry us then perk up and make us laugh and so it seemed that, despite his frailty and age, he would just go on and on. I was able to say goodbye to him on Friday morning and he knew I was there, and I will forever be thankful for that moment. His care home faces the sea and, afterwards, I walked along the beach on my own for a little while and gathered my thoughts before heading off to work. He died peacefully, at the age of eighty nine, which is a good innings, as he would have said. 

He was a very large part of my childhood. My sisters and I were blessed with grandparents who lived locally and were very involved in our lives; we'd see them most weekends, stay at their houses, go on holiday with them. We grew up surrounded by the slightly indulgent love that only grandparents can get away with. He was mad about boats and sailing, and local history too. He was well read and well travelled, and his house is absolutely crammed to the rafters with books and paintings, mostly of boats. We have so many good memories of him, and Bella and Angus were very fond of him (largely because he'd let them eat all the chocolate biscuits they wanted before riding up and down in his stair lift) and we talk about him often.

It reminded me how very special the relationship is between grandparent and grandchild, and I see that now between my children and my and John's parents. Do you have a particular memory of a cherished grandparent? I'd love it if you shared it here. Mine would be spending time on my Grandpa's boat, Spray, and eating Lardy Cake, a local type of bread/cake which we always took sailing for some reason. It always felt cosy.