Saturday, 28 September 2019

Late September

Thank you for your very kind and generous words on my New York embroidery diary. I am so glad you like it too, that makes me very happy indeed. 

The weather has been absolutely all over the place this week. We've had warm, sunny days when we've walked in the woods, and days of solid rain when all I did was bake. It's been quite mild but very wet and windy, leaving me unsure what to wear each day; it's too cool for summer clothes but too warm for autumn ones, and my feet are protesting at having to wear something other than sandals this last week. 

More signs of autumn are appearing indoors and out. I shuffled a few bits around on the mantel and added some pine cones and feathers.

Angus, who had such strong opinions on how I should decorate the shelf below, styled it for me. I may have changed it a bit. I felt ten pine cones was a bit much.

I made soup, the first batch I've made in months. 

It was spinach, potato, onion and some sour cream that needed using up. Basically odds and ends from the fridge. I forget how useful soup is for using up those vegetables that are a bit past it, or those leftovers that you don't know what to do with. I also made bread (this recipe) to go with it and it was delicious, chewy and full of flavour.

 Last Sunday, when it rained all day long and we had no plans, I baked plum cake (from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries) and a batch of flapjacks for lunchboxes. 

The garden is starting to get that raggle-taggle look that September brings. Leaves are falling, plants are looking faded and leggy and in need of cutting back, and the slugs ate my dahlias - again.

But the sedum is putting on a beautiful display, turning from pale to deep pink and brightening up the gloomier corners of the garden.

Today I sorted out the cupboard in the hall, putting all the flip flops and sunhats upstairs, making way for the thicker coats and scarves that will start to appear. I dug out the shoe polish to give my boots a bit of a spruce up, and have even bought a new winter coat. It's a knee length quilted one with a big hood and deep pockets, in preparation for the biting wind on our very exposed playground at school. Autumn, I'm ready for you.

Monday, 23 September 2019

An Embroidered Holiday Diary: New York City

Hello! I am very happy to say that my embroidered souvenir of our recent trip to New York in the summer holidays is finished and joins it's companions on the wall in the dining room. The weather here on the south coast has taken a wet, windy and distinctly autumnal turn over the last few days, and so it's especially lovely to indulge in some holiday memories before my thoughts turn more towards crocheted socks and lighting the fire. 

This project has been an absolute pleasure to create from start to finish. From dreaming about what I'd sew while we were on holiday, to sketching out a plan when we got home, and then each day finding an hour or two for a little embroidery during the summer break.

Starting with the US flag as a central point I worked outwards, including Central Park, with it famous rocks and lake, a bowl of ramen noodle soup, and a doughnut.

On the opposite side I sewed a brownstone building, plate of waffles, hat-wearing theatre symbol and a hot dog.

A little lower down we have the Subway sign and the Guggenheim museum....

...with the Brooklyn bridge on the other side.

And at the bottom, the Empire State Building, a slice of pizza, a taxi, baseball bat and ball, tub of ice cream, and the Statue of Liberty.

There are seventeen motifs in total, and each one represents a particular day or place or moment; the hot dogs we ate at the baseball game, the taxi we took to and from the airport, the subway trains we rode everywhere, the bridge we walked over in the midday heat, the trip to see Wicked at the Gershwin theatre, and Red White and Blue waffles for breakfast in a diner. So much fun and happiness and memory making in all those little French knots and shiny satin stitches.

The images are topped and tailed by the place and the year, sewn in the New York typeface which was tricky to copy, let me tell you.

My inner perfectionist, always my loudest critic, says that the composition isn't perfectly balanced. To that I would say that it was a fairly organic project, with me not knowing exactly what I would sew or how big it would be until I started sewing it. It's not like I planned it all out on the computer before I started. I framed this one myself, saving around £50, but with that I have to accept that it's not as beautifully framed as it would be had it been done by a professional. It's a smidge too small for the frame (another inch either side would have been ideal but I didn't have a frame that exact size) and, despite stretching the fabric as hard as I could, it's not as drum-tight as it was in the embroidery hoop.

But this sounds like I'm not happy with it, and I am, I absolutely am. It was so much fun to sew and it was, without question, the best family holiday we've ever had, and those memories are forever there on my embroidery wall to be enjoyed by us all. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Summer Slowly Fading

The weather is in that perfect seasonal crossover at the moment, with warm, sunny days and cool, crisp mornings. Usually at this time of year I am in a big hurry for autumn - always my favourite season - to arrive but, this time, I find I am happy for the summery feel to continue for as long as it wants. I'm still wearing summer clothes and sandals, walking around the house barefoot, and there are no signs of any blankets on the beds yet. 

This all bodes well for the cotton blanket I have been making over the last few months, as I am now working on the border and hope to have it finished by this weekend. It's been a joy, this project, keeping my hands occupied on many an evening, and I am hoping it will be the perfect lightweight early-autumn blanket for our bed.

Angus looked at my round shelf in the kitchen-diner the other day and said it was "too summery". He suggested I lose the shells and pebbles for some conkers and acorns and other "autumny" pieces.  I found this at once hilarious and frustrating: I agree with him, but if he could just open his curtains, make his bed or put his dirty clothes in the washing basket now and then, well, then I might be more inclined to take his styling advice. 

I've told him that next time we go to the woods, he can look for some things to display on the shelf and arrange it all himself. 

Despite the warm weather, porridge has been sneaking back into my breakfast routine, and I've been eating a lot of blackberry porridge.

I made a huge kilner jar of much too runny blackberry compote, so I'm using it to cook the oats. It turns them the most delicious shade of purple and tastes amazing, especially when you add some fresh blackberries or a dollop of bramble jelly on top.

We took delivery of a new sofa at the weekend and are loving having enough seats for everyone to sit on at the same time. The dark grey three-seater sofa we had before was fine when the children were little and we could all squash on, but not now they are bigger (and the dog!!), so we wanted something more comfortable.

I love the way it creates a cosy corner around the rug and fireplace, but I have warned John that we are going to need more cushions. Fluffy, woolly ones, ready for autumn and winter. I'll get my crochet hook out.

Bella made pancakes on Sunday morning with the new crepe pan my mum and dad brought me back from France. They look more uniform than anything I could make and there were lots leftover for breakfast yesterday and today.

I have recently acquired a couple of new-to-me books from my friend Victoria who was going to give them to the charity shop. I was over the moon because they were just my sort of thing and full of such inspiring homes. I gave her our old tent and some camping equipment in exchange. We were both happy with the arrangement.

Our new fig trees in pots on the decking, moved from my parents' garden over the winter, amazingly produced fruit. Most of it was tiny and green but two figs grew, ripened and were ready to be picked. They tasted almost jammy, so strong was their flavour. I now have very high hopes for next year's crop!

Our sunflowers were small and late but still sunny.

We've been working really hard in the garden over the last two weekends, tackling a large, overgrown border at the front of the house, and cutting back a huge New Zealand flax at the back. Five trips to the garden waste section on the tip in total, plus a lot of scratched arms and sore muscles. The garden is slowing down now and and I'm starting to think about planting bulbs.

My holiday embroidery grows little by little. Before the summer holiday finished I managed to sew a brownstone building...

...subway sign...


...and, last weekend, a theatre symbol topped with a green witch's hat (for the show Wicked) and a hot dog.

I just have one more image to sew and then it is finished. I really want it to be completed soon, before the holiday memories and daylight hours fade too much. It's a summer project, this one, and when it's finished I have a pair of socks, a weaving and a jumper pattern waiting for me.