Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Spring Flowers, Spring Cleaning

Half term flew by in a rainy, muddy, but largely happy blur, seemingly over as soon as it started. I don't know where it went, it's not like we did anything or went anywhere in particular. John was working. Bella was away a couple of nights on a school trip to Disneyland Paris (which, no surprise, she loved). Angus had a friend to sleep over. We filled our week with haircuts, dentist appointments, play dates, coffees and catch ups with friends and family - all the things there is never time to do during term time - and of course I did some cleaning. 

Working full time outside the home, I just about manage to keep on top of the most cursory housework during evenings and weekends: things like changing the beds, vacuuming, washing the floors, running a duster over surfaces, doing the bathrooms etc. John does a lot too, along with probably half the cooking, and most of the food shopping. But the school holidays have become my time to do a bit more cleaning. I usually give one day over to it and I don't mind it really, in fact I find the unhurried sorting time quite therapeutic. I make a coffee, put the radio on and do things like scrub the oven, clean the insides of the windows (the window cleaner does the outsides) and all the picture frames/mirrors, sort out cupboards, wash rugs and cushion covers. I always feel better for it. 

We went out when it wasn't raining, and sometimes when it was. Children still need some fresh air and a change of scenery, as do adults.

I'm getting itchy gardening fingers, and want to get out there and start to tidy it up a bit. It's much too cold, wet and muddy right now, but I'm looking forward to some milder, dry days when I can go out there and potter a bit, inspect the plants and pots, see what's dead, what's growing. I bought a cold frame on sale recently, needing somewhere to start off my sweet pea, cosmos and foxglove seeds. All that money I hoped I'd save on not buying plants this spring spent on a cold frame - the irony is not lost on me....

But despite incessant battering from the elements, there is blossom on the cherry tree and it's glorious. 

Having not bought any fresh flowers since probably last September, I have made up for it in recent weeks with daffodils and tulips. I can't help it. They jump into my trolley.

I spent most of last Sunday in the kitchen, baking chocolate and cardamom biscuits, blondies, flapjacks and a marmalade cake. I took nearly all of it into work yesterday because it was my birthday over half term and school tradition dictates that you bring in cake when it's your birthday, a habit I certainly enjoy partaking in. There's nothing better than popping down to the staff room on a rainy morning to get a coffee and find a table filled with cakes, doughnuts and all sorts of treats because it's someone's special day. It's the little things.

By happy coincidence, John was off on my birthday and we had a really lovely, slow family day at home. I got up late, opened presents and cards, did some crochet. 

John baked me an orange and almond cake and my family came round in the afternoon.  He said, do you really need a candle on it? Yes, definitely yes. Later, the four of us went out for a curry which was so delicious and a really nice treat. 

John gave me a beautiful leaf print by Danish artist Monika Petersen which he'd had framed. I love the way the white and gold contrast with the greeny-blue wall.

This cookery book was a nice surprise since we'd been talking about it (we both really like Rachel Khoo's Little Paris Kitchen book) and I hadn't realised that she had this book out - and a TV series too, I think. I haven't cooked from it yet but there are lots of very inspiring and doable ideas inside.

My mum and dad helpfully gave me some new clothes (gifts being exempt from my "no new clothes in 2020" mission) which I'd carefully chosen, sensible things like layers and tops, items I could wear to work under a dress or with jeans at the weekend. They also gave me this beautiful maranta leuconeura Prayer Plant, a houseplant I'd had my eye on for some time. I love the way the leaves move throughout the day, rising and falling, or opening and closing slightly (hence the name I believe, like hands in prayer), but I really adore the pink stripes running down the dark green leaves. Nature so often has the best colour combinations. 

Now we're back at work and getting back into the swing of things again. As it's Shrove Tuesday we'll have pancakes for pudding tonight. I'll make the thin, traditional ones and eat mine with lemon juice and sugar, although I predict Bella and Angus will smother theirs in chocolate spread or golden syrup. Hopefully not both. 

Thursday, 20 February 2020

The "It's Still Winter" Cowl

A quick post for a quick project. I bought this yarn on a bit of a whim one rainy weekend (when is it not raining lately?) and decided quite impulsively to make the Fennel Cowl from Emma Mitchell's book Making Winter, which I really recommend by the way. Lots of wonderful, seasonal craft and baking ideas inside. 

It promised to be the perfect in-between project, ideal for when I didn't have the energy for anything that required concentration or wanted a break from something I'd been working on for a while, like the jumper. Quick and easy, only one ball of yarn needed, and warm too.

I was drawn to the yarn (Sirdar Aura in shade 0139) because the speckled appearance reminded me of feathers and I liked the colour palate. I often find variegated yarns a bit of a gamble; it's hard to visualise how they're going to look worked up in a finished piece.

Luckily I love this. The pinks, greys and creams are cool enough to feel like winter colours, reminding me of bare trees and sunsets, but the smallest pops of deep pink/red and brown add warmth.

If I made another I'd go down a hook size, or decrease the pattern by one or two repeats, as it's a little on the loose side and would be warmer if it was a tighter fit. But it's loose enough to drape nicely and can be wrapped around the neck and tucked inside a coat to keep you toasty when the weather is wet, windy and utterly horrible, as it has been most days lately.

I hope you're all staying warm and dry and have not been affected by this dreadful weather. Here, we are a little fed up - a rainy half term holiday is hard work - and wishing for a little sunshine, but fine. 

Sunday, 16 February 2020

A Whisper of Spring

The weather continues to be vile with another big storm annoyingly coinciding with a weekend and I'm finding it all a bit depressing to be honest, the wind and rain and low light levels. We were supposed to be going to London yesterday. We'd planned to visit HMS Belfast, go up The Shard, walk along the embankment, but none of those activities seemed very appealing in gale force winds and torrential rain. We went out for breakfast instead, a start of half term treat, and spent the rest of the day hibernating, baking and eating cake. 

My feeling of gloom has been compounded by illness; I've been unwell with some kind of virus over the last week or so and have spent a lot time on the sofa, watching old episodes of Silent Witness and sleeping a lot. Always the world's worst patient, I keep going until I can't any more and then sulk on the sofa in bad grace, annoyed with myself and whatever virus or cold I've caught and life in general. My lovely mum and dad came to the rescue, walking the dog, ferrying children here and there, bringing me tulips and magazines. I didn't really have the energy or concentration to crochet much but I made up for that by buying yarn online. I kept trying to work on my trio blanket but was getting in such a muddle with the pattern, so I unravelled the whole lot and made a swatch, just so I could visualise it.

It's a bit messy but you get the gist. I wanted to work on my Sensum sweater but ran out of yarn, so while that was on order I worked a little more on my cowl and dreamt about crocheting some pretty wrist warmers.

But I am definitely spotting more and more glimpses of spring out there, and am taking heart from it. 

I'm seeing snow drops on my dog walks, blossom on the cherry tree in the garden, daffodils and tete-a-tetes popping up here and there in the flowerbeds and pots. It's noticeably lighter in the evening and apparently the sun has shone occasionally this week - I have evidence.

Dreaming of better weather, I've been buying seeds. I must remember to actually plant them - a job for a dry day over half term.

We've been lighting the fire even when it's not that cold outside, just to dispel the feeling of damp gloominess.

Spring flowers always help.

The seasons are shifting in the kitchen too, as I find myself drawn to brighter colours and flavours.

I've been cooking lots of early forced rhubarb, stewing it to eat with yogurt or porridge, or turning it into a crumble with apples, as I will be tonight. It must be something to do with trying to banish the gloom.

It has rained steadily all day here and shows no sign of stopping. The kids are watching a Star Wars film. John and I will both try to avoid taking the dog out, not that Ziggy is showing much signs of wanting a walk today. 

I might bake biscuits, or read, or crochet. I am currently loving Death Comes to Pemberley - Jane Austen combined with crime fiction - how has this sat unread on my shelf for so long?! I will try to embrace the rubbish weather and enjoy being cosy, because I'll soon be outside and busy in the garden again, trying to keep up with it all.