Sunday, 31 May 2020

Half Term Bubble

If feels like we've quietly slipped from spring into summer over the last week. The weather has been mostly beautiful here, warm and dry and breezy, and we are eating all the meals outside that we can.

I am very thankful that the weather has been so lovely, especially over half term. It makes not being able to go anywhere or do anything easier, especially for Bella and Angus who are pretty bored by now, but not too old to be messing around in the sprinkler.

We're in iced coffee season - my favourite.

It felt strange to go into this half term break having already been at home so much. Usually, I go in to half term tired, relieved and ready for a rest, but also motivated by all the things I will finally have a chance to do after six or eight weeks at school. But this time there was none of that. Just more of the same, pottering around the house and garden, but with the absence of homeschool. I have tried to stay motivated though, doing my usual spring cleaning - if anything the house is more in need of cleaning now, not less, as we're all at home all day - and ticking some jobs off the list in preparation for going back to work full time.

Despite the gradual lifting of lockdown, we haven't strayed far from our usual local walks. I am very keen to go to the beach but have been wary of too many people there and, truth be told, I'm quite happy just to be in the garden enjoying the weather. 

Our local woods are looking so lush and green at the moment, despite the lack of rain, and I remember how much I love early summer. It's a pleasure just to be outside under the canopy of leaves, walking through the cow parsley and buttercups.

We got up bright and early to avoid the queues at B&Q during the week. We'd ostensibly gone for some DIY stuff but I really had my eye on the plant section. I have tried so hard to grow from seed this year but sometimes you just need a bit of instant colour.

I spent a very hot but happy morning in the garden, finding homes for some new plants and potting on things I've grown myself like these rananculus. 

I gave the houseplants a bit of love this week too, repotting and moving them around. I am very pleased with this monstera below, which was a cutting I took from a much larger plant a few months ago. It took a while but finally grew lots of new roots in water, so I moved it into compost in this rather beautiful terracotta and ceramic indoor planter (a bargain at only £14 from B&Q).

My lockdown sampler continues to bring me so much joy.

I have just finished it this weekend, and I'll do a proper post on it soon.

Something else I love about this time of year - it's peony season and I treated myself to a bunch last week in the supermarket.

They started out as hot-pink buds, tightly curled into balls, before unfurling into the most beautiful, blowsy blooms.

After a few days they began to fade into a more delicate, apricot-tinged pink which I loved even more. This single bunch of flowers gave me so much pleasure. It is indeed the little things. 

Of course we've been baking. I have been working on my sourdough starter, trying to get it a bit thicker and more bubbly, a bit more lively. It's worked and my last loaf had the best rise yet plus lots of holes in the centre. I know not everyone likes sourdough but I adore it's tangy taste and chewy crust, in fact we all love it in this house. Baking my own saves me about £3 a week in the bread I don't buy and yes, while the method is more time consuming than a regular loaf, I enjoy the process and find it both mindful and satisfying. 

I tried some new recipes this week, including these coconut and jam sandwich bars which were lovely, plus these cookies. 

There has been lots of DIY and home improvement going on here. Our balcony railings, previously, mint green, are now blue.

This is a hot and messy job, which we put off. The railings need to be scraped/sanded and then treated with a primer on the rusty bits, before the painting starts. Our balcony is at the front of the house and south-west facing, so from mid-morning till sunset it is about 100 degrees out there. We have to get up early and try to get a coat done before the sun moves round, otherwise it's just the sweatiest job ever. Anyway, it's done now, and John's finally agreed that I can paint the front door to match which I'm ecstatic about because I can't tell you how much I dislike our front door.

Other fiddly lockdown jobs I've been doing include painting over the woodwork in the dining end of the kitchen, on the two green-blue walls, which was white as you can see here.

We always paint our woodwork white, as much from habit as anything, but I felt it just didn't work against the dark wall. We already had a tin of eggshell in the same colour, bought for when we painted the radiator, and so it didn't cost me anything.

I am really happy with the result. A non-essential decorating job that I would never normally have bothered with, but since I have the time I may as well do it.

That's all my news. We're just pottering around at home, trying to make the most of the lockdown and the weather, and the time with Bella and Angus too, because I will soon be back at work full time, and so will John, and Angus will go back to school soon, and then this strange bubble will be broken.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Crafting for Therapy

Hello! Everyone alright? It's been a long week here. Nothing major, just a weariness with the current situation, and a niggling anxiety always at the back of our minds. I may or may not return to work (I am a primary teaching assistant) full time after half term, we are not sure; John may return to work in three weeks, or six, or nine, no-one knows; Angus (Y6) might go back to school after half term...or he might not. It's not anyone's fault, not our employer's fault, it's just the huge uncertainty hanging over our whole lives at the moment. We went into this lockdown with a fair amount of motivation and I think that, on the whole, it's been a positive - if surreal - experience, but we all found ourselves listless last week, thoroughly fed up with homeschool, and unable to muster even the motivation to cook dinner. Of course I know that we are not alone, but that doesn't make the uncertainty any easier. Also, it sunk in this week that we almost certainly won't be going on holiday to France in August - I had been holding out the tiniest bit of hope that we would - or to London in June, or anywhere fun at anytime for that matter. But these are first world problems. The main thing is that we are all safe and well and that is all that matters really. 

One thing that has truly kept me mentally balanced and feeling calmer over the last week has been working on my Lockdown Sampler. I am still sewing a little motif each day, one for each letter of the alphabet, and the hour or two that I get to sit and sew is hugely good for me. I had got up to I when I last showed you my progress, and J had to be for jigsaws. I love a jigsaw - I normally associate them with those blissful days between Christmas and New Year - but it's been lovely to have time to work on a couple over the last few weeks.

K is for key workers. I nearly sewed a key, and was going to save rainbow for R, but I wanted to include something else for the letter R and so there had to be a bit of jiggling around. I think a lot of other countries also do something similar, but in the UK many people have been displaying rainbows in their windows at the front of their houses, often drawn by the children living there - to express their thanks to the key workers who have to go to work at the moment whether they want to or not. The rainbows are also a lovely thing to look out for when walking around your local area - Bella and I like to count them on our dog walks. Also, this was a complete joy to sew as I'm sure you can imagine!

L is for lockdown, and I struggled to think of the best way to represent this (padlock?) but then I remembered the social media sticker people have been using a lot on Instagram and Facebook to highlight the "stay home" message throughout lockdown. It was challenging to sew but I did really enjoy it.

M is for Making, a bit of a catch-all word for all the creative activities that have kept me sane and happy during this time, including crafting and especially crochet and sewing. A ball of yarn seemed the best way to sum this up.

N was very nearly for the NHS, but I had already doing "clapping" for C and and key workers for K, so I had to think again. I decided to do the news, something I've developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with lately. I hardly ever watch the news on TV but have Radio 4 on most of the time, and will spend a few days listening to it and taking it all in, then I reach saturation point and have to have a few days off for the sake of my peace of mind. 

O is for outside. The fact that this lockdown has happened during spring, and not in the dark depths of winter, has made it so much easier to bear, especially while the evenings are so light at the moment. Knowing that the seasons are still turning outside gives me hope.

P is for pasta, something of a staple food in this house, and apparently everywhere else too, as it was one of those foods like flour and tinned tomatoes that everyone stockpiled at the start of lockdown. A plate of spaghetti bolognese was a fun way to represent it.

Q is for quilting. I have loved working on my patchwork quilt over the last few months. The benefit of quieter days than usual is that I don't spend my evenings catching up with housework, chores and admin as I usually would, leaving a bit more time for TV watching and sewing my hexagons.

R is for reading. Again, the benefit of slower days means more time to read in bed as I do't have to be up at 6 am for work. We have all read a lot over the last few weeks and it's been a luxury I've relished. Once I'd decided to sew book spines, I straight away thought of the iconic Penguin publishers graphic design, and had a lot of fun sewing these. To give you an idea of scale, these books are 23 mm wide by 21 mm high.

And finally S is for Sourdough. It's become one of those lockdown jokes that everyone's making sourdough now, but in my defence I was making it before, although I've enjoyed improving my starter and loaves lately. I think this may look more like a beehive than a loaf of bread (I was trying to sew those little grooves that the proving banneton leaves behind) but if you squint and don't look too closely I'm sure it's ok.

All of which takes me up to today, and T. I had better get sewing.

Wishing you all a happy bank holiday weekend and week ahead.