Monday, 22 June 2020

Enjoying the Ordinary

Last weekend was lovely. Nothing special happened, it was just one of those weekends when ordinary doesn't feel so ordinary, when everyday life feels uplifting and liberating, rather than suffocating and oppressive, as it sometimes did during lockdown. Actually, something unusual did happen yesterday: my sisters and I met in our parents' garden for a Father's Day cream tea, the first time we'd all been together in person since lockdown began. It was so good to all be together - although without our own families - in the garden, eating my mum's delicious scones.

I've felt a renewed appreciation for our weekends since returning to work and was very happy to spend most of my time in the garden. What started off as "I'm just going to have a bit of a tidy up" turned into hours of painting, weeding, pruning and moving plants. 

This old planter needed a lick of paint, so I started off optimistically with a tin of mint green, leftover from when we painted the balcony railings a couple of years ago.

I was so optimistic for that mint to work, it made me think of Miami and sunshine. 

But as soon as I put on the first coat I had doubts. It was so bright, and seemed to get brighter as the evening got darker. I kept catching glimpses of it out of the corner of my eye from the kitchen and it was troubling me.

So yesterday I gave it two coats of a soft blue-grey, leftover from when we painted the metalwork on our stairs, and feel much happier. 

John painted some of our wooden fences with a gorgeous charcoal grey paint/stain (above) and then used up the leftovers on our wood store and gate. It's all looking much smarter. Just try to ignore the paint I managed to walk all over the decking.

All plants seem to have doubled in size in the last two weeks - it must be the rain. Everything except my sweet peas, that is, which continue to look straggly and weedy and I despair that they will ever flower. I planted them from seed and won't do that again. My redcurrants are looking promising though, and the blackcurrants are not far behind. 

I accidentally cut off a few stems of my favourite verbena bonariensis so I brought them indoors whereupon they promptly shed all their tiny petals over the mantel and floor.

Excitingly, I just bought an outdoor rug for our decking area. (£18 from B&Q, a bit of a bargain I thought.) For months I failed to see the point of outdoor rugs, but then I thought about creating a little sitting/reading/coffee drinking area and suddenly a rug seemed like just the thing to bring it together. It's made of plastic so rain proof and easy to clean, I imagine.

In the kitchen, I tried a new recipe: rhubarb, ginger and white chocolate cookies. My mum gave me about a kilo of rhubarb from a friend's garden and I was excited to try this recipe. 

They are very good; soft and chewy, with the tart rhubarb contrasting nicely with the sweet chunks of white chocolate.

It still left me with a lot of rhubarb, half of which I roasted with a little sugar, and the rest was chopped and frozen ready for future crumbles.

I've been enjoying a bit of seasonal faffing lately, moving pictures and plants around, creating little displays. I moved the log basket into the garage and put this monstera in it's place. I like it there, with the green leaves by the white wall and black stove. 

I haven't felt like crocheting anything since March but I finally have a project on my hook that I'm really enjoying. You may remember that I unravelled a pink cotton cardigan a couple of months ago, and so I needed to find a pattern that used Aran weight cotton yarn. I am making this t-shirt which I'm hoping will be a versatile summer top which I can wear with jeans and cropped trousers.

Do you remember my sugarhouse blanket which I made last summer? It was inspired by the tiled wall at Sugarhouse Studios in London. Well, it's currently enjoying a moment of fame on this episode of the architecture podcast, 99 Percent Invisible, which is all about the wall itself. It's sent lots of people my way on Instagram and I feel so proud for my little blanket, getting so much love from all these different people. Architecture and crochet, who'd have thought?

Monday, 15 June 2020

Almost Midsummer

Normal life has started to tentatively resume here and it's strange. I'm back at work full time, although not in the usual classroom or with the usual children, and Angus has returned to school, but he sadly won't be going off on his Year 6 residential as he was supposed to next week. I noted with regret that Bella's parents' evening should have been last week (I always like going to Bella's parents' evenings - teachers love her) and that, like so many other things, has been cancelled. Bella is still learning at home, and John is still furloughed so we're fifty percent there. It's been good for Angus to see his friends at school and Bella has been able to meet up with cousins and friends in the park - time away from family and the house has done them both the world of good. We were able to have lunch in my parents' beautiful garden yesterday and the Zoom catch ups are still going strong.

But, strangely, I am finding the easing of restrictions harder than the full, early lockdown. I think I felt a sense of togetherness and solidarity with everyone else that I don't feel now. I was motivated by the unexpected time at home, we powered through our list of DIY tasks, unsure how many weeks we'd have altogether. And then spring was over, and now we're almost at Midsummer and the weeks drift by. I think I've just completely had enough of it all. Of course I understand why it must be so, and I obediently follow all the rules, but my heart isn't in it anymore. I can only imagine how those still shielding must feel, with no tangible end in sight yet. 

But there has been good stuff happening, so much good stuff. John celebrated his birthday on a gorgeously hot day and we ate cookies and cream cake (looked better than it tasted if I'm honest) and went to the beach.

We've had some really lovely walks lately. 

Just our usual, local places, nothing that exciting, but everything is just bursting with that early summer green, full of wild flowers and lush ferns. 

These walks are so good for me, and for us as a family. Even if it's just an hour, together, wandering along the footpaths. 

Thank you all so much for your comments on my lockdown sampler. I am glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. I did miss the rhythm of sewing a letter a day at first, but after a few days break I went straight into the next project - my English Paper Piecing patchwork quilt.

I have been slowly sewing hexies over the last couple of months in the evenings, in front of the TV, and have now used every single scrap of spare fabric I had, which feels wonderfully satisfying. I have the box above of coloured pieces, plus the neutrals below.

I have (I think) 995 hexagons altogether which is enough for 142 flower shapes made from 7 hexagons. My plan is to make them all then arrange them, for that pleasing random effect (that isn't actually random at all) and then sew them together. I don't know if this will give me a big enough quilt. I don't really know what I'm doing, let's be honest, but I'm having fun. I'm really loving the slow, organic, hand-sewing process of EPP so far. I think it's a good fit for me.