Sunday, 11 April 2021

Easter Etc

I love the Easter holidays and, after a very hectic final two weeks of the school term, this break was especially welcome. We have been cooking and celebrating, resting and pottering, gardening and working outside. It's been a good balance.

Sprigs of pussy willow hung with wooden eggs make our Easter tree. I only keep this up for a few days over the Easter weekend as the arrangement is precarious and wooden eggs are liable to go flying all over the house every time someone brushes past it. The felt egg garland comes out for nostalgia. I made this when the children were tiny, before I started blogging I think.

A noticed this Easter that some of our little family traditions are shifting and changing as the children get older. No egg hunt this year, but we still made Easter nests, although this time Bella made them on her own, rather than me supervising the baking with two small children standing on stools at the kitchen worktop.

Likewise the Easter bark, something we only started making a few years ago, but which the kids look forward to more than anything else. Also made by Bella.

I attempted hot cross buns this year using this recipe. They were as fiddly as I remembered when I made them years ago and, despite following the recipe to the letter, I felt they were a little heavy and definitely not as light as the shop bought ones. The flavour was still fantastic though, and toasted and buttered they were delicious. 

The most fun part was glazing them when they came out of the oven. Instantly, the buns came to life and glistened, and the contrast between the dough and white cross really showed.

Easter lunch was a shoulder of lamb, rubbed with spices and cooked slowly for about four hours in a covered casserole dish. When it was ready I let it cool a little, removed as much of the fat as possible then pulled the rest of the meat apart. It was really good and gave much better leftovers than a roasted joint. We ate it with roasted vegetables, couscous, houmous, yogurt and flat breads. The kids were quite vocal about the lack of roast potatoes and said they would have preferred a normal roast. Perhaps they'd like to cook it then?

The muscari are still blooming everywhere in the front garden. Last summer I moved some bulbs and put them in pots where they came up this spring. It's nice to have some colour because my tulips have only just started to bloom. Anyway, I'm picking them as fast as they grow.

The last week has been spent mostly at home and walks have been local as we've been busy. The Easter holidays always arrive at the perfect time for me to start tackling jobs inside and out and I have spent time this week sorting out cupboards and drawers and deep cleaning areas that don't get so much as a vacuum during term time. I was going to pack away all out winter things but we've had snow showers this week so I've held off on that for a bit longer! We had an electrician come to do a few jobs for us, including install an outside light and plug socket and lower this pendant light over the kitchen table.

It is perhaps a foot lower than before but the difference is makes is huge. It creates a much cosier, more intimate feel when lit plus you can more easily see the beautiful design.

He also installed this IKEA sinnerlig lampshade in the living room (it's the kind that has to be wired in) and, again, it makes such a difference to the whole feel of the room.

However, probably the most exciting bit of electrical work was the installation of a light in the coat cupboard in the hallway. I don't know how it took us six years to do this job, but we did it finally, and the difference it makes is huge. You can now see what is inside. Incredible! (Also, can you believe we're lived here six years now?!)

We've also been doing a lot of work in the garden over the last week but I think I've rambled on long enough today so I will show you all the photos soon. I hope you are all well and had a nice Easter. I will try not to leave it so long between blog posts next time.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Shades of Yellow

Just in time for spring, I have finished the warmest jumper I have ever crocheted. It's the Berry Dipped Raglan by Little Golden Nook. I like it very, very much, especially those huge, bobble-covered sleeves.

I added rows for extra length on the body (always an issue for me at 5'11") as I like my jumpers on the longer side. 

Actually, it's a touch bigger than I anticipated, but this just means that I won't be terrified to wash it on a wool wash in the machine. I followed the pattern for the size 12-14 as I wear a 14, but it came out more of a 14-16 (UK sizes). So, a little bit of shrinkage won't be a bad thing! 

I used 21 balls of Drops Nepal in the Goldenrod colourway, with a 4mm hook for the neck, cuffs and hem, and a 5mm hook for the body. 

I love the way the huge bobbles stop and the tight cuff starts, I really like that contrast. The other thing I love is the tiny leather tags with my initials and a ball of yarn and crochet hook, which I ordered from Etsy. I like to know which is the front and back of my handmade jumpers when I put them on (even if there isn't really an obvious front of back) and miss the labels sewn inside. These little leather labels are a nice touch.

I received a new cookery book for Mother's Day (I dropped heavy hints) by my favourite food writer, Anna Jones. I really love her recipes - they are so easy and delicious - and her books are some of my most used. This one looks excellent. I will definitely be doing a cookery book review of this at some point. Also, I haven't forgotten that I received some wonderful new cookery books for Christmas, and have been cooking from those a lot. I will try and write some of my cookery book posts over the Easter holidays. 

I'm still buying daffodils, hyacinths and pussy willow. It's such a treat to be buying spring flowers after autumn and winter.

It seems like each week I spot more and more colour on our walks. Catkins and camellias and daffodils, yes, but now there is hawthorn blossom in the hedgerows, primroses popping up here and there and magnolia trees coming into bloom.

The garden is also waking up. I have euphorbia, hyacinths and tete-a-tetes in bloom, wild muscari growing everywhere, and the tulips I planted last autumn are on their way. Every year, I save the hyacinth plants I buy in the supermarkets once they have gone over, and store them in the shed. I plant them outside the following autumn, but I often feel that hyacinths are wasted outside because they're so short you often can't really see them in bloom. I'm wondering about how to re-pot them so that I can have them as indoor flowers again. 

For now they reside in this gorgeous trug my parents gave me for Christmas to replace the old washing up bowl I usually use when weeding. At the moment I am trying really hard not to get it dirty. I realise this is ridiculous but it's so pretty!

That's all our news really. The kids are now back at school full time and loving it. My work and teaching course are going well although it continues to exhaust and challenge me in new ways ever week, but I do still love it. I'm really looking forward to Easter weekend - it's one of my favourite holidays - especially since John has some time off over Easter. We have lots of things to do around the house and garden and I've just ordered some seeds to plant over the two weeks off. I am thinking about what to cook and eat for Easter lunch. We usually have roast lamb, but we're thinking something different this year. Probably still lamb, as it's so delicious and such a treat, but perhaps cooked as a tagine or spicy stew, with roasted vegetables, couscous or bulgur wheat, and lots of interesting side dishes. I don't know. And then there is the Easter baking too: chocolate cornflake nests, egg-shaped cookies, some kind of cake. Ah, I love this time of year. 

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Sunny but Cold


It's been a busy couple of weeks. The end of half term, a birthday in the house, spring came - briefly - for one weekend, then the frosts came back reminding me not to get too excited yet, and now Bella and Angus are getting ready for going back into school tomorrow.

I celebrated turning another year older. As lockdown birthdays go it was actually quite nice and not wildly dissimilar to my usual celebrations. Bella made me a cake. Family and friends dropped round presents and lots of things came through the post. We went for a walk and got takeaway tea and cake, then had a takeaway Indian that evening.  I opened a bottle of fizz. All in all, it was really nice. Being able to invite people inside and hug them would have been preferable, obviously, but still nice.

My present, from John and family, was an Ooni wood fired pizza oven. I am very excited about this and am planning lots of scenarios involving friends and family coming round for pizza. Or any food for that matter - it will just be lovely to have guests in the house or garden, or dream about a time in the future when that might be possible.

Last weekend the weather was beautiful, sunny and warm enough to not need a coat. I took a lot of pleasure in doing simple things like hanging washing on the line, tidying up the front garden, planting flowers and enjoying the smell of cut grass. 

Bulbs are coming up here and there: daffodils and hyacinths for now, with tulips on the way.

Around this time of year I always get a new energy for doing jobs in the house and garden and start making plans. This includes:
  • change some light fittings, install a light in our hall coat cupboard, an outside plug socket and light
  • get the chimney swept
  • tile behind the wood burner
  • built-in bookshelves in the living room
  • paint the garden fence
  • sort the leak in the garage roof
  • replace the shed
It's a varied list. Some things we can do ourselves, others we need to get a professional for, like electrics. Some are necessary (leaky garage roof) while other jobs, such as bookshelves in the living room, remain under debate as John cannot see how this is essential. 

This year, we are finally replacing our old, dilapidated and too small garden shed. It was second hand to us, so I feel that it's had good use, but is quite literally falling to pieces.

We plan to move the shed to a different corner of the garden, below, where the children's trampoline used to live. After many years of use it was time for it to go, and now we have a ten foot space which needs to be leveled in preparation for installing a new, larger shed. I am quite excited by all this, and also wondering what to do with the spot where the old shed currently resides. I am undecided. 

Something about the extra light and longer days always makes me want to refresh rooms and give things a bit of a change around. We recently moved the multicoloured rug that was in the living room upstairs to go on the painted floorboards in our bedroom, and have replaced it with this neutral IKEA rug. I love it. It feels both lighter and calmer.

I find that, working full time during the week, I really lose track of what food we have in the house, what needs eating up first, that sort of thing. I  hate having to throw food away (I will eat pretty much anything reheated for lunch the following day) and so I spent a happy couple of hours in the kitchen yesterday, going through the fridge and batch cooking for the week.

I used a very tired cauliflower and broccoli in soup with some sprouting potatoes, adding thyme and mustard before blending at the end. I found half a butternut squash and a punnet of tasteless cherry tomatoes. I roasted both with za'tar and then added quinoa and feta cheese. The cherry tomatoes no longer taste bland but are transformed by the roasting and seasoning, and I have four more lunches for this week.

Angus baked blondies last weekend and white chocolate and cranberries cookies yesterday. Bella has started doing all our ironing (she gets paid £1) and yesterday she cooked dinner too: creamy pasta with peas and pancetta, her favourite. I have found that so long as the children are cooking food that they are really invested in eating, they are much more keen to get involved.

I am slowly working on this crochet jumper. It is slow progress because I only have the energy for a couple of rows a night, but I have now completed the body and have nearly finished the first arm. 

The bobbles absolutely eat the yarn but they are fun and they feel amazing. I am excited to wear this when it's finished.

I completed February's stitches on my Stitch A Day sampler. It was an easy month to do, with pancake day, my birthday, Valentine's Day etc. It is hard to think of things to sew some days, so I have to get quite creative.

In February's section, we have: welly boots, ox (Chinese/Lunar New Year), gyoza dumpling, prosecco, daffodil, takeaway coffee, laptop, a gift, birthday cake, pancake, bobble hat, heart shaped biscuit, fossil, notepad, heart, WiFi, rhubarb, the number 43, primulas, a rain cloud, crocuses, a running shoe, catkins, a meal worm, sprig of fir tree, slice of pizza, divide symbol and bird footprints. 

March and April will be in shades of blue, then May and June green. I am enjoying the meditative process of a little sewing each day (or a couple of hours at the weekend) especially as the days are getting longer.