Sunday, 18 April 2021

Inside and out

Hello! I hope you're all well. I am feeling quite relaxed after a couple of weeks off. I know I always say it, but I love the Easter holidays. The weather hasn't always been cooperative (I think we've had more snow showers in the last ten days than we had all winter) but it's still been lovely to start tentatively coming out of lockdown, meeting people outside, going shopping, visiting the library.

John was off for the first week of the Easter break and we had plans to try and get some outside jobs done. You might remember that, back in February half term, we dismantled our trampoline leaving this corner empty ready for a shed.


We hadn't ordered a shed at this point, as we weren't sure how much space we would have to play with, and it's a good thing we didn't because we soon realised that this huge tree root would need to be removed.

It was one of those jobs where you don't realise quite how big it is until you start. This is John, realising this.

However, through a combination of saw, axe, maul, chainsaw and sheer determination, John and my Dad managed remove almost all of it, leaving a lovely big 10 foot by 6 foot space perfect for a new garden shed. I did help a little with this, but it turns out I'm not very useful wielding an axe and my skills are better deployed elsewhere.

The next stage was the removal of two New Zealand flax plants. When we moved here six years ago they were quite small, as this old photo below shows.

However, they had grown to about ten feet tall and had completely taken over the bottom corner of the garden. Removing them was a huge job: the leaves can't be strimmed, they're too thick and fibrous, so you have to cut each one back one by one with a knife, then they have to be dug up.

And this is how the corner looks now with tree stump and flax plants removed and fences painted. We have now ordered a shed and it should be here by end of June. The ground in that corner will need more leveling before then as our garden is on a bit of a slope. You can see where the flax plants have killed the grass underneath as it couldn't get any light, but that will recover, and it does now show off these two fabulous palm trees which you couldn't really see before.

In between all that digging - with lots of help from my parents now they are allowed in our garden again! - I painted the fences and this wooden planter.

A colleague's son made it and I think it's fabulous. A great use of space and perfect for herbs.

While I was wielding a paintbrush, John was busy building an outdoor bench for our new wood fired pizza oven.

My sister, who has just had a new kitchen installed, had some off-cuts of white quartz worktop and one of them was completely perfect for the bench. It provides a work surface area that is durable enough to live outside but can be easily cleaned between uses. 

The oven is brilliant. My parents came round for lunch and it was so, so good to feed people. I forgot how much I like it. It was cold and windy and we all wore our coats but we ate a meal together! And the pizza was completely delicious and pretty easy to use once you get the hang of keeping an eye on the temperature and knowing when to rotate the pizza. 

John has been back at work this week so I've been busy out and about with the kids, or pottering around the house. I've planted some seeds - ranunculus and dahlia outside in the cold frame and cosmos and zinnia indoors in trays. The indoor seeds are going great guns on my sophisticated system of old B&Q plant pots placed on trays on the floor in the sun. Luckily Ziggy is not remotely interested in digging or weeing on them so they will stay there for a few more weeks yet.

I used some vouchers I was given for Christmas and birthday to buy this beautiful white locker from Winter's Moon, a local independent shop I love. It is completely perfect for shoe storage.

I gave my wardrobe a sort out, optimisically packing away some of the thicker jumpers, adding more command hooks for my necklaces. Basically doing the kinds of jobs that I never have time to do during term time, but will hopefully make life a bit easier. 

After I finished my last crochet project, I really enjoyed picking up my patchwork quilt again.

It's hard to tell how big it is, so I took it upstairs and draped it over the bed. 

I think it's about a quarter of the way there.

Granny squares are my current project, so that I can make this top

Finally, I forgot to show you my finished Stitch a Day for March. The colours are shifting from purple to blues, with images including getting my vaccine, Mother's Day, windy weather, World Book Day, flowers and blossom. 

That's all my news. Wishing you all a good week. Thank you for being here and reading. :-) 

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.