Sunday, 29 November 2009

A quick and simple card

Yesterday I forgot to share the very easy and quick (but still, I hope, pretty and effective) card I made for L.'s birthday. The gorgeous fabric is "Confections" by Robert Kaufman, and the epoxy sticker is by"Love Elsie" from KI Memories.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

A birthday, a cold walk, and a tired boy...

Today we...

celebrated L.'s 17th birthday:

The cake is the carrot cake recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery book - absolutely delicious and easy, even though I do not own a food mixer and did all the mixing by hand ( I've developed a very strong right arm over years of baking!)

Had a cold, but lovely walk up what we (unromantically) call "The Concrete Path" - a farm track through the fields from our driveway:

Some of us a little reluctantly:

And fell asleep on the sofa, too tired to sing his sister "Happy Birthday":

Thursday, 26 November 2009


Yesterday I managed to get an hour in the garden and planted my tulips, which were beginning to sprout. I love tulips and every year I plant a new variety in two small formal beds we have outside the back of the barn. I am very taken with the idea of formal beds with a succession of bulbs and bedding plants through the year, surrounded by box hedges ( I visited Sissinghurst at an impressionable age!) and these two small beds are my rather basic formal garden. After the bulbs I only have one lot of summer-flowering plants, although it would be nice to follow these with something that will last through the winter, like pansies. This year I have put in Sweet Williams which are biennial and are happily overwintering to flower next summer. I have been spectacularly disorganised about the tulips, though, not only have I left it rather late to plant them, I also managed to throw away the label where I had writen the variety name, and now I can't remember what they are. Possibly "Ballade", as that is the name which comes into my head, and there is actually a tulip of that name. Oh well, it will be a surprise in the Spring to see what they look like!

This is one of the beds, just before planting.

And here is my assistant gardener, Edwina, who always jumps out of the pen and comes to dig around, very unhelpfully, whenever I attempt any weeding or planting.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

W.I.P. Wednesday

My first posting for W.I.P. Wednesday and today my Work-In -Progress is my Christmas cards, which I finally started this morning and managed to get 10 completely done and 10 more partially done in just over an hour. My design is very simple this year, and apart from the dove stamp and the card blanks which I have bought specially, everything else is items already in my stash. ( I have got so much stuff I really need to use up!)
The dove stamp is from te English Stamp Company and the background calligraphy stamp is by Invoke. The paper is left over strips from a Dovecraft pack I bought for last year's cards.
I'm hoping to do another 10 each day to work towards my target of 70.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Try Something New Tuesday!

Well, I did cook something new, Mushrooms and Lentils Au Gratin and I think it was a success - L. had a second helping, but there was only L. and me eating it, as R had cooked a chicken which needed using and he and I. ate that, and E. of course is away.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Missing her already.

Yesterday, I took E. to stay with our good friends A. and M. as she is doing her Work Experience with the National Trust, which M. works for. She will be with them this week and next, although I will be collecting her on Friday for the weekend back at home (it's big sister's birthday).
I know E. will have a lovely time - she has often stayed for a night or two with A. and M. and their daughter is one of her best friends. And I know it's not for long - but it is the longest she has been away, and she is such a full-on personality that the house and family seem very quiet without her. It also feels like a rehearsal for when she (and her sister before her ) will leave home - not very many years away now - and I'm not sure that I will be ready...

Saturday, 21 November 2009

What's for tea, Mum?

I read in the newspaper last week that a survey found most mums "recycled" the same 9 dishes for dinner ( or "tea" as we tend to call it in our house - my Northern roots are showing!) over and over again. When I came to think about what I cook each evening, I realised that my regular repertoire is not much more adventurous - I do tend to make the same "safe" dishes that I know the children will eat, very regularly.
So, I have decided to give myself a challenge which will perhaps make the answer to the above question more interesting. I am going to find a new dish to cook once a week - the best night for this will be Tuesday- so here's to "Try Something New Tuesdays"!
The picture above is one of our summer regulars - Halloumi and Vegetable Kebabs, which I have promised my Halloumi-loving L. that I will make tomorrow, even though it's late Autumn...

Thursday, 19 November 2009

At last...introducing my new design - "Betsy"

Well, it has taken me quite some time, and 3 test knits ( you may notice this one was a little different), but finally I am happy with my baby pinafore design. The pattern will be available soon to buy as a download on Ravelry, and I'm looking forward to knitting it in other sizes and colours ( denim blue for starters) to hopefully sell finished garments as well . Watch this space for news on that...

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Remember not to rush...

One of the other mums at I.'s school brought me up short with a comment today when I met her while picking I. up - "You seem to be in a rush today - calm down" she said. And, thinking about it, I realised she was quite right - in fact I was feeling quite breathlesss from rushing. It had been one of those days - I had been into the city, birthday-and-Christmas-and clothes for DD2's-work experience next week-shopping, come home, done a few jobs and had a quick blog-browse then realised I was runnung a bit late to pick I up. But it is more than just one day - I seem to rush at life a lot of the time, even feeling anxious and a bit panicky about all the things I feel I need to get done. Even though I have taken the decision to cut back on some activities ( I talked about this here) I still feel sometimes there are not enough hours in the day, and this also leads to me staying up too late and ending up a tired and grumpy mama.
The picture above is of me with my littlest and biggest on the beach at Wells-next-the Sea ( one of our very favourite family places) last February and is there to remind me to calm down and remember not to rush through this life of mine. To be honest, it's going too fast anyway...

Monday, 16 November 2009

Memories in a tree

I love this little tree. It is a winter-flowering cherry (Prunus Subhirtella Autumnalis) which was one of the first trees we planted when we moved here nearly 6 years ago. Then it was tiny, quite ungainly in the way its branches fell. Now it is filling out and becoming more graceful. I love it for the beautiful autumn colour, and the anticipation of the starry white flowers adorning the bare branches in winter. Most of all, though, I love it for the memories it represents - we had a much larger version of this tree outside the front of our house in S.W. and it was a special place for the girls when they were very young - almost magical. They used to hold tea parties for their dolls and themselves under its shelter and it was a joy to look at with it's firey leaves in autumn and abundant blossom in winter. When we sold the house to move here, the purchasers were concerned about the tree's roots getting into the drains and they cut "our" beautiful tree down.
So the young tree in the photo above is the repository for me of all those memories and will, I hope, go on to make its own memories. The girls are too old now to hold dolls' tea parties, and I. is only really interested in trees if he can climb them, but I hope that one day its branches will be shading the patio where we will be eating our meals outside, and maybe one far-off day, when the tree is really quite big and old, my grand-children might hold dolls' tea-parties under its shelter.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Duvet day

Yesterday a pale, tired, headachey-and-tummyachey boy greeted me when I woke him up. Not exactly ill, but not exactly well either, and definitely someone who needed a day just being at home. So we had a lovely, restorative day quietly at home, a lot of which was spent snuggled under his duvet, lying on the rug reading or playing. I. loves his duvet and usually appears downstairs in the morning wrapped in it, having trailed it down the stairs like a prince trailing his cloak.

By teatime, the rosiness had been restored to I.'s cheeks and all achiness was forgotten. He ended the day happily relaxing on a makeshift "sofa" in front of the woodburner. A happy day indeed.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

I just couldn't resist

this gorgeous Rowan reindeer pattern which is in the current issue of Knitting magazine, and I got the wool for it in John Lewis while I was supposedly beginning my Christmas shopping yesterday. I've never knitted a toy before, but I'm looking forward to having a go at this once I've finished working up my pinafore pattern.

Monday, 9 November 2009

On my needles

...and on my lap this morning is my new design. It is a "no sew" baby/toddler pinafore dress in Rowan handknit cotton which I am in the last stages of test kniting and writing up the pattern. I hope to have it as a download on Ravelry in the near future.
Started out here as a lovely bright morning - now it has clouded over. I think it may be time to light the woodburner...

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Alone at home...on a weekend

While I'm often in the house alone during the week with R at work and the children at school, it's very unusual for me to have any time in the house by myself at the weekends. But this morning E was still at our friends' house where she had stayed overnight after a fireworks party, and R went with I and L into the city, and I was here unexpectedly by myself for an hour or so until E returned. I don't know whether it was to do with the pale autumn sunlight in the rooms downstairs, but the house felt especially peaceful, not as if it was holding it's breath waiting for the family to return, but as though it was breathing out in the quiet after a typical busy, noisy, week.
The house settled down around me as I pottered about, clearing up, washing dishes...just the house and me...blissful.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Crab-apple jelly

Coming into the kitchen when I woke up this morning I was greeted by the sight of the sunshine glinting through the jars of crab-apple jelly which I made yesterday which I had left to cool down on the kitchen table. They certainly are a wonderful colour, but although the jelly is set, it looks as though it will be quite runny - I think the fruits from our tree, which is the variety "Evereste", may not have as much pectin in as some crab-apples.
It was easy and fun to do and I used a doubled -over piece of muslin, which I wet and then wrung out, instead of a jelly bag - I had checked out the prices of a jelly bag and stand at Lakeland - £18! Halving all the fruit took a bit of time as the crab-apples I used were quite small.
Here is the recipe I used, given to me by my neighbour, Liz:
Crab-apple Jelly
6lb crab-apples
4 pints water
sugar - 1lb to each pint of juice yielded
(note: I used 4.5lbs apples, so I needed only 3 pints water. This quantity yielded 2.75 pints juice to which I added 2.75 lbs sugar.)

1) Wash fruit and cut apples into halves.
2) Put into preserving pan or large heavy-bottomed pan with the water.
3) Bring to boil and then simmer gently for 45mins to an hour. Resist stirring during this time as this can make the jelly cloudy, but be careful the apples don't catch and scorch on the bottom of the pan when bringing to the boil.
4) Strain the pulp through a jelly bag or muslin for at least 2 hours or overnight.
5) Measure the yield of the strained juice and add 1lb sugar to each pint juice.
6) In the pan, bring to the boil and boil until setting point is reached - between 5 and 20 mins depending on amount of pectin in the fruit.
7) Fill pre-washed and sterilised jars while the jars are still warm and put on lids.
8) Enjoy and/or give to friends!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Taking on too much

When will I ever learn?
In the summer my girls did a 2-day art course with an artist friend of mine, and while waiting outside her house in the sun to collect them each day, I thought " How nice it would be to do an art course!" My dad was an artist and I did art at school to A-level, but have let it slide in all the years since. I felt that now I was getting back to doing some creative activities it would be good to brush up on my sadly neglected drawing and painting skills.
So, in September, I signed up for a beginners art course with Zangmo Alexander, a local artist and teacher, and paid upfront (or at least, DH did). After just 4 sessions and having been unable to go to 2 others, I've had to come to the realisation that this was a course too far, and it is just unrealistic given my committments to family, house , teaching and my own time. It has been an expensive lesson.
However, I have learned some good tips and techniques to improve my drawing, and I have a nice new set of drawing pencils to play with!

Look who's 9!

A couple of weeks out of date, but I. recently turned nine and I love the look on his face that sister E. captured in this picture. Oh the joy of blowing out birthday candles!
This is the first of the children's birthdays, all of which fall at this time of year when although bithday parties and teas in the garden are out, it is dark enough at tea-time to have the proper conditions for the ritual candle-blowing-out.
This year's "party" for I. consisted of going to the cinema with 2 friends to see the lovely film, "Up", and then having one friend to sleep over. Much more calm than in previous years, and because friend had gone home by Sunday tea-time it was just the family who were there to sing Happy Birthday and enjoy the chocolate brownie cake - a relaxed and cosy occasion.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Fairy Ring

Today on the way back from a bike ride with I ( which was not an unqualified success since he got very cold ears and very tired so we ended up pushing the bikes up the last stretch), I saw this round one of the birch trees in the garden. All the birches had fungi around them, but this one had a complete fairy ring. Is there something in birch roots which attracts them, or do we really have fairies at the bottom of the garden?

Also, a picture of Saturday's Halloween pumpkin. The ones I took while it was lit on Halloween didn't come out well enough...