Thursday, 16 April 2015

Many things, all small

I did warn you there'd be picture-heavy posts... Next week I'm hoping to lay off the collages a bit and start getting some more structure to things again. I like structure. Already I'm thinking about Food Memories posts, Elegant Economy ideas and so on.

This reflects the fact that things are slowly settling down after the last few weeks. It's still tough and there's much to do but the initial feeling that everything was somehow spinning out of control has started to recede.

And I've been giving a lot of thought to therapeutic things, small things, that help you feel a little bit more anchored when life gets stormy. Here's what's helped me cope a little better lately:

Noticing details. Particularly those outdoors: the petals scattered down from the tree next door; magnolias flowering (mine's just starting to and I'm on bud watch); leaves unfurling.

I did say small, didn't I? A tiny handknit for a tiny girl arrived in the post courtesy of Jay's auntie. 

Swooning over flowering currant bushes. Maybe I'm a bit odd, but I do actually like the smell.

Creating. Drawing, making sun prints, carving a little stamp for home-made Easter cards. I find that this sort of stuff which requires a process is very absorbing and de-stressing. Same goes for baking: reading a recipe, weighing, measuring. And planting seeds and cuttings too.

Of course, I've written about the therapeutic benefits of walking outdoors. Of seeing and breathing in all that green. And yellow. And pink...

A few little treats don't hurt either. Jay bought me a shopping bag. My stepdad brought a miniature rose over on his last visit. And yes, that is another new notebook. 

Spring has been awakening my senses. The colours, the (occasional) warmth, the breezes. And the sounds of running water, rain showers and birdsong. A family of birds are currently nesting right outside our bedroom window. I have to keep telling myself that incessant cheeping at daybreak is preferable to the sound of an alarm clock.

Pottering about in the garden is another thing I find relaxing. Yellow flowers aren't usually a favourite of mine but at this time of year I do actually like them. These yellow-tipped fritillaries are very lovely; we also have some Imperialis ones which have now started to die back (but you can read about them here in my latest Garlic and Sapphire post if you'd like).

It goes without saying that seeing Joe so full of happiness lifts me up no end. There's a particular lane full of the biggest, muddiest puddles and he loves to visit. Maybe we should film him splashing his way from one end to the other.

I'm not usually much of a pink fan either, but again... the spring effect. The peonies on the left remind me of rhubarb. And we've had rhubarb cake already. The leftover stewed fruit has been frozen into lollies.

I'm not the only one who goes seeking out little details. Joe's eyesight is incredible. He notices everything. It's lovely to see him making new discoveries. That sense of wonder... so sweet.

I'm a huge advocate of reading for escapism. Poetry always works, but I'm currently re-reading Rosamund Pilcher's September. It's slightly dull if I'm honest and very reminiscent of when it was published (1990). But slow books have a pleasantly soporific effect on me, a bit like Monty Don's voice.

And in keeping with the early '90s theme, we recently procured the entire Twin Peaks box set. It's a whopping 29 episodes long. You know when there are TV series you wish you'd watched but never did? Well, this is one of them. It's a bit creepy, a bit odd and that theme music sticks in your brain. But it's good to know we've got some enjoyable viewing of an evening. 

Again, thank you for all your kind comments lately. They have helped, just like all these other little things. 

Weekend's almost upon us. I hope you enjoy yours.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Little things, small steps

Firstly, I want to say thank you to everyone who sent their good wishes and their sympathy in response to my previous post. They helped no end. Things are still at that whirlwind stage: phone calls, paperwork, arrangements, visitors (both official and not)... We're getting through things slowly.

Having said that, it would appear that little Poppy will be coming home earlier than anticipated. She's feeding well and getting stronger. There's a Moses basket with sweet little handknitted blankets awaiting her arrival.

You may recall I said I'd be putting some photo-heavy posts together for the moment. Photos capturing the small things which make life that little bit easier. So here they are. Or at least, here are some of them.

I've decided to abandon any serial posts for another week or two, and to simply share what we've been doing with any precious free time we've had. And lately I've turned to my favourite form of therapy: walking. Particularly those solitary ambles along well-known paths, where I can notice the changes taking place as spring gathers pace.

On the home front, we celebrated Easter. Quietly. Just the three of us (my brother and niece had a big family lunch with our auntie and cousins). We ate well and calculated just how long it'll be before we need to buy Joe any more chocolate. The fridge is full of the stuff.

He also had to 'make' an Easter bonnet for nursery. Naturally, I forgot until the morning it was needed. Cue frenzied cutting, painting and Pritt Sticking (me) and being willing to wear it for all of five seconds (Joe).

This was the first year he actually understood the concept of the egg hunt. It didn't take very long for him to figure it out. Although the following day we went to the garden centre where he insisted on looking inside every flower pot, just in case.

The jigsaws were a charity shop find. Quite apt at this time of year, with the whole metamorphosis thing. And we do love the Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Next week looks like it'll be hectic again. Thanks for coming back and reading, and again - I really do appreciate your kind words and thoughts during this tough time.

Monday, 6 April 2015

How We Live Now

It seems a bit too soon since I had to write one of these posts. But something happened last week which I'm hoping will explain my recent absence from all the usual blog-related activities.

I've given it a lot of thought but this is a blog about my life, and that of my family, and I want to share these recent events. Not in detail but simply to let you - readers and friends - know what we've been doing of late. I held off posting over the weekend because it's Easter and people have been enjoying time together and the beautiful weather and the prospect of spring.

Last week my brother's partner of 14 years died unexpectedly. She was 36. They have a four-year-old daughter and a baby girl, born eight weeks prematurely, who is now three weeks old. She's still in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and will be until early May. There are investigations going on into the care my brother's partner received both during and after the birth.

The past week has been spent caring for Joe, my brother and dealing with formalities and the huge emotional impact of what has happened. Suddenly my role as auntie got a whole lot bigger.

We're preparing for the future and ensuring that two little girls and their dad will be fine.

Right now I'm trying to keep on top of things. We had a nice Easter for Joe with egg-hunting and good food and walks. Lots of photos were still taken. But currently it's all about prioritising; apologies for missing any Instagram tags or blog link-ups or contributions. I do have some draft posts which I may publish over the next week or so. And I have been reading all your blogs.

Again, like when my mum passed away, I might publish some picture-heavy posts chronicling the good things in life, the little things. They're the most important things too.

I hope I haven't saddened anyone with this news. I will be back, and I will be reading. And I know you'll understand.


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

March in pictures (and words)

So, March is at an end. It came in like a lion and went out like - well, an even bigger lion. We've seen snow, hail, gale-force winds and plenty of rain. As well as downpours we've had some brilliant sunshine which marked two firsts for 2015: line-dried washing and a walk without the need for a coat.

It's been a month of getting outside whenever we've had the opportunity. Meandering through the woods, hurriedly dashing around the block for a bit of fresh air between rain showers, tidying our patch of garden when the sun (fleetingly) appeared.

We've pulled out of one house purchase and now embarked on another. It feels right. Things are proceeding but I'm not getting excited just yet. Well, I'm trying not to get excited. I don't want to tempt fate, hence my not saying much on here about it. All in good time.

We've had the odd family birthday and a few trips out. I went to an exhibition opening on Thursday evening with my brother. Hebden Bridge was rather lovely at night: clear skies and not a lot of light pollution (it's in a steep valley) meant we could see the stars in all their twinkliness. 

There was more sparkle in the gallery, too. Prosecco and jewellery and the paintings: watercolours with gold thread stitched through them. I do love an evening reception.

Speaking of skies, we managed to catch the eclipse. And just as exciting (to me, at least) is the prospect of lighter evenings now the clocks have changed. 

I can't wait until the temperatures rise a little. Or the wind drops. Either would do. Much as I love winter, I'm hoping to fully emerge from hibernation very soon. 

This week Joe and I need to make an Easter bonnet. They're having a competition at nursery. I must try not to become a Competitive Parent but I do have some ideas and the paints and glue will be making an appearance over the next day or two. A perfect rainy day activity.

There's absolutely no chance he'll agree to wear a bonnet of any description. Even a haircut requires serious and lengthy negotiations.

Another trip to Yorkshire at the weekend, and lunch at a lovely vegetarian cafe. It's upstairs in a shop which sells all manner of organic, healthy foods and household products. This was timely as I've now made a major decision: to go gluten-free permanently.

I'm not coeliac (having been tested a few years ago) but I do have a sensitivity to gluten and it results in lots of health niggles. I also love bread and pastry and cakes and pizza. Which is why I've always given in to temptation. But not any more. And I have to say, instead of feeling my diet's now limited I'm enjoying finding alternatives and being more creative with my cooking and baking.

Note: banana bread works well with gluten-free flour. Carrot cake probably will too. The moistness of the ingredients seems to counteract the dry crumbliness of GF flour.

So, March has marked a few new starts. House-wise, health-wise and, of course, season-wise.

Finally, to round the month off, I'd like to say thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. It's nice to sometimes go off at a tangent as the mood takes you, and to write about whatever happens to inspire at any given moment. I'm glad you enjoyed reading.

Have a great April!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Spring greens

Joe's nursery session last Thursday happened to be on a gloriously sunny morning. Which meant he got to play outside with a tub of water and I got to take a walk, lonely as a cloud, for a couple of hours.

My route was one which is very familiar to me, a walk I've done hundreds of times over the years. And part of it involves a section of rather muddy woodland. On one side: the River Irwell. On the other, steep banks of rock. It's soggy and richly green, a tapestry of mosses and ivy and ferns. I took all these photographs within a stretch of maybe ten yards.

One of my most prized possessions is an old, dog-eared copy of Roget's Thesaurus. I look words up just for fun. Yes I do. I love words, especially rather antiquated ones. And with this particular post in mind I decided to see what it had on 'green'. Not in the 'new', 'young', 'sour', 'ignorant', 'immature', 'pleasure-ground' or 'innocent' sense. In a green, the colour, sense.

Here's what I found:
432. Greenness - N. greenness, green, verdancy, greenery, greenwood; verdure, viridescensce; jade, emerald, malachite, beryl.

green colour, jungle green, Lincoln g., sea-g., Nile g.; bottle green, pea-g., sage g., jade g., celadon, reseda.

green pigment, terre verte, celadonite, viridian, verditer, bice, Paris green; chlorophyl, etiolin.

Adj. green, viridescent, verdant, emerald; verdurous, grassy, leafy; grass-green, porraceous; greenish, bilious; lime, chartreuse.


So much more interesting and descriptive than plain old 'green'. You see, I toyed with the notion of naming this post 'Fifty Shades of Green'. But then I changed my mind. Because despite all the purples and yellows and pinks suddenly appearing, to me spring is green. Shoots appearing. Buds bursting. Leaves unfurling. So 'Spring Greens' it is.

And when I got up close to all this life and growth I was amazed at the sheer, well, greenness of it. The layers, the variety, the depth. I wondered whether I should write this post at all. Would people find it too monochromatic? A bit of a 'nothing' post (not newsy or informative, no real story to tell)? But I was inspired. Both when taking the photographs and looking at them once I was home. 

Walking alone can be such a luxury, an opportunity to stop and explore and examine. To discover tiny details. And to wonder. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Lots, but not much

We planned a quiet weekend. They don't happen very often. I've started with a sore throat and cough - again - and Joe's the same. I've never known anything like it. You shake one thing off and another arrives immediately to take over.

But spring is upon us and we've had some glorious sunshine. Which meant walks in the locality (no travelling allowed during a quiet weekend) and a bit of pottering outdoors.

Ambles through the village: friendly sheep who are used to passers-by. And chickens who reside behind the pub.

The whole 'slow' movement appeals to me: slow food, slow lifestyle. Things are quite literally slow for us at the moment, as Joe prefers to walk than ride in his buggy. He has no reason to hurry up and enjoys stopping and noticing anything and everything. There's a lesson to be learned in there somewhere...

I do love the way a sunny day can change your whole perspective on things. Quite the contrast from Friday's eclipse when we were plunged into eerie darkness in the middle of the morning.

We've fed the ducks, visited the chickens, chatted with cyclists and watched the steam trains. We met a greedy Shetland pony and saw an amazing sight: three kingfishers darting along the river in a line. Far more exotic than the resident mallards (but virtually impossible to photograph).

Joe's little legs have seen plenty of action over the past couple of days. I hope the fresh air helps him feel a bit better.

Blossom's appearing on bare branches. And there are signs of things to come: bluebells are putting up their leaves. Wild garlic is carpeting the woods already.

At home there was an important first for 2015: line-dried bedding. Tonight there will be hot baths and the pleasure of sleeping in sheets which smell of outdoors.

There's something about the arrival of spring which makes you want to get outside and tidy the garden and plant things. Last week I swept so vigorously I gave myself a blister on my hand. Proof of a job well done. This afternoon I lifted some snowdrops while they were still 'in the green'.

Our Alpine strawberries have gone mad so I divided some of those into little pots (and intend to give them away). Some of the herbs we assumed had perished over the winter are putting out little shoots too. Even a dead-looking geranium, shoved under a wooden crate and forgotten about, has two bright green leaves emerging.

So, a weekend with no plans has been spent doing lots of things. But little things. None of them urgent or stressful. We haven't felt obliged to visit people or to have anyone over. Instead it's been just us three. Pottering, wandering, planting, eating, reading.

A weekend well spent. I hope yours was the kind of weekend you enjoy.

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