Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Precious Things

Thank you for all the comments on my previous post. I love reading about what other people are up to and what their plans are (and I also love knowing I'm not the only September enthusiast out there)...

I mentioned a new little project: a collaboration between myself and some lovely fellow bloggers. It's called Precious Things. Allow me to explain the idea behind it...

I've often read interviews in magazines where that ubiquitous question pops up. You know, the one about what you'd save if the house was burning down. Well, with the exception of all living things, my camera, my new hard drive (which Royal Mail are now a week late in delivering) and perhaps a bottle of gin to calm the nerves, there are lots of little treasures which hold special meaning to me and which I'd hate to lose.

These things are not necessarily valuable in terms of financial merit but they're worth a whole lot more in terms of the memories they hold.

Mitenska is my special place where a particular blend of emotions, ideas and, I suppose, ramblings come together to form a whole. There's definitely some nostalgia in there. Bits of stories, things I remember from childhood. Inherited wisdom. Mental snapshots of people and places and experiences.

So it made sense to me to start a series looking at some of these little treasures, these precious things. And to think about what makes them so important.

Precious Things can take many forms: inherited jewellery, postcards, gifts from your children. Maybe a little something you bought with your first ever pay cheque, or a find you unearthed at a flea market - something where you have to imagine the life it had before you came along.

For my first post then, a few little treasures brought back from a long weekend in Prague.

When travelling (how cosmopolitan that sounds. The reality these days is that we don't stray far at all) I always like to find a souvenir or two. These souvenirs tend to be something for the house. And I'm a sucker for a vase, I really am.

So: these two treasures, procured from Golden Lane (which runs alongside Prague Castle). Both caught my eye for entirely different reasons; the heavy vase in splashy, monochrome Czech glass because of it's shape and size and my knowing it would look perfect on the bookcase. The little bookmark was just sweet and unusual, and that perfect mix of form and functionality. I still use it now, years later.

These souvenirs aren't just things I look at and use. They evoke memories of an icy city in March; of cold beer and horseradish dumplings and bookshops. And that's what makes them part of my collection of Precious Things.


Please look out for my fellow blogger's posts on their Precious Things:

And as I get things a little bit more organised we should hopefully be posting simultaneously and with a guest post each month. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Branching out

I know many of us see September as a month of new starts. I've always viewed it as my New Year. Maybe that's because I've worked in schools, colleges, universities and careers for so long - you find yourself buying diaries which follow the academic year and you plan your life accordingly. And to be honest, January isn't really the time to feel inspired and energised and resolute. I'm usually feeling a bit low after the great festive comedown. The weather's grim, the days are short and the bank account's looking worryingly depleted. And that's before I even think about all that overindulgence and the resulting sluggishness.

Back to September, then. I'm a bit of a stationery lover so that whole ritual of buying a new pencil case and notebook (or three) at this time of year is always a cause for celebration. And there's so much to look forward to: comfort food, frosts, Halloween, bonfires, anticipation of Christmas festivities.

So, to mark September, a few new projects.

Firstly: one I'm very excited about. Annie from Manneskjur asked if I'd like to be a part of a new website she's launching today. Folklings is a beautiful place to visit: lots of gorgeous photographs accompanied by quotes and links to further reading should you wish to explore a little more. I'm so pleased to be one of the curators and am currently trying to get my head around using Squarespace (I'm determined to master it). It does actually feel like I'm embarking on a new path of learning - again, perfect for this new academic year.

The next project is one of my own. A collaboration between myself and a few fellow bloggers. We'll be posting monthly and, once we've set sail, I'll be inviting a guest blogger along to join us each month.

I've been thinking about this for a while now and the idea's been floating about in my mind for ages. It's a simple concept but one which I hope you'll enjoy. So, time to stop planning and to make a start. Post #1 in the series will be here later this week. 

As well as the bloggy stuff, I'm going to attempt making sushi for the first time ever. My rolling mat arrived in the post a few days ago. And cowl number two is already on the knitting needles - it'll take longer than the last one as the wool's much finer so there'll be many an evening spent clickety-clicking on the sofa.

Are there any projects you've started this month? Do you have plans to begin something new? And is September your time of year for new endeavours?

Friday, 12 September 2014

The week that was

Some images from the past week. First up: hydrangea stems on the table. They're one of my favourite things to photograph. And they look just as good - if not better - once they've dried out.

Chicken on the barbecue. It was good. We should have done more. A lot more.

Season of mists, mellow fruitfulness... and fungi. Apparently it isn't officially autumn until September 22nd. Well it feels like it's here already. And we don't hold off celebrating Christmas until December 25th, do we? Not that I advocate the whole festive silly season which begins in October either...

We still have a week or two until these are ready for collecting. But I've found some trees with branches which almost touch the ground and they're full of fat conkers. Joe will be pleased. He seems more interested in the casings than the conkers themselves, calling them 'seashells' and holding them to his ear.

I've started planting out the window boxes with autumn/winter flowers. The plan was to go for heathers and silvery foliage but I changed my mind when I saw these little pansies. Hopefully the snails will leave them alone.

There will be more planting but I'm glad I made a start. I limited myself to the one window box because the place I bought these plants from was so expensive. Maybe we'll invest in nicer containers too instead of the plastic imitation terracotta ones, which I don't like very much at all.

Tea and a Viennese slice. Joe drove me to it earlier in the week.

A... cowl? Snood? Neck warmer? Anyway, it's knitted from some wool I've used for many items and then gone on to unravel. This one's a keeper I think.

The buttons are vintage ones, bought many moons ago, and are made of glass.

I hate having my photograph taken but in the interests of showing my new garment being worn, I decided to go for it. I generally assume 'selfies' are for the vain but it would appear they also require photography skills I don't possess. 

Take one: Oh dear.

Take two: A slight issue with the focus.

Take I-have-no-idea-as-I-lost-count: Resorting to just using the camera as I know how. Hopefully you can see the scarf/cowl/snood thing.

You can also see that my roots need some attention. It's all glamour around here.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

September reading

Last month my reading was pretty varied; I mentioned that my first ever e-book was Annie Proulx's The Shipping News (I was inspired whilst reading a blog post here). 

I loved it. From start to finish, it had me hooked: the descriptions of the unforgiving Newfoundland landscape, the characters, the story. In fact I'll be buying a 'real' version of it to add to my bookshelf. And I'd be interested to know if anyone's read any of Proulx's other work (she has written several collections of short stories) as I'm considering giving them a try.

A quick, but fun, read was Michael Pollan's Food Rules. It was another e-book, inexpensive and concise (I read it in an evening). Pollan is a well-known food writer and advocate of simple food and a healthy diet. I'll never be a butter-churner or ketchup-maker, but I do believe in avoiding processed foods as much as possible. And I have a keen interest not just in cookery books but in food writing in general. Again, I'd recommend it. Pollan speaks a lot of sense. Perhaps some of it is just that: plain common sense. But still. Sometimes it's good to get a reminder, a bit of a nudge in the right direction.

So for September: a 'real' - and pretty hefty - book, this time borrowed from the library. I'm back on the Cazalets again; Marking Time, the second in the series of Elizabeth Jane Howard's chronicles. I've only just started it but, like the previous one, I'm enjoying reading about the details of life in the 1930s (albeit life 'above stairs' as lived by a wealthy family), and appreciating the sharply-observed characters.

In addition to this I have a big, constantly growing pile of books waiting to be read. Hopefully I'll get around to them eventually. Maybe.

Oh, and finally, one of my regular treats: the October issue of Country Living magazine. I love the autumn and winter issues and am flicking through whenever I get a spare moment or two. Not challenging or highbrow but there are recipes, interiors and beautiful photography and that suits me just fine.

Joining in with Laura's Year in Books.

Sunday, 7 September 2014


This weekend's been a good one. Jay didn't manage to go flying as the weather was a bit murky yesterday so he's rearranged it for next Saturday. Cue secret sigh of relief.

Today was much kinder weather-wise. I woke up to a foggy morning and tiptoed downstairs. Looking out of the kitchen window I was transfixed by all the spider's webs. Cables everywhere, festooned from the trees and the washing line. Webs all over the branches, in nooks and crannies along the walls and fences, woven between the wigwams for the climbers. Each and every one silver with dew.

Naturally, I got the camera and went on a pyjama-clad snapping session.

The autumn light's really starting to come into its own at the moment. It illuminates everything softly, even indoors.

Like my purple gladioli.

And little corners around the house.

Later in the morning we went to the farmer's market. We bought lamb (shoulder, for a roast), sausages and chicken. The latter are being cooked in precisely half an hour from now. An autumnal barbecue. With salad and little bottles of beer.

This is me trying to keep hold of Joe. I forgot his reins.

There were lots of tempting things for sale. I'm always partial to a rope of onions. They look good hanging up in the kitchen, and we use tons of them. Onions, I mean - not ropes.

I'm back into knitting again too. It's a good evening pastime when the evenings get chilly. Especially when you're making something to keep the cold out. I'm knitting a scarf. Again. To add to the collection. But I'm being thrifty as the wool I'm using has been recycled I don't know how many times. It's a rather lovely mustard colour.

See you sometime next week - I have lots of posts planned for the coming weeks and a couple of new bloggy ideas too.

Hope you enjoy the rest of the weekend. It's time to get barbecuing! I suspect we'll end up sitting outside this evening wrapped up in layers, nursing a drink and looking up at the hills. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

Summer's end (part two)

So, as promised: more photos from the summer. More moments captured. The warm weather has allowed us to get out and explore lots of lovely things. Things which grow, things which creep and crawl, which fly and swim. And, of course, which chug along railway lines.

Joe really is developing a love for nature and that's something I'm very happy about. His curiosity means he's permanently grubby, and no puddle goes un-jumped in. But that's all allowed. I can't even begin to imagine how he'll react to snow. The thought of it makes me almost giddy with excitement though. The great thing about having children is having the opportunity to be silly, to re-live all those experiences you found so thrilling at their age. To recapture some of the magic and wonder of childhood whilst creating it for them.

You may be thinking that most of these photos seem to be lacking the usual bright hues of summer. To be honest, that's what struck me. But I do have a leaning towards the murkier and muted: the purples, greens and browns. And these colours reflect our local moorland landscape, even in high summer.

Whilst we're on the subject of photography, it's only fair to point out that several of the images here were taken by Jay. Played around with by me, but he provided some of my favourite pictures to begin with. I'm currently enamoured with a little editing action which focuses on a specific part of an image (see the one of the palomino pony, above, or all the images below). 

Sorry, I digress. 

Back to the summer (which did seem to return today: hot sun and blue skies). Tomorrow we're doing a very summery thing: going to an airfield to watch Jay have a flying lesson. It was a gift from his dad and they're both going up together. I declined the offer of a seat. 

I do love those planes though with the propellers on their noses (they remind me of Cold Comfort Farm). Joe will love looking at them all.

Sunday will have a more autumnal theme. It's the monthly farmer's market so we're heading over to pick up some seasonal produce - although I already have a monstrous-looking butternut squash sitting in the kitchen, challenging me to chop it up. They're always such an effort to deal with. But spiced soup with a swirl of creme fraiche will make it all worthwhile.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Summer's end (part one)

According to the newspapers (not that I read them) we're going to have a hot, sunny week. Well not in these parts. It's looking decidedly overcast and quite frankly, I'm feeling rather chilly.

When the sun does come out it's just right: warm, but with that slight autumnal freshness to the air. And that's to be savoured. So the summer's almost over and it's been a good one. Not in an 'all things considered' kind of way because as you know there is an ever-present feeling of sadness which pervades our lives right now.

But still. Someone (who features prominently in these collages) brings us a lot of fun and many things to look forward to. 

It's been a summer of walking: mornings, afternoons, evenings (sometimes all three in one day). Of trips to the mountains and the sea. And chickens - always chickens. Joe loves them. He talks about them constantly. I cannot collect him from nursery without firstly going on a chicken hunt around the village green.

There has been much exploring, both on the doorstep and further afield. Raspberry picking and ice cream eating. Picnics and bags of chips. 

You know why there's a Part Two to follow this post: too many photos. I make no apologies for this. I love my camera and taking pictures, recording the little details of life. Right now I have a vase of rose hips on the table. Spiders seem to be appearing around every corner. There are spring bulbs in the kitchen ready to plant out, wood pigeons in the trees eating ripe elderberries and my thoughts are turning to my tin trunk full of yarn.
When it's freezing and the possibility of an evening walk seems like a distant memory I can look back through our summer photos and maybe get a little taste of what we did and where we went.

I hope you had a great summer, and that the transition of the seasons is something you enjoy as much as I do.

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