Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Stops and starts

We had a great weekend, heading out to see the Flying Scotsman and taking plenty of walks. Better still, coming home to cheese and onion pie and other warming comfort eats.

A visit to the local animal sanctuary to see Wallace the goat and buy snacks in the cafe, too - followed by a bit of trampolining in the little park nearby.

I have to say: I was pleasantly surprised by the cafe. It's very basic and utilitarian but the cakes (obviously baked by kindly volunteers) looked fantastic. Home-made Bakewell tart, lemon and lime drizzle, coffee and walnut. A return visit is most definitely on the cards.

Joe started with a cough too, and it's not improving. On Monday he woke up early and was very upset because of a painful ear. Some ibuprofen seemed to mend things but I was called into school at lunchtime to collect him. He has an ear infection, 'probably viral', so it's all about ice lollies at the moment.

He's even been snoozing on the couch in the afternoons. That tells me he is indeed poorly. That and him being off his food. Everyone who knows him will be aware of that legendary appetite. I still made chicken noodle soup for him though, hoping that its restorative and healing properties will help a bit. 

He's back in school today. The reception class are taking an 'I spy' walk around the village and posting letters to themselves. They just walked past the house in their little high-visibility vests and puddle suits, with Joe leading the way and pointing at our house.

We're back at the surgery later to check out his cough. But we're taking the bus as a special treat.

Any work plans I had for Monday and Tuesday went out of the window... And school have just called again. He needs collecting.

Got to go!

I'll be back - sometime.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016


I don't just mean the creeping progression of autumn. 

On the work front, I finally faced two of my least favourite things: product photography and wrangling with setting up an online shop. The latter was actually quite simple; it was the PayPal bit that had me flummoxed.

Luckily, the ever-patient and rational Jay came to the rescue.

So now I'm open for business, with a grand total of five products as yet in stock. There will be more.

I've put a link to my Frond & Feather site and shop at the top of this blog. Please feel free to visit and browse. It won't take long ;)

Of course, all this stuff requires a lot of input on the social media front. I'm not too skilled at that kind of thing but need to be. It would be nice to do a giveaway or two.

Other changes: Joe's being at school has brought a whole new slew of diary dates. Parties, assemblies, church services, plays, events, pantomimes, homework and reading diaries, school photographer, things to bring in. I'm suddenly P.A. to a four-year-old. Good job he's worth it.

The growing-out of my dyed hair continues. I won't pretend I haven't wavered a few times but I'm managing to keep my resolve. The palest silver bits are my favourites: nature's highlights. There will be photos soon.

The get-togethers with my fellow creatives are proving to be really valuable. We're coming up with all kind of ideas, and it's also nice to pass on my (limited) blogging knowledge to others. The blogging community really is a great one. Competitiveness isn't much of a Thing. In my experience, people are always happy to help and are very friendly and inclusive. 

Which means paying it forward is always a pleasure.

Bloggers are a great example of kindness making the world a better place. Sounds silly maybe, but little things make a difference - the value of being part of a network is a great thing.

More changes: Jay's old workhorse of a car is going to the scrapyard next week. It's going to be sad to say goodbye to it. We've travelled many miles (and eaten many picnics) in that now juddery, tired Santa Fe. But the noises it emits are starting to be quite alarming. Each week there seems to be another. I call it The Orchestra of Potential Expense.

In totally unrelated news: I've been alerted to a printmaking course which begins in January. I'm sorely tempted. It's one morning a week, with extra access to the studio and equipment. It also costs £1200. If it wasn't for the big fee I'd probably sign up.

It's also in Salford, which would probably take around 45 minutes to get to. So another potential negative.

But it's the equivalent to the first year of a Fine Art degree in print. And the hours would fit in with Joe's being at school. Hmm. Perhaps I should just stay home and try different techniques using YouTube and the like. But... I'd REALLY love to do that course!

As it is, I'm trying a few different approaches to my artwork. The printmaking has been put to one side for a while as I make simple sketches - line drawings in ink - of the bits and pieces I bring home from our walks.

I've signed up to do the Christmas fair at Joe's school. Which means putting some things together which I think will sell. Usually that means smaller items - cards and little prints - as people want to buy something for a few pounds. 

So no lugging heavy boxes into the school hall and back home again. 

Work aside, I've been doing a lot of reading lately. A quick visit to the library last week (I'm always at the mercy of that imaginary tick, tick, tick in my head) resulted in my picking up two novels by Margaret Forster. I'm almost at the end of The Forgotten Bridesmaid and I've really enjoyed it. 

Even better: there was a good selection of her other books on the shelf too. This is the kind of thing I find comforting.

Today is Jay's birthday. He's insisted he doesn't really care, that he only enjoys other people's (i.e. Joe's and my) birthdays. But there will still be cards and presents and a few surprises waiting for him when he gets home from work. I won't divulge any more as he's usually one of the first to read the blog as soon as I post...

Have a great week. 

Tuesday, 4 October 2016


I do love October. The weather so far has been kind, too - although it's definitely getting a bit of a bite to it. 

We've been doing lots of outdoorsy things lately. Walking and exploring and gathering. Stepping on crunchy leaves. Cutting sunflowers from the garden (there are loads). 

I've been and bought a block of lard today. I thought it would be nice to make some bird feeders when Joe gets home from school. We'll just mix it with some seed and put it in the fridge (in old yogurt pots) to firm up.

Jay's away with work until tomorrow night. So I've been a lone parent since the (very) early hours of Monday. It's not easy - constant demands and endless multitasking. Single parents who do this every day of the week have my utmost respect.

Of course, Joe thinks it's perfectly reasonable to have me make strawberry jelly whilst in the middle of cleaning the windows. Or play shops as I'm dishing out our tea. Yesterday evening, once he was finally packed off to bed, I collapsed with a cup of tea and dreamed about taking a holiday. 

I attended the school Harvest thanksgiving service on Friday morning. The Reception class all sat nicely throughout the whole thing (Joe on his teacher's knee, finger lodged up his nose). I took a seat up in the galleried bit. It's a very old church and after 90 minutes of sitting still I'd lost all sensation in my extremities. Still, I did feel like Jane Austen as I descended the stairs later on. All that austere white plaster and wooden steps and arched windows with wobbly glass, looking out over the headstones and trees.

A little group of us have joined together to form a sort of creatives' network. Other mums - some I know through preschool, others since Joe started school in the village. Three of us are starting out in business (portrait photography, crochet and handicrafts, and me: printmaker and artist type). One is more established as a graphic designer. It's great that we can help each other out with all kinds of things: photography, blogging, finances.

Oh, and we take it in turns to host and provide cake.

I'm still hooked on Downton Abbey. I have that feeling of reassurance that there are still several series (and therefore tons of episodes) left to watch.

As for autumn reading lists: nothing. I think a library visit's in order. Minus Joe. I happily take him along to choose his own books, but I don't really get a look-in when it's time to peruse the grown-up's shelves. He disappears from view or pesters to go in the lift or head home.

Still, we're rubbing along together quite nicely, just him and me. His grandad's coming for tea tomorrow and I'm making a cottage pie. Perhaps we'll bake some biscuits too whilst the oven's switched on.

I've already satisfied my yearly craving for treacle toffee. Next on the agenda: pumpkins. To carve, not eat. I just can't get into them as a foodstuff. We've already been invited to three Halloween parties (I suspect there may be an overlap somewhere). Plus we've got a fifth birthday party on Sunday, Jay's birthday on Tuesday and it would have been my mum's birthday on Saturday.

I might take a little walk alone then to think about her. It does become easier but I still miss her terribly and I don't think that will ever change. I don't want it to. But I have so many good memories - enough to last a lifetime - and that helps. If you can think about someone you've lost and still smile then that's a good thing.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

An autumnal resolution

I somehow got through the frenzy of last week (printmaking and preparing for the HarFest market). The weekend itself was all last-minute stuff and then, of course, selling my wares.

And now: Breathe.

It's time to enjoy the season.

I've been reading a few articles on the (arguably - ask a Swede) Danish concept of Hygge. It's very trendy right now, like avocados are. Or matcha (whatever that is). 

Apparently Hygge isn't all about fancy Scandi homewares or buying expensive cashmere clothing. It's not one of those lifestyle things at all. It all boils down to enjoying little things, the minutae of daily life. Warmth, light, small pleasures.

In this house (and just outside it) we've been enjoying small things. We're still gathering conkers. Joe loves them. He's even requested conker soup on several occasions.

Hot baths with Epsom salts and lavender oil. A tatty old copy of Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun. Dark chocolate with peppermint. And I've only just discovered Downton Abbey. How did this happen? Where have I been? I'm absolutely obsessed with it.

I did splurge a bit yesterday. There was some linen bedding at TK Maxx which was - ages ago - £70. I waited. It was then reduced to £50. Still I held back. Finally, at £34, I went for it before someone else did.

I've never had linen bedding before but it's something of a revelation (and a luxury). It feels ridiculously soft and that tumbled, rumpled look suggests that ironing may not be a necessity. Given my hatred of ironing, that alone would make it pretty priceless.

I hope you're enjoying the season. Slowing down is so hard to do what with working, Joe, school (yes! They get homework even in Reception class!), the house, family, banking switches, medical appointments and all the rest of the stuff that constitutes modern life. Despite my best intentions I always somehow seem to end up running around like a headless chicken.

And I spotted something on Pinterest (late) last night which struck a chord. It said 'My brain has too many tabs open'.

I need to slow down, make time - somehow - and savour all those meaningful little things more often.

Thank you for your lovely comments both here and on Instagram. I do read them all and I can only sincerely apologise for not managing to get over to my other favourite blogs for a while. Time management is not my strong point...

Sunday, 18 September 2016


I've always loved September. Yes, it will always be tinged with sadness as it's the month my mum passed away. But there's always that 'new start' feel to it as well. 

Joe started school (mornings for his first week, afternoons for his second. And tomorrow he goes full time). He's taken to it really well.

The whole easing-in approach has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand I've not really been able to get stuck into any work. But on the other, I've been able to extend that feeling of him still being fully mine

So we've been out in glorious sunshine, picking blackberries and finding conkers. We made bramble jelly. His teacher knows all about it...

Other seasonal eatings: soup (this afternoon's recipe is roasted butternut squash), huge English apples from the market and lots of ideas from my latest library book, Antonio Carluccio's Simple Cooking. I do like the idea of rustic Italian food. Simple, quality ingredients and lots of flavour.

We've been out on loads of walks lately and even discovered a new footpath quite literally behind our house. I also managed to fall down a rabbit hole. Joe tried to fall down the same rabbit hole.

It's definitely feeling autumnal now. Even the holly berries are reddening. I know where there's a plentiful supply come December, although we sadly don't get mistletoe in these parts.

Out in the garden the sunflowers are in full bloom and I've been collecting calendula seeds ready for next year. Joe's turnip seedlings are ready for moving into bigger pots too. I suspect we'll be doing that later today.

Also on the agenda: a wander through the fields into the woods to collect pine cones. I need to make a garland ready for this next weekend. I'm hoping to doll the gazebo up a bit so it looks inviting and people come and look at my artwork.

And whilst the oven's on roasting the butternut squash, we'll be baking banana bread for Joe's after-school treats.

Moving indoors: a few photos of the house. You may have blocked it out, but here's a reminder of how downstairs looked last year:

The previous owners were kind enough to leave us with lots of furniture, dog dirt, rotting food and (not so) white goods to dispose of.

After a clear-out and many months of building (and demolition) work, we were left with an empty, newly-plastered shell. It was initially decorated in a greenish grey shade but we soon realised that the light levels weren't great.

So the paint brushes and rollers came out again (sigh).

And it's now much brighter. Yes, there's still plenty to do. The dining table is a bit too 'shabby chic' for my liking so I'll maybe replace the chairs and get experimental with paint.

Ditto the old (from my mum's garage) stereo cabinet. Mahogany - or whatever it is - will be painted over with some leftover paint from the kitchen.

In fact, everything's been done on a budget. The mantel is an old piece of wood, again from the garage, which had sat on the roof of my stepdad's boat for years. The TV stand was bought from the British Heart Foundation furniture shop. We removed the glass doors, sanded down the yellow pine and repainted it. The whole thing didn't even use up a tester pot's worth. Pricey paint but it cost less than £4 in such a small tin.

The curtains are from H&M and I do intend to line them for winter. As for the windows, if you look closely at the above collage (right hand image with the typewriter): well, it actually looks out onto a scruffy bit of next door's garden. So I tried this trick from Pinterest using a piece of old lace curtain and cornflour. And it really does work. Bargain! Much cheaper than window film.

The little table (above, left) was given to us by Jay's auntie. It houses some of my favourite cookbooks. And we'd planned to get rid of our tatty old Ikea sofa bed (right) and replace it. But I raided my stash of unused fabrics and made a throw from pieces of denim and cotton. Even the cushion cover and curtain across the bottom of the dresser are made from off-cuts, kept from when I've shortened curtains for the windows.

I'm such a skinflint.

Anyway, thanks for reading. I hope you're enjoying beautiful weather and the transition from summer to autumn. I'm already knitting and reading Agatha Christie books.

And going out early in the morning in wellies and pyjamas to photograph cobwebs. As you do.

Have a great week.

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