Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Colour Collaborative: May: Morning

I'm very pleased to share that as of this month, I'm a permanent member of the Colour Collaborative. I've always loved writing occasional guest posts so am really excited to be part of the group and to be contributing each month.

So, May. Our theme is 'Morning'. I gave this quite a lot of thought while we were away in Scotland last week and considered using some of the photographs we took from the deck shortly after waking each day; pictures of the loch and the mist moving across the mountains. But then I didn't. 

You see, what I really love about this collaboration is the way we can each interpret the brief. And to me, 'morning' is all about routine. Familiar, comforting things and simple pleasures. Morning is when you're at your softest; recently awake and still a little bit fuzzy from a warm bed. It's before you ready yourself to face the world. And I like (whenever possible) a gentle start to my day. So the colour of my tea (Earl Grey, a tiny splash of milk) has to be just the right shade of brown.

My breakfast of choice: mashed avocado on toast. Green and nourishing and creamy and delicious. 

A wander around our little yard, cup of tea in hand, often results in a few little snippings being brought indoors for the table. Even better if those snippings are what you'd class as 'weeds'.

In this house, we tend to live in the back room (the front's always freezing, whatever the time of year). And on a perfect morning - i.e. a sunny one - the back room gets lovely light coming in. It shines through and illuminates the flowers on the dining table. It doesn't matter which colour they are; they look as though they're lit from within.

The kitchen faces the same way and so the geraniums on the windowsills and whatever we happen to have growing outside in windowboxes are similarly lit. At the moment it's all reds in varying shades so on a reasonably sunny morning they glow warmly.

Even things which are colourless become more beautiful; fleeting rainbows appear on walls as the light's refracted through cut glass. And windowsills are filled with dancing shadows from the plants growing outside.

Here, in this house, the light makes a huge difference to your appreciation of colour. On a gloomy morning the high ceilings and thick curtains make it seem cavernous and oppressive. But on a sunny one everything seems to take on a life of its own and we're transported, Dorothy-like, from a monochrome Kansas to a glorious world of Technicolour.

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below.

What is The Colour Collaborative?

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Scotland: A visual journey (and some memories)

We returned from our little trip north of the border on Friday (and I promptly had to scrub up in order head back out for drinks and a post-birthday celebration with some friends). Thank you all for your birthday wishes; it's been a lovely week. And the fact that it's now a bank holiday weekend tops it off perfectly.

I'm not going to give you an exhaustive account of where we went and what we did every day. Joe came out in chickenpox the day before we left but has actually been quite cheery. He also slept well in his new surroundings (afternoon naps included) so it meant we managed to get a good balance between going out exploring and staying indoors and relaxing. We had a little lodge overlooking a loch and it was so peaceful; just what we needed after the past few months.

So instead of a blow-by-blow account of our holiday, I've decided to note down some memories (like I did last year). They don't correspond with the photographs. Editing and choosing from so very many was demanding enough. So, without further ado: Scotland 2015. Here are the things I took away with me...

So many primroses growing wild on the hillsides... Drifts of bluebells everywhere... Empty, winding roads carved through mountains and mossily-carpeted pine forests...

Dark skies... Soft rain and dazzling sunshine... Cow parsley and Red Campion on the verges around Glasgow... Mist and snow on the mountaintops... 

Whitewashed cottages with periwinkle-blue front doors... Highland cattle with their shaggy coats and long horns... Field after field of golden gorse... Roadside signs for chimney sweeps and Tunnock's Teacakes...

Fairytale castles filled with glittering things... Beautiful gardens and hidden places... Little lochside towns... Shops selling sweets and Scottish soaps... A tiny gallery displaying paintings up in the loft space...

Woodland paths edged with wildflowers and wild strawberries... Sleeping well... Swallows performing acrobatics outside the balcony each evening... Soft sofas and good books to read...

Ferry crossings to small islands... Old ladies driving the local taxis... Pebble beaches and windswept picnics... Constellations of ox eye daisies... Dense, verdant hedgerows...

Raspberry and marshmallow ice creams... A bright blue fishing net for Joe... A friendly bookshop with a Penguin Books-orange front door... Treasure-hunting along the loch shores...

Bute: Bucolic landscapes with farmhouses and washing blowing on the lines... 

Houses with antlers over the door... Seaweed and driftwood... Gruffalo trails through woodland gardens...

Watching Twin Peaks in the evenings and feeling as though we were in a perfectly evocative setting... 

Wandering and finding unexpected little places... Watching Joe explore and see things for the first time...

Marvelling at contrasts: Tiny churches and houses, giant redwoods and mountains...

Tumbling streams and waterfalls flanking the roads... Spotting deer and rabbits... 

Owls hooting at night... Stiles leading off into mysterious-looking forests...

Stone bridges... Fishing boats... Distilleries and oyster bars...

Gardens filled with rhodedendrons and clematis... Lichen-covered trees... Dry stone walls...

Knowing why we love this part of the world so much, and hoping that one day our journey up there will be one-way...

Four days of blissful peace and quiet and beautiful scenery. It really was restorative.

Oh, and Joe's spots are now fading. All's well that ends well.

Phew! I told you there were a lot of photographs...

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Elegant Economy: Treats

No matter how frugal you're trying to be, you need the occasional treat. Something to sweeten things a little. Maybe for you that's a literal thing (I remember as a child regularly being sent to the paper shop at the end of our row for a dark chocolate Walnut Whip for my mum). Maybe it's something else; my paternal grandmother always used to have fresh flowers in the house. She said, 'I don't drink or smoke. I don't buy a lot of things. But I always have fresh flowers on the windowsill.' My grandma had a little job sweeping up at a ladies' hair salon called Joyce's, and that was where her spending money came from; it also meant she had an account with a dress shop in town where she'd buy her smart clothes.

There are some things I class as luxuries, and maybe they shouldn't be. Nice underwear or new books or music. Some things I can't resist: notebooks, a bar of good chocolate. I do get the flower thing. And I treat myself to the occasional magazine too.

I find that flowers needn't be expensive. If you buy seasonal British blooms at the right time, they're cheap as chips. Daffodils, for example. Or Sweet Williams. Recently it was all about spring bulbs. You can pick them up for next to nothing when you're out buying groceries and I love having something not just cut but actually living and growing as it adorns the table.

Once upon a time I'd think nothing of going out and buying lots of clothes and coming home laden with glossy, rope-handled bags. To be fair, I do believe you get what you pay for and many of those items are still being worn now, years later. But at the moment that's not an option. And I don't really miss those sprees. Fortunately I've never been a shoe person either. Or a spa person.

These days I think - really think - about what I'd like. And frivolities are saved for birthdays and Christmas. It's my birthday on Monday. On my wish list: a flowering currant bush, a bottle of Demeter's Thunderstorm fragrance, any number of books...

But on a weekly or monthly basis I tend to pick up little things here and there. And the same goes if we take a holiday or visit a particularly lovely gift shop or gallery (yes, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, I'm talking about you. And you, Tate Liverpool). I do have a weakness for quirky design. And specific weaknesses for charity shop finds: vases, silk scarves, vintage books. Fortunately many of these things aren't expensive.

In fact, here's a little list of my favourite treats which each cost under a fiver. 

A magazine (usually Country Living or Homes and Antiques - I'm in nesting mode)
A hot bath (having spent a few pounds on nice soap - another thing I'm partial to)
A walk alone
A coffee, a cake and some people-watching
A bunch of seasonal blooms
A bar of good chocolate
Some smoked salmon/a jar of artichokes/a packet of smoked almonds
An episode or two of comfort viewing (for me, Poirot or Marple or similar)
A new notebook
Lip balm.

I've just arrived home from having my hair cut. It was all lopped off and I'm glad. I got to sit and read and relax for a few hours, having spent much of my free time last week in meetings with solicitors and social workers. The salon visit was something I don't really indulge in any more but I'm 40 next week so felt it was justified. 

Also justified: a holiday. We're heading up to Scotland on Monday so all will be quiet here on the blog for the week. I have some birthday money to take with me and am looking forward to visiting lots of galleries and potteries and the like. You know, to indulge in those rare but now much-anticipated treats.

Wishing you a lovely weekend and following week...

P.S. Here's a very poor attempt at a selfie. You can just about see that my hair is rather short. I can't write a post and say my hair's been chopped off then not show you.

Monday, 11 May 2015


Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know that a) I'm pretty inept at it and b) I managed a little escape on Friday morning.

When you're busy (who isn't these days?) and feel as though you're constantly juggling priorities and demands, any free time is precious. If I know there's a chance of an hour or two of 'me time' (don't really like that phrase but still...) I usually opt for one of a very short list of places to take myself. Sometimes I'll stay at home and Get Things Done, but more often than not I get out. You're probably familiar with some of my favourite haunts; moorland walks or woodland wanders alongside the river. Occasionally I head back into civilisation and go to the grown-up section of the library to peruse the shelves at my leisure. Or I visit the antiques place to admire all the old kitchenalia and furniture.

But, having worked for such a long time in the heritage sector, I can't resist a museum. And the fact that our little local one has re-opened (complete with a lovely new cafe) means I very occasionally treat myself to a coffee and cake and a bit of people-watching. Like I did on Friday. I also scribbled in my notebook, wandered around the gardens with my camera, and visited the art exhibition upstairs. This time around it was lots of nudes, painted in murky oils, with four-figure price tags. I actually liked one or two of them. The ones where the subjects were wearing clothes. This does not make me a prude, I promise - it's just that the dresses were quite nice. 

I'll never be an art critic.

Anyway... Once I'd had my little escape I ran a few errands, visited my brother and then returned home in time to take Joe up for his mid-afternoon nap. But I felt refreshed and rested. And extremely grateful to Joe's grandparents for taking him off my hands for those few hours.

These places which take us away from everything, these opportunities to clock off for a little while: they're very important. I relish them and try not to waste a single second. And if I can head somewhere which not only relaxes me but makes me feel inspired? That's where I'll go. Often it depends on the weather but usually it's all about my mood and what I feel I need at that particular time; solitude and nature or culture and company (from a safe distance).

I'm interested, do you have anywhere you escape to when you're alone? Maybe during a lunch break or when the children are being taken care of for a little while... Perhaps you run for the hills. Or sit in a teashop with a book. I'd love to know.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Hello May

It's been a funny old Bank Holiday weekend. Changeable weather (and Joe feeling distinctly under it), getting your days a bit mixed up because of Monday not being a proper Monday...

Joe started with some nasty stomach bug on Friday and has been a bit floppy and washed out ever since. We still had visitors and plenty of good food (well, he didn't - that legendary huge appetite took a bit of a bashing), but he's also been very clingy. As in wanting to just lie on you and watch endless episodes of Peppa Pig.

There have been sleepless nights and messed-up routines (and bedding) but things are starting to return to normal again.

It's a good job there was some decent drying weather in between rain showers. And if you follow me on Instagram you'll know my geranium cuttings are flowering away. I do love a red geranium.

We've managed the odd little amble. April's purples and yellows are giving way to pinks and blues. May's such a beautiful month; I can't wait to see all the cow parsley and hawthorn blossom in another few weeks.

The railway station has all kinds of floral prettiness along the verges: clematis, bluebells, euphorbia. And the lambs... Sigh. I tried photographing them from the platform but I don't own a zoom lens so you'll just have to believe me - they're adorable, especially those in their little orange plastic lamboraks.

Even though we've been taking very short walks due to Joe not having much energy but still refusing to sit in his buggy, I did get out alone. Bluebell-gazing and wild garlic gathering. The woods are looking so green and the sunshine disappearing behind clouds then re-emerging seconds later made for some interesting light.

There are so many signs of life: uncurling, unfurling, buds, new leaves...

I love the way they start out in shades of shell pink and coral.

There's a little path I take at this time of year. It's away from the usual route; you have to clamber over a half-fallen tree and climb a steep bank. Not many people go there. But it's bluebell heaven: silver birches and a stream and long, lush grass. The bluebells are a little late because it's a shady spot but that just means for the next few weeks I can go back and enjoy them before they flower fully and then die back.

When you rejoin the main track and head back into the sunlight you're greeted by more bells, this time fully opened and beautifully blue.

Nettles are growing in huge clumps. I've always wanted to cook with them - it's time to consult the recipe books and maybe take rubber gloves next time I head into the woods.

I'm looking forward to lots of things this month. The first of May was the anniversary of our first date. My birthday's in a few weeks and I'm going to get my hair cut in a salon instead of trimming it myself with the kitchen scissors. There are a few nights out planned, a meal (just Jay and me, venue to be decided) and on my birthday we're going away for a little holiday.

It'll be nice to have a break after a difficult couple of months.

Of course, the house purchase rumbles on. And I'm trying to catch up with things now that life's starting to settle down again. But there's a lot to be grateful for. Little Poppy came home from hospital last week and she's steadily gaining weight. She may be tiny but she can empty a bottle of milk very quickly. And she loves being cuddled.

On a completely unrelated note, you may have noticed I'm trying out using square images. I quite like them - no need for resizing either. I've found that cropping to a square works better with landscape-orientated images though, so that'll be a challenge. I always take photos portrait-style and have been trying to break that little habit for a while so this should give me a bit more of an incentive.

I hope you had a good weekend. And I hope this little person gets better soon, he's been beyond grouchy...

Joining in with the Photo Gallery (this week's theme: One Day in May).

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