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

September



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.



Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Now We Are Four...


It's been a real whirlwind of activity around here of late. Joe turned four on the August bank holiday Monday.


We celebrated it by taking him on the Worth Valley Railway, starting at Oxenhope. It's just over the border in Yorkshire (and a lovely drive too). 


We got there nice and early and the weather was perfect: warm and sunny. Joe was excited to go on the train and, of course, eager to get stuck into the sandwiches way before lunchtime.


I've never actually been there before; it's a similar set-up to our local touristy line. Except perhaps prettier in places. And you can explore the station where The Railway Children was filmed, with all its Edwardian props and details.


Buying a day ticket meant we were free to hop on and off as we pleased. So a stop in Haworth was called for, where the birthday boy had a play in the park.


We also wandered up the main street. Joe chose some gummy bears from the sweet shop and we walked through the church yard to the Bronte Parsonage.


I somehow managed to take some people-free photos. Sunshine + bank holiday + Haworth = many, many tourists and visitors. By the time we got back to the station it was packed.


I don't like crowds very much. 


But we had a great time (even if Joe refused to ride on the open-topped vintage bus). Packed lunches, steam trains and treats. And a barbecue in the back garden at tea time.


The celebrations lasted all week: pizza with one set of grandparents, lunch in the cafe with his Nana, another family birthday barbecue in Manchester...


And on Sunday a little get-together outside with his friends. We set up the gazebo and a treasure hunt in the back field, picked up some straw bales to sit on and served up hot dogs and birthday cake.


Some of the mums may have indulged in a glass or two of prosecco too.


Of course, after the party we had to dispose of the straw. So we took it up to the local animal sanctuary. Joe loved the idea of Wallace, his favourite goat, being nice and warm at night thanks to us.


A birthday well-celebrated then.


And now he's at school. The summer went by in a blur and all of a sudden there he was yesterday morning, his new trousers that bit too long, book bag in hand, all ready to go.


We've made a point of telling him how exciting school will be. So he was keen to get going. And I didn't get upset either. Perhaps it's because the school's literally yards from the house. Maybe it helps that he's only doing mornings this week and afternoons next week; that by lunchtime yesterday he was back in his playing-out clothes with lots of stories to tell and Lego scattered all over the floor again.


Who knows, I could suddenly start feeling melancholy and anxious and tearful. But right now I'm OK. And more importantly, that little boy of mine is taking it all in his stride. And that makes me happy.

P.S. Apologies for the small pictures. I've been playing around and resizing but for some reason can't make them any bigger in Blogger today. So I thought I'd just go ahead and post anyway, rather than spend any more (precious) time tinkering and getting more and more annoyed...

Three cheers for Blogger. Not.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Late summer



Here we are, heading towards the end of August. The fields behind the house have been mown. Blackberries are ripening in the hedgerows. And Joe starts school in a few weeks.




He turns four on the bank holiday Monday. A day out on his birthday, then the following weekend a little tent picnic in the back garden for his friends. I'm still devising some kind of treasure hunt.

The school uniform's bought. He'll do just mornings for the first week, afternoons the second then it's full days after that. On the one hand it'll be good to get some work done. On the other, I'm trying not to think about that first day at the school gates. Actually I'm dreading it. The end of this phase of his little life.




We've been busy during the holidays. Paddling and going for walks, eating ice cream in the village cafe and reading stories.




We looked after my friend's little boy last weekend. The day went well - outdoor adventuring followed by fish and chips - but by the end of it they were brawling. Tiredness played a part. We were exhausted too.




You can see summer's on the wane. The weather's been mixed: hot, sunny days and dark, rainy ones.




We've almost finished repainting the downstairs in white. It makes a huge difference to the light levels and I wish we'd done it at the very beginning. I'll share some pictures once the weather decides to brighten up again.




I'm really enjoying the slow transition to autumn. I bought Victoria plums and Bramley apples at the market this morning. I'm eating an awful lot of parsley still. I must have some kind of deficiency going on. I eat it as a salad leaf with tomatoes and cucumber, and a dressing made with tahini and lemon juice.




It's not all virtuous though. As you'll find out.




We went to the garden centre today. The hanging baskets on either side of the front door are looking a bit tired, so I bought some ivy and white heather and Solanum (Christmas cherry) plants. I like the idea of moving on and changing things to reflect the season.

We also bought some turnip seeds for Joe to plant. I borrowed a paper pot maker from the school polytunnel. I've spent time there clearing the raised beds but I've never seen as many slugs and snails in my life. They're everywhere, whole colonies of them. Nemotodes may be the answer.




So, as I was saying: virtuous eating.




Joe likes to bake. He's a greedy little boy and would eat until he exploded given half a chance. Marks and Spencer Food (or 'Mark Spencer' as he refers to it) has recently opened about two miles down the road. 

So it's all too easy to call in there for cocoa powder (chocolate buns) or treacle (gingerbread). And whilst we're there, we pick up big bags of tortilla chips (two for one pound eighty! Why wouldn't you? etc.) and... well, you get the picture.




Moving swiftly on. I've recently discovered new footpaths right here at the edge of the village I thought I knew like the back of my hand. I like finding new things.




I also like writing this blog, which is why I'm thinking that having two (the other being Frond & Feather) is absolutely do-able. Why not?

Yes, time's very tight right now whilst I'm taking care of Joe all day through the week. But that'll change very soon. So I'll have Mitenska for my family stuff, my thoughts and general musings. And Frond & Feather will be my creative place where I can write about my artwork and what inspires me.




Which is why I'm trying to stick with the landscape-orientated images now. Less time spent resizing and collaging means I can spend more time doing the good stuff: writing, printmaking, drawing.

Hope you're having a good summer.





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