Sunday 31 March 2013

Easter weekend

I usually post about specific topics but this has been a nice spring-like weekend with plenty of walking and family time (and more to come). Our house is - so far - an Easter egg free zone but we've still had some presents, like pots of miniature daffs wrapped in brown paper.

Yesterday we went with Jay's mum for a bit of an amble down a local farm track and said hello to some horses. I'd forgotten to bring any Polo mints but they didn't seem to mind.

We spotted lots of nests, like little twiggy teacups, in the bare branches of the hedgerows.

Today we went to Lancashire for a longer walk. It was colder up there: 3.5 degrees colder, according to the display in the car.

Joe and me wore our woolly hats to keep the cold out.

There was still a bit of snow about and lots of icicles in the woods. Oh, and we met up with my brother. We used to go on long walks a lot before having our own families - now it's a very occasional thing. Hopefully when we sell the house and move back we can do it more often.

I saw my first lambs of the year - so cute. Some had little plastic coats on. 'Lamboraks'...

Later this afternoon we're baking a cheesecake. There's a family gathering tomorrow for a birthday celebration and we're doing the dessert. Jay loves baked cheesecake. I'm quite partial to it myself.

I hope everyone's having a nice relaxing long weekend :)

Friday 29 March 2013

A Good Friday

It's been an eventful few days. And it's all been good. My car passed its MOT yesterday (phew). Joe's sitting up - albeit like a little frog with his hands out in front to hold himself steady - and claps his hands when you do. 

I had a quiet night in last night. Jay went to a gig in Manchester and I stayed home and had a bath, ate chocolate, read some blogs, watched some toe-curlingly trashy TV and went up to bed with a book.

I also went for an eye test on Tuesday. I'm supposed to wear glasses but they made things a bit wonky and I couldn't really judge the stairs properly so gave up on them. I have a new prescription and chose some nice frames. Two for one. I just went for the same pair twice - adventurous me. No more watching TV with my eyes screwed up.

We went for a walk this afternoon. There are a couple of nature reserve-type places within a few minutes' walk of the house. Even though the spring's so late this year we spotted a bit of life and colour. And a fake owl in a treetop - bit odd.

Back in the house the hyacinths are opening up. Not as much by the way of colour maybe, but they smell lovely already. It really is a Good Friday - Gardener's World this evening and a menu-planning session for next week, so inspirational cookbooks at the ready. Cosy is my favourite state to be in. Happy Easter!

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Hidden treasure

When I moved into this house two-and-a-half years ago some of my boxed-up things went straight into the loft. Today we pulled some of them down to take a look.

I rediscovered things I'd like to keep: this inherited vintage tea set, some old martini and liqueur glasses, a few retro cups and saucers.

Others can go to the charity shop. There were wine glasses (we don't even drink wine) and some dessert bowls among other things. But I'm keeping a glass trifle bowl and the little dishes that go with it.

Sadly some of the sets are incomplete. A case of too many saucers and not enough cups. And I'm sure the tea set at the top of the page must be missing a teapot and milk jug.

The little glasses are quite dinky. They make me think that maybe we should entertain more (although seating could be a bit of a problem). And I'm not sure whether you can get people over for sherry.

The pink glasses have prompted me to look online for martini ideas though. You can definitely get people over for martini.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Jumper rabbit

On Saturday night I went on a bit of a Pinterest spree. I started a board called 'Upcycling ideas' - and once you start Googling 'upcycling' there's a lot of ingenuity and creativity to see.

I'll no doubt be posting about the whole concept soon. In the meantime, I did a bit of upcycling myself today (Jay's off work this week so I have a bit more time to engage in mini projects).

I had a lambswool jumper which was a bit holey, so a while ago I felted it with the intention of making Joe a soft toy. This morning I sketched a rabbit onto some paper, cut the felt around it (twice) and blanket stitched my way around the edges. Rabbit's eyes are made from vintage buttons and he's filled with stuffing from a large bolster-type pillow from when I was pregnant.

The result's definitely home-made looking. Let's say 'rustic', like they do on cookery shows when people don't do that well with their presentation. I'm not the best at sewing but he's quite cute. And he's Joe's first ever Easter present. No doubt next year it'll be all about the chocolate.

Monday 25 March 2013

Green kitchen... and plans for plants

There's a lot going on in the kitchen at the moment. The sweet peas have germinated; the nasturtiums and sunflowers are reaching towards the light and we have herbs in pots like this coriander (one of my favourites).

There's parsley too. The herbs are the 'living' ones you can buy (as opposed to those already cut and bunched).

The geranium needs to have cuttings taken. It came from a family friend's nursery and he said to just throw them out each year and start again, but geraniums are easy to grow and I can't bring myself to throw a happy plant into the compost. Anyway, more about him and his nursery later.

I didn't get around to planting hyacinth bulbs in bulb jars this year so cheated and bought some ready-planted ones. I'm always torn between blue or white but opted for white. 

So the family friend - Pete - has a big nursery in Wilmslow. He specialises in hanging baskets and grows lots of bedding plants and annuals in what seems like huge greenhouse after huge greenhouse.

Each year we go there (usually in May, after the danger of frosts have passed) and he loads the car with whatever we like. For free. This year I'll be baking him a cake to say thankyou.

We get all kinds of plants and wander up and down choosing what we'd like. I'm not a huge fan of bedding plants but there's quite a selection - some are weird and wonderful. And it's the kind of place I'd be happy working in - it's very serene. The radio's on in the background and you can just sit there, completely absorbed in planting out the baskets.

There's a farm next door selling organic produce. The nursery also has outbuildings housing vintage tractors and cars. One building's been converted into a tiny pub for the workers, complete with dartboard and TV. There are chickens roaming around. And a wily fox. Since he's been around the chickens have reduced in number...

But we still get a box of eggs to take home. And we always have a look at what's being renovated tractor-wise.

Pete usually has some vegetables growing too - we've taken little courgette plants, pumpkins, peas... and maize (it was only ornamental though). The pumpkin went a bit crazy. In a good way.

Last year it was really warm and sunny when we visited. We sat out and passed the time of day then sweltered in the car all the way home with the plants - it felt like we were in a mobile greenhouse.

Joe's going to love visiting when he's a bit older. He can have a sit on a tractor and a ride around on one of the wooden trolleys. And no doubt get very grubby. Pete always insists we fill the car to the brim so I suspect this year Joe will be lost in greenery.

Our visit feels like a calendar event heralding the start of summer. And with the spring nowhere in sight that's a very welcome thought.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Blog breaks

You may or may not have noticed that I blog daily. Today... well, yes I'm blogging but there isn't much happening. It's snowy outside (I have no intention of venturing out - that wind is pretty punishing) and we're staying home as we have a house viewing in a couple of hours. Yes, I've been busy tidying and hiding things. And said wind has blown the For Sale sign down so I hope our viewers find us.

Today it's just about keeping warm and making soup from what's left in the cupboards (told you we were staying home). 'Making do' appeals to my Housewife, 49 sensibilities as you know. 

Jay has suggested on more than one occasion that I consider a day or two off from blogging each week. At first I thought, 'But what if people stop visiting? They might get bored and stop writing their lovely comments, or take them elsewhere.' This is down to my being a rookie, I'm sure. Beginner's anxiety or something like that.

I don't always write about what's happened in 'real time' on any given day. So on an uneventful one like today I might choose a topic (my head's always full to brimming with them, as is my blog notebook) and plunder my photo archives (taking decent quality images indoors during the winter months can be a challenge).

But then there's posting for posting's sake. A duty-bound post which says nothing in particular but lets you hit 'publish' at the end of it and you can tick another thing off your to-do list for the day. I don't want to do that. I love writing my posts and want it to stay that way. I want to be happy with what I share with you.

So... I won't be publishing a new post seven days a week. I'll take a day or two off each week for a bit of inspiration-finding and idea-forming. I'm sure, judging from the nice people who do stop by and comment, that I didn't need to explain this little development at all. But there you go.

The top photo is from my archives - I don't often use black and white for Mitenska. Interestingly, it's also one I used in my profile pictures when online dating. Jay liked it...

Sarah :)

Friday 22 March 2013

Boy's rooms

When I went for my 20 week scan and we were asked whether we wanted to know the sex of the baby, we both said yes. I had a feeling it would be a boy as everyone else I knew had had girls and someone - i.e. me - must be due a boy.

And I'll be honest - when that was confirmed I felt a tiny sense of disappointment as I realised all the pretty little outfits and doll's tea parties wouldn't be happening. I think lots of women secretly want a girl, possibly because they know what to do with one. Or they'll have that mother-daughter bond.

But then I got thinking. Boys are, apparently, very affectionate towards their mums. I was having a son. We could have lots of adventures together. I was excited. We went out and bought a few items of clothing: stripy things. There was an agreement - no dinosaurs, diggers or robots (you find that in many shops, boys clothes are a bit of an unimiginative afterthought). It meant we had more of a challenge to find things we liked. It was fun. And fortunately we didn't have to buy pink things. I'm not really a pink person.

When Joe arrived I knew I wouldn't change him in any way at all. I couldn't imagine having a girl - I'd even go so far as to say I'd like another boy if we ever had another baby (unlikely, by the way. We like it being just the three of us).

He's now in his own room. He has bright things - colourful toys and storage. Pastels are out. People have bought him lovely gifts and made him things for his room. Others are old items of mine. I recently spotted this image and loved the collection of globes. Decorating his room has been fun so far, and I'm looking forward to finding him some more treasures. 

  Giant cushions which were once on my bed.

Ceramic toadstools on the windowsill.

A little collage in a box frame I made (with his hospital tags and an impression of his foot).

The box frames are from Ikea. They make good gifts if you fill them thoughtfully.

Cute little bag for storing things in.

A colourful mobile - origami birds - made by a relative.

Boys are wonderful. I strongly recommend them.

Globe image courtesy of Apartment Therapy (see my blog list)

Thursday 21 March 2013

Victoria Baths

In this post I mentioned that the vintage fair we visited last weekend was held at Victoria Baths in Manchester. 

For those of you who watched Restoration, the series about historic buildings needing cash to save them, you'll remember that the baths won a Heritage Lottery Fund of £3 million. After lots of bureaucracy and discussion they finally started spending the money five years ago.

I'd always wanted to visit and was stunned to find that it was a short walk from the University where I worked for so long. Oops.

Anyway, we went on a bright day and it was pretty impressive from the front. It also looked as though the roof was new - a good thing presumably if you're trying to stem any damage caused by the weather.

It's always interesting to see old municipal buildings and marvel at how beautiful they were. Those from the Victorian and Edwardian eras have so many decorative details - there was none of the utilitarian aesthetic we have now (for some reason, half of the time I was wandering around mentally comparing the baths with the concrete and plastic interior of the Brittas Empire's sports centre).

It was absolutely freezing in there despite the fact that it was teeming with visitors. Looking upwards you could see that some sections of the huge decorative windows were missing, leaving the building open to the elements in places.

Anyway, here are some pictures:

I didn't actually read what this was (although it looks like a giant food mixer).

Some of the leaded windows depicting various sports.

Details of mosaic flooring in one of the entrances.

The changing cubicles look like they belong at the seaside.

There's a lot of restoration work to be done (although I quite like the effect of rusting and layers).

There are three pools in total. I'm not sure which one featured in Prime Suspect...

You could go up the stairs for a better view of the pools.

Edwardian ladies looking nymph-like.

It might be cold now but the building must have been warm and steamy once...

Someone enjoyed their visit.

If you're ever in the universities area of Manchester it's well worth a visit. But unless there's a heatwave you might want to wrap up warm. And if you need any recommendations on where to go for food and drink feel free to ask me!
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