Wednesday 31 July 2013

Reflection... and resolve

I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately. The truth is, I've had a few sleepless nights and a lot on my mind - including whether to share or not. But I think I will.

I've written before about being homesick and feeling a bit lost out here, but then things started to come together - night classes, making new friends, finding things to enjoy. But there has been a bit of an issue recently. It seems that not everyone takes kindly to a newcomer joining their social group. 

It started with being pointedly excluded from a recent birthday party to which everyone else had been invited. To be fair, a few of my other friends seemed surprised at this and I took it graciously, said nothing and carried on as usual. Then another person (previously someone I saw a lot of) cut off contact too. No texts, calls, plans - nothing.

Yes, I'm aware this is straying dangerously close to schoolyard territory but bear with me. Because the whole thing has made me think a lot. I spoke to my mum (naturally) and she warned me of the perils of being involved in a group of women ('There's always one'). She suggested a bit of jealousy. But I've been part of a group before and there was no nastiness. At work, when a new girl started we always took her out to lunch and gave her the heads-up on everyone. I don't like women being mean to one another. We have enough to deal with as it is.

I'm no saint - at school it was always someone's turn to be the outcast and we all had a turn at being unpleasant. But that was a long, long time ago.

I've grown up a lot since then. And even though my first instinct was to question what I'd done or said to cause offence (conclusion: nothing at all) I quickly decided that, as I've got older and a little bit wiser, I don't care half as much about what people may or may not think of me. In this case I have nothing to apologise for. And I'm not the one with the problem. So I took the very modern step of taking this person off my Facebook account. I don't actually use it that often, but I wanted to make a stand: I won't be treated like that and I won't try to appease someone who clearly dislikes me for whatever strange reason they have.

The best thing to come out of this little situation: it has actually strengthened my resolve to love my life, enjoy what I do and be myself.

Here's what I've learned:

Be careful about who you become friends with - be choosy and make sure you have things in common
Sometimes people are odd and it's not your fault
Don't say bad things about people and stir up a hornet's nest
Take the high road
Be optimistic - real friends appear in your life when you least expect them to.

Best of all, here's what I've done:

Bought myself a bright, bright red lipstick (and worn it)
Started wearing my big statement necklaces again without feeling self-conscious
Found a whole new list of baby groups I can try with Joe (thanks to Jay for looking them up)
Taken Joe swimming on a different day - on our own - and enjoyed focusing on him
Worked hard on preparing for the craft and vintage fair 
De-summered the kitchen in preparation for my favourite time of year: autumn
Felt grateful for what I have.

The ultimate therapy for me is going out for a walk. So today I pulled on my wellies and took Joe for a little wander (between rain showers). We snipped some prickly stems of teasel to dry out in the kitchen for an everlasting display, and I noticed the blackberries and rosehips starting to colour. Autumn's definitely on the way. The garden - especially the parts where the annuals are growing - is starting to look tired and tatty.

If you've read this very long post, thank you for your patience. It's been quite cathartic.

The usual type of posts will appear in a day or two :)

Saturday 27 July 2013

Down on the farm

We're still wilting in the heat but this morning set out on a little visit to Kenyon Hall Farm. It was en route to do some food shopping, but I wanted to check out the craft and vintage fair as it's the one I've booked a table for in late September (gulp).

It was held in one of the barns. Luckily it wasn't in the polytunnels like I'd previously thought - everyone would have been melting by 10am.

Joe's a bit small for a donkey ride but that didn't stop me from going over and making a fuss of them. Their names were Gavin and Stacey.

Astrantia growing wild in a hedge (one of my favourite flowers).

Joe had a sit on an old tractor in the play area. I think he'd like one for his first birthday next month. 

People were out in the fields picking punnets of strawberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, tayberries...

And everywhere was a-flutter with butterflies.

I have two months to build up the stock for my stall. And then it will be autumn. I love that time of year - the soft fruits will have been replaced by pumpkins and hopefully people will want to buy my wares. 

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Little rays of sunshine

One thing I'm well aware of: I'm one of life's worriers. And I've had a few things on my mind lately (the kind that keep you awake in the early hours but really aren't that important). 

But there are things which make me realise life's not really bad. Obviously, Jay and Joe, and the fact that we have a nice house and no real worries. And the smaller little details which cheer me up on a daily basis. Today they included these sunset-coloured echinacea (just opening, above).

This dinky 1970s coffee pot (it has a little matching milk jug) - a charity shop find.

The new issue of a magazine I subscribe to dropping through the letterbox this morning.

The weather cooling down just enough to make me want to drink tea again.

Knitting wristwarmers in preparation for autumn with this yarn, which reminds me for some reason of the seaside and beachcombing. They're for the stall I've booked at the vintage and craft fair in September. But like much of the selection of spoils I'm stockpiling, it will be hard to let them go.

Monday 22 July 2013


A couple of months ago we resolved to try and keep one day free each weekend. And then along came lots of commitments, invitations and other things which has meant we've been busy from Saturday morning to Sunday evening. Before we know it, Friday teatime becomes Sunday bedtime in the blink of an eye and we feel a bit stunned and not very rested.

I've been interested in 'slow' living for a while now and yesterday read up on the 'Keep Sunday Special' initiative. And although I'm not particularly religious or against shops opening on Sundays, I do think that keeping Sunday for relaxation is a good thing.

So the plan is to avoid (unless absolutely necessary) plans. On a Sunday. No food shopping, no driving about visiting, no dealing with finances... Let's call them Slow Sundays. Staying local if possible, eating, relaxing, walking, being creative, watching a film, reading. Pottering about in the garden. Whatever we feel like doing.

This Sunday just gone we stayed home. Not having plans is a bit of a luxury. I'm one of those people who struggles to switch off and do nothing. So I did clean my car inside and out (it was pretty grimy). It was a hot, dirty job but a rewarding one. I'm taking this Slow Sundays thing one step at a time... maybe next week I'll get through the day without undertaking any chores at all.

The trick is in the planning: food shopping done in advance, ditto housework. Being a big list maker I actually enjoy this part.

In other news, the forecast is for rain (and maybe thunderstorms) this week. When I was little my mum, my brother and me used to stand in the front doorway and watch the lightning and rain coming down. I love a good storm - fingers crossed one comes soon.

Saturday 20 July 2013

Billy Buttons

This week's Nature in the Home theme: 'round'. I opted for some stems of Billy Buttons (or Craspedia) I grew last year. They dry out well... Two plants - bought online - yielded two flowers. I might try again next year. I like the shape and colour.

The vase was a lucky charity shop find: £2.50. I spotted it and knew it was mid-century, so when I brought it home and did a bit of research on the 'Beswick' stamp underneath I found out it's from the mid 1950s. The zebra stripe range was designed by someone called Albert Hallam and is apparently looked down on by 'design snobs' for being derivative.

Conclusion: I'm not a design snob...

In other news, it's cooled down enough to pull up potatoes. Not a huge harvest but enough.

Oh, and apologies to those of you who send your lovely comments to me. I was 'spammed' a couple of days ago so have had to take security measures against it. Thanks for dropping by and leaving your comments, I enjoy reading them!

Thursday 18 July 2013

High summer

I'm abandoning any romantic ideas I had of maybe one day moving to a Greek island. And I know I'm one of those who complains about the weather here in the North West (rainy, in case you hadn't guessed). But now we're on the brink of a heatwave I'm actually starting to miss the chilly breezes and drizzle.

It's just too hot. The garden's looking tired and a bit singed around the edges. Everything seems so much of an effort. I'm not alone in this but there are a few friends of mine who are delighting in this incessant heat and it makes me wonder if I'm just a miserable so-and-so. I struggled with prickly heat as a child and have always loved autumn and winter. So my thoughts have been turning to the colder months.

I'm sorely tempted to sort through my wardrobe and look at my cold-weather clothes. I've knitted two pairs of wristwarmers. And I have a stall booked at a vintage and craft fair at the end of September, so have been out looking for treasures. The sideboard is slowly but surely becoming stocked up ready for the big event but there's still lots to do.

Here's a list of what I do like about summer:
Strawberries, cherries and raspberries
New potatoes and asparagus
Not having to buy flowers for the house
Bees and butterflies (when the latter don't lay eggs on the cabbages)
Pimms, G&T, cold beer
Going barefoot (Joe and me both)
Eating outdoors
Light evenings
Using sunscreen instead of daycream
Peonies, dahlias and roses
Sandals and painted toenails.

There. That cheers me up. I'm still sending Jay up to the loft to dig the fan out though.

Monday 15 July 2013


We've had a busy weekend. Children's parties, food shopping, chores - and all those little things which accumulate and before you know it, it's Sunday evening. Here are a few snapshots of the nicer things...

I shortened a strapless dress (which I was wearing in the top photo - even though it looks like I'm not wearing clothes). And my Housewife, 49 sensibilities meant I decided to make a necklace from the trimmings.

I'll wear it with a T shirt or vest.

Here's another little pot I made at my ceramics class. A blue pear with holes in it. No, I have no idea why either.

I'm essentially an autumn person. But there are some things I love about summer and cherries are one of my absolute favourite things to eat. 

More summer fruits: dinky Alpine strawberries growing in front of the shed. I pick them every other day or so but have realised that painting my fingernails a similar colour means I keep thinking I've spotted more ripe berries hiding in the leaves...

We bought the hosta as a weedy little specimen and it's now massive. The number of flower heads total seven; I'll have a go at dividing it later in the year.

The sunflowers are out too. I like the dark-coloured ones best. Last autumn we had a squirrel who kept visiting. The heads full of seeds were too much for him to resist (I noticed he didn't bring any of his friends).

We have some cute little flowers to go with the cute little strawberries.

I particularly like the miniature marigolds. I haven't seen them before but would like to grow them again. I'll have to remember to harvest the seeds when they dry out.

The broad beans now have pods. Which means one of my favourite summer meals: broad beans and peas with mint, feta and olive oil. And toasted sourdough bread. Now I'm feeling hungry...

Friday 12 July 2013


The theme for this week's Nature in the Home is 'Simple'.

I considered using one stem of something from the garden. The huge hosta has some impressively tall and glamorous-looking lilac-white flowers at the moment. And the sunflowers are starting to bloom too.

But I opted for a posy of traditional garden flowers: Sweet William, sweet peas and cornflowers.

The sweet peas smell lovely - they're in the raised bed closest to the kitchen door so the perfume wafts in. And the Sweet Williams are a dark variety. I planted them a few summers back and this has been their best year so far.

The cornflowers are the traditional blue shade. We saw some deep purple ones last year and they were tempting, but blue cornflowers are the national flower of Poland. And they're going a bit crazy in all this sun.

To me, this little posy is simple: it's not at all exotic and the colour scheme is quite restricted but the flowers were easy to grow and all came from my garden. Sometimes simple is best.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

This and that

Just a few details from around the house... This watercolour lived in our house when I was growing up. My mum left her job as a secretary when she was expecting me, and her boss painted in his spare time. So sometime in the late 1970s she chose one of his pictures as a leaving present. I like it - it hung on the wall at Bond Street too.

We keep having mini-harvests: gooseberries, wild strawberries, potatoes, rhubarb... on the way are runner beans, courgettes and red onions.

I found this vintage tea set at a flea market and managed to haggle a bit. The sugar bowl makes a nice vessel for posies.

And I was particularly taken with this set of cups and saucers. The graphic black and white design caught my eye immediately. A charity shop find when I was here.

I've been hiding indoors today as yesterday I went visiting with Joe and spent a bit too long in the midday sun. He was sitting in a paddling pool in the shade with a sunhat and SPF 50 on. I did none of the above. It's made me feel a bit headachey and listless. Silly silly silly.

Sunday 7 July 2013

July goings-on

It's been a busy weekend. I'd been hoping to do some drawing and printmaking but sometimes things just come up and you have to go with it. So yesterday we went to the local carnival. My favourite float on the procession was the W.I.'s hippie-themed one.

The sign on he back read: Croft W.I. keeps jammin'.

The vintage tractors were nice too.

After a wander around the field and a glass of Pimms, we went to see friends and had a barbecue. Then Joe got to luxuriate in his bath in the garden.

Today we went to Helmshore Farmer's Market. It was really hot. Dare I say it - too hot?

We met up with my family. This is my brother and Grace, my niece. She's three at the end of July. Another birthday party!

The farmer's market is held outside the textile museum. The stalls were a bit thin on the ground (they tend to be during July and August) but we still came away with some huge pak choi, some tomatoes and two lamb steaks from a local farm.

We had a walk to see the chickens (there's an honesty box and you can buy free-range eggs). On the way I spotted some juicy-looking raspberries growing by the road. On closer inspection I think they might be tayberries or mulberries.

So we got picking (Mum: 'This is foraging!'). One good thing about carrying lots of baby things around is that there's always a Tupperware handy.

We walked past my old local. I love it in there - wonky ceilings and real fires. 

Grace likes to visit the chickens. They're quite tame and come over to see if you've got any food for them...

Although most were staying in the shade. So maybe chickens are quite sensible after all.

After a very hot car ride, we were home. Joe went upstairs for a siesta and we relaxed outside under the parasol. 

Hope you enjoyed the weather this weekend!

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