Friday 30 August 2013

A birthday and a jaunt (Part Two)

Hmm, looks like this post published itself rather than saving as a draft... I'm back now with words to go with the (enlarged) pictures!

So yesterday we continued our little Liverpool outing with a wander around Sefton Park. It's very big with a cafe, lake and large children's play area, and is overlooked by all the huge merchant's houses built in (presumably) the 1800s.

We always head for the Palm House. It's quiet there and atmospheric with its Peter Pan sculpture (detail above), manicured lawns and statues of famous explorers, cartographers, scientists and the like.

I suppose you might describe the glass structure as 'splendid'.

Inside there are all kinds of tropical plants from all over the world. It's very leafy and lush. You can just sit and relax and reflect.

There was, inexplicably, a large knitted giraffe too.

The scale of some of the plants is quite breathtaking. I'm not a huge fan of tropical flowers and foliage but this is the perfect setting for them. 

The Palm House also acts as a venue for plays and concerts, and you can hire it out for parties and weddings. I can picture elegant Edwardians there enjoying themselves in a proper, restrained kind of way...

The grass outside was perfect for the birthday boy to crawl about on. He was quite taken with a man and his mower.

I love all the little details, from the decorative wrought iron gates to the brass doorknobs.

If you ever fancy visiting I'd recommend going before autumn sets in. That way you'll get to see the plants in bloom (orchids, hibiscus, bougainvillea and others) and plenty of colour.

Anyway... we headed home in the afternoon. Joe had a snooze in the car then later on we took him for his first haircut. Tomorrow is his party: a lot of people in a small house and garden. I've done all the chores and the house is sparkling. In the morning I'll be baking his cake (an as yet untried recipe). Hope it works!

Thursday 29 August 2013

A birthday and a jaunt (Part One)

Someone had their first birthday today! Lots of cards and lovely gifts from friends and family... and Jay had the day off so we all got to spend it together. After a leisurely morning we headed out to Liverpool: Lark Lane and Sefton Park. We took a picnic and, of course, the camera.

Lark Lane is one of those cool, boho little pockets where students and trendy types live. Lots of independent shops (my favourites are Larks, a gift shop selling retro and vintage-inspired things, and Gasp, which is stuffed to the rafters with second-hand - sorry, pre-loved - furniture and accessories).

Gasp even has a room dedicated to fashion and sewing.

I loved the old shop fittings displaying the old quilts and crochet blankets.

There are also lots of very cool places to eat. Delis, bistros and cafes. And food from all the corners of the globe: Moroccan, Greek, Turkish, Spanish, Jamaican, Italian, Arabic... also vegetarian cafes, traditional fish and chips and several gastropubs.

You don't have to be a Mason to eat and drink in this one (I think).

We sometimes go to the farmer's market on Lark Lane, which is held monthly. It's a good place to pick up plants for the garden, fruit and vegetables and sausages. 

Despite being a trendy place it's still a bit rough and ready. Plenty of 'characters' knocking around and the pavements are very grubby. But we like to go and I defy anyone to walk down the street and not feel hungry as the smells of all those exotic cuisines waft through the air...

Directly across the road lies Sefton Park. We went for a walk there and I'll tell you about that tomorrow (we took lots and lots of photos).

Happy birthday Joe!

Monday 26 August 2013

A simple Saturday

After a run of bad luck (see my previous post) I've cheered up a bit - the garden has had a much-needed clear-out, we've looked at laptop repairs and several neighbours have joined forces re. dealing with Barky Dog (well, his owner).

On Saturday we had a jaunt to Ramsbottom to buy our provisions from the market. We picked up some nice things like Kentish cherries and Yorkshire strawberries. The last of the summer. There were damsons and plums too. I love autumn food. Not too sure whether a cone of chips is particularly seasonal but they tasted very nice.

The plan was to go blackberry picking so we headed to Chatterton and set out for a walk along the old railway line to Irwell Vale.

It was a bit overcast but that didn't bother us. It's par for the course around here anyway. And I love the smell of damp leaves and soil - these pictures conjure up that smell all over again.

All the blackberries were still at that greeny-red stage so we'll go back in a week or two. Jay's booked the first week of September off and I can't wait.

I have an aversion to throwing food away. We tend not to eat bread crusts for some reason. I keep some for blitzing into breadcrumbs but went through the freezer and fished out all the odd ones lurking in between more enticing things. There was a lot of bread. And I know who appreciates it.

It looks like this could be one for the diary too. Not long until September. It's Joe's first birthday on Thursday  - the past year has flown by.

Friday 23 August 2013


I had lots of lovely photographs to share in today's post but it's been a bit of a rubbish day to be honest. There are three unrelated images from my archives instead. Unrelated, but some of my favourites. The lovely, post-themed photos are lost forever. Explanation below...

The 'Threes' thing is to do with the old saying that bad things come in them. Bad Thing #1: my garden plants have been decimated by an assortment of bugs, grubs and caterpillars. A lovely dahlia has been eaten alive before the buds opened into flowers. The gooseberry bushes are mere skeletons. Slugs have put holes in the hosta. Everything else looks a bit - well, awful. And it's Joe's birthday party next weekend. We need to get things looking presentable again. If only there was a bank holiday weekend coming up...

Another Bad Thing: some people have moved in across the road with the noisiest dog ever. As in, they leave it outside all day (and evening) and It. Doesn't. Stop. Barking. I'm on my last nerve. I glimpsed the owners earlier - they looked a bit scary. So I'll just keep the windows closed and try and tune the barking out.

It did push me into changing estate agent though... something we'd been meaning to do for a while. Nothing like desperation to make you get things done.

Bad Thing #3: this is really bad. As in, using some very bad language and then guzzling a bottle of beer bad. I accidentally sat on my laptop. My shiny, recently-purchased laptop. It was open and in use (I'd been choosing those lovely photos I mentioned earlier) and I got up, sat back down and there was a horrible crunching noise. LCD screen crushed. 

We still have Jay's laptop, fortunately. And a hard drive full of photos.

Anyway - I bought a lottery ticket. Surely I'm due some good luck? 

I'm feeling a bit more positive now. The beer possibly helped. Some chocolate didn't do any harm either. And the long weekend promises lots of relaxing, cooking, making and family time.

Enjoy your weekend. And a word of advice: always check behind you before you sit down.

Monday 19 August 2013


I'm really loving this time of year: the heat has gone out of the air, new things are appearing in hedgerows and we're going to Ramsbottom market on Saturday to see what's new on the fruit and veg front.

Speaking of air... I've had the windows and back door open constantly. It feels fresh and vaguely autumnal. As a teenager I used to wander the house with my arms folded tightly across my chest and a permanent scowl on my face because my mum would insist on having the windows open, even in cool weather. Now I'm just the same.

And speaking of hedgerows - here are some rosehips from a little afternoon jaunt Joe and I took earlier. I love having them in the house and they always go in the same vase.

I've been making a few things lately. A bit of paper-folding resulted in some cute little bookmarks.

And an origami harebell. This was definitely a case of beginner's luck though. Later attempts went into the recycling bin. I need a printable set of instructions rather than online video tutorials I think...

I haven't embroidered anything since I was at school (hence the simplicity of this little picture). I really enjoyed it though and am now on the hunt for more embroidery hoops. I know I had a bigger one somewhere but it seems to have disappeared...

There was a printmaking session yesterday afternoon. I know you've already seen the toadstool design. Others I'm happy with: acorn, pinecone, Russian doll, seed head, dandelion clocks. Not so much: pumpkin (will re-draw and cut), leaves (won't bother).

It's part of the process I suppose: some you win, some you discard.

I'm also knitting lots of pairs of wristwarmers. And have found a stash of vintage buttons for embellishment. The craft and vintage fair is six weeks off and I'm getting ever so slightly panicky (hence the industriousness). It's a good job I enjoy doing it though, or what would be the point?

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the weather for the next few weekends. We have blackberry picking plans for Saturday and the Saturday after that is Joe's first birthday party. Barbecue, birthday cake and (hopefully not) brollies.

Hope you all had a nice weekend!

Saturday 17 August 2013

The early bird(s)

Today's weather forecast was for rain starting around 11am so we went for an early jaunt to Dunham Massey. It's a National Trust property: huge house, lake, parkland... there's also a nice gift shop and cafe and it's usually quite busy with families and dog walkers.

Because we were there early in the morning (and no doubt because the skies were grey and ominous-looking) we pretty much had the place to ourselves. That's a lot of space.

The lavender was growing in a tiny walled garden and smelt lovely. The rowan berries hinted at the approach of autumn.

There are deer everywhere at Dunham. Most are used to the visitors and carry on with their business until you get that little bit too close. This one was very pretty.

So were these ducklings. We stumbled across duck HQ - lots of them snoozing together. I said we were there early...

We had a chat with one of the rangers too. There was a display with lots of deer skulls and antlers for people to touch and look at. Joe wasn't allowed this for too long (he tends to shove everything in his mouth at the moment).

The estate includes the surrounding village too. We didn't walk around it today but some of the cottages in the park are let out to people. Jay said he didn't know whether he's like to live in a place with so many visitors nearby. I think I'd cope...

There's a really good play area too, where children can learn to make dens and climb on a natural playground made from fallen trees. I suspect Joe will love it in a year or two.

We headed home after a long walk through the trees. People were starting to arrive and we'd had the best of the weather - in fact, we got in just as the rain started. Home and dry. It seemed only right to make a rhubarb and apple crumble (there's something comforting about cooking on a wet day with the back door open, listening to the rain). The weekend's shaping up just as we'd planned...

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