Sunday 31 May 2015


Here I am, a bit late to the party (again) but hoping to join in with Annie's recent post. I haven't done one of these 'bits and pieces' posts for a while and will hopefully return to my 'Midweek miscellany' thing soon.

So what's been going on around here this past week or so? Sunshine, showers and gusty winds have had everyone asking, "Is it really almost June?" It just isn't very warm. At all. But that hasn't stopped the usual outdoor potterings; lately we've been planting up some goodies we brought home from the plant nursery over the bank holiday.

It's a place in Cheshire, between Wilmslow and Macclesfield. A friend owns it so he kindly fills the boot of the car each year and we come home with lots of free plants. We do pay it forward, though, and share the booty.

Joe loves the visit. There are tractors and chickens and sheep and the odd llama... Not to mention endless greenhouses to explore.

He comes home a very tired little boy.

And he doesn't stop talking about tractors for a very long time afterwards.

In other garden news, the herbs are coming along nicely...

And we picked up a few perennials yesterday from the market: a dark purple aquilegia and a red Geum ('Blazing Sunset').

As well as the usual fruit, vegetables and eggs it's always nice to see what's new in any given week. Hopefully once the local searches are conducted (we're at that stage of the house purchase) it won't be too long until we can put these into the earth.

Outside the gate there's a profusion of flowers. Others, like the lilies, are getting ready to burst open. And the Lady's Mantle should be flowering at some point.

We had a pretty perfect Saturday: a lie-in (thank you Joe), the aforementioned wander around the market, a picnic lunch eaten whilst sitting in the boot of the car, and a leisurely walk. The knowledge that it's leftovers for tea always makes things that bit more relaxed. And the fact that it was takeaway curry from the night before... As I said, perfect.

The riverbank was just dreamy. Wildflowers galore.

Prettiness everywhere.

The hawthorn blossom smelt lovely too. We were lucky with the weather as the sun put in a rare appearance and warmed the flowers; they in turn released that unmistakeable scent that to me encapsulates May.

The bluebells are still out too.

These things don't smell particularly nice. OK, they're a bit stinky. But pretty nonetheless.

Today started off drizzly and grey but we still managed some outdoor time. The lilacs are beautiful, and there seems to be more aquilegia growing all over the place.

Joe had to have his fix of locomotive action...

And as well as the lambs, he was quite taken with these little piglets who have recently taken up residence nearby. They were obviously having a lazy weekend of it.

Back at home I've finally thrown out my flagging birthday flowers and replaced them with a modest posy. A few bits of lisianthus were salvaged from the bouquet but other than that it's centaurea from outside.

And here's a small purchase from the tea room at the church: a belated birthday present from my brother. There are actually seven books in total, all Enid Blyton 'Rewards' titles. I had these when I was little and most have disappeared over time. We have maybe fifteen of them now though, which makes me very happy.

As the weekend winds down I'm going to put a plate pie (mince and onion) in the oven, wait for my stepdad to come and join us for our evening meal, and perhaps go for a little walk afterwards. I hope you had a lovely weekend and that next week's a good one. 

And that the temperatures rise a little. 

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.

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