Thursday 31 March 2016


With seaside visits, handmade markets and Easter it's been an eventful month. So, lots of photographs and a list of goings-on from my little corner of the blogosphere. This March has seen us:

Visiting garden centres and farm shops for food and inspiration...

Planting things in the first cleared bit of the garden. Wild or native trees and shrubs (blackthorn, hawthorn, dog rose)...

Eating with family. Lamb on Easter Sunday followed by a layered rhubarb dessert (homemade ginger biscuits, stewed rhubarb, whipped cream)...

Laughing at the things Joe comes out with. And wondering where his turns of phrase come from, particularly beginning his statements with 'I expect...' or 'I'm afraid...' He sounds quite gentrified. Although he spends a lot of time with his finger up his nose too.

Watching Gardener's World, The People Versus OJ Simpson (I know, I know) and a really good 3-part series on Queen Victoria's children.

Experimenting with more printmaking.

Enjoying spending time with Joe after preschool. There's a little play area at the local farm shop which is elevated and a complete sun trap on a bright afternoon. He makes friends with the other little people there; I sit and watch as he plays on the mini tractors and the slide.

Worrying about the next handmade market in two weeks. So much to do, so little time, hence:

Writing a lot of lists, and

Using my diary more than ever before. Also:

Regretting just how much chocolate I've eaten lately. Easter egg for breakfast did seem like a good idea at the time, though...

Observing the garden coming to life. We have lots of bird activity - mostly blue-tits, goldfinches, starlings, sparrows and robins. And the snowdrops are giving way to muscari and miniature daffodils. The hellebore and Fritillaria Imperialis are flowering and the magnolia buds are getting ready to open...

Hoping for better weather. A few blue, hazy days have since disappeared and the gloom, gales and rain are back...

Remembering my mum. And missing her. Particularly as I was preparing the family meal on Sunday and gazing out of the kitchen window, wishing she could join us all.

Trying a new approach to wellbeing. I've been diagnosed as 'borderline' underactive thyroid, which would explain a great deal. I have to go back to the doctor for more blood tests in a few months, but in the meantime I've had a few consultations with a medical herbalist. I'm a great believer in homeopathy and the whole 'You are what you eat' philosophy. Although herbal medicine does taste beyond horrible.

Baking seasonally. Not for me (I ran out of gluten free flour) but for others. Easter spice biscuits. I made the dough, my niece cut the shapes out and everyone but me got to enjoy them...

Reading a new book: The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell. I'm only just at the beginning so the jury's out just now. But I did, regrettably, finish The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed and am now hungry for more books on domestic life during the last century-and-a-bit.

Needing some more space to work in...

Tiring of my lovetolerate/hate relationship with Facebook. It drives me mad, all the pointless and inane stuff people post on there. And if I want politics I'll buy a newspaper. But is it a necessary evil if you want to run and promote a business of your own? Sigh...

Coveting nice things for the garden. Mock currant bushes, a rocking bench on which to escape into a pleasant trance, a shed to prettify...

Waiting feverishly for that oh-so rare combination: a sunny day with no Joe around, so I can paint some furniture outside. Mustard and teal and an almost grubby shade of pink.


Looking forward to April. Well, once the next craft fair's over and done with. We've got two weeks where preschool's closed for Easter (it's a very strange holiday year) and I'm praying the sun comes out and the mercury rises.

The next post will be shorter, I promise.

Have a wonderful April.

Thursday 24 March 2016

The Colour Collaborative: March: Egg

I've been thinking about this month's Colour Collaborative post for a little while now. And suddenly Easter's almost upon us, with the egg hunts and the chocolate and the crazy preschool holiday schedule.

Ordinarily, I think about eggs in terms of eating them. Joe loves them scrambled. I always have them in the kitchen for baking or pancakes. We're fortunate in that a few doors down, there's a farmyard where we can buy eggs laid by the very hens that strut about outside our garden gate. The eggs are huge with orange yolks.

I also think that eggs herald the retreat of winter and signify for me the lengthening days of spring. All that nest-building and birdsong... It's enough to gladden the heart, even on a old and grey day.

We did an egg hunt in the village church on Monday. All those little foil-covered treats hidden in the shadows amongst the pews. The little ones loved it. Pink and blue, yellow and green. And at the end (just in case they hadn't had their fill of chocolate): a big Cadbury's egg each in that unmistakable purple packaging.

Personally, I'd prefer the real thing. Eggs from wild birds with all the marks and spots and subtle shades Nature has given them. I'm fascinated by illustrations from old books of bird's eggs in all shapes, sizes and hues. Those in the photographs are actually quail's eggs which I blew a few years ago. So not quite wild, but pretty nonetheless. And incredibly fragile. I tried painting them pale blue but only have watercolours and it won't adhere. Maybe this Easter's project could be dyeing some instead.

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.

Monday 21 March 2016


It's been a weekend of contrasts. On Friday evening I went out for a nice civilised meal with a couple of my friends (Joe was staying overnight with his grandparents). The civilised meal somehow ended up in staying out dancing until 4am. And the hangover from hell on Saturday.

Cue the whole 'Never again' thing.

Yesterday I headed across country to the Yorkshire coast. Staithes (those of you with little ones may be familiar with it if you watch Old Jack's Boat with the wonderful Bernard Cribbins).

I was actually there to do a printmaking session with Stef Mitchell of Staithes Studios Gallery. Her blog, Field and Hedgerow, is one I came across via Pinterest and I knew I wanted to learn how she produces such beautiful work.

So, a very early start and a two-and-a-half hour journey. We arrived in good time and had a mid-morning snack and cup of tea before I went off, apron in hand, to find Stef. 

She was actually in her studio which is situated up a little walkway. You can see rooftops and hear seagulls. There are big work surfaces and an etching press, whitewashed walls and timber. A far cry from my humble dining table set-up. 

Without going too much into the process... Stef was a great teacher and I really enjoyed learning about monoprinting with plants. I also realised I have everything I need at home to do it - well, apart from that press - but hopefully one day I'll acquire one (plus the studio space to house it).

I came away with some prints to frame at home, lots of little hand-pressed ones and a notebook with plenty of scribbled-down ideas and tips. I'm now desperate to get out and find some things to work with. Maybe a few snowdrops before they finally give up for this year.

Staithes itself was a great place for a visit. Despite the gloomy skies we had a wander up and down the little streets and footpaths, admiring the higgeldy-piggeldy cottages and houses which all seem to be built on top of one another.

I took an inordinate amount of photographs and have actually been quite restrained about putting them on here. I'm thinking maybe a look back at March with some more pictures. Trust me, there are many. Many.

One thing that struck me about Staithes: it isn't all pretty-pretty. There's grit and decay too - shabby old buildings and neglected, wild bits here and there. Lots of tastefully-painted doors and neatly-planted gardens but plenty of faded, flaking old facades too.

There were so many little details hidden away up those winding, narrow streets. It could well be a good place to visit as part of a long weekend in the Dales.

Thank you for your lovely comments on my previous post. I'll go back and reply this evening but right now it's time to go and collect Joe from preschool. 

Have a great week.

Thursday 10 March 2016

March miscellany

I'm using a bit of Joe's preschool time to post here. Despite the repeated resolutions to slow down, do less etc I'm still chasing my tail. Which means the usual: a weekly dose of photographs with a few observations thrown in.

But I do like to keep this blog, at the very least, to document our comings and goings. And this past week that includes a ride on the train. Which broke down on the return journey, so Joe got the added thrill of his first ever ride on the top deck of a bus.

The days are getting longer. And, occasionally, sunnier. Which means light creeping in here and there. The late afternoon and evening are particularly golden; our bedroom gets much of it which is good because the small windows and vaulted ceiling mean it's often quite a cavernous, shadowy space.

The hills behind the house are illuminated on sunny afternoons too. Which always looks spectacular against a dark grey sky.

The lambs are still not here. But the sheep look weary and weighted down. I keep peering out to see if there's any progress.

On the home front, I'm currently collecting vintage things to add to my artwork for the vintage and handmade markets. Mainly items which fall within a general theme of nature/collecting/outdoors. So I'll be hitting the flea markets and car boot sales over the coming weeks.

My own things are strictly that. Not for sale. Like these silks I found in my mum's old sewing box at the weekend. The packaging is rather appealing, isn't it? No shrink-wrapped plastic back then.

On Mother's Day we went and put daffodils on my mum's grave. It's the second year we've done that and again, the sun shone brightly. We went for a walk afterwards, to Astley Hall and Park. I know my mum would have liked the idea of us getting out and enjoying time as a family.

My favourite part is the walled garden. Raised beds, rhubarb forcers and neat gravel paths. And this year there's a Gruffalo trail.

It was a cold day but lovely to get out and look at the emerging shoots and leaves. Although I do need to go back in a week or two as they have a huge magnolia tree and I've only ever seen it in bud...

I'm a little bit in love with these urns.

We actually went inside Astley Hall for the first time. It's free for visitors and was very impressive. The ceilings were incredible.

And I'm a fan of stained, wavy glass too.

And gilding.

And look at that view - I doubt I'd get much work done if that was my desk. Although it would be very inspiring. Imagine watching the changing seasons through those huge windows...

Oliver Cromwell once stayed at the Hall. It was rumoured he left his boots there but it turns out they weren't his.

I was rather taken with the tapestries on the beds, but if ever a place felt haunted... I don't think I could spend a night there. It's all sealed-off doorways and strange little staircases, and there are tiny cell-like rooms with no windows.

Outside again we had a wander around the grounds and admired the fountains and snowdrops (the ground was carpeted with them).

My mum always used to tell me about the snowdrops in Astley Park. I wish she'd have been able to join us. Sometimes it's comforting to visit places she enjoyed. Other times it's very difficult. But this time it was nice, walking in the sun and watching spring slowly emerge.

This coming weekend we're hoping to get out in the garden. We - horror of horrors - don't yet have a washing line (or the posts to hold one). We also want to plant some seeds, and tidy up the 'beds'. Or at least, what will become the beds. Last week I scrubbed the trunk of the birch tree a bit but I was using a scouring sponge and the fibres kept catching and it was annoying. So I'll have to get a scrubbing brush.

Maybe a visit to the hardware shop. We have a great one in Ramsbottom. Joe loves going there.

Anyway, thank you for continuing to visit. And I really appreciate all your lovely comments, even if I can't get around to replying. They all get read.

Wishing you a happy end-of-week and weekend.

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