Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Deep in an old shoebox

It's that time of year when I start to think about seeds and plants again.  Nothing has actually been sown yet, but the box of seeds has been eased down off of its high shelf and I've had a rootle through.

It's not an especially large box, but tucked away inside, sleeping soundly, are enough seeds to fill a garden and an allotment with all manner of flowers, herbs, salads and vegetables.  I even got out the garden notebook (you knew I'd have a notebook, yes?) and had a look at the lists of things from previous years and the scribbled notes I've made about which varieties of things to try this year.

The garden at this time of year is of course always perfect, because it all exists in my imagination.    A profusion of pretty flowers, plump juicy vegetables, butterflies and bees, honestly, I wish you could see it, it's like Chelsea Flower Show in here (the small sensible gardens, not the big architectural ones).  The reality will have more slugs and less profusions, but it will give me something to aim at next time.

A couple of inspirational books have been helping with the daydreaming.  Firstly Louise Curley's lovely "Cut Flower Patch".  It's a book I won in a giveaway last year, and I happened to open it the other day and it really reminded me how wonderfully rewarding growing flowers can be.

The simplest little vase with a few home grown blooms always lifts my mood.  It reminded me to include a few things for cutting around the garden and the plot.

The second book is "The Writer's Garden" by Jackie Bennett, that I was lucky enough to receive in a giveaway on Tanya's blog, Lovely Greens.

It really is gorgeous.  It features the gardens of twenty writers, beautifully photographed by Richard Hanson, as well as excellent pieces on each writer.  The information is fascinating, a little biography of the writers and some of the thinking behind their homes and gardens.  Here are a couple of the entries that really caught my eye.

Roald Dahl's gypsy caravan, which you can just see nestling amongst the trees.

The stunning Lake District countryside where Beatrix Potter lived.  Perfection.

And the vegetable garden she created at her farmhouse.  It's easy to imagine Peter Rabbit stealing the odd lettuce.

The gardens I'm most drawn to are the more natural looking ones.  Lots of greenery, plants rambling over stone, edibles mixed in with the flowers.

And as always, the walled gardens.  This one is at Wordsworth House in Cockermouth, where William Wordsworth was born in 1770 and spent a few idyllic childhood years.

Lastly the garden of the Dorset cottage where three generations of Thomas Hardy's family lived.  It's a true cottage garden, bursting with life, but prettily informal.  Vegetables mix with flowers and there's a small orchard of cider apples.

So you can see why I'm feeling inspired and ready for the new growing season.  Of course nothing here will look like these amazing places, but nonetheless, even the smallest corner of greenness with a pretty flower or two has the power to calm and cheer and cure all manner of ills.  I can't wait to shake out those first seeds.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Colour Collaborative: January: Home

Home, such an evocative word.  A place to relax, be happy, make plans, launch adventures.  And a place to hide away when the outside world is a bit too much to take.  

I've always loved lots of light and pale neutrals at home.  There aren't many bright colours here, I feel a need to keep it all as tranquil as I can.  

A reaction maybe to the noise and colour that is a houseful of boys.  They have walls covered with vivid, busy posters.  Underneath is a beautiful soft pale grey green.  Very little of it is visible.

There are touches of colour here and there, on bookshelves, in textiles and in pictures.

I always like to have plants dotted about, although there have been very few since the children started crawling and exploring.  There's something very tranquil about green foliage against pale walls.

Examining the colour in my home has made me wonder what it would be like to live in a brightly coloured house.  Would I have more energy, more inspiration, more focus?  Have any of you been affected by the colour in a room?  I'd be fascinated to know.

But whatever colour your home, the important thing is the feel of it.  If it's safe, happy and comfortable then we are blessed.  If it's a sanctuary then there is nothing more to be wished for.

To visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

           Annie at Annie Cholewa                                       Gillian at Tales from a Happy House

           Sandra at Cherry Heart                                          Jennifer at Thistlebear

And this month's guest poster, Bee at The Linen Cloud.

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.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Precious things

Joining in with Sarah at Mitenska to celebrate some of our precious things.

There aren't many priceless heirlooms round here.  No diamonds tucked away in little velvet boxes, not much in the way of family silver and no fancy china or original artwork.  The most precious of my possessions are my photographs.  Most of them were taken in the past ten years, from the date I first had a digital camera.  Before than, there are very few.

From this last decade though I have lots.  Photos of all the big occasions.  The firsts, the bittersweet lasts and all of the events in between.  But the pictures that I love the most, the ones I come back to again and again, are the images of everyday moments.  They are things that might slip away otherwise.  Favourite books, invented games, little habits that stick for a year or two and then fall by the wayside.  Recipes we love for a while, drawings that I want to keep and those moments of happy interaction between brothers that are oh so brief but oh so sweet.

I make it a habit to print off pictures regularly and put them in albums along with a little journalling.  The narrative reminds me of the details I want to remember - a conversation shared, a funny story, sometimes a little something from the news to put our lives in a bigger context.

They are albums I'd hate to lose.  I hope they will survive me and be valued and pored over in the future.  I hope the boys will look at the images from their childhood and realise how much they were and always will be loved and how much fun we tried to give them.  Maybe one day their children will look at them too and learn a little about what their parents' lives were like.

I sometimes include the children's original artwork and sometimes photos of it.  I put in the odd birthday card and letters and notes.  Anything that is meaningful or interesting that I can fit in is fair game.

I sometimes use pre-printed cards to write on or I make my own from odd bits of patterned paper or old Ordnance Survey maps.  I have a special pen that I can even write directly on the photos if the fancy takes me.

Little by little, week by week I've built up a pile of albums that tell our stories over the years.  Sometimes we all sit round together and look at the pictures, and when I see the children laughing and remembering I'm so glad I took the time to put them together.  Just a few minutes every week have given us something very precious, captured memories and the stories of our lives.

If you'd like to read more Precious Things posts, pop along to the following contributors:

    Sarah at Mitenska

    Leanne at Today's Stuff

    Bea at The Linen Cloud

    N at Creative Academia

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Once more unto the breach

We went on a bit of a magical mystery tour this afternoon.  Showers were forecast, but we needed to get out, so we set off with no destination in mind.  We saw a bridge and went over it to Wales.  Then  we headed up the beautiful Wye valley.

A glimpse of Tintern Abbey, a Cistercian monastery, built between 1131 and 1536.

And we found ourselves in Monmouth, a small town with a big history.

If you head round the back of Iceland (for those of you not familiar with Iceland, it's a frozen food shop, not the country - the kind of place you go if you want a party pack of eighty sausage rolls and a bag of turkey dinosaurs), you find a castle.

The tower above is thought to be the birthplace of Henry V in 1386.  Not bad for round the back of Iceland, eh?

We made valiant attempts to impart a little history lesson to the children.  Five years of fighting the troublesome Welsh rebels, defeating the French at Agincourt, blah, blah, blah.  They'd spotted a canon and a couple of tanks outside the nearby army reserve, the Royal Monmouth Royal Engineers though, and took in absolutely none of it.

A little something for you lovers of colour, a blue house.  Very blue.

Monmouth has a lovely little free museum, where we spent a while wandering around their Nelson collection.  We gave up on imparting knowledge and just let them explore the children's bit.  The littlest boy was happy with the dressing up things, oh how he loves to dress up.  He found a selection of excellent hats and wandered round whipping them on and off and bowing.

I took photos of an amazing embroidery of a Monmouth street.  Some 900 hours of work went into it.

On the way out, someone had put together this table of seasonal greenery.  It makes me think I should go for a wander and see what I can gather.  Although at a glance it all looks quite drab in the countryside at the moment there is always something pretty to be found.

It was nice to visit somewhere we don't often go.  I'm sure we'll return again in the summer, with a picnic, and spend some time wandering along the banks of the two rivers here, the Monnow and the Wye.

I'm down to just one lot of football tomorrow now, what with all the rain and soggy grass and mud.  The happy band of brothers will have to be exercised in some other way, which will no doubt still involve mud, but hopefully not too much in the way of blood.  Wishing you all a very good Sunday.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Five on Friday

Five paragraphs on a Friday.

Enough with the wind and rain already.  I have some incredibly gloomy allotment photos on my camera, far too gloomy to use at the end of a tricky week, so I found this picture from the summer.  I promised you a photo of me in my wellies.  The biggest boy took this picture, and although it is a picture of me in my wellies you can't actually see the wellies part so I've never used it.  I didn't ever particularly decide not to use photos of myself on the blog, although I'm aware I almost never do.  It's because I have almost no photos of me.  Thousands of everyone else, about ten of me.  Ooh, that could be a New Year's resolution couldn't it.

On the subject of resolutions, I'm still on a bit of a roll with the January energy.  I've done constructive things, organising, creating, decluttering.  Out went a whole bag of soft toys.  It's a mystery where they come from sometimes.  They have to leave the house while the children are at school or they'd all be "rescued" out of the bag.  It is quite sad though, and yesterday the other half nearly rescued one or two himself.  Not a penguin, we can't throw a penguin out.  The little turtle, no, not the little turtle surely.

It's now less than a month until the middle boy's birthday.  Time to start thinking about presents again.  It seems far too close to Christmas really.  Father Christmas got him a Trangia, a little camping stove, for Christmas.  Just a secondhand one from Ebay, but he absolutely loves it.  He's a big fan of outdoor survival.  I have a feeling I shall have to take him camping before too long.  No doubt anything with fire or a sharp blade will do very nicely for his birthday.

I've been doing a little sewing this week.  Some on the sewing machine (the big purple quilt) and some by hand (a slightly bird-themed quilt for the biggest boy).  I'm always so in awe of people who create quilts and blankets and all sorts of everything at regular intervals.  It usually seems to take me years.  I've sort of half started a memory quilt as well, with bits of the children's old clothes.  In fact I'd forgotten about it until just this very minute.  If it wasn't so dark I'd whip it all out and take some photos.  I'll get to it one day, I will.  I wonder if I could whip up a single sized quilt as a gift by April/May.  Seems unlikely, but the idea keeps popping into my head.  Maybe by April/May next year, that should be doable surely.

Finally I just wanted to thank you all for your very lovely comments on my last post.  And also for reading and being so nice.  I wasn't fishing for compliments (although as you know I do that at home all the time), but thank you for all the things you said, they really were so very good to read.

And with that I shall wish you all the very best of weekends, with lots of time spent doing the things that you love, be it sewing, knitting, crochet, walking, gardening, reading, baking, eating.  Enjoy.  CJ xx

Joining in with Five on Friday, taking five minutes from our day to enjoy five things.  To visit the other bloggers joining in this week, click on the links below.

           Amy at Love Made My Home                      Jill at Emerald Cottage

           Nicole at My Garden Diaries                        Beth at The Whimsical Dowager

           Alison at Sylvan House                                 Julie at Julie's Lifestyle

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Feeling Scandinavian

I do so envy those bloggers who plan their posts, and have clear ideas about what they are going to write about, and who have a feel, a style to their blogs, who have interesting series' and who just generally make me want to visit again and again.  I always think I'd like to be like that, but all too often I turn up here without a clue about what I'm going to ramble on about.

I stare out of the window, waiting for inspiration to strike.  Not much out there to inspire me.  A leaden sky, a bare garden, a reminder of things that need to be done out there.  I look at the photos I have on the camera.  Sometimes just a single solitary carrot, sometimes a little domestic hiccup, rarely anything hugely exciting.  I have notebooks.  Sometimes I even have ideas.  I need to concentrate a bit more on the whole transference of ideas to notebook before they evaporate into the sound and fury of the day.

I went to Ikea this morning.  That could have something to do with the lightly numb feeling in my brain.  What do they do to people in there?  After a full circuit of the showroom I got confused and somehow found myself on another circuit of the showroom.  It took me a while to realise it.  I did several confused mini-circuits within the big circuit.  I went to the shop bit and found myself fingering all sorts of things I hadn't even realised I needed.  I couldn't find any of the things on my list.  After a while I didn't even care.  I bought a storage box to go under the bed.  I'd measured everything on my list down to the last centimetre, except the height of the storage box.  Turns out it's about a centimetre too tall.  I picked out the bookcase that I wanted, which, for a small bookcase, was astonishingly heavy.  I lost the car.  This is because they label the car park A, B, C, D, E and then they start again with A.  What's wrong with the rest of the alphabet???  I was in yellow C, I should have been in red C.  While I'd been in Ikea, the motorway was closed.  It took me forever to get home.  I now have a flatpack to put together in a really tight space.  This could possibly be why I'm here instead, but to be honest I'm almost out of complete drivel.  What's your time estimate for putting together a small bookcase?  What's your time estimate for me putting together a small bookcase?

Later I shall watch an episode of The Killing, just to keep in with the Scandinavian theme.  The knitwear's good, and the tension is building.  I'm almost certain I know who did it.

You will note I have surpassed myself today by having photos that have absolutely nothing to do with the words.  Next time I shall try harder.  Promise.