Saturday, 31 January 2015

Nothing to see here, but I do have some puzzling questions

I do like those end of month collages that you see on some fine blogs, they always look so striking and pretty.  I thought I'd do one myself.  Back at the beginning of the month I set up a little folder on my laptop, into which I planned to put a nice assortment of pictures from the month.  I distinctly recall adding some to the folder, and last night I sat down to make a spectacular collage.  Imagine my surprise when there were only three, count them, three photos in there.  Not much of a collage to be had there.  I've put it down to experience and moved on.  Next month, that will be the one.  Stand by for a collage extraordinaire.

In the meantime you'll have to put up with the above.  A couple of shots of the second Severn Crossing, taken last weekend on a roller skating trip.  It really is quite godforsaken there.  The River Severn ends at the bridge, and the Severn Estuary begins (to the left in the pictures).  I remember the bridge being built, it was completed in 1996, and for the sum of £6.50 you can drive your car over to the other side, to Wales, the land of dragons.  A little way upstream there's another bridge, an older one, built thirty years earlier.  You can walk across that one if you choose.  Both of them scare me a little, when we drive over I sink my nails into the palms of my hands and try to ignore the powerful swirling currents below.

The rest of the pictures were taken today at the wildfowl and wetlands place we go to.  I forgot my camera, so they're from my little point and shoot one.  The wind was bitterly cold, and after a morning of football watching and an afternoon in the hides it too me a while to warm back up.  But it does make indoors all the lovelier.  A scrumptiously warm living room in January is a thing of wonder.

I've been wearing a scarf every time I go out for any great length of time.  It's made from wool, which I bought in a (regular) moment of madness, completely ignoring (again) the fact that I can't wear wool, and by some miracle it doesn't irritate my skin, or at least, hardly at all.  It's made from Madelinetosh Merino Light, which is 100% merino.  Do you think that this means I can wear any merino?  Or is that too much to hope for.  I've bought yarn in the past that is SO soft it's like touching a cloud and I haven't been able to wear it for more than five minutes.  But I'm tempted to try some more merino.  Maybe me and sheep have a future together after all.

On the home front there have been some puzzling disappearances.  More than the usual little ones - a missing silver ring, a lost hair clip, a library book that no-one remembers ever seeing - this time I'm missing a giant spoon and the top of the toy box.  The spoon is a huge stainless steel serving one and the lid of the toy box is, well, an enormous four foot long piece of wood.  One minute it was there, then it was gone and no-one is admitting to knowing anything about it.  Honestly, where does all this lost stuff go?  I've looked everywhere and it's not to be found.  The only possible explanation is that it's slipped sideways into a different space time continuum.  If anything pops up near you, do let me know.

I shall leave you with a little conversation I had earlier with the biggest boy, who was thrilled to see a water rail at really close quarters.  It's quite a shy, secretive bird, so it was brilliant to be able to see it so clearly.  He took loads of pictures and said, "I expect I'll delete some of them, I probably have about fifty!"  I said something like, "Mmm, you did take quite a lot".  He said, "But it's like if you saw a really rare rhododendron, you'd take loads of pictures".  Is that how he sees me?  Inside I feel far more cool and exciting than that.  I am making a note to be more interesting on the outside too.  Incidentally, does anyone know what that pretty little white flower is in the last picture?  CJ xx

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.