Sunday, 30 March 2014

Home again

We're home! Have been since Thursday evening actually. Firstly, thank you to everyone who wished up a good trip. I always like to reply to comments but on this occasion we were a bit offline (although I did manage to publish my pre-written Colour Collaborative post during a flying visit to Peebles library on Thursday morning).

We took many, many pictures. I've made collages and I think they tell the story of our little escape far better than an exhaustive account would. And who wants to read about all the details of someone else's holiday anyway?

So... in a nutshell: Peebles, Edinburgh (and the zoo), mountain walks and a drive back home via Northumberland. Oh, and the weather was lovely for the most part.

Scotland... a few little observations I made in my notebook: 

Pheasants, deer, sheep, lambs... Silver-grey, verdigris, acid green... Moss, lichen... Snow-dusted mountaintops... Blue skies, frosty nights... Pine forests, rivers, streams... Solid little stone dwellings with smoking chimneys... Open roads, misty hilltops... Red phone boxes... Coltsfoot... Sash windows and gold-lettered house names... Dry stone walls... Fresh, cold air.

Love that place!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Colour Collaborative: March: Bud

This month I'm delighted to be a guest blogger for the Colour Collaborative. The theme is 'Bud'.

Sometimes it's nice to work to a brief. I actually went out over several days with the camera and this is reflected in the photos. The weather's been so changeable: grey and gloomy, sunny and warm, wet and windy. But I got lots of pictures and after editing and playing with them I became aware I was drawn to those with my favourite garden colours.

Although spring is the only time of year I really like yellow flowers - crocus, daffodils, broom - I still prefer the subtle whites and dusky pinks of hellebores and magnolia. I particularly like these colours when they go alongside acid greens. So even though the Euphorbia in the garden didn't exactly fit into the 'Bud' theme I still took the time to admire it.

I'd love a magnolia or two in our 'for ever' garden. White streaked with dusky pink.

Rhodedendrons aren't particularly my thing but they do remind me of Manderley in Rebecca. And the lime green buds and veins of the leaves are zingy and lovely.

Interesting how, when you look a bit more closely, the buds of many trees and plants start off in shades of pink. From the most delicate-looking to the more robust.

Lilac pink, coral...

I had to fit in one photo of Euphorbia unfurling. It's almost bud-like, and the colour is - to me at least - perfection.

I hope you're enjoying the colours of spring, and spotting your favourite combinations.

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.

Saturday, 22 March 2014


It's been a long week and today's been a flurry of house-cleaning, clothes laundering and list-making. Tomorrow we're going on holiday!

Yes, I still have a fair bit of packing to do. But we're driving up to Scotland so we can fit plenty into the back of the car, and we're staying in a little town in the Borders so will be able to buy any bits and pieces we forget (although I've been busily decanting teabags, coffee, sugar and salt into little containers).

It will be our first holiday in two and a half years so is well-deserved. And it's our first ever with Joe. In other firsts, he'll be visiting Edinburgh Zoo, playing on the beach and sleeping away from home (gulp). 

It reminds me of those holidays we used to go on as a child: packing up the car, taking picnic baskets (optimistically) and waterproofs and snacks for the journey. No 5am start though. And we've got the essentials - a bottle of something sparkling for our first night, a radio, travel Scrabble, playing cards, wellies, umbrellas, the camera, books, bucket and spade, woolly socks, flask...

Here's to lonely windswept beaches, castles, shortbread and maybe a little souvenir or two!

I'll be back here next week, hopefully refreshed and rosy-cheeked.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Notes on writing...

Since long before Joe came along, I've been making notes about my childhood - jotting down memories and details. I love writing. That's the main reason I keep this blog. Blogging requires a certain amount of discipline and effort so it has to be a pleasure or you just end up letting it tail off.

Over the weekend I decided to make a more concerted effort with my writing. The plan is to write a memoir and a bit of a family history. Yes, I'm maybe a bit young to be doing that but it's not an autobiography. I want to write about growing up, about my childhood. I want Joe to be able to read it when he's older, and to have a knowledge of his grandparents' lives too, and their parents before that.

So yesterday I bit the bullet, ignored the scary blank page facing me and just plunged straight in. No plans (I'm a bit of a one for procrastination), no list-making (another favourite pastime/diversion). I sat with an A4 notebook and a retractable pencil - my weapons of choice - and wrote and wrote and wrote. It just seemed to keep on coming. Time flew. Words flowed.

I'll admit to a little bit of preparation. I made a (secret) Pinterest board with quotes and tips and a few pretty photos of typewriters and so on. Amongst the useful advice were these gems:

"Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on." (Louis L'Amour).

Read a lot.

"Don't talk about it: write." (Ray Bradbury).

"We write to taste life twice." (Anais Nin).

"Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than grey matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory." (Jack London).

I have an old box filled with little things I wrote as a child - poems, stories, Christmas lists and so on. In that box are some exercise books from primary school detailing what we did on holiday and at weekends. And certificates and Brownie badges and all kinds of tiny scraps of the past. Along with many childhood photos and my still-good memory I'm all set to do this.

Most importantly of all, I'm not following any rules or writing with an audience in mind or feeling the need to impress anyone. I'm enjoying capturing memories and committing them to paper and saving them for Joe, so that one day he'll learn about the adventures, big and small, of his family and the details of our lives. 

So each day I'm taking time to just write. I'm loving every second of that time - cup of tea at my side, pencil in my hand. It's precious and important and will eventually produce something meaningful and personal. 

P.S. These old photos really make me think about how much Joe looks like me as a toddler!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

No place like it

Those of you who visit here regularly will be aware that there's been a lot of talk about home comforts recently, what with my mum returning home after being in hospital.

It got me thinking about what makes a home a home. And wondering, what are the little things that make our homes uniquely ours? The things you look forward to returning to when you've been away (even if it's a wonderful holiday you've been on). What are 'home comforts'?

I was at playgroup with Joe the other day and overheard two mums discussing furniture - specifically 'Barcelona' chairs, an iconic (therefore expensive) modern design which I must admit are not something I'd be particularly interested in owning. Sleek minimalism isn't my thing at all. I prefer things to have a story and secondhand finds - along with all their knocks and scratches - are far more interesting to me. Mismatched items, things which have been painted and re-painted and loved before by others.

But home comforts are about more than interior design and 'things'. Yes, it's all about being surrounded by objects you treasure and which remind you of good times and family and friends. I love books and bringing nature indoors, changing things with the seasons. I also appreciate handmade things: ceramics, garlands, drawings.

But a big part of being 'home' is knowing you can do what you like, when you like. It's about familiarity and comfort. Knowing what's in the cupboards. Having things to hand: knitting, teabags, biscuits. Your favourite cup. The vegetable knife you like using because it fits in your hand just right.

It's also about feeling safe. And knowing that once the front door's closed for the evening you have to venture no further. You can lounge around in woolly tights and an oversized, shapeless jumper. If the phone rings you can choose whether to answer it or not.

Some people find that pets make a home. I would agree with that to an extent but we're currently pet-free (preferring cats) - Joe's into tail-pulling at the moment so we'll give it a while yet. One day I'd like a few chickens and another moggy.

Once upon a time, I lived in a really beautiful house. My friend described it to others as being 'like something from a magazine'. It was: white throughout, a glamorous kitchen overlooking the woods, painted floors, more rooms than were needed. I was miserable there. I was in an unhappy situation so I moved out - and eventually ended up here. Now that really felt like a home.

I've never understood the concept you hear on so many TV homes shows: people saying they want their home to look and feel like a hotel. Beige. Impersonal. I don't get it.

The fact is, anywhere can be made into a home. It's about surrounding yourself with things you love, which have meaning. It's about feeling comfortable, physically and mentally. Home is something you can take with you because it's unique to each and every one of us.

And to repeat the oft-used (but so very true) sentiment: there is no place like it. Sometimes it takes being away to realise and appreciate that.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Happy Mondays

We've had a lovely weekend filled with lots of simple pleasures: food with family, country walks, Gardener's World, spotting the first lambs of the spring, line-dried sheets...

The sun has been out too. Yesterday we tidied the garden and revelled in the warmth, shedding our jackets and basking in the late afternoon rays.

Mondays are generally a bit blah but this weather makes them that much nicer. Once I'd got the morning errands out of the way (Post Office, doctor and such like) I came home, opened the windows wide and made a big batch of hummus. 

Joe was with the grandparents for a few hours so I made the most of it and did a few chores: handwashing delicates, hanging out washing and so on. With the kitchen door open, the sun pouring in and the radio on household tasks are - dare I say it? - enjoyable. Although I doubt this sentiment could be applied to cleaning the oven. Not that I did clean it. Another day, maybe.

When he came back home, Joe played in the garden before his afternoon nap. He likes poking around with sticks, running up and down and trying to get into the (locked) shed.

There are signs of life all over the place and it all looks so much better for having had a good tidy up.

Apparently the lovely weather is set to last most of the week. It really does lift your mood. I drove home earlier along the road which winds through the fields, windows down, and breathed it all in...

Here's to the sunshine.

I hope you have a good week.

Friday, 7 March 2014


So far March has been a busy month... lots of grey, blustery weather punctuated by bright spells and indoor colour.

Joe has been having a ball: his first attempt at painting yesterday at playgroup, new dinosaur friends, exploring outdoors... he adores books too (current obsession: pointing out birds whenever they appear in pictures). Not as popular are hot cross buns. I thought he'd love them toasted and buttered. He doesn't.

I managed the first chapter of Cranford last night (pictured above with my lovely Persephone Books bookmark). I can tell I'm going to enjoy it. The term 'Elegant economy' has already made it into my notebook. Wonderful stuff.

Daffodils continue to be the cut flower of choice. In fact they illustrate the concept of 'elegant economy' perfectly. I do prefer them in this state though, lime green and unopened.

We're eating cold-weather food still: soups, spicy dishes with chicken and pork, jacket potatoes. But salad's creeping back onto the menu too. This week it will be accompanying pizza, home made turkey burgers and chicken coated in breadcrumbs and Parmesan.

Weekend plans include a family pub lunch tomorrow, a trip to the Craft Barn and (fingers crossed) a walk in the hills on Sunday. 

I hope you enjoy yours whatever you have planned. 

Monday, 3 March 2014

The Year in Books: March

So much reading going on at the moment! Snatched moments with a magazine here and there, bedtime novels, blogs, searches through my cookery books to find something new...

Last month's book of choice was The Snow Child. I'd read a few positive reviews and spotted a not-very-dog-eared copy in the charity shop for £1.99 (bargain). It appealed because a book detailing the harsh, wintery landscapes of 1920s Alaska seemed just the thing for February. And the fairy-tale quality was another pull for me. I do love folk and fairy tales.

I must admit, the first few pages had me wondering whether I'd get along with the book. But I believe in giving things a fair crack of the whip and I'm glad I did. I really enjoyed it: the beautiful descriptions of life in a cabin in the woods, the elusive 'snow child' who enters the lives of the two main characters - even the cruelty of existence in such an inhospitable place.

I would recommend it most definitely as winter reading; I lent it to my mum recently and she can't put it down.

I always find recommending books a bit hit-and-miss; reading preferences are such a very personal thing but it's so nice when you pass a book on and someone really loves it.

The photos here are of an old book journal, purchased from Waterstones many moons ago and seldom used of late. I'll remedy that, I think. Lying underneath it is a copy of Country Living magazine (a little surprise from Jay yesterday) which will be savoured at leisure - sometime. I don't buy magazines very much any more but again, when they come into my possession I have a good read and pass them on for someone else to enjoy.

I'm currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and it's wonderful. Again, a page-turner which is beautifully and cleverly written. I'm devouring it and at this rate will have it finished within a few more days (well, evenings).

So when I was chasing Joe around perusing the library last week and spotted this nice copy of Cranford, I had to pick it up. It seems this whole Year in Books thing is giving me a bit of an appetite for the classics. I read Gaskell's Mary Barton as part of my degree course and thought it a bit of a drag, but suspect Cranford will be much more fun.

It's also interesting that I've already watched the TV dramatisation. Often the film or TV series never lives up to the book, but maybe experiencing things the other way round will allow me to picture characters, events and settings all the more clearly (I did enjoy watching Judi Dench et al)...

Hope everyone's getting plenty of reading in this month!
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