Sunday, 29 June 2014

June in pictures

I know we're not quite at the end yet, but June's been a hectic month: packing, arranging, notifying, lifting and carrying, tidying...

But now we're here. This was our first Sunday where we felt life was getting to where we want it to be: peaceful, relaxed. We had a lie-in (well, until 8am. That is most definitely a lie-in when you have a toddler in the house), had bacon butties and took a leisurely walk along the old railway line. Joe had a meander and poked about with a stick, and was beyond excited to see the steam trains chugging past at regular intervals.

So my little look back at June is a day early because I'm taking part in a Blog Hop and will be posting my contribution on Tuesday - come and see!

Other than the all-consuming house move it's been a month of: roses... evening walks in the sunshine... elderflower cordial drinking... wild strawberry and gooseberry(!) picking... de-cluttering... family catch-ups... outdoor lunches (and dinners)... reading...

Meeting new people... watching Joe get giddy about having so much space... getting to know the neighbours (all friendly - phew)... shopping at the market... eating too many meals from the local chip shop...

And gradually settling in. 

I'm looking forward to the next couple of weeks. Being closer to my mum means we get to spend more time together. There's a lot of blogging-related stuff in the pipeline too. Oh, and I've spotted a great big patch of wild raspberries which should be ripening soon. Wild raspberries taste like nothing else - I love them.

I hope you had a wonderful June.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Midsummer meanderings

... Of both a figurative and literal nature.

Despite the (slowly diminishing) chaos indoors, we've been unable to stay inside for very long in the evenings. The long days mean we go out for walks before Joe's bedtime and make the most of the sunshine. One of the reasons we were so keen to move back was the countryside around here and the countless footpaths which take you through it. You can go for a 20 minute stroll or, if you're feeling so inclined (and there are plenty of inclines in these parts) you can just keep going for hours.

Some evenings we wander up into the village.

Others we go out into the fields.

There are nearby tracks which take you through the trees - perfect when the sun's low in the sky and the light's twinkling and shifting down through them, illuminating little spots here and there.

Interestingly enough, I recently came across a list of words on Pinterest which have no English translations. One is komorebi; Japanese for the sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees.

Haymaking already. It's often wet and rainy in these here Pennines so they're quite literally making it while the sun shines.

In more domestic news, I've somehow managed to put up a washing line which goes from the back of the house, through the yard and across the little lane behind. It's a whopper. Three clothes props required.

I know I sound a bit like an anorak but I don't care. These are the things that make me happy.

We've joined the local library and already been to a few playgroups. People are very friendly and I've offered to help out at the one at the crumbling Methodist church up the road. It's run by some sweet little old ladies who dress up for the occasion and play the piano at the end of the session. Watching them do the 'hokey cokey' on their frail legs... it was almost too much!

I've got so many things to catch up on yet but the blissful midsummer sunshine has got me thinking that they can wait. All in good time - a little bit here and there and we're gradually getting organised.

Finally, thank you for all your good wishes over the past few weeks. I hope you're enjoying the summer and I'll be catching up on everyone's news from Blog land this week.


Sunday, 22 June 2014


We're here! We now have an internet connection, phone and everything.

The past five days or so have been a complete whirlwind, what with last minute panics and packing, moving everything, and trying to get our lives in some sort of order whilst carrying on with the usual daily must-dos.

We've also had several visitors to the new place, a couple of outings and some administrative necessities (bank, solicitor etc.) to deal with so it feels as though our feet have barely touched the ground.

The weather has been so hot and sunny we've eaten all our meals outdoors in our new back yard. In fact, after getting the kitchen organised, the outside was next on the list. We've filled it with potted plants, herbs and vegetables all now growing happily away in the warmth.

There's still so much to do. Boxes lie unopened in most rooms; clothes need sorting through and my new work space is in complete disarray. But the weather! We just can't stay indoors at the moment. 

Joe's dealt with the move extremely well and is loving having all this extra room to run around and explore - I'm finding it really useful actually; there's nothing quite like neatly filling an empty cupboard only to have it all emptied out again when your back's turned...

Hopefully things will gradually find their place and the dust will (literally) settle soon. I have lots of bloggy plans and intend to make a start this coming week.

In the meantime, a few of the things I will (and won't) miss about our old place:

Friends - you know who you are!
Jay's family being close by
Our local playgroups and the nice people I met at them

And then...
The horrible neighbours (both sets)
Limescale from the water
The ridiculously tiny house.

It's so exciting to be here. Fingers crossed we'll make lots of happy memories.

Right, back to those boxes (for such a small house, we certainly managed to accumulate an awful lot of stuff).

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Upping sticks

I hope you had a lovely weekend (and are enjoying these last few hours of it)...

Ours has been spent packing boxes and ticking things off to-do lists, making those irritating (for us, not them) phone calls to notify all the different insurers/energy providers/authorities of our new address, and generally trying to make sure we don't forget anything important.

We collect the keys to our new place on Wednesday and move in on Thursday. There's still a lot to do.

Anyway, I may well not post on here until late in the week - assuming we'll be online by then, of course. But I will still be visiting my favourite blogs and reading about what everyone else has been up to. And, of course, I'll be jotting down my ideas for future posts. A notebook and pen will be kept about my person along with the other essentials (phone, camera, Tunnock's Teacakes). Oh, and Paracetamol.

I have cake to buy - the baking things are all boxed up - ready for our last morning at the local playgroup, and a bottle of something sparkling for that moment when everyone's gone and we lock the front door in our new home and collapse.

See you on the other side!

Sarah :)

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Unashamedly old-fashioned

For a while now there's been a noticeable shift in values. Not everywhere, but you can't fail to have spotted it: books, magazines, TV programmes, shops all seem to be jumping on board. Suddenly we're hearing words like 'provenance' and 'local' and 'craftsmanship'. Maybe it's down to the recession, maybe it's a gradual awareness of how a throwaway society doesn't really make you feel fulfilled. Perhaps it's the realisation that 'stuff' - material possessions and endless shopping trips - don't keep you happy for very long.

It's trendy to grow your own, to be a foodie who likes locally-sourced ingredients with minimal food miles attached. And easy as it would be to sneer and cynically dismiss all that as 'middle class' and 'townie' it is, for me, to be celebrated. Even if it has made it that much harder to get your hands on an allotment. And I'm diplomatically ignoring the fact that the Ramsbottom farmer's market - despite selling the same produce as it always has - has been re-named the 'Artisan Market'. Ahem.

Anyway, my point is this: I like old-fashioned and simple. I like the familiar, the comforting and the functional. We grew up eating meals cooked from scratch and toasting bread in front of the fire and sleeping under feather quilts passed down from my grandmother.

For me, pleasure isn't about endless consumption or keeping up with the latest technology. I don't bother with glossy magazines any more. I get the most enjoyment from the garden, from cooking seasonally (the elderflower cordial was a success, hooray), from spending time with loved ones, reading good books, making things, being outdoors, frugality.

Apologies if all this sounds twee. It isn't supposed to. It's just how things are around here.

Anyway, moving on from philosophising... What have we been up to of late? I'm afraid it's another of those 'midweek miscellany' posts as we're gearing up to move house next week (I'm ridiculously excited) and things are a bit this-and-that at the moment. So at the weekend we finally bit the bullet and cleared out the loft.

A whole lot of recycling and charity shop donating ensued. But - to my surprise and delight - I managed to unearth a few treasures. Like one of those very quilts I mentioned earlier. A bit musty but nothing a good old airing outside can't remedy (I've just dashed out into a thunderstorm to bring it in again actually. Crazy weather).

This one's very heavy; pink on one side, yellow on the other. I once had one which was pink and apple green but sadly that disappeared long ago.

Also lurking up there were some of my old books. They're a bit tatty but still treasured, particularly the poetry books: A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and Hilda Boswell's Treasury of Poetry. The latter illustrated both, and it's a wonderful nostalgia trip flicking through them again.

Speaking of old-fashioned, I'm a geranium lover. Pinks and whites out in the garden, big red ones on the kitchen windowsill. They have to be in terracotta pots. I don't know why. They just do.

We have seedlings coming through (peas, I think)... podding peas is another of those quiet, absorbing, repetitive tasks I love.

And I plan to make some sorrel soup. We used to eat it at my grandma's house - the lemony flavour of it cooked with potatoes, soured cream and stock is a food memory well worth revisiting (speaking of which, I'll be posting about food memories in a future post. It's still at the notebook-jottings stage).

Another simple pleasure: picking the dinky Alpine strawberries. Unfortunately a certain little boy has discovered the joys of this too and has yet to differentiate between ripe and unripe. Basically, they're being picked before they're ready to eat. He'll end up with stomach ache.

The satisfaction of harvesting your own food isn't to be underestimated, even if it's just a few snippings of herbs. Thyme has been added to several dishes of late and the oregano is growing like mad - a liberally-sprinkled tomato salad will accompany tonight's meal.

So, despite things gradually getting busier with the imminent move, we're still managing to find some quiet times for early evening walks, good eating and garden pottering. The things that are keeping us grounded during a notoriously stressful event.

I hope you're having a good June thus far and finding time to do what you enjoy.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Friday good things

It's been the usual mixed week: mixed-up weather; moments of craziness (toddler-chasing) and quiet (toddler napping); household chores; bedtime reading (I find myself staying awake far too late because the whole Cazalet saga has me turning just one more page before lights out).

So, to reflect my patchwork week, here are some of the little things that have contributed towards making it a good one.

Firstly: a little bunch of eryngium, or sea-holly. I love the subtle blue of it and its spikiness and the fact that it dries nicely. Jay commented 'You like colourless things, don't you?' and that got me thinking. 

It's not 'colourless' things I like. I love turquoise and mustard and acid green. But I love muted, natural colours even more, particularly in the house. Natural as in landscape colours: greys, mossy greens, smoke blues, heather. 

There's more floral stuff going on in the garden. Again, Jay likes the bright oranges and reds but I tend to go for the plants with purply foliage and softer colours. These dahlias appeal to me with their white petals with a violet streak running through them.

After drizzling for most of yesterday, the early evening weather picked up and the blustery wind died down to a light breeze. We headed out after we'd eaten and went for a wander in the last of the sunshine.

There were a lot of foals about. I love horses. Grown-up ones and baby ones.

I'm making elderflower cordial for the first time ever (thanks, Sue, for the recipe). I even managed to buy some reasonably-priced bottles with stoppers on my supermarket trip today. They were reduced - I suppose it isn't really preserving season.

Speaking of purchases... on Monday I had some Joe-free time and went to spend the rest of my birthday money. I went underwear shopping. Sounds glamorous. Let's call it necessary.

I don't know why but I always see buying new underwear (the pretty kind, not the serviceable sort) as being a bit of a frivolity. Yes, I'm aware many people consider it an important part of feeling good about yourself and all that but when you're watching the pennies it's one of those things that is often reserved for birthdays and Christmas.

Anyway, I picked up some very nice things and enjoyed the luxury of a child-free shopping trip.

I also bought this 'S' mug, which I've had my eye on for ages. It's nice and big and comforting to cradle in your hands whilst sipping your tea.

I  received some vouchers for my birthday too, so I got a new denim jacket. The last one was donated to a charity shop after a slightly over-zealous wardrobe de-cluttering session, and I've regretted it ever since. Another lesson learned: take a bit of time to think about whether you really want to let something go.

Plans for the weekend include lots of good eating and - drum roll - we're finally starting our packing ready for the move. First up: the loft. I'm looking forward to rediscovering a few long-lost books and whatever else has been hiding up there...

Happy Friday - have a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Year in Books: June

May was a funny month for books. I read, as mentioned here, The Crow Road by Iain Banks. It was a bit of a departure for me but that's never a bad thing. Male author, story set in recent times... I did enjoy it. Not enough to say I'd read it again, and I wouldn't describe it as one of those books you just can't put down, but it was good. Funny in places, interesting characters. I'd say (if I were to mark it out of five, which isn't something I generally do) it's probably a solid three.

Despite The Crow Road being quite a lengthy novel, I finished it in plenty of time and found myself at a bit of a literary loose end. A small amount of my birthday money went on a couple of books but while I was waiting for them to drop through the letterbox I realised I had nothing much to read.

Never a good situation to be in.

Once upon a time I used to pick up interesting old poetry books on my travels. Some I've read, some I haven't. And at the bottom of a dusty pile was 'A Countryman's Anthology'. I'd never even opened it before. I was in for a nice surprise. The pages are beautifully illustrated and the paper is tissue-thin and very delicate. My copy dates from 1946; the poems are themed and dreamily evocative.

My birthday books arrived a few days later: The Darling Buds of May (just because), and Elizabeth Jane Howard's The Light Years.

I've read the Larkin books many times but want to have my own set. The Darling Buds is still an absolute joy to read and I devoured it in three evenings. The food, the countryside, the characters - wonderful bedtime reading (if you don't mind going to sleep hungry and fantasising about fried breakfasts and roast goose).

I wanted to try the Cazalet books as I've heard some of the dramatisations of various chronicles on Woman's Hour. Elizabeth Jane Howard is by all accounts a very good writer and, several pages in, I have to say I'm definitely getting along with The Light Years (despite the daunting list of characters which greets you at the start of the book).

It's right up my street in terms of era (I love anything set in the early to mid-twentieth century) and subject matter (family drama). So yes, back to the familiar. Interesting, really - we're gearing up for the house move back home to the hills and I've returned to my reading comfort zone. Sometimes it's a good thing.

Joining in with Laura's Year in Books.
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