Monday, 30 November 2015


It's been quite the weekend. I'm now home, unpacked and still catching a stray whiff of woodsmoke on my jacket.

You see, on Saturday I headed off to the Yorkshire Dales  - yes, in this weather - to meet up with some fellow bloggers. I'm a contributor to the Folklings site so when Annie suggested we all get together for a short stay in two cabins at the Swinton Bivouac I jumped at the chance.

Once upon a time the idea of meeting up with seven strangers for a weekend would have sent me running for the hills; on this occasion I headed to the Dales. I wanted to meet other bloggers and I wanted a change of scene.

The drive over there was pretty dreadful. Torrential rain and high winds meant negotiating closed roads and flooded lanes but the incredible scenery more than made up for it. I arrived just as daylight was fading and made my way through the woods to the cabins and a warm welcome.

The cabins themselves don't have electricity so it was tealights and woodburning stoves all the way. And the site has a cafe and facilities should you need them.

Needless to say there was much eating, drinking and making merry. As well as Annie I made some fantastic new friends: Gemma, Jen, Emma, Lizzie, Katie and Cerys. It feels good to be part of a community like this.

We slept four to each cabin and I took the very top bunk from a triple-decker arrangement. A climb up a steep wooden ladder but at the top, a view of the living quarters below and the windswept trees above. I kept the skylight unshaded  - I mean, how often do you get to sleep high in a roofspace in the middle of a forest?

The lack of light pollution meant the stars - when the clouds fleetingly parted - were spectacular.

The following morning we headed out to the Druid's Temple, a folly situated high in the forest with far-reaching views across the Dales. The weather was incredibly wild; rain coming down horizontally and wind that threatened to tear off your hat. I didn't take my camera but the others did, so if you fancy seeing some pictures take a look at my fellow Folkling-ers blogs and Instagram feeds.

Of course, all this blisteringly fresh air and exhilaration necessitated a huge pub lunch. Roast beef: tick. Yorkshire pudding: tick. Chocolate fudge cake with cream: tick.

The drive home was wet but beautiful: ploughed fields, pheasants, circling rooks, tumbling waterfalls. The villages in that part of the world are very pretty indeed with stone cottages and double-fronted houses, little bridges and farms. Some had Christmas wreaths on their front doors which, along with their smoking chimneys, made you think, 'Ooooh'.

So, there we have it: my escape into the woods. New friends, a bit of adventuring, a lot of inspiration and a feeling that an off-grid hut could very well be the closest thing to paradise.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Colour Collaborative: November: Wood

There were lots of potential angles for this post. I have wooden jewellery, Polish trinket boxes in carved and painted wood, all manner of furniture (including my much-loved, shabby old dresser). Joe's room is filled with wooden train sets and cars and musical instruments. Some of my most precious things are made of wood, like the little red Dala horse and a set of Matryoshka dolls.

I'm partial to a bit of peeling paint on an old front door or garden gate. Or the way cedar fades, as it weathers, from bright chestnut to soft silver.

I also (at the moment) am suffering from serious wood fatigue. Buying and renovating this old house has been a big undertaking. All those beams and doors (crafted to fit the tiny doorways, so replacing them wasn't really an option). All varnished a dark, treacly black. Much as we'd have liked to sandblast those beams back to pale, virgin oak we had neither the time nor the budget. So all that wood has been sanded, filled and painted. Some of it took many coats. Some of it's still on the 'yet to be completed' list.

Don't even get me started on skirting boards, ballustrades, spindles and bannisters. Or the dust which seems to keep appearing despite endless hoovering and wiping.

As I said, wood fatigue.

So instead I'm thinking about wood of the wild kind. Wood you find outdoors.

Wood is never 'just' brown. I do like a birch tree with papery bark, black markings scarring the creamy trunks. Or the stump of a recently-felled tree with concentric rings running through the clean, damp timber.

And all those mosses and funghi which make wood their home (and host). Shades of verdigris and emerald green. Burnt orange and sulphur yellow. And the surprising splashes of colour you sometimes find on decaying wood, like the bright red Scarlet Elf Cup or beautifully striped 'turkey tail'.

I can never resist photographing a logpile. Textures, shades, form... and the thought of a fire burning merrily in a little house somewhere.

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, 21 November 2015


How long has it been? A few weeks? Something like that.

We moved house. 

It took three days of to-ing and fro-ing in that awful weather last weekend. Abigail, was it? Howling gales, torrential rain. It was not fun.

But we're here and despite our joiner-related woes and the lovely fresh paint being scuffed and marked and the chimney needing repointing (we have the damp patches to prove it) - this little cottage is now our home. Yes, things are in a state of chaos. And yes, every single piece of furniture suddenly leaning a little bit takes some getting used to.

It's a very warm house though. Just as well, really. This morning - finally - we woke to blue skies. No rain. But snow (secret 'Hurrah!'). I did a little walk behind the house and it is extremely cold outdoors. And perilously icy underfoot. I trod carefully and marvelled at how pretty everything had become. It almost makes up for those winds tearing the lovely autumnal leaves from the trees.

No, that's not our house. It's one I admire though.

There's an Instagram hashtag, #cornersofmyhome. I'm not trying to be cryptic or anything - the fact is, it's quite dark and gloomy (the days seem to be getting very short very quickly). So no photos of the house. I tried, but low ceilings and beams and small windows, coupled with the poor light levels, resulted in some rubbish grainy photos.

The farmer next door built his house very close to ours so it casts a lot of shadow down the gable end. I doesn't bother me too much, but like I said - not great for photos at this time of year. 

I will try again, but in the meantime I've taken a few pictures of little details. And a horse.

Thank you for being patient. I'm slowly making my way back to Instagram and blogging. Moving house really does turn everything upside down, quite literally, and on top of that I have a craft fair in a week and a half so am flat out trying to get plenty of stock together.

There will be more house-related posts coming up. And I will be reading other blogs too. Things will settle down - in fact, by mid December we're stopping. No more decorating or tip runs or any of that stuff. Just a few weeks of festive relaxation.

Hope you're having a great weekend (and keeping warm).

Thursday, 5 November 2015


Yes, another one of those posts. Lots of pictures, lots of scrappy bits of this and that. 

Firstly: a big thank you for all your lovely comments. Despite me not replying recently, I do read and appreciate each and every one of them. Secondly: I'm getting around to responding to my emails. Apologies for the delay. And lastly: for those who've ordered personalised paintings - it's all in hand and I'll be in touch very soon to work out the details with you.

Phew! And now: goings-on chez Mitenska. 

The new house is taking shape despite several hiccups (the joiner has suddenly decided he's starting another job next week so some things won't get done. I'm very annoyed with him but we're only paying him for what he's finished). Things we've had delivered have been the wrong size/missing a component etc. None of the paints we've chosen look anything like they did on the colour cards. Yes, we should have bought tester pots. Yes, it's too late to do anything about it. But the bathroom needs repainting at some point as the colour's just all wrong.

We move in on Friday the 13th (I know). It's a week away. We're spending any spare - i.e. Joe-free time - painting and sanding and filling. Jay's up there every night after work. We're worn out. I suspect December will be spent relaxing and taking a well-earned breather.

I have actually slept a bit better lately. Strange, considering all this panic. But I've realised that making time for the little things is so important. A walk through the trees, a cup of tea and a biscuit (dark chocolate-covered ginger, my favourite), a flick through a magazine.

We spent Halloween at the village cricket club. Joe went as a spider and went a bit mad on the sweets. He also dragged us onto the dancefloor for 'Bat Out of Hell', which was rather mortifying (we hadn't drank enough). I made some cards with him and we posted them to his grandparents as he's quite keen on posting things.

I took him to a yoga session for preschoolers on Thursday. We lasted five minutes then left. Fortunately my friend and her little girl left too. It seems our little ones aren't serene enough for such touchy-feely pursuits; they were bent on disrupting the whole thing so we headed for a cafe instead. To be honest, drinking coffee and munching on biscotti is a lot more fun than toddler yoga.

Joe's into satsumas at the moment. Although we go to the market for fruit and veg, Aldi currently seem to do the best satsumas. And apparently they've pledged to stock a large range of British-grown produce too. So that's good to know when I can't face shivering under the dripping tarpaulin on a Saturday morning.

I made Lancashire hotpot the other day. It was good. No, I didn't add kidneys. Nobody here likes them; in fact the only way I can cope with offal is when it's in the form of pate. Strange really as I do love black pudding (and we all know what that's made of).

My thoughts are turning to Christmas. There are TV channels dedicated to festive films. People are asking for present ideas for Joe. I keep intending to put a bit of money away each week - this year's going to be a bit no-frills because the house has cost us a lot of money. We're not quite talking lumps of coal and an orange, but extravagance won't be our buzzword. Home-made and simple maybe. We'll be settled in to the new place by then so can spend time just enjoying it. 

Even if the joiner says the plumber told him someone once hung themselves from our stairs.

Not sure I'm buying that. I know the family who inhabited it for the previous forty years or so. And the plumber hasn't been living in the village that long. Sorry if I sound a bit parochial... to be honest, Gary the joiner does love to look on the dark side. He regularly refers to the house as 'the money pit' and sighs that he'll 'never fit one of these kitchens again'.

I was laughing to myself yesterday when I heard him singing along to 'Wake Me Up Before You Go Go'. The most upbeat of songs, the most miserable of sods.

We seem to spend a lot of time up at the farm and animal shelter. Joe still loves Wallace the goat and that means a visit at least once a week. It's only up the road, a two minute drive away. On Monday we went along and all the goats were outside but Wallace wasn't there. In a state of mild panic, I said a secret little prayer that he hadn't keeled over and gone to the big enclosure in the sky.

Fortunately that wasn't the case. We found him taking it easy indoors, bedded down in a deep pile of straw. Joe ignored him and started telling me about Jackson, the goat residing in the stall next door. Fickle.

It's set to be a busy November. There's a bonfire party on Saturday evening which we may or may not attend. I really need to get some packing done. The house needs to be as near finished as possible before we move in. And I have several commissions to work on.

At the end of the month I'm going away for a night or two (more on that when I return).

I hope Christmas fever hasn't crept up on you too early, and that you have a great Friday and weekend.

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