I love our weekends as a little family, all together, time to just be. This weekend we had my godson Ben’s ninth birthday party in the afternoon. Jessica just loves Ben and his sister Lucy. After breakfast, she pulled her welly boots on and went out into the back garden in her pyjamas, and found him a stone. ‘Ben’s stone’ she said, and held it tight all day until we got to his house and we could give it to him. (We did also take a more traditional birthday gift!)

Sunday saw me steal away an hour or so for tea and cake with a friend. We have a Patisserie Valerie in town now, and it was so nice to spend a quiet hour drinking tea and eating cake.

When I got home I think I burned off every last calorie and then some. You know how some jobs start with ‘I’ll just…’ And then develop from there? Well I’ve been meaning to have a good sort out of the garden for a while, work out which toys and play equipment will last another year and which need to be retired or replaced. There is a wretched hedge which needs a fierce prune, the recycling area needed rearranging, and the courtyard by the kitchen door had a lot of little weeds and flowers and the like sprouting where they shouldn’t. Oh, and when a pigeon drops dead and is then savaged by a neighbourhood cat, the feathers don’t just blow away as I had hoped.

So I thought I would put on some rubber gloves and pick up the feathers, which I did. Which led to me pulling out the recycling bins to get behind them…which led to weeding….and two hours later I was very tired but the courtyard looks so much better. 

Now warmer weather is coming, I can’t wait to spend more time on the garden.

I feel a bit scattered at the moment, I have lots of things going on here and there. I am reading The a Essex Serpent for book club, and also the Witchfinder’s Sister for the same (we are missing a meeting so doing two books for the next one). I was lucky enough to hear the authors talk recently; they were both very inspiring. I am knitting and crocheting squares for a story blanket playmat swap. Women from around the world are taking part which I find very exciting! You make seven sets of the same square, then send them off, and the host sends you an assortment back. I am doing a ploughed field in uneven rib stitch using hands pun alpaca. Then I had the idea to make a square to lay in top to represent the crops which have grown, in crochet loop stitch. I really like the effect but means I am making double the amount! 

On top of that I am doing my big declutter for lent, thinking about new housekeeping systems to put in place, planning for Easter….and getting over a nasty bout of tonsillitis!

Just reading that makes me feel tired! Plus it is WI this evening. Appropriately given yesterday’s activities, our talk is about gardening this evening! We are planning to do quite a bit of planting and growing with Jessica this year, so I am looking forward to it.

Now, time for a cup of tea…

Seasons Turning, Medicine For The Soul

The back door is open, letting in the early spring breeze. A load of laundry is pegged out on the line to flutter dry.

I am sitting on the sofa in my dressing gown sipping earl grey tea and eating toast with marmalade. Medicine both for the soul and the wretched sore throat and headache which I am suffering with.

It feel a long time since I felt well. Suddenly, thinking about it (I never have time to just sit and think anymore) I realise I lost the baby in November and then have had a cough or cold coming or going ever since. 

I feel the tide turning with the seasons, see the snowdrops, crocuses and violets nestled in the grass. There has been a constant vase of daffodils on my mantlepiece since February.

Walking home from work or an outing with Jessica, it is still light at 5:00. With the coming of spring, I feel my spirits lifting.

I started a ’40 Bags In 40 Days’ decluttering challenge for Lent. I have nearly finished the bathroom. It feels so freeing to just have the products that work and I use in there. I gave away all the samples I had been saving, the products I had tried but not liked but felt wasteful to throw away. It feels good. I am a natural squirrel, I find it hard to let go of things. But I am determined to go through the house from top to bottom and just keep enough. The things that work, the things I love. I live 5 minutes walk from two corner shops, 10 minutes walk from the main shops, 15 minutes walk from John Lewis. There is a 24 hour supermarket nearby. I need to stop saving things ‘in case’. I can’t think of many things I couldn’t get fairly easily and quickly if I needed to. And yet the urge to hold on to things is strong.

I keep things ‘in case’, because they were gifts, because I spent money on them, because I attach memories and feelings to things.

I’ll never be a minimalist, but it is time for this squirrel lady to get her stores in order!

It isn’t just the winter into spring which is a season turning. At the end of the month I turn 35. I feel the coming pulling tide of my own change of season. It feels signifcant this year. Like I should have decided who I am, what I want to do, to be. Much of our home is almost accidental. Things just are. I want more intention in our home, more design raher than patterns we have just fallen in to.

I feel like everything is in bud at the moment, ready to unfurl and blossom.

Happy spring, everybody!

A Dinner Back In Time

I just love living in an older house. I often wonder about who has lived here before us, what kind of lives they led, what these walls have seen. In particular, I wonder who this house gave shelter to in the war years. Did a housewife live here with her husband, or was he young enough to be away fighting?

Sometimes as I am walking back from town, I realise I am retracing the steps of whoever lived here before us, and I imagine a housewife with a basket on her arm, going home to cook the supper.

Tonight I made a dinner which would have been familiar to her – a Woolton Pie inspired dish.

I peeled and diced a variety of vegetables – you could vary these, they are just what I had:

1 each of leeks, potatoes and celery sticks.

2 each of carrots and parsnips.

I sautéed in a little butter, then covered with boiling water and stirred in a teaspoon of marmite (I hate marmite on its own but it is useful in cookery).

I set them to simmer gently for 15 minutes, and made a small amount of white sauce. I melted a knob of butter in a pan, stirred in 2tsp of flour, and then added milk slowly, stirring well until I had a thick White sauce.I seasoned with white pepper, nutmeg, and oregano. It would have been dried mixed herbs but I had used them up earlier.

When the timer for the vegetables went off I drained them (saving the liquid for soup making) then stirred in the white sauce. I added a small amount of leftover cooked chicken which I had roughly cubed.

I divided this mixture between two individual enamel pie dishes and a ramekin, then sprinkled a little cheese over the top. I added short crust pastry lids, made three slits in the lid of each with a sharp knife and then glazed with a little milk. I baked them in a hot oven for 15 minutes. They were delicious,mbut I think the oven needed to be a touch hotter or they needed 5 minutes more to get the pastry a richer colour.

I love dinners like this, taking a recipe as inspiration and following the thread of your thoughts and inspiration to make it your own.

I was inspired by this blog and recipe today.

I wonder what my wartime housewife housemate would have thought of it?

At Last

At last, the clock has chimed, the year has turned. I can breathe again. The pain isn’t any less, but I can say now that I lost my baby last year, not last month. I lost my Dad last year. I can start to look ahead again, move forward.

2016 was a hard year for me. I dread to think how many hours Carl worked, how much time we lost.

But the sun rises and sets, the moon rises to watch over us through the night, the stars twinkle, and then the cycle begins again. Gently, slowly, we are ushered in to a new minute, a new hour, a new day, a new year, a new life.

This year is going to be a slower, simpler, more joyful year for me. Of paring back so I can more fully embrace and enjoy what remains. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking and learning lately. Celebrate the Rhythm of Life has widened and deepens my understanding of Steiner Waldorf philosophy and the importance of rhythm in our lives. I feel like I have spent the best part of a year drawing that information in and percolating it, and that now it is time to start living it.

I was laying in a candlelit bath just now, thinking of all the good things which lay in the year ahead. All the things I want to do with my little family, the meals to cook, the celebrations, special days, little happy moments to create. While I was thinking ahead over the year a thought came unbidden into my mind. It seemed to rise up from somewhere deep inside me.

This will be my love letter to the new year.

No resolutions for pounds lost or saved or miles run or things given up. I will take this gift of a fresh year, and use it well. This will be my reason, my all. To write a song of seasons melding into each other, of quiet cups of tea savoured and sipped, of chubby little starfish hands being stroked, of strawberries being picked, of candles being lit. A litany of breathing in her smell, warm from the bath. Of serving summer salads and roasted winter roots. Of hot baths and cool iced tea. Autumn leaves falling. Daffodils dancing in the breeze.

Join me in living and loving this year to the full?

Full

I was reading this lovely post when I should have been doing any other number of things, and some words stood out…my head is full.

Oh how ai identify with this, and I suspect many others of us too. My head is full of presents to buy, when they need to be wrapped and dispatched for, cards which have not yet been written, an address book unlocated, which evenings are busy, which evenings are left to do everything left to be done…

My head is full.

It is odd, I feel squeezed by the pressure this year, and yet stretched thin too, all at the same time.

I made air dry clay stars last year. I can definitely recommend doing it.minhave some air dry clay, bought for ornaments that won’t now get made this year. Instead of what I had planned, I will be making something different with Jessica…I have in mind some salt dough tea light holders.

There are parcels yet to arrive some yet to be ordered.

And yet, the tree is up. Tomorrow we will be doing a lovely Christmassy activity with Jessica. We have been to carol concerts and Jessica asks every morning if it is ‘my Christmas Day yet?’.

It just feels like so much to do and so little time to do it in. The thing I most want for Christmas this year is to just sit down quietly by the lights of the tree with a new book and a cup of tea and half an hour to enjoy them in. The scent of a freshly peeled satsuma clinging to my fingers as I turn the crisp pages. 

My neck feels a little achey and tense all the time these days. I hadn’t realised how utterly impossible it is to get anything done with a 2 year old. When I do have a clear day, I don’t, because I have her with me. While she is jolly good company, she also I strapped herself and wiggled out of the pushchair in John Lewis and ran amok…in the very expensive cosmetic section. I needed a lay down after that. On my list it was written as ‘perfume – JL’. If only it had been that simple!

I am sitting here now while Carl bathes Jessica, and I cannot for the life of me decide where to start. Tidy up the toys? See how far I got down the list today? Message a friend about tomorrow? Carry on crocheting the three soft toys which will be Christmas gifts? Start writing cards? Check on my long list of amazon orders? I think I am paralysed by overwhelm.

So I will make a cup of tea, and try and remember to breathe.

I love the whole season of Christmas, but sometimes, it builds up to such a big thing in your mind that it is hard to remember that after all, it is just one day, spent with family and friends. People who will forgive you if you don’t get done all that you hoped to. 

If you too feel you have too much to do….pause for tea, please.

December Evenings

The evening is like a match which has been pinched out win damp fingers, somehow slightly smokey,hazy and fizzled. It has been misty all day, and now the mist is hidden by or has evaporated in the wake if eveningfall, leaving behind only smeared fingerprints of dampness on the pavements and windowpanes.

The orange glow of the street lights make fuzzy halos and seem to cast more shadows than light.

Here and there, people have their lights on but curtains open, so you can peep in as you walk last and see their Christmas decorations. I love these little glimpses into other peoples homes. They remind me somehow of windows on an advent calendar. It cheers me too, to see homes with advent wreathed on their doors. 

Jessica is exhausted from nursery and then soft play, and has fallen into a crotchety doze. I should wake her, I should. But I will listen to her snuffly breathing as I sit in a room lit only by the lights on our Christmas tree. The kettle has boiled, and a cup of tea awaits. I hear cars going past outside, the slickness on the road sticking to their wheels. They are going places, busily. My Tuesday is always busy, I get Jessica to nursery for 7:45 then on to an office where I do some freelance admin, and then back to collect her, and then on with the rest of our day. So this little pause is welcome. Sip, reflect, sign, settle. There are cards to be written, gifts to be ordered and wrapped. Gifts to be made. But just for now, my mind which feels like a well shaken snow globe is going to be allowed to come to a whirling rest, just for now.

Flaneuse

Ahh, the French have a way with words, do they not? I am sure I have shared the story before of the Frenchman who came to my desk to join the library, and told me his name was ‘gee-bearrrrr’. He almost purred it. When I picked up his application form, I had to smile when I saw he had written ‘Gilbert’!

And so, although not a direct translation, flaneuse sounds so much better than ‘Jack of All Trades (Master of None) which is what I think I may be.

I am not fishing for compliments here, more evolving an understanding of myself. I crochet, I knit, I do a little embroidery, a little sewing, dabble in card making…the list goes on.

But I don’t have one grand passion which defines me, which acts as a shorthand for the essence of me.

I think of Lucy of Attic24, I immediately think of colourful stripey crochet. Emma of Silver Pebble is intrinsically linked with her beautiful silver jewellery, cast from nature. Sarah of Mitenska has a beautiful atyle and again is inspired by nature for her beautiful prints and line drawings. Sharon Blackman has a glorious folk art fabric collage style. Her daughters Georgia and Alie work with patterned surface design and flowers respectively. 

But me….as I say, I dabble. While I know that of course the women above don’t do their one thing exclusively and nothing else, they do have that one thing that they have made their own.

At a party, they have a distinct thing they can say they ‘do’. I haven’t found that yet for myself, but I want to. I sometimes think perhaps if I chose one thing I already do and expand on it…but I feel instead I need to dabble more, and see if I can find the thing to make my own, or hopefully, the thing which makes me its own.

Alas funds are low and time is short these days, so while I would love to book on to as many courses and workshops as I can find, I suspect that won’t be practical.

I’ll have to find other ways, but oh, how I am looking forward to. The main thing for me is to get out of my head, out of thinking about things and doing them. I want to end the year with things I have made and created rather than just thought about. I am hoping to join Lucy of Attic 24’s blanket crochet-along in January. I like the idea of starting the year doing something creative and while my hands are busy my mind can be planning other creative endeavours.

Because that is the thing…I want to grow my wings and go from following patterns to creating things. That is the spark that I am hoping to kindle.

I do have one more thought forming. I have been following a wonderful website called Mothering Arts, and I would love to train with them at some point, and lead nurturing groups for mothers. 

Mothering leads me to another thought. I took Jessica to storytime at Foyles this morning which was lovely as always. I happened to park our pushchair by the pregnancy and birth section. There were 60 books in it. Sadly 1 in 5 pregnancies end with a miscarriage, so by that reckoning there should have been at least 12 books on miscarriage…there wasn’t a single one.