Overwhelm

I cannot believe that I am writing this in October, but I am feeling overwhelmed by Christmas already.

Is it just me?

I don’t know if I am noticing it more this year because Jessica is a bit older, or if there is genuinely more this year. Our own plans and lists of to-do are simpler than they have ever been.

But on face book and by email, I am overwhelmed with adverts and posts and friends tagging me in events for children. It isn’t just visits to Father Christmas, but breakfast with him, Christmas concerts, Christmas sessions of toddler classes, Christmas theme events at the zoo, at the country parks…

In several wooden toys pages I am a member of, people are showing their ‘stashes’ of several hundreds of pounds worth of gifts for their children. Wooden nativity sets are selling out as soon as they are being put on websites. Levers thing feels just too, too much.

We are planning a lovely, simple, pared back Christmas, a slow Christmas, handcrafted with love. I feel it is right for us and our family, and know that giving Jessica time and space to take it all in is better for her than rushing her from one activity to the next to the next.

And yet….there is a tiny voice in my brain which whispers yes, but is she missing out? 

And so, may I present my cures for festive overwhelm? Firstly a pot of tea. And most definitely not gingerbread tea, and there shall be no festive mug in sight. Not because I am a humbug, but because it is October. Then play Sufjan Stevens rendition of Joy To The World. I find it soothing, and it reminds me of what Christmas is about. Buy the Country Living Magazine Christmas Edition. It speaks to me so deeply, the simple beautiful images, the decorating with greenery, the handmade cards, the handcrafted gifts. And just now, I am off to the bath with The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater. His writing is so descriptive and evocative, and his style is so simple that it is the perfect antidote to the noise and busyness out there.

I am going to soak these up, and remind myself, simple, simple, simple. Our cards will be hand painted, our gifts will be hand made. Jessica and I will bake biscuits together, and make paper chains together. We won’t rush, we won’t hurry. In time, there will be a tree. There will be candles on the breakfast table, and walks in the frosty air.

I can understand people starting now, so they can spread the cost, so they can get organised, and so they can enjoy December stress free. I have knitting on the needles and crochet on the hook destined for Christmas gifts myself. But I need to turn away from all the frantic energy I am already seeing out there.

Something else I will be turning to is Making Winter by Emma Mitchell of the Silver Pebble blog. Lots of cosy projects for the winter evenings, and some truly delicious sounding baking recipes.

Tonight I will be baking an Apple and Parmesan cake for a competition for Apple Day tomorrow. Because after all, it is still autumn, and I want to get back to absorbing the essence of my favourite season.

Talking of seasons…yet another has passed. Jessica had her last immunisations today until she is twelve. I told her before that it would hurt, but only for a minute, and promised her chocolate buttons afterwards. I snuggled her on my lap, but oh, how she cried. She cheered up relatively quickly, but it still tears at my heart. It is such a privilege being the lap she wants to snuggle on, the arms she wants around her. And now, this season has passed…until she is twelve.

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Watercolour Pumpkins (or Wednesday Morning At The Craft Table)

Every Wednesday morning we go to the toddler group we have been going to since Jessica was about six months old. She is usually the oldest one there now, and it is so strange to see her as the exuberant child she is now while remembering the little warm bundle that she was.

Some the faces have changed as children have got older and started school, but new little siblings have joined us. Some things never change…the kettle is always boiling, the cake is plentiful, and everyone is just as friendly as can be.

Towards the end of last year, the craft tavle seemed to fall by the wayside a little, so I have been trying to revive it….and so far, so good. Today we made oil crayon resist watercolour pumpkins. Which is a long way of saying these:


I did a little prep this morning before we went out. I used a white oil pastel to draw a pumpkin shape and the stripes on some watercolour paper. Then I used yellow oil pastel for the face and green for the stalk.

When we got to toddlergroup, I mixed some liquid watercolour paints in non-spill pots. We had yellow, red, orange, brown, and green. Then the children just painted and the magic happened.

What I love about liquid watercolours is how beautiful they look, and how easy they are for children to use. Cleaning up is quick too. The colours mix and merge on the paper, and Jessica was so happily surprised when the yellow and red suddenly made orange.

I also drew out some simple leaf shapes in case anybody wanted to do a second painting…and they all did!

Wednesday mornings are one of my favourite parts of the week. I have memories of playgroup of my own, of the way the hall smelled, the chairs, the beakers we had our milk in, the glittery playdough. I love that these cosy mornings will be laying down similar memories for Jessica. I hope so much that one day she sits with her own little one at toddler group thinking these same thoughts. 

Cosy Catch Up

I find myself in the middle of a Friday afternoon and wonder quite how I got here…I am sure it was only Monday a minute ago. The days are slipping by, we are well into autumn now, and I want to pause a few moments and just pin down on the page some of the cosy moments I have been having today.

The house is quiet apart from the tick tick ticking of the clock on the mantle piece. Friday afternoons Jessica is at pre-school, but I am not at work. That accounts for the quiet. I miss her, but she loves it so, and it is wonderful to have some time to turn out cupboards or knit or just spend some quiet time alone.

The tick tick ticking from the clock is something making me smile. I have wanted a wooden mantle clock for years, but every time I have found one in a charity shop they have been too expensive for my purse. Today I found the dearest little one for £10. You wind it up and tick, tick, tick, it is off. Funnily enough, having wound it, I went to set the time and found it was already correct to the minute!

I have just had an almond croissant and a cup of coffee, and watched an episode of The Good Witch on netflix. Have you seen that?,it started as a series of made for TV films, and they are gentle and sweet and easy to watch. If you crossed the Gilmore Girls with Practical Magic, you would get this!

Making Winter by Emma Mitchell finally arrived. I ordered it way back in May and it was meant to have been delivered last week. A series of misfortunes meant that I didn’t actually get it until yesterday. But oh, it is worth the wait. Head over to Emma’s blog, Silver a Pebble to read more about it, but essentially it is a wonderful map to wend your cosy creative way through the winter months. I am already making a list of projects I want to try, and wool that I want to buy.

Also in the charity shop, I bought a little basket for 50p. I read an book about hygge habits, and one thing it suggested was lighting tea lights and candles at the end of the day. We have our tea lights in a plastic box, but I thought it would be so much nicer to have a little basket of them, and to take out my basket and refill the candle holders.

There are so many things buzzing round in my mind that I want to do this afternoon, more than I have time for. I want to crochet a pumpkin for our nature table, watch another episode of The Good Witch, write a letter to a friend, peg out some washing, do some washing up, have a bath….I shall see how far I get!

Wherever you are, I hope your October is full of fallen leaves and hot water bottles, tea cosies and tea lights.

Love

Mimi

Xxx

Again

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about blogs, what they are, what they can be, what they are meant to be. Mine has never had a focus as such, just the little sips of my life that I share. So many blogs that I enjoy have a definite theme…the wonderful Attic24 does share more than her crochet, but crochet is the theme. There are craft blogs, cooking blogs, Waldorf blogs, book blogs…and me.

I suppose if anything, this is a kind of journal or diary. Little moments that I want to pin down so they don’t disappear, so I can return one day and remember those little moments.

Which leads me to thinking about honesty and curation. There is an element of self editing in any blog I think. I have read a few blog posts where they show you the photo they took to post, say of a beautiful teacup vignette….and then the wider focus photo which shows how cluttered the rest of the table really was.

I think I do share the good and the bad here, but sometimes there are thugs I don’t want to, because I wish they hadn’t happened, and writing about them makes them seem real. But not to write about them seems like denying them.

I don’t mean to sound dramatic, I am just thinking aloud on the page. I haven’t had writers block, I have had lots of little moments I have wanted to capture and record here, but there was one I didn’t want to share, but it seems that until I have, I just can’t seem to move past it.

A few days after we were back from holiday, I felt unwell. I’d been back and forwards to a dismissive GP who didn’t want to listen. I knew in my heart something wasn’t right. The night before, I messaged a friend and said that if I didn’t know better, I would think I was having another miscarriage. Only I couldn’t be, because the doctor said it is ‘normal’ to bleed for three weeks solid. The GP didn’t do a pregnancy test as the one I had done six weeks previously had been negative. ‘That means you aren’t pregnant’ she told me helpfully.

Well if only she had done the test or I had insisted…I ended up in A&E and lost another baby, only knowing of it’s being with me at the moment it parted from my body.

I’ll never forgive that dr for not listening, or myself for not making her listen. I’ll never forget the shock of realisation that I was losing a baby I hadn’t known I was expecting.

To say the last few weeks have been hard is an understatement. I am under a private specialist now. They can’t tell me why I lost my two little angel babies, but they are going to help us try again. And the dr who told me specifically that there is no magic pill to get my hormones back into sync….couldn’t have been more wrong. A £10 prescription will apparently help a lot.

So after this, I will go back to how I want this space to be…the place for my knitting and my teacups, the books, the hot water bottles…and now you know where I have been. I hope one day I can read back on this with another baby on my lap, and know that it all worked out in the end. I’ll never forget our two little ones who aren’t here with us now. They will always be part of me.

Showery Sunny Southwold

Southwold is like Aldeburgh’s older sister; bigger and with its own charms, a sandy beach and a lighthouse, but still with the same old fashioned feeling of Aldeburgh. A shirt drive up the coast, it is a perfect day trip, and perfect it was.

We packed a picnic and parked near the pier. The walk to our favourite picnic spot is alas, all uphill…but is compensated for with the most wonderful sea views, rows of beach huts in a rainbow of colours And knowing the walk back will be all downhill.

We picnic on the green outside a lovely pub. Adams brewery is based in Southwokd and Aspalls cider is another local drink. While we were picnicking, two things happened. Firstly,the lovely Apryl (with whom I was lucky enough to work with for many years and is now my WI companion) joined us along with her equally lovely family. They holiday in Southwold each year and we often find our holiday in Aldeburgh overlaps.

The second and slightly less welcome thing which happened was a shower. On the sunny walk along the seafront the clouds had started to gather, and now they started to rain on us. We packed up the picnic and hurried for shelter and it seemed to ease off.

Carl took Jessica down to the water so she could ‘paggle’ in the sea. A sandcastle was started…and then the rain came down. Summer in southwold is usually very busy, but perhaps everyone else had paid more attention to the weather forecast, because it was very quiet. The benefit was that we could shelter in the porches of the beach huts while we waited for the rain to pass.

Apryl painted pebbles from the beach (I have taken to carrying my paints with me wherever I go) while we all chatted and watched the rain. I went in search of tea, miscounted and had to go back to get one more. Sitting on the stores of a beach but in the pouring rain sipping Earl Grey….well it was actually really delightful. I find hot weather bring out the grumpiness in me, whilst this kind if weather seems to challenge you to be cheerful, and i happily rise to that challenge. There is something so English about drinking tea in the rain at the seaside.

After a while, some of our party went back to the cottage while the rest of us walked to the pier. The pier isn’t particularly long but it has the most amazing views, and is rather good for toddler legs. We had £1 worth of 2p coins each to play in the amusement arcade which kept us entertained for quite a while. When we had finished we went back out into the pier to discover that the rain had passed and it was sunny again.

We walked down to the end of the pier had a cup of tea halfway back and sat soaking up the wonderful views of Southwold.

Another happy day.

Aldeburgh, Day Two

I had to stop and count for a moment, to check we were really only on day two. In the best way, it feels like we have been here forever.

Today we did what I shall bow think if as ‘The Thorpeness Triathlon’ – a 2 mile walk along the shore up the coast from Aldeburgh to Thorpeness, with a stop at Maggie Hambling’s sculpture of The Scallop; an hour of rowing on the Meare Lake at Thorpeness followed by the 2 mile walk home.

In my mind, we would walk there, have lunch, row, and then Jessica would be tired and nap in the pushchair on the walk back. Ah, but she had other plans. Instead, she grumbled and moaned and grumped, and after climbing on the Scallop fell asleep in the pushchair on the way there. Which was fine for a bit, but the paved path turns to shingle and pebbles and then to sand, so pushing the pushchair becomes harder and then impossible, so we had to carry it a little way.

It was gloriously sunny one the walk up the coast, the sky filled with fluffy white clouds, and a cool breeze coming off of the sea. While we were eating lunch by the Meare Lake, the sky suddenly clouded over and we had a few spots of rain. We waited for a little while for it to blow over, and then took out some rowing boats.

Ours was a sunshine yellow called Trudi. This year, unlike last year I managed to get into the boat without stressing out. We took it in turns rowing, and Jessica helped for a little while. We rowed further than we have before, making it to a little White Castle-fort-folly before we had to turn around and head back.

There is a pub just a few houses down from our little cottage which has a wood fired pizza oven, so we had an early dinner of fennel sausage and caramelised onion pizza before coming back to the cottage to settle the children to sleep (we are here with our godchildren and their parents).

There is so much more that I haven’t said, all the little details and fragments which seem so insignificant to describe but hold more than their weight in meaning. Wild poppies shivering in the breeze. A weathervane, a bedroom balcony door open overlooking the sea. If I am ever ill, promise me you will bring me here to recuperate. Bees drowsing amongst the lavender. The names of the cottages. The back garden of the bookshop. The pebbles, the overgrown house. They jumble together and make the fabric of the feel of here

When I am home, I will sort out my photos to share with you. But for now, I am sipping a gin and tonic, contemplating some crochet, and thinking about all the delights yet to come.

A Postcard From Aldeburgh

So, here we are in Aldeburgh. My soul settles here. We started off early and arrived by 10:00am. It was glorious, my favourite kind of weather. Warm enough that you don’t feel chilled, but just enough edge to the wind to find a cardigan comfortable rather than needful. A good gusting wind coming straight off the sea, choppy waves, and brooding clouds which suddenly part to allow the sunshine to beam through.

There are so many little things to pin down on the page and save to think on later. The hollyhocks growing on the edge between the path and the pebbles beach. The different coloured houses, the latticework gates, the chimneys and windows. Oh, it is beautiful here. It is at once restful on the eye because it is beautiful, and stimulating as there is so much to see.

We walked on the pebbley beach today, and were first in the queue when the Icecream shop opened. Jessica’s eyes sparkled at the sight if so many to choose from. Then I had a solo walk up to the bookshop, as I wanted white acrylic paint and a fine paintbrush (although a bookshop, it has a good small section for art materials). 

They put my purchases in a paper bag, which for some reason made me think of my Gran. Then I went and found Carl and Jessica, and sat painting pebbles on the beach. Jessica chose them, and I painted them. I did stones with letters spelling out (at her request) ‘jessica’ ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’ and then I did a myriad of feathers, flowers, spots, striped and doodles.

I laid them all out, and took some photos. Jessica chose one to bring back home, and we left the others there as treasure for whoever might find them. Perhaps the sea got there first, or perhaps someone else found them and took one home.

On the walk back to the cottage, we saw Robert Peston…twice! Then fish and chips at home, and cups of tea. I sat in an armchair in the window crocheting a pair of bunny slippers for my niece. My eyelids heavy, I assumed we must have burned the midnight oil…but it was hardly half past ten.

So just time to send this postcard of sorts, and wish you all a good night,

Love

Mimi

Xxx