seasons :: summer sweetens all to me

Six months, half a year……… gone already. I was wondering to myself what I had to show for it. Time is such a puzzle – often passing slowly at a snails pace and then too fast for comfort.

I am wondering too what promises July holds – my birthday mid month – so one of my favourite times of the year; warm weather, picnics, trips to the seaside, country walks – blissfully perfect summer days. Covid will not spoil this month for me and neither will this rather wet and windy spell of weather.

The start to July has been, like most of June, a bit of a wash out and has not felt very summery at all, but I remain hopeful. Our walks have been in the drizzle this last week, but it is good to get outside and breathe the fresh air without a mask. Each time I have picked a few flowers from the hedgerows to press or dry to collect the seeds. I am excited everytime I come across white foxgloves – I am not sure what it is about them, I just love their pure and majestic splendour, especially amongst a group of pink ones…..and I encourage them into the garden.

And how is everyone……getting to grips with the new rules and freedom? We rarely venture out but we did go into town last Monday for non-food essentials – to replenish our low stocks. I need not have worried over our safety as the town was deserted and some shops not even open. Luckily, one of our healthfood shops was up and running but with very low stocks, even now I am not sure if he is just selling his remaining stock to close down – I didn’t ask as maybe he doesn’t know either and maybe his future will depend on customer numbers.

We had WH Smiths to ourselves – I only wanted blotting paper for my flower press BUT I found myself browsing the magazines before I left – it feels like a long time since I have had a browse of anything, but with no-one to disturb me I carried on and could not leave empty handed when I saw a copy of Country Living Vintage Home magazine alone on the shelf. There is a new edition coming out in August too.

Finally I made my way round to the local sewing shop which was a little busier so I didn’t loiter in there for very long – I bought some fabric to finish the patchwork quilt but I am now having second thoughts about the colours and may use it to make little Sweetie a dress instead. I have this idea (always dangerous in my case) to make a summer dress with a floral cotton skirt and a knitted cotton bodice – I would say a crotched bodice but I don’t crotchet. If any reader knows of a pattern for a toddler that has a knitted bodice and fabric skirt I would be delighted if you could send me a link.

I managed to get the interfacing to make my new tablemats (did I not mention these before?). How could I resist this tea towel fabric with the colourful vegetables – the reverse will be plain white with one or two of the vegetables embroidered onto one corner. I have taken a tracing and will do a practise piece.

But, like many of my projects, it is a work in progress…….. so more on this later.

The shopping experience in town was better than I expected but I think it will be something that I only do now once in a while.

Little L has been busy too making this birthday card for DH. It has great significance for us as DH is called Grandad Monkey by Little L to distinguish him from her other grandad. DH once jokingly called her a little monkey and she immediately told him she was not a monkey she was a little girl but the term stuck and from being quite little this is how she has always remembered him.

We also saw my mum last weekend; it was lovely to see the smile on her face. We had homemade tomato and red pepper soup for lunch followed by a homemade cheese and tomato quiche, new potatoes and salad and a fresh cream chocolate sponge for dessert. All her favourite foods. We left two large slices of cake in the fridge for later….she was so grateful for our visit, it really cheered her up and we had a lovely chat, not that either of us had done very much to talk about.

The rain has set in this week so washing and gardening have not taken place and instead I have been cleaning and ironing. I always thought it was our busy lives that prevented me from having a cleaning routine but now I know that is not the truth; since lockdown I have had all the time in the world to get myself into a solid routine as far as the cleaning goes, but I now realise I tend to follow the weather and although I do like to clean and tend the house… if it is nice I am generally out in the garden.

The garden has been really neglected this week but I must give it some attention before we go away. Besides being quite windswept it is looking rather sad and sorry; flowers struggling to come out and those that have are wet and soggy. The lawns are waiting to be cut and everywhere we have tiny cherries blown from the tree – sadly, too hard and bitter to eat.

I was inspired by a page I noticed in the Country Living Vintage Home magazine I bought on making seed packets – what better way I thought to use my flower sketches from my sketchbooks.

So with a bit of scanning and printing, and adding lettering onto the pictures I came up with these – they are just prototypes at the moment but you get the idea and I will post about them again when I have made the whole collection.

We are presently waiting in the wings (so to speak) wondering if a trip to Scotland is ever going to materialise. We hear on the news from Nicola that Dumfries and Galloway have a sudden spike in cases around Gretna and Annan, Lockerbie and Dumfries and we canot get to the Mull without passing through these places. Is it OK for us to go we wonder, we are self contained at the cottage but will the locals be worried if we do?

I have become quite lazy over the last few months of lockdown and the thought of packing now feels like an enormous effort. I cannot for the life of me remember what we have stored at the caravan and what I brought home. I have a very handy packing list but this does not tell the whole picture, so it might just be a case of guesswork.

I have already baked an apple cake and two tiny crumbles to take with us and I have nut roast in the freezer. Everything else we will make up there but I will need a menu plan as we intend to take the food with us so we are not invading the local shops; as much as they want the business they do not want the virus and as part of the area is in lockdown we will respect that. If we take everything with us we will be completely self sufficient.

So I have nothing left to say other than my next post will hopefully be from bonnie Scotland. The journey and days at the cottage will be a new and different experience I expect like all the changes we are coping with since Covid took over our lives.

Take care everyone and stay safe. x

dear diary :: cherishing the last of the lazy days

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Goodness me, I don’t know about you but if I have to have one more conversation on the topic of the virus I think I will go mad! No matter who I phone or chat to the conversation always ends up, unintentionally of course, back to the virus – how we are doing, what we are doing, comparing notes and our understanding of the rules…..our lives are now defined by something we cannot even see and it is exhausting going over and over the same discussions.

I will say here in this post that we are all still well, still being cautious and ‘alert’ and that is enough on the subject I shall say no more!

So on to some much more mundane things – during the hot dry spell I had a tidy up in the shed – it always amazes me how much I manage to store in there and how many of the items I use most of the time. It certainly earns its keep. To free up a bit more space inside the shed some of the garden things that won’t hurt to be in the weather outdoors have now been reallocated to new places.

There is a space behind our shed out of sight where we store the bins, both wheelie and composting and the bags of potting compost, empty plantpots, and a stack of white plastic patio chairs for when we have garden parties. The fence between us and our neighbour provides a good vertical storage area as DH hammered in some nails to hang the wire netting cones and the riddle.

It is the same fence to which DH fixed the bracket for my hanging basket in the garden. I am well pleased, especially since the nasturtiums are now flowering at the same time as the foxgloves.

I do like a few strong clashing colours and they brighten up this corner of the garden as you can see in the longer view below.

We had a couple of very pleasant, lazy days sitting in the cool shade of the garden and sketching whilst it was far too hot to do anything else. It has been too long since I had my paintbox out and I am quite rusty. Foxgloves are the trickiest flowers to capture even after many attempts, but they were the only flowers near enough to the seat in the shade to sketch – I will persevere.

Something new is appearing in the garden daily now. The rose that I dug up and moved, because it always suffered from brown spot and never did much where it was, is now in a pot on the patio and is blooming. It has recovered well from it’s heavy prune – I felt I had been a bit brutal at the time but it has thrived with healthy green leaves and is in bud – it looks more like it did when I first bought it many years ago.

The petals of the peony above will have fallen now, swept away by the force of the winds last night. Such extremes of weather we are experiencing at the moment – one minute I am rushing around watering like mad and the next staking and protecting – but there is only so much you can do and then you have to leave the rest to chance.

The tall spires of the sidalcea in the sunny border are almost ready to bloom when we have the next bout of sunshine and will look like a mass of pale pink marshmallow.

For some reason the zinnias that I sowed indoors in April have not taken off yet, they have been quite reluctant to grow at any pace and may well miss the season altogether at this rate.

Whilst the cistus (rock rose) has been tremendous this year with so many continuous flowers appearing each day.

I have waited patiently for these little orange beauties to grow and open – Californian poppies – free Sarah Raven seeds with the May issue of Gardener’s World. I have not been disappointed, the colour is stunning.

Then there is the courgette plant which must like this position so much it has grown to giant proportions and producing flowers that are a full 10″ wide. I am not sure I will be decorating my salads with these – rather using them as the salad bowl maybe!

As we come out of our hibernation I know I will be sorry to leave this slow and leisurely time behind but we have duties to fulfil – a drive up to North Yorkshire to visit to my mum today – just for the afternoon, but it will give my sister a little time off – she must be quite exhausted doing all the caring. We will be travelling light but with a basket laden with all my mum’s favourite foods; a homemade quiche to have for lunch with salad and a few new Jersey Royals, a fresh cream chocolate sponge cake for afters and half a dozen small tins of creamed mushrooms to have on toast for her tea and a further half dozen tins of whole plum tomatoes, items I can get in my local Sainsbury’s that are unavailable where she is and will stock up her store cupboard for a few weeks.

Scotland is opening up too for travel from 3rd July so we will be making plans to go up to the cottage and stay in the caravan on site sometime soon – and I will get to see my beloved garden (or perhaps jungle) at long last. I feel a lot of hard work coming on.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend whatever you may or may not be doing. Stay safe. xx

dear diary :: home grown, home sewn

Hello there – I hope you are all well and still managing to dodge the virus.  The weeks are passing quickly now as we are rolling on into June and the recent warmer weather has been so welcome; though we desperately need rain – a good soaking would do my lawns the world of good and today looks like it might be the day as we have quite a gloomy cast to the sky.

We are still well here and following the old lockdown rules….well pretty much, and trying hard to keep our 2 metre distance when we have to go to a supermarket but in my region it seems like lockdown, even this ‘easedown’, is suddenly being ignored by a number of people who are resuming a more full on normal life very quickly – I see children from many different households playing together outside in the cul-de-sac, visitors coming and going to the houses nearby – even my neighbour had a professional family photo shoot last weekend and two visitors appeared on the drive later and disappeared indoors with three very large helium balloons for their son’s birthday.  I have seen cafes open with people sat inside drinking coffee around a very small table and a carpet shop open – and I thought both of these businesses should still be closed.

I am feeling a little bit cross with Boris at the moment – I felt his ten minute speech outlining the easing of lockdown was not complex just rather unclear in delivery; even his own ministers gave a different version each time when questioned afterwards for further clarification.  The initial three word advice of ‘Stay at home’ was very clear – replacing this with a 50 page document that resembles the Highway Code (that one tried desparately to memorise before a driving test) is not quite the same.

So in his own defence Boris has to resort to telling people to just use good old fashioned British common sense – something that I think is quite open to many different interpretations. Does he mean the same common sense he has shown during this pandemic when he carried on shaking hands, long after it had been deemed unsafe, or like the times he appeared in the earlier briefings almost shoulder to shoulder with Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance as they talked about the 2 metre distancing rule and then all three of them caught the virus, or forgetting to include care homes as being a potential risk and dropping the idea of testing, or even like his own father who totally ignored his advice to the public not to go to the pub for a drink – do you mean this kind of British common sense Boris – well, there is little hope for us then?

But enough about this dreary topic – I write to record and remember for myself and some topics are just worthy of an airing from time to time but there is enough to hear on the news each day without me ranting on and at the end of the day everyone will choose their own way through this with common sense in place or not. So lets move on quickly to life here at home.

So far it is good and as you can imagine I have spent most of my time in the garden – this lovely warm spell has given the seedlings a growth spurt but I am still reluctant to plant out yet as I have not had the opportunity to completely harden them off while the temperature continues to drop overnight almost to frost point, and now we have this raging wind sweeping down off the moors above us and just as the garden is beginning to look quite delightful in places too.

I must make a note to self to plant more alliums come September – I just love the way their heads bob around in quite a disorderly fashion above the other plants in the borders.

We managed to find a few pieces of wood so that DH could fix another shelf to the underneath part of this old galvanised steel seed tray bench which has become my potting bench. Having an extra shelf will allow me to keep pots and bits and pieces to hand and will no doubt be a good place to put the trays of plants to harden off overnight….when that time comes.

I have also been repurposing and recycling – not in a big way but it has helped me to use up a few odds and ends that I might otherwise not have had a use for and I have spent a few enjoyable days in my workroom creating new out of old.

I like the idea of altering and reusing a card and giving it a longer and new lease of life – some cards are just too nice to throw away and I have a box full of old card fronts so I made a couple of special cards for two dear friends of mine using cut down pieces of old cards that had once been sent to me, and a third to use up some decorative papers and embellishments from my craft collection with a few punched out mini butterflies using the punch given to me by the friend who I have made the card for.  

I have a stock of blank tri-fold concertina cards that I bought so long ago I cannot even remember why I bought them – but they do make rather nice birthday cards and I was able to find a relevant birthday verse on the internet to paste inside.

Although I quite enjoyed the cutting and pasting they are not my usual style of card making – though my friends seem to like them – but I much prefer to originate my own work and the beginnings of these cards below are much more satisfying to make, but as yet the idea is very much a work in progress. Here I am using some of the flowers I pressed a while ago and mounting them onto the blank concertina cards to form some kind of nature notes card.

To continue with this I am waiting now for a new batch of flowers in the press, I have been snipping away in the garden…..forget-me-nots, buttercups and more daisies and collecting anything that catches my eye like some tiny maple keys in the supermarket car park.

The repurposing has not stopped at card making.  I discovered a length of fabric that I bought many years ago to make a bench cushion in a drawer in the loft whilst checking to see if I had anything suitable to make masks out of.  The woven upholstery weight blue check cotton fabric matched the little blue painted bench that we had back then.  Sadly the bench fell apart from old age a couple of years ago and the cushion never got made. 

We have a new metal bench now on the patio with a mesh seat that definitely needs a rug or cushion for comfort so yesterday I cut out the cushion pieces and made a filling from an old cot duvet I had put aside to take to a textile bank.  It is perfect – I folded the wadding over into 4 layers and recovered it with the Vilene covering to stuff the cushion. 

I decided to hold the wadding in place by doing some mock tufting – I didn’t want to put buttons on as sitting on them might be uncomfortable so I just used some heavy weight sewing cotton to draw both sides of the cushion together at the intersection of each of the large checks on the fabric, I also inserted two ties at one end of the cushion so it can be rolled up when not in use and tied in place for storage. It is not quite complete yet – a little more tufting to do but it does feel quite uplifting to get some of these projects finished and the repurposing means I have a new item at little cost and will no doubt last for a long time to come – probably longer than the bench!

Even in these slow living times I cannot believe how quickly the weeks go by and housework has taken a back seat here lately – I haven’t felt much in the mood during the hot weather and a quick tidy round and a hoover has kept things ticking over nicely. 

Adding a few fresh flowers instantly brightens the place up and hopefuly detracts from seeing any dust! I love the way the colour of these tulips I bought last week blend in perfectly with the colour palette of this picture, an oil painting by the Scottish atrist Hazel Campbell…it was quite accidental but rather a nice accident.

Whilst we have been staying at home I have developed more of a routine and one that allows me to distinguish between week and weekend in these lockdown days that just roll on in quite a monotonous way.   I have been washing on a Monday and Tuesday and avoiding the weekends; I quite like keeping the weekends a bit more special and not cleaning or washing; eating a ‘proper’ Sunday dinner (even a vegetarian version) also helps to keep the weekend a little more defined.

So although I am often to be found in the kitchen when I am not in the garden or workroom you would notice that I am cooking and baking rather than cleaning.  

I picked out a few untried recipes from my folder, one of which was a new nut roast recipe that I wanted to make – just for a change.  This one contains chopped tomatoes from a packet or tin, so has quite a loose open texture and goes well as a substitute for a Sunday roast with the usual veg and gravy or cold with salad.  The recipe made a full 2lb loaf tin so half of it was cut up into slices to put in the freezer for later.

We had the first slice with roast parsnips, cabbage, cooked apple and a Yorkshire….smothered in gravy.

We have a birthday tomorrow on Bank Holiday Monday – it is DH’s but I won’t disclose which year – I will just say in the later part of the sixties, but thankfully not yet seventy – I only say thankfully as the years are galloping away now and feels like there is still so much we want to do and see in so little time.

To cheer him up I will make a cake and maybe we will go out in the car for a run, not to a popular beauty spot….just somewhere off the beaten track with a flask of hot chocolate and some cake and maybe take our sketchbooks. And then no doubt there will be a Zoom get together with some of the family.

Stay safe everyone and a warm welcome to more readers and followers….and apologies for anyone who has noticed my lack of comments recently on my favourite blogs – I am still reading along as time allows. x

dear diary :: settling into a new normal

Hello everyone, just thought I would stop by and let you know all is well here and I hope it is with you too. Isn’t the weather just glorious – I so want to have a picnic but it will have to be in the back garden?

We went shopping last Monday teatime for the first time in two weeks, so I will be holding my breath for the seven days of incubation time and crossing fingers in the hope I did not come into contact with anything – but so far the virus is not with us.

I see it isn’t getting any better in the shops though – still no flour and very few baking items, empty shelves where there was once pasta and eggs and it is hit and miss in the veg department with missing produce. Added to which social distancing seems to go out of the window in the supermarket and it becomes a test of wills of who will move out of the way when two trollies are headed towards each other – of course it is always me – I have no interest in having a battle or catching this virus at any cost.

We continue to use up every last morsel of food and have produced one or two happy accidents. This soup was made from the very last piece of a wrinkled red pepper, a rather soft carrot and sprouting potato with the last of the leeks and a handful of red lentils thrown in. We decided it looked far too nice and colourful to put through the blender and it tasted so good too so we will be making it again but maybe next time from fresh ingredients.

It is a strange world now but I do like some of the benefits – staying home and getting projects finished for one and being able to cross the road freely and safely down in our village ….and the total lack of traffic noise – I love the calmness that seems to surround us now – it is so peaceful on our little cul-de-sac and there is a feeling of the world slowing down a little and everyone becoming more observant of what is going on around us.

I have now got used to doing a huge shop that will last a fortnight and the abscence of letters on the doormat each morning (they were mainly bills and statements anyway)……but I do miss some of the more familiar things like the church bells and bell practise ringing out – the silence can be disturbing at times and the half hour strained recorder practise of the little girl next door in the garden everyday is not quite the same – I have been known to time my daily walk to coincide with it! I also miss the things we would normally be doing at this time of year – going for picnics, walks along the beach at the cottage and wandering around the open gardens but most of all I miss the grandchildren.

I feel we are living in a bit of a bubble though because staying at home we are cut off from witnessing the horrors happening out in the wider world in hospital and care homes up and down the country, and other than reports on the news I have no idea of anyone’s plight, the fact they may have been plunged into financial disaster overnight, lost loved ones before their time or are facing a terrible struggle each day to keep patients alive whilst at the same time being worried about their own safety and that of their own families.

My mum feels even more cut off than we do – she has not left the building now for months and cannot see the wider world at all from her window only the grounds of the apartment block she lives in, which is of course empty of people coming and going.

Still we will endure.

Even with all this extra time I still have a growing list of jobs and projects that would keep me busy for the rest of the year. All those things I thought I would do when I stopped working are now being attended to…but very slowly, because as life seems to have slowed down so have I. And I quite like it.

This simplified life allows you to take stock and gather your thoughts – it is a bit like being on a permanent holiday where you rest a little, work a little and play a little….and eat well of course. It is what retirement, for us, might be like if we didn’t have all the pressures of normal life.

The garden has been a welcome haven to escape into. Seeds have been sown for veg and bedding plants – some have been more successful than others. I always thought it was difficult not to grow nasturtiums but I was proved wrong when the last few seeds in last year’s packet almost failed to germinate – only 3 plants decided to grow. Luckily I found another packet in Sainsbury’s and have sown another batch.

With a run of very cool nights I managed to adapt some old wire cloches we had in the potting shed so that the boxes with the newly sown salad seeds could be tucked up warmly against the cold night air.

The courgettes, now transferred into the mini greenhouse, are coming along nicely and can be planted out soon. I can’t wait to be eating some fresh produce from the garden.

I spoke before of the photograph book we are compiling for my elder daughter’s 40th birthday of her life so far – it has been an emotional trip down memory lane sifting through boxes of photos of the family’s early years up until they flew the nest. Thank goodness for Facebook too, as I have been able to copy down photos from friend’s albums of girly weekends, get togethers, holidays and other events with her friends that we were not part of or have any record of to fill in the gaps and so the book can remain a surprise.

It is wonderful to see how she has changed over the years – always the fun loving girl now grown into a beautiful young woman. Travel has always been a big part of her life and adventure – she has a sailing license, had surfing and diving lessons, can speak Greek and has been on a world trip. I wonder in amazement how she has packed it all in!

Sunday is her birthday day – we have most of the wider family on standby to link in through Zoom and have a virtual surprise party. The instructions have been given out – each participant must make a party hat and have a bun with a candle on top to light and I am hoping Little L may be able to give us a tune of Happy Birthday on her little piano with me accompanying her on the handbells. I just hope that when we start singing everyone does not rush off to wash their hands as it has become a bit of an iconic song now!

We will also be playing a party game or two – I have compiled a fun quiz with questions all about my daughter with multiple choice answers to make it easier to guess.

The card is made too – some readers may remember this one from before – I tend to make them for those big ‘0’ birthdays – it is a series of my watercolour sketches stuck together to form a tiny concertina book. They are quite time consuming but much nicer than a bought card.

I have been making other cards too using prints of old watercolour sketches taken from my sketch books that I have done over the years – there are always birthdays, anniversaries and thank you cards required every month – it is hard to keep up and my stocks of cards are quite low.

I have been snipping a few of the spring flowers to press to make more pressed flower cards too. I love the daisies and forget-me-nots that have appeared all over the garden; my borders are a sea of blue.

So that is my news at the moment – I am told the garden at our cottage is lovely at the moment – though heaven knows when we will see it ourselves.

I hope you and yours are all doing well and you are managing to cope with the new normal and that life has not been too difficult.

Stay safe and well x

dear diary :: more of the same

This might seem one of those long posts that is better to read with a cup of tea in your hand and I’ll forgive anyone who politely tries to stifle a yawn! I had meant to try and keep up with posting but you know me by now… always busy and last week was no different.

We are now well into the swing of the new normal here. We stay at home for most of the time only venturing out into the world for a little exercise or shopping. We are keeping in touch with my daughters and the grandchildren courtesy of Zoom and my mum on the good old fashioned landline.

I have a number of projects on the go – all presently half finished – but that does not seem to matter too much, as of course, we have no urgent trips up north to make and what a difference this has made to our time. Suddenly we find we have a lot more time to ourselves; though I am managing to fill every minute and more.

I feel I have never been so busy – April has its own pressures in our household, it holds the greater number of close family birthdays at the same time as the garden suddenly springs into life; so we have to wake up and spring into action with it and, not surprisingly, with the warmer weather upon us spring cleaning becomes more urgent and much more enticing – there is nothing I like better than having a good ‘fettle’ as my gran would say. There is always something very satisfying about the ritual of cleaning and clearing out at this time of year, geting everything back in order – but more about this another day in another post.

Gardening is the one thing that is keeping me quite sane through this unprecedented crisis – I love the way that nature carries on around me doing what it always does at this time of year as if nothing is amiss – it is so heartening. Tending to the garden teaches me that we need patience, it teaches me that from tiny seeds beautiful things will grow and that with great care, watering and warmth success is almost guaranteed.

So I have seed potatoes sprouting on the window sill, tomato seeds tucked up warmly in a mini propagator and courgette seeds pushing their way through the soil within a matter of days. All delightful, all encouraging.

Those little Magnum lolly sticks are so useful as plant labels, I must have eaten far too many but what a pity I couldn’t find a waterproof pen as the ink ran as soon as I watered the trays. No matter though I can still make out the variety. I am growing two different tomatoes this year – the only two available from the seed selection at Sainsbury’s; Gardener’s Delight and a tub / patio version called Minibel.

I will be sowing the salad seeds straight into the planters and some annuals ready for my summer display on the patio – hopefully today or tomorrow.

There is plenty of general work to do too, pots to refresh, lawns to scarify and borders to weed and I must plant the new clematis I bought last year.

I continue to spend a lot of time in the kitchen being adventurous so that nothing goes to waste or even gets close to going off. Little pies are always a good way to combine all those oddments I find left over in the fridge. I filled these individual pastry cases with a mixture of cooked brown lentils, shredded leek and chopped mushrooms then topped them with some mashed potato, grated cheese and slices of tomato and put the last of the carrots and parsnips in a tin to roast. The result was a meal we would certainly have again.

We still have our old, shabby kitchen of course (though we did get the plans for the new one finalised and signed for just as John Lewis decided to close, so our new kitchen is now on hold until things recover and it can be delivered and fitted). I have been rather worried that the jinx I spoke about in an earlier post that has persisted over the years and put a stop to us having our new kitchen at every attempt since 2008, now appears to have surfaced again but this time has extended beyond ourselves and our family and this time sudden misfortune has affected the whole world in preventing the instalation!! I do hope not.

On the good side the kitchen is now far easier to use since we finished the pantry and all but the most used foods have been moved out of the kitchen cupboards freeing up vital space; and what a godsend the pantry has been – it is now well stocked, not overly so, but always enough to see us through for about 3-4 weeks should we face further restrictions, shortages or we have to self isolate for any length of time (though I pray this will never become necessary) and so far we have not shown any symptoms of having the virus though every shopping trip is a major risk as it is our only contact in the outside world. We minimise the risk of course going as late at night as we can when it is quieter and only going about every 10 days or for as long as the milk lasts. Each time we go I am convinced I get a sore throat afterwards and certainly a tension headache from all the dodging around in the aisles. Shopping has never been so stressful.

This week we have already gathered in our food to cover the whole Easter period – finding milk and dairy items with long dates – it should see us through nicely. I did not want to end up going shopping later this week amongst a sudden Easter shopping frenzy that is like Christmas.

To our surprise we even found a packet of disposable gloves on the shelves this week so they have definitely come home with us (though I don’t really need 50, but you never know, and I can donate some to anyone else in need). I had only one pair left previously that I had to keep washing out between supermarket trips and they were originally bought in a packet of 10 and only used when I cleaned the silver! With the whole plastic problem I would not normally have been replacing these either when they ran out but I suppose needs must.

We are still managing to buy most of our usual foods or substituting similar products. Eggs have been difficult to find and flour an absolute no no – so I have to ration it out carefully. The last eggs I bought were these beautiful Burford Browns with a good looking suntan.

And what do you do to use up any eggs – buy a roll of puff pastry and bake of course.

These little tarts were delicious with salad and used up the last of the eggs, leeks (shredded finely), cougettes and a packet of Welsh goats cheese.

Our almost daily walk is one of the highlights of the day. As the weather improves the number of people walking increases but we manage to stay safe and the only difficult day was last Sunday when we felt we had to jump into a gap and keep on the move. It is amazing how you begin to notice the little things on the same route.

The last of the catkins…

…the appearance of tiny Celandines on the grass verges

and our Yorkshire dry stone walls covered with a thick winter coat of moss.

Many of our mills now house people rather than machinery but the chimneys have been preserved as a monument to the past and our local history.

On returning home we have had moments just sitting in the pleasant sunshine with our biscuit rations and probably putting back on the calories we have just walked off.

In the midst of all the cleaning, gardening, cooking and walking I have spent quite a bit of time making cards again – partly to save money and partly because cards are not deemed as an essential item so are difficult to buy. This one is a card that my sister sent to me and I recycled by cutting it down to mount onto a blank card and adding the butterflies.

My nephew was harder to make for as I doubt any little boy would want a flowery card. I decided to keep it simple and print down this number eight onto some card and hand stamped the ‘Happy Birthday’ in colourful inks.

When it came to the Easter cards I had no ideas but then came across a half started spring flower collage I attempted last year using shapes cut from the thicker front pages of magazines and some junk mail. I finished the picture but knew that making individual cards in this way was going to be far too time consuming so decided to take prints off the original and reduce the design to fit some tiny blank cards that I have in my craft box.

Easter will soon be upon us and with my cards now hand delivered or put in the post I have been turning my attentions to a few decorations – not many as it will be a strange Easter this year – just the two of us…I suspect we will spend most of it in the garden, weather permitting. I might bake a cake though, I am not keen on Simnel cake -but a chocolate cake…well that is a big possibility.

And if you reached the end of this post you deserve a medal.

Before I go a warm welcome to all my new followers and to Diana, apologies when I deleted your comment as you asked it deleted the whole string of related comments. x

dear diary :: a glimpse of Spring

But only for some. Whilst London and Saddleworth (over the hill from us) had snow we basked in glorious sunshine yesterday.

Heaven.

It was the kind of day when it felt so good to be alive. I like a positive start to the day – it seems to make everything else go right. Even when I came across a temporary blockage across the road trying to get to the physiotherapist on time, I still manage to remain unflustered and kept smiling.

The world I fear is in a very sorry state at the moment. There has been a case of Coronavirus reported in the next little village to us and of course there is a lady in Tenerife waiting to be allowed back to Huddersfield. When I popped in to my old workplace one of the employees was in self isolation at home and had been asked not to go into work as they had just returned from a holiday in Italy. We also have a very high Chinese population here studying at the University and many are walking about wearing masks now – it all feels a bit eerie. I keep washing my hands in hope it will help!

I finished the tablemats – for anyone wanting to make some I have given more details below. I am loving them already but will put them away to use nearer to Easter – why I thought Easter fell in March I don’t know; I checked the calendar to find it begins on the 10th April. In a way this is good news as I have longer to prepare, not that we do a lot but I have started making things for the grandchildren now like I used to make for our own daughters.

I didn’t think I would manage another post but here I am. We are going to see mum for the weekend. My sister is away on holiday for a much needed rest as mum has had her almost in tears a few times recently, her general demise and lack of mobility has made her……for the want of a better word….plain old grouchy. I can understand her frustration, her life has become very boring now she cannot get out by herself, yet my sister cannot be there to entertain her every day. We need a solution or we will all go stir crazy with her.

The occupational therapist will see her on Monday to assess her for a walking frame (or a ‘pusher’ as she calls it) in the hope that she will be able to walk further using one and get about a bit more. Strangely enough until mum had the x-ray on her hip and was told it was not in very good shape she had not complained about it very much – usually when it rained – it had always been about her knees or vertigo. Now she never mentions either only her hip that seems so bad she cannot do very much at all. She has seriously gone down hill since knowing there is a problem and is merrily dosing herself up with codeine as well as co-codamol even though she has been told she can take either but not both. What does one do??

DH had his dentistry – it wasn’t quite 2.30 but close. He was very brave and didn’t even get a sticker and declined to have the tooth to keep. Afterwards I was on cooking duty whilst he cosied up by the fire and watched a film. We had a sheherds pie made with lentils of course and the remains will go with us tomorrow. I also made some quiche bases and I will fill and bake them before we set off for North Yorkshire. I will make a little one for mum to hang on to as she likes homemade quiche.

So that was my day how was yours?

To make the tablemats –

I bought a pack of Sainsbury’s teatowels in a thick linen type fabric. They usually measure about 19″ by 28″ and come in two or three varying designs in a pack.

I wash them first, then unpick the hems and cut each one in half so I have either four or six pieces. I usually mix and match so I have a different pattern on the reverse so I can flip them over.

Using a pattern 14″ x 19″ which includes a 1/2″ seam allowance – I pin this on the fabric and cut around to straighten up the tea towel fabric and make sure it is a perfect rectangle. Also cut out a piece of thick vilene to sandwich between the layers. With right sides together and a piece of vilene to the underside of one piece sew around the edges with a 1/2″ seam allowance, leaving a gap of about 5″ for turning through.

Trim seam allowance to 1/4″ and cut across the corners. Turn through and press. Neatly hand sew the gap to close. Top stitch about 3/4″ in from edge all way round.

creating :: a crafty day today

Friday again already…where do the weeks go. DH collected his car yesterday and I am hoping there is nothing else to fix on either of them – there couldn’t possibly be could there?

I have bank statements to balance and I must get around to labelling the jars in my new pantry. It is finished all but for that task. Well I say finished but I am still moving things around each day and I could do with buying one more shelf from Ikea. DH is finding it hard to know where anything is at the moment as I keep swapping and changing and swapping back; each day he finds that something is now in a new place….he just humours me. There will be pictures I promise but at the moment I am still titivating and enjoying myself so much. Even the thought of a new kitchen is not as exciting at the moment as my new pantry.

I came across this picture the other day in my pile of Christmas cards that I haven’t as yet got around to dealing with. I usually turn them into tags and money envelopes but I thought it would be nice to put this one in a photo frame to display next Christmas as it has such a lovely cosy feeling.

My granddaughter, Little L, created this colourful masterpiece on a paper plate at nursery a few years ago and it has been hanging on my kitchen notice board ever since. I decided to cut it down into a rectangle with the intention of putting it into a picture frame so I can display it on the wall or my mantel piece.

You may be wondering what teabags have to do with crafts – well remember the Pukka advent calendar I received from my sister-in-law well unsurprisingly there were one or two flavours I am not keen on – I don’t do fennel at all and so these are the ones that I will not be drinking…..but I had other ideas for them….read on.

I spent an afternoon making some more pressed flower cards with the remains of the flowers and leaves that I pressed earlier in the year – and I was really scraping the barrel here to find enough bits that were still good enough to use. My last efforts were very well received by my friends so I thought I would do a few more before turning my attentions to something new.

I have put the teabags in my card box so that when I send a card to a friend I will enclose a teabag so they can enjoy a lovely cup of tea and my teabags will not be wasted. I know my friends well enough so should be able to match up a teabag to each of their personal tastes.

I seem to have accumulated quite a few dried slices of orange and lemons over the years and need to reduce the pile. Rather than throw them away or compost them I thought they would be nice to add as a decoration when I wrap my presents in plain brown parcel paper. I found some old fashioned buff coloured parcel tags and stamped a few with different pictures and messages which I will then combine with the orange slices.

Little by little I keep trying to reduce the assortment of crafty bits and pieces I have collected and make things with them. I have a whole box full of cut out butterflies but that will be another day.

Enjoy the weekend everyone x

crEAting ~ simple Easter cards

Before I begin apologies for the photo quality – I was losing the light by the time I took the pictures.

If you remember from one of my previous posts (click here) I had covered a number of blank cards in a variety of pretty papers from my craft pile to try to use them up.   I set aside one or two to finish as Easter cards.  This time, rather than buy the preprinted ‘greetings’ labels, I made my own on the computer and printed them out onto some card.

If you want to make your own I use a Microsoft word document where you can select a text box, a font design and a suitable size of type for the card.  I then add a border around the greeting and once printed cut the labels out carefully, almost but not quite, to the border line leaving a small white edging.

I selected colours to match in with the prints and used different typefaces.  I also added a ribbon decoration to some of the cards to finish them. Extremely simple and easy to make but I quite like the simplicity.I was then left with these little card motifs in my craft box of embellishments… Cute little cut out Easter pictures… I am not even sure where they came from but I have had them for years now and they have escaped going into the give away box once or twice.  So this time it was either use them or lose them.

I stuck the rabbit, chicken and sheep onto the Easter egg shapes and then placed them onto a small square card blank.  There was no room to add a printed greeting so I decided to use my little alphabet stamps and just stamp straight onto the card.  There was no need to be too exact  – I actually like the lettering more when it is a bit wonky!Once dry I stuck the little motif in place and voila….…these little bits have now made four delightful little Easter cards for the children –  Libbie, Sweetie, Freddie and my great-nephew.On the back of each card I make I have a little stamp to say it is home-made.  This one is my favourite from Vista print and given to me by my daughter one birthday, but I do have some rubber stamps too.Remember the birthday card made from a piece of decorative packaging I found – it may have been an old Panettone box from Christmas or something – I followed the design and embellished it with some of those stick on jewels in golds and rich purple colours. As well as stamping on the back of the card I often make a printed slip for the inside with a message.  I think it gives a more finished look to a card and although I didn’t have time for this one, as I had to get it in the post, they do look lovely if you add a print too using a rubber stamp.So even if you do not have any expensive equipment you can make some really simple cards using any decorative paper or card, a Pritt stick, some double-sided tape and a sharp knife.  If you do not have a printer you can buy sheets of greetings labels; but equally you could get a rubber stamp and stamp onto some plain card and then add a border and cut out.

I am enjoying doing a few more creative things when I have the time and it does reduce the mountain of crafty bits and pieces I have been storing all these years  – I was thinking of getting rid of some of it but that seemed a shame when in an afternoon I can make something useful.  I like the challenge of creating something from very little so I think my next project will be using up scraps from junk mail, magazines and even the decorative parts of the inside of an envelope to make some cards.

 

A day spent creatively sticking and stamping.  x

 

 

 

 

 

 

crEAting ~ turning scraps and off cuts into cards

I must be on a bit of a roll creating things.  On Sunday afternoon I sat down with a box of card blanks and a pile of decorative papers of one sort or another to make some cards.

Normally, I would make cards from some of my own paintings and sketches. This is one I often make for friends and family celebrating a special milestone birthday.  It is a concertina card with a verse running through it and folds up into a little keepsake book.  You could easily make something similar using some of those ready printed pictures on sale in craft shops. …but I wanted to use up the some of lovely scraps of papers I have collected over time and do something rather different.

I especially like the fact that I am saving money at the same time as saving the planet by recycling pieces of old wrapping paper (you know those little bits that are too small to wrap a present) and cards that are given to me, and even nice pieces of printed cardboard from packaging items.

Anyone can make these cards it only takes some card blanks and a roll of the double-sided tape, a Pritt stick and scissors (though I would strongly recommend a ruler and a scalpel for a sharper clean-cut).  You do not need any specialist equipment or any expensive craft papers.

The cards below are made from some lovely wrapping paper I had with delightful paintings of china teacups.  These off cuts were too nice to throw away so I made each of the cups into a card.  The two smaller cards are firstly covered in a piece of decorative backing paper that come in packs or pads from craft shops as it is a good weight to stick thinner wrapping paper onto; then the teacup picture is stuck on top of this in the centre and finally I cut some striped paper into thin strips and made a simple border to complete.  The larger one is made by using one of those blank cards with a pre-cut window – so you mount the picture behind the window – very useful for cross stitched panels –  in this case it nicely frames the teacup. The two below are actually made from some lightweight card packaging – I can’t even remember now what the packaging came with but again I saved it thinking it would come in handy for something.  I was able to make matching tags too and I will add a greeting or other embellishment when I find something suitable.The next two are made by recycling cards that were given to me.  I cut the front off the card on the left and placed some pearl pink paper behind before sticking it down on a card blank.  The one on the right is a card front stuck onto one of those accordion card blanks and I will decorate the inside of this too by adding some suitable prose.   For these and the ones above I used the double-sided tape here rather than Pritt stick to stick one onto the other as the old cards and packaging I am sticking down are a heavier weight than the papers I used on some of the smaller cards.Once I began there was no stopping me and it was one of those afternoons when you really feel you are ‘in the flow’ if you are familiar with the expression.

Whilst in The Range I bought a packet of those ready printed messages that say – Happy Birthday or Thank you just to embellish them a little.

So I added a little greeting to some of them – but some I will leave blank and then when I need a card I can add the most appropriate greeting at the time.  Others I will make into Easter cards if I can find some Easter greetings in town. Most of these are just the tiny Papermania cards – just less than 4″ square – and although very simple I think they are quite effective and a good way of using up old papers.  So far I have made about twenty-five but I have card blanks and papers to do many more.

A day of creating canny crafty cards. x

Sooze at Her in Him out 2 – I hope you might find this post useful.

 

crEAting ~ a knit in time

After twenty some years I have started knitting again – sometimes I frighten myself – I first began knitting one day back in 1980 with a little help from my mum, who was an avid knitter both by hand and machine.  I was expecting my first daughter at the time and continued when my second daughter came along and beyond until they reached secondary school and then I just stopped.  Knitting two garments each time took some doing.  At first my knitting was knit one drop one but after a while I was mastering cables and yokes and without the advantage of You Tube.

Now it all feels a long time ago but I am starting to remember quite a bit as I go along and with the help of You Tube –  although I have had to pull out a few rows when I dropped two stitches accidentally on a decrease row and didn’t notice.I chose this pattern by Sirdar as it said easy knit (I might question that!) and I like the fact the yarn called Baby Crofter, although random, looks a bit like Fair Isle as you knit.

I took the time to wind off some of the wool so I could begin the second sleeve at the same point in the yarn as the first so they match and also match up with the pattern of the front and back.I have finished the main body of the jumper and need to press and stitch it together so I can pick up around the neck to continue and knit the hood – that will be fun!

I need to practice the start and end of my rows and make a better job – there are it appears many ways to make it neater including adding an extra stitch at each end – does this really work?

This attempt is for Sweetie to grow into – I deliberately chose a 6-12 months size (she is presently 5 months old) in case it took me a long time to make but the knitting part has been surprisingly quick.  It might take me longer to do the sewing part.

I have already chosen the yarn for my next project – this time a plain colour, a lovely soft cotton in pale grey and ecru called Cottonsoft by King Cole to make a summer cardigan or jumper.  I found it in Boyes which is a wonderful northern store full of cut price goodies like an old Woolworths.  Finding patterns seems harder than finding the wool.  I am hoping I will find a pattern for little Freddie but if not it will be another one for Sweetie.I am not sure if Sweetie will want to wear granny’s knitted effort when I have finished it but she is still young enough not to bother too much whereas Libbie (Little L) will be much more fussy I think so I need more practice before I make something for her.  I am thinking of one of those summer dresses with a little knitted bodice and fabric skirt.

A few days of painstaking persistence but a very pleasing pastime. x