Monday, 8 June 2015

The North Wind and the Sun

At the risk of being a blogging cliche and an English cliche, I am going to talk about the weather.  Well, what else do you start a chat with, particularly after being AWOL for 8 months?! 

Summer is almost upon us and we have finally had our taste of the warmer days to come.  Tarpaulin has been removed from our outdoor furniture and the flannel bed linen has been relegated to the airing cupboard in the bathroom, hopefully not to be shaken out until at least October.

This evening as we were walking the dog through the village I noticed how warm the sun still was when the wind died down.  The wind, however, was especially chilly and made the evening feel cold.  

Whenever we have very warm sun and cold wind I am always reminded of my lovely old headmaster at junior school and the stories that he would sometimes read in assembly for a special treat.  One of my favourites was an Aesop's fable, "The North Wind and the Sun".  

You will have heard the story, basically with the moral that force is less effective than gentler methods of persuasion.  I always think of the sun and the wind arguing, and the traveller whose coat they were trying to remove.  Of course, the sun has a smiling, serene, face and the wind has puffed out cheeks and angry eyebrows.  Then my mind wanders to Mr McNulty at the front of the school hall and the yellow papers containing the collection of short stories that he would unfold at the end of an assembly.  I never tired of hearing those stories.  I don't think any of us did.  We children would cheer when he brought out those yellow papers.  I daydream about sitting cross-legged on the highly polished parquet flooring in the main hall and the dust motes that could be seen as the sun streamed in through the tall, narrow, windows.  I would pick at the scabs on my knees, prod the bruises on my legs, smooth my cotton skirt and fiddle with the lace trimming my ankle socks.  All whilst blissfully listening to my beloved headteacher read from those exciting yellow papers.

I am a sentimental girl, it's true, but summer evenings make me especially nostalgic about my childhood and those gorgeously long summer days.  

I love living in the countryside at this time of year - baby birds, cow parsley and early morning farm traffic all make me feel so joyful and peaceful.  And that's all I really need at the moment; joy and peace.

Thanks for popping by.  Have a lovely week.



PS I am sorry for the lack of photos.  I have put off blogging for the last few months due to lack of suitable photographs.  I don't carry a camera around with me and I'm often too caught up in what I'm doing to actually take a photo of it anyway, especially one good enough for a page on the actual world wide web. So I just decided to go for it and waffle a bit.  Sans photos.  Figured you'll forgive me, because you're a nice bunch.  I do, after all, blog mostly for myself and I can cope with mental imagery when I read back through my posts.  I have made a little pact with myself, though, to make my  DSLR more accessible and I will pop it in my bag more often to capture some of the lovely moments I am blessed with in my life.  

Wish I'd had my camera when Drew accidentally skidded across the caravan's wet verandah in the rain last week.  Nearly wee'd myself laughing.   

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The exciting and the downright mundane: an update

Hi!  I went MIA for a while there, right?  I've been SO busy.  Last time I blogged it was warm and sunny.  It's now cold and grey, and we've put the clocks back!  Sheesh.  I so hope I still have some blog friends who might read my ramblings.  I've been popping by reading everyone else's but just never have the time to comment (or, let's be honest, the inclination to… It's always a right faff commenting via blogger on my iPad).

So much has happened and I promise to blog more regularly again so that I can keep my posts relatively short.  This, however, will be epic.

Brace yourself.

Cosy kitchen.  Still working up the strength to chop up the world's largest butternut squash. 
Ellie, my new little niece, continues to be a delight and I am pleased to report that her Auntie Nicki was the first to make her properly giggle.  Seems she likes the cha cha.  Her mum, sister and grandmother have all tried their hardest to get a similar explosion of giggles from her but have failed miserably.  This makes me feel very smug.  Particularly as I have always been terrified around babies.  Izzie (my eldest niece) was not a cuddly baby and this did not help my phobia.  Ellie makes me almost broody.  She is a smiling, quiet and content little baby and she likes nothing more than a cuddle.  She also likes my singing (I know!), which makes me love her even more.  (I am currently singing, on repeat, 'Cauliflowers fluffy and cabbages green'… thanks to niece's harvest festival.  Too cool, I know.)

I had the day off work on Friday to take Izzie swimming.  There's a fun children's pool at my local Virgin Active and I knew she'd like it there.   We only spent an hour in the pool and I felt like I'd been through the wringer.  She was constantly splashing me, chasing me, racing me and once even (accidentally, I hope) gave me a sharp knee in the jawbone as she over-exuberantly practiced her backstroke legs.  By the time my sister left at 4pm I was exhausted.  How do parents do it, each and every day? It baffles me.  Big respect.  That said, days spent with Izzie are amongst my favourite.  She's funny, loving and so very bright.  I had to stop myself sniggering when she told me at the pool that it was 'a thrill, Auntie Nicki'.

Scissor fob pattern from The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery.
I've been crafting my little fingers off with every spare moment and have made myself a lush little selection of spooky sewing notions.  Stitching witches, monsters and pumpkin faces on these long dark evenings has given me much joy!  I have also been working on a few bags and home accessories for a new venture with my lovely friend Claire.  We hope to launch the shop at homebird and belle later in November, just in time to sell a few Christmas decorations.  We will also sell a few bits and bobs that fellow crafters might like.  We are starting very small as we both have full-time jobs but it's a way to justify our fabric purchases and share our favourite things so we're happy right now.  We're blogging fairly regularly too and have already uploaded the first of some delicious recipes so please do stop by!

Speaking of full-time jobs, I start a new one at the beginning of December.  Still with the same organisation but I'll be working in a different department.  It's a step up for me and I expect it to be challenging and verrrrry busy!  I'm looking forward to a change.  Thankfully, I will still be in contact with my current line manager.  He has been my favourite boss of all (albeit the most demanding and challenging; he has such high standards!).  And I'm not just saying that because he might stumble across my blog!  I've worked for him for six years and learnt such a lot, I feel well prepared to move into another role.  Exciting times.

In other [less exciting but no less important] news, I have had my ear syringed, blitzed my bathroom cupboards (unearthing 4 brand news pots of my fave L'Occitane body cream - yay!) and developed an unhealthy obsession with hazelnut lattes.  I have also bought four new winter dresses, fallen in love with my mother-in-law's new Westie pup and sliced my thumb open on a plastic tub of fresh pasta sauce (serve me right for taking the lazy option).

You're all up to date!  ;)

I'll be back soon - thanks for reading.  Have a super lovely week.




Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Bath, bed and stories all round

I did the bath, bed and story routine with Izzie this evening.  Whenever I get the chance I like to finish work at 5pm on the dot and get straight across to my sister's in time for stories.  I was there in good time this evening, plus bedtime is a little later due to the school holidays, so Izzie and I also managed a quick game of Bus Stop whilst watching Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy.  For the last couple of years I have always been sure to visit Izzie with a bag or basket full of fun stuff.  Usually I take stickers, colouring books and craft kits but just lately I've popped an Orchard Toys board game in my bag and Izzie loves them.  They are simple enough for her to learn but challenging enough to hold her attention.  Izzie beats me every single time and I swear it's not because I let her!  We like Shopping List and Pop to the Shops best.  Funny that the shopping ones would appeal to me most… Ha. 

After her bath, from which I got soaked from head to toe messing about with plastic colanders, Izzie picked out a book for us to read.  She chose, I'm sure, the thickest book in her collection.  We read a page each and it took us nearly half an hour.  It is fair to say that I am not a fan of the Buffin Street Gang.

Baby Ellie has spent all of my visits fast asleep so far and tonight was no exception.  We did get a good long snuggle together after her feed and Ellie snuffled into my shoulder, hiccuping softly (after the loudest, rudest, burp you ever heard).  She is almost enough to make me broody, that girl.  Everyone adores her.  It is a joy to see my sister so relaxed and happy with her second baby.  

I've been home for an hour, scoffed a posh fish finger sandwich and I think I'm off to bed now.  I am reading The Diary of a Provincial Lady and loving it.  It makes me laugh out loud; the unspoken competition she has with Lady B about 'the bulbs' has tickled me a lot.  Like an old-fashioned, married, Bridget Jones - I can definitely recommend it.

SO nearly the weekend.  Bring it on! 



Monday, 4 August 2014

A new baby in the family

Sewing [kitchen] trolley from Ikea.
Some pre-cut fabrics and FQ bundles in my sewing trolley :)
Fabric basket.  Lined with stiff interfacing to maintain shape.

My favourite quilting thread:  YLI.  Very strong, good colour selection and on pretty wooden spools.
I went to see my baby niece as soon as was feasibly possible: late afternoon last Monday.  She was 44 hours old as I held her in my arms.  She slept the entire time and I couldn't stop staring at her, she's perfect.

Izzie is 5 and totally enchanted by her little sister.  When I arrived at their house, she came running out of the front door to greet me, a giant smile stretching across her face.  She said breathlessly, "Auntie Nicki, the baby has popped out of mummy's tummy and I've got a sister - come and see!"  Ha! They'd just got back from the doctor's for Ellie's 48 hour check-up and Ellie was still in her car seat.  She is so small!  Izzie cannot leave her alone.  She plants big, wet kisses all over Ellie's face and - "look at her tiny little fingers and nails, Auntie Nicki" - pulls the sleep suit roughly up over Ellie's hands to marvel at the perfection of her baby sister.

My sister, though obviously still uncomfortable and sore, is blissful.  She and Ellie bonded immediately and Sarah seems content, relaxed and unbelievably happy.  She has always wanted children - lots of them preferably - and her doctor warned her it would be difficult to conceive due to her PCOS.  Her husband is looking after her well and they are the loveliest family.  I'm so happy for them.

The joy a baby brings to a family, right?!  Mum, Sarah and I group-message daily on Viber and it so nice to receive regular snaps of Izzie and Ellie; hear their news.

The sun continues to shine but it is definitely a little cooler, which is so welcome and makes me look forward to Autumn (I know, too soon).  The heat was starting to make me ratty.  I was fed up of feeling sweaty and unable to sleep at night-time.  I also have really bad hay fever this year - what's all that about?  I didn't get a whiff of hay fever until about four years ago and it seems to get worse each year.  Bizarre.  It's clearly a slippery slope to old age.  Ha.

I'm on a mission at the moment to organise and prettify my workroom.  I bought the [kitchen] trolley from Ikea a couple of weeks ago and it needed to be separated into compartments to help me properly sort my sewing bits.  I wasn't happy with the baskets available in Ikea and decided to make some fabric buckets on my return home.  I'm really pleased with the ones I made.  They were made purely by trial and error (they started off as just the one, quite shallow basket which didn't stand stiffly enough or fit into the trays) and I'm delighted with them now.  I used a Tilda charm pack and lined with pale pink tiny polka dot fabric (also by Tilda).  I am a huge Tilda fan.  I am planning a couple of Tilda quilts for myself, together with mother/baby hares and a mouse with a crown on.  The make-up bags, beach mat and sewing accessories are also on my 'to do' list.

Have a lovely week, friends.



Sunday, 27 July 2014

Slow summer days

Rustic heart on our front door
Our back yard; the pots are starting to look really pretty.

Current WIP.  These are hexies that I printed ever so slightly too small, by accident.  Not sure what they will become.
Pretty Tilda fabric.
Lizzie photobombing.  Again.
I am having a quiet summer and loving it.  The days are long and hot.  I am working, sewing, watching a little TV, reading and swimming.

Man, I *love* going off for a swim when it's hot outside.  I have started to meet an old friend at the pool on a Friday evening and I'm really enjoying our dates.  We meet straight after work and swim half a mile alongside each other then have a good gossip in the spa before we each head home.  K is getting married in September and it is so nice to hear her wedding news.  I didn't enjoy planning my wedding at all and wish, now, that we'd gone for a smaller affair.  Don't get me wrong, my wedding day was the happiest day of my life, but I did not enjoy being the centre of attention.  I've changed since we got married.  I care less about what I ought to do and more about what I want to do.  I think if we got married again I'd hold a bunch of wildflowers in the local church with just my close family and friends.  I'd wear a pale pink dress and we'd all spend the rest of the day squashed into in the garden at home with lots of fairy lights and amazing food.  Anyhoo.

I am keeping a low profile socially.  I'm lucky to have a lot of really lovely friends but I went through a phase of over-booking my social diary then cancelling and letting people down, which would ultimately make them (and me) feel bad.  So I've scrubbed the diary clear and I'm letting things happen spontaneously where possible, which makes me feel much more calm and, oddly, in control.

My book stash is severely depleted; I am tearing through it.  Really enjoyed Tracey Chevalier 'The Last Runaway' and followed it up with 'Falling Angels' which I also liked.  I've then read the latest Peter James' 'Want You Dead' (another excellent read) and have this afternoon finished Mo Hayder's 'Wolf' (which is a decent read but a bit slow and not as scary as I'd hoped).

J has been with us this weekend.  I fetched him on Friday afternoon and we spent a lovely hour or so on the swing seat in the shade, catching up.  His school prom was a couple of weeks ago and he showed me the photos of him and his friends.  He seems to have a really cool group of friends; fun and cheeky but with enough nouse to work hard at school and get good grades.

We went into London last night to have dinner and see Derren Brown live.  It was stifling in the theatre but it was such a good show.  Made a change to do something different and it was really nice wandering through the busy streets of London on a hot summer night, sipping cold drinks and discussing the show.

But I've kept my best news 'til last.  My sister gave birth to a gorgeous baby girl last night.  She went into hospital at 6:30pm and the baby had been born by 9:30pm.  She did it all with just gas and air, lost a lot of blood and I understand it was *quite* painful, but they came home this afternoon and all is well.  I am going to see them after work tomorrow.  I cannot wait.  I adore my niece and to be given another… well, I couldn't have had better news this weekend.  Happy days!

Have a good week, lovely people.



Let's finish with a little grumble, since I'm constantly hot and therefore a little bit ratty:
  • My make-up is flatly refusing to stay put in this weather.  My eyebrows melt off my face within an hour and hayfever gives me leaky eyes, ruining my eyeliner.  I look, frankly, rank.
  • Every day is a bad hair day.  My locks are well overdue a cut and colour so I am spending the summer resembling an aging rock star with long, greasy, dark roots and dry ends. 
  • I am still smarting from my doctor telling me that he will no longer prescribe the contraceptive pill for me after Christmas.  Feels like it is only a matter of time before he suggests a hip replacement and heart pills.  I am NOT old dammit! 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Weekend Edition: Iced Chai, Blueberry Muffins and Susie Watson

When it's warm out, I like to have the back door wide open the whole time I'm in the kitchen.  I especially like to prop the door open if it's warm and rainy - I find it relaxing listening to the rain.  As soon as the door is open, Lizzie makes a beeline for her watchpoint at the gate.  She spends most of her time outside right in that spot.  Standing or sitting.  Sometimes barking but mostly just sitting quietly, watching the world go by. Andrew had gone out to pick up coffees for us this morning and she was waiting patiently for him to come home.  

Whilst Andrew was running errands, I set to work making a batch of giant blueberry muffins.  I have been craving them (with a hot, strong, coffee) all week long.  I tuned into Steve Wright's Love Songs on Radio Two and warbled along to Whitney and ELO as I sieved, whisked and stirred.  I used the recipe from The Grand Central Baking Book and it was good!  I added a little more sugar to the mix just because I like sweet muffins - they were delish.  The house smelled amazing as they baked and Andrew arrived with our coffee just as they hit the perfect eating temperature.  We sat on the swing seat in the yard together, with Lizzie at our feet, chatting about nothing in particular and enjoying the sunshine.  (Ok, that last bit was a lie.  I was chatting and Andrew was semi-listening.  As usual.)

We went to Marlow yesterday.  Late to the party, I know, but I have become obsessed with Susie Watson pottery and textiles.  Obsessed.  I had read that the shop in Marlow was kitted out like a traditional house and I fancied a looksee.  Not only that, Andrew and I both like to go out at the weekends on mini road trips wherever possible, exploring different towns or countryside and trying out new eateries.  We set off super-early and picked up a Starbucks for the journey.  I felt kind of swanky in my new long white cotton dress but within seconds of being handed my chai latte, it was in my lap.  The barista (stupid word) hadn't put the lid on properly.  Thank gawd the drink was cold because although the ice cubes were a bit of a shock, a hot drink would have been a whole other kettle of soldiers.  I was calm about the frock (now see-through and a kind of dip-dyed pale beige) but we raced home for me to change, threw the dress *straight* into the washing machine (oh hello, Postie, don't mind me here in the kitchen in my control pants and granny shoes) and I couldn't bring myself to leave the house until I was certain the dress was OK.  (It was.)  We finally got to Marlow for lunchtime, headed for the cafe that had been recommended and promptly found ourselves eating mediocre quiche in a mediocre cafe which served unattractively large slices of cucumber and plastic sachets of salad cream.  

The day was saved by a very pleasant wander through the park and along the river followed by a little sit-down at a game of cricket as we ate ginormous waffle cones of Mr Whippy with flakes and chocolate sauce.  I came home happy with a big bag full of pastel crockery and linens, a posy of flowers and frizzy hair (it rained).  We will definitely go again.  Marlow is a lovely town. There are other cafes and restaurants I'm keen to try, as well as requiring several visits back to empty Susie Watson of pink polka dot goods.  

I've been sewing today, making little wrist pincushions that Claireybelle and I hope to sell at homebird & belle.  (So exciting.  News on that for another day.)  Lizzie sat in an armchair in my sewing room looking impossibly cute and didn't bat an eyelid at my swearing or the excessive sex grunts from Orange Is The New Black on my Mac as I worked. 

Finally, our perfectly ordinary dinner of breaded chicken with salad and new potatoes was made perfectly extraordinary by the presence of salty, buttery, homegrown, freshly dug potatoes. OMGosh. So delicious.  If there is one thing you do next year, I would so encourage you to grow your own.  We have got all kinds of veg growing in pots outside and they are all coming along superbly, so far.  The pair of us are embarrassingly inept in the garden, too, so if we can do it anyone can! 

Have a great week.