Sunday, 18 November 2012

Still Loving Red

My love affair with red refuses to abate.  I wrote 18 months ago about how much I was loving the colour red here and since then my house and wardrobe have filled with the colour.  Remember that bag?  (OMG I was so much thinner 18 months ago... Eep! I appear to have been loving the chocolate bars since then, too.)

Now we are in the frenzied run up to Christmas, there is a lot of red and white in the shops and this makes me very happy indeed!

Checks, stripes and spots.  Oooh.
I've bought a few things at Sainsbury's this week.  The decorations have been on sale at a third off so I've been able to buy twice as much.  (Maths has never been my strong point.)  Little lanterns and Christmas Spice candles have been sneaked into the shopping trolley and hidden behind loaves of bread or cartons of milk.

Yesterday, Andrew and I nipped out for a bit of Christmas shopping.  I was in my element - Ikea has loads of gorgeous decorations, lights and wrapping paraphernalia.  It was also surprisingly quiet there.  Bonus.  There was a set of mini gift bags complete with number stickers to make a gorgeous tree-hanging advent calendar.  I'd rather like Andrew to buy them and fill each bag with small Tiffany sparkles but I know that's expecting too much.  Ha!

I did buy a truck-load of stuff myself though.  This is my dining table as we speak:

Andrew thinks it looks a mess and is practically begging me to tidy it away now.  To me, it looks beautiful!  I want to keep it all there as long as possible.  I'd cleared a small space on the table and was having a coffee in my [red and white, natch] Starbucks mug post dog walk when I felt the urge to photograph it all.  There are gift bags, polka dot bells, candles, lanterns, hanging decorations, napkins (just seen in the far left-hand corner) cupcake wrappers.  These are fabric gingham napkins from John Lewis, but I also bought a few packs of red and white striped paper napkins from Ikea which I like very much, too.

The two toadstool hanging decorations are from one of my favourite online shops, The Corner House.  I follow the shop owners, Clara and Clare, on Instagram and wish almost every day that I lived close enough to pop into their shop.  They'd be sick of me within a week.

John Lewis came up trumps with toadstool goodies too, of course.

I adore these tea lights and plan to pop them in tall jam jars with rustic twine and twigs wound around the top.  I will have to be brave to light them - they're too cute to burn.  Ha!

John Lewis was very busy so we called it a day and stopped at Olney on the way home for tea and cake.  Olney is one of the closest towns to me (apart from Northampton, which is pants for shopping and strolling) and it's my favourite.  The architecture is beautiful, the shops are just gorgeous and the whole place has a nice feel to it.  The shops are decked out for Christmas now and dusk was falling as we walked back to the car so we could see fairy lights twinkling in windows all around us.  It was a truly lush day, finished off with a bag of chips and rum and coke by the fire.

Hope everyone has had a nice weekend too. 

Lotsa love.


Thursday, 15 November 2012

A cold and frosty morning

It's a grey and foggy day here.  I love it, especially if I'm working from home like I am today.  I tune into Radio 2, switch the fairy lights on all over the house, light a few scented candles and take my time over my first cup of coffee.  Andrew lights the wood burners and banks them up with logs before he goes to work, and the house slowly comes alive.  It's a lovely way to start the day.

The days and weeks are whizzing by.  I can't believe we're just weeks away from Christmas.  I am going to drag out the festivities this year so that it all feels less rushed and frenzied.  

I won't be putting the Christmas trees up early but I am starting to sneak out the odd decoration and I'm off to Sainsbury's this afternoon to buy some Christmas Spice tea lights.

This is my very favourite time of year and I am making sure I savour each and every day.  


I really enjoyed watching the Nigellissima series recently (I have a girl-crush on Nigella) so I bought the book a couple of weeks ago and have already made loads of the recipes, all of which have been amazing.  Nigella's macaroni cheese is a new favourite in this house, it's so gorgeously cheesy and creamy without being bland or sickly.  A generous handful of rocket is the perfect partner for it.  Other favourites include the sausage meatballs and the super-speedy Orzo with pancetta and peas.  

Last week I made the yogurt pot cake (its Italian name is a ciambella).  It's a lightly lemon-flavoured, kind of dry breakfast cake (it has quite a large amount of cornflour in it).  It is delicious with a cup or two of strong coffee. 

I like these ring tins because they're great for plain sponges - you get nice small slices (if that's what you want!) and I think the cake looks quite appealing too. 

As well as cooking and eating, I have started to learn to knit.  I have been hugely inspired by Suzie Johnson of the Wool Sanctuary.  She is a hand-knit designer and creates really cool patterns that use texture and colour to maximum effect without being complicated.  I've started with the Princess Margaret scarf and, despite a bit of a false start (ie lots of negative knitting) I have got into my stride and the scarf is starting to grow! 

My stitching is getting a little quicker and I don't poke my tongue out as I'm working quite so much.  The tension isn't exactly perfect yet but I'm over the moon with how it's turning out.  I feel like an actual genius! Ha!  My mum taught me to knit when I was about 8 so it has been like opening a dusty old book in my brain.  I dream of knitting knee blankets, socks, wristwarmers and shawls.  My next project is going to be one of Suzie's beach houses.  

I haven't ditched the crochet.  I'm currently working on a ripple blanket  and a rope stitch snood which I have now decided isn't going to be a snood after all but another knee blanket. 
It's about double the size now.  Taking me yonks.  I haven't had the concentration skills required.
Was a snood, now a blanket.
The pattern for my ripple blanket is from Loop's Vintage Crochet book.  The pattern for the snood/blanket is on Sarah's lovely blog - Annaboo's House.  Doing the rope stitch with chunky wool means it's really quick to work up.  It's the fastest I've ever got through a ball of yarn and it looks lush.  I'm definitely using the pattern again!  Thanks Sarah.


As well as being cosied up indoors I've been out and about all over the place - the back half of the year has been so busy!  I have mentioned before how much I love the jewellery handmade by Belinda at Wild Acre.  Well, last Friday evening she held a private viewing at her gorgeous home and I took along my new BFF, Claire, to have a looksee.  I was clutching a wad of notes that Andrew had given me for one of my Christmas presents and I could have spent it ten times over.  Belinda's jewellery is right up my street - contemporary designs, gorgeous textures and simple but stunning details.  I chose five rings to wear stacked all together.  I cannot wait to get them!  I have already planned my next purchase - the oak leaf ring, oak leaf pendant and a pair of pip earrings.  Have to start prioritising my spends so I can buy them.  :)

Busy day at work today so I ought to wrap up here.  Before I go though, I just wanted to let you know about my friend's new blog:  Erinshine Stitches.  I've mentioned Erin before - we met through Instagram.  Erin makes the most gorgeous stuff and has a lovely sunny outlook to life (she is also learning to knit too but is a bit quicker and braver than me!).  I am delighted that she's started a blog - pop on over and have a nose.

Enjoy the rest of the week.  The weekend is so close we can almost taste it!  Yay! 



PS Thank you Victoria at Lily Loves Lola for tagging me recently.  I will do my questions next time - I love tag posts!   

PPS The dog has had her bi-monthly cut and blow-dry.  They've trimmed her face right down but left her body quite big.  She looks a bit of a pinhead.  Poor thing.

PPPS I have bought many, many, things lately but my favourite has to be the white, furry, bunny-eared onesie I'm wearing right now.  I bought it from Next recently inspired by a photo I saw of a [very gorgeous] 8/9 year old in one.  I think I'm highly flammable but it's the warmest thing ever.  Scarily, the husband quite fancies me in it.  Ha! 

Friday, 28 September 2012

Cutting Down on the Costs of Reading

This is a sponsored post.

One of my favourite things to do is read. It’s an easy way to relax and unwind and there is so much out there to learn. Fiction, non-fiction, adventure, romance, crime thrillers — there’s nothing better than finding something that interests you and getting lost in a good book or article on the subject. Recently, though, I’ve realised that I’ve been spending more on reading than I used to thanks to a Kindle I received as a gift. It’s just so easy to tap a few buttons and have a new book in front of me within seconds. Since I noticed the uptick in this expense, I’ve taken a few steps to try to minimise the cost of my favourite hobby:

Trade books. My Kindle and iPad are great for travailing but when I went to the beach this summer, I didn’t want to worry about getting sand or water near my electronics so a good old-fashioned paperback was definitely the way to go. Sites like let you get rid of books that you’ve already read by trading them for ones that you are interested in. This also worked well when I wanted more room in my suitcase on the way back because I was able to leave a paperback in the hotel lobby for someone else to enjoy.

Lend books electronically. My sister also has a Kindle and recently purchased a book that she loved and recommended to me. When she was finished, she was able to lend me the book for two weeks which meant I was able to read it without having to pay!

Explore free digital options. Amazon offers many books for free digitally. This is a great excuse to catch up on the classics!

Don’t forget the library! Libraries do still exist and they are great resources for both free electronic and paper borrowing.
Happy reading!

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Thursday, 20 September 2012

Cross-Stitch, Crochet and Tea Shops

Blimey I've been busy since I last wrote!  It wasn't until I uploaded the photos from my phone that I realised just how much I've done in the last few weeks. 

I've been very busy stitching and hooking.  Last week I completed the floral wall hanging that I have been working on through the summer and I am delighted with it. 

Pattern from Cross Stitcher Home Style book
Progress via Instagram
I will frame it and hang it on the wall in my living room with my collection of vintage floral paintings - I think it will look good there.  I just need to find exactly the right frame, which so far is eluding me.  I am going to have to recycle an old one and keep my eyes peeled in the charity shops.  

I've started working on another piece of cross stitch - this one is from a Made in France embroidery book.   (A gorgeous series of books; I have three and love them all.)

A Scandi-style heart made of snowflakes, I chose this pattern because it is simple, delicate and pretty.  I have only worked on it a few nights now and it is nearing completion.  Its destiny is to be stuffed and dangle prettily somewhere in my home.  I plan to make a few and fill them with lavender to keep my yarn stash fresh and moth-free.

In between working on my rose cross-stitch I made this little wall-hanging for a lovely new friend.  

Erin is one of life's rays of sunshine and I'm so glad I met her.  She is always making beautiful things for people (and has made a couple of surprise gifts for me) so I wanted to make something in return to say thank you.  I was pleased with how it turned out and I'm going to make a few mis-matched ones for myself to decorate the landing when I get around to it.

Work on the cream and pink popcorn flower blanket is still underway.  

I have decided to intersperse the flower squares with plain cream grannies.  The flowers take quite a while to work up and use a lot of yarn.  Plain grannies can be knocked up in minutes and without any thought so the blanket is growing much more quickly than originally anticipated.  

As much as I'm loving the flowers, I think I also need something wintery to work on now that the days are getting cooler.  I've got a huge stash of gorgeous Rowan wool and some beautiful Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino so I'm going to start another blanket soon.  Nothing wrong with having a couple of projects on the go as long as they get finished, I reckon.

I am pleased to say that I haven't been a complete crafting hermit.  I've been out and about lots too.  I've visited London on a weekly basis - to meet friends, have dinner, drink tea/cocktails/champagne, eat cake, poke around haberdasheries, browse a craft fair, shop at Liberty and raid Anthropologie.  Exhausting but lush! 

Loch Fyne
We live just an hour's train journey from the centre of London.  Buying a railcard and booking tickets in advance means we can travel there very cheaply so we have vowed to make the most of it and really explore our capital.   I've always travelled regularly into London and could probably tell you in my sleep where all of my favourite shops are, and quite a few fancy restaurants too.  But now [I'm older] I'm more interested in tea shops, haberdasheries, markets, architecture and city parks so I've bought a few books to help me make the most of every single trip into town.  If you have any recommendations I'd love to hear. 

Love and stuff.



PS - Yay! I've reached the 300 follower mark! So chuffed and thank you for clicking the follow button, particularly during such a writing drought.  I will be hosting a giveaway soon to thank you for supporting me.  Please say hi if you're new, I'd love to hear from you. 

PPS - I do try to respond to everyone directly but sometimes it's difficult if you're a 'no reply' blogger.  So, I'm going to respond to all comments here, on my blog, now.  So if you ask a question, pop back in a day or two and I'll have replied.  Well, that's the plan and I'll do my very best.  :) x

Monday, 20 August 2012

A Slow and Steady Summer

The good weather has been a long time coming and I am so ready for it.  We all are, I know.  It has been lovely to throw open the windows and encourage a light, fragrant breeze to blow through the house.  Drink wine so cold that condensation forms on the glass.  To lay in bed at night listening to farm machinery in the nearby fields.

We are taking it easy this summer, spending a great deal of time thinking, talking and planning.  Discussing what's really important to us.  Taking stock of our lives and working out what actually makes us happy.  August is always quiet for us and this year, more than any other, we have welcomed that period of slowing down.

There has been plenty of opportunity to sit in a comfortable chair to stitch or crochet in the evenings.

I have been inspired (as usual!) by Vanessa and have started to crochet a new blanket.

A gorgeous new set of bamboo crochet hooks from Lisa Pocklington at
This one's for the bedroom.  I am making the 'Something Pretty' square, the pattern for which has been published on the ever-so-lush Millie Makes blog.  I wasn't aware of Millie Makes until Vanessa pointed us in that direction and I'm so glad she did.  So much gorgeousness in one place.

I started this blanket the very day that Vanessa posted about it.  I'd had a little stash of Rowan 'Pure Life' organic cotton sitting in a basket for a while and planned to use it for a tea cosy that Cuckoo shared on her blog last year.  Just hadn't got round to it yet.  But - as soon as I saw this puffy floral square I fell in love and immediately knew that the chalky pink and cool cream organic cotton would be perfect for such a pretty pattern.   Happily (or maybe not) the yarn has been discontinued now and I was able to top up my stash for half the usual price.  Happy me!

Stash of squares by my bedside.  Slowly growing! 
Each square seems to take an age to complete but the finished result is worth it.  I am using the pink and green cotton to make the flowers and edging the whole thing in cream.  The colours will look beautiful on our bed, if I have the patience to make the blanket big enough.  If not, I will use it as a lap blanket for one of the armchairs in my craft room.
I've created a craft space in the top room at home.  I'll show you properly sometime but I love it! 
Few of us are faithful/committed/disciplined enough to stick with one project at the time and I am simultaneously working on a large-ish piece of cross stitch that will be framed and hung on the wall in our living room.  It's the first time I've used even weave fabric and I'm delighted with how it is coming along, even if I do have to squint at my work more than usual!

My crafty adventures do not end there!  Andrew bought me a jam-making kit (at my request) for Christmas and I mentioned, in passing, to the post lady (random, I know, but she's a friend now) that I still hadn't used it.  She promptly descended on me early one evening (it was planned!) with two punnets of apricots and a bag of sugar.  This apricot jam was the result:

How much do you think I enjoyed prettying up the jars?  Yep, loads.
It is delicious - I'm thrilled!.  Andrew moaned that he doesn't like apricot jam but then he tasted this.  He has eaten it every morning (of his own accord!) on toast for breakfast and claims he loves it.  Score!

*happy dance* 

Spurred on by my success, I made strawberry jam last week.  Another winner *high five*.  I've well and truly caught the bug - can't wait to make chutneys and pickles.

Tonight, the husband's football team is playing so I'm going to sit and do some more of my cross stitch.  Have a lovely week everyone and thanks for popping by.

Hello to my new followers and thank you for clicking the 'join this blog' button.  I'm getting ever closer to 300 followers which is fab as I am planning a giveaway which includes a beautiful Pip Studio jug!




Wednesday, 8 August 2012

J'adore la France

Warning:  Epic post with loads of pictures.  You might want to fetch a cuppa.  Or just give it a swerve altogether, I won't be offended!

We've been lucky this year and had two really lovely holidays.  We went off to Spain (blogged here!) towards the end of June and then we went to France at the end of July with my family.

It was my Dad's 60th Birthday this year and he wanted to have a holiday with us all to celebrate. (I think he'd had a bit of a health scare - that he kept secret from us - but he's definitely getting a bit soppy in his old age!)  

The front view.  To the right of the photo is the main outbuilding - the bit you can see is a little games room.
Said games room:  pool and table tennis.  There was also badminton and tennis equipment if you wanted it.
Dad booked an amazing gîte  in France for the week.  It was one of the best holidays ever, made all the more special for being able to spend quality time not just with Drew but with mum, dad, sis, bro-in-law and niece.  Of course we see each other a lot  - we all live within a reasonable driving distance of each other - but it's rare that we get the chance to just be quiet in each other's company, share a bottle of wine or a pot of coffee and enjoy the sunshine without any time pressures.  

Drew sprawled out on a blanket in the garden.  By the swing seat, there, is a delightful babbling brook. 
Cross stitch in the shade.  Heaven on earth.
The gîte was gorgeous.  It was huge with five big bedrooms, four bathrooms (all luxuriously kitted out) and an enormous kitchen/diner with the most heavenly scrubbed pine table to seat about 14 people.  It was decorated completely to my taste and had a kind of faded grandeur about it.  I spent the first hour of our arrival wandering around room to room exclaiming over the furniture and the objets d'art everywhere!

The entrance hall.  Made me go 'oooh!' immediately! 
If I could have sneaked this whole cabinet and its contents home, I probably would have, I won't lie.  I was besotted with it:

The kitchen had folding french windows which opened right out onto the decking and swimming pool area.  It was seriously lovely and the perfect place for some downtime en famille.  

Swimming pool and pool house.  Loads of loungers and a huge table again.  Lush.
The gîte was in a hamlet near the small town of Trun.  We chose the Normandy area because my Dad and Drew have a fascination with WWII and wanted to explore the Normandy beaches.  Trun was the nearest town in which to pick up our daily baguettes and whilst there we'd have a coffee at our favourite little cafe to watch the world go by:

The little cafe was right next to the boulangerie and it was lovely to watch people of all ages popping by to fetch their bread.  Children as young as 6 or 7 wandered past with great long baguettes! 

Apart from several days spent at our home for the week, we did make a couple of trips out.  Our first trip was to Caen to visit a Commonwealth cemetery and war museum.  

Caen was beautiful, with lots of quaint little buildings, a beautiful cathedral, pretty shops and restaurants.

I've obviously seen the cemeteries on TV and in films but you cannot comprehend the enormity of it until you are standing right there yourself.  Nearly 5,000 graves at this one alone; imagine each grave is a uniformed man, standing to attention.  It was indescribably emotional.  

My favourite day of the holiday was a day spent with my mum and dad visiting the trenches and the beaches.  We were out from 8am until 8pm in glorious sunshine.  My dad and Drew especially had a whale of time but mum and I found the trenches interesting too.  There were hideouts, guns and shiz:

Beach fortifications, part of the Atlantic wall built by the Germans on Omaha beach.

Big gun. :-)

The Dakota's pretty but look at that sky! :-)
Drew and me.
We took a tiny detour inland to find somewhere nice for lunch and found the lovely town of Douvres-la-Delivrande where we took our time over pizza, salads and wine in the shade.

My two favourite men ever. 
We drove back to the coastline to explore more beaches and before heading home we decided to find somewhere for a drink.  I had been telling my mum just that day that I wanted to buy a wicker basket for shopping at the local farmers' market.  As we drove past this little shop in Beauvron en Auge I literally squealed at my dad to 'stop the car!'.  

He performed a perfect almost-emergency-stop, swinging the car into the nearest parking space.  Turns out it was a good move.  Mum and I spent the rest of our holiday money in the Epicerie, we all had a wander round the town and then stopped at a little bar opposite the Epicerie for a glass of wine.   It was delightful.

A gorgeous row of shops including an antiques store and a small art gallery.
This little shop was closed.  It looked amazing.  Fromageries rule!
SO MANY lovely things in this shop.  Was sorely tempted by a polka dot scarf.

Our view as we quaffed ice cold white wine (the boys drank beer).
Of course one of the highlights of the holiday was to have a whole week with my gorgeous niece.  I got cuddles first thing in the morning and lots of splashing in the pool with her too.  My favourite moment was a bit of quiet time after we'd been in the pool together. I was lying on a sun lounger drying off when she trotted over to me with her mum's ipad, sat on my tummy, pinched the hat from my head and made me sing along to 'Bingo the Dog'.  

B-I-N-G-O and Bingo was his name-o! 

A moment I will treasure forever - the holiday was full of them.

Thank you, Dad, for an amazing holiday and happy 60th Birthday.  We love you loads.