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.