Tuesday 29 May 2007

And then I don't feel so bad ...

My oldest daughter went off to Italy at the weekend and we won't see her for another ten days. This is her third holiday away from us this year and I don't find it any easier! Of course I want her to go and have fun and experience as much as she can and I know how important it is for her to do things independently of us, but that doesn't stop me worrying. My youngest, whose favourite past time is arguing with her sister, was inconsolable within five minutes of her greatest adversary's departure. I asked why, if she loved her so much, why didn't she show it more when she was around and was told, very patiently, that fighting was so much fun! That'll teach me to get involved in the future in the name of fairness and peace and quiet. Must remember when they're slamming doors and shrieking at each other, that it's fun!

Feeling very unsettled and with lots of nervous energy I attacked the eldest's room with the hoover (very brave and rewarding), found things that had been missing for months, and restored order of a kind. I managed to finish the ragbag that I started last week and some corsages too for my etsy shop,
Well, if we're to believe dear old Julie Andrews, thinking of (or in my case, having) a few of my favourite things has made me feel better this weekend. We certainly had the raindrops on roses part and the evenings were suddenly so cold I even thought we might have the snowflakes part! On Saturday night in front of an open fire (in May, it's mad!) I watched Casino Royale. I know, I know, I must be the last one on earth to see it, but it's true what they say about all good things coming to those who wait. Daniel Craig is certainly one of my favourite things and a great diversion!

In between the downpours I ran into the garden to take some photos of some flowers, worrying that they wouldn't survive the weekend. This ground cover geranium is a real old toughie and is not nearly as delicate as it looks. I've got clumps of it all over the garden and it is even snail-proof. The snails seem to be in heaven at the moment and have devoured so many of the plants this weekend. So many seedlings have disappeared that I'm beginning to wonder whether I imagined planting them in the first place.

I took this picture of the purple sage in between showers and the light was quite dramatic. The flowers seem to be quite flourescent but are really much softer and prettier against the foliage. The sage is planted next to Lamb's Ears and makes a great contrast with the silvery grey. The campanula, bellflower, in the top photo is another favourite, I love the colour of its flowers, and it looks lovely in front of the white foxgloves that are towering behind them.
Sunday was spent again in front of an open fire watching videos and eating chocolate with my youngest - gorgeous! It is very nice being able to focus on just one child and feel that they can have your undivided attention for a while. If they want to spend a morning glueing and painting, it's great to know that you can give in to it completely and everyone is going to be happy.
We spent the Bank Holiday with old friends. Chatting, laughing, children dressing up and eating. Favourite food, favourite people and lovely wine. Doesn't really get much better - and finally, finally the eldest made contact with us to say she was very, very happy, very, very hyper, definitely not homesick - hurray!

Friday 25 May 2007

Green Fingers

Well I'm hoping to get some more gardening in this weekend, but, being a Bank Holiday, the weather forecast isn't looking too promising. Here instead of, and just in case I can't get into the garden to take any photos. is part of my china collection. If you click on the images I think they'll enlarge. Isn't it wonderful? It's "Green Fingers" made by Beswick in the 50s and I love the images. Very quaint and stylised and very much of its time. A gorgeous green that reminds me of the teacups that used to be in the staffroom when I was at Primary School (although I'm not as old as the china).. Look at those skirts and waists on those ladies and the lovely ponytails. I'd like to say I looked as gorgeous when I was weeding the garden or daintly tending to my flowers underneath the tree but I wouldn't be able to get away with that one. Can you see the man posing, leaning on his spade, pipe in hand watching over things ... Idyllic I know but I love it.
Wishing you all a wonderful weekend and hope you get to spend some time outside (wearing nipped at the waist skirts and your ponytails high of course).

Tuesday 22 May 2007

A Gentle Plea for Chaos

The rain has stopped and I can garden again. It's good to take a break from all that ragging, after a while it feels that I'm growing extra thumbs on my hands as they get so sore from cutting! There's a lot going on at the moment and I'm really not feeling on top of things and all I've really wanted to do for over a week now is be in the garden. The rain and cold had put a stop to that and I took some comfort in browsing through my old gardening books.

One of them in particular, A Gentle Plea for Chaos, by Mirabel Osler, is an old favourite. So while chaos was taking the upperhand in our house it was nice to bury myself in a book that actively promotes a little "amiable disorder". I really like the thinking behind this book, and agree wholeheartedly that plants should be allowed to scatter as they please, things shouldn't be too regimented here in our gardens or too "neat", that nature should take the lead and above all we should give our plants time.

On Sunday we were able to mow the lawn and spend a bit of time in the garden, I was talking to my husband and saying how much I loved discovering new seedlings appearing randomly around the garden and that we should leave the buttercups and comfrey alone. We were wondering if we were "lazy" in the sense of letting things be rather than weeding furiously and rearranging the flower beds, but we decided that that's the way we liked things, relaxed, sponataneous and surprising. Although this garden belongs to us it is good to know that it can still throw up the odd surprise and I love not being fully in control out here. I'd rather have drifts of buttercups and daisies in my garden than a perfect lawn.

These foxgloves have selfseeded here and I couldn't have chosen a better spot for them. They look great amongst the plants that we have planted. I will leave them to self seed again this year and see what happens ...

These foxgloves in front of the shutters at the end of the garden were planted by us and I think frame the shutters really well. Inside the shuttters in a few weeks time letters will be placed in the grille by my daughters on Midsummer's Night to be read by any passing fairies!

Being in my garden is such a contrast to tearing around the house always with one eye on the clock, time seems to pass more slowly and I seem to be able to really think clearly out here. It is not a very big garden but it is a garden that offers me a great deal of pleasure and comfort.

Sunday 20 May 2007

Bunnies, buttons and bags

We have a new addition to our family - Topsy! Isn't she lovely? Unfortunately she is only staying with us for a while as she is destined to be a gift for my niece. Topsy was made by Emma. I earmarked her last week at Emma's Open House and collected her yesterday. Looking at all the gorgeous goodies on display yesterday I could have bought them all! If you look closely at the photo you'll see that Topsy did not come alone - Emma gave my oldest daughter and me the two lovely brooches and my youngest was given that beautiful hairband. Thanks Emma! How lucky and happy are we!

I also received this parcel of goodies from the very kind Gill at Lucy Locket. Thank you! Lovely old buttons, vintage lace, threads and the beautiful fabric in the background. There were also buttons of the chocolate variety, and you'll pleased to know Gill, that I've already found a use for them!

Inspired by my new fabric and buttons I made this new corsage and posy, using some of my new treasures.
And that's not all, fuelled by my recent chocolate consumption, my energy levels reaching an all time high this weekend, I have also managed to start a new little bag and pompom. Hopefully these will be finished over the next few days and, of course, those energy levels will have to be kept up somehow ....

Thursday 17 May 2007

Chocolate Fancies

I am a chocoholic - there, now you know. It's no secret to anyone who knows me, I have loved chocolate since I was a little girl. Sherbet pips and pear drops may come and go, but chocolate has never left me. Of course chocolate is always better eaten in secret and if you stick to the adage of eating it standing up it never counts either! On a health level I have also spared my children's teeth serious amounts of decay by eating their chocolate for them. The amount of Easter Eggs I have consumed on their behalf ....
These days chocolate has become so sophisticated; packaging, brand names and flavours are all out to seduce me. On rainy days like today how can you not be comforted by strawberry and paprika flavour chocolate, peppermint and vanilla or geranium. My daughter's favourite is also another winner - Lime and Vanilla Dainty Dollops (she always buys these for me hoping they'll get shared round). Thank you Montezumas!
If I ever ventured into the chocolate making world (although I think I would never get past the product tasting stage) I'm afraid I would have to have hopelessly ridiculous and romantic combinations, floral, spicy or a combination of the two.
Chocolate cheers me up, when it's raining, when it's Friday evening with a bottle of wine, when I'm watching a good movie, whenever I walk past a box of it, or know there's a bar of it in the fridge somewhere, I can't resist ...

PS No chocolates were eaten during the writing of this post (apart from the little heart on the left).

Monday 14 May 2007

Singing in the rain

We had a weekend planned that was full of little trips .... and then it rained, and rained, and rained! It was to be a weekend where we all had something to look forward to (no mean feat in itself) and then it rained! However, not to be put off, we carried on.
I watched this poppy open on Saturday morning through the kitchen window. As the rain poured down it felt the warmth of a very hidden sun and decided to go for it! Within half an hour it was in full bloom and has survived a weekend of wind and heavy rain. Not to be outdone by a flower, I went ahead with my morning visit to the annual plant sale held during the Festival by a local gardening association and as usual, was glad I did. Bags of beautiful, healthy and CHEAP plants for my garden. Came home to find the poppy still blooming but decided it was too wet for me to garden. Round one to the poppy!

My oldest was singing on the beach with her school. so no excuse possible for this one! Very glad we went too, it was great - something so wonderful about children (sorry, young adults) making music - beautiful. I also had time to pop into one of the Open Houses to see some of Tracy's beautiful work from Cupcakes on display. It was well worth the visit - she is very talented. She also sells her things online, so go and take a peek! Came home freezing, fingers blue and still the poppy bloomed.

Artichokes for supper - I'd seen them the day before in the market and asked them to put them by for us. First artichokes of the year!!! If only my youngest would eat every vegetable with such relish - I have never seen her demolish a meal so quickly.
A pile of homework finished on Sunday morning accompanied by varying wails of dismay and despair. But, oh the happiness when it was all over. And outside it was still raining but the darned poppy was still blooming ... . Somehow we managed to convince the girls (again) how much they always enjoy visiting the Open Houses, once they got there, and that wet hair could always be dried and that yes we could buy cakes along they way. One of the houses we visited was showing some of Emma's lovely work. I had promised to meet up with Emma and I'm very glad I did as Emma is a lovely lady and her work is beautiful too, She has produced a collection of really pretty, delicate and colourful textiles. I'm sure she's going to be doing very well during the Festival.
Another meal cooked by my husband and I even managed to finish this bag and matching rag pompom. Not a bad weekend all things considered. Yes it did rain, but most of the time it didn't matter. Never thought poppies would be teaching me lessons!

Friday 11 May 2007

Handbags & Gladrags - Part Two

I've been told off and told to redress the balance. Well, that's paraphrasing it a bit, more on the lines of; "Mummy that's so unfair, you've written about her and you've not said anything about me'! Being caught up in a constant battle of fairness between two sisters is no fun. I mentioned the post I wrote about her being poorly, but apparently colds and Calpol don't count, it's still not fair!
I know that at the moment that gap between her and her sister is infuriating for her and strive as she might she just will never be the same age as her older sister. How infuriating (and unfair) is that?

On the whole, older sister apart, being seven is good (so she tells me). You can still sleep in a pink bedroom surrounded by your fairies and sylvanians and giggle away with your friends in your bedroom for hours and enjoy the dressing up box. You still look forward to your ballet classes and showing off the latest steps at home. You can still spend hours working out a new Abba routine and play imaginary games with your toys that mummy is not allowed to listen to. You can still lie next to mummy or daddy at bedtime for a cuddle and a story.
My youngest daughter makes us laugh, she is the comedian in the family, In moments of stress, worry and argument she will produce the funniest, driest comment possible (and she knows it). I love the way she confuses her words and gets embarassed and cross. I love the look on her face last week when we took her to the circus for the first time. A whole range of emotion was expressed in the space of five minutes, fear, wonder and excitement. I love the way that at seven there is still so much that is new to you. I love the way she looks at night when I check in on her before going to bed.
And as for handbags, I love the way she still likes the ones her mummy makes for her best.

Tuesday 8 May 2007

Something out of nothing

I have spent the past fortnight being too busy to do much gardening. Now that I've got some time to play with, it's raining, cold, windy and grey! I don't have any indoor plants to tend (for some reason I've never successfully kept a houseplant, apart from the violets in my bathroom) and, having promised myself a few days of doing what I want, I turned to ragging.
With my mind still on the garden, I decided to make some more corsages. I love mixing the colours, textures and prints in these brooches and part of the fun is trying out different colour combinations. I often recycle fabrics and its fun seeing things appear in a different guise. One of the favourite things I ever made was a rug for my oldest daughter when she was just a toddler, I used her tiny tee shirts and baby gros as fabrics and they were transformed into a colouful rug which held very special memories for me. Unfortunately my daughter also loved it too and the years of spilling her drinks (and other things) over it took their toll and it was sadly replaced a couple of years back.

Sometimes I dye the fabrics I want to use and I love to see metres of fabric in vibrant colours drying in the garden (back to the garden again)! It's also fun to experiment with fabrics that you wouldn't usually have used, trying to recycle as much as possible of what's lying around and catches my eye. Making something out of nothing is what it's about.

This one is definitely a bit of a hybrid - belongs in a bright, sunny border I think! Perfect for summer and days when the weather needs cheering up.

Sunday 6 May 2007

Parades, poached eggs and pressies

The first Saturday in May is one of my favourites. Not only is it the start of a Bank Holiday Weekend, but it marks the start of the Brighton Festival and the Children's Parade. Every year children from schools across the city and beyond take part in this parade that wanders through the city to mark the opening of the Festival. Teachers, parents and children dress up and join in the fun. The children had spent hours practising in their samba bands, dance groups and adults helped with the very messy process of model making! It is a great celebration of everything arty, colourful, musical, youthful and fun and that just about sums up the Festival and the city during May!
It is also a chance to catch up with friends you haven't seen for years, bump into old neighbours, children who you remember as toddlers and who are now teenagers, people who you would rather not see whilst you're in full fancy dress in broad daylight and, yesterday, I even met the lovely midwife who delivered one of my babies! It is a day when Brighton feels like a town rather than a city, it is a day when you can hop on the bus home wearing goodness knows what and nobody bats an eyelid. It is a day that promises so much for the rest of the month.

Today we will be visiting some of the Open Houses that are taking part this year, so really looking forward to that. Hopefully, we will also be spending some time in the garden which has been neglected over the past week or two. Amongst the forget-me-nots yesterday I noticed this poached egg plant that I planted ages ago and had forgotten about. I am not a great fan of yellow but this looks lovely particularly next to the delicate blue of the forget-me-nots. I love forget-me-nots; did you know that they were worn hundreds of years ago by lovers not wishing to be forgotten by their lovers. According to legend a knight in full armour was walking by the river with his lady, he stooped to pick some flowers to give her and, because of the weight of his armour, fell in shouting, forget me not, and promptly drowned!

Two people I musn't forget to mention here are Alison and Betty. Alison bought a tea cosy and corsage from me last week and then promptly sent me some lovely goodies! These are the gorgeous cards, gift tags and heart in the photo! Alison has a lovely blog and is always busy making new and wonderful things - thank you Alison. Betty drew my name out of her hat for a giveaway she was running on her blog and my name was chosen and these goodies turned up yesterday- so thank you too! Betty makes gorgeous bags from lovely fabrics!
Betty also tagged me yesterday (what a day) - so I have to list 7 weird things about me. So here goes:
1. I find it painfully hard to make lists - don't ask me to compile a list of favourites or dislikes, I just can't do it! My children have had to help with this one!
2. I HATE mashed potato - ever since I was a little girl I've been haunted by visions of scoops of grey, lumpy mash served to me by grumpy dinner ladies at school! Makes my stomach turn just writing about it!
3. I am unable to close a door or drawer behind me, you always know when I've been looking for things!
4. I bite my tongue whenever I say anything bad to stop it happening! (don't know why ...)
5. I can't eat the crusts of my toasts or sandwiches but spend an inordinate amount of time nagging my kids to.
6. I speak to my cats in a language that is not my own, don't know where it comes from but they tell me they understand every word!
7. My toes have a life of their own, are all double jointed and can do strange things.
Hope you still want to visit after that little list.
I in turn must now tag so here is my list picked randomly from people who left comments on the last post:
Anna, Mary, Louise, Alison, Mirre.

Wednesday 2 May 2007

A kitchen sink history and mystery

"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink" (not my words - they belong to Dodie Smith and start her novel "I Capture the Castle"). I've borrowed them for the day because there are times when I feel I've taken up permanent residence in front of the sink. At least in the Spring and Summer the view from the kitchen window is pretty and distracting. I wonder how many women have stood at the same spot, looking at the same view, thinking the same thing!
The first woman to have stood here looking out into her garden was Emily Jane, she was 37 years old when her name appeared over a hundred years ago in the census at this address. The view would of course have altered over the years but our garden has offered us clues as to what she might have seen.
We live on top of a hill overlooking the city, a century ago this area was known as "laundry hill" deriving its name from the number of laundries private and commercial in the area. The air was cleaner here being high above the smoky town and breezier too and the larger gardens offered drying ground for the washing. Emily Jane worked as a private laundress in this house, taking in washing with her two sisters-in-law, Susan and Caroline, who also lived here. I like to think that these three ladies had a nice little business set up but the reality would have been very different, the work monotonous and hard and any earnings would probably have helped just to make ends meet.

Our garden has 3 existing old trees but we have found several old tree stumps and I think that these trees were once used as posts for washing lines and our garden would have been full of laundry drying in the wind (much as it is today but, thankfully, now on a smaller scale!).

Emily Jane had no children but her niece, Bessie, lived here too. It would be good to think that this little group of women had some fun together in their home and were able to enjoy living here as much as we do.
The only man about the house (just like ours) was Emily's husband, John Gilbert. There was a windmill at the end of the road and John was a miller/baker - maybe he didn't have too far to go to work in the mornings! In honour of John and Emily we have some old linen flour bags framed in the kitchen and an assortment of laundry signs and boxes.
Now to the mystery - when we were digging a patch of ground near the kitchen door, we uncovered a set of tools! Not enormous tools, ranging in size from approx 4 inches to 6inches. There were eight of them in total, each has a little lip at the top, presumably so that they could be hung from something. They look like craftsman's tools but that's just a guess (my husband thinks he has seen something similar at a potter's). They could be something or nothing, but they did belong to somebody and it would be lovely to find out who and find out a little more about their story too.

These glimpses of past lives (and they are nothing more than that) have added an extra dimension to our home and we hope to reveal more of its secrets and stories over the years, discovering more about the people who have shared our house.