Monday 30 July 2007

Holiday hopes and giveaway goodies

Well, thank you to everyone who left a comment on the last post. I have been completely overwhelmed by the number of comments and your generosity and kindness. I have done my best this week to have replied to most of them and if I still haven't left a comment on your blog - apologies (things are mad during the holidays). I will try and catch up this week, thanks again! My daughters had great fun printing out the names, putting them into a bowl and arguing over who was going to draw the winning name. Finally we have a winner - Rowan from Circle of the Year (and Rowan you'll be pleased to hear that I've decided against giving away one of my daughters).

Thank you too to the lovely Betty at She's Sew Pretty and Marie from Wild Rose for both nominating for the Blogger Reflection Award. Congrats to both of you as your awards are well deserved. I'm very touched and flattered, thanks ( I am still at the "being surprised that anyone reads my blog" stage). In turn I think I have to nominate 6 other blogs for the award. Well, I think that all the blogs I read, on a regular or drop-in basis, inspire me and make me think and so I would like to offer this award to everyone who has visited.

On an average school day I must walk up and down at least 1,000 steps. There is a short cut that we take to school called the Cat Creep that is a very steep series of steps. We call it the secret steps. On either side are gardens and what use to be an orchard. We love the steps and the wildlife we see on our way to and from school. In winter it is icy and slippery and my heart is always in my mouth as my youngest pulls me down behind her as she hurtles to school. In the spring it's fun to see the leaves sprouting on the branches overhead and the squirrels jumping along the walls. It's cool and offers dappled shelter in the summer and in the autumn you can smell the change in seasons and the leaves falling to the ground. However, no matter what time of year it is, it is steep! During the months that we've lived here we've come to recognise the mums and children going up and down these steps and by last week you could recognise the look of relief on all our faces as the holidays loomed closer and the daily hike up and down could be avoided. After all that exercise you would think that I was very fit wouldn't you? Well most days this is all I'm fit for .....

Now that the holidays have started and the daily routine has gone out of the window - this is what I'm fit for ....

Discovering and walking through the local countryside. We took this photo from the train on Saturday as we decided we all needed a little day out. I love train journeys! Much prefer them to being in the car, especially when it's through the countryside. It was only a little journey across the countryside and along the coast but it did the trick! This is the Long Man of Wilmington - a hill drawing on the South Downs, centuries old. We once spent a summer's afternoon and early evening walking up this hill and it was beautiful, despite getting lost under the direction of our friend, who's a countryside ranger! A short walk turned into 3+ hours and very tired grumpy children.

Playing, paddling and lazing on the beach, have to be favourites too! My daughters are in their element at the beach and spend hours walking up and down the seashore. It's lovely to come home tired and faces tingling from the sun.

We'll probably have to visit the odd farm or five before the holidays are out. Animals, picnics, barns to play in, ice creams and cakes.
And, if we get more days like this -

- then this is what'll we'll be doing!

The sun looks like it's shining now so I'm off to spend the next hour trying to get all of us to agree on which one of the above we'll be doing today.

Monday 23 July 2007


I noticed the other day that this would be my 50th post and these flowers are to share with you to say "thank you". I was very hesitant about starting this blog back in March, lacking in confidence in lots of ways and I remember literally shaking when I wrote my first post. But this has been so much fun! I had no idea what I was letting myself in for - you ladies are lovely, kind, supportive, generous and inspiring - so again "Thank you".
It's quite something to check your emails and find messages from all over the world. Reading everyone's blogs has been so interesting, finding out snippets of each other's lives has been fascinating - we're not that different are we, no matter where we happen to be sitting on this globe?

I've written before about how writing this blog has made me see things differently, to appreciate everything around me and as a result I am a generally happier person too. I have found a renewed confidence in my crafting and that's all down to your support and encouragement. I am still amazed that these posts are being read and at your lovely comments. I love the way we all pick up on different things on each others posts to comment on and the way I try and build little pictures of you all in my mind based on what's been written.
As a thank you I would like to offer one of you some goodies - so there'll be a giveway (yippee I've always wanted to host a giveaway). Just leave a comment this week and all your names will be put into a hat next Monday. I will say now that I have no idea what I'm giving away (if the summer holidays go really badly it may be a daughter) all I can say is I will try my best to send the goodies off before the end of the summer holidays. So there you go, leave a comment - you never know what you might end up with!

Thanks again x

Friday 20 July 2007

Lovely Lavender

Torrential rain again today so it seems odd to be talking about the front garden and a very summery plant. Last year M dug up our front garden which was just weedy grass and a very ugly manhole cover. We covered it in pebbles and filled it with lavender bushes, rosemary, a peony, foxgloves and a potted rose to cover that manhole cover. Last year it looked a bit like toytown as everything was so small, but the lavender did well enjoying its sunny position.

This year, despite the wind and rain, the lavender has gone mad. It's now blooming and has swamped everything else. It is beautiful but makes running up and down the garden steps for the girls a little bit more hazardous as they're petrified of all the bees that it has attracted.

I love lavender, I remember walking our family dog with my mum when I was younger and stopping by a neighbour's lavender bush every evening and rubbing some against our hands and smelling it on the way home. It's good to have some of our own to smell whenever we come home as it lines the steps up to our door.
Last year I was able to make up loads of lavender sachets to put in the bathroom amongst the towels, in our drawers and under pillows for a good night's sleep. I'm looking forward to making some more this year (quite a few by the looks of things!), once the lavender is fully in bloom and starting to dry.

I also made some lavender sugar at Christmas as presents with some of the dried lavender buds. It's easy to use and perfect to add to shortbreads, cakes and icecreams. and you can use it instead of normal sugar when making meringues (very summery). It's floral sweetness is great with summer berries. Just make sure it's lavender from your garden and nothing bought that's had anything nasty added to it (I use the lavender from the back garden for cooking as it hasn't been near any car fumes).

Lavender Sugar
Add 3-4 tablespoons of dried lavender flowers to 8oz (200g) sugar. Seal in a jar and leave for two weeks. Whiz until fine in a liquidiser or processor. Easy!
If you use lavender sugar instead of normal sugar in shortbread biscuit recipes and use heart shape cutters it makes very pretty biscuits, that smell and taste lovely.

Back to my tea cosies. Have a good weekend.

Wednesday 18 July 2007

Almost a Room of my Own!

The sun is shining through the window at the moment, enough for me to be able to take a photo without the flash on the camera (we've been without a flash for weeks now, M has bought a new camera but I'm loathe to sit down and actually read the new instruction book and am prepared to sit and wait for the sun to shine for a few minutes). This anyway is the view I have if I turn my head away from the computer. We have two living rooms downstairs, this is the one we call the dining room, the one we will never eat in, the one that has never had a dining table in, but the one that has been nevertheless named the dining room ever since we moved in! It's a great extra space to have - I was originally going to have a summer house/shed in the garden but funds ran out quickly for that project and my dream of having a room of my own was shortlived!

My daughters, to be fair, did buy me this bag for my birthday last year and it may well be the closest I get to having a room that is truly mine! However, I am very happy in this little room. The children use it for homework, computer, extra telly, M comes in here sometimes to listen to his music. During the day though the room is all mine! I've got the computer, a window onto the garden, a radio tuned to Radio 4, a comfy sofa, my fabrics and my books.

The cupboard and trunk both came from a junk shop. (I think the image enlarges if you click on it and becomes less fuzzy, maybe I should have read that instruction book). Both were earmarked for me but we realised that we were very short of storage when we moved in so they now house the girls' arty bits and pieces. Shelves of glitter, glue and tins of felt pens in the cupboard and boxes of paint in the trunk. The trunk was a tatty old thing, covered in very smelly old fabric but for only a couple of pounds it was worth buying. I covered it in fabric from Laura Ashley and it does look bright and cheery in the room. Similarly the cupboard was cheap and shiny but scrubbed up well after a lick of paint. Behind the cupboard is one of M's paintings of the Downs.

On the opposite wall is a huge pinboard that I found discarded in the road one day on the way back from school. It is big, about 2ft x 3ft and I painted the frame duck egg blue, added some more of that Laura Ashley fabric to the board and crisscrossed some elastic over it. Perfect for keeping family photos, cards from friends, swatches of fabric etc.
Right, better get back to cutting up fabric now.

Q: How many balls of fabric do you need for 6 tea cosies?
A: I have no idea, but I know I've not got enough!

Monday 16 July 2007

The calm before the storm

A busy weekend - more birthday celebrations, trips to London, School Fetes, and yes, a few hours of sunshine!
On Saturday it was my oldest daughter's school Fair and a chance for us to see her perform in a production of Romeo and Juliet in the woods. It was lovely, I don't know how but I managed to cry both times I saw it. Not just from pride but because all of the kids were so good and the whole production was moving and polished. My youngest, who's just eight, was really moved (not bored) and couldn't wait to go back for more (hoping that maybe Juliet didn't have to die the second time around!).
The sun shone and thankfully they were able to perform amongst the trees in dappled sunlight and Juliet's balcony was perched above a ladder on a tree rather than on a stool in the school hall.

Some time to do a bit of gardening in the afternoon and survey the snail damage. How can they eat so much? An entire lavatera has been stripped, we're talking a big bushy shrub not a sweet little seedling. Am I feeding the entire snail and slug population of Sussex or are mine just particularly greedy? All my seedlings have been eaten too. At least this rain has kept the snails and grass happy. On the other side of the garden which is a bit more open two mallows are blooming, albeit a little windswept from all this rainfall. Some salvia has survived behind the mallow and I've noticed that there's a second flush of buds on the roses, hopefully the wind will leave them alone long enough for us to enjoy this time.

Looking upwards things are better, the apples are really growing and those at the top of the tree are nice and rosy. The figs are enormous but because of the rain are now being swamped by enormous leaves so I think it's time for me to perch precariously on top of the rickety garden chair and lop off some of those leaves to let the sun get to the fruit.
We were woken up during the night on Sunday by thunderstorms. We were going up to London to visit my father for his birthday. I'd taken my camera to take photos from the train window but it was such a grey day and everything looked dreary, even the view crossing the Thames which is usually quite stunning - down to the Tower of London, the millenium bridge, the revamped South Bank and the Globe Theatre. This has to be one of my favourite walks on a summer's evening. Hopefully when we go up again during the school holidays, the sun will be shining and the skies won't be the colours of the old battleships moored along the Thames.

It seemed as if the bad weather was following us and just before the thunderstorms began I managed to photograph this beautiful hydrangea in my father's garden. A beautiful intense pink that really glowed in that strange light you get just before a storm. I love hydrangeas and pick lots from a bush we have in our front garden, I like watching the colours fade in the vase, and they're great dried flowers too.

This morning there was enough sun for me to sit outside and cut some more fabric for a big order of tea cosies that should be finished asap. Why do these things happen just before the school holidays start? Panic is starting to set in, can I really make a cosy a day over the next week? Will the sun shine long enough to dry the fabric I've just dyed? Will my parcel of new fabrics and canvas ever arrive? And, most importantly, will the girls come home just one day this week and not ask me to go into town the following day to buy someone a birthday/leaving/ thank you,or even "well you know how well I did in my school report, do you think I could have that t-shirt" present!?
Hope you all had a good weekend and that the weather didn't spoil any of your plans.

Friday 13 July 2007

Raindrops on haircuts

I had a haircut yesterday. I haven't been to the hairdressers for six months and was really looking forward to it especially as she gives the most amazing head massages too! Haircut was lovely, ditto the massage, it was the weather outside that was awful. Pouring again! There was me shuffling through the Brighton Lanes, head down like some hooded hobbit trying to salvage some of the hairstyle that I'd just paid an arm and a leg for! All sleekness had turned to frizz and the styling wax had somehow melted and made my hair look greasy and limp. By the time I got home I looked like my head had been shrunk and my hair needed a good wash. The family had all been put on red alert that morning to remember to pass comment on the new haircut and not just leave it unnoticed as usual. Compliments came thick and fast but I knew they were all humouring me!
When the children were in bed I decided to have a nice long, relaxing and very hot bath (by this time no amount of steam could further damage the hair). I decided to use the lovely bathbomb and soap that Tricia had sent me after reading about a previous, disastrous attempt at relaxing in a bath.

Thanks Tricia I can thoroughly recommend your products, lovely, moisturising and most importantly I didn't share my bath with any flotsam and jetsam! It was great to spend some time relaxing and thinking (I've missed not being able to get outside to think) and very indulgent, lots of candles everywhere.

I 've written about my bathroom before and how much fun it was decorating it, it is very simply done out but it's a very calm and relaxing space (more photos here).

One of my most treasured possessions in the bathroom is a bottle of rosewater. My mother had the most beautiful, softest skin, She did not use lots of cosmetics but swore by her rosewater from Italy that a friend would send to her by the boxful. When I was younger if I'd been crying she would calm me down and gently dab the rosewater on my face, it would work wonders for my puffy eyes when I had hay fever and cool me down on a summer's day. It is the smell I most associate with my mother. My mother died just a few weeks after my first child was born and I was able to keep her last two remaining bottles of rosewater. Over the years I have stopped using it as it was well past it's sell by date but I would regularly open the bottle to take a whiff, it still comforts me! Smell is such an amazingly powerful and evocative sense isn't it? Anyway a few weeks ago I opened the bottle and the smell had gone. I was devastated, silly I know, but I was. I came downstairs and told M who instantly tracked down a company that stocks it.

Thanks M for understanding just how much it meant to me! It's nice to see my oldest use the rosewater now too - her grandmother would have approved! (Incidentally I know that Marie makes and sells the most fabulous rose products, including rosewater, and I will be buying some from her soon).
Today the rain has not started yet but it looks like it's on its way. I"ve had two compliments from friends this morning about the haircut and my family have returned to not noticing it which is always a good sign!

Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

A breath of fresh air

We had a visitor come to stay over the weekend, just for the two days mind and not sure if and when it'll be back. Yes, summer popped in and said hello and what a difference it made! The girls were able to get out - one was off down the beach and one lazed around the garden. I did some gardening (much needed) and was able to finish my new tea cosy which had been on my to do list for too long. It does look very bright and summery and reminds me of bunting at a summer fete! I've put it in my Etsy shop as I really can't justify having so many teacosies!!!

On Sunday we went on one of our favourite walks up to Ditchling Beacon on the South Downs. If we could pick one place to spend the day without travelling too far it would be here. Away from the crowds on the beach this is where we come throughout the year and never fail to have a good time.

In autumn we pick blackberries and sloes for sloe gin, in winter on a clear, chilly day it's perfect for blowing those cobwebs away, in spring and summer it's the place for picnics and long rambles. Lovely just to hear the birds singing, church bells ringing and tractors in the distance. It is also the only place I've ever seen a flying elephant and seal!!! (look closely at those clouds)...

The girls wanted to make a day of it and suggested we walked down into the village of Ditchling for a pub lunch. So off we walked - it was lovely, Away from the distractions of home the age gap between the girls seems to narrow and it was great seeing them climbing trees, dodging the mud, singing songs and generally having a laugh.

Ditchling is a wonderful little village to visit full of wonderful old houses and buildings and there are pubs and tearooms too! After lunch we went to the local museum to see an Eric Gill exhibition which was great.

The museum is housed in the old schoolhouse and is full of interesting things - both Frank Brangwyn and Eric Gill had lived in Ditchling as well as a thriving community of artists and craftspeople. We had to drag the girls out as they were so busy, but we knew we had a long walk uphill to get back to the car and the promise of an icecream when we got to the top.

Back home in time for a much needed cup of tea and some time in the still sunny garden. So thank you Summer, please come and visit us more often - you're always welcome.

Monday 9 July 2007

Giving and receiving

I have been spoilt recently - so many goodies from so many lovely bloggers! I am just like a big kid when a parcel comes for me and over the past few weeks, the parcels have been coming thick and fast! On Friday I met up with Emma from Sew Recycled in a local cafe for a coffee and chat. Why does it feel so naughtly meeting up with friends during the day? It was a lovely way to spend the morning and catch up on each other's news. It's a funny thing this blogging business - how strange and wonderful it is to make friends all over the world and equally to find that one of them just lives up the hill from you! I'd met Emma before at a visit to an Open House in the Brighton Festival and we had promised to meet up again so the initial blind date nerves were, thankfully, over and done with. We talked like old friends and it was great being able to find out more about each other.

Emma has met my two daughters and she knew that it had been my youngest's birthday and look what she is now the proud owner of - her very own Dottie bunny! Emma also gave me this gorgeous little pegdoll which is now sitting on top of my fireplace in the living room (click on the photo to get a better view) - thanks Emma, looking forward to the next time!

A few weeks back I received these pretty tissueholders all the way from the Netherlands from Mirre at Kisskus. So sorry that It has taken me such a long time to show them Mirre, but it has been so difficult prising one of them from my daughter's bag long enough to photograph. They are so bright and happy and I love the flower that Mirre sent with it. If you haven't visited Mirre's blog, go and take a peek, she always has lovely, colourful things to show us!

And there's more! Last week I received this little parcel of goodies from Sarah at Pink Petal designs! I'd won the cat in giveaway and Sarah was kind enough to send the fabric and a stash of buttons for me! Thanks Sarah they're all lovely. The cat arrived on my daughter's birthday so she got another present - I'm not feeling so greedy now, have you noticed how everything is being shared out between us?

Last but not least is this lovely smock from Samantha . Unfortunately this is not staying in this house (although my daughters have both eyed it enviously - even the teenager who probably would just manage to squeeze an elbow through the armhole), I bought it for my niece's birthday after seeing all the lovely smocks that Samantha had been making for her Open House. I have to say that it is even lovelier in the flesh! So now the sun is shining, go and have her look in her shop too as I've noticed that she's just listed lots of lovely new goodies.
Thanks to everyone and although they say it is better to give than receive, I hate to admit it but I have really enjoyed being on the receiving end of this little lot!

Friday 6 July 2007

Banish that grey!

No this is not about hair dye! I mean the grey outside, the grey we have no control over. The grey that readers in England will know all about. I realised yesterday on my daughter's birthday (thanks all of you for your lovely birthday wishes) that it had been a long time since we'd all been able to get out and enjoy some fresh air. I can't remember the last time my youngest was able to play properly in the garden!

So I decided to bring some colour into my home and got out my mirrors that I've made over the years. These certainly are not grey, just bright and fun! I first started making mirrors for the Brighton Festival Open Houses a few years back and they proved very popular. This one I made for my daughters when they use to share a room - it's their favourite colours and is made out of different silks and chiffon. Some friends of ours asked me to make a huge mirror for above their fireplace in shades of plum, aubergine and dusky pink silks. I loved making it and it was good making something that size.

Another girly one I'm afraid. I love making things in blocks of colour and had fun dyeing the cottons in various shades. Instant pinkness!

To prove that I can do other colours I had a go at making this one with as many different colours as possible. It was fun to make and always make me smile!

But then the pinkness started to creep back again, could I do a blue one? Well, yes, but it had to have just a touch of pink somewhere!
There are other things to be done on grey summer days (particularly when the eiderdowns are now back on the beds again) - one of them is lying on bed all day just watching the rain trickle down the window pane!

Have a great, sunny, weekend!