Sunday, 26 June 2011

abundance, and spring cleaning

Today has been utterly glorious. The weather, of course, but also the time, the whole day with nothing in particular to do, nowhere to be - that's quite a luxury at the minute!

I picked these flowers from the garden last week, and they've sat in a glass jar on the kitchen windowsill cheering me up for the last few days. What is it about flowers from the garden that just lift the spirits?

It's been a whole weekend of pottering really, although today was rather more calm than yesterday.

On Friday night we ate cherries, picked from a friend's tree.

And then a trip to the women's institute, of course. Lots of knitted things on sale this week, and a Most Delicious almond and apricot sponge cake.

Then off to the green fair, to hang around on the LETS stall. I'll talk more about LETS one day - maybe when I've pulled my finger out to use it a little more...

This morning, bizarrely, I woke up with an urge to do a bit of spring cleaning.

I know - very strange.

Maybe it was the sunshine streaming through the skylight, showing up all the dust.

Whatever it was, I thought I'd best take advantage, and I've ambled around the house washing and hoovering and dusting and clearing drawers and making space.

I'm not sure it meets normal folks' standards of cleanliness even now, but it's much better than it was.

I do love hanging washing outside, even if we don't have the traditional blowing-in-the-breeze washing line...

Oooh, speaking of washing, I realised I never did share this exciting parcel that arrived a few weeks ago!

A while back, I signed up to take part in a dish cloth swap, over at the Down to Earth blog, and was paired up with another Jennifer right round the other side of the world (hi Jennifer!)

I duly knitted my dishcloth and dispatched it (late, as usual) off on its little adventure, together with some home made soap.

Then, excitement of all excitements, a parcel arrived!!

Would you just look at those beautiful dishcloths! Five, all different colours! And such a thoughtful parcel! A copy of the local newspaper, so fascinating to read the local news from somewhere else, so different to here! And some locally grown pistachios - mmmm. And a big pile of leaflets for local attractions, and keyrings, and postcards, and all sorts of things!

I *love* parcels, they are just The Best.

Of course, now I'm concocting a more elaborate parcel full of local stuff from round here to post back. SO much fun!

Monday, 20 June 2011

for today...

Outside my window... it's not-quite-dark, and the rain's falling steadily

I am thinking... about the poor young sparrow I saw get hit by a car this morning

I am thankful... for a quiet half hour, just me and the rain, in this busy week

In the kitchen... lunch is ready for tomorrow, and the washing up is done - a rare feat in this house!

I am wearing... gorgeous little button hair slides I got from the farmers market yesterday for 20p. 20p!

I am creating... an 18 month plan of Exciting Things to do and learn

I am going... on a train every day this week. Every single day

I am wondering... whether I will ever get bored of travelling on trains. I doubt it very much - I love trains. Good job really (see above)

I am reading... inspiring tales of people leaping headlong into new adventures even when they're a little bit scared

I am hoping... that I'll make it through this week without being too grouchy, and that Thursday will turn out to be as exciting as it could be

I am looking forward to... Wednesday, when I'll be staying with a friend I met through the internet, and who I now work in the next building to. And Thursday, when I'll be staying with a friend I used to work with, and now only talk to through the internet. Funny old world.

I am hearing... the rain. I love listening to the rain, especially in the dark. I'll be off to bed soon to listen to it pattering on the skylight.

Around the house... it's pretty quiet. Unusually, things are calm and still here tonight.

I am pondering... what the future will bring - and doing my best to make sure it's something exciting.

One of my favorite things... steady rain outside, while I'm all cosy with a mug of hot chocolate inside. Perfect.

A few plans for the rest of the week: trains. workshops. friends. maybe a little knitting. and certainly some plotting and planning.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...
(actually, my picture is at the top, and in no way reflects how I'm feeling right now, which is quite calm and pensive, and not at all swirly and lollipoppy. But I couldn't find a calm-and-pensive picture, and this one is after all rather jolly, so it'll have to do)

Sleep well! And pop over to the simple woman's daybook to join in!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

I've been smiling every time I've walked into the living room this week and spotted these flowers (rescued from the reduced bin at the florists), popped into two old china cups from a picnic basket. How extremely jolly!

I've finally managed to get out into the garden this week - I must confess to avoiding it, because it's still a mess of rubble and pavings, and it makes me ever so slightly grumpy every time I see it.

But what kind of an attitude is that for a cheery person to have?!

A daft one - that's what.

So, I armed myself with trowel, green bin bags (the council collects garden waste here and turns it into compost), and a camera (and a cup of tea, of course)

While staring in a slightly grim fug at the beetroots refusing to grow on the windowsill, and the basil that just won't get more than 3 leaves whatever I do to it, I had a revelation.

We've got a small garden here, and we are NEVER going to grow a substantial part of our food. Last year we had an abundance of yellow courgettes, and one broad bean pod. One. I like plants - but I never was very good at keeping them alive. Every year I plant things (late), forget to water them, then put them outside for the slugs to eat, while I stare on morosely thinking about what a terrible gardener I am.

The things that do best in my garden are the things that look after themselves.

So - my revelation. Why on earth do I do this to myself every year?? Because I want a beautiful and productive garden, that's why! Because I like the idea of growing my own food and I believe gardens should be useful as well as beautiful.

Well, guess what? The fruit bushes are looking great - they look after themselves. Maybe if I watered them more they'd do better - but they manage.

There's plenty of herbs that are flourishing, all on their own - sage, rosemary, chives, lemon balm, st john's wort, all come back year on year, as well as the rhubarb, and masses of mint. The honeysuckle spreads over more and more of the house each week, it seems.

So, as of now, my garden is getting low maintenance. Well, aside from the major seating project, that is.

I'm not going to try a big pile of annual veg any more. I'm going to plant the whole thing up with fruit bushes and perennial herbs, and spend more time sitting out there admiring the view, eating rhubarb crumble, sipping herb tea, and scoffing blueberries.

Why on earth didn't I think of that before??

And now, flushed with my own ingenuity, I'm heading for the bath.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

I've been neglecting this little space of mine lately, blaming full time work, and all manner of other things, for my absence.

Today I've realised that one of the reasons I've been staying away is because I haven't taken any nice pictures to post.

Ah, perfectionism rearing its ugly head yet again!

Not that I only ever post 'perfect' pictures on here, of course... but I do rather like them to be sunshiney, cheery, happy pictures, of colourful things, pretty things, not blurry round the edges, or gloomy, or have dust on the shelves and piles of washing in the background.

Well, guess what? As we established in this post, my life does have dust on the shelves (rather a lot of it, as it happens), and washing festooned over the banister, and the sun doesn't always shine, and sometimes I can't take a decent photograph to save my life.

What a shame to stay hiding away because of that!

I like pottering about in here, talking nonsense about what I've been up to! I do love to look back at the pretty photos, and the finished projects, and the flowers in the garden - but if I avoid popping in here until I've got something fascinating to say, or have completed the world's most wonderful project, or taken a fabulous photo, well, I'd probably never come here again!

So instead - here's to slightly blurry photos, that don't look quite as good as they did in real life.

Here's to half finished projects, slightly sunken cakes, flowers that are past their best, and walls that aren't decorated.

Here's to gardens that are still full of rubble, blackbirds that eat your strawberries, and slugs that sneak into the living room at night and slither their way across the carpet (hmmm...).

And here's to chasing tonight's lunar eclipse across the hills, and not finding it, but instead finding a very pretty sunset that, guess what? Looked much better in real life than it does in the pictures.

I'm practicing folks!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

not that I'm starting a series of cafe-related posts or anything...

So, one day we were out in the street, admiring this gorgeous yellow scooter, when we got chatting to the bloke who owned it.

And he told us he was opening a new cafe on the other side of town.

And that it was going to be a great cafe, with a jukebox, and lots of other fabulous things, and we should go down to the opening celebrations, which we did - but we couldn't get through the door so had tea and cake elsewhere instead.

Last week Sunday morning was rather dreary and rainy, so we decided it was high time we headed back to the new cafe.


The jukebox!

The music!

That combination of turquoise and red!

The most divine scrambled eggs!
I think you can probably imagine just how excited we were.

And just how many times we will be going back in the future.

I've also started a new campaign, having discovered that Peter *owns* a jukebox, which is currently languishing in a garage somewhere, because it won't fit in our kitchen.


Can we get rid of the table?

The stove?

Build some kind of extension out into the garden??

You'll probably see me stalking about like a woman possessed with a tape measure in the weeks to come, figuring out just how we can get an enormous 1970s jukebox into our kitchen.

Because it's got to be possible, right?


Saturday, 4 June 2011

writing letters

Is there really anything more exciting than running to the door after the post has been delivered to find a letter, a real, handwritten letter, waiting for you?

A letter that's not inviting you for an eye test, or to the dentist, or offering you a credit card, or telling you how much electricity you've used, but a real letter from a friend, with news, just like a rambling chat over a cup of tea?

I'm hard pushed to think of anything more exciting than that.

Over the years, I've written a fair few letters, and received plenty, and they were all thrown haphazardly into a shoe box in a cupboard. This week I decided it was high time they got sorted out.

(this is part of a MUCH bigger sorting-out-of-the-house, which has FAR too much stuff in it, but that's not very interesting, so let's talk about letters instead).

It was interesting to look through all these and see who they were from.

I had a pen pal when I was young, a girl who lived near Newcastle, and was a year or so older than me. I found her through the pen pal section in a magazine when I was about twelve, and we wrote quite a lot (most of her letters, and I suspect mine too, begin with 'sorry I haven't written for so long...). That fizzled out when we were in our late teens I think.

A fair few letters are from friends at school - who I spent all my days with, and some of my evenings, and lived round the corner from - we used to write letters late at night and hand them to each other the next day. They're full of in jokes that I occasionally struggled to remember, Father Ted references (which have just got more funny over the years), and silly little drawings.

Some of the letters are from when I was at university. Friends I haven't thought about for years telling me things I'd forgotten about. Letters from family (including a memorable one from my sister saying something along the lines of 'ok, I admit, I was mean, but you shouldn't have been horrid first because you KNOW I have to do something back'). There's the odd newspaper cutting, bits of gossip about people we knew, and lots of idle chatter about what people were up to.

My grandma and her friend used to send me food parcels, tins of peaches, biscuits, a quarter of chocolate limes. SO exciting to get a parcel in the post, especially when it contains special treat food.

I found a card that came in between parcels from grandma's friend, a very well spoken lady who used to send boxes of Sainsbury's multi coloured pasta (I'd never heard of such extravagance before!) - it used both of my first names (I knew I was in trouble) and said 'a little bird tells me you a yearning for a letter from home. Get a grip! You are at university, not in the trenches!'

That's me told then!

Anyway, they're all nicely bundled up now according to who sent them, and I'm thinking that I need to get on the case with another letter writing campaign. It's so easy to send emails these days, or a quick phone call, and while they're marvellous things, they don't quite beat a letter...

In the meatime, more tea, and a nice home made jam tart by the river in the sunshine.