Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Wonder of Books

Since joining The Year of Books I've been trying to make more time for reading again. I've definately managed to read at least every other day, but there are just so many other things calling to me too.

Whenever I sit down these days I get fidgetty if I do absolutely nothing. I either have something yarny in my hands or I'm cuddling someone.  I've got knitting and hooking down to a fine art so I can do that while I watch TV and have a chat. I still have to save tricksy patterns for times when I'm alone and can completely concentrate mind you. 

Reading with everyone else buzzing about is nigh on impossible though..
 I've decided the best times for me to read are in the bath and late at night cosied in bed. In the bath I can lose a whole hour caught up in the pages of my latest tale. Mostly in bed I fall asleep a few pages in and then wake up in the morning with my glasses in my back.


Last weekend Little Bun and I had a massive sort out of her room. Big plans for splashing paint about and rejigging are on hold until the spring, but it still needed a sort out of things that she'd outgrown.

Having the biggest bedroom most of the girls books are stored in her room. Boxloads of old favourites that she's now too old for were taken downstairs for storing. These childhood books hold far too many memories to be given away. Some get read again when only they will do.

Reading used to be such a large part of our days when the girls were younger. Then work, growing up, school and homework took over. Those night-time rituals of snuggling up together with a tale slowly eased out of our lives as they could read their own stories.


The characters in the books haven't left us though. We always enjoyed the illustrations as much as the tales. We see Mr Davies type of dogs out and about a lot, although they're always much better behaved.


Camilla Ashforth is one of our favourite writers and illustrators. The characters she creates painted from her old toys are just wonderful. James the large bear has a really useful box which he hates anyone else going into. He looks after Horatio a tiny rabbity toy who is full of wonder. Our favourite tale with this pair is when Johnny Conqueror the Monkey turns up. He shouts "Jimmies and Jacks, Mind Your Backs", to announce his arrival before performing dreadful tricks all with things from James' box. 

Miss Rosey's most beloved monkey Johnny was named after this naughty fellow. I saw our Johnny in a charity shop window when Rosey was one. I had to rush straight in for him and thank goodness I did as she clutched him to her straight away and they've remained glued to each other ever since.


Whenever my man was working away he'd come back with books for the girls. The first ones he bought were Camilla Ashforth's Willow books about the little bear who lives at Paradise Farm in the Downs with Little Pig Pink. They are wistful and innocent and a pure joy to be honest. Each Christmas Eve we still squeeze onto our bed together to read Willow at Christmas. There's just a lot less room these days.


Another favourite found on a trip away was Ruby and the Noisy Hippo. I absolutely love the bright colours in this book, the simple illustrations and the sweets.


The girls squealed with laughter waiting for all the noisy bits when we'd yell Hippo's parts to the Sweet Eating Monster.


Even the books that had to be read again and again every night for months have become favourites in our memory. My mum had to read Enid Blyton's Binkle and Flip every night to me for an age. She always says until my teens, but I think she's exaggerating again.


Short tales which could be read in one evening were slowly replaced with longer ones such as The Faraway Tree (which was a pleasure) and Pippi Longstocking (which I couldn't wait to be over). 

Now here we are with me occassionally being asked to read something and me trying to get back to reading for me again. I very nearly gave up on Instructions for a Heatwave, but once I joined the reading group I kicked myself up the bum and have persevered. I'm determined to have this one done before the months's out and then who knows, maybe two books next month?


I'll write a review of this book once I've finished it and if you're interested in The Year of Books you can follow the link here or in the sidebar.

Oh yes - one other thing. I was asked where the lovely cafe we found was, but I forgot to say. Well it's called The Old Bank (was Barclays) and is in Bungay just opposite the Buttercross.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Rootling in the School Room

We don't have a proper chuck stuff up there and forget about it type of an attic. That means we had to get all sorts of storage places to cope with the stuff we have. We have four roofs in all as our cottage was built in 1844 and then added on and on to again. All the ceilings are like upturned boats which means we can live here without bashing our heads all the time.

 One of my favourite hide things away is our old school cupboard. I bought it for peanuts years ago from an auction. It is possibly the heaviest piece of furniture in the world. That means it's stayed put ever since it arrived here and I just paint the floorboards around it.



Every now and then I go searching for something in the big old cupboard. It holds tons of yarn, makes, boardgames, old toys, photos, trainsets and school work. A good selection of our family life so far I think.

Originally I went in there for some grey Louisa Harding yarn that I've had stashed for five years or thereabouts. Then I spied the sparkly threads that I used to play with and I guess it started an idea to itch away in my head.


The Willow Tweed that I was originally searching for was bought to make a tank top. Like other yarny projects before and since, it got abandoned and finally frogged. Then I was left with the problem of what to do with the unused yarn. Trying to find another project that uses roughly the same amount of yarn can be tricky and take a while.


Mind you for a few years now I've fancied making the Ava wrap from Susan Cropper's Vintage Crochet collection. Flicking through the book again the other day I remembered the light silky alpaca yarn waiting patiently in the big cupboard that would be perfect for this project. So off I went in the hope that I'd have enough (and if I didn't it would just have to be a thinner wrap than planned).


Six skeins in total, rough reckoning that's enough and I'm off - after winding up a ball that is.


This is a delight to crochet with as it slips off the hook quickly with no splits or catches. As it's so springy I'll be forced to be patient for once and block it properly once the wrap is hooked and done.

Now that I'd got that out of my system it was time to have a go at the other thing in my head. I know the wrap's not finished, but it's the getting started that keeps me happy.

Late on Sunday night (after a full day of wading through the contents of Little Bun's bedroom with her) I chose the palest of cottons and went back to the big cupboard for the sparkly thread.


I hooked up a few simple crochet flags and then made them shine with silver edging.


All that's needed now is to hook them all together in a row and find just the right spot to hang them.

That's two things out of my system, but I never got round to any of the sewing I'd planned. I'm most definately in a yarny phase at the moment.

Now this is all back to front as I've told you about the end of the week first. In the middle of last week I met up with Penny after work.  It's been an age since we last met, but we finally got it sorted which was wonderful. Penny very kindly brought a birthday gift for me which was so lovely. It's been a long old birthday this one as the week before my mum treated me to some shiny red Fly boots in the sale, a friend is taking me for a late birthday lunch this week and then I have a date at the beginning of next months with another friend. That's what happens when your birthday is in the quiet bit just after christmas and I'm not complaining.


Now going back even further, to last Monday, when I had planned to announce the winner of my blog's birthday giveaway. Well I'd forgotten a meeting I had to be at that day which took up nearly all of the day. Then the rest of the week was work and suddenly here we are at Monday again.

With my apologies to you all for the delay. Here's the winner, as picked out by Little Bun.

It's a lady called Deb with a new to me blog over at It's a cheery cherries world. Congratulations Deb and thanks so much for joining in everyone.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Dusty Piles of Books

I made a big old promise to myself this year. No more procrastinating. No more putting things off for another day. 
 To be truthful I'm human, so I'm still putting off a lot of the stuff I hate, but I'm really trying to seize the day with the stuff I love.

In the middle of all these good plans I came across a blog I'd not heard of before. A couple of people on Instagram mentioned the link and then Penny on L is for Love chatted about the year in books she was joining in with on Laura's blog Circle of Pine Trees. There are quite a few things to join in with once you blog and they're all such fabulous ideas, all great ways of growing a community of friends. I joined in with Dottie Angel's year of living thriftily a few years back now. I gained so much from all I learnt during that year and amazingly to me I stuck to it like a religion. I haven't come across anything since that I've wanted to join in with in the same way, until now.


You see this thing I want to join in with is about reading. Reading one book a month (more if you fancy, no hard rules, which suits me perfectly). That's 12 books over a year.
Once I would have thought that was easy peasy. I was the girl with her head always in a book. The quiet child hidden behind the sofa climbing up The Faraway Tree to visit Moonface and his friends, while the adults talked and laughed. The child who read on every car journey, sat in baths having to finish the chapter while the bath water went cold. My love of books led me to a degree in literature, philosophy and history of art a few years after finishing art college. Then I tore books apart, read with a pencil poised ready to make notes all over the page. I came alive within the world of literature that my very talented lecturers opened up to me. When I graduated I ended up in Fine Art PR and then Advertising for a while. Being made redundant gave me the push I needed to sign up for a post-grad course to teach post-16. I worked as a mental health secretary while I slowly built up my teaching hours so I could teach A'level English.


The strange thing was I just couldn't read for pleasure anymore. Reading had become such a high falluting thing for me, a job and also there was a fair amount of snobbery about what you should be reading. Then I changed direction and dipped for the first time into the world of Mary Wesley and Joanna Trollope. I needed fun reading to get me back to the real pleasure of what reading was about.  
Ever since I've tried to alternate my books. I read a bit of fluff and then something with a bit of weight to it.

Somehow, over the last year (I blame getting an iPad on this personally) I've stopped reading. Books are piling up on the stairs, by our bed and on the bookshelves. I haven't stopped bringing them home, just reading them. I curl up in bed with my iPad to have a quick browse before I read and before I know it I've fallen asleep.


So, I'm going to take action and change all that because I want to. Little Bun and I have started on the Malory Towers collection together. I read while she sits in the bath. I absolutely loved these books when I was her age and dreamed of midnight feasts, lacrosse and sucking orange slices at games matches. Funnily enough the school the Buns are at plays lacrosse so it's all a bit Enid Blyton there too.

As for me I'm getting back to reading Maggie O'Farrell's Instructions for a Heatwave. I've been enjoying this, I'm not gripped yet, but I don't want to add it to the pile of unread either.


If you fancy joining in too then follow this link. More the merrier I reckon. 

In other news I had a couple of parcels last week. One was a birthday gift left on the doorstep from a friend of mine. Choccies all eaten, but I don't want to light the little toadstools. I also need to find a frame for the vintage card she found for me.


I also need to find just the right frame for this gorgeous print from the very talented Jane. She designed so many fabulous ones that I just couldn't make up my mind which to choose. Then we saw Saving Mr Banks and the song just stuck in my head so that helped me choose. It also got me grabbing the girls copy of Mary Poppins off their shelves as I've never read it and want to change that this year. 

That's me done I think.

Apart from - here she goes again you're probably thinking - if you've got this far that is. I need to mention the Giveaway which is all closed now. Thankyou to everyone who's entered and left such heartwarming comments. I feel horrible that you can't all have the book and brooch between you, but there it is, that's life.
One of my lovely girlies will pick a name out a hat or a tin for me to tonight when we get in. I'll let you know who the winner is as soon as, I promise. 

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Flittering

I can't seem to settle on any given thing at the moment. I guess that's the penalty of having a year behind me and Christmas done and dusted. It leaves me wanting to make plans. Have new goals to aspire to and lovely things to look forward to. 

So while I search for a get my teeth into type of project, I start new things and hop about here and there trying to finish long ago started things. I always do this, I'm used to it, but it gets frustrating after a while.


All last weekend I knitted tiny stuffed hearts. I tried different size needles and different yarn in my search for a just so heart.

The smaller ones are definately my favourites. I'm thinking of  adding felt flowers to them, maybe stringing them into garlands. Little Bun wants me to make them into little heart people, Miss Rosey likes them as they are. Anyway, I'm just fiddling at the moment, it's therapeutic. I need to make quite a few more before I'm happy with my hearts.


Before I started the hearts, I finished up a head thing for Miss Rosey.  I'm still knitting the bow to add to Little Bun's blue one. I quite enjoyed knitting these as I they were done in a day, no messing. Mind you, over Christmas I didn't feel bad just sitting there knitting. Now it's January I do. Not fair.


This weekend I discovered Father Brown on the iplayer. For some odd reason it's on in the daytime, so the first series completely passed me by and probably most other people too. As I was hopping about the iplayer late at night for something to watch I fell on this small delight. I've got Miss Rosey hooked now too. We usually stay up together to watch murder and detective stuff together me and her. She fancies being and actress or a barrister so maybe this is research.

I mentioned this really to explain that starting something new wasn't that easy as any spare time I had I wanted to watch Father Brown and so I needed something easy to do with my hands. I find it impossible to just sit still and watch TV, I get too restless. For a different TV watching project I picked up my long abandoned hexie plates. I wanted a rest from the yarn.


Weekends are usually full of other stuff and so any making time is small. There was netball training, getting all my paperwork ready for a Monday moderation meeting, all the usual cleaning out animals and house stuff and the fact that Little Bun was cooking her first two course meal, with me as assistant. She had the idea that we should  have our own Come Dine With Me over the next few weekends. After getting a new apron and the cookbook she wanted for Christmas she's been itching to use them. The meal was stuffed peppers with sauteed potatoes and a green salad. Fruit kebabs with honey bread and chocolate dip to follow. We played Miss Rosey's QI  game as the entertainment. Miss Rosey's turn next weekend with her dad as assistant. I wonder who'll be the guest who everyone moans about!

I did manage to grab time on the sofa hiding with my hexies mind you. In fact I finished a couple of plates so that's no bad thing and I got lost in the world of Father Brown too.


Don't forget the birthday giveaway finishes tommorow. Let's say at the end of the day to give anyone who's missed it a chance to join in (find it on the Tick Tock post).

See you very soon.







Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Epiphany


We have quite a few family traditions. We measure our year by them. Although we fight against routine, school and work impose enough of them on our world, we really look forward to our seasonal traditions.

We always skip off to the coast at Southwold for New Years Day. If the weather is being really bad beyond words we head off the next day or the one after. This year we managed to get there on the 2nd and it was blue skies all round.


Our long walk brings us to the pier where we fill up on hot choccies, sharing a bowl of marshmallows, flakes and maltesers.


For a while we sit in the winter sun and dream of warmer days when we'll be dipping our toes in the water. Being spoilt for choice in Norfolk, there'll be lots of other summer beaches to explore too.


After a last dash to the end of the pier we go and get fumbled in the arcade and ride in the mini submarine.

Then it's time to search for favourite stones under the pier before heading back up the prom and homeward bound.


To make the most of the last days of our holidays we also went in search of places we'd meant to visit for a while now. At the weekend we sampled the delights of a newish tearoom in an old bank.

Vera Lynne sang in the background, while we admired all the beautifully laid tables and oohhed at the large cakes on the side.


Little Bun and I went to explore and found ourselves in the managers office all laid out for birthday teas. We even managed to get into the old vault where a few treasures could be found.
It was a relaxing and heavenly place to go, my only moan is that the knitting group meets there on one of my work days. I'd love an excuse to go back each week.


On Sunday I  took the decorations down. They've been up for three weeks now and so now was the time. Ever since I was little the decorations have stayed up until 12th Night. My man felt sad at all the glitter being put away for another year. As much as I miss it I always start feeling a bit swamped. I love the clean feeling of a grabbing a bit more space in a full of stuff home.


Thoughts of Spring are now in my head and so I always add a few primula's and narcissi here and there.  This pot painted by one of the Bun's (whoops, can't remeber who did it- sorry) at nursery school is perfect for cheering up the kitchen window sill.


 New arrangements were put in the corner where the tree was cosily nestled.


By the time all the decorations were put away, the cushions plumped, dust shooed into corners and bits of Spring added it felt good to have our old home back again. Ready for the new year ahead.

A few years back we started celebrating Epiphany with a feast of our own. As the last of the twelve days of Christmas it feels a good way to banish any blues about that sparkly happy time leaving us. In England we used to make a Twelfth Cake with a bean inside it. The winner of the bean was nominated King of the Bean. In France they still celebrate with a galette de rois inside a golden crown for the winner of the bean. Sometimes we make crowns, this year I cheated and used the crackers I thought I'd lost and then found after christmas. We ate by candlelight and with full tums munched through a final christmas pud.


 Now work and school beckon us once more. In fact I hope I wake up in time as I meant to go to bed hours ago and here I am wide awake and typing in the wee hours.

I'm good at talking lots, I'm great at waffling on and on about this and that. Sometimes my inner me has to shout shut up, I think you're boring the pants of everyone. When it comes to expressing my emotions though and saying how I really feel, I usually get a bit stumped. It doesn't mean I'm not feeling, just that I find it hard to say what I'm feeling. This blog is the closest to effusive I've ever been. What this all leads to is to say that I was really touched by your lovely responses to my birthday giveaway (which is still open by the way until next Monday 13th). For a while now I've been uncertain about blogging, wondering if I should change it all. I thought perhaps after five years it was getting a bit stale. Then I thought, I know, I'll ask what you lovely people who read this here thing think. 

Well you gave me lots of food for thought and made me feel so happy to be here. Over the years I've met, emailed, worked with, laughed with and just been excited to get to know so many people through this world which I thought was a bit strange at first. Silly me, what did I know all those years ago. To read that visiting my blog is like chatting with a friend. Well that makes me feel so proud and thrilled.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Tick Tock ...

Today I've been writing in this small part of blogworld for exactly five years. I'm amazed to be truthful that I've stuck at it, I'm not a very good sticker at things person on the whole. A mixture of being impatient, losing interest and just giving up are usually to blame. When I find something I really love and enjoy though I stick to it like glue.
To be sure there are times that my blogging voice has disappeared slightly and I've found I can't write, but I just can't imagine leaving this space behind for ever more. I had a quick look back over this last year and my heart lept at all the happy memories captured here.

Now I know we sang in the new year yesterday, so I'll wish you a Happy New Year firstly for 2013. If you fancy I've a put together few of this last years blog memories to cast an eye over. Although my blog has changed slightly in focus over the years, I've always written about the things I love most.
First off are the some of 2013's new to me treasures.


I've always been a collector of things, a searcher out for stuff other people don't need anymore. Years ago before it all became vintage and fashionable treasures could be found at jumble sales and fleamarkets. I remember a fabulous white mohair 1960's coat I picked up at a jumble sale when I was 16 along with a few Freddie and the Dreamers 45's. I found an old Post Office bike in a skip so I painted it up and rode that in my art college days. I delighted when aunts gave me their clothes from the 50's and 60's. I don't search for clothes now in the same way, the treasure I'm seeking has changed, but the thrill of the search and the excitement when I find something gorgeous to me hasn't.

There have also been a few yarny projects over this last year. 


I love knitting and crochet the same, both give me a chance to try out different yarns, techniques and play about with colour. It's how I relax and stop awhile from all the mad rush. 

I taught myself to crochet years ago now, but it was my mum who got me knitting before that. She had tried teaching me when I was a child, but it wasn't for me. Knitting Nancy's looked lovely, but I found them tedious. I preferred painting, drawing and sewing when I was little. When I was pregnant with Little Bun my mum suggested knitting as a way of relaxing.
At the three month scan we saw the left half of her brain was white when it should have been black. While Miss Rosey who was only just one, screamed and struggled a Consultant told us it was probably Edwards disease. In a nutshell if our baby had this then they wouldn't develop any organs whatsoever. He told us to wait until the five month scan to find out. He read the symptoms of a scrappy piece of paper, struggling to find the English words and so we left shellshocked and confused. Luckily at the next midwife appointment our midwife (who was going to be there for the home birth) said we needed the dna not a scan as that would be more certain. We booked in straight away. I'd never had the triple tests out of choice, but now I needed one. Our baby went from being 1:25 to one in 1:25000 at risk. I wobbled about having the amniotic needle that could cause miscarriage now the chances were lowered. The Consultant, who looked like Father Christmas, held my hand and told me if you were my daughter I'd tell you to go ahead. I cried and felt as reassured as I could be. I asked him to explain the choices we had if it was positive. None were a choice and were all bloody awful to be honest.
While they scanned to see where the baby was lying I looked the other way. My man was watching and suddenly said it's not there is it. He told me later that the Consultant had looked and then looked at the previous scan picture again. He then told us the fluid had gone and he had no medical explaination. Fluid, he said, simply can't leave the brain on it's own.
The picture of that scan shows three fingers with the nails clearly outlined held against our baby's head. We paid to have the test done privately as on the NHS we would have had three weeks of not knowing. Instead we had three days and that was hell enough. It came through as all clear, but until I held that wee bundle in my arms I wasn't able to trust fully.
Little Bun arrived at home on a sunny Spring day all 11lb's of her. We wrapped her in my first ever knit, a blanket covered in hearts.

I think that leads nicely into casting an eye back over some of the wonderful times this past year with my family. Plans have already been made for some of the adventures we want to have this year.


Alongside my love of yarn and family, I'm always itching to sew something. Whether it be small stuff or big stuff I'm always thinking of something to make on my days off work. From patchy quilts, dresses and bags to revamping things and making felt brooches I feel happy with it all. I have such a pile of fabric that is still waiting to be the things I planned for it and quilt shapes cut out but not stitched. I really better get on as I've decided not to Procrastinate this year. 
I'm often to be found making excuses or just letting time slip by me. Truthfully I think the biggest eater of my time is family life. That's a very good thing for sure as these magical days don't last for ever. I don't want to regret not enjoying them as much as I could, but I do need to find more time to make my own dreams come true.


This post like most of my posts started off with a general plan, but as always the words have taken over. I write them down and then see if I want to share them or not. I decided from the start of writing my blog that I wanted to be as lighthearted as possible, celebrate all that made me creative, but sometimes I get an urge to talk about what's deeper in my heart. Only sometimes, but that's how I live my life.

Now as all good birthdays have presents, I have decided on a 5th birthday giveaway open to all you lovely people who stop by my blog for a read. I've chanced by a spare copy of Mollie Makes Feathered Friends and as I only need the one I thought someone out there might appreciate one for themselves. Due to mad postage charges I'm afraid I'm only offering the book to UK readers, which means I have a brooch as a gift to any overseas winner. If the winner if from the UK you'll get an anenomes brooch and the book, if the winner is from overseas then I'll send the brooch with a few surprise extras. How does that sound?

Rules: well rules really pee me off to be honest. If there's a rule I'll be the one doing my damndest to break or ignore the rule. So there are no rules, just a simple request. After popping down your name, I'd love to hear what you enjoy reading or seeing on my blog. After five years I want to change things a little and a few helpful suggestions would be really appreciated.

By the way, I'll keep the giveaway open until Monday 13th.
That's me done I think, far too much chat really. Thanks for stopping by and good luck.