Friday, 13 December 2013


Where does the time go?

We've been busy. Days out (to Harlow Carr , and a local garden centre for inspiration) various Grandparent visits; them to us and us to them and the necessary Christmas preparations. Amongst this we've had builders doing what they do, causing chaos and mess but then finishing and leaving with a satisfying job. It was only 2 days but it was a hard 2 days of mess. Now we can think about the redecoration and the trip(s) to Ikea. I'll forget all my clothes are in suitcases and we're in a bit of disarray!! We're due for more of the same early next year when we're having our dated and old when we moved in (10 years ago) kitchen remodelled....

I'm happy our tree is up, cards are (mostly) written and we're getting to spend lots of time together.
Here's to more frequent blogging in 2014.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Catching up

Well it’s been a little while. Typically winter illnesses, days out and general busyness have put paid to blogging.
I’ve been ploughing on with ‘the list’ and combining that with a couple of days out alone and days with the family.
A couple of weeks ago I redeemed a birthday present and went to “one pot wonders” at Betty’s Cookery School in Harrogate. It was such a fantastic day. On the way to the course, I was surprised to find myself completely alone. Alone in the car. Not even a sleeping child. It was a bit strange really. It was a super day, plenty of time to think about food and to eat some really delicious things. Lunch was spectacular especially the passionfruit and chocolate bombe. All the dishes I cooked on the day were brought home and enjoyed by the ABO and myself (Sausage cassoulet, lamb meatballs in a spicy sauce, salmon with vegetable ribbons) and BigR (seasonal fruit back to front cake – made with plums and blueberries but so easily adapted to lots of different fruits). I discovered a couple of new tricks which I can adapt some of my current recipes and they gave me some great ideas for new things I can cook. I often rotate round the same dishes in spite of having a bit of a cook book addiction (and yes I have asked for 2 more cookery books for Christmas) so it’s nice to think about new things the whole family would enjoy, and certainly with the reduction in salt both BigR and LittleR could and would enjoy.

Last week, I travelled, again to Harrogate, with my knitter friend to the Knitting and Stitching show. We arrived just as the doors opened and our first stop was for coffee. I wasn’t sure what to expect really. I’d been to the Good Food show before and really enjoyed that. Lots of tatsy things to nibble on and then buy and lots of star spotting...the longest queues there were for Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood doing a double siging of their first bake off book. Anyway, I digress. It wasn’t too busy when we first arrived so we sedately made our way round making a mental note of what we’d come back to see. I was in awe of the fabrics galore stall...I just couldn’t resist touching the beautiful liberty fabrics. My companion bought the pattern and yarn for a beautiful dress. I was rather more restrained selecting only some sashiko needles and cotton along with a printed fabric to attempt and from Baa Ram Ewe a pattern for a toy dog. I picked up the wool needed for 2 dogs in 2 colours....let’s see if that’s a project for 2014!! There was so much to see and so many beautiful things to make, for both the beginner and the very experienced alike. By 1pm we both needed a break, some food and a sit down plus the show was now packed so we left and ate in town. This was followed by a short walk to the (second) Baa Ram Ewe shop where again I was very restrained before heading home.
I’ve managed to get out in the garden. It was such a sunny and warm day, well for November it was. Whilst LittleR slept, BigR played on her scooter and helped. We had one side of the garden completely dug out  (by a professional with a huge lorry!) and new top soil replacing the weeds, pieces of concrete (!??) and brambles that were there in the first place. We kept a couple of very established shrubs, some roses and a salvia that I bought this summer. I liberally planted daffodils and tulips both the usual and dwarf varieties in a myriad of colours. I have some blue and pink geranium to go in from my Dad's garden. This would be the perfect opportunity to have colour themed our garden. I’d like to have a garden that was coordinated with different height beds. I know myself better though and this is not likely to happen. I’d see something I liked in an opposing shade and the theme would be over. My main aim for next year in the garden is to have some colour all year round. Our spring flowers are very few and comprised just a few daffodils but I have plans to change that with some seasonal bedding and pots alongside the other bulbs I planted. We should have flowers during our garden’s lean period from February to May.
In other creative activities I’ve been trying out knitting on circular needles using magic loop. A few YouTube videos would make me an expert right? Well I’m a slow knitter anyway and this has made it slower still BUT! I have a circle of knitting. Hopefully a few more rows and I might have a cowl and it might even be suitable for a gift....if I learn how to weave in the ends neatly.

Next week looks busy as well. We’re going out for the day to visit family. We’re looking at local schools for BigR. We’re trying to get the bulk of our Christmas shopping done and dusted (we have a very small family) so it shouldn’t be an arduous task. I’m also due to have a meeting with my boss. I’m a bit nervous about it and about going back to work more generally. I wasn’t nervous last time; I practically skipped into the office to get my brain back into gear and enjoy a hot cup of coffee!! So I don’t know what’s changed. I do (please note the positivity of the present tense) really enjoy my job, a combination of research and teaching. Maybe it’s me that has changed, having 2 children does that I guess. Priorities change, things change and your focus changes. It’s just going to be a case of adjustment. Anyway, I’m sure it’ll all be fine and it’s just anticipation.

The plan for next week is to appliqué stockings for BigR and LittleR. I have grand plans for a blanket for BigR to play with. I bought a fleece blanket in Ikea and have the fabrics and ideas ready but I’m starting small. My first plan for the stockings was to buy felt and sew the stockings myself. It was cheaper to buy a readymade stocking than to purchase the felt to make one, so considering my maternity pay has finished I felt it prudent to do that. This week I’ll work with the bondaweb and perhaps even embroider their names onto the stockings. As it’s a surprise it’ll be an evening job I think. Plenty to keep me busy.


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Creative endeavours

Since the clocks have changed I seem to have been able to be a bit more proactive and rather than pondering on what to start or spend time looking at all the things I could be doing and being inspired I've actually been doing. 

Plans are coming together for the garden. I've bought some bulbs, a simple mix of daffodils and tulips, but they're not yet planted. That was to be today's job but, it was raining during nap times and I'm feeling a bit of a fair weather gardener at the mo as it is noticeably chillier this week. It will be done as we're forecast a sunny spell later in the week. I've also been browsing the seed catalogues. Its cheering me to think about how our garden will look next spring. The last couple of years the garden has taken a back seat and certainly this year with a newborn. Last year was very reliant on perennials and my Dad bringing me some cheery geraniums, petunias and begonias. I'm in awe of the people who manage nighttime feeds and a stunning garden! BigR has asked for sunflowers so I'm sure we can oblige her request. She'll have to watch where she kicks her ball for them to stay standing! She has a killer volley!

I've managed to do a little embroidery; the owls for LittleR. I used this as my inspiration. It was a pattern I bought about 18 months ago when my friend had her little boy. I stitched this for him, adding his name and date of birth too. Although the owl stitching is complete (I think - I always have a little wobble maybe I should add a little bit here or there), it is not quite finished yet. It needs pressing and mounting, and I should be able to do this this week as I have bought the frame (thank you Ikea). 

I've also sought knitting inspiration. I wanted to try out an idea for some Christmas presents. I'm not making all the presents this year but i know some people would appreciate a homemade gift. I saw this  and then this and then got over excited and had a go. It didn't turn out the same....I think I 'ribbed' rather than 'moss stitched''s not bad for a first attempt. I started a second straight away, in the correct stitch this time, and it's looking how it should now!

I've also been making some eating treats too. I love lemon desserts, cakes, tarts - anything lemon. So I used my trusty Nigella lemon cake recipe. The ABO does not share my love of lemon so he received some date and ginger slices the recipe taken Peyton and Byrne British Baking. The first time I made these I cooked them for the stated time, but they were a bit crumbly. So, this time I left them to cook for a further 10 minutes and they were much better.

Although it's bonfire night tonight, I always think, better late than never, I did carve a pumpkin for BigR last week. Well I started and The ABO wasn't that impressed with my knife skills so helped me out. She was very impressed with the two tealights I put inside it.  I used to do this for my brother when we were children (there was 6 years between us so it isn't as weird as it sounds!) It's reaching the end of it's life now so I should really remove it to the bin. Does that count as a creative activity?

There wasn't any bonfire activity this year. The ABO is working and it's a bit cold for LittleR. The local display appears to still be going on....way past bedtime BigR's bedtime. It's good to warm and cosy at home catching up with things. 

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Pottering and a surprise

We have been home for a week now. There’s a familiar pattern to the days, partially driven by LittleR’s routine and partially by BigR’s time at nursery.
I’ve spent the last couple of days pottering around; searching out some frames for some photos I will get printed, gathering the necessary supplies for my embroidery project, starting a ‘quick’ knitting project which wasn’t on my list, clearing out magazines and papers clipped from magazines/newspapers/other bits (yes, I quite enjoy this, but not the tidying of official paperwork). This has been interspersed with the more necessary domestic duties – a supermarket shop, picking up countless toys and washing sandy/muddy nursery clothing, I’m sure it’s only my child that gets this filthy. I do like a bit of pottering. The ABO went into the loft and retrieved some of BigR's old toys and books for LittleR. He also put up some pictures for LittleRs room that have been sat waiting for a hook for too many months. It felt good to do those small jobs.
The ABO is away  at the moment so I could fall into a spell of eating badly, of ‘not looking after myself in the way I should’. Sometimes this is good. Just to have some toast for tea with the children and then feasting on chocolate later...we all need that sometimes...Generally I am good at preparing food for myself. I like to think of this as a creative activity and I know it's important to look after myself so i can look after the girls. It's fortunate my children will eat a wide variety of things so we often all eat the same meals. What I craved this week has been something hearty and something that perhaps the girls' wouldn't eat. I took inspiration from Sarah’s blog and made chickpea and chorizo stew. I had all the things I needed in the house (onion, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, and paprika) so it was a winning situation. It was even better a day later...

After a day which included a ginormous supermarket shop with a slightly snuffly child I came home to a beautiful surprise.

I love gerberas!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Last day

This is our last evening in Italy. The ABO is at work. The children are asleep. I'm meant to be packing but here I am writing a blog post.

It seems strange that our visits here are over. The ABO still has 2 weeks left in the apartment and then it's back to a hotel for him. 

It's been a strange summer. Not hearing spoken English very often. Standing out obviously as 'the Brits' in a small village. 

It's also been a time where things have slowed down from the pace at home. Where BigR has shown her imagination and 'made' more toys from paper to play with...a shop and all the things she wants to sell...mostly fruit, vegetables and shoes! Where LittleR has taken advantage of a low coffee table to practice standing up.

Now it's almost over, I feel like a character in one of BigR's books - Moon Rabbit

"back to her home, back to her favourite cafe and back to all the things she liked to see and do" 

but we leave knowing, that after months and months and months of difficulty, in April, the ABO should be based 9 miles from our home. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Attempting to create

In the title of this blog is the word create. Hmmm. I haven't felt very creative recently. Although I spend a lot of time with the pencils, glue and scissors and my 4 year old, I have been very neglectful of more permanent creative times, things that perhaps are for me or our home or for the children. I haven't made littleR anything...yet!! So this is where I'm going to show my planning for creative activities in the coming months. Hopefully, by then, it'll be a habit that I'll be able to continue when I go back to my job.

In no particular order:

:: Embroider 3 panels for LittleR. Owls maybe? I think they would suit LittleR. I completed a set of three matryoshka dolls for BigR. The original idea came from Aimee Ray's Doodle Stitching and also the sublime stitching site. I was pleased with the end result and learnt a lot from the process, including knowing I'll need to reconsider my mounting in future. 

:: Book and attend my Betty's Cookery School course. I had a 'milestone' birthday earlier this year and was lucky enough to get a voucher to attend the school. I've been thinking about 'one pot wonders' and 'winter warmers' all I need to do is work it with the ABO's roster.

:: Plans for the 2014 garden. The garden has just ticked by the last couple of years. A difficult family time and then pregnancy in 2012 and a newborn and our extended breaks in Italy for most of 2013 mean the garden had to take a back seat...but not for 2014. All that promise within the pages of a seed catalogue. I'm sure I can convince my Dad (again) to donate some seedlings from his greenhouse.

:: Make S's tea cosy - my good friend S is a prolific and exceptionally talented knitter. She's encouraged me to try it once more. I have the basics down...I even made a half decent attempt at a shawl that I wore. I'm sure it's a case of practice makes perfect in this case. She bought me a (simple) kit for a tea cosy. I'm going to use it - and then let her  use the finished item being the tea bod she is.

:: Make an appliqué blanket for BigR  and try to use bias binding on the edges. BigR is at that stage where she really enjoys make believe play. I often find little scenes she's created with her toys and an array of tea cups, bowls spoons and clothing. Although I like to encourage the imaginative play I'd prefer it if she'd not use my clothes as floor cloths! The plan here is to appliqué a fleece blanket for her to use. I also thought I could try to bias bind the edges and give my sewing machine an airing.

:: Make photo books for 2012-13 - good gifts for grandparents and a lovely way for us to look at the photos we've taken rather than them being locked away on a hard drive.

:: Embroider tea towels. I was looking through the archives of another new to me blog. Gillian had made some beautifully embroidered tea towels which have inspired me to attempt my own.

:: Take BigR to 'Pots to go' - and have a go myself. BigR recently attended a birthday at 'pots to go' a creative pottery cafe in Harrogate where you can paint pottery. She loved it - and so did I!! Although it would've been bad form to push the children out of the way and have a go myself... I'll be back.

So here are a few creative ideas to be getting on with. Hopefully I'll have lots of finished items to show you soon. 

Saturday, 5 October 2013


I wasn't really a fan of hot drinks. I was more than happy with water, squash and fizzy drinks (or pop as I now call it having spent more of my life in Yorkshire than in my southern roots). Until, that is, I went to university. This is where it began. 
You might think that it was down to lots of late nights and hangovers (and there were some of those) or help to extend study time and give you that extra push to revise some more. 
In effect it was down to three things. 
- I wanted to be social.
- It was cold. 
I couldn't stand the smell, taste or thought of tea. 

Now I take my coffee strong and black (due to a brief spell dairy free diet to help with my asthma - it didn't so I was soon back to cheese, chocolate and ice cream) and prefer a little of something more expensive than lots of cheap instant stuff.

Our best investment was an espresso maker. There's a milk froth attachment for the ABO to have a warm milk added. I'm not an amazing barista so I hesitate to say cappuccino. It's handy for bigR to have a frothy milk too. 
To start the day, its usually instant coffee. It's quick, easy and necessary whilst I make littleR a bottle and corral bigR into breakfast.
Mid morning is my favourite coffee time. If I'm at home I'll fire up the coffee maker. Currently the favourite blend is Taylor's Italian.
I also frequent a very well known chain who make delicious coffee and add two shots as standard (rather than other chains which charge you for the extra shot) or three shots should you got for the larger buzz! I like to watch the people come and go. If I'm alone I can be silent in the hubbub. The children are well catered for too. The local independent coffee bar also has delicious coffee but is in no way child/buggy friendly. So now the weather is cooler and we need to be inside I'm back to my trusty chain.
Afternoon coffee isnt as frequent these days. It boosts me from my sluggishness. More often than not I need it due to a disturbed night with one of the children or my own galloping thoughts.

By far the best thing about our stay in Italy has been the coffee. Coffee bars exist everywhere. They make the most exquisite coffee. I'm a bit of a heathen and have an americano to make the espresso last that moment longer. Coffee time in Italy isn't a time to linger. It's a brief moment to recharge with caffeine and perhaps also partake of a brioche (various flavoured croissants- nutella- divine). 

My coffee love also extends to a love of mugs. You can beat a good mug. The shape, the way it feels full in your hand. That's also part of the coffee experience. Perhaps one day I'll share my mug love too.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The long time no blog 10 things

:: Well, it's been a while. Too long really. I've not been writing my own blog but loving the blogs of others. Some favourites will appear in my blogroll eventually. New to me blogs and old blogs have been in my feed. I still love the list writer's blog and found myself looking through her archives the other evening. This simple activity reminded me of the fact that I indeed did once write my own 10 things post and that maybe I should again.

:: My major creative project of 2012 turned out to be growing baby no.2 (from here on known as LittleR). She made her appearance in mid January 10 days after her Daddy (the ABO) had broken his ankle playing 5-a-side football and 24 hours before a major dumping of snow making crutches, taxis and general getting about difficult.

:: BigR took to her immediately and LittleR reciprocated...although now even I am bored of the phrases "leave her alone" and "you're being too rough".

:: We've all spent a lot of my maternity leave in Italy as the ABO has been based there since summer 2012. It hasn't been the easiest time as he's not happy in his work there. At least this summer we've had the flexibility of being able to spend some months there as a family making his commute less arduous.

:: There is an upside. I've been here and seen this. I've also enjoyed copious amounts of gelato, the best pizza in the universe, coffee and sunshine.

:: We go again for our last trip this Friday. We'll be there for 3 weeks. when we return home I'm expecting Autumn to be in full swing. I really love this time of year. For me it is the time of freshly sharpened pencils, the time when I make resolutions, shake myself up and try out new things. So I'm trying my hand at blogging again. I'm making embroidery plans. I'm cooking and planning. All to be realised later in October.

:: I've cleared out cupboards and drawers and given a ridiculous amount of hoarded things that "I might just need that one day" to the RSPCA shop. This brings me a great sense of wellbeing and smugness. Next is to go through the loft and decide if the baby things are to go.

:: We went for a day out here. I love coming here, there's always something new to see and you can really appreciate the changing seasons. I always wish I'd brought a better camera with me than just using my phone camera. Maybe 2014 is where I should work on the photography?

:: When will I have time for photography? I'm due to return to work in January 2014. With annual leave I will have had over a year away from academia. I'm a bit nervous. One of my closest colleagues will be on maternity leave and there have been other big changes in the office which I've been (so far) able to ignore. I'm also thinking that September is too soon to be thinking about this.

:: Along side this realisation, comes the fact that the paper I was writing before BigR was born in 2009 has been rejected and is due to be worked in 2014. So, I joked that I would have 2 children before it's published and now it's a truth!!