Wednesday 8 November 2023

Summer's End.....


When I was younger, when asked, I would say that Winter was my favourite season. I enjoyed the frosty days. I enjoyed being wrapped up and seeing my breath expelled in the chilly air. When I was in my mid teens, coats were really annoying things to lug around a secondary school;  I would happily brave the frosty winter mornings with just a scarf around my neck and a school bag. I never seemed to feel the cold. EVER. The chill felt fresh and exhilarating. Spring was alright, just always 'damp' to me.  I never quite saw beyond that. Summer was annoying. I was pale and never suited sun. I never quite saw beyond that either.  Autumn envisaged shades of orange, my least favourite colour. I was never a fan of Autumn coming. Everywhere. YUCK!

Fast forward quite a few years. I have grown to appreciate all the seasons in equal measure. Age, and wisdom, make you view things from other angles. If I'm honest though, Winter, which I loved so many years ago, annoys me somewhat. I appreciate it....but it annoys me. It seems we rarely get a crisp frost these days where I live. It's usually just grey and damp. I really struggle with it. Often, throughout this season, the grey just seems relentless. On those rare days where the days are bitter but full of sunshine, I feel quite alive. They really are rare though. Grey, dull days, it's when I just want to hibernate. Continuous grey dull days make me feel quite depressed and hermit like.

I now view Spring as the birth of the new.......not just the damp I used to see. Shoots and emerging greenery that offer hope of better days to come. I'm totally on board with that and relish the brighter days with excitement.

Summer, I've grown to somewhat enjoy. I no longer dread with a vigour. Colour. Lots of it. Long days filled with light. I do love light. I adore waking up to sunshine. I'm an early bird and waking up at 4 and seeing the day begin is just so beautiful and uplifting. Sitting on my little back step in the bright early mornings. Cup of tea in hand, and still a sleepy house crew. That cannot be beaten. I still can't get on board with the whole heat issue. What can I say?  I'm a true English Rose. I don't sunbathe. I wilt in heat. I like shade. The long sunlit days more than make up for it though. Dog walks in late evening watching the sun go down. There is a big hill behind my house with a copse right at the top. Surrounding the copse are benches. It's a big dog walkers hill, but in the Summer evenings, you get a gorgeous view of the sun setting over the valley. People go up there with evening picnics and bottles of wine, just enjoying that gorgeous golden light. It's a wonderful place to watch the day begin its wind down.

Autumn.  Well,  Autumn has been a very slow grower over the years. I still struggle with the whole orange theme (I know. It's ridiculous), but I have grown to look to the things I really do love in this season. Nature gets sleepy.  I LOVE how it gets sleepy. I love the crunch of leaves beneath my feet. Conkers on the ground. I love the 'nip' in the morning air and the low lying early morning mist. I love the smell of damp decay in the forest. The smell of bonfires in the distance. The chance to start the evening candle ritual. Rummaging through drawers finding scarves and accessories I'm going to want to start wearing. I love that. That MORE than makes up for 'orange' these days.

This Summer, flew by. Time seems to speed up exponentially as you get older. I try to get off the fast wheel often now just to take it all in. Sometimes your head is just so far down and in the thick of things, you forget to look up, stand back, and take a moment to see where you are in life. 

It was a mixed bag of weather this summer, but I was sure to make the most of the good days...

I have really enjoyed the Summer this year because of three things:


I grew Cafe Au Lait Dahlias this year.  I have mentioned before that I have the death touch with plants. My garden is postage stamp sized, and yet I still cannot manage it. A VERY wet year about ten years ago brought black spot to our town. It affected everything. My morning school walks with Baby Bear past beautiful Horse Chesnut trees became very sad. We would watch these glorious trees that we had walked past and admired for lots of years look awful and withery. Then it hit in my garden and affected all my rose bushes. They have never recovered. Each year since they have looked such a sorry sight. The roses still bloom, but the leaves turn with the fungus and they wither and drop. I have researched and tried my hardest to combat it, but it's just a failing battle. It saddens me so much and really helps to create a deep loathing of gardening of any type. Anyway, this year I was determined to try and grow these beauties. To my delight I succeeded, and have had an abundant array of blooms. They have just given me so much pleasure. Even more so because I just thought it would be impossible for me to grow such beauty. 


Jam. Yes, Jam I tell you. I have a love of all things rose scented. I wanted to make a jam with the scent of rose for summer. Thinking what kind of fruit would work well, raspberry seemed a no brainer. Well wouldn't you know that if you type in rose and raspberry jam recipes online, a whole host of recipe ideas come up. Obviously a good pairing, I found a recipe that looked good and set about making this jewel of a jam. I used this one here. It's as simple as you could get

All I can say about this jam is


How on earth have I not made this sooner? It pains me to think of all the years lost that I hadn't been eating these jars of gorgeousness. It makes for the most deliciously different jam. A proper Summer jam. You can add as much rosewater as you like to either make it either lightly or heavily scented. I like a decent dollop. I make batches of both seeded and unseeded jam. The unseeded jam is gorgeous and jewel like. Perfect for delicate toast and Summer sponges. A good old Victoria Sponge cake made with this jam is truly to die for. The seeded jam is lovely and rustic looking and perfect paired with rustic breads. I really cannot stop making and eating it. It's a jam I didn't think anyone else would like to be honest, so I thought I could be a tad greedy and eat it all. Turns out, they all like it. Bumcakes. 

(Notice my homage to Bon Maman?! Purely for fridge identifying purposes!)

Each time I have a mouthful, it's a moment of pure joy. Can you tell i'm a complete fan? I'm probably a bit late in the season now, but I also really want to try making honey and lavender ice cream. Lavender has not really been something I've really ever wanted to have in a food. I do love the scent, but sometimes it can be too overpowering for me and quite medicinal smelling. Watching the film 'It's Complicated' with Meryl Streep (I seriously love that film), she made lavender honey ice cream and I thought it sounded weirdly wonderful. I've looked up several recipes, and I think (as with the rose and raspberry jam), you can flavour the lavender to suit your liking. I think I'd like just a hint of lavender.  I really want to give it a try. Watch this space. 


Thirdly, this summer.......and the thing that really does make this summer a great one..........

I learnt to knit a pair of socks! 

For about 12 years I have wanted to knit my own socks. I don't know why it has taken me so long really. Maybe I was just so engrossed with crochet. I had a lot of ideas to get out of my system with crochet. The fear of the dropped stitch, and that they just looked complicated. Toe up, cuff down, a million different toe and heels to make. Learning was always something I just kept putting off until the following year. 

I don't know why this particular day was better than any other, but one day I woke up and decided that I wanted a pair of knitted socks under my belt before I hit my fifth decade on this earth. I found a tutorial on you tube. It looked simple enough. I had some needles and yarn already (from a previous burst of sock enthusiasm), so I was good to go.  Actually I wasn't. My usual fly by the seat of my pants and not pay full attention attitude, got me into a pickle at the very first hurdle. The air was blue, my knitting was a blob of a mess and seriously, it got thrown across the table several times. I tried to remember my first foray into crochet. The air was blue then and frustration high. Hook and yarn flew across the table several times too; until I realised what a muppet I was. I was reading the instructions for a left handed crocheter......of which I am not! Patience Vanessa. I was actually using the wrong needles with my knitting. Perfectly good sock needles, but not right for the actual pattern I was using. Starting again, with the right needles, I slowly began to get the hang of it. My first sock was actually meant to be a test piece. I thought it'd all go pear shaped, and I'd have to rip it all back. I was fine with that because this was a piece just for practicing stitches and elements of the pattern. 

I actually did okay following the tutorial, and in the end, the test piece became my first sock. It wasn't perfect by any means, and I was concentrating so much, that my tension was incredibly tight and it was so hard and painful on my fingers. By the second sock in the pair, I was able to remedy the mistakes from the first one. My tension was still so tight and they weren't a pleasure to knit, but I felt like I was getting the hang of it. 

Roll on second pair, and I knit in yarn I wanted. I was beginning to relax now and not fear each new step.

Starting my third pair, I decided to do what I had actually really wanted to knit socks for. I wanted coloured cuffs, heels and toes. I was still learning....and still making mistakes.....but by my third pair I actually felt relaxed knitting. My tension had eased and it became more enjoyable. I'm pleased with my three pairs so far. Each imperfect, but I did it. I made three pairs of socks before I turned 50. One life goal ticked off.

Now I feel a little more confident, I'll tackle other patterns. Toe up, different heels. I'm still very much a tutorial girl at the moment. I like to be able to see where I need to do a stitch. I think being a beginner and trying to read a pattern on it's own would have been a nightmare for me. Some of a beginners mistakes are not holding the yarn where it should be. I gained extra stitches because of this. A visual tutorial was perfect to be able to go back and see what I was doing wrong. It's those little things that you can't see from a written pattern that can get a beginner into such a pickle. Maybe after my tenth pair I might feel confident to make a pair from a written pattern. Famous last words Vanessa.



So, three things that made me oh so happy this summer. Dahlias, Jam and Socks.

Summer memories made........

....and Summer cuddles had.

We have now head into Autumn. I have my heavenly scented candles on the go. I have the fall episodes of the Gilmore girls on standby. I have my Autumn favourite movie You've Got Mail at the ready and I've fished out my scarves, wrist warmers and hats for the chillier days and evenings. 

Let's go Autumn........


Friday 2 June 2023

Evolving and Simple Pleasures........

Life is ever evolving.

I have felt like I have slowly been changing these past couple of years. It is quite a scary thing, especially for someone who is a complete control freak. To have that security that you know who you are, then to begin to feel like you are becoming someone else.......and not of your choosing.

I LOATHE change. 

I'll do change

I'll accept change....if it's my idea

If I've thought about it forever in my head that it feels like it's not been sprung on me, then it'll be okay.

Anyone else feel like that?

I know I'm not on my own. Many women experience this. Your kids, suddenly aren't these little beings anymore who solely rely on you. In a blink of an eye (it seems), they are suddenly these big people, who want to (and should) branch out in the world.

These emotional feelings of not really knowing who you are to people day to day, are often accompanied side by side the peri-menopause or menopause. The physical and emotional double whammy just to make it all feel like you have been thrown into a washing machine, and set on a really long, and really rough cycle. 

It's a minefield, that so many of us go through and experience. I guess you don't really know how much it displaces you until you are actually slap, bang in the middle of it.

My creative side has taken a back seat for the best part of a year now. It's like it's just upped and left my body. I don't know whether it's a temporary thing, or whether it's really gone for good. I don't know whether it's me thinking that I'm ready to change direction and discover something knew, or whether my love for crochet and making will come back to me. I made a start on two blankets. One is half finished and stares at me half draped over a chair. The other, was going to be a slow grower. A labour of love. One I could pick up and put down when I felt like it. The gaps in between picking it up have been too infrequent. I'm enjoying it when I'm working on it, but that zest for seeing it finished is just lacking. I saw a pattern on pinterest for a lovely jumper, and my interest was slightly peaked.

 However, that bit from being interested, to full on excited, just isn't there anymore. I looked at it, looked at yarn on a website, then lost interest. I think it would be cute and fun to make, but I just can get to the 'make' stage.

Maybe my lack of enthusiasm for crafting, is just my body telling me that I need to focus on other things at the moment. Who knows? I'm just trying to go with the flow of it all.

I have been enjoying baking. My waistline hasn't thanked me. Who knew it was totally easy to make your own butter? The satisfaction of making it and then putting it on freshly made bread.....well....there's nothing quite like it


I have been enjoying You Tube more so these days. Slow living vlogs soothe my soul. Beauty and lifestyle vlogs for women more my age suck me in also. As someone who had gone through life really being lazy and neglecting her skin, I thought I ought to get my act together and start to do something about it as I'm nearing the mid century mark. I started watching a couple of vlogs to get an idea of what I really ought to be doing. Self care has always been something that gets a bit lost on me. When you're a busy mum, it's easy to feel the guilt of spending any time on yourself. Plus the fact that I'm quite a lazy person when it comes to skincare etc. I'm a sucker for products, and have the best intentions, but my execution has always been sporadic to say the least. I have been trying really hard to maintain continuity.  It's been quite nice to take some time and realise that little rituals really make a difference to how I look and feel. 

Here are a some of vlogs I watch just in case anyone fancies a goosie gander. I am sure some of you who are reading this post will be familiar with some crafty vlogs already. I dip in and out as and when I have the time.

Crafty Vlogs

Slow Living Vlogs

Beauty and Lifestyle

Walks out and about have been lovely recently. 

......and cuddles with this one.....

It's full on summer weather at the moment. I have been waking up with the sunrise. I so love this time of year. Waking up at 4ish and just listening to the birds. That first morning brew in total quiet listening to the day slowly wake from its slumber. One of my favourite song lyric lines is from Kate Bush's song 'Nocturn'.

Look at the light......all the time it's changing, and all the dreamers are waking.



Friday 22 April 2022

Autumn/Winter Ramble 2021/2022

When I went to write this blog post, it dawned on me, that for the past couple of years I have only written Spring and Summer posts. I can't really say why I seemed to have missed two seasons out of the years. It was certainly my intention to write 4 seasonal posts a year. Maybe I find these seasons to be the most busy and stressful of the seasons. It sometimes takes all that I have just to get through them, let alone write about them. Maybe I'm over thinking things, and I'm just plain lazy.



Actually, this post has been chopped, changed, written and re-written. I questioned my own sanity at one point. Weirdly, for saying I have a blog which I share to anyone who chooses to read it, I'm a very quiet and private person. I plod along in life being a mother and a maker of things. Life ebbs and flows, and every now and then it gets turned on its head for good measure. To tell you the truth, I have felt so discombobulated and out of sorts recently. I have mainly put it down to being peri-menopausal. It's the darndest of things. My hormones seem to be all over the place. I just don't really feel like I know myself at the moment. I'm all over the place and it unsettles me. I'm trying to accept this time of change, but I am feeling frustrated with myself. It's also quite hard to get others to understand just how much this season of life affects you. I think it's always been seen as a bit of a joke, and only others who have, or who are currently experiencing it can completely understand it. There are more celebrities discussing it quite openly now, which is fantastic. Do you know, I had never even HEARD of the peri-menopause until I started to get symptoms. I knew I hadn't hit the menopause but felt all of these tell tale symptoms. This whole wealth of information was found at the touch of a button, but I had to go searching for it for answers. It beggars belief really that something so profound in women is discussed so little. Anyway, that's just my experience. Others may have faired better. Suffice to say, I have been acting weird and feeling weird and it has made me really quite grumpy and frustrated to feel a lack of control. I am a control freak by nature, so I find it doubly hard. I'm sure the Bears have been finding me a little testing. It's almost like I have had to deal with their adolescence and mood swings, and now they have to deal with mine. I go from feeling like the crappest mother in the world, to feeling like I actually did a decent job in a space of 0-60 seconds.

Trying to get a handle on all of these physical and emotional changes, I really began to analyse myself. It's not something I think I have ever done. You get up in the mornings, you are you, then you go to bed. And Repeat. Anyway, I realised something about myself that had not crossed my mind ever before and it was sort of a revelation for me. I felt like things finally made sense. Doesn't change anything, but it clears a lot up and sort of organises the compartments in my mind.

Two thirds of the Bears are fully grown adults, and Baby Bear is catching up quick. I absolutely adore having grown up chats with them, but I mourn the loss of feeling so needed. Big Bear flies the nest in a few weeks and the dynamics will change. I'm bracing myself. Of course, I'm over the moon the time has come to start spread wings, but it's bitter-sweet and it's hitting me hard feeling so out of sorts too. I know so many others share similar feelings, so I take comfort in not feeling alone, when sometimes I feel very alone.

Usually when I feel like I am on some very fast roundabout, I have a very urgent need to just retract from pretty much everything in my world. I call it 'going down the rabbit hole'. I came off any social media, burrow down and just concentrated on my little bubble. When I am not feeling myself, I find the lure of social media almost too much to bear. The fake perfectness does absolutely nothing to help me get through how I'm feeling. When I'm in a better frame of mind I can quite happily brush it all off and see it all for how it is. As soon as I start to feel like things are spinning around too fast, then I know to start cutting myself off from everything and just concentrate on the things that really count in my life. I also actually find that the social media detox is great for rediscovering myself. Sometimes I find, I get so caught up in someone else's daily dream that I forget it's not actually mine. Just by stopping and remembering what it is that I actually love, I end up going down my own path and the joy it brings is second to none. I have, however, discovered some slow living vlogs on You Tube that I find really calming and inspirational. They have helped to remind me to slow things, take my time and just enjoy the simplicity of the small pleasures. That is what I have been doing, and that is currently where I am up to in my life.


Autumn came and went, and with it followed the mildest Winter. I actually planted up spring bulbs for like, the first time ever when I was actually supposed to. I was super proud of myself.  The Winter has been so mild that they have come up really early. I have not really bothered with the garden these last few years. It's honestly the size of a postage stamp, yet still I really struggle to manage it. I just don't think I'm green fingered enough. About 10 years ago, we had one of the wettest winters, spring and summer. A wave of blackspot descended upon my little Town. It landed most heavily in my garden, and to this day, my roses truly suffer. I have tried everything, bar completely demolishing the garden to eradicate the fungus. I get so disheartened when I try something and it totally bombs. It happens way too often for my liking. I'm a defeatist. Failing at something really doesn't spur me on to try harder to succeed. I just think "okay I'm done, what's next?"

My tastes seem to be changing. Well, when I say that, I think I mean I so desperately feel in the need for a complete change. I'm a pastel girl at heart, with the odd bit of vibrant thrown in when the mood takes me. Lately though, I just need empty and pretty much all white. It could possibly have something to do with the present situation I have found myself in these past 18 months. I'm just craving serene and neutral. I tried to make a start on my dresser. All pastels came off and white dresser was teamed with white crockery. Plants were added for a touch of contrast.......but safe to say.......a little bit of pastel made its way back. Only a hint though. I was quite pleased with myself at my restraint. I now want all the walls painted soft shades of white. Everyone rolls their eyes at me. 

I actually need to summon up the energy and willpower to detox my house. I attach sentimental value to pretty much everything and I need to just learn to let go a bit more. I think it will help to declutter my brain. That is sorely needed. 

(Bye Bye Pastel Dresser)

The outside office was installed before Christmas. I was so grateful for that. Finally I could see light at the end of the tunnel. The pandemic has certainly turned life topsy turvy. The house had been so jammed pack full of office stuff, with no actual office space, that when it was all finally moved, I didn't want anything to get in the way of finally having space to breathe. Unfortunately, that was the middle of December, when trees and decs and all lovely manner of stuff usually gets crammed into a house. I just couldn't face it to tell the truth. The Bears weren't bothered about not having a tree or any decs so that made me feel a little less guilty. I snuck a few little bits onto shelves that I had bought in the month, but nothing was brought down from the loft.  It felt weird, but also liberating. I did miss my yearly ritual of getting up super early whilst the rest of the house is still asleep and having my first cuppa of the day in silence.....just the twinkly lights on the tree and me.

Christmas came and went. Lovely highs and not so lovely lows. It was what it was. It came in a whirlwind it seemed, and left in one.

The family saw the New Year in with a lovely dose of Covid. Only Big Bear managed to escape it. We had all been vaccinated as much as we could be for our ages and it was actually fine for us all, just colds, so we were lucky. Some are not so.

I had started another blanket back in the Autumn.  I just loved the look of...


As per usual, I saw it, and straight away decided that I was going to make it. I just don't really stop to think as to whether I actually NEED any more blankets, I just dive straight in. I never learn.

I did my usual, not sticking to the pattern, and made work for myself, only to realise if I'd just skipped a bit then carried on, it would have been just fine. I really can be a crochet muppet sometimes. Anyway, I liked how it was coming together. I actually really like straight forward squares that you just crochet together in an easy fashion. Maybe it's because I seem to be drawn to hexagonal motifs that really are the WORST to put together. So time consuming and tedious. But I do love the end result. My Beatrix Potter Blanket is one I have got so much joy from. It really set me on a path for the patchwork look. I actually have to confess to getting the wanties to making another hexagonal crochet blanket but with even smaller hexies. I know it would absolutely drive me batty to make it...........but I also know that the end result would be beautiful. 


Back to my current blanket. I was desperate to use the King Cole Forest Aran yarn. I just fell in love with most of the colours and wanted to use them all together. I wasn't keen on a couple of the shades and needed to bulk the blanket out with another couple of shades to get a good balance throughout the blanket. I mixed Sirdar Saltaire in the Fern and Squirrel colour ways and like how they blended in. I was going to make all the circles first, then square them off, then lay the colours and crochet it all together in one big finale, but decided to actually do one strip at a time and get each strip crocheted together first. I just thought it actually might spur me on rather than just seeing piles of motifs growing.

I decided that this was to be the final crochet project before I actually knuckled down and learnt properly how to knit a pair of socks (I don't know why it just scares me so?). I have enough blankets now. I gave a fair amount to charity last year but still have a lot in the house. Socks. People always need to wear socks. Can you have too many? I'm sure avid sock knitters will say maybe yes, but if I start from none, then if I learn, I can make quite a few before I need to quit those too. I think 1000 pairs of socks would roughly equal the size of one of my blankets! I still haven't perfected the art of a small blanket. 

I have some You Tube sock tutorials book marked, and I think I have the needles now to move forward. I just need to finish my blanket and psyche myself up for the knit lingo. I tell myself I taught myself to crochet, I can teach myself to knit socks.

At this point I will insert an edit:

I got 3/4 of the way through my blanket and was making great and speedy progress......then I lost a whole bunch of made up squares. They must have been packed somewhere before Christmas when we were packing and moving things to the office. Getting Covid after Christmas and generally just feeling discombobulated, I really couldn't be bothered to go hunting through stacked tubs. To date, the blanket is half finished, and another blanket pattern caught my eye in the meantime. I'll save that for another post. These knitted socks are elusive.


Spring has arrived and I am in need of piggy backing it, tapping into its boundless energy and upbeat positivity.

I'll let you know how I get on with that.