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. Orange.......orange.......orange. 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
OH MY GIDDY AUNT
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........