light on water

DSCF4048DSCF4050DSCF4059DSCF4058DSCF4053DSCF4083Lately I’ve been feeling nostalgic for something, and it’s funny because it’s something I already have. Connection to the landscape I grew up in. Pathways I have trodden time after time after time. Places where I remember how I lay in the grass over there when I was ten and wrote a poem about the sounds I could hear, and how my friend and I turned the roots of that tree into a house for our flower fairy dolls. It’s just that when my life gets too crowded I lose touch with the simplicity of just being here beneath the branches and the sky and that being enough. Sometimes it takes me too long to remember just how long it has been since I sat and looked at that view. Or really listened to anything beyond my own thoughts.

I used to play in this stream. And now my children get to. When I was a teenager thinking I would obviously move miles and miles away from here and obviously spend all my time doing wild and exciting things, I think a tiny part of me wondered if that really was the best future for me. And lately, when my heart has been fragile and my mind has been struggling against worry and fear, I’ve felt so glad that I ended up back here. That I still get to dip my toes in that clear water and hear the bees and the distant lawnmowers, and be me, here, right now, still growing and changing but still part of all this all the same. I think God knew I still needed these blossoms and kissing gates. That my children did too.

catching up

 Lately I’ve been spending as many stolen moments as I can right here. Catching up on much needed rest, on a few favourite reads, on the pleasure of enjoying a mango ice lolly in the dappled shade with the swing seat gently swaying and the birds the only thing to break the silence. Bliss.

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I spent all of Sunday morning there. I’d hit a wall; my body was saying “you have got to stop!”. And this time, with the help of my dear husband, I did stop. We all know that parenthood is exhausting even as it is enjoyable, that a happy rested mother equals a happy family. But even so, with the best will in the world it isn’t easy to take time out. There are so many needs calling out for your time and attention. But as I get older I think perhaps I’m finally learning something about pausing to look after myself, and about slowing down when I can. Remembering to breathe deeply; take the opportunity for a walk whenever it can be taken – with or without the pushchair; eat foods that nourish and drink enough water; nap from time to time … you know the drill.  It’s simple, but so often as women we let caring for ourselves slide further and further down the list.

 

DSCF4142Of course, after a while it’s nice to have a little company. I love being alone, but I don’t for a second want to be alone all the time! And two year olds do say the most excellent things. I reckon there’s room on here for two. Just as long as no-one tries to steal my ice lolly.

 

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Finished knits: a hoodie with room to grow

I’ve been meaning to get around to sharing this one with you for a couple of weeks now. It followed the same process as so many others: enthusiastic start; slow stretch; standstill; big kick up the (my) backside and stern talking to (self and garment); reluctantly pick up needles; suddenly find rhythm and then speed to the end. And pull over head of recipient before they have a chance to protest.

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I’m especially happy about this one because I have finally managed to pull together the threads of my years of pattern/Elizabeth Zimmerman reading and figure out how to knit a bottom-up, in the round, hooded sweater without a pattern. And – the most exciting and surprising thing – make it actually fit someone. True, the arms are rather long in proportion to the body. But as a fellow knitter said to me when she saw it: “you can just knit a bit more onto the body later!” Now that’s my kind of thinking.

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Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Without Tears is my best recommendation for getting your head around making a sweater without a pattern, that and a bit of good old fashioned recklessness. I mean, the beauty of knitting is that you can always unpick it and start again. I’m all for bending/breaking the rules when it comes to crafting. If you like it, that’s all that matters. Happy making! x

 

 

bag lady

O.k. So I do have quite a few bags. But (at the risk of protesting too much), it helps me keep my world in some sort of semblance of order …. and they are so pretty. All but a couple are either homemade or second hand, so really I’ve either donated to charity or fed my creativity to get those bags. You could say that I’m doing the world or my family a service. (Happy mama equals happy family, no?)  And, I might add, each one does have its very own very important role to play. Occasionally problems have arisen due to the fact that only I know The Secret Of Which Bag Is For What, but I figure that is largely a mother’s lot anyway: we are somehow divinely appointed to know where that other shoe was last seen, or those goggles, or the toy frog that no-one has laid eyes on for two days and without which the two year old cannot contemplate going to bed.

My latest bag crush began an hour or so ago in a nearby charity shop. Look: it is just the right size for some knitting. (O.k. so it is conceivably possible to argue that about almost any bag. But come on; just look at how cute it is):

DSCF3971DSCF3975The best thing is that it was on sale! In a charity shop! See. You understand.

And little R didn’t leave empty handed either. 75p was well spent on a red sports car that is just as cool as the yellow one his brother got second-hand a few months ago and which this little person keeps wandering out of afore-mentioned brother’s room with, loudly asserting “this car’s MINE.” Well, this car is his. And he’s not letting go of it. No way! Well, at least until his siblings get home. And then you can bet he’ll be sharing it like a little star. He’s just like that, this one.

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good things

DSCF3777 DSCF3779 DSCF3780 DSCF3934 DSCF3935 DSCF3938 DSCF3940 DSCF3942 Oh I do love proper sunny days. I watched a programme this week about different animals and how the sun affects them. Before it’s had a good dose of sun, the chameleon can’t even summon the strength to catch a beetle that walks right in front of him. And meerkats fall over standing up while they are waiting to warm up. I do that too. I totally relate.

Which is why lately I’ve been getting stuff done. It feels so good. I’ve been marching along with R in his three wheeler, gathering bundles of wild garlic while it’s still here. There are carpets of it. I stand and breath it in and all at once I am ten (almost eleven!) years ago and walking in the early spring evening with my new little girl held close to my chest and a song on my lips and the excitement of everything stretched out ahead and waiting and new.

For R, many things are new. I love that I get to catch something of that through him. He’s getting really into painting. I bought sketch books just for painting, for all the kids, and he is filling his up fast. One of my number one tips to fellow mums that I talk to is: get at least one sketch book, more if you can. So much easier than filing 100 precious toddler works of art, and they love looking through them once they are dry and as the years go past. If you are anything like me and you lose things or forget to write down who painted it and when, sketch books are a Godsend.

DSCF3943DSCF3944I did some painting too. Our toddler bed has been through four kids already – our own and a little friend too – so it was in need of some TLC before it was put together a fifth time. I’m in green mode at the moment. Soft chalky shades; I scatter them everywhere. This was white before, with a ton of chips and scratches. Little R is very excited about his big bed. I didn’t think I would be, but actually I am. He may be growing up but he’s still his cute little self; really he just becomes more himself every day. I can’t wait to make this bed look new and special, just for him.

 

 

 

 

DSCF3908DSCF3907DSCF3909DSCF3893DSCF3898DSCF3910DSCF3905Although it rained on Easter Sunday after two weeks of sun, it didn’t really matter. The children hunted for eggs inside and it turned out to be just as much fun because it was different. Somehow – don’t ask me how – by the time everyone was ready to start the egg hunt the easter bags were finished, the cake was iced, the tree was laden with polystyrene eggs which the children had decorated with deco pens (even little R, although he used felt tips and enjoyed colouring in his egg so much that he didn’t want to stop, which is why it is brown) and carefully hung up, and all the adults had a cup of tea in their hands. And I didn’t miss half of it hovering in the kitchen or looking for the camera. Success!

Until Sunday, R hadn’t really seemed to like chocolate all that much. Miraculous, for a child of mine. (I was in awe, and slightly proud. As if I had anything to do with it!) But it turns out that it was simply a case of lack of exposure. Now he wanders around the house saying “Where’s my choccit? Were’s my choccit?” I am going to have to keep changing the hiding place. This is one switched on two year old. You have to be about ten steps ahead.

On Monday E and I sorted out her room and I tackled some of those repeatedly-pushed-to-the-bottom-of-the-list jobs around the house. I think Easter is my New Year (I always have been just a little bit behind!) It feels like my time to clear some baggage, lighten the load. Take a good look at where I am and how things are going, make some changes, and move on.

DSCF3727The early evenings this week have been so beautiful. My heart has been heavy lately, with the pain that friends are going through. Walking and praying seems the only thing to do. I found myself looking around more closely than I usually do. I felt desperate to see God in the details. Although I love words, they had deserted me and above all I wanted to see. That there was some pattern and purpose to it all. That even the tiniest thing has its place and is being held.

DSCF3739DSCF3725DSCF3774DSCF3732I thought about the way we can’t stop time and how we have to keep on keeping on and how sometimes it seems as if surely everything should just stop because actually it is much. too. hard.

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And how one day, when you aren’t looking for it, you might stumble across a bridge over the torrent.  Or something beautiful, forcing its way out of stagnant ground.

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the space between

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In the middle of the playing and tidying, to-ing and fro-ing, planning and making, the gentle out breath we all needed came today. Good Friday was yesterday, but only today as I wandered down pretty blossom laced lanes and watched the clouds scud across the blue while my children climbed and shouted and laughed and let go: only then did I let go. Let it sink in. Wrap itself around me. The loss. The gain. The way thorns and brambles wrap around and suffocate and try to complicate a thing that is so simple. As simple as a piece of wood. A simple as the shape of a heart.

that old thing?

This chair, it’s been in my family as long as I’ve been around. At least, it seems that way to me. When my parents moved it could have found itself at the Tip, given that the seat looked like this:

DSCF3705DSCF3706But I had a feeling there could still be a future for this long-serving old gentleman yet, so I brought him home.

First step, removing all that broken old straw and freshening the whole thing up with a few coats of paint.

DSCF3714I remembered seeing this on Soulemama’s blog, and thought I’d have a go at something similar. I cut strips from a couple of old T-shirts, tied them tightly to the chair frame, and had lots of fun weaving them through each other (with some help from my six year old – I think I’m going to get some more weaving projects going on with him: he found the process so calming, and it really spoke to his love of order.)

DSCF3718DSCF3719DSCF3716I must confess I had my doubts about whether this chair would actually end up strong enough to sit on, but it absolutely is (I’m sitting on it right now, and I haven’t fallen through yet!) Hopefully this new lease of life will give an old favourite a few more years yet.

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cushion revamp

It’s always a good day when you stumble into a fabric store that you don’t know very well and find Liberty Tana Lawn on sale. I had minutes before the biscuit given to my two year old (by the nicest store assistant ever – thank you so much, kind lady!) was consumed and his insistent “I want to get OUT” began again, so I grabbed half a metre of each and high tailed it out of there. Later that day, as I rearranged cushions and quilts yet again in the sitting room and still didn’t like the way they went together, I realised what the problem was. DSCF3704I made two of these cushion covers years ago. They have moved with us many times, they have faded in that comfortable way over the years, and somehow, they just no longer work. They don’t really hang out harmoniously with the other fabrics and colours in that room any more, so I picked them up and relegated them to the drag-outside-when-you-want-to-crash-on-a-blanket pile, and I am happily beginning my April Cushion Revamp. First up, a bit of that Tana LawnDSCF3684DSCF3682DSCF3681If you have never felt this fabric, let alone stitched through it or gazed at those beautiful tiny little florals, beware that once you do nothing will be the same any more. Honestly. Sadly I don’t have the budget for more than the occasional little bit of it (which is probably for the best), but it’s like alpaca after acrylic, or wool felt after synthetic. Lovely stuff. My next little quick sew took the form of a simple soft landing for all the backsides that sit on the chair in front of the computer desk each day. This time, a bit less subdued (I had managed a yet-again-very-fast wander around Cath Kidston after the fabric shop, so I was ever so slightly in jaunty vintage mode. I don’t love too much of that look, but a little makes me very happy): DSCF3673DSCF3680DSCF3675Do you want to know where that fabric and the lace ribbon came from? We’re talking sublime to the ridiculous here, after the Liberty print, but it was The Works! In the craft section, packs of fabric fat quarters (admittedly 100% polyester I’m sure, but it does the job), rolls of vintage ribbon, and even fabric-covered-buttons (I made the binding with some scraps of leftover fabric from my stash: extra feel good points!). I reckon that cushion cost me about £3 make, which is a most bargainous and cheering thing. Happiness is homemade, folks, and it can be as cheap as chips. Mmm, chips. I have got to eat some beside the sea very soon.

Happy Monday, friends x