Sunday, 28 April 2013

Skirts and Flowers

I am, unashamedly, a huge fan of all things pretty.  That may be pretty colours like pink, pale blue, aqua and lemon or it could be country cottages with roses climbing round the door or it could be a pile of old books with a vintage teacup and saucer balanced on the top.  I don't care, I love Pretty!

And yesterday it came in many forms...

 It began with the natural beauty of my handmade chamomile and lavender soap.  It had set well over two days and I was able to de-mould it and slice it into cake sized pieces.  The smell of the lavender essential oil and the softness of the dried chamomile flowers made me smile as I cut into it.  It will spend the next six weeks curing in a draw in my bedroom, then it will be ready to use.  I cannot wait!

Later on in the morning, Pea had had enough revising for exams and as the sun was coming out, though still a bit on the breezy side, (so what's new?), she and I took the dogs out for a long walk, sans moaning boys.

 The meadows are all beginning to burst into Spring beauty now and there is a slight fuzz of greenery in the hedgerows.

Closer inspection reveals tiny beauties nestled in the grass, sheltering from the wind with faces turned towards the warming sunlight.

 Shy violets are one of my favourite early wild flowers.  They tell me in their quiet way that Winter is over and Spring, though it may still be chilly, is here and things can only get better.  Thank you Violets.

The joy then of beholding a cluster of Lady's Smock in a damp verge held no bounds!

Yep, no doubt about it,  this is Pretty all right!  So delicately pink it almost looks as if it is blushing.  The sheer delight of wild flowers to me is their fleeting visit into the open.  If you look you will find them, but on the next walk you take they may be over for another year and forgotten about under the damp earth.

Filled to the brim with contentment that all was right within our little world, we set off for the less than gorgeous delights of the town.  I use this word in it's loosest form as it comprises half a dozen shops and little else, but it was all we needed as my main objective was to purchase a new toaster.  We mulled over the advantages of this toaster against that and my heart fell completely for a gorgeous retro looking model in cream.  It was huge and very expensive.  I fought briefly with my conscience and told myself that if I bought this beast, I would never need to buy another toaster ever again.  It would be used several times a day; would save on electricity as the grill on my oven takes an age to heat up; would enable my family to easily feed themselves at moments of intense hunger (all the time, then) and best of all it would look gorgeous in my kitchen. was a tad too expensive, so I lowered my sights a teeny bit and eventually bought the item below.

It has already been used rather frequently and I suspect that now toast and all things toasty will be the main focus of meals in this house, at least until the novelty wears off a bit.  My plan for next week is to make jars of marmalade and lemon curd with which to spread on said toasted things.  Goody, I can't wait!

After all that excitement I was ready to go home, but Pea had other ideas.  We set about buying clothes.  I have lost some weight over the last six months or so, mainly through so much walking and also because the children eat far more than I do so there is usually not that much left to nibble on, so the need for clothes that actually fit me and don't make me look like a bag lady was pressing.  Pea had been working hard and deserved a treat.  As I said, there isn't a vast choice of shops here and you would find the same sort scattered all over the British Isles, but we managed to find the most beautiful skirt imaginable.  I think Pea and I saw it at the same time and both cooed over it for a bit before my persuasive daughter uttered those magical words: 'Buy It!'  No, no, no, I must not.  I have just spent a small fortune on a toaster and have an electric bill waiting at home large enough to feed a small country for a fortnight.  I have skirts, but rarely do we have the weather in which to waft about the countryside in them.  But my romantic side sauntered to the fore and said, 'But you will wear it every day and look most becoming when hanging out the washing.'  So I said, 'Oh, OK then!'  And here it is.

 Move over Jane Austen!   Yes, I expect it will be most attractive to wear whilst making apple pie, soaps filled with rose petals and watering my herb garden.  Hmm, that's a thing, I will need a suitable watering can now...

I did think it would look quite pretty with this jumper my Nan knit for me years and years ago.

And pink wellies.  Most definitely!

But not today; today it is raining again and leggings and a sloppy jumper are my garments of choice for this Sunday morning while I prepare dinner (roast pork and rhubarb crumble) and then laze about the house drinking tea and eating toast.  Lots of toast!

Have a lovely relaxing day, where ever you are in the world and if you get the chance to do a bit of romantic wafting about, enjoy the moment! xxx

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Sweet Unpredictability of Spring

Spring has sprung, and then it changes it's mind and goes to earth again.  Over the weekend we have enjoyed beautiful sunshine and relatively mild temperatures, or they would have been had it not been for the ever present chilly wind.  Today, the rain has set in and the fog has drifted over the sea and covered our part of the island in a damp blanket.  The wind swirls it all around and sends it racing across the countryside, buffeting the birds and snapping the stems off daffodils.  But when the sun shines, everything changes and becomes soft and beautiful.

As usual, I dragged my assortment of children, teenagers and dogs out for a walk or two during the weekend.  H2 has a standard moan when the W word is mentioned.  I ignore it now as it's more of a habit than anything and something he feels he must do or I may just go over the top and take him for a really long walk.  And that would never do.  The countryside was a feast for anyone who cared to look.  The sea sparkled icy blue..

The mountains have shaken all but the merest dusting of snow off their ridges...

And a gateway to a secret garden beckoned me closer.

Pretty, pretty, pretty!

Back at home and H2 released from his torture, I set to work in the kitchen baking a waggon load of cakes and biscuits to feed hungry children for the weekend and maybe even into the early part of the week, (I should be so lucky!).  I flicked through my cook books and found a Bramley Apple cake that I hadn't made before.  I have made two different apple cakes over the autumn and winter, but not this one, so being in the mood for wholesome, farmhouse type baking, this was the one to make.

I left it in the oven about 30 seconds too long, so while it wasn't burnt, it was a tad dry, but a big dollop of creme fraiche sorted that little problem out and all was well.   So well, in fact that it didn't get to see the end of the day.  I also made breakfast bars, spice biscuits and apple scones.  H1 made a tray of Millionaire's Shortbread yesterday too, so we have a few things knocking about in the cake tins, for a little while at least.

The best thing about sunny days is that Puppy is overcome with exhaustion and spends most of the day asleep in any patch of sun he can find.  If his slightly baggy teddy is there too, so much the better.

Since recovering from his 'Man Op', he seems much calmer and happier, apart from this morning when he wanted out.  I opened the back door and he shot out at lightening speed and dug is nose into a sad, struggling flower bed, quivering with excitement.  As I watched, wondering what he was up to this time, a tiny mouse jumped up from the flower bed and made a break for cover; Puppy was too quick and grabbed it in mid air, juggled with it for a second then held it down with a paw.  I thought it was all over for Tiny Mouse, but No!  He saw his chance and ran across the patio to the safety of a group of plant pots but Puppy was in hot pursuit and was close on his tail.  My heart was in my mouth at this point and I willed Tiny Mouse to escape, but preferably not in the direction of the open back door.  Puppy scraped and pawed at the plant pots and while he was thus engaged, Tiny Mouse mustered all his courage and leapt high in the air and darted for the hedge at the side of the patio.  Puppy was completely pole-axed and couldn't believe what had happened, but Tiny Mouse was saved!  Yay!  Puppy still wasn't ready to give up, but I had seen enough near-blood-shed for one day and went out and dragged him in by his collar.

The excitement of living in the countryside!

I will leave you now to go and sort out my soggy pile of washing, tidy the kitchen after a soap-making session this morning and think about tea for the troupes.  Oh lucky me!  Have a lovely day and thank you for reading. xxx

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

String Theory and A Spring Clean

Anyone who reads my blog will know that I am a huge fan of ribbons; I just can't get enough of them.  They seduce me with their pretty colours and smooth texture and the million and one things you can do with them.  My life would be duller without them.  Recently I have noticed a drawing towards a less gorgeous, but still magical version of long stuff that you can wrap round things; yep, STRING!!!  I love it!  Not as much as ribbon, that will always be my first love, that and lace of course, but now string has joined the ranks and I am even happier, (or should that be more desperate than ever?)

I love the way it looks tied round my beeswax tea lights and the contrast between the course hemp twine and the more delicate candy stripe soft string.  I have big plans for string, candles and soap!  Talking of which...

After leaving the nettle and orange soap for a day or two longer to re-absorb the oil, it was time to de-mould the batch and see what it looked like.  It had set but there was a little oil left on the top, which I wiped off according to the book's instructions, and then cut up into blocks.  It was quite soft at this point, so I don't know if it will be OK, but it looked and smelled gorgeous!  My first soap, yay!  H1 suggested cutting the blocks into slices as they looked too clumsy and ugly as they were.

Much better and easier to handle.  These are spending the next six weeks in the airing cupboard doing their thing before they will be ready to use. Can't wait!

Monday of this week dawned bright and blustery; a perfect day to start Spring Cleaning.  Not that I was all that thrilled with the idea, but as it is almost a year since we moved into our gorgeous cottage I wanted to re-create that feeling of everything being fresh and clean.  I managed to do the kitchen, bathroom and most of the lounge before running out of time and energy, but it looked lovely and was a job worth doing.  The plan was to finish the rest of it by the end of the week, but the weather has changed for the worse, and I just cannot clean when it is dull and rainy.  That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.

The view from my kitchen window of the sheep with their lambs  kept me company while I worked.  Puppy was fascinated by a small pile of fluff that I had swept off the floor, and was almost beside himself with glee when he found a little creature within to play with.  It was a woodlouse.  We have quite a lot of them lurking about, but as they do no harm and are very quiet, I don't worry about them.  Puppy pawed at his new friend and scattered the neat pile of fluff in all directions, so I told him to take it in the lounge to play with, which he did.  The last I saw was Puppy scratching at the carpet and whining at his pet.  I fear it may have decided to play dead just to be on the safe side, but it's acting was incredible and Puppy soon lost interest and left it to uncurl and run under the settee.  It probably passed out due to the shock of being carried and scraped at by a giant beast, but it will have an amazing tale to tell it's grandchildren.  Providing of course, that it isn't so badly psychologically damaged that it will become a recluse under my furniture for ever more. That would be tragic.

The sky is darkening now and the wind is getting stronger, if that's possible.  It is a good day to snuggle up and drink tea while waiting for my children to come home.  The Spring Cleaning can wait a day or two..

Have a lovely day and make a new friend! Thank you for dropping by my Windy Island. xxx

Friday, 12 April 2013

I'm Melting!

It occurred to me today that most of what I do at the moment involves melting one substance, adding things to it and making it turn into something different.  Chocolate, wax and solid oils all get heated up to melting point in my kitchen and then end up as cakes, biscuits, candles and soap.  I really enjoy the process.  I find it quite relaxing as it generally needs to be done slowly and I love the bit where I can add ingredients, stir and let it all set into something new.

 Of course, the problem with all this alchemy is the potential for things to go wrong.  And I find they usually do!  Yesterday I began making a delicious combination of nettle and sweet orange soap.  I picked and washed the nettles from outside my cottage..

 Finely chopped the orange peel I had dried on my sunny kitchen window sill..

melted all my fats and oils and stirred and stirred then waited and waited for it all to trace so I could add the chopped stuff and essential oils.  And I waited a bit more, then at ten last night I made the nerve wracking decision to add it all anyway, pour it into the mould and go to bed.  Gulp.  There were a lot of ingredients in there and I didn't want to waste it. But I was worried that if I didn't pour it, it could have all set in the pan overnight.  I tucked it all up in a cosy bed..

and went off to my cosy bed.  This morning I had a little peek to see if it had set and... Yes!  BUT, there is a thin layer of oil that has separated out, which isn't the best thing but neither is it dreadful.  According to my books it could be that my chilly kitchen isn't the best place to leave raw soap to cool as it cools a bit too quickly thus the oil problem.  Oh bother.  I have moved it to a warmer place and will leave it for a few days to see if the oil soaks back in.  It should be fine to use but I have learnt a valuable lesson!

There has also been a lot of wax melting going on.  My mum's friend kindly offered to take a sample of my candles to the school where she teaches to show her colleagues.  As I didn't have many left, I have spent a busy week making more and will be taking a box of goodies to her tomorrow.  Hope she likes them.

And finally, I spent this morning baking in my kitchen.  The weekend looms and my 'children' will be ferreting about in the cake tins almost as soon as they have eaten their tea, so I had better fill them up!

Later on I will be melting (yes, again) chocolate to cover the top of a chocolate biscuit cake and making coffee icing and butter cream for the above cake.  I was going to make more spice biscuits, but to be honest the bathroom needs a bit of attention now and I really need a cup of tea first!

The best news ever came my way this week via the nice man who delivered my shopping.  He told me that the Jet stream responsible for keeping warm air off the British Isles for so long has finally and joyfully moved!  Oh yes!  It will be creeping upwards over Britain during the weekend and then when it reaches the top, will hopefully stay there for at least six months.  So instead of suffering arctic blasts from the East, we should be gently cradled in a soft warmth from the South.  Oh I do hope so.  It will probably bring rain, but I will put up with that in exchange for heat!  Get your legs sorted ladies (Pea and I did ours last week and almost blocked the drains.  It's been a while since there was a need to shave our legs!) and prepare yourselves for warmth!

Boy, is the Tesco man going to be in trouble if it stays cold!

Have a super weekend and thank you for reading. xxx

Sunday, 7 April 2013

My Dream Cottage

We have had the most beautiful week full of wall to wall sunshine, albeit with rather a stiff breeze, but if you could get out of the wind for a while the sun was really quite warm.  Pea has spent a lot of time revising in the garden and I have kept her company.  I have been no use to her whatsoever, but it was nice to sit together and drink tea and it made me feel as if I was doing something useful!

So we have taken full advantage of the sun and had plenty of long walks, much to the delight (not) of the boys.  A few days ago, I successfully dragged them all out for an even longer walk than usual.  We had not done this one before, so I thought it would be quite exciting to see what we would find.  It seems I was alone in this thinking regarding the boys at least.  H1 was accepting as it would keep Puppy quiet for a while after, but H2 complained that the graze on his knee really hurt and rendered him incapable of walking further than the garden gate.  Hmm, a likely story and not one that I would take any notice of.  Anyway, he seemed to almost enjoy it once we got going.  Kind of.  You may remember my ramblings of a derelict farmhouse that I saw on our previous walk, well I found something even better...!  Ready?  Here we go...

Oh my, it is rather perfect don't you think?  Pea and I were in raptures over it but the boys couldn't see why. I think I had mentally moved in before we got to the end of the lane and planned where all the rooms would be, what colour the barn at the back would be painted (Red Oxide) and hung the ubiquitous lace curtains.  Look, sash windows! Well, one anyway, the others are boarded up.

Can you imagine a pink Old English climbing rose around this door?  And hens scratching in the earth?  And Hollyhocks, Foxgloves and Aquilegia growing along the front wall?  There is a slight problem...I would need about a billion pounds to sort it all out and make it the home of my dreams, so it will most probably stay the home of my dreams and never actually come to fruition, but, oh if only...!

Head still full of the above, we spotted this little miracle on the way home.  Two brand new lambs, only moments old.  I didn't get too close I promise, I used the zoom on my camera as I didn't want to scare her away from her babies.  She had cleaned one, but the other was still a bit yellow and wet.  I love it, it's an amazing thing and I feel privileged to have all this going on around us.

We left her in peace to bond with and feed her lambs and went home where I made spice biscuits and raspberry buns with which to feed my lambs.

And now it is the end of the Easter holidays.  We have had two super weeks full of doing not much; walking, reading, talking and hanging about.  The sunny weather has helped us all feel energetic and bouncy rather than flat and dull.  I am finally filled with a new zest for making and doing (yippee!) and really relish the thoughts of the days stretching out ahead, at least until October when the nights draw in again.  Who knows what those days will bring and at times, when the sun lights up the sea, sky and mountains, it seems that just about anything could happen.

The owner of the world's fifth largest yacht is a candle maker.  It could well be that the owner of a tiny crumbling cottage on a small island in the Irish Sea is too.  Better get melting...

Thank you for dropping by and reading my ramblings.  Keep happy and smile! xxx

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Warming Up

The sun is still shining and it is still very windy.  H1 and I got up a bit earlier today and took Puppy for a long walk.  The sky was clear blue, the sun glistened off every surface and the wind blew.  But there is a little more warmth there today, and I feel more optimistic that Spring and indeed Summer will not let us down this year...

These early Spring days always get me fired up.  I am washing everything in sight just to have the simple pleasure of seeing it all blowing madly on the washing line all day and bringing it indoors in the evening, smelling of sunshine, the garden and the sea breeze.  This inspired me to make a candle recently that I called Fresh Linen.  It smells just like that!

Christine has got these in her shop, Celebration Studio, at the moment but I have been asked to make some more for another lady and hope to get some in my Etsy shop one day too!

Anyway, back to our spring morning walk with Puppy.  He has recovered rather too quickly from his man operation (neutering, if you were wondering!), and has been a bit naughty, so it seems that long walks and training are the way to go to try and wear him out.  I will be as thin as a pipe cleaner at this rate.

Off we go up the hill.  It's a bit of a pull, but not too bad and the wind was behind us, which helped!

The bright yellow gorse flowers sang out from every bush lining the lanes.

The view from the top was worth the extra effort to get there.

Two little chaps lapping up the sunshine and smiling for the camera!

These sheep and their lambs had broken into the garden of a deralict farmhouse that the children have named The Scary House.  I don't think it is scary at all; it makes me want to bring it back to it's formerly beautiful self and live in it with hens roaming the orchard, bluebells springing up from green turf and lace curtains stirring in a gentle summer breeze at open windows.  I am an incurable romantic.  In reality, I would probably be bemoaning the fact that the hens had pecked the bluebells, the sheep had crashed through the garden wall again and trodden on my plants, the hens, and eaten my softly billowing curtains.  Oh well.

On our way home again down the hill, easier this time.  Blackbirds singing in the trees, keeping us company all the way and a glimpse of the sea and a nearby lake.  The hedges, grass and trees have been bleached by months of icy cold wind blasting them from all directions.  Hopefully soon the island will be washed in a vibrant green as new shoots appear and wild flowers dare to open their delicate blooms.

The sight of my new rhubarb stems are as pleasing to me as any flower (almost!) and I am looking forward to making rhubarb tart, the children's favourite summer pudding.  If you like rhubarb and custard, you will love this as it is basically a pastry case filled with home made custard and slices of fresh rhubarb, baked until the fruit is soft and the custard set.  Gorgeous warm or cold, with or without cream.  Can't beat it!

Have a lovely day, what ever you do and thank you for reading. xxx