Thursday, 30 May 2013

Busy Doing Nothing

As it is half-term (and almost the end of it), we have spent the week doing very little.  Nothing exciting, nothing amazing, just pottering and letting the mood take us.  H1, being 14, has suddenly grown about a foot in the last fortnight and consequently outgrown all of his clothes.  We had planned to go into town and buy more this morning; not a pleasure I was looking forward to in any shape or form, but something that had to be done.  

I woke this morning with the beginnings of a stiff neck and bad headache.  The reason for this?  I had company in my bed last night in the form of H2, who said he couldn't sleep in his own bed, but gave no reason for it.  As he was already half asleep and snuggled up with his teddies and several pillows too many, I didn't have the heart to drag him back to his own bed, so instead I spent the night sleeping fitfully, waking periodically with a small bear-like paw tucked into my hand and was either too hot, due to his close proximity or too cold due to him stealing all the covers.  He finally de-camped just before seven, and I decided to snatch a few more minutes before getting up myself.
Two hours later, I heard the dogs clattering their claws on the kitchen floor and flew out of bed to be greeted with an aching back and a banging headache.  So much for my selfless deed of last night.

So anyway, I didn't really want to go into town by this time, and jobs were piling up in the house and calling for attention, so we have stayed at home, cleaned, baked and walked.

The cake tins are now healthier than they were and the cottage is, if not gleaming, then at least respectably clean.  The boys both had homework and have, typically, left it until almost the last minute.  They both have work-avoidance tactics, possibly picked up from me.  H1 drifts about looking for pencils and rulers while H2 finds his way into the kitchen, mooches about looking in the fridge and then wanders off to see if the post has been.  Finally he ran out of things to put off doing homework for and settled down to it.

 I was happily baking raspberry buns with the radio on which was punctuated every few moments by H2 yelling a maths question to me from the table in the lounge.  After answering once or twice (at great brain strain, I might add), I pulled myself up and asked why the heck was I trying to answer maths questions when it wasn't my homework?  I have enough to do, thank you very much, and I am not about to make my gorgeous 10 year old a lazy slob who can't even be bothered to think for himself.  I gave him a piece of paper, told him how to work it out and left him to it.  I heard not a whisper from then on, so I have no idea if he has finished or not.  And at this moment, I don't care.  Helping those we love sometimes means leaving them to sort it out for themselves.  It gives them independence and gives us a break.  Every body's happy.

Soon after, cabin fever struck so we all trooped outside for a breath of fresh air and a change of scenery.  H2 amused himself by collecting dandelion clocks and helping nature share the seed across the countryside.  There is something rather delightful in these soft, downy orbs.  The seeds cling to their central pincushion, waiting for a breath of air to tug them free and send them floating far and wide.

Pea made a bow from a blade of grass and she and H1 scared the cows by blowing through thick grass held taught between finger and thumbs.

Even though Spring is a good five weeks late, the hedgerows and verges are thick with cow parsley, bluebells, red campions and buttercups.  The greenery is singing out and all is lush and fresh.

According to the charismatic Chris Packham on Springwatch this week, the jet stream is currently stuck over the south of England, when it should by now be much further up.  Consequently, we are still suffering with cold winds and air temperatures coming from Russia and Scandinavia.  What we want is for it to move somewhere above Iceland, thus giving us a warm and sunny summer.  Until that moment comes though, we just have to make the best of what we get and hope that we can carry on doing not much at all.

I hope you find the time to do nothing today.  Thank you for reading. xxx

Thursday, 23 May 2013

All About the Girl

Like many young people around the British Isles at the moment, Pea is sitting her GCSE exams.  She has been revising for and taking exams for months on end.  The stress and tension they are put under is far too much, in my humble opinion.  She does nothing but revise for hours and hours each evening.  The two of us have come close to getting a bit cross with each other (which is very unusual for us), when I have told her to put her books away and have a rest and she wouldn't.  She is subject to buzzing noises in her head now when she studies; a clear sign things have gone too far.  But slowly, slowly it is coming to an end.  She has taken five exams this week including two today.  She has six more to go, spread out over the next three or four weeks.  But today is a good day; a big day - her last day at school.

She is supposed to be leaving tomorrow after a morning spent going round the school, thanking her teachers and taking photographs and then attending a ceremony in the afternoon.  Pea bought two simple, pretty dresses for the occasion, but has decided that she really doesn't want to go at all.  She doesn't want to spend money on shoes she will never wear again, preferring her wellies instead.  In all honesty, the opportunities to wear nice shoes here are so remote as to be none existent!  She asked if I would mind not going and I replied that I really couldn't care less about it, I just want her to be happy.  A day at home would do her more good than a day at school, seething with fury at having to be there and hating every minute!

She is an amazing, hard working girl and I am so proud of the way she is.  I am longing to see the light come back into her eyes again when all this is over.  I long to hear her laughter, see her making a mess in the kitchen when she is baking, watch her doing cartwheels in the field and sitting curled up in the chair, her feet tucked under her, reading romantic novels.  I want to see her just having fun.

Tomorrow I hope she just spends time doing nothing and lets all the hard work of this week seep out of her muscles and mind.  If she has a rest for a few days, she will be more likely to cope when she gets back to revision next week.  The boys break up for half term tomorrow so we will have a good week of relaxing and pottering about.  If the sun shines we will go for long walks in the countryside and maybe even a long-overdue trip to the beach, where Pea can forget exams and poke about in rock pools looking for crabs, anemones, and shrimps.

When my first baby was born, over sixteen years ago I had no idea of the way she would change not only my life but also myself.  I became whole the moment she looked at me.  This is what I am here for, this is my role in life.  Being a mother is the hardest, best, most frustrating, most joyful, most challenging and most rewarding job in the world.  You get no pay, no holidays, sometimes no thanks and virtually no recognition for all the effort you put in, every day for years and years.  And yet I would not give it up for a moment to become famous or wealthy.  Motherhood has it's own rewards in ways the world would not notice but are so profound to us.  Tiny things that make our hearts squeeze with joy and pride and make the tears spring into our eyes.  It gives us memories so precious that sometimes I don't even want to share them, they are mine and I hug them close as I once did my babies.  My children amaze me every day.  I delight in the way they are, the things they say and the ways their minds work.  I am dazzled by their intelligence, their nonsense and their humour.  They give me so much more than financial reward.  They hug me and say 'Thanks for being my mum'.  That is my life blood.

So on the last day I will spend by myself until school starts again in September, what am I doing?  Having a massage?  My nails done?  Watching a film with a friend?  Nope, I'm baking cakes for my children's tea and thinking about them.  They will be driving me mad with questions, noise and bickering by five o'clock; their bedrooms will be a right mess and there will be books and clothes on the floor in at least one other room.  But that's my life and I love it.  I am planning on giving Pea a treat or two tomorrow and giving her space and peace to revise when she needs to.  I am looking forward very much to the next ten weeks with my daughter and intend to enjoy them as much as possible.  She will have two years in sixth form at school and then will be off to university.  Knowing how fast the last sixteen years have flown, two will go by in the blink of an eye and from then on there will be very little time we can spend together.  She will be off to uni and then the world will be calling her and she will be unable to resist.  I wouldn't want her to.  I want her to live the life she wants and to be happy and content.  And only she knows how to do that.

Give someone a hug today and laugh a lot! xxx

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Sweet Tuesday

The weather on the island has been cold, blustery and cloudy for the past few days.  It makes me feel lifeless, dull and disheartened.  That is a state I cannot tolerate for too long.  I have to do something to bring me out of the grip of gloom.  I wandered into the kitchen, opening cupboards and mooching about for inspiration to hit me between the eyes.  I seem to have a lot of sugar around...Maybe today should be the day for learning how to make sweets.

After the children had gone to school, the beds made, bins out and dogs walked, I turned the radio on in the kitchen and leafed through my sweet making book.  I purchased this book late last year and so far have only made some nutty chocolate toffee from it.  Time to get to grips with pulled taffy.  I love those words!  They sound so mysterious and exciting, enticing me to unravel their secrets and learn their meaning.

Here we go then...

I am always a little nervous starting a new venture so I read and re-read the instructions and followed them carefully.  The syrup made lovely swirly patterns in the sugar and water and I felt a frisson of excitement that I would soon have a plateful of pretty lemon drops for the children when they came home.

Or not.  Instead of a lovely, silky smooth rope of shiny taffy, I had a solid lump of red hot lemon flavoured lava.  Oh dear.  Oh dear.  Oh dear.  Not the best start to my confectionery career.  After sobbing quietly into my cup of tea and hammering the solid mass off the work surface, I tried again.

This time the syrup seemed to be doing what the book said it would do.  But the book said to pick it up at this point and start pulling.  I tested it with a finger.  A strand of molten candy wrapped itself around my finger and I actually felt intense pain before I could wipe it off.  How on earth could I pick this lot up and fiddle with it without losing all the skin off my hands in the process?  I waited a bit longer but every second it was solidifying into lumps.  I tentatively scraped at it with a blade and found I couldn't even get it off the board.  Effort number two looked like this...

Can you see the difference?  No, me neither.  I now have two bowls full of acidic, rock hard sugar, a sink full of pans and utensils with aforementioned solidified mass stuck like limpets to the whole and a blister on my finger.  I am most displeased.

But in the true spirit of the home crafter, I will persevere; I will not be downhearted; I will triumph.  Maybe in another life, but for this one I've had quite enough of sweet making.  It would seem that the words 'pulled taffy' will remain a mystery to me for all eternity.

We should all stick to what we're good at.  And I am good at this...

Sitting down reading my new book.  Confectionery is an exhausting business and one I am not inclined to indulge in again for some time.  Putting the kettle on the stove and waiting for it to sing it's sweet music to me is something I do gleefully every day.  I have mastered the art and will continue to practise tea drinking for many years to come.  If I can read a good book at the same time, so much the better.

Relax and take it easy today. xxx

Friday, 17 May 2013

Pea and I

Yesterday turned out to be one of those unplanned, unexpected, perfect days.  Pea started her GCSE exams this week and has been revising for and sitting exams since before Christmas.  She works incredibly hard; too hard sometimes, I tell her to have a break but she ploughs on, afraid of not getting the results she so desperately wants.  She awoke yesterday morning with a buzzing noise in her head and didn't feel too well.  She decided to have a day at home, in the quiet and take it easy for a change.

The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the lanes were calling our names, so after a brief rest during the morning, we grabbed the dogs and went for a slow amble in the countryside.

We were both in need of some relaxation time and time spent doing nothing in particular.  I think nowadays, we spend so much of our lives being busy that it is seen as being lazy if we do nothing.  But even by doing nothing, something is happening; we let our minds wander and open up; we let things that recently troubled us drift away on the breeze; we let our imaginations get a word in and that's when our best ideas can happen.  Day dreaming is never a waste of time!

Slow ambling is easy to do on a warm, calm day.  It was a pleasure to walk comfortably without the clutter of big coats and being bent against a strong wind.  Hardly a sound was heard, other than our own footsteps and the insects and birds around us.

Pea said she could easily spend a Summer as a cow.  Seeing these gorgeous girls lazing in the afternoon sun, slowly chewing cud with the scent of warm grass and dandelions around them, I could see why.  For once the air was still; Swallows swooped low over meadows and hedges, hoovering up insects in wide-open beaks.  Their excited chatter filled a deep blue sky and spoke of a Summer still to come.  It seeped into my bones and melted away the tension of a long, cold Winter.  Pea and I smiled with contentment and pleasure at the sounds, feelings and beauty the island was so generously giving to us at that moment.  A fleeting moment shared with my daughter; something so simple and unimpressive, but as precious and magical as a droplet of rain captured on the tip of a leaf.

The dogs, hot and tired, whined and broke the spell.  We sauntered home along quiet lanes as insects hummed drowsily among the bluebells and cow parsley.

Revision books and housework waited at home, but just for today they could be forgotten.  We needed a break from routine and Mother Nature provided it for us.  Never for one moment do I forget how lucky we are to be living in this beautiful part if the world.  The wind blows hard and the rain sweeps sideways across the fields, sometimes endlessly, but when it stops and the sky turns blue, there is no better place on Earth to be.

I hope the sun shines on you today and hope you find time to let your mind wander.  Thank you for reading. xxx

Monday, 13 May 2013

Lady of Leisure? No, Indeed!

I recently found myself on the receiving end of the worst insult since I left my husband over three years ago. He was the King of Insults and is fully entitled to the accolade, if you ask me.  But this came as something of a shock and the only reason the person delivering it still has all his teeth intact and isn't walking around with an axe buried in his cerebral cortex is because he is really rather delicious.

But there are limits.  I simmered for a day or two, then started to wonder why the term Lady of Leisure got me so wound up in the first place.  It is after all, a euphemism for A Woman Who Does B... All, which is not flattering.  But I suppose it depends how you say it; A Lady of Leisure implies the person is a lazy slob, eats crisps in her dressing-gown at ten in the morning and feeds her children on chicken nuggets every day.  A Lady of Leisure, however, completely changes the view and leaves you with an image of a woman in full control of her life, who devotes her time to making a beautiful home, gorgeous food, a welcoming atmosphere and who is always delightful company.  Her only aim in life is to make sure everyone who enters her warm bubble is happy, content and feels they never want to leave.

Sounds like hard work to me.  But maybe I should put my axe away for now, just in case the term was kindly meant...

Over the weekend I was struck with a migraine, (probably brought on by thoughts of axes and heads) but I battled on and uploaded my Cupcake linen scenters onto my Misi shop.  It took ages and while I was doing it, a friend came for coffee and bought two of them.  Yay!  Thanks H!  Now I will have to change some of the images!  That lead me to think about how exactly I wanted to package the cupcakes and keep them safe on their journey to their new homes.  I set about making little boxes, but that proved to be a bit tricky, also I would have to purchase loads of card with which to make said items and that would be expensive.  Pea searched on-line for small boxes, but we couldn't find the right size.  Also, how many different sizes would I need?  And what sizes?  It was all getting a bit complex for a Sunday evening.  I want them to look pretty and loved but at the same time not be too expensive to buy or post.  Boxes, it seemed, were out.  We all sat about for a while, each coming up with new ideas that then got tossed to the rubbish heap as no good.  I was beginning (for the hundredth time) to wonder what on earth I thought I was doing?  For goodness' sake, why didn't I just forget it and get a proper job?  Then I realised I can't actually do anything apart from being a mum and making things, so I have to stick with it.

H2 suddenly said, what about just putting bubble wrap round them?  I didn't fancy that but it set off a little spark in my brain that caught light and began to burn...

H1 and I went to my table and tried two different styles of packaging,

Then we 'posted' them to Pea in her bedroom and she had to open them and decide which she liked best.  Surprisingly, she loved the tissue, brown paper and string option.  She liked the fact that it is all recyclable and looks natural and rustic, which is in-keeping with the products, our life-style and the image I am trying to build for my business.  So there we have it, most if not all Windy Island Handmade creations will be sent out wrapped lovingly in tissue paper, brown paper, string and placed snugly in a padded brown envelope.  You can re-use or re-cycle all of it and be very proud you did!

My head is splitting as though an axe has been buried in it, so it's time for this Lady to have some much needed Leisure time.  Earl Grey, anyone?

Thank you for dropping by my Windy Island, have a lovely day. xxx
P.S  If you want to find my Misi shop, click this link.   

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Recycled Weddings

After the beautiful summer day we experienced yesterday, I woke at 7 this morning to hear rain thundering on the roof and wind howling round the windows.  Well that was a short-lived summer wasn't it!  Still, it gave me a good reason to batten down the hatches, stay in and make something different.

Er, no I didn't make used candles; they were given to me by my friend Wendy, who runs a local business preparing rooms for wedding receptions, sometimes with the help of Pea.  The candles are placed in huge glass 'gold fish' bowls and afterwards are thrown away.  As you can see, they are hardly used.  I highly doubt these candles were made from eco-friendly soy wax, so I didn't want to re-make them into new candles as I am trying to build my business on natural products but I really wanted to do something with them.

Then I had an idea.  I could re-use them, but not as candles.  If I turned them into drawer and cupboard scenters, they would never be burned and at the same time I would be recycling a product that would usually become land-fill fodder.  A good compromise I feel.

I gathered a few choice goodies; orange slices and calendula petals...

And a mix of dried flowers and set about hacking the candles to bits.  They were really hard but I soon got into the swing of it and had them melting before too long.

As the wind blew and the radio played some really good stuff from 1984 I was in my element adding scent, a tiny drop of colour and dried botanicals.  The kitchen was filled with comforting smells and flowers scattered across my work top.

I wasn't too sure about the results at first..

But the children were so thrilled and excited by them; H1 even said 'Oh, cool!' but that was because he thought they were cupcakes at first!  Then he realised they weren't edible and said 'Oh cool!' which was even better.

I realise now that the fruity ones don't have a very strong scent, which you would need if you want to make your knicker drawer smell nice, so I will give these away and start again.

They will all be available on my all-new Misi shop before the weekend.  Did I tell you about that?  No?  Oh, well then..About a week ago my sis-in-law text me to tell me about an on-line market place for British crafters and artisans to sell their makes.  As you know I already have and Etsy shop, but to say that it has been a little quiet is an under-statement.  I feel it is too big for me.  I am lost amongst the thousands of other people all selling similar things.  It is a super market and I would feel happier selling in a corner shop.  Misi is the corner shop.  I listed a few of my candles and had about 40 hits in moments.  Yesterday I listed a few more and had 49 hits on one candle in less that 5 minutes!  Wow!  I didn't achieve that on Etsy in 3 months.  Most encouraging.  I will be closing my Etsy shop next month and concentrating on Misi and possibly Folksy too.

I will try to get a link on this blog soon, so you can hop over there easily and quickly.  I will be adding my soaps to my shop as they become ready and any other little thing I rustle up in my cosy kitchen over the weeks and months to come.

A clue!

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

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

My Day in Pictures

Beautiful weather, sunny and warm.  Sometimes it is better to let the pictures speak for themselves.  I hope you enjoy them.

Have a lovely evening and thank you for taking the time to visit my blog.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Sunshiny Day

The glorious sun has been shining merrily on our island for the last two days and it is even warm enough to go without a coat, providing you brace yourself a bit against the still-fresh breeze.  Still, after the misery of a months long winter, we can put up with that for a little longer.  And now it is May!  A beautiful month where things really start to happen all around us; the hedges are bursting with greenery and tiny flowers and the birds and bees are doing their thing.  Love it!

Crafting of the fabric sort has been a bit thin on the ground in this house lately.  In fact, I haven't done any since before Christmas, due to trying to make candles and soap for my little (tiny) business and look after a growing family and a messy cottage and two dogs etc, etc, so the other day I had a few hours in which to fiddle about with a bit of fabric and some thread and I came up with this.

I love vintage style lavender bags.  I remember having them about when I was a child.  I think mum placed them in drawers and hung one or two in the wardrobe too.  This one has a little inner sachet that I filled with grated peach scented candle wax and some dried citrus peel.  I hang it on the bathroom door, more to look pretty than anything else, and it doesn't disappoint.  Well, not me anyway.  H1 asked what the bag thing was doing on the door handle.  Huh, that is my creation, vile boy!  Once explained he seemed content enough though.  Men!

Anyway, while I was hand sewing the aforementioned item and getting in a pickle with it and wishing I'd never started, it dawned on me that while I love fabric and hand sewn items, I am not all that keen on making them.  I mean, I love them when the making is over, if I've got that far, but I don't enjoy sewing for sewing's sake; it's the end result I want.  Probably why I make candles and soap, I can be creative without too much pain!  Ah well, to each his own.

One thing I am fairly good at and it doesn't matter too much if something goes a teeny bit wrong, is baking.  I wanted to make a simnel cake for Easter, but I didn't get round to it, so even though Easter is long gone I made a simnel cake today.  It is a little bit squidgy in the middle, due probably to an extra thick slab of marzipan I put in, but otherwise all seems well.  I don't suppose I will have any complaints from the children when they come home and ask what is for tea!

I was then in the mood for making something else, so to go along with the extra thick bread I bought for our new toaster, I made lemon curd.  Yummy!

There was a slight moment of panic when I must have had the gas too high as the eggs were starting to scramble, but I managed to rescue it and strained it through a sieve before putting it into the jar.  There is a bit left over for supper toast too!  Lemon curd doesn't last long and 3 lemons only make 1 jar, so it's the kind of thing to make and eat straight away.

It will soon be time to walk to school with MAL to fetch H2 but as the sun is still shining happily, I will take a cup of tea in the garden and enjoy the peace before it is broken for another day.  Hopefully it will stay fine so we can all play in the field after tea.  We stayed out last night until eight; the first time we've done that this year.  Pea and H1 want to watch the School of Hard Sums tonight at eight, so we will have to be in for that. Not that I care, I couldn't cope with the School of Easy Peasey Lemon Squeezey Sums.

Enjoy your day and thank you for reading. xxx