Wednesday, 21 December 2011


I have been fondling yarn today and dreaming of the next blankie. This one for Han-chan who says I NEVER finish anything I make her....I beg to differ...but that is another tale. A ripple yes, but this popped up when trawling through other people's blogs

First I found this - folk from Brissie too - must be nice

who led me to this delightful idea

A plan is forming in my head.....

Monday, 19 December 2011

I want to be

in my pjs, on the sofa, cup of tea at my elbow, crocheting. But I am in the cold dining room while girls and friend sprawl over all the furniture and the floor with piles of socks that they have paired up and heaps of ironing that they have done, my girls, not the friend...bless them....Lap top cables everywhere and our horrid new TV (that means way too big to be considered practical) with its dodgy sound blasting a Ghibli film out over their laughing and chatting.

It is the holidays I suppose.....

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Tis the season

The last few weeks have not been easy - for any of us. But as we head towards the end of 2011, things are looking up.

My brother and his little family left us last week. It was a stressful time for them, emptying their flat, finishing with work, coping with 'flu and saying goodbye to a city they love and all their friends after a decade. They asked me to come and help in the end, and I could not have been more pleased to scrub out their oven and fridge and clean the kitchen floor. We had one night here with them and it was lovely. Ava has the most fantastic gelling effect and we passed her round like a parcel to her smiling and chuckling. They all visited me in my office the next day and we had lunch together before saying our goodbyes in the hospital carpark. It was a teary afternoon for me. I will miss them so much.
Big J got the thumbs up to go to Hong Kong himself for four months, so it looks as though we might get to see him and my bro out there sooner than we thought.
School has ended and it is nice to have the girls around. Ads is around too, but not as much.

This has been a social week too with the secretaries Chritmas party, well attended, rather liquid and with excellent food. We then had Big J's old mob's Christmas do in London, very liquid with much singing of carols and old, old songs....a real hoot and fab for J to catch up with people he has known for more than half his life. We stayed overnight in London as the thought of schlepping home after a boozy night was just too much. Good call. He had to trot off early in the morning in time for the Rugby Club Christmas lunch, and I got to have a day in town shopping with my girls.

We are home now, exhausted after trailing along Oxford Street, but we did well. Most of my shopping is done on line and early, but not theirs. Still, we had fun and with luck, this week will not be about rushing around like a mad thing!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

getting there

It has been a while and I have enjoyed reading all the blogs I follow, but have not wanted to post anything myself.

Today was a good day in many ways.

Han got a small scholarship for a great school for her 6th form. It has long been my hope that she would. No decisions are being made yet.

In a hard lesson, I had to accept that my dreams for her are not hers for her and she has also decided to apply for a much bigger county college. I will support her completely and will do all I can not to let my ideas cloud hers.

She also started work today at a plant nursery. Paid in cash at the end of the day and looking worn out, she is proud as are all of us.

I made the AMAZING Cherry and Amaretti fridge cake that Serendipity Patch had on her blog this morning. It is superb. As one of the secs does not like glace cherries I used a mixed berry selection and almonds instead of pistachios...and it is still amazing. I also baked a dozen gluten free lemon and poppy seed cupcakes and a dozen regular ones. It is barely enough to get our girls started at work!! A bit more baking tomorrow then!

On the not so bright side, youngest is unhappy to her bones and cannot (or will not) speak to me. For days it has been monosyllables and staring at the floor. As I write, she is watching TV and roaring with laughter. It was so hard today I cried and went for a long drive. Whatever it is she is going through, we are all getting a taste of it.

I have done a little crochet and will do some more tonight. Oh for happy children. She is so young to feel so bad.

Hope you and yours are safe and happy.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Is is worth it? Soul searching on a Sunday morning

Over the last few days I have had my sister and her partner (sadly him for only one night) to stay. After B left, Jani and I had a day in Lewes and then an afternoon in London. We walked miles we talked non stop and we looked at art, antiques, charity shops, parrots (my girls have a favourite West African Grey in a pet shop in Lewes that we always visit)
books, polish pottery, exhibitions and were both dazzled and drained by the visual overload. We spent time in the V&A so that she could do some research and happily for me we were pointed in the direction of the British Galleries, and to The Arts and Crafts Movement displays. My sister is an artist. At one point I would have said a landscape painter, but her work has evolved and she draws and knits paper and canvas strips. She is on a pathway. I admire her strength and perserverence because it is not easy and she has said that at times she wonders if it is really worth it. I say yes! But then I am a huge admirer of her passion and drive while at the same time feeling so void of any of my own. My small bursts of creativity feel limited to me. I constantly feel as if there is more potentail only that I cannot see it or how to tap into it.
The fact is that I love to crochet, but I do not talk to people about it, except here in blogland, and let's face it, have not produced much!! I am frustrated by the desire to be making something all the time, while not knowing what to do.
Now that Ava has her blanket and her blue dog
I am in limbo. More than just hook and yarn limbo. Blog limbo too. I think I need to sit down and figure out what is next.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Glow of pride

and a tiny bit of intrepidation as who am I to really 'get' all of this....



are where the NEW SINGLE can be heard.

Watch this space. Cold Play should be feeling a bit shakey!

Monday, 21 November 2011


Here it is: the paint box colour palette baby blanket for Ava Eloise....

What a thrill now that it is done and I am really pleased with how it looks and feels.

It is a wonderful feeling to actually finish something....

Shots taken in a dimly lit living room, but it still looks cheerful.

Hope you all like it.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Artist Sister comes to town

Artist sister flew in from Sydney yesterday. We have just spoken on the phone. She is tired. BUT, we have a day of sisterly goss, shopping, eating and hanging out on Saturday AND part of that day will be with brother and his wife and Ava. A family get together on this side of the planet. Yiipppeee.

You may remember artist sister was in Rome earlier this year. We caught up in Australia too and now this....THREE times in one year....but I did have to wait for five years to see her the first time.

Feeling good.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

felt fetish

For some reason little felty ideas are in my head at the moment. All three of us were in the kitchen stitching this evening. Han is not well and put hers aside for a while. But Em has made a marvellous owl - a symbol of good luck in Japan, for her friend who is about to sit high school entrance exams.
This little star is my creation. Hope you like it.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

my first felt owl ---TA DAH!

Even though 6th Form was the main focus of the week, I bought a copy of PRIMA CHRISTMAS MAKES as a distraction. Bit of a spur of the moment thing because let's face it.....apart from looking at all the loverly stuff, chances of making anything are slim.

But, life is full of surprises and this afternoon this little bloke came into being, wonky embroidery and all...

Here he is lying on the page with other similar owls....His ear feathers are more like horns and too far in, but it is so nice to have made something and finished it and have something to show off....

Breathing in

This week has moslty been about 6th Form. My darling Han is considering various options and while it has been busy, it has also been a bit of an emotional time for me. She is nothing like I was at her age. She is a confident, capable young woman and she is making her choices based on all manner of things, mainly how well they will work for her and her plans and ideas for her future. She seems so adult and at the same time she is still my little girl. I have been very proud watching her conduct herself, how she ask questions, discusses things and interacts with people. The search continues next week as well. It won't be long before Em is in the same boat and they will be one step closer to their own lives....

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A quick detour

En route home from an appointment I popped into Ardingly Antiques Fair, which I had no idea was on....just luck really. With barely a penny to my name, getting in was a task...luckily there was a scrunched up fiver in my bag.

There was much to see and a lot of it required imagination and creative juices to see how it could be used. I steeled myself over the gorgeous linen from Sweden and some fabulous retro fabric. I cannot indulge the desire to own something that will sit in a basket or cupboard becoming nothing.

I have a craving for a mirror in the hall, but decided inspiration for one was free!

At a £1.00 table I found this:

The owner said there would be strictly no bartering and payment in cash only....I had .76 pence. Her hubby said that he would take it as long as I didn't tell, so after thanking him, I slipped silently into the crowd. It will look nice after a wash and a bit of blocking.

Great day.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Back at the blog face

The end of October was a blur and for much of it my camera was in the clutches of some young miss who has been to a gaming show in London (dressed as a Japanese school girl for those anime fans out there - complete with floppy bow tie and calf length black socks... and may I add, looking INCREDIBLY normal....she is after all a half Japanese school girl!!). Still she so looked the part that many asked her to pose in their photos.

Tonight the camera is mine once again and this is the latest.

We had Halloween and prepared thus:

We are not very big on the event in this house. It seems somewhat forced, although in my distant youth I did carve a turnip once. I think there was a shortage of pumpkins in my granny's shop in Newtownards!!

The results were:

Strangely, the girls were very protective and did not want to put them out until the actual night...a bit of coercion persuasion did get them out on Saturday night where the slugs then snacked on them leaving them with unsightly facial blemishes...

A neighbour had a fancy dress party where the focus was how fab one can look. I mean cat woman costumes were EVERYWHERE, but not on this bod! I went as a car crash victim (apologies for offending anyone as this is a serious thing to happen) but it was really easy to prepare for.

Dress up all posh
Wear stockings
Slash said stockings at knees - Get daughter to apply fake blood
Get daughter to apply nasty split lip and black eye makeup (source: the Internet)
Mess up hair as if one has crawled from a ditch
Go to party - drink pink champagne - come home!

On the crochet front this little thing is happening

Tiny granny squares with sock wool and four ply rowan wool. I am really happy with my little kneeling pad for the garden finally getting used to block squares on.... On the colour. This is not ideal, but I just had to START something.

Phew, got to blog. I needed that.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

And so to bed...for the winter

Warm wind from the Azores apparently made our little space in West Sussex very pleasant today. Big J did a sterling job in the garden preparing the beds for winter and mowing the lawns. I planted out the celariac which have been growing under heavy guard for some time now. We have slugs the size of cats in our doubt because I will not use pellets and they know it to be a safe haven. However, the tables have turned somewhat and for the first time ever, there is a deterent in the soil around the celariac.

My eldest and I headed out of town for a sunlit walk and came across this:

How I wish! But the sunshine today was as bright as any in Queensland in the autumn.

And lastly, I am working on the BORDER of the blanket.....

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Loving London

The more I get to know the city, the more I like it. Today the main reason for the trip was a visit to Australia House to get a new passport for my eldest....She and her sister have THREE each....The High Commission is in Temple and then I walked in the glorious sun shine all the way to Marble Arch. Past the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square where there was some living art on display.

The real thing looked more lush and it was moving in the wind. It reminded me of the Japanese green curtains I wrote about in the summer.

The rest of the walk allowed me to take in more sights and go into shops that usually there is no time for. For the first time I went to Anthropologie. It was funky and inspiring and I would like more time there next visit.

Lots of trying on of boots, some yarn shopping in John Lewis and lunch there too. And I saw this in the window of ZARA HOME

It was the crochet throw that caught my eye. It is called the Melissa Blanket and is in the catalogue. The colours are really calm.

As always, the highlight of the day was a quick visit to Ava and her mum and dad. She is filling out, still looks like a punk rocker, but smiles a lot. How I love that girl!

Home to my own two lovelies, three of us again this week as Big J is up north and Ads is in Hove.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

What would Mary say?

Tonight's attempt at Mary Berry's brandy snaps resulted in these:

More lacy, more crunchy and a better batch all together. Thing is though, I work with women WHO LIKE TO EAT CAKE and this would feed only a very few of them. I will have to bake some more tomorrow to make sure there are enough to go around...

Adding up

Last night Han-solo was counting squares on the baby blanket (yawn - you must all be so tired of this...) and discovered that I had only ONE MORE ROW to finish and here was I slogging on with an EXTRA row. Yip Yip Yippee.

That meant (and means) assembly is imminent and I have decided on the border and with luck there will be a TA-DAH here very, very soon...

Sunday, 16 October 2011


Today was yet another glorious blue sky aumtumn day. Yesterday, this dom goddess dusted, hoovered, wiped, polished and scrubbed the bedroom and the bathroom. Bliss. It was so satisfactory because not only did it look great I then gave myself the day off today. Big J made dinner so no cooking to be done for the hordes. I did though have a go at Mary Berry's brandy snaps Mary does say that if one follows the recipe and if measurements are exact, you can't go wrong. Ha. Not quite what I had envisaged, they were a bit bulked up and would have been better wrapped around a broom handle than a wooden spoon, but they do taste great. Will keep at this one. Worth the effort to get it right I think.

Another thing I tackled today was a crochet geek tutorial on harlequin or catherine wheel stitch. Inspired by this beautiful scarf by Moonstitches. She is a Japan based lady and her work is lovely. I sat for over an hour with a you tube tutorial and this is what I came up with

As you can see it is a bit dodgy on the right hand side (probably a few other places too) but the texture of the material is lovely. This is in my sock yarn, which, now that I have it, confess that I am not too crazy about it. Orange I like, but not white, and there are too many strands of white in it, so this is a learning ball. This stitch would make a great pair of fingerless gloves in sock wool. The rhubarb scarf Moonstitches made is stunning.

The baby blanket is so close to being finished and it is a just pure slog now because my mind is always leaping from new idea to new and totally unrealistic idea. I signed up to ripple stitch along with Lucy, then pulled out all my work....just can't seem to settle.

Last nice bit of news is that we found some sweet chestnut trees on a walk today, so the plan is to collect some for roasting. Foraging is fun.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


This morning I had a CT scan of my head taken. The investigation is actually for my nose, which looks fine - but does not work. The plan is to see if there is anything obstructing the flow of air; let's hope they do not find something like a bead up there from those days when we all thought a hole had to have something in it! Mouth - fist, ear - crayon, wall socket -finger, nose - bead.

I then bought some more sock yarn online and have been practising all manner of stitches on the ball I have now. Mostly with little success, but it is all about learning.

Bit of damson picking this afternoon with Em and her friend and then they plan to make apple and damson chutney.

At the weekend I made membrillo or quince cheese, to eat with Manchego cheese. The quinces were from the neighbours garden. It took hours, quinces are a hard fruit to peel. The end result looks a little dark, and there is less suger than the recipe calls for, but I am really pleased with it.


The girls got damsons, sloes and plums and this is what they made:

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Addition to the list

In the search for the perfect (that means gorgeous but easy and fast) Sophie Digardesque pattern for a scarf - now how can that be difficult? - I came across this blog. Now this lady can crochet and her strippy blanket is wonderful. Do take a look. Her blog is in my bloglist as well.

Still searching for the pattern, but feel as though it is going to be one of those things in my head that even if there is a pattern, I will wander off piste.


This morning I made up a song about Big J's everlasting wait for departure dates for HK.

'Will he stay or will he go?...Don't ask me, coz I don't know!'

Bit of work to be done on the rest!

Poor brother is in the same boat. Start date looms and no contract.

I am waiting for the men in my life to go away!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Two words - SOCK YARN

I have just had a look at Planetpenny's post about the Knitting and Stitching Show who was obviously clever enough to remember her to take her camera and she has loaded some great photos on her blog. I did not. But it is true to say that some were not happy to be snapped and there were signs up on a lot of the works asking folk not take pictures.

I tended to focus on crochet related bits and yarn and was constantly amazed and thrilled by all the colours and textures of yarn available. Buffalo down was so soft, hard to think of such a huge mammal being downy, but there you are.
There was hemp and linen and wire and plastic as well. Loads of fabulous felty things too. I bought one little felted lavender bag heart for a friend.

Sock yarn is something much talked blogged about and it did not disappoint, so lovely and fine. I decided if I were to buy anything at the show is would be sock yarn. Then I found the work of SOPHIE DEGARD and fell in love. She crochets in hand dyed 1ply marino (two strands together) and the work is exquisite. If you have been to the V&A shop, you may have seen some of her beautiful mosaic like scarfs.

So, somewhere in the future is a Sophie inspired scarf, but made with sock yarn....I bought only one ball and possibly not the best colourway for moi, but I was just so keen to start and did not want to fork out a lot of dosh for something that may be harder to handle than my skills can cope with.

For anyone who can get to this show in a location near you, do try to make it. It is just great to see so much talent and so many possibilities.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Ally Pally

I had to ask Big J what it meant, but now I know, and like some of you in blogland, Celia B and I are off to the Knitting and Stitching Show on Saturday. It would be nice to meet one or two fellow bloggers (but some of you will be there on Friday).

Looking forward to having my eyes pop with all the fabulous colours and textures and to seeing some crochet works and the odd bit of shopping!

Last night we had our little sewing bee and planned the day... To keep me going on the train, I will be making bath puffs! Addictive. And anyway, the baby blanket is too big to carry around now!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

I have a pinny and a notebook and am moving cautiously

It sometimes feels as if (my) life is a bit of a race to get things done. A juggling race, because there are so many things to get done. The 'have to or we will starve' jobs, food shopping and cooking and washing up...(ok we will not starve if we do not wash up, just including it as part of the process...we could have paper plates and plastic cutlery every meal!!) Then there is the house and its care, vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, polishing, loo and bathroom cleaning, to name a few, although I am not too au fait with one or two of those activities. The family and their needs, food, driving around, and those shared moments of odd youtube clips which have them collapsing on the floor hysterically which I just don't get.

The garden, so cruelly neglected this year.

Then there are the WIPs the ever growing pile of yarn that has somehow managed to replace my pile of fabrics. The idea was NOT to accumulate anything. One project at a time.

Many times have I tried to get on top of all of this and have a harmonious calming home, tidy and free from clutter and most importantly easy to manage.

No luck.

I then read about Lucy at Attic24 who dons her pinny and takes an hour a day to care for her home. YES. I have a pinny, all Japanese women wear them and when I put mine on I feel strangely proud of what I am doing. I could really see where Lucy was coming from and enjoyed wearing my pinny again.

I put it on recently and blossomed into an all baking, all cooking, all tidying QUEEN. Then I took it off.....and slumped into my old ways.

Lucy blogs that she has a note book and writes her home loving plans in that. I have always had one - full of lists. Now I have a new one, full of lists, but I also put in what I am hoping to achieve and some of the dreams. It has to be an inspiring book, not a gloomy tally of all those things that did not get done -Missy...

I think what I trying to grapple with here, if anyone has read this far, (bless you, either that or you have cramp and can't get away from the computer screen), is that it is OK to aspire to the perfect ideal of home life but that the life you actually have is OK too. Wanting to change is a positive, but change is a big scary thing and needs to be approached with caution, a notebook and a pinny.

Will keep you posted.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

On this warm and sunny weekend.. a puffy Ta-dah!

I went to Tunbridge Wells to to buy more for wool for the blanket border. I had a quiet coffee over the paper and bought some lovely bamboo yarn which has long fascinated me, and made this.......Ta-dah!:
It's a bamboo scrubbie or bath puff by Bridgit E Burns on Ravelry. The yarn was heavenly to work with and the pattern really fast. It is a bit small, but I did use a 3.5mm hook when a 4mm would have been better. Anyway, it is so pretty and soft. And it was so nice to have a little project to do that was not the baby blanket!
This morning though, while Big J watched the rugby in New Zealand while sitting in our sunny living room, another strip went onto the blanket. Near but not there yet.
Work in the garden ensued and all the raspberrie canes were cut back. First time in two years, they needed it. The shed was cleaned out and 1100 pots (or thereabouts, seemed like it anyway) that I had been stashing were let go, among other things that accumulate when one is not looking. The best thing I have ever found in our shed is a bottle of Dom Perignon!. Ask no questions, it was truly a mystery, but it was good!
A little visit to a plant nursery that also sells chickens. Oh dear, the old longing again and the rational sounding discussion with the owner about keeping them when we know we will drive off without a feathered friend in the car. This time though, there was talk of possibly, maybe, getting a couple as Big J is going to be away for so long, if he goes. We will see.
Home to roast chicken...come on, I am a practical girl, followed by Banoffee pie on the patio by candlelight.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Catch up from across the water

Today in London I had coffee with a friend that have known since we were both 13. We met at boarding school in Toowoomba! She is visiting from Australia. Now well aged and lovely with it(!) we are both on second marriages and the mother to daughters...she has one. Great to catch up and we had one of those moments when one realises that amazing things happen in life.

Then had lunch with Big J - news about his trip was not so promising at lunch time, but that had changed by dinner time....mmmm

A quick trip to see Ava and her lovely mum. At six weeks (Ava - not her mum) she is alert and more stable! Lots of squeezing went on.

Home on the train to whiz the hoover around, a bit of child collecting then my sewing bee friend and I sat and worked for a couple of hours. Lots of sewing in threads on the back of the blanket, some last minute blocking and I am thinking, as we hope Ava and family will stay with us in just over two weeks, that there is now a deadline.

Also changed the blog background a bit, the colour lends itself to the warm days we have been having.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Apple tea cake

This cake is so nice, I thought I would share it with you. I have a number of recipes with this name, but this one is the best so far. Great for using up windfalls as the apples don't have to be perfect.

Allow me to type it out for you while one of my own is baking in the oven!

2 apples
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
250g caster sugar
250g butter (unsalted is the guide here, but I use what I have)
250g self raising flour
4 eggs
icing sugar to dust - never had time to do gets eaten too fast!

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line base of a 23cm springform cake tin.
2. Peel, core and slice apples, (not too thinly). Toss in lemon juice and half the cinnamon and set aside.
3. Take 50g of the butter, sugar and flour, put it in a bowl with the remaining cinnamon and rub together with finger tips. (I don't add cinnamon here as some folk aren't too keen on too much of it).
4. Place eggs and remaining sugar into a bowl and beat until light and fluffy...use a mixer, this is exhausting otherwise. Melt remaining butter and pour into egg mix. Sift in the remaining flour and fold carefully until combined.
5. Pour into cake tin and carefully lay apple slices all over the top. Sprinkle with crumble mixture and bake for 50 mins (or until a skewer comes out clean). In my oven it take a few minutes more of anxious waiting to make sure the centre is completely baked.
6. Cool in tin for 10 minutes before putting on a wire rack. Even better the day after baking it.

Let me know if you try this and if you like it and if you do use it and blog about it, please link back to me here.

And here is the finished product. It smells divine.

Thank you.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Escape to Dorset

Big J and I have been away for a few days, to chill, to walk and to hang out with each other. Important time together because we are waiting to hear about when and if he goes away and for how long. Any day now we will know. We don't know if we (the girls and I during the week and with Ads at the weekends) are going to be holding the fort for a few weeks, or a few months. Will he be here at Christmas? Will we? Anyway, to clear our heads of the questions that have no answers, we took off.
To Weymouth. A port, a fishing port with boats and seagulls and fantastic fish and nice shops and even nicer tea rooms.

For 50p the ferry man will row you across the port

If you want to travel further afield, this beast will take you to Jersey

Nicknamed the vomit comet....mmmm

Crustaceans rock in this part of the world

It is fun to hit your food with a hammer.

We did the French Lieutenant's Woman's walk along the cob at Lyme Regis, and then did a Mary Anning fossick on the beach and found a (very) small ammonite, a fish bone fossil and a worm like thing.

It was a good few days, culminating in a visit to Cerne Abbas to see the Rude Man....indeed! Don't look if you are shy!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Enough already

Ok, no more wallowing in self pity about the imminent departure of baby and family. Time to snap out of it and get on with life, the blanket and (whisper) the garden. I had not ventured out there for ages. Only to pick raspberries of which there are many. The tomatoes are slumped against the fence, cross looking, twisted, resentful. The raspberry canes are bent to the ground heavy with fruit but sorely tempting to the odd slug, and the acanthus,
it had to go. (And it went thanks to Big J and his Spears and Jackson fork!). It is pervasive, it is everywhere. I love the tall spires with the little bonnet like flowers, but the whole thing needs space and is prickly. So at the weekend I started, weeding, digging, removing and tidying my space. Joy. I love the garden. The best bit? I found a frog living in a clump of geraniums:

A common frog, but the fact that it lives in the front border is testament to the fact I will not allow any chemicals in there, and that the soil is good enough for free range worms and slugs to live in which provide food for this little creature.

Today, I have stitched some squares together. Good sign. Only a few rows from completion.

Can't wait for my first ever blanket Ta-dah!

Monday, 19 September 2011


Work has ground to a snail like pace on the baby blanket. It is hard to look at it at times, because baby and my brother and his lovely wife are leaving London in about 6 weeks to live in Asia. His dream has finally come true and it is wonderful news, but so, so sad. I have never lived with my brother in our family home. He was born when I was away at boarding school, in another country. By the time he started boarding school, I had graduated from uni and was working. It was up to me to watch over him as our parents were so far away. I went to cricket and rugby matches, took him and his friends for weekends. Took them to the movies, fed them and gave them tuck to take back to school. I then left for Japan and he felt abandoned. When we arrived in the UK, he was already in London, so we have had more than four years of sharing good times like Christmas and weekends and even a trip to France.
I am going to miss him and his little family so much, and once more, I will be living on the other side of the world to my parents and all my siblings....

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Friends far away

A long email this morning from someone very dear to me who lives far away. I count myself lucky to have such a wonderful friend and would love to have her near. She is having a bit of a rough time and there is nothing I would like more than to sit over tea (it is morning after all) and talk.
I love you girl and just want everyone else who reads this to know that too.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Seasonal food

I have set two bottles of sloe gin, that gorgeous pink juice is slowly colouring the clear liquid. I gave them their first shake today and a woodlouse floated gracefully to the surface....somehow I missed the little blighter. The recipe I used this year advocated a drop of almond essence in the miz...although no mention of bugs! Em suggested I label the bottle "Woodlouse Blend 2011". Bet no one notices the difference.

Other foraged food this week has been blackberries and apples, which became a blackberry and apple crumble, yum. Love crumble season.

Next will be damsons, for vodka amd jam....

I heard a great thing to do with sloes once the gin has been decanted off them. Top up the bottle with a mild sherry and leave it for about 3 months for another fruity liquer.

I noticed lots of small perfectly formed pine cones on the ground on the way home from a walk to town today....I am thinking of wreaths already, and we picked some almonds from a tree in the road. The fruit had split, revealing the nuts (in their shells). A few days drying in the conservatory might yeild some yummy kernals. Not so lucky with some hazelnuts recently, but it is worth giving it a try.

I do love a good forage.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Oh those sloes

Well, as I write, with a chilled nip of umeshu (plum wine) beside my laptop, Japanese Granny is cooking up a storm in the kitchen. She is making croquets for her last night here. We are spoiled.

We have had a whirlwind of time with her. On Saturday we went to London to see Ava, bearing gifts of raspberry cake, flowers and biscuits from Japan. How gorgeous can a baby be?

We then all trooped to LIBERTY to oooh and aaah over the delights inside as well as the building. Japanese Granny bought a dashing pair of Liberty wellies, which the good old British weather gave her the opportunity to try out before taking them home!

On Sunday, all those keen were up early for the Pease Pottage Boot Fair, which was CANCELLED, so we traipsed across to Horley's version, which is smaller, but because we were all up early to get to a Boot Fair we had to get to at least one!

Em bought BUNTING for her newly painted room.

The girls looked after her on Monday and as you know, we went blackberrying in the evening, so on Tuesday Japanese Granny made jam.

Today Japanese Granny and I went to Tunbridge Wells and did all the kitchen shops. I had a plan, a plan to buy a bottle, a bottle for SLOE GIN. Also to buy small loaf tin shaped disposable cake moulds. Success on two counts.

We then raced home and grabbed bags for fruit picking and went in search of SLOES. I got a tip from someone at work that this season is a good one and in a certain part of the town, sloes are abundant. It took some time to find them, it took a great deal of dexterity to dangle over a stream, the bank waist high in brambles and nettles, to gather the first few. But then we got the bug and before long we were in ditches, over gates and under hedgerows. We got a few more blackberries too.

But this is some of the sloe haul

Got the gin, got the sugar, looks like it might be a very merry (hic) Christmas!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Manic Monday gets mellow

This is where I would like to have been today.

Or here:

Pottering around these smooth lovelies would have been nice as well.

Much as I love my work, there are days when it can be a load. Some unhappy folk today who needed to tell me how unhappy they are and how things are 'just not acceptable'. Some are worried about healing - and they are not. Some have stashed all their drugs and have no idea what they take and when. Some are not themselves, literally. There are those who become different people, with different names and different histories. A colleague is very ill.
I was happy to get home to Big J and the girls. They are all a flutter about school starting tomorrow. We had a favourite dish for tea as well, more joy...chirashizushi
All of us then took Poppy for a walk and went blackberry picking. Japanese granny will be making jam to take back with her.
The evening more than made up for the day.

The other things that cheered me up were all the photos taken this weekend with our lovely girls and granny in London. To be published later...

Off to crochet and stitch together more blanket...

Wednesday, 31 August 2011


A day of lists:

Make up beds for our wonderful girls and their granny who are heading back from Japan on Friday - this is currently a WIP, as the boys have not removed their painting kit from Em's room and her furniture is all over the place and the mattress covers for Han-solo are still damp.

Post ebay items

Ironing (she slumps sobbing to her knees....the pile is so BIG)- It is a lot smaller now, but there is a basket lurking under the stairs as I write this...

Some baking maybe.....? Not today chubby!

Some culling of things

Some watering of listless plants and pruning of sickly roses
Maybe it will rain later?

Cleaning - gotta be done - sparkling bathroom.

and in all of this some time to CROCHET - if one square counts?

and to nap.

Oh, and time to read all my favourite blogs and get inspired.

I also cooked, walked to the shops, posted a pile of clothes to my dearest friend's Boos in Japan, went to the veg stall and took a pile of stuff to the charity shop.

Now relaxing with a decaf coffee and about to go and watch the next half of The Great British Bake Off...

Monday, 29 August 2011

Back from the Borders

We got as far as Keilder in our travels this weekend. Border country, home of the Reivers, a lawless lot of cattle rustlers, raiders and thieves. Both Big J and I descend from these people! What can I say?

I did a bit of raiding in the local charity shops and came away with a pretty good haul, some clothes and some things for the house. We now have a very TIDY telephone area. It's looking good.

We also visited Bellingham where we stayed with friends and visited the show. No witch, alas, and in fact, the livestock consisted of four chickens, two ducks, three doves and two ferrets! Not a pig, cow or sheep to be seen. Many, many border terriers though, and it was a good day out for dogs and all.
I felt very Kirsty Allsop in my purple Hunters, green coat (it was cold) and with my shopping basket.
We had two nights with Big J's mum - who is amazing considering her recent loss, and enjoyed a few walks along the beach at Whitley Bay. Very blustery, but it is a lovely area.

GREATLY inspired by the beautiful home we stayed in in Bellingham, Big J and I had "a talk" and now it is time to get out the paint swatches and fabric samples to redecorate our room and the best bit.... get rid of the nasty, nasty carpet, which was WHITE and is now GREYISH, and covered in odd marks. (We inherited the carpet, just for the record, although we might have added one or two little marks to it...).

This is a big challenge for moi, as I lack that ability that some folk have to turn a cave like space with books spilling over the floor, shoes - yes I do have a lot of shoes - and the blue basket with all the socks that do not have homes, into a "restful retreat for me and my man"... watch this space.

And finally, I crocheted on the train up to Newcastle, and in the car and those little squares are all nearly done.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

All by myself......

All by myself
Don't wanna be
All by myself
Anymore for a little while

Been feeling like belting out this old number because I am

all by myself......wooooah wooooo woooo

apart from Bosley

and I do like to be by myself sometimes.

Although I have just spoken to Big J and have had Dawn here doing my hair.... which looks lovely. Pity I have to lie on it all night and make it look weird.

And anyway, I have to pack for my trip on a Virgin train to Newcastle tomorrow. Love long distance trains and travelling.

Wellies (aubergine coloured Hunters, my pride and joy) and walking boots are in the car with Big J who is up North already, and we are going to the Bellingham Show to see the country fair witch - this sounds exciting. Will she be paraded around and pelted with veg?
Here is the blurb from one of the sites on Google:

"Come and make our 2011 Show a really special occasion. There will be events for all the family to take part in. Of course we will have our traditional attractions within the country fair witch include sheep, hounds, terriers etc and on the main show field the horse and pony events together with a large number of trade stands and not forgetting the live music with plays in the beer tent."

It gave me a little thrill.

On a crochet note, the remaining squares that have been frogged are coming with me too. The blanket is slowly taking shape. SLOWLY.

Have a fun weekend people.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Flip flops and fine dining

While walking around Hyde Park the heel of my shoe fell off, so I borrowed flip flops from new mum to wear for the rest of the day. Already chuffed to bits by little Ava, Big J and I set off for St Paul's Cathedral , the iconic domed building that says LONDON! A first visit for me, and although it was too late to go into the Whispering Gallery, it was still exciting.
In the sunshine the building is stunning...
We then walked along the South Bank and saw this sulky straw fox up above us
Isn't it great? although his nose is a bit grotty now.
By the time the sun was low in the sky we had had enough of schlepping and it was time to eat.
We ended up in Simpsons-in-the-Strand, in flip flops and sneakers dining on oysters and beef Wellington. What a treat. Chandeliers, waiters in coat tails, silver service and outstanding food. You may be thinking the place has gone to the dogs, letting in the hoi poloi, but we did ask about our dress and were told that we were fine!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Introducing Ava Eloise

Here she is. Very pretty and tiny. Big J and I were smitten, completely. Mum and Dad are doing brilliantly and it was wonderful to spend time with all three of them. Brother, Big J and I took her for a walk in Hyde Park, only four days old...very young for the Koen Debut (Park debut)....a significant event in the life of a baby in Japan!! A coming out - not of the kinky kind - a first public appearance in fact. Ava is already showing tendencies of being an outdoorsy lass. Barely a peep the whole walk! See below:

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

She's here....

Nothing like the arrival of a new baby to distract one from a long list of
'Things that have to be done on my precious day off because I am too lazy have no time to do them on other days of the week' (Thank you baby!)
She arrived last night, she, mum and dad are doing well and are all probably as shell-shocked as each other. The news from London sent the phones around the world aringing with the news. When I heard the phone ring here I was working on the blankie and now I must really get my act together for her, otherwise she'll be at uni by the time it's finished.
As yet nameless, there is no option but to refer to the little one as she and her!!
I am so happy I could cry (and I did....)

Sunday, 14 August 2011

A wake up at the boot fair

Big J and I went and saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (II) last night, after some yummy tapas in our local Spanish eatery. Good film, good food and a lovely night out.

This morning I was up with the birds to go to the boot fair again. Apart from the fact that I love, love, love to browse, I love a bargain and sometimes the things I buy end up on ebay. Not always though, but I do try not to add to the clutter at home. However, bootfairs and just about any other type of shopping can create great angst. Do I need it? Will I use it? Is there anywhere to put it? Is it worth it? etc.

Today's haul was small, and pleasing, but the battery has gone on the camera so pics will have to wait.

One thing that did strike me though and this is where the angst bit comes in. There were so many people selling of piles and piles of things that probably at one time were bought with plans, hopes, dreams, etc and there it all was in a heap on a mat on the grass. Loads of money has been spent, (not my business or for me to judge) but now the items now have virtually no value, only the price that a boot fair buyer will pay. It makes me sad that it is a human characteristic to want to acquire and that we literally pay the asking price for much in our lives we could live without and really, has little value. (Not discounting emotional value here...). I don't want to rant, or sound like a nutter, but it takes me back to times when we seemed to value things better, or did we?, was it just that there was less to have? Having said all that, I got home to find a lovely catalogue in the Sunday paper and thought to myself, 'mmmm, that looks nice'....!! Woops!
Anyway, something kicked in, because I tackled the garage. This featured in the link in 2007. Today I sorted through a load of things that had been earmarked 'BOOT FAIR' (like, when is that going to happen?), and took it to the Red Cross. Then Big J joined me and we sorted through even more. I am proud to say that the very last Crown removal box was disposed off and we have pared down considerably. Big J swept the garage clean of dust and cobwebs and my heart feels a little lighter. Really.

Long has it been my dream to USE my possessions, and to have only those things we need. If I am honest, there is fat chance, but today I feel great.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Small town

This frilly beauty is the first rose from the bush since we planted it earlier this year. It smells amazing, and I had to bring it in as it was drooping so low that we could not see it behind other plants. It looks lovely with the hydrangea in my Chinese oil pot.
This morning Big J and I walked into town to get our fruit and veg from the stall in the walkway. It is a bit of a routine. The produce is excellent and it was a little reminiscent of Spain, well....especially as we had our Spanish shopping basket with us!! I like to buy fresh food when possible. I also like to walk to the shops and am trying to wean myself from hopping in the car at the drop of a hat.
Town means more to me now. I used to work on the old High Steet,

famous for its Tudor buildings, but it was all a bit cold. Now, a trip to town usually always results in meeting someone I know. It is really nice to feel part of life here. I never thought I would feel this way, but a place becomes something special because of the people in it. Big J and I talked about it. This afternoon he is off to watch the England v Wales game at the rugby club with a neighour. It is a good life.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Green curtains


The girls tell me that their granny is growing green curtains outside the windows of the bedroom and living room in Yokohama. They are a combination of goya and morning glory. Goya is a bitter gourd, it looks like a knobbly cucumber and it IS very bitter. Both it and the morning glory are climbers and are trained up a trellis to provide shade and to keep the indoor temperature down. Since the tsunami there have been rotating power cuts to save energy and people are being encouraged not to use their air conditioners as much and at a higher temperature.
Another benefit is, if so inclined, one can pick the goya and cook them. A traditional Okinawan food, they are supposed to be ideal to eat in hot weather. I have to admit, try as I might, it was pretty impossible to acquire a taste for them. Regardless, having a soft green curtain outside the window is a lovely idea, don't you think?

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Breathing in

It was obvious that the baby blanket had to be redone, despite me saying it was not going to be. The contrast between the two creams, although indiscernable in some light, was naggingly clear to me. With recent events, crochet has been on the back burner a bit, until now.
Despite working extra hours all week to catch up on a huge backlog (getting paid for it this time yippeee), it is QUIET in the house. Only me and Big J and he is not around much. Cooking for two, washing for two, me and Bosley hanging out. It is a like being on hols.
So out came the squares and I am slowly unpicking the wrong cream, crocheting up the right cream, blocking them and putting them together. It is strangely satisfying to be doing it properly.
This is my basket of homework....
and this is a strip being fixed
Off now to sit on the patio for an hour and work.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The rest of the week

Spain came to an end and here are some of the last shots. A house I found for sale...a wonderful window, a church bell and my loved ones...
Just after we got home and Big J departed for Whitley Bay, the girls and I went to Bedfordshire to see my BFF, Colette and her two beautiful daughters who are here from Japan for the summer hols. It was quite a reunion for our respective girls. It is some years since they have seen each other. They slept in a tent in Colette's sister's garden and re-bonded! Despite a heavy shower while the tent was being put up, they had a dry night.
It was so good to see Colette and to TALK to her. I wish we had more time.
Girls in the tent!
Then we had this:

My brother married the dearest girl and baby is due in two weeks. What a day, what a week. Tears of sorrow and of joy.

Tonight Big J gets home, finally. It will be good to have him back.