Adventures

Alice Hoffman – book reviews

I have Lovely and Grateful to thank for bringing this author to my attention, I adored the film of this book – the beautiful house by the sea, the cosmetic business, it all seemed so wonderful. Yet the film is a mishmash of the two books, Practical magic and the Rules of Magic.

Alice Hoffman is a wonderful writer, I loved practical magic so I thought I would step away from the Owens ladies and read a few of Hoffman’s other novels, and I am so pleased I did. I ended with the Rules of Magic and the two books are along a similar vein they feel like the teenage fiction I read when I was 14, which was like returning to my teenage self.

These are teenage coming of age stories, all the characters are overshadowed by fate, they can never fall in love. But in all honesty, the question is do we allow pre-conceptions to shape our lives or do we set our own course? I loved practical magic but the rules of magic just seemed to be way too long and short on action. Probably why I decided to take a break from this author after reading rules of magic: but thankfully, I read two other novels of Hoffman in between and I can see how much this writer’s talent and ability grew and why Hoffman is an author I will be following closely.

sheer genius

I read faithful after Practical Magic – oh my goodness the two could not be more different, Faith is a richer, deeper tale beautifully written and completely uplifting.

She was disappearing inch by inch, vanishing into thin air, and then one day a postcard arrived . . . There was no return address, no signature, only a scrawled message: Say something.

Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl growing up on Long Island until one night a terrible road accident brings her life to a halt. While her best friend Helene suffers life-changing injuries, Shelby becomes overwhelmed with guilt and is suddenly unable to see the possibility of a future she’d once taken for granted.

But as time passes, and Helene becomes an almost otherworldly figure within the town, seen by its inhabitants as a source of healing, Shelby finds herself attended to by her own guardian angel. A mysterious figure she half-glimpsed the night of the car crash, he now sends Shelby brief but beautiful messages imploring her to take charge of her life once more . . .

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When you lose all hope and sense of worth? Shelby, a fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookshops, and men she should stay away from, captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding oneself at last. This spellbinding, poignant and life-affirming story of one woman’s journey towards happiness – and the power of love, family and fate.

(Amazon listing)

It took me a while to relate to Shelby – but after the first couple of chapters I was hooked, this is a story of hope and redemption – and how small acts of kindness can be someone’s anchor. I adored this novel, the end is so satisfying and uplifting that I ended up with a bit of a book hangover. Its as if Alice Hoffman’s writing reaches new depths and heights. I loved it.

This book is like the title Extraordinary, set in the early 1900s – The museum is human curiosities, those people born different – webbed fingers, conjoined twins, dwarfs – at a time when it was acceptable to see these people as items of interest. There is also a lot of background history to New York and workers rights.

I can thoroughly recommend it to you, it is a delight.

ttfn x

Adventures

A little spring hope

a camelia flower from the garden with vintage tea cup

The camellias are in bloom here, their glossy dark leaves a welcome sight with these gorgeous flowers hidden among the foliage a delight when all other plants seem to be barely alive. Oddly enough, in order to have flowers in February, you have to give tender loving care throughout the summer months six months ago these were just a promise! To be a gardener is to have faith, even if it is watering your Camilla during the dry summers, or planting seeds in the depths of winter for summer flowering, hope springs eternal. Its a positive reflection when we are facing the wider challenges of a Covid Pandemic – every vaccination is like a seed back to normality.

sewing seeds for summer

I adore sweet peas, in my last garden they would grow with abundance and flourish so much that I was able go gift bunches of their sweet scented flowers to family and friends all summer long. Here the sun seems hotter for the last two years they have simply burnt away to nothing leaving only one or two flowers. But I persist, this time I am going to choose a less sunnier spot – in the hope that a little shade will bring more success.

In my last garden, sweet peas were so easy to grow – that I felt confident of my green fingers, but now I realise that gardening also comes with lessons in letting go, you can’t control the outcome – nature has its part to play.

Hope springs, sweet pea seeds

I chose two varieties of sweet peas, Sugar and Spice is a container bushy plant and the more traditional Statesman – they are scented varieties because who could resist the joy of lifting a flower to take in the gorgeous scent? The winner of this race was the Sugar and Spice, here just popping through the compost on the kitchen window sill, only a week later.

sweet pea seedlings

Here they are another week later, just pushing out the first tiny leaves. The slumbering Statesman still just snuggling in the warm compost – only one little seedling showing a tiny speck of green!

Blues, pinks and cherry blossom.

Until the spring I will content myself with creating my own little cherry blossom, reminding myself of clear blue skies and sunshine, even if it is only in my imagination. Today, slate grey monochrome skies are the backdrop to swaying trees while pattering raindrops are dancing across the panes. I will stitch my spring flowers, listening to the radio and be filled with hope.

My camelia is in bloom

Even though we are in the depths of winter there is something beautiful to cherish, time to rest, slow down and dream.

ttfn.

Adventures

Winter pleasures

One of the most delightful aspects of working from home is that while everyone else is on the daily commute, or the train or stuck in traffic – I get to spend a quiet half hour before work enjoying the peace and quiet of home and a warm breakfast.

I’ve made a lot of porridge in my life, its a good start to the day, oats help to regulate blood sugar levels and it is comforting on a cold January morning, when the skies are grey and it feels like winter is going on forever!

I’ve only recently discovered a cooking method that delivers the comforting creamy texture of my Scottish heritage and childhood memories. (without the salt! – which was a bit of a shock the first time my grandparents made it for me!)

I won’t say it is the best way nor is it the only way, but it works for me and it is in line with slow living because good creamy porridge needs time and attention. I like the ritual aspect that making porridge gives in the morning – the exact opposite of my multi-tasking mind that seems to burn most things.

I put a couple of scoops of oats into a small pan which is already warm from the heat of the cooker, usually at the highest setting. I warm the oats gently stirring and then add the milk (as I am milk intolerant that is usually oat milk). I add enough milk to cover the oats and create a thick consistency, stirring constantly for a few minutes to prevent burning, then I add more milk – so that it becomes loose again. I continue to stir gently until the mixture thickens up again – then add more milk. I think I do this three or four times – eventually getting the consistency I like. I add half a teaspoon of honey and a pinch of mixed spice or cinnamon – which is delicious.

While the porridge cools enough to eat, it is very easy to wash out the pan. I wish I had learned this years ago – I used to pour in water and allow the pot to soak but it is hard work later on, and who wants to look at a porridge smeared pot? Use hot water a tiny squirt of soap and a brush and it is clean in no time, the oats don’t stick to the pan! its like magic. Who doesn’t want a bit of magic now and then?

Adventures

Poppy landscape

This is a photo taken by my dearest friend, J, I thought it would make a great composition for a needle felting project.

Having considered for a long time, I decided to take the plunge and buy a second hand embellisher so I was keen to experiment. I find the embellisher quite ferocious but it does make light work of creating backgrounds.

The photograph is more of a linear style, so I began with the three simple layers

1st stage, combination of dyed batting, felt and roving

I love the reflective quality of silk, using a pale blue for the sky, then following with strips of green felt – I laid the dyed roving on the top of this and the embellisher was very effective at getting the colours to blend in.

Adding more texture

What I enjoy most about this medium is the way you can build the layers and create depth, the wool creates a lovely texture of stems and grasses. I decided to add the wheat heads in a lovely deep ochre, using tapestry wool.

continuing to add depth using wool and roving

Tapestry wool is wonderful to use as the colours are varied, I enjoyed adding various shades of green – the embellisher making light work of this task; it would have taken me a few days to get to this stage, instead of the few short hours.

hand embroidery

I moved to hand embroidery, creating the ears of corn with a chain stitch, the poppies were silk again, using a buttonhole embroidery stitch to secure them. As the layers are created using wool, felt and batting, it is still quite easy to get the needle through all the layers.

I used feather stitch on the sky, to give the impression of clouds – I think, next time I won’t embellish through the silk as it seems to have crushed it somewhat, and lost some of its lustre but the texture is still effective.

Adventures, book review, Nature, victorian

Recovery – Time travelling back to Victorian Era

lighter crumble recipe

Oh Autumn days – how I love this time of the year – its time to reach for soft warm socks, thick warm woollens and longer evenings shuttered against blustery rain. It’s a time when we turn home for comfort and rest. Autumn is forever linked with new beginnings and celebrations of the years progress. It has been a very strange year indeed and now it is in it’s final phase!

A dear friend gave me some apples from her tree and I cannot think of anything more delightful than blackberry and apple crumble. Sadly, the blackberry crop was very poor this year, so I resorted to buying some – the ones in the shops were larger but I am not too sure if they had the flavour of the organic hedgerow varieties.

I created an alternative to a traditional wheat based topping – Panko breadcrumbs are rice based, stirred with enough melted butter and coconut oil coat the crumbs. The coconut oil helps with the crispness and the butter gives a lovely flavour, then I added a little soft brown sugar to taste. It is lighter crispy crumble topping, without the wheat belly!

The apples were gently simmered with ground nutmeg, cinnamon and ground cloves with some soft brown sugar to taste. Cloves really bring out the flavour of the apples using ground cloves avoids chewing on a rogue clove – there is usually one that escapes matter how much I look! Using ground clove makes life easy!

I had major surgery again early in September and I am now on the road to recovery, these bright lovelies were delivered to me by a very dear friend and now nearly four weeks later there are some still going strong! I have really enjoyed all the kind wishes, flowers and cards I have received, it is so lovely to have good friends and family.

discovering local walks

As part of my rehab I am taking daily walks – it has been quite an adventure although I have lived in this area for four years – I still found new delightful places by delving down footpaths and across bridges that I had not walked down before. It is sad to leave the dog behind but I am enjoying the gentle exercise and fresh air!

Nature table

Having time to collect leaves and then do little sketches is a wonderful way to spend my recovery. I have been dabbling with my watercolours – it seems now that I finally have the patience for this most delicate medium.

Autumn flowers

There is so many beautiful flowers and plants in season, walking gives you time to slow down and see the world – recovery is giving me the time to live at a slower pace, I am so grateful and I am trying to make the most of it.

It has turned colder now, as I pressed the button on the thermostat to turn on the heating – I was so thankful we live with so many modern conveniences – there is no coal to haul, no fires to lay, no calour gas fire hardly impacting on the chill walls and causing the windows to stream with condensation. I wake up in the morning, unafraid to pull back the covers in the bedroom which already warm with the boiler gently clicking away! It is noticing the simple pleasures that make life worth living.

We watched Elona Holmes on Amazon Prime – which was fun – I think it highlighted the way women were subjugated during the Victorian Era but it was a little bit far fetched. I really enjoyed the film – the story is fast paced and action filled – with a lot of very assertive women. The close relationship between Elona and her mother, (played by Helena Bonham Carter) was beautiful. I really loved the many beautiful costumes Elona wears – and the finishing school looked quite good fun, I would have loved the embroidery lessons! however they were wasted on Elona. I can highly recommend it for a little lighthearted fun. I did read on the internet that there have been statues commissioned of famous sisters of great men – the sister of Charles Dickens has been erected facing him in Portsmouth Guildhall square, Thomas Hardy and Mozart all had very talented sisters – all of whom gave up their talents upon entering marriage, so I am pleased to see these women get their final recognition.

from the BBC – Marian (JESSIE BUCKLEY) – (C) Origin Pictures – Photographer: Steffan Hill

Although for a story that really did highlight the plight of many Victorian women look to the BBCAdaptation of Wilkie Collins the Woman in White (Again on Prime). Not only did the book show how outrageously women were at the mercy of the men in their lives firstly their fathers and then their husbands, but the complex tale is engaging.

Men valued their ‘honour’ above their female offspring’s happiness – luckily Marion Holcombe proved to be a more realistic, assertive woman! Definitely has the edge on Elona Holmes as the tale is more subtle and subversive. The book itself is an epic, but the adaptation was superbly executed – even if I found Charles Dance a little too robust for Mr Fairley, I always imagined a weaker character and Count Fosco in my imagination looked like Hercule Poirot but the adaptation is much better the Italian charmer in the BBC adaptation is far more convincing!.

It is not an easy tale, Victorian women were committed to mental institutions a great deal, if they challenged the patriarchy. Marion Holcombe might challenge the conventions of Victorian Ladies at the time, showing herself to be a wonderful heroine but it is more likely her lack of male family is attributed to her freedom. The BBC adaptation is pretty close to the book! I highly recommend it! And if you fancy a good gothic read with the first investigating detective, then Wilkie Collins other tale ‘The Moonstone’ is one I highly recommend.

As if that wasn’t enough Victorian drama I am also enjoying listening to this audio book, Death at Bishop’s Keep by Robin Paige. Not only is is very well written – it also includes quotations from various Victorian publications at the start of the chapters that give you a background understanding for the particular chapter. For example, there is a domestic servant problem in one of the chapters – having a little outline about Victorian attitudes to domestic staff as an introduction, really helps to understand the plot.

E found book three in the series for me and I am thrilled to discover there are 12 books in the series! If this first one is anything to go by, I shall be time travelling the rest of the year!

ttfn x

Adventures, book review, hand stitched, home sewing, sewing

How was your weekend? …. Monday 3 August.

Stitch meditation

My weekend began on Friday, listening to the marvellous Cathy Hay on Youtube they had lots of videos – CoCoVid, an on-line, interactive event put on by the members of CosTube during the weekend that would have been Costume College there was a fantastic video about having the confidence to dress differently, which you can watch until next weekend. It reminded me of how much I loved to dress up – so I donned my lovely lemon dress beautiful straw hat and went shopping in the local town. It made me feel great.

I am trying to save more this month – however I forgot the Library was opening later and so whiled away the half an hour wait in a charity shop. It is always amazing that when you aren’t looking for things you seem to find some lovely items so that by the end of my twenty minutes I had some well needed new clothes.

The reason this is in the charity shop is that the front section has distorted out of shape leaving the front gaping. So the buttons not only added another element, it fixed the gape!

I also picked up this gorgeous silk monsoon dress which is too big for me – with a few minor adjustments (a bit of hand stitching left to be done) I had managed to alter it to fit .. will show you when it is finished.

I just returned in time to catch Jenny Raymont’s on line class for machine embroidery – it would have been the festival of Quilts this weekend too, so there were quite a few on line courses to choose from. I really enjoyed doing this through zoom, it worked really well and I was still in the comfort of my own home – an introverts delight! I didn’t do the landscape but instead practised some leaves… I have another revamp in mind and wanted to get some practise in.

I have been practising making bricks… bread this one came out really well – there is an real art to getting the bread to rise properly – this is a joy that it came out bread shaped, but it is still heavier than a shop bought loaf.

I picked up these lovelies on the way home from the shops, they fell on my head! There is a plum tree overhanging a garden fence and they are all over the pathway. In no time I had a small bag full and I went home smiling, last week I purchased some exactly the same from a local farm shop.

Despite making over 50 masks, friends and family! – E did not have one and I was wearing a early prototype that didn’t quite work. It was time to make a couple of masks for us – I think the fabric is quite appropriate don’t you think?

Sunday was set aside to make a dress and having seen this book on lovely and grateful’s Blog, I chose to listen to it as I stitched away. It is thought provoking, I had never realised white privilege existed and if nothing else I shall take that away from listening to this, but it is fascinating to see life from another perspective. Listening to this book rather than reading it is like having the author in the room with you, but I found I needed time to absorb the story. I am still going through it slowly, but while it is profound and disturbing, it is hard to find a safe place to explore these discussions. . What this is is a window into the experience of Eddo Lodge and the community around her and how the system has stacked the odds against ethnic people. Yes it includes the story of the slave trade, but recent events race protests that happened in my lifetime, including the Brixton riots, the death of PC Blakelock and the appalling injustice that protected the killers of Steven Lawrence: these things happened in my lifetime and it knocks my faith in the system. It is interesting to hear about someone else’s life experience of living in England, one that varies from my own and one that I can recommend reading.

I live in an area that is 90% white, my own experience of equality and diversity is through workplace training – one course I had to attend in the early 1990s began with a statement -if we were to say anything that was deemed offensive we would be disciplined for it or maybe even lose our jobs. I wish Eddo Lodge had been there instead. There is so much to say about this book, but one of the key things is that finds me in wholehearted agreement with the author is that we are all afraid of discussing this openly, honestly and in public. While fear remains, we are never going to find a way forward.

So what can I do? I can steer a path away from the ethnic bias that is my YouTube channel list, I can move aside to explore other voices and other stories separate from my own. I can strive – not to judge others, be that the person walking towards me on the street or the mother in the supermarket with the screaming toddler.

Here is the finished dress – it is always wonderful to stitch and have something to show at the end of the day. Its the same Kate Dress pattern I have used a lot – the style suits me so well – this time I chose to make a long ankle length version in a drapey stretch cotton.

Have a good week

Adventures

Travels with Jenny Colgan… book reviews

Escape to an Island in the North

Life in general has been pretty stressful – I was one of the people still working during lockdown in need of a holiday, if not in body then definitely in spirit. This book came along with a pile of others – I tried one or two before picking up this novel and it was just what I needed.

Flora is definitely, absolutely sure that escaping from the quiet Scottish island where she grew up to the noise and hustle of the big city was the right choice. What was there for her on Mure? It’s a place where everyone has known her all her life, and no one will let her forget the past. In the city, she can be anonymous, ambitious and indulge herself in her hopeless crush on her gorgeous boss, Joel. 

When a new client demands Flora’s presence back on Mure, she’s suddenly swept back into life with her brothers (all strapping, loud and seemingly incapable of basic housework) and her father. As Flora indulges her new-found love of cooking and breathes life into the dusty little pink-fronted shop on the harbour, she’s also going to have to come to terms with past mistakes – and work out exactly where her future lies…

The Island of Mure in summer was a wonderful place to escape to, Flora was a likeable character – we followed her journey from dismal heat baked London to her home back in this beautiful island in the North Sea… so far north it was closer to Greenland than mainland Scotland.

The island characters are a mixed bunch of scary and friendly, but Flora goes back to face her family after she left under a bit of cloud. The more I read about the endless daylight, the empty sandy beaches the more I found myself with yearning to visit Scotland.

It’s a romance but there is more depth to the characters than the usual chic lit, the characters are struggling to overcome the past, even Flora who eventually comes to understand her family better and make peace. There are three books in this series all based around the fictional Island of Mure… I am saving the other two for winter… I had to stop as I was yearning to pack my bags and move to Scotland…

I read this book shortly after finishing the beach shop bakery – I needed another little holiday from real life and I was falling in love with Scotland. I live in the South, where the houses seem to be cramming together, and there are people everywhere – it is so good to escape.

Jenny deals with very real issues in her books, both feature mental health problems, depression and how it can affect those around the victim, how the shadow falls into the next generation too. I also love the ethnic mix in this book, the characters aren’t all white.

Zoe is a single mother, sinking beneath the waves trying to cope by herself in London. Hari, her gorgeous little boy is perfect in every way – except for the fact that he just doesn’t speak, at all. When her landlord raises the rent on her flat, Zoe doesn’t know where to turn. 

Then Hari’s aunt suggests Zoe could move to Scotland to help run a bookshop. Going from the lonely city to a small village in the Highlands could be the change Zoe and Hari desperately need. 

Faced with an unwelcoming boss, a moody, distant bookseller named Ramsay Urquart, and a band of unruly children, Zoe wonders if she’s made the right decision. But Hari has found his very first real friend, and no one could resist the beauty of the loch glinting in the summer sun. If only Ramsay would just be a little more approachable…

Dreams start here . . . 

It is a lovely break for a good few hours with people who have troubles, but come together and find love and that rarest of things…. a sense of belonging.

If you are in need of escape from the worlds woes …. these books are ones to enjoy.

You can find out more about Jenny’s books on her website

Adventures

Stitched Selfie

I am not a big fan of the selfie – I can’t shake off my inner critic that sings ‘your so vain’ in the same way I still can’t have a conversation on my mobile phone in public without excruciating embarrassment, but I over came my reluctance recently. The Solent branch Embroidery Guild I belong to set up a workshop with gifted textile artist Nicky Barfoot entitled the Selfie Workshop. I have missed the regular meetings and workshops so the opportunity to connect – all be it virtually- was firmly grasped. Not to mention work place stress that had me desperate for the soothing nature of hand stitching, I gave myself the whole weekend to enjoy a spot of well earned play.

Nicky is wonderful instructor, confident in her own creativity to allow students to go off in their own direction, with her encouragement. The course itself was self guided with access to private tutorials demonstrating every stage, together with a private Facebook group that connected me with fellow students, instruction and encouragement from Nicky, which was a lovely socially distanced way of connecting with people I hadn’t seen for months. It was great seeing other people’s work, I am always amazed at how diverse we all respond to the same direction and instructions! I be inspired by others too, as you will see in the end of this post.

After trawling through the vast collection of photos I found a couple of suitable photos, taken a while ago – I used a software programme to convert the photograph into a line drawing and followed the instructions to transfer outline onto fabric. Nicky has a great method for transferring the image easily, all you needed was the good old fashioned tracing skills that I hadn’t used in 30odd years!

outline stitched and transferred to fabric

I treated myself – stitching this outline in my cosy nook, tea close at hand, pincushion within reach, watching Outlander in the afternoon. It not only brought back happy childhood memories of Saturday matinees with my Nan, while we stitched away, but also the embroidery stitches were simple, soon the challenges, stresses and conflicts of work were soothed away, I had finished the outline in no time.

At first I made it all black, but then I used a light gold chain stitch for the necklace, using a bead for the pendant. I really love this aqua it sat just right and was the right scale. I then I added the Suffolk puff (yoyo) – to cover up a little mistake I made with the hair at the top of the ear! You can’t do that with a painting!

I then unpicked the black lip outline and used blanket stitch in red for my lips. I think the blanket stitch here gives depth to the outline I also used a couple of French knots. The eyes are slightly different as I began one with one thread of floss, the second one was with my favourite Cotton Perle, thicker thread. (I also had to dash to my local Boutique Haberdashery in the morning to get black Perle) What an indulgent day I was having! I also changed the nose outline a little. While I could not remove all the black, I was happy to leave it as it was, as it showed progress.

I had ended the afternoon using blanket stitch to form the fringe edge – she was becoming more vintage pin up as the project unfolded and less of a ‘selfie’ but I was enjoying seeing how the process evolved. I am learning to allow a project have a life of its own, rather than sticking rigidly to an idea.

Evening came, after the usual domestic activities of cake making and cooking, it was time for more cosiness in front of the box with hubby safely beyond the reach of my arm swing with needle! (its why I have my own cosy chair!) I decided to continue the vintage theme by adding ‘polka dots’ to the dress – an idea that came to me while baking a cake. Its as if the project is a journey, with each step revealed as I go.

I have a large collection of plastic drawing stencils that come in handy for embroidery, the circles come in various sizes so I picked a random one and marked it out with a air erasable pen. I am going through a bit of a blanket stitch phase at the moment, so chose to use it for the polka dots. I then used it again alongside the right hand edge of the neckline. I am stopping it there – until the next stage unfolds. I might stitch some texture in the background.. who knows.

The great thing about Nicky’s workshop is that you get to see other students work, there were a few who used sewing machines to do the outlines so I decided to experiment with my sewing machine.

Here is a portrait of hubby, this time by sewing machine which is faster, but not as relaxing. I really love the simplicity of the lines in this portrait, it makes a bold statement.

I have really enjoyed participating in this course, this new way of working is opening up all kinds of opportunities, not only in terms of time scale – not being limited to a day or a couple of hours, as well as being able to see what other people are doing is richer.

If you would like to join Nicky Barfoot’s selfie class – you can contact her via her website.

Adventures

Catching up … March 2020

It is surprising how many foods contain milk! – sometimes I really miss eating foods I used to enjoy, so when I found a recipe for vanilla cream biscuits I thought I would give them a try on Monday. Not quite the same as custard creams but a wonderful treat all the same – they lasted until Friday!

What I am reading

from Good Reads website
Gripping thriller – which lives up to its name.

As the library is closed I downloaded the e’reader / audio app from the local library which has been incredibly successful. I think because you aren’t paying out for a book I feel more able to take risks – and this one paid off.

The Memory by Lucy Dawson

I look down at her, lying fast asleep – always my little girl, and so beautiful. She gives a low moan as her head turns restlessly on the pillow. It reminds me of the soft growl of a cornered animal. Where is my poor child? What is she dreaming?People always notice my daughter, Isobel. How could they not? Incredibly beautiful… until she speaks.
An unsettling, little-girl voice, exactly like a child’s, but from the mouth of a full-grown woman.Izzie might look grown-up, but inside she’s trapped. Caught in the day it happened – the day that broke her from within.
I know why my daughter is the way she is. There’s nothing I could have done to save her… is there?An unputdownable psychological thriller about families and secrets,

(from Good Reads)

I have to admit I did find it a little odd to begin with but the story does slowly build to a conclusion I have to admit I did not see coming. There is an air of mystery and strangeness about the house – things happen that give the impression of it being haunted, but it also seems very down to earth with the main character giving reasonable explanations for the so called ‘psychic’ goings on. This book kept me interested right to the very end. What was absolutely satisfying is how neatly all the loose ends came together.

I revamped my cane chairs in the studio – trying to use up my stash of fabrics – it was easier second time round but I am very pleased with the results. Can you believe I bought these two at the tip for £3 each over 10 years ago! they are delightfully comfortable! I might give the cane some Danish oil but they are holding up well.

Barney and his new toy

My lovely Staffie, Barney had a new monkey which lasted 20 minutes (quite a record some only last a few minutes!)

Embroidered Hexies

I stitched this piece while we were away on holiday a couple of weeks back – it was simply a sampler to stitch in the quiet moments – little did we realise the second day we arrived everything would close down! I was so glad I had taken some stitching with me! I have spent this week stitching a design around the hexies in the blank spaces. I really love the way this has developed, I used a marker pen to outline the shapes and then stitched the centres with what ever took my fancy. It was so relaxing – just what we need right now.

A fresh paint for our boot storage box

We found this on Facebook market place – it is a bench made from old pews of a church, the ends actually hold umbrellas! It was quite a yellow pine colour so E painted it this lovely colour called seagrass. I know the trend for painted furniture is past, but I have always loved this style and won’t abandon it to the metal and rustic current trend, I want comfort and fabric. I thought I might add a little vintage French art as small accents as the arch is crying out for something!

Holiday Reading

There was a small bookshelf in the holiday Cottage – I could not resist reaching for this little novel about quilting! It was an easy lighthearted read – (don’t we need that right now?) but I found the story fascinating. A young woman goes to help out an older lady with housework and learns to quilt. Their friendship develops over the needle and thread – you learn more about the old lady’s life. It was lovely learning about the various blocks – what they were called and what the tradition was around them. The writer is a quilter and you can actually look up the quilt described in the book.

Holiday in Hereford

Our little holiday cottage was a cosy place to stay in during the unfolding health crisis, thankfully we got home before the shut down was announced. We spent peaceful happy days by the log burner, either stitching or reading. I am so glad we managed to have a holiday as work has been busier than ever since we came home, that rest has seen me in good stead!

keep safe and well x

recipes

Oat Milk recipe

Here in the UK we have been asked not to go shopping more than once a week, which is understandable given the incredible circumstances that we face regarding the corona virus. People like to be prepared, I understand that but the hoarding has meant that some items with a long shelf life are in short supply, this includes Oat milk.

Shops limit the purchase of Oat Milk to only two 1 ltr cartons, which for someone like me with a milk allergy, (yes an allergy not a health choice) unfairly discriminated against. There is no limit on Milk, you can buy 6 pint cartons as many as you like, but oat milk is limited and this has been restricted on the tills.

Hence the decision to make my own – it is pretty easy to make! I like mine creamy, so I add ground almonds but you can leave that out. Simply take one cup of oats with 1/4 cup of ground almonds and leave to soak in water overnight.

In the morning, drain the oat mixture and then add approximately 1 pint, (500ml) of water. Our tap water is drinkable – safe from bugs and disease in this country. You can use mineral water if you wish.

Whizz or blend the oats and the water together and then allow to drain through a nut bag. I decant it into a bottle (passata bottles are great!) which keeps it cold.


This pandemic is worrying, but it has made me appreciate how amazing it is to live in a country where food is plentiful, our homes are warm. It also allows us to think more creatively about meeting our needs.

keep safe and well.

x

Nut bags can be purchased on Amazon