Saturday, 20 October 2012

Beautiful Blessings

It has to be said that the past couple weekends have felt like blessings direct from the heavens.  Amongst weekdays full of torrential rain, local flooding and the return of grey skies on a regular basis it was such a gift to wake to radiant sunshine on each day of the weekend.

Although the temperature has dipped a little, the sunshine blasting through gave a much needed glow.

The things of beauty I felt blessed with recently were two consecutive weekends of sunshine.  Lovely streams of light gracing the floor....  Dappled sunlight drying the puddles... The warmth of the October sun on closed eyelids.  I needed these days of sunshine when my family was home.  I needed to grasp the time and 'make the most of living' because it was sunny. 

Somehow, when it's unexpectedly sunny (even if there is still a chill in the air) I am all the more grateful for it.  It's like that little added bonus... I needed it, I gave thanks for it and being out in it brought much simple joy.

This recent weekend we visited some fab friends in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.  After some family time and admiring of their new family home we took the children out to run off some of their [extreme levels] of energy! 

We went to wendover woods and had a glorious time gently strolling a little distance at a time before stopping and sitting a while, all the time the children enjoyed foraging for pine cones and interesting leaves.  Happilly pottering within sight but independent enough to wander with stick and scratch around in the dirt.

We then came across pre-built dens

Little B built a fire in this one and made a new entrance system...

....and R had fun building her own structure. 
This was her new model - with window too!!

I love that these structures are left erect in the wood.  That different families, different children all come together, admire their simple structure and add elements on each visit.  A twig here, a branch there.  A collective building mission.

My children are really outdoor sorts and would have stayed for hours but we were forced to cajole them to leave the woods and accompany our friends with the offer of hot chocolate and snack here.  Ahhh, bliss.

The weekend before we had some really wonderful family time - a picnic out on the Saturday whilst we admired the changing colours in the surrounding countryside

We were lucky enough to say hello to a friendly pony as we were passing!

And while Ben worked on the Sunday (yes, poor love is working extremely hard at present) we took a visit to Marine Lake.  Gosh that sand looks like mud in this photo - it's dark but not dirty and is actually quite pleasant!!

The still water reflected the autumnal light - and although it's not the thundering seascape that we're spoilt with in Cornwall, it did look really pretty.

Little B had asked to go here since returning to school.  He had plans to make another dinosaur island and we took pirates too to add to the adventures.  The sand here is so pliable that it 'holds' water in its moats rather than it seeping away!!  This means after a little digging, smoothing and sculpting we can produce a riproaring dinosaur island.

We spent a merry morning raaaahing and swashbuckling.

Although it was a bright sunny day, the air was crisp and we were the only group 'settled' on the beach.  I watched various people coming and going and enjoyed the children being happy and content.

At times I joined in their frivolity, at times I just sat back face towards the sunshine enjoying the feeling of space and light, happy to hear the chuckling and plundering going on beside me. 

A bit of sunshine and outdoor time can be so healing to a mind that is struggling a little with the various pressures that we all face in life.  When things become stressful and I feel like I'm about to drop all the balls I'm juggling, a bit of outdoor time can really help to regain a sense of balance and perspective. 

Thank goodness the sunshine enabled us to enjoy it!

J9 x

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Home made Mobility Aids?

When I was able bodied I gave little to no thought to my mobility.  It was something that I took completely for granted.  Over the past five years though, I have learned that there are little things that can make a difference.  My local Occupation Health department have been incredibly supportive in assessing me at home and getting different devices throughout the house that make tasks that bit easier.

My mum is gradually recovering from her operation and is walking a few steps at a time with the use of a frame.  When you walk with a frame all effort and focus is placed into your movement, balance and stability.  So carrying anything when you are highly dependant on the frame is impossible.  So what if you live on your own or only have people stopping in at different times of the day?


Mum had asked me if I could fashion something for her to put a phone and her glasses in - plus something that had a deep enough pocket to house a bag of frozen peas!!  She has to put these on her knee 4 times a day so the pocket can help her carry it to and from the freezer.  I opted for oilcloth - various offcuts I had in my stash!!

I'm travelling down to stay with her every Thursday and Friday at the moment until she's strong enough to carry on for longer periods - hence my less frequent blog posting.  When I'm down there I can help with a few jobs and be company during her recovery.  I've been going down for the last month and it has worked really well but I have to say things at home are beginning to slide a little and I'm feeling more jaded than normal!!  Half term is nigh, and I expect that after a short family visit then, we will aim to reduce our visits to a less frequent basis.

But today it's felt good to make something that seems insignificant in the scheme of things - but that aide will actually enable her to be more independant and practically improve this recovery time for her.  I'll take a photo of it on the frame to share later.

Small, simple things.  They can be the best.

J9 x

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

My Bedroom Makeover

Due to the unpredictable nature of my mobility and pain, I sometimes spend a large amount of time in my bedroom.  We have no downstairs toilet and when my mobility is bad I have to pace my movements so spend time upstairs to avoid unnecessary trips up and down the stairs.  We are looking in to getting an extension built to accommodate a downstairs cloak room but in the interim my bedroom needs to be a comfortable and uplifting place to be.

I've been looking out for a large wooden wardrobe in our local charity shop for almost a year as our storage just wasn't working either aesthetically or practically.  It's funny how much these things can bother you when you're in that space so often.  For whatever reason - sometimes timing, sometimes money or sometimes just not quite right, I'd not been successful in my search.  Until last month that is.

There it was, a maple and 'larger than double' wardrobe for well under £100.  Perfect.  The wood itself was scratched and blemished so I felt no guilt in covering the 1940's wood with a gorgeous pastel blue (Crown's Moonlight Bay) and finished it with the usual clear wax.  I'm sorry - I cannot get this photo to rotate but I've included it to give you an idea of it!!  Get ready with the slanty head peak!!

I auctioned online our previous sets of melamine double wardrobes and sidetables and actually raised more money than the replacement 'perfect' one cost!! I had primed a large sideboard (which I bought at the same time as the table I made over here.) and it hadn't really found it's permanent home.  So, I painted the sideboard in the same paint and it too found it's permanent home in the bedroom. 

Not only do I love the painted look of furniture, but I also wanted to paint them to disguise the size of the furniture.  We painted the wall the same colour and it helps to 'blend' the big furniture into their surroundings rather than feel the large pieces overpower the room.  It's a bit like an illusion and it does work really well in this relatively small room.

I like the solid colour of the paint too, so don't tend to heavily distress or 'shabby' my furniture makeovers.  I just like the painted look and it keeps it clean and fresh to create the laquered finish with wax.  I think I will end up painting the drawers pale blue too rather than the original layer of white I'd given them - I thought I'd leave it a while and see how I felt.... not sure really.

Regrettably, I didn't take a before picture - I just got carried away and stuck in!!  The feature wall behind the bed had been olive green and all the other three a taupe colour.  After painting I kept admiring our handy work but it needed more...  So I took the sewing machine to the bedroom curtains.  I inserted a pretty panel of Cath K from my stash into the existing curtains.  There are tiny blue flowers in within this pattern which are picked out against the adjacent blue wall - lovely.

We painted the opposite wall (behind the headboard) the same blue and the other two stone white so as not to make the room feel like a blue, cold box. 

A week after I'd painted the room, the off white wall was looking empty.  We'd shifted around and replaced items of furniture and it had created a better sence of space on the floor plan but the wall needed something.  So last week I hung a group of frames to make a feature.  I painted some that had been in the loft and others that had been sat in an IKEA bag for months on the floor.  It's not everyone's thang but I'm not minimal in my style and I think they make a nice display.  Now I need to fill them - I think they'll be black and white photos though to help with the restful feel of the room.

I couldn't be happier with the result of my bedroom makeover.  It feels calming, fresh and pretty - without being overpoweringly so.  Milo is currently enjoying my bedroom makeover too!

I'm looking forward to making  a few cushions and maybe a patchwork throw to go on the bed over the coming months to further 'cosy it up'.  But it's a happier room to be in now, which can only be a good thing and it cost very little in monetary terms.  A bit of hard work and furniture relocation and it's furnished!! 

So today, I'm sitting and writing this post from my newly decorated bedroom and it feels very lovely indeed!  It's nice to know I've sorted out the storage issues we had and it's a much more pleasant room to be in.

Good thing too - I'm not sure Ben could survive getting a big wardrobe like that up the stairs again!! ;0)
J9 x

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Autumn is in the Air

The change in the weather has certainly been a popular topic at the school gates this past week.  A number of us try to dispel the colder air by continuing to wear short sleeved - only to freeze and huddle together like Emperor penguins in the moments before we pick up our children.

There are a few things that are noticeable with this change in season.  The changing colours are remarkable.

I love this time of harvest.  I love the harvest hymns at church.  I love generally feeling closer to nature through foraging for, and picking it's fruit.

This year our own 'picking of natures abundance' comprised a single apple from our garden!  Can you see it?!

Apparently, this year has been an awful year generally for apple produce in England.  Our tree is usually very plentiful and lack of apple production has been a problem in the South West especially.  My husband is worried about cider production given his favourite brand is made very close to us!! 

But I was lucky to be given some by my mum when I visited again last week.  Well, she is still in hospital although gaining strength and we picked some with her approval!!

These apples and some victoria plums were the base of the chutney I made yesterday. 

This chutney came together really well and didn't take as long to reduce as lots of other fruit combinations.  This will taste wonderful with cold meats and cheese!!  Peeling, coring and cutting up the fruit is always the longest part of chutney making, but I can sit at my table and gradually cut away whilst watching a bit of day time TV!!

I then adjurn to my little kitchen and as it gradually cooks down the flavours take over - the smell and colours so epitomise Autumn for me.

This was a new recipe to me but already tastes nice.  It'll taste even better after maturing for a few months - bang on for Christmas Cheese Boards!!

Today, I'm being kind to myself as my body is not willing so I've been looking through my little pile of preserve and chutney books to get general inspiration for future pickling.  I like to make different batches each year as well as our family favourites!

A friend gave us kind permission to hunt for blackberries around their farm, so whilst Ben was off running his half marathon for Childrens Hospice South West in Bristol on Sunday, the kiddies and I slowly made our way around the abundant hedgerows.  This was the harvested rewards for our efforts.

I'm hoping to make some jam with this and some of the apples, and a batch of my favourite chutney this later week - Fiery Bengal Chutney, which has an amazingly zingy flavour.  I love to take a number of harvested fruits and produce something that tastes sooo good!  I'm planning to make mini homemade hampers for some friends and family this year for 'C' (lets not say that word twice in one post just yet) and a couple jars of chutney will make a nice addition!!  We try to escape the materialism that seems to prevail at that time of year so want to give creatively with some extra thought, preparation and a combination of homemade goods.  So, I've got my work cut out over the next few weeks!!

Are you making anything with your harvested produce?  It's a funny thing how making something like chutney can make you feel more connected with our history or how previous homemakers managed their food production at this time of year.

Little B has claimed the last of the apples for an apple crumble.  Who am I to refuse such Simple Things?!

J9 x