Sunday, 31 January 2016

Absent fish and speedy ducks

This is as close as we've come to a fish, despite another crack at the whole fishing malarkey. I think we might be happier just looking at the pictures right now to be honest. Or maybe that's just me. It's not hugely hospitable down at the canal. I did plant myself on a bench in the sunshine with a book for five blissful minutes, but then it was decided that the fish were further along so I was required to move. I want to do the sort of fishing that takes place in the summer on the riverbank with deckchairs and a picnic that is the sort of thing that Nigel Slater would pack and a good book and something to prop my feet up on. I could get on board with that.

Do you remember I had similar dreams about cricket? My first experience of it was a day-long tournament in horizontal driving rain. I ended up pressed against a hedge trying to keep the rain off my sandwich. This will be the year when all my deckchair related dreams come true, I'm certain of it.

The littlest boy picked me a Lenten rose/hellebore yesterday. I halfheartedly said, "You're not supposed to pick them", but I'm still a sucker for a slightly battered flower proffered by a hot little hand. It's in a jar on the kitchen windowsill now.

The duck is a common eider, a captive one in this case, although they are found around the UK coast where they feed on molluscs. They breed in the Arctic and line their nests with their famous eiderdown for snuggly warm chickies.

It's a pretty heavy duck, but astonishingly it's believed to be the fastest bird in steady flight, flying at up to 47mph. They have quite small wings but incredibly strong wing muscles. We always like to see them at the wetlands place. They make a surprised "Ooh" noise, a bit like Frankie Howerd. I like to imitate them. Don't think they're fooled though.

Anyone know what the fungus is? I've seen it in a couple of places lately. Wishing all a good week and hoping Storm Henry isn't too much of a problem.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Colour Collaborative: January: Warm

Just lately I've been thinking a lot about more environmentally friendly ways to keep warm. We try to use the central heating as little as possible. It occurs to me that I could get the chimney swept and have a wood fire, although the chimney hasn't been lined so I probably shouldn't.

I was visiting a farm the other day where they are lucky enough to grow their own wood. And of course it warms you twice then, once when you chop it and once when you burn it. Sometimes by the sea I see people collecting driftwood. I imagine that burns beautifully.

When I think about warmth, I tend towards extra jumpers, wool blankets, knitting, sheepskin, hot water bottles, hot drinks and the occasional candle. A cooler home is no bad thing in the winter, being in tune with the season, eating warming comfort foods and staying in bed a little longer.

And there's something aesthetically pleasing about the things that provide natural heat. The warm tones of wood, ranging from pale honey to rich tan, the creamy oatmeal of an old sheepskin and the mesmerising hot orange of flames.

I have plans to knit another blanket soon. One that I can keep over the end of the sofa for those chilly winter evenings. As time goes by I'm trying to use conventional energy less and less. Warmth is delicious, but I appreciate it even more when it's natural and green.

Do let me know if you have any tips or suggestions for eco warmth.

To visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

                 Annie at Annie Cholewa             Gillian at Tales from a Happy House

                 Jennifer at Thistlebear               Sarah at Mitenska

What is The Colour Collaborative?

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

When the Queen comes to tea

A mixture of photos from the weekend. D'you like the art deco building above? I've walked past it many times, but on Saturday I approached it from a different angle and got a really good look at it. The Silver Rooms on the ground floor is a fantastic cafe with a high ceiling and walls lined with books. I'm dying to go in and have a little photo shoot there, but I'm not really brave enough to ask. Plus, who would take the photos? The biggest boy isn't very good at taking pictures of me, and then I start getting agitated and gesticulating wildly and then he takes some really ridiculous ones. But every time I go past I think how amazing it would look in photos. I'll do it one day.

I've been teaching the children nice table manners in case the Queen ever comes to tea. I like to say, "You won't be able to do that when the Queen comes". We've covered napkin sharing, eating things that other people have left and putting unwanted sprouts on someone else's plate. The middle boy wondered what we would be having for tea should the Queen come. He suggested halibut. The littlest boy wanted pizza. I think I might aim for something tea-like. Sandwiches with the crusts cut off, fruit cake and some sort of fancy delicate gateaux. The other half said if the Queen was coming to tea she could bring something with her. I suggested we get her to stop at the chippy on the way in. Do you think she's ever eaten pizza or fish and chips? I like to picture her kicking back in front of Luther with a quattro formaggio, slipping the corgis a bit of crust when no-one's looking.

I ordered two big bags of flour the other day. Locally milled, organic flour, substantially cheaper than a leading brand at the supermarket. And even better value if you bought it in 16kg bags. I was quite surprised at the size of a 16kg bag though. It's big. Big enough to fill the cupboard. I wrestled one onto the top of the freezer and ended up looking more than a little dusty. And the saucepans are temporarily unreachable behind the one in the cupboard. I may have to rethink the bulk ordering slightly. I can see disaster striking when I open the door and the open bag tips out. Imagine what big cloudy mess 16kg of flour will make. I'll try and remember to take a photo.

I'm leaving you with a word or two from the littlest boy.

Me: Right, off to bed now please.

Littlest boy: No.

Me: Come on, I let you use the laptop earlier, the least you can do is go to bed when I ask you.

Littlest boy: I played the guitar for you anyway, that's enough.

And you're a fatbum.

He speaks truth.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Five on Friday

Joining in with Amy and Five on Friday.

1. Photos from by the river last Sunday. Alas I didn't get to stay at home in the warm, I was dragged out to look at mud in the cold. You know I love it down by the river, but last week I had a bit of a cold and it reminded me of the sort of place the heroine of an ancient novel would go and contract a terrible fever from which she would barely survive. I may have been over dramatic about it all. I have higher hopes for this weekend. At least it should be warmer.

2. Lightbulbs. I do not understand them any more. Remember the days when you went to the shop and there were four different brightnesses and you picked the one you wanted and it was all terribly simple? Then there were eco lightbulbs and they cost about 10p. Now there are about a hundred to choose from, the numbers don't make any sense to me and some of them cost £10. And they are supposed to last for years, except they don't. Even making allowances for the flying diabolo that smashed one in spectacular fashion so that glass came sprinkling down all over the living room. I really just want a lightbulb that doesn't use too much energy and lasts a long time. But which one?

3. We've been enjoying the biggest boy's cookery lately. Once I get past the surprise of having to rustle up ingredients at thirteen minutes' notice it's good to have him coming home from school with various things to eat. He made a brilliant healthy crumble, and last night it was chilli. Honestly, I was thrilled to have a day off from making tea. I must encourage the whole cooking thing a lot more.

4. On the subject of food I hear that if I keep the heating off I will lose weight. I'm allowing myself a hot water bottle and extra snacks. Not sure how long it will take, I'll keep you posted.

5. I'm actually warming to Twitter a little. It's like a newspaper with things in about the subjects I like to hear about. I have gardeners and conservationists and writers in my feed. It has slightly been hijacked by the biggest boy who keeps making me follow birdwatchers of all descriptions. I just need to make sure it doesn't take up more than ten minutes a day...

Wishing you lovely people a top weekend. I hear it will be balmy so the hats and gloves can go back in the basket. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Frost at the allotment

I wandered down to the allotments on my way back from the school run this morning. Well, it was more of a march really to try and keep warm. They were pale and frostily beautiful. It was just me and a few hungry birds.

The water troughs were frozen solid. A small boy would probably have tried standing on them to see if they would bear his weight. As I didn't have one handy I made do with giving the ice a good shove. Solid. 

There's not much on the plot to harvest. A few leeks and roots. I'll dig some out after the thaw, which is due tomorrow I think. 

It's hard to imagine how different it will all be in six months' time. This is the season of rest, but soon it will be time to get the shoebox full of seeds down from the shelf. The wheelbarrows are all lined up waiting to ferry loads of manure down to the plots. For the time being though I'm enjoying the break and happily working my way through last season's harvest from the freezer. Gooseberry crumble, borlotti bean hotpot, roasted beetroot and a Nigel Slater damson cheesecake. I do so love this time of year.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Unrealistic expectations

Chilly isn't it. Unless of course you're somewhere divinely sunny and warm and many miles from here. I'm not complaining, winter is supposed to be cold, although it has been a bit of a shock after weeks of balmy temperatures. I saw a bank of primroses blooming today.

The biggest boy was in a cross country race over towards Bath this morning, so after we'd cheered him on we all went for a wander. It seemed a shame to drive all that way and not visit. If the photos look familiar it's because I took some similar ones not that long ago, last time we were there. But honestly, it's impossible not to snap away in Bath, there are gorgeous little details round every corner.

I have to say it's nice to be home though. I've got the heating on, which is a bit of a luxury, we try not to use it too much, and I'm wondering if I can avoid going out tomorrow. There will be the obligatory football in the morning, but maybe I can stay in in the afternoon. The middle boy is a bit under the weather, so I might get away with it. We shall see. I have a pile of books that is getting bigger every week and a hundred and one other things to be getting on with, it might be nice just for once to stay in.

I always like to see cosy fireside pictures on people's blogs, but somehow it never seems to happen around here. I am still on that eternal quest to find more time. I added three books to the reading pile today, honestly, my expectations are wildly unrealistic. Unless of course I win a billion pounds in one of these lotteries I keep reading about, and then I'll be all set. Any wildly unrealistic expectations or ideas with you? Please tell me I'm not the only one.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Yarn along

Joining in with Ginny at Small Things.

I finally finshed the littlest boy's blanket, and it's been on his bed since Christmas Eve. He loves it, and it's just in time for the colder weather that is finally here. I actually saw a dusting of frost this morning. I'm sat here with a hot water bottle, a candle and a big mug of hot peppermint tea. It occurs to me I should make fingerless mitts next, they are what I'm missing. Although I've already cast on a scarf. Another one. I do so love to knit things that don't have to be fitted. I've made several jumpers over the years, but not a single one of them really fit me very well. I still want to make another one though. I'm thinking maybe a loose cardigan. What could possibly go wrong with a loose cardigan?

I don't have a fiction book on the go at the moment. I'm trying to read some of the non-fiction stuff I have about writing. Yesterday I spent some time looking at a book about Twitter. A friend of mine told me that I should have all of the social media things. I hate to say it, but Twitter rather depressed me. I felt like I was running like a maniac on an out-of-control treadmill with things being fired at me. There might have been something interesting in my feed at 10am, but by the time I looked at 3pm it had all been swept away into oblivion by a hundred new things.

Maybe I'll get used to it and work out what it can do for me on the writing front, and for my other half for his freelancing work, but at the moment I'm not liking it much. Peering at a screen while a dozen thoughts a minute fly by doesn't feel like a good use of a life to me. I like to cogitate. To read one or two great articles and think about them for a while. I like things to stay with me, and there isn't space in my head for the sheer volume of facts and opinions on Twitter. But as I say, it's all new at the moment, no doubt I'll get the hang of it. I have an open mind. Although there isn't much space left in it, I'm nearing my max fill level.