Friday 27 June 2014


Have I ever called a post "Breathe" before?  It seems I might, it's something I frequently mutter to myself, in a slightly strangled tone.  The week has flown past in a slightly highly stressed flash.

It started on Sunday...  I was awake early, so I thought I'd head down to the allotment and have a tidy round and do some watering.  The littlest boy woke up too, so we went together.

Our little town was looking pretty in the morning sunshine.  The bunting is often up, for one thing or another.  To be honest I'm not quite sure why it's there at the moment, but I love it.

We parked on the high street and walked along to the allotments.

By seven we were there, enjoying the quiet stillness of the early morning.  We stayed longer than we intended, but at quarter to ten we were ready to go home for breakfast.  The car was serviced just a few days before, and a large chunk of money spent on various bits and bobs.  Imagine my surprise then when it didn't start.   I ended up calling the roadside assistance people and buying a new battery from them.  Sigh.  It was getting on for eleven o'clock before we got our breakfast.

Moving swiftly on to Monday.  A lump on the guinea pig's neck turned out to be an abscess.  She seemed perfectly happy in herself, although the vet thinks it might not heal.  It's been drained, and she's on a three week course of antibiotics.  We're going away tomorrow, so that means that someone else will need to wrap her up in a towel once a day and squirt medicine down her throat.  In a deft manoeuvre I caught a lovely neighbour on her way into her house and she very kindly volunteered.  Thank goodness for wonderful neighbours.  (The word "volunteer" is used loosely in this context).

In the kitchen you can see the little medicine bottle and syringe.  There's also the last of a bottle of suncream, close at hand for early morning applications, fruit being used up before holiday, a party invitation to be replied to, a couple of allotment roses and a box of plaque disclosing tablets.  I made the children each chew one up and it's as I suspected, their teeth cleaning is diabolical.  They have all been duly lectured and sent off to do it properly.

On Wednesday it was sports day.  An afternoon of watching the little people sprinting for the finishing line.  The biggest two won their races, the littlest boy is a smaller chap altogether and not quite as fast as one or two of his classmates.   But fun was had all round.  I think after a few seasons of watching football all winter I'm a bit more shouty than I used to be...  On my way out of school late in the afternoon the littlest boy's teacher told me that I could go on the school trip the next morning.  I volunteered a while ago, but when I didn't hear anything I assumed there was no space.

So instead of packing, I spent Thursday at the beach with the littlest boy and his classmates.  We were ready in plenty of time, and just as I was leaving the house to walk to school at 8.30am I turned on my phone.  Imagine my surprise when I saw a text, sent at 6.10pm the previous day "reminding" us that the coach was leaving at 8.30am prompt.  We shot off to school like ferrets up a drainpipe, although as it happened the coach didn't leave promptly at all.  Breaking the previous world record school run time certainly got our blood pumping though.  The school had also forgotten to tell parents about a later pick-up time, so in the end we had to come back early.  There was time for sandcastles, sandwiches, an ice-cream and a paddle in the Bristol Channel though.  I'd been awake since 4.30am (I don't do well with stress) so on the way back to school on the coach I snoozed with my mouth open.

Today I have a huge list and three boys under my feet (INSET day).  So no more time to sit around chatting.  I'm taking a deep breath, and I'm off.  Let's finish with a butterfly (I just happened to have one knocking around).  Actually I think it's a moth.

Think of me in Cornwall next week, as the rain moves in.  CJ xx

PS.  Do you think I have time for a quick pass through the yarn shop..?  It hardly seems like a holiday without a new ball of wool, and the fine silk is scaring me, I need to be sat on my own sofa for that.  Two minutes in the yarn shop couldn't hurt surely?

Thursday 26 June 2014

The Colour Collaborative: June: Birthday

You know, I've struggled to write this post.  It's odd, normally I have plenty to say, more ideas than I know what to do with, and after a little mulling over of things I know what I want to say.  But birthday, well, I've found it tricky.  I had a couple of ideas that evaporated as soon as I tried to write them down.  And so the days ticked past and my mind was strangely blank.

The word birthday is one that's used often in this house.  When the little people find something they think they'd like, they ask if they can have it for their birthday.  The littlest boy is particularly fond of adding things to the list.  It doesn't bother him if the actual day is ten months away, he seems to find it reassuring that eventually the time will come when all of his dreams will come true.  Of course, most of the list is forgotten, just a couple of the better (and more realistic) items are given.  But he is always thrilled with what he receives.

The excitement builds for weeks beforehand, and then in the last few days it reaches fever pitch.  Plans are made, a little outing, a treat of a pizza out, the choice of cake, the gifts he might receive.  The idea that he will be king for a day.  In fact, he's king most days, but on his birthday it's legitimate.

The colours of his birthday are bright.  Primary reds, blues and yellows.  There's nothing muted or sophisticated.  The cards, the paper, the compulsory balloons are all strong, certain, happy colours.

When it comes to grown up birthdays though, it's all rather different.  They're not really celebrated round here.  There might be a cake and some cards, but otherwise the day unfolds as normal.  A birthday just doesn't seem the same when you're an adult.  I'm not any good with New Year's Eve either.  I think I have a bit of anxiety when the big dates arrive, the ones that require retrospection and introspection and evaluation of all that's been achieved and thoughts of where next.  I know, I know, I'm overthinking it all again.  But it occurs to me that that is why I couldn't think of anything to say on the subject of birthday.  I've lost the childish joy and squeaky can't-sit-still excitement.

What I need is to forget the tasteful neutrals and sophisticated themes and grown up expectations and go back to yellow and red and bright blue, and have too many balloons and a nice day out and my absolute best cake.  Then maybe I'd be looking forward to my birthday, and I'd be able to write and write about it all.

So birthday, I shall try harder this year.  I shall look for the joy and the excitement and I shall make it all happen.  I'll blow up some yellow balloons and put red icing on my cake and wear a blue party hat and tell everyone they have to do what I say all day.  I can't wait.

How about you?  Any birthday angst, or is it all fizzing wonderment?

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

       Annie at Knitsofacto                                           Gillian at Tales from a Happy House

       Sandra at Cherry Heart                                       Jennifer at Thistlebear

                                          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.

Monday 23 June 2014

Why I Write

Christina at A Colourful Life asked me recently to participate in a blog hop entitled "Why I Write".  It came at a good time for me; writing is something I've always loved, but lately I've been wondering if there are ways I could incorporate it more into my life.  Thinking about why I write has been a helpful exercise.  So here they are, my out loud thoughts.

What am I working on?

Along with AnnieGillianSandra and Jennifer I write a Colour Collaborative post every month, looking at a particular word in the context of colour and inspiration.  It's something I always enjoy doing, and it's been good for me to have my writing directed a little.

I'm also working on the courage to sign up for a writing course.  It's something I've long wanted to do, and it comes highly recommended by a friend, so I'm not really sure what I'm waiting for.  I feel as though I'm holding my breath, almost ready to take the plunge, and yet when it gets to that moment when I need to press the button, I back away and save it for another day.

I've tried to analyse why I'm doing this.  What's holding me back?  What I am afraid of?  One of the answers I have is lack of time.  Such a cliché I know.  I don't want to give up anything I do now.  I don't want to have less time for the children or less time for all of the domestic things that go into making a decent home life.  But I'm very aware that so many people do find the time for everything.  I think I'm scared I won't manage it.  And maybe a little of it is facing the fact that things are changing.  The children aren't tiny any more, and they don't need me quite so much.  Finding something that I want to do should be a positive thing, no?

So I do think that I've pretty much decided to do the course.  The only real question left is when should I start, now or in September?  The next ten weeks will no doubt be busy.  But I worry that by September my enthusiasm will have waned.  Did I ever mention that I am absolutely TERRIBLE at making decisions?  I can spent fifteen minutes in the toothpaste aisle at the supermarket weighing up which one to buy.  It's another reason I don't like change.  Too much to think about.  My middle boy is very much the same.  If you ask him what he wants to do you can wait days and days for an answer.  Every little detail is agonised over.  Should I, shouldn't I?  Soon, now?  Colgate, Aquafresh?  We don't like to rush into anything.

How does my writing differ from others in my genre?

I've never tried to write like I "should" or be like anyone else.  Sometimes my posts are full of mundane stuff, sometimes it's serious, sometimes there's exasperation or a little humour.  So I think any difference would be in my own voice, in the fact that what you read here is me, not me trying to be something, but just me and my thoughts, fresh from my overheated brain.

Why do I write what I do?

I write about the things that I enjoy, the things that are going on in my life, things I've been thinking about and the things that I want to remember.  I think for me it's a bit like a diary, and something that maybe even the children can look back at one day and see what life was like and see what their mother was like.  They will no doubt see me in a different light through my writing here than they have when they see a tired grumpy woman at the kitchen sink, or trying to fit in a quick tea between dashing and there.  I'm an actual person too!

How does my writing process work?

Often when I post I just sit down and write.  Sometimes it flows, sometimes I need three packets of crisps, two cookies and a hot drink and I still only have half a paragraph.  If I have something particular I've thought about, very often the idea comes to me in the shower or when I'm walking back from the school run.  I'm sure it's something to do with the early morning energy and some calm headspace when I'm not actually occupied with anything.  I really need to make more notes when I have these ideas, because often they evaporate by the time I get to the laptop.  No doubt lots of them are rubbish, but just occasionally I think a good one gets away.  I probably need a new notebook.  Yes, definitely, a new notebook.  I have a little addiction, in fact the biggest boy was quite cross the other day because I have lots and he doesn't.  He tried to get one of my notebooks for himself.  I wouldn't let him have it.  He said it was madness that I had so many and I wouldn't let him have just one.  I said that come the revolution I would be needing all of my notebooks for myself.  He said that no notebooks would be needed in a revolution.  He's wrong I'm sure.  To be on the safe side I shall look out for a couple more.  One each.  Maybe.

The first blog I've nominated to be next in this hop is Today's Stuff, written by the lovely Leanne.  It's always a complete pleasure to read her posts.  She lives in Cornwall with her husband and three sons and writes honestly and humorously about her life by the sea.  Do stop by and have a read, I promise you'll be enchanted.

I'm also nominating Kari at This, Too.  Kari lives with her husband in a suburb of Kansas City and her blog is a place of light and happiness.  She writes about her thoughts and adventures, and it's also an inspiring and creative place.  As well as her day job, Kari has an etsy shop that she keeps stock with lovely accessories, and she blogs about her craft business and shares tips and projects.  Hers is a blog I never fail to enjoy reading, so do pay her a little visit if you can.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Summer solstice

Just about my favourite day of the year.  Sunrise at 4.53am, sunset at 9.31pm, and in between all of that beautiful warm summer light.

The nights are mild, too warm for a quilt.

The back door is open all day long.

Boys spent the morning playing World Cup football in the garden.  At half time they had to go and forage in the rainforest for food.  They found peas, beans, leaves and berries.

I spent some time staring at this lovely silk yarn that I won in Ellen's giveaway, and some more time staring at Ravelry.  Did I mention I'm not very quick at making decisions?  I think I'm almost there though.  I'm wondering just how small the needles need to be for lace weight yarn.  And just how slowly it will grow.  But I'm looking forward to it, really looking forward to it.  And the summer solstice feels like the right time to be thinking about it.  It's a light, exquisite yarn with soul.  Whatever I make it's going to be special.  Silk has the magic of summer captured in its unique fibres.

I put this sweet hair clip in my hair this morning because today felt like that kind of day.  Kari sent it to me a while back, and I love it.  She asked me what colours I like, and came up with exactly the kind of palette I would choose myself.

I took it out after lunch though when we went swimming.  There's a lovely little outdoor pool about half an hour from here, and it's blissful on a hot day.  And really good value.  Ice pops for 10p!  It's not often you can buy anything for 10p any more.  There are home made cakes and cookies for 40p.  And all five of us can swim for £7.  The boys always have a really good time there, it's so much nicer than an indoor pool.  When it's not in use it's covered with a clear dome, and I think the sun must heat the water because it was deliciously warm.  I'm not a fan of freezing cold water and I usually spend the first ten minutes of swimming tiptoeing round trying not to get wet and shrieking if I get splashed.  (What, I'm a girl).  But this pool on a warm day - wonderful.  The littlest boy is wearing his birthday t-shirt as he eats his lolly.  Did you know, every stripe is a different flavour?  It doesn't get much better than that.

Afterwards we went for a wander to the little park in town.  Everywhere I looked there were beautiful midsummer flowers, trailing over ancient walls, mingling prettily against a blue, blue sky, filling the air with intoxicating scents.

I do hope this most wonderful of days has been enchanting for you too.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

The first precious harvests

I love this moment in the garden most of all I think.  Everything is lush and green and growing quickly, and those first few pods and berries and leaves are ready.  And of course the first ones are always the very best.

Aren't the colours on this blueberry wonderful?  The softest of greens, the barest blush of lavender and a lovely faded denim blue.  The biggest boy was disappointed this morning that the blueberry he ate wasn't the first to be consumed.  No, that was the one I had last night.  Yum.

There aren't many strawberry plants this year, but we've still had a few good bowlfuls.  The littlest boy loves them, we all do in fact, and the fruit salads have been so nice I've wondered why I don't serve fruit for dessert more often.  The children actually prefer it to other things a lot of the time.

The runner beans have buds on them, and mysteriously they seem to be a nice salmon pink colour.  They're a variety called Celebration that I've never grown before, and I wasn't expecting pink flowers.  I think I shall enjoy looking at them.

The broad beans are just about ready to be picked.  There aren't many at home, some plants mysteriously disappeared, as they do.  We might end up eating them all small and raw.

These are sugar snap peas, Sugar Ann, grown especially for the littlest boy who eats sugar snaps whenever he can.  He's not a fan of cooked vegetables, but he enjoys raw ones, so I often give them to him raw with his meal.  Sugar snaps are great for lunchboxes as well, I really can't grow enough of them.

The tomatoes are looking surprisingly good.  They were so small and sad looking to start with, but they've rallied admirably so I'm feeling hopeful for a good harvest.  Again, I don't think I could grow too many of them.

The tree fruit is quietly doing its thing.  Apples and pears slowly swelling in the summer sun.  Many have fallen in the June drop, and the trees are left with just the right amount for them.

One of the last remaining peaches.  There weren't many to start with and most of them have been footballed off.  I'm not that bothered though, it will allow the tree to put more energy into growing bigger and stronger and more able to withstand small boys.

The herbs are doing nicely, especially the chives.  They are some of my favourites, so useful and easy to grow (stick them in and forget about them) and at this time of year they have the most beautiful flowers.  The flowers are nice pulled apart and sprinkled over salads.  They're onion-ey, just like the leaves.  The bees really love them too, I've seen so many different types of bees on them, in fact they're almost never without a bee.

The first of the flowers are blooming too.  In fact I'd go so far as to say that everything in the garden is rosy.

I hope it is with you too.

Monday 16 June 2014


Down at the allotment the plot next to mine continues to romp away unchecked.  It's a mystery why someone would wait years for an allotment and then when they finally get one not bother to touch it.  Before I got my plot I was a bit obsessive, ringing regularly to check where I was on the list, checking the society minutes for clues as to when plots might become available, joining a group campaigning for more allotments in the area and generally staying on top of the situation.  When I finally got a plot, I was straight down there, ripping out weeds like a maniac.  The new plotholder - not so much.  It's been three weekends now, and not so much as a gooseberry has been picked.

I was down there last night, and it's so overgrown now I thought I saw a troll in there.  It can be quite spooky there in the evenings, what with pigeons flapping and the possibility of muntjac jumping out of the undergrowth and attacking me.  (They do do this, I've read about it).

Elsewhere the flag is flying.  In fact it's there all the time, not just at moments of extreme patriotic emotion.  We've been watching a fair bit of football.  Not something I ever did before I had three boys, but somehow I've been sucked in.  I'm even allowed to play sometimes, although I'm so rubbish, never having kicked a ball until a few years ago, that I'm a player of last resort.  I'm quite a heffalump as well, so I'm always a bit worried about squashing smaller players.  I do feel that this inhibits my performance a little and prevents me hitting my true potential.

I learned something about highlighter pens today.  Although they look fairly wishy-washy, they are actually more permanent than you might imagine.  The littlest boy has been colouring himself in after bedtime.  It's so light he doesn't get off to sleep for ages, so he looks for interesting things to do.  Last night he coloured his leg and foot and gave himself toenail varnish in fluorescent yellow.  I think he was hoping that he'd glow in the dark.  Then he had a little scribble on his sheets and wrote his name.  I put them through the wash but it didn't shift at all.  If he ever needs to take a named bedsheet anywhere he's all set.

I'm feeling a bit of positive energy sweeping over me at the moment, which is good.  Sometimes I get quite dramatic and quick mood swings, so I know to make the most of the positivity while it's here.  I'm trying to declutter a bit and get more organised, to do better at things, to fit more into the day and to generally get a grip on life.  Some people make it all look so easy.  I find I have to try hard to keep it all rolling along sometimes.  But right now the house is tidy-ish, the boys are clean and fed and sleeping, the garden and allotment are (to use the OFSTED scale) Satisfactory, and the guinea pig has clean bedding, fresh straw and a good carrot.  It's almost like I have it together.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Where are the tops of my stuff???

Things aren't looking as good as I'd hoped at the allotment at the moment.  And to top it all, the tops of the plants seem to be missing.

Leek, top missing.

Sweetcorn, top missing.

Broad bean, ditto.



The carrot.  In fact, I actually have two carrots, not one like I said before.  Two!  Both with the tops missing.  Insult to injury.

For goodness sake.  What is going on here???  My plot neighbour says it's muntjac.  Apparently there have been hoofprints and maybe even a sighting.  I hear that they're incredibly destructive, despite looking small and cute-ish.  So now there are badgers, slugs and muntjac eating the stuff.  Not to mention more ants' nests than you could shake a stick at and every kind of pernicious weed known to man.  But hey, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger right?

Here are some pretty things at the allotments, to take the edge off of the dark destruction.  I should probably mention that none of the pretty things are on my plot.  Doesn't stop me enjoying them though.

Firstly, this beautiful mix of flowers and foliage.  It was the scent that stopped me in my tracks first, it was divine.

I've no idea what any of it is except the foxgloves and maybe some kind of rose thing.  But I just loved the combination of colours.  It's all been planted along the boundary of the site, and it makes me so happy that people put so much work into making the area look lovely.

I really must plant some of these Sweet Williams next year.  I've planted a few flowers, but none of them will be in bloom for a while yet.    In the meantime me and the muntjac will be enjoying the asparagus.  I hope everything is blooming in your garden, and that the pests aren't too pesky.