Archive for November, 2009

Red berries…

I took this picture of the cotoneaster before the birds ate all the berries. We’ve had a bit of a cold snap and they’ve been feasting away. The holly trees are almost bare, as is one of the cotoneasters. The other, hidden behind a friend’s caravan on the yard, had so far avoided their depredations – but today I saw a flock of birds on it. They all scattered as I approached, but I’m sure, now they’ve found it, they’ll be back.

I have spent most of the year wondering whether to keep the cotoneasters. Throughout spring and summer they do very little, and they do take up space. But I think, over these few weeks in winter, they earn their keep. And the birds seem to like them.

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These feet are made for walking…

A while back, I posted some pictures of my little girl’s hands. I was taking some photos for a photo montage for the grandparents for Christmas, so I decided to take some more photos to complement them, this time of my little boy’s feet. He’s only 7 months old, but already he has some very sturdy little feet.

I wonder where they’ll take him?

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More lovely things

As promised, I’ll show you some of the lovely things that were downstairs at the carpet place. It’s a bit of a photo marathon…

They have recently opened a very nice cafe, with comfy sofas, lovely tea (in pots) and pretty things to look at. On our table, for example, was this arrangement:

To my side, there were some lovely sculptures and another pretty arrangement of flowers:

There were also local crafts for sale, which were displayed in little cubbyholes, interspersed with some interesting ‘found’ and antique objects.

Either the objects themselves, or the way that they were displayed, really appealed to me and I wanted to take pictures because I’m sure I’ll get lots of ideas…

I loved the colours in these woven scarves:

One of the interesting objects in the display:

Lots of felted slippers:

There was also a collection of vintage textiles:

And some rather colourful glass window decorations that my little girl found fascinating:

And believe it or not, there was more. Much more. I had a lovely time and got some ideas – unfortunately they won’t come to fruition for this Christmas, but there’s always next year…

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Today I took a little day trip to Presteigne – a very pretty little town, almost on the Wales-England border. One of the nice places to see there is a warehouse of oriental carpets. They have hundreds – all sorts of sizes, from the size of a hearth rug to carpets big enough to cover the drawing room of your local stately home. There’s a variety of designs and every colour imaginable – all piled and stacked and rolled.


Here’s one in the process of repair:


And here you can see the edges of several carpets, all in a pile:




There’s something I call the ‘abundance effect’ – it’s when my eye is caught by a display of something, and the variety of colours is dazzling. It can be a pile of yarns, lovely fabrics, glass vases. I remember a breathtaking display of silk scarves in a shop in Venice. I look for ages, drawn to that purple, this blue, this wonderful pink, this vibrant green. I decide to buy one of whatever it is – but as soon as I pick one up, although it’s still lovely, it loses something when it’s not part of the spectrum of colours. Removed from the context of the display, although it is still beautiful, it loses its impact. And then I realise that I don’t actually want a silk scarf or a glass vase – what I want to take home is a little bit of that abundance, that colour.

So it is with these carpets. Even if I could afford one (which at the moment, I cannot) I wouldn’t be able to choose. What I love is the abundance of colour, texture, shape and design. And fortunately, the owners of the carpet shop are happy for people like me to come and enjoy that for nothing.

There were more lovely things downstairs … and I’ll tell you all about those tomorrow.

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I spotted these outside a fruit and veg shop – they’re all local apple varieties, and I think they look lovely.


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Beige squares of happiness…

I have been knitting for a few years now, but have never got round to crocheting. It was always something I wanted to try – I even bought a book.

And then I found a knitting pattern for a cardigan that I wanted to knit as a Christmas present for a friend. So, I worked out the yarn requirements, and ordered 18 skeins of a lovely wool and alpaca yarn.

And here’s where I discovered that I had made the rookie mistake. Always read the pattern right to the end. For there, in the very last line, was the instruction to work a crochet picot cast off.  Erk. Gulp. Etc.

So, yesterday, my neighbour Rhian appeared with a crochet hook, and set about showing me how to do the basic stitches. And although it feels weird (Why is my yarn in this hand? ) and my tension is wobbly in the extreme, it became quite good fun.












So, this little square, despite being not actually square, and beige, and 100% acrylic, has made me very happy. Look! It even has a picot edge! Well, sort of.





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Rain, rain, go away?

Well, this has hardly been a cold, crisp autumn. It’s been quite mild, and very wet.  So my forays outside have been limited to the necessary – quick, it’s dry, walk the dogs, or quick, it’s dry, slam some bulbs in. So I haven’t been through a lot of the things that mark the change of the seasons – no raking leaves, no bonfires, the absolute minimum of garden clearing. And so I haven’t been out and about enough to enjoy the autumn colours as much as usual. But in a way, although they’re not as impressive without the cool autumn sunshine, they’re almost more comforting when everything’s grey and wet.






















The dogwood by the woodshed comes into its own at this time of year. In the dead of winter, the red stems are sometimes all I can find to cut for vases, and very nice they look, in a spiky sort of way:















And here’s one of the trees by the river – which due to the recent rain is in full spate:












And now, of course, it’s raining again. But I’m glad I seized the dry spell, even if there was no sun. Sometimes an absence of rain is enough.

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I usually refuse to allow Christmas into the house before advent, but given that I found Mr Sowandsew eating mince pies, and feeding them to our two-year-old, I gave up the fight. My attempts to ignore the rapid approach of Christmas thus became increasingly faltering, and yesterday I made my Christmas cake.

I made a Christmas cake last year, which despite me not managing to ice it, being too busy, tired and pregnant, went down very well, even with the members of my family who ‘don’t like Christmas cake’. This year, I shall ice it. I shall even decorate it. I have a plan, and, moreover, I have some special sugarcraft thingies from Lakeland.

Anyway, I had a happy half hour stirring up my cake:

There are lots of things about this that made me happy.

The lovely oval mixing bowls were a wedding present from a very dear friend, and I think of her when I bake. The oval shape is brilliant for tucking under your arm, and for pouring mixture into tins.

The eggs came from our lovely (if slightly bolshy) hens – and finding them was an effort. They have got bored with the nest boxes and are now laying in all sorts of unlikely places. Unfortunately, their stealth is somewhat undermined by their habit of calling loudly to show off when they’ve laid an egg. So we track them and find out where they’ve been.

And the final stage is adding almond essence. I adore almonds and all things almondy, so essence of almond has an almost narcotic effect on me. I confess, I did try some on my wrist to see if it would work as perfume. Sadly, it doesn’t.

And then, it takes three hours to cook, and as it does so, it fills the kitchen with fruity almondy spicey loveliness. Which made my husband crave cake. But no! The cake is wrapped up in greaseproof paper and can’t be eaten for another five weeks! The twice-weekly ‘feeding’ ritual will whet our appetite further (and possibly render the cake unsuitable for drivers).

I can’t wait. So yes, Christmas is coming. And that’s OK.

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Fun(gi) in the Forest

I took the dogs for a walk today, and as I didn’t fancy our usual hill walk in this wind and rain, we went to the conifer wood across the river.

It’s a great place for dogs to tear around, and as it’s closely planted it’s protected from the worst of the weather (or, indeed the best of the weather in summer).

But there are some species who like the damp and dark, and I found lots of them – my little camera can’t quite capture their luminescent quality.

I like the way that the one at the front of the picture looks like it’s had a nice neat bite taken out of it:
























These rather sulphurous looking specimens caught my eye from quite a way away:











I think a book on identifying fungus is going to be on my shelf by next autumn…


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Signs of the times…

Today I had an appointment with the osteopath, which meant a trip to a little town half an hour away from home.

There’s something very nice about small towns which have very few chain stores – this particular town has a Spar, a few banks, a supermarket outside the town, and that’s it. Everything else is individual shops. It’s a lovely place, and I enjoy looking around the shops there.

I have always liked the sign above the Organic Shop, and so I took a photo of it.







And as I wandered through the town, I noticed more and more lovely shop and pub signs.  These photos were taken with my camera phone, so aren’t as good as I’d like – next time I’ll take my camera. It’s striking how many are a similar style, which makes me wonder who the local sign painter was!

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