Archive for November, 2011

Weekword: Content

Sally chose the word this week.

Things are quite stressful here at the moment – lots going on, lots on the to-do list, and added complications springing up left and right. At any point there are so many things to do – yesterday I spent the day so paralysed by not knowing where to start that… I didn’t. It’s quite exhausting, knowing that in any given time period, there is more that needs doing than you could possibly do. So, one day this week, I was racing round busily ticking things off the list while my husband picked the kids up – dishwasher emptied, dinner on, laundry away, table cleared… and I went into the living room and thought about tidying and hoovering before they got back, but for some reason, I didn’t. I saw my library book, and the cup of tea in my hand and I sat down in the armchair and curled my feet under me. I opened my book. The cat, seeing a rare lap-opportunity, leapt aboard and started to purr furiously, and I felt contentment lap over me like a wave. Those fifteen minutes with armchair, Dickens, tea and a purring cat restored my equilibrium.

I think it’s easy to get into the habit of thinking that happiness depends on doing stuff – getting where you’re going, doing this, getting that done, moving onto the other – and to an extent, we do need to keep moving, keep learning, keep achieving. But sometimes it’s OK to step off the path and enjoy the view from where you are – sometimes things can look pretty good from halfway up the mountain.

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Weekword: Sunshine

Ah, ‘sunshine’, says John. What a lovely word for November.

I’ve not been feeling very sunshiney lately. The cough that started to annoy me back in September hung on… and on… and then got worse… and by the time I finally gave in and took it to the doctor (I always worry doctors will think I’m overreacting so I tend to put off going until I’m unequivocally ill) it was a ‘fairly severe’ lung infection that required antibiotics and inhalers and all sorts lest it become pneumonia, which I am assured (both by the doctor and by a friend who was unfortunate enough to have it) that I do not want. Thanks to the various drugs, it’s on the mend… but I now have a cold and a touch of … residual unpleasantness from the antibiotics. It’s not been great fun being me lately. I’ve had to focus most of my scant energy at my work and my kids, so there’s not been much time for fun or creativity. Or indeed, housework. And most of November, so far, has been cold and wet. Bits of our lawn are mud and some things I left outside and forgot to bring in are probably in a sad state. Lots of grey skies overhead and wet leaves underfoot.

But sometimes there is sunshine in November (in fact my very first post on this blog was about winter sunshine). And there is such a lovely quality to autumn sunshine – it’s almost liquid, in that it seems to flow over things rather than ‘shine’ on them. And it’s the fleetingness, the unreliability of sunshine in November that makes it so lovely – a wash of syrupy light on the hill after a day of wet grey. And a small girl bringing me a blanket and announcing that she is ‘looking after Mummy’. The local supermarket having Mozartkugeln in on special – because if there’s one thing nicer than almond marzipan it’s almond marzipan *and* pistachio marzipan. Together. With chocolate. Our ‘outdoor’ cat deciding that it’s the time of year she becomes an ‘indoor’ cat – and that she has several months of cuddles to make up for. Little splashes of sunshine in November.

Don’t forget to pop over to John’s blog for some more splashes of sunshine.

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Weekword: Tea

There have been few Weekwords that provoke such an immediate and visceral reaction in me as this one does. To say that I love tea doesn’t really cover it, because it’s such a fundamental part of my life and my function as a human being, that it goes beyond love.

The British love affair with tea is well known. The first step to dealing with any trouble, trauma or tribulation, or any emotional upheaval or excitement is to put the kettle on. It is said that the National Grid almost collapsed after the World Cup final in 1966 – because the whole of England simultaneously sighed a deep breath and went to put the kettle on. The instinctive reaction wasn’t to crack open the fizz to celebrate, but to calm the shattered nerves with a cup of tea.

Source: ffffound.com via Sally on Pinterest

I am very British in this regard. I function on tea. Any wobble-headedness or confusion is blamed on excess blood in my tea stream. I can’t be expected to do anything complicated or involved until after my second cup of tea of the day. I am not a tea snob or a tea connoisseur – expensive tea is wasted on me. I drink strong Indian tea, from teabags, commonly known as ‘builders’ tea’, in a mug, with milk, no sugar. I do sometimes drink things like chai tea but to me they’re a different drink – they don’t hit my tea-spot. Mr B drinks Earl Grey, which is not, to my mind, proper tea*. I can’t be doing with green tea and only drink herbal ‘tea’ when I’m ill.

To sum up, there are few blessings in life to compare with that of a good cup of tea just when a cup of tea is needed. Hooray for tea.

Pop over to see Emma and check out the other participants this week.

* Which reminds me of my favourite joke… ‘Why did Karl Marx drink Earl Grey?’ ‘Because proper tea is theft.’ Thankyouverymuch…

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I was asked to make a birthday cake for a little boy’s 2nd birthday. He’s a Hallowe’en baby, so I was thinking of something spooky themed. So I was thrown slightly for a loop when Mickey Mouse was requested. I had a slight panic, and then got to planning.

I made three cakes – one biggish one for the face, then two smaller ones for the ears. (They could have done with being a bit smaller but I didn’t have the right tins.) I cut them to butt up against the head, and then iced the lot in black fondant icing. Then I mixed some ‘flesh colour’ (I don’t think anyone except Mickey Mouse actually has flesh that colour) for the face. Then came the features. I was getting a bit panicked about these, and then Mr S&S showed a previously hidden talent for sugar craft. Based on pictures of the dratted mouse online, he painstakingly made some very detailed templates – he has a steadier hand and infinitely more patience than me – and using these we cut out the remaining features.

Result: one cake that is, I think, recognisably Mickey Mouse. Hurrah for the husband and wife cake decorating team!

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Here are this week’s pictures for the photo scavenger hunt over on Ashley Sisk’s blog. No, I still haven’t managed to post on a Sunday, but Monday is an improvement. Baby steps…

Right, here goes.


This beautiful orchid was a gift from some friends. They clearly didn’t know of my track record with orchids, but I am hoping that this will be the one I fail to kill.


I love the colours of these pulses, and really enjoyed swirling them round to get different combinations of colour and shape.

In disguise.

This is a mask I bought in Venice – not one from the touristy mask shops that are everywhere, but from one of the few proper mask makers who work in papier mache. (The Italian for papier mache is ‘cartapesta’, which I think is a very pleasing word.) I chose a mask style called ‘La Civetta‘ (The Flirt) which is the type worn by the female characters in the Commedia Dell’Arte.


This is a vintage ‘Double Wedding Rings’ quilt that I picked up for a song on Ebay. I love the shapes, both of the pieces (the circles are made of various trapeziod and diamond shapes) and the geometric patterns on some of the fabric prints – and then of course, there’s the swirling shapes of the quilting.

Photographer’s choice.

This is a picture I took this week by the river. I really like the way the autumn colour is just coming in – the yellows and oranges pushing inexorably against the green.

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Weekword: Want

Yes, I’m a week late. I’m very sorry. It has been another one of those weeks.

The word ‘want’ can be used to mean ‘lack’ as well as ‘desire’ or ‘wish for’. And at the moment I find that I’m defining my life by the things I don’t have – they’re the things I want in both senses of the word.


I am not at my best when I’m not sleeping. Unfortunately, a combination of insomnia and a horrendous cough that has woken me up in the night for nearly a month means that ‘not at my best’ is an understatement. Frankly, I’m a zombie. Most of my conscious mind is focused on the fact that I’m tired. Yet here I am at 4 a.m. unable to sleep. It is not fun. But it is what it is.


I share a house with a four year old and a two year old. Enough said. Some of the noise is exuberance – chatting and singing and other such things, which are more bearable, but there is also quite a lot of rowing and squealing, which I cannot bear. I want a volume control for my children. Or a mute button.


My house always has a certain amount of clutter and chaos, but at the moment it’s at another level. The plumbing isn’t finished, so there are boards up and the contents of the airing cupboard on the landing and suchlike. But we’re also trying to declutter and sort out our stuff while we move our offices about – why does the process of throwing things away seem to result in more stuff? Why is tidying such a messy operation? Baffling. I have taken to repeating ‘We’ll get there in the end’ like a mantra. But actually, I hope we get there before the end. It would be rubbish to get there and have no time to enjoy it…

The bizarre thing is that despite the fact I’m tired and stressed and chaotic, my mind is bubbling with ideas. I want to make and do so many things but don’t have the time and space and energy. I’m satisfying myself with sketching and list making in my special ‘Ideas’ notebook, so that at least the inspiration doesn’t fizzle away.

Rose also participated in this weekword, but doesn’t want to host. If nobody else picks a word, I’ll go again on Monday.

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And here we are again, right up against the deadline! Here are this week’s pictures for the photo scavenger hunt over on Ashley Sisk’s blog.


This was a web I saw on the school gate when I dropped the Little Girl off. Fortunately I had my camera in my bag!

Found Texture

It has been a week for webs, because there were some on the tree when I took my ‘found texture’ picture.


Bit of an odd picture, this one – I shall explain. I love my home, but my favourite place, especially as the days get shorter, is my bed. It’s my place to hide from the world – not just for sleep, but to read, to dream, to sit with a sketchbook, and to have a cuddle and a chat with the husband – and the kids if they’ll stay still long enough. And when I look up from my bed, this is what I see. Our house is old, but these beams are older – you can see the notches in the main beam from where they have been used before.


I have alluded in the past to my love of notebooks. And anyone who has seen my Pinterest will know of my love of owls. So here are some friendly little chaps from the cover of a notebook I couldn’t resist buying.


One from the archive here! This is a tree that regular readers will have seen before – it’s the ancient apple tree outside my kitchen door so it’s been captured in all weathers. It isn’t very photogenic at the moment – strong winds have left it lopsided it desperately needs tidying up. So here it is earlier in the year.

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