Archive for the ‘List it Tuesday’ Category

What a brilliant prompt Aimee chose for this week! This blog is all about accentuating the positive, and so this has come at precisely the right time for me, because where I live is currently somewhat chaotic. We’re doing a spot of reorganisation. We’ve cleared out an upstairs storeroom to make a laundry room. This has necessitated the banging and scraping involved in new plumbing and the heaving about of the washing machine. I’ve just been told that because of a ‘vibration mounting’ (oo-er missus!) I can’t do any laundry for two days. I am, as you can imagine, heartbroken. We’ve also discovered that the chimney is leaking smoke and carbon monoxide into our bedroom so we’ve got to get it lined before we can light the woodburner. I’m also rearranging the playroom to make a proper family room, clearing a lot of stuff that was lingering in corners of the hall, and then I need to sort my office so I can move it up to the attic, thereby making space for Littlest S&S to have her own room (eventually). Then we’ll be finishing the new bathroom and putting in a new kitchen – our current one doesn’t suit the way we cook and the amount of stuff we have (my baking stuff alone could fill half the available storage) so that will be all change.

Yes, it’s exciting, but the process of planning changes on this scale means that you, of necessity, focus on what doesn’t work, what drives you mad, what needs changing. So, thank you, Aimee, for a timely reminder to do a spot of Blessing Counting.

For those who are not regular readers, I live in an old farmhouse in the middle of Wales. Nobody really knows how old the house is. We know the kitchen is the newest part and was built in the very early 19th century. (It’s the only room to have a damp-proof course). The oldest bit was probably a Welsh long barn and could be very old indeed. There have been people farming here since at least the twelfth century, and probably longer. The sense of history is one of the things I love – the feeling that other women have lived their lives here, brought up their children, done their laundry and swept their floors and tended their gardens and hens. And probably sat by the fire with their knitting or sewing at the end of the day. They are probably looking at me with my washing machine and dishwasher and muttering that I don’t know I’m born. I love sitting in bed, looking at the beams in the ceiling, beams that have been there for hundreds of years, but still have notches in them from where they were used before. How many people have sat under these beams, slept there, dreamed there? Yes, the house is cold, and old houses take seemingly endless maintenance and special paint and so on, but it’s worth it.

I love the river. It runs by the house – when the river’s full we can hear it from the kitchen – and one of our ways out is over a footbridge. I love the various moods of the river and how it changes over the seasons. When the river’s low, there are pebbly ‘beaches’ where we can sit, and the children paddle in the shallows of the clear, sparkling river and spot fish. When there’s been heavy rain, and the river’s full, it roars along at top speed, sometimes bearing branches – or whole trees – as it goes. The beaches are long gone, as are the river banks, under feet of swirling brown-grey water. Then the water subsides and the banks are covered with flattened grasses. And then in winter, the edges freeze and the banks are stippled with white.

I love the remoteness. I love the peace and quiet. We do have the rumble of the odd lorry on the road in the distance, and we also have the RAF practising low flying from time to time – a Tornado going over at less than 200ft is not restful – but generally it’s very peaceful here. Some visitors from the city complain that they can’t sleep as it’s ‘too quiet’. I love being surrounded by nature and the way it’s brought me an appreciation of the passing of the seasons. And I love the proper dark. There’s no light pollution so on a clear night the stars can be breathtaking.

I love the view from my back door. Winter or summer, rain or shine, I absolutely count the blessing of this view every day of my life.

I love the community of living in a rural area. I love knowing my postmen by name. I love seeing lots of people I know when I go into town. I love knowing that if I need a lift, a half hour’s babysitting or a parcel collecting, there are a dozen people I can ask. Yes, there’s gossip and the occasional generations-old family feud that can trap the unwary newcomer, but generally, I love the ‘everyone knows everyone’ thing.

I love the space. There’s room for the children to run around, for friends to come and camp, for parties and bonfires. We have decent sized rooms and big cupboards and store rooms that can be made into laundries. Yes, this sense of space often manifests itself, day to day, as frustration – a garden so big I’ll never get it under control, and a big house that takes an age to clean and has infinite corners to accumulate clutter and dust and cobwebs. (Argh, the cobwebs in old houses! That’s one thing I do not love.) But we will chip, chip, chip away and get things closer to how we want them, and in the meantime, we have space to run about and space to keep all our stuff in while we sort out which we actually need to hang onto. And the space brings possibilities. There are so many things we can do – obviously, doing them is another matter. But the possibility is a wonderful thing. And I’ve got the rest of my life to explore it.

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Aimee’s List it Tuesday prompt for this week is ‘I’m a sucker for….’

Here’s my list. I was hoping to illustrate this with photos but the camera has gone walkabout. Anyway…

Yarn. Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? I’m very open about the fact that I find yarn very hard to resist. I love the colours – bright jewel colours, soft muted tones, solids and variegated colourways. I love the textures – fluffy soft angora blends, slippery silks, lovely lofty wools, sheeny bamboo mixes. I love fat squidgy yarns and tape yarns and yarns with a bit of sparkle. I find yarn shops irresistible. This is why I have so much yarn. And of course, each ball or hank or skein contains so much raw potential. It can be almost anything. Sometimes I buy yarn with a pattern in mind, but other times something sings at me and begs to be taken home, where it waits for the right project to come along. Sometimes it waits a very long time.

Colour. I suppose that conveys that I’m a sucker for colour. I love colour. I admire people who furnish their homes entirely in neutrals, and in magazines they looks so calm and restful, but I couldn’t live in them. I love putting colours together. I love playing with yarn and fabrics. I love icing and decorating cupcakes and fiddling with my colouring pastes and a load of sweeties. I love settling down with a cup of tea and some paint charts. I have dozens of nail varnishes I’ve bought because I couldn’t resist the colour.

Sparkles. At heart, I’m a magpie crossed with a seven year old girl. I love a bit of sparkle. Hence my love of sparkly pens and beads and edible cake glitter.

Books. I love books and have them in almost every room. I can’t pass by a second hand bookshop, and scan the bookshelves of charity shops. And when I need a little treat I go and have a little splurge on Amazon. I have written before about my adoration of the public library. I have piles of books I’ve yet to read or cook, sew or knit from, but I still accumulate them. (I do give books away, though – if a book isn’t going to be read again it goes to the charity shop. I have picked up so many of my own favourites from charity shops that it seems churlish to hold onto a book that might otherwise be someone else’s favourite.)

Stationery. Paper, notecards, pens and pencils. Post its, paperclips, markers and highlighters. Files and folders, subject dividers. I love it all. I adore stationery. Even boring office stationery. One of my favourite things about running my own business is doing the stationery order. My husband lets me do his stationery order too.

Shells and pebbles. I cannot go to a beach without coming back with a bag of shells or pebbles. I just can’t. There are consequently bowls of shells all over the house. I have just started collecting sea glass too.

Tea. ‘Cup of tea?’ ‘I’ve got one thanks… oh, but I’ve nearly finished it. Go on then, I’ll have another…’.

Soft furnishings. I drive my husband mad with this. I adore bedding. I have more sets of bedding than we could possibly need but I love it. I’m making the bed on a bright, crisp day? White cotton bedding. Dreary and dark? The deep red, or the cheerful floral. And cushions! God, I love cushions. My husband says we have too many and often flings them on the floor with an exclamation ‘Bloody cushions! They get everywhere!’ but we do not have too many cushions. Such a thing is not possible.

Shoes with a strap across the instep. I have high heels with straps across the instep. And flats. And slippers. I even have trainers with straps across the instep. I don’t consciously choose them, but they leap out at me. I have more than one friend who refers to shoes with straps as ‘Sally shoes’.

Baby clothes. I am a complete sucker for baby clothes. Completely. I try to keep it under control but I am so, so glad when the baby needs pyjamas or vests. Or socks. And I do sometimes weaken and buy tops or pinafores or dungarees (Dungarees! Who can resist a baby in dungarees?) because they are too cute not to.

Salted caramel. Mmmmm. I deeply regret the day I put ‘salted caramel’ into the Pinterest search box. Don’t do it, people.

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Aimee over at Artsyville has started doing LIT again, which is good. It dwindled a bit when I hosted it, and then even I stopped doing it when Littlest S&S was on the way and I had my blogging hiatus. I thought, ‘Ah, I must join in next week’, and then I saw that today’s topic for LIT is creative things I can do in 15 minutes or less. And I decided that I just had to have a go.

So, off the top of my head, here’s a list of creative things I can do in 15 minutes… or less. I have interpreted ‘creative’ to mean anything that feeds the part of the mind and soul that wants to make and be, rather than do. The part that deals with possibilities, rather than mundanities. Here goes.

1. Make chocolate crispy cakes. I frequently have a panic when I realise a small person needs to take cakes to school, and this is what I end up doing. Quick, cheap, and endlessly customisable – the good old standard milk chocolate, or white chocolate and coloured sprinkles for girly cakes, or dark chocolate with crystallised ginger for grown ups, add eggs to make Easter nests… marvellous things. And yummy. Everyone loves them.

2. Crochet. I love crochet as it’s not row-bound, like knitting. If I’m knitting something big, or complex, a row can be a commitment – I can’t pick up the needles unless I know I can get to the end of a row. I have learned from experience that bad things happen if I do. But crochet – that’s different. One stitch on the hook, one stitch to keep track of, so it’s pick-up-and-put-downable. I’m currently making a stripy blanket and it’s lovely to take 5 – or 10 – or longer – and do a little bit.

3. Take some pictures. There are times when I want to take a break from the routine – and so I grab the camera and take some pictures. There’s always something there, if you look. And knowing you don’t have long focusses the gaze.

4. Write a word list. This is getting a bit meta; a list on a list – but sometimes when I have things in my head and no time, I’ll just write a list of single words. It is surprisingly effective at keeping the juices flowing.

5. Sing. This is a multitasking-type action. Even if I have to sort the washing or do the school run or take the bins out, I can sing at the same time. For full effect, the singing must be loud. Fortunately I have no neighbours. Although I do startle the postman, on occasion.

6. Paint my toenails. I am not a painter. I can’t draw – although that doesn’t always stop me – but painting my toenails – choosing the colour, playing with the brush, cleaning up the edges, spending the next hour looking at my feet and smiling – does seem to hit the button!

7. Colouring in. I may not be able to draw, but I do like colouring in. And having small people in the house means there’s always colouring stuff about. And they do colouring books for grown ups now, which is rather good. It’s the Little Girl’s birthday soon and I’m pondering a big box of Crayolas. I know she’ll love it – but maybe I should abandon pretence and get some for myself as well. They can sit with the Sharpies, the Triplus fineliners and the coloured pencils…

8. Blogging. Apparently, write a blog post in 15 minutes. I’ve been timing myself…

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I’ve had some requests for more garden posts, so I thought here was a good place to start. Spring has sprung with an absolute vengeance and there is blooming and greening and all sorts.

Some primulas:

And some primroses:

Cherry blossom:

And apple blossom:

The lilac – the smell from this is heavenly:



The bluebells are out:

As are the violets:

And a bit of cheating to make up ten, as this beautiful specimen isn’t in my garden, but someone else’s. Although it’s so beautiful I may have to get one:

Anyone else made a list today?

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The garden has been harder and harder to manage, so we decided to bite the bullet. We hired a digger for a week (and a dumper truck for a weekend) and have dug over huge areas, so we can start all over again. The big flower bed? Flat. The veg garden? Gone. The yard? Scraped clean. The muckheap and compost heaps? Gone. And in this process, we’ve made some discoveries…

The garden does currently look as though we’re recreating the key battles of WW1, but I’m confident that it’s the first step towards a garden we can live with – and live in, and love.

Did you make a list today?

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List it Tuesday

… no list from me today – I’m under the weather and have been struggling through the day. If you’ve made a list, though, do post a link in the comments.

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I have been doing some unusual work this week. Well, unusual for me. I’ve been writing sound effect briefs for children’s computer games. This means that I get sent files showing me the animations and I have to decide what all the sounds should be, and then write that down in such a way that the clever folk who make the sound effects can understand what I mean. This is quite good fun, but it’s not always easy. Sometimes my imagination has been stretched to come up with convincing sound effects for these:

If you made a list this week, pop a link in the comments!

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