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Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

When I choose a word for Weekword, my choice is often based on what I’d like to see other people interpret; I rarely choose something because I’ve already had an idea for a post. This means I often find myself scrabbling around at the last moment trying to think of a post for my own word. But this choice was a bit different, because it came out of a thought I had on Monday.

We’ve been having pretty grotty weather here lately. It’s been chilly without that lovely autumn crispness. Drizzly rain that goes on and on, rather than downpours which fade into pale sunshine. Wet mist that doesn’t lift, just hangs around like a bad mood all day. When the weather’s like this, it’s easy to think that the outdoors is ‘nothingy’. It seems to be lacking – the temptation is to stay inside and ignore it. But sometimes that’s not possible (when one has a dog who needs walking and small people to get to school) and the outdoors must be faced.

I walked the Little Girl to the school bus on Monday, and turned to walk back to the house. My first instinct was to put my head down and get back through the grey drizzle as fast as I could, but something stopped me. Even on the greyest, most unprepossessing day, our little valley has something going for it.

The river wasn’t a low, clear trickle, singing its way over the stones as it is in summer, nor a thundering torrent as it is in winter. It flowed gently along, quietly, a thin brown like petrol station hot chocolate. The ground beneath my feet had gone to mud – in some places balletic leaps were required as I hadn’t worn wellies. There were no pleasant breezes or high winds, just a gentle buffeting which made leaves flump wetly from the trees. And the autumn leaves, without the sunshine to illuminate them, didn’t glow with that bright, joyous flame immortalised on all those photos of fall foliage. They glowed gently through the murk, like a fire banked down until the family return.

The elements – water, earth, air and fire – not in their pure, flamboyant state, but there nonetheless. Subdued and muted, perhaps, but not gone. Not nothingy.

I enjoyed the rest of my walk back to the house.

Why not go and see what the other Weekworders have come up with this week?

Margot

Natalie

Katy

Emma

John

Genskie

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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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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.

Purple.

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.

Food.

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.

Shapes.

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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My second week taking part in the photo scavenger hunt on Ashley Sisk’s blog and the second week that I’m posting on the last day. I actually had all the photos taken on time but real life got in the way of me posting. Anyway, without further ado, here’s my set for this week:

Words
This is from a dish belonging to some friends of mine – it’s calligraphy on wood, and I covet it, not just because it’s a beautiful thing, but also because it’s from one of my favourite bits of the bible.

(For those unfamiliar with both Latin and the bible, it translates as ‘I am black but comely O ye daughters of Jerusalem. Therefore the king delights in me’, and it’s from the Song of Solomon, which I think is some of the most beautiful love poetry ever.)

Under

Yeah, I wasn’t sure what to do with this one. I was clearing out the living room over the weekend – this is the collection of stuff I hauled out from under the sofa. (The little slippers, by the way, belong to the Little Boy, and were crocheted by my neighbour. We all have a pair – they’re toasty and have leather soles. She takes commissions!)

The presence of an Easter chick possibly indicates I should excavate under there more often…

Orange

It had to be the autumn colour for this – the rhus in the garden is ahead of the game when it comes to orange, and it’s looking glorious.

Fly
I had an idea for this one but didn’t have the time to do the necessary preparation. Part of the reason for this was the Little Girl’s birthday celebrations. She requested a butterfly cake, so from three cupcakes, a circular sponge, imperial quantities of cream cheese buttercream and glitter and sweeties aplenty, I fashioned this:

The only flying it did was into the tummies of small children (and their parents) but butterflies are flying insects, right?

Always look on the bright side

Te tum, te-tum-te-tum-te-tum… Does everyone think of Life of Brian, or is it just me?

Well, with the garden in upheaval and the wet and cold of autumn upon us, our garden is looking pretty sad apart from the orange rhus (above). But nestled by the back door in their pots are the last of the fuchsias, bravely providing a splash of colour and brightness:

Pop along to Ashley’s to see the other participants!

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Well, compared to last year’s flurry of preserving, we’re very quiet this year. Our apple trees seem to take one year on, one year off, and this is an off year. My polytunnel was invaded by red spider mite, so I have no tomatoes or courgettes. But through the wonders of Freecycle, I got hold of some damsons. Well, lots of damsons.

I wanted to make some jam. Last time I made damson jam, I believed the recipe when it said blithely that you didn’t need to stone them, just scrape the stones off as it cooked. Well, that might work for a small batch but not for a big one. By the time I got the blinking stones out, the jam had overboiled and set like a rock. So this year, I decided to stone them. I don’t have a cherry stoner. I did have several kilos of plums. Stoning them with a knife was going to take ages and, I realised, waste half the fruit because the stones weren’t coming away cleanly.

So I cheated. Damsons onto baking trays, like this:

and into the oven (at about 150C) for 10 minutes or so, so they look more like this:

This made them much easier to destone. I made the jam, which is stashed away in the larder. It’s not my year for perfect damson jam – the damsons were quite tanniny (they were all windfalls, so they were ripe – maybe it’s the variety?) so the jam is probably one to have with cheese rather than on toast. Still, onwards and upwards!

The good thing about the tannins is that I also made some damson gin. I imagine the tannins will be very effective there. Damson gin is lovely – not as popular as the ubiquitous sloe gin, but I like it just as much. Recipes vary – I use about half the weight of sugar to damsons. My proportions are something like: one pound fruit to half a pound sugar to just over a pint of gin (not very scientific, but that’s what my jars hold). I don’t stone the damsons, just prick them all over and put them in the jars, followed by the sugar, then top up with gin. I give it a good shake, and shake a couple of times a day until all the sugar’s dissolved. It won’t be ready for a good while, but it’s already looking promising:

Yum yum!

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Carola chose this week’s word. My first thought was a poem by Thomas Hood:

No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –
November!

And yes, there have been a lot of days like that recently – leaden grey skies, rain pelting at you sideways, wet mists that lurk about all day and never clear, bitter winds that seem to follow you indoors. I have watched the effects of the rain and frosts on the garden (and actually, that I don’t mind so much because the weeds are dying too…). November can sometimes feel like a waiting room between the crisp glories of autumn proper and the cosy festivities of Christmas, especially if it’s wet and windy.

But there are nice days, with weak sunshine filtering through the remaining leaves on the trees. And those days feel like gifts. And when it’s raining and miserable out, I don’t mind being buried, mole-like, at my desk. I don’t feel I’m missing anything; whereas I really resent my work on sunny summer days! And the cosy evenings spent by the fire, with a good film, family, sometimes friends, my knitting and the cats are just lovely.

And as I write this, it occurs to me that this is really what November has come to mean for me. When (as Mr Hood would tell you) outdoors is so often unhospitable, the home really comes into its own. It becomes a shelter from the elements – I’m glad to cross the threshold if I’m escaping the rain or the chill – but it also becomes the centre of the world for a little bit. My house is very old – the newest bits were added in 1806 and people have farmed the site since at least the twelfth century. I have felt for a while that living here – on an old farm in the middle of nowhere – has brought me more in tune with the passing of the seasons, because they really matter here. And as I plan the remainder of my Christmas knitting, make paper snowflakes with the Little Girl, and work out when I’m going to make my Christmas cake, what I’m actually doing is what all the women who’ve lived in my house have done every winter – shifting my concentration inwards, to the home, the hearth, the family. Spring and summer sent us outside – holidays, gardening, long evening walks, days out – and November brings us home.

Go and see Carola to find out who else has posted this week!

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One year on…

I have just realised that today is the first birthday of my blog. Since my first post, I have really enjoyed recording the things going on around me, the things I’ve made and some stray thoughts that I’ve pinned down. In the last few months I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of the Weekword and the cameraderie of the other Weekword bloggers. I love the comments that reassure me that I’m not just talking to myself. Looking back over the year’s blog has been fun – and when I think about all the ideas that I find I have bubbling, recording them on my blog is an integral part of that. Having the blog not only inspires me to record things but also to do some of them in the first place.

I can honestly say that keeping this blog has made me happier – or made me realise how happy I am. So if you’ve come along for any part of the ride, thank you.

I started posting with a picture of the autumn mists, and so today I shall share some more autumn pictures:

Even when it feels all grey and miserable, there’s bound to be some colour somewhere.

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