Tuesday, 22 June 2010


This is the view I currently get as I go downstairs in the morning.

It brings light to my heart.

I love peonies and their endless tissue-papery layers.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Precocious eating

Some days I despair of my sons' eating habits. The older two are like Jack Sprat and his wife and enjoy completely different bits of each meal. And then the youngest manages to like all the things that neither of the others would dream of eating. I have days where I long for them all to eat pizza; never going to happen:

Son 1: "Too much cheese!"
Son 2 "Too much tomato!"
Son 3 "Is yucky!"

but then when we go to Carluccio's they will hoover up a plate of antipasti with enormous relish. How can they love marinated anchovies and yet retch at the mere mention of tuna? What have they got against peas? How is it that one of them loves only the insides of baked potatoes and yet won't touch mash - IT'S THE SAME THING!!!

So lunch today brought a happy surprise. Here is Guy (3) learning to love taramaslata. I'll just have to accept that they are precocious eaters.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Ten things I hadn’t expected to learn this week

  1. I can get from my front door in East Sussex to the Intensive Care Unit at Wansbeck District Hospital in Northumberland in 6 hours flat. Not a fact I’d ever planned on knowing, and certainly one I never want to verify again, but it’s been a hell of a week. My parents were on holiday in Northumberland when they were involved in a serious car accident. My father is being discharged today after exactly one week with a broken hand, injured wrist, cracked rib and extensive bruising. My mother has been moved from Intensive Care to the High Dependency Unit and is making great progress. We can’t wait to get her back to Sussex.
  2. It is approximately 200 paces between the Critical Care Unit at Wansbeck Hospital and the Orthopaedic ward, Ward 6.  I have walked that corridor many, many times this week.
  3. I never again want to hear the phrase “Given the velocity of impact…..” Too frightening to think about.
  4. I am more of an optimist than my two sisters, although I think there were moments last week that it seemed more like denial than optimism. I am hoping, however, that my optimism was justified as my parents are both making an amazing recovery.
  5. Laughter really is the best medicine, at least when your ailments aren’t physical. The three of us sisters have laughed a LOT in a last week, and I think it has kept us sane.
  6. My mother’s life doesn’t stop being busy just because she is lying in a hospital bed. She has been terribly worried about missing appointments or letting people down. She has scoured the pages of her diary hundreds of times this week in an effort to make sense of her current circumstances. There were times early on when in her head she was out shopping or on her way to pick up her grandchildren and however many times we told her not to worry, that everything had been sorted out, she still couldn’t let go. While many people would relish the idea of sitting quietly with nothing to do, my mother is certainly not one of them.
  7. My parents don’t travel light. The charge nurse in A&E who dealt with my parents when they were brought in by ambulance said he had never met anyone with so many things in their pockets as my father. Not only did he have a lot of pockets, there were objects in every single one of them which all had to be inventoried. When my sister went to clear out their car, it was the same story: every eventuality had been planned for – sun hats and warm hats, smart shoes and walking boots, fleeces and formal jackets, snacks and drinks, maps, guidebooks, reading books and newspapers. I suppose that after decades of travelling together they know exactly what they need, and what’s the point of being without it if you have room in the car?
  8. Having a rather expensive goose down pillow at home is lovely, but it pretty much guarantees a cricked neck when using hotel pillows instead.
  9. I rather like supermarket clothes. Having thrown a few things in a bag, it was a relief to have a 24-hour Asda near the hospital. Somehow it was easier to buy new clothes than work out how to find a launderette.
  10. I have full confidence in the NHS. I’ve always had good experiences with the NHS anyway (and we’re lucky to have an excellent GP in the village) but the care my parents – particularly my mother – have received this week has been outstanding. We were asked so many times by my father’s nurses about my mother’s progress and vice versa and we would also hear that their doctors had been liaising – it all felt like a very holistic process. Knowing they were receiving such good care certainly made a terrible week slightly easier. 

I’m sure I’ll learn new things this week too. I just hope they’re really mundane and boring and don’t involve those horrible adrenaline-fuelled lurches of dread and fear that we had so many times last week.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The meaning of flowers

For so many years a bunch of primroses would remind me of Mothering Sunday: lining up with all the other Brownies in church to have our bunch of primroses blessed before giving them to our mothers. Now, when I see the first tiny palest yellow buds in the garden, they always bring to mind this most precious of moments:

the minute my parents brought our older two boys back home to meet their new brother three years ago today. The boys gave me two lovingly gathered posies - more precious by far than all the bouquets of exotic flowers we received in the following days.

Happy Birthday, lovely Space Ranger. 3 today!

Thursday, 18 March 2010


I've been really pleased with my new range of bibs (note, it's heavy on the boy bibs. Wonder why?!). I found the beautiful dark navy polka dot fabric in the remnant bin at a fabric shop and can't stop using it. Thankfully I've now found a new supply as it is my current fabric of choice and seems pretty popular with customers.

I do have plans for some bibs without spots, but, I don't know, the spots are just such fun to sew with. I'm also updating my range of t-shirts, which sold really well over Christmas. Sewing them's not a problem, but photographing them on wriggly children is a whole different story!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Winter visitors

We thought we were done with the round of seasonal visitors, with Christmas and New Year all wrapped up and packed away for another year. And then today, sitting on the window-seat in the kitchen after lunch, we had  a visitor we had never seen here before. A redwing.

Hanging over the fence from our neighbour's garden is this truly amazing tree (I'd love to know what it is, by the way). It's one of those marvellous plants that excels in every season. It is still covered in red berries - so beautiful in the snow - some of which I "borrowed" to decorate the berry-less holly tucked behind the picture frames this Christmas. There are so many berries on there, we were convinced that the birds didn't like them, but from the numbers of redwings we've seen today (and also thrushes and blackbirds) it seems that one family of birds at least are partial.

I wondered if these birds had a collective noun, as many species do, my favourite being a charm of goldfinches (with which we are indeed charmed in our garden thanks to a large clump of teasels), a parliament of owls (such pomposity and wisdom!) and an exultation of larks. Unfortunately I could find no collective noun here for redwings, but maybe to myself I will know them as a surprise of redwings.

Apologies for the rather less than sharp photos; the light was going and I didn't want to startle them with a flash.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

On the bright side

Today has been one of those days that you can deal with in two ways: ranting-and-raving-isn’t- life-unfair-why-me, or becoming like Pollyanna. I read Pollyanna when I was about eight and like to think that some of her “I’m so glad, glad, glad” attitude has stayed with me. I know it drives some of the people around me mad but really, there are times when there is nothing you can do to improve a situation; getting cross just makes it worse, so why not just try to look on the bright side?

1. I suppose it all started with the Little Helper’s chicken pox. It was inevitable that he’d get it some time now he’s at nursery, although I expected it would be during term time and not right now, given that he hasn’t seen any other children for weeks. Still, at least he incubated it until Christmas and all celebrations were well and truly over. It made the school run a little tricky on Tuesday, though. In the end, I dumped the older two at the lollipop lady’s crossing and didn’t even need to get him out of the car, then at pick-up time I bundled him up and headed for a deserted patch of playground, in between all the groups of chatting mothers (ahem, actually this is what I normally do anyway, call me anti-social…). Perversely, or so I thought, he’s decided that this would be the week that he would finally get to grips with potty training. Nutter, I thought, you don’t feel well, you’ve got chicken pox, this will never work. But, in fact, it’s perfect, we’re not going anywhere anyway, so no embarrassing accidents, and besides now we’re onto number…..

2. The snow. So we’re not going anywhere because of the chicken pox and the potty training, and even if we wanted to we can’t actually get out of the drive because of the snow, so it’s all good. Except that we were expecting the lovely Ocado man to deliver our shopping today and he rang to say he’s stuck in Newhaven and can’t bring us our food. Bother. Except…

3. Not to worry, nowhere to put it anyway, the fridge has decided that today is the perfect day to break down. We’ve got plenty to tide us over and it gives me the impetus to clean out the fridge and use up all those little end bits of everything around the place. Might as well do the cupboards too. Bulgar wheat with a sell by date of 2006 anyone? No-one? Just as well, because I’m cooking it all up for….

4. The pigs. When I fed them this afternoon I used up all the pig-nuts in the bin where we keep their food. Looked around the shed for the next bag. None there. Stomped back up the garden to look in the garage. Nothing. Rang H at work. “Please tell me there’s another bag of pig-nuts somewhere”. “There is, it’s in the boot of my car”. Oh, yes, that would be the car abandoned at the station 5 miles away, up snowy hill and down icy valley to which I don’t have a key? Err, yes. Not to worry, we’ve got bulgar wheat, we’ve got wholegrain-risotto-rice- that-takes- 1 ½-hours-to-cook-that-was-on-special-offer-3-years-ago, we’ve got half a packet of pearl barley we only use once a year in turkey soup, we’ve got the cereal no-one actually likes…..

….those pigs are going to have a feast tomorrow. Not actually sure what we’re going to eat, but no doubt tomorrow will throw all sorts of other little surprises our way. Will I be able to deal with another day with such equanimity and Pollyanna-like poise? Hmmm.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Just for pleasure

A comment I read earlier today made me realise how little time I have spent in the past year sewing for pleasure. It's not that I dislike sewing for my business - of course not, otherwise I wouldn't do it, it's just that sewing for pleasure has become something of a luxury. Bizarrely I managed to find time just before Christmas to do just that - I sewed for pleasure and made a few things that made me happy this Christmas (incidentally the only Christmas for a long, long time that I made absolutely no handmade presents for anyone - I just bought them from other people instead).

For our first Christmas together, H and I bought what I thought of as a "Starburst" for the top of our Christmas tree from the Conran shop (ah, those were the days, lie-ins, weekend shopping, espressos along the way). It was a lovely pointy shiny star made of different coloured foils. I've since discovered that it's called a Polish Porcupine and there are instructions for making one here. We've used it every year since but sadly bits have been breaking off it and we decided that this year we needed something different. Thanks to a button and felt stash that needs some serious re-organising, I spent the weekend before Christmas putting this together:

it also featured on our Christmas Eve party invitation, although that was before I mounted it on the red and white background which it needed for it to be noticed way up there at the top of the tree:

Then, on Boxing Day, with the party and the Day under our belts, I got itchy fingers and knocked out a couple of these for the younger two boys. I know they're not going to want to wear Christmas t-shirts for much longer, so I'm making the most of it while I can (they drew the line at the mistletoe t-shirt I made last year. Kissing? Uggggh!):

This little helper now has chicken pox, cleverly mirroring the spotty pudding, don't you think?

So, a New Year's Resolution? Well, apart from the one I've made for the past 30-odd years (yeah, yeah, yeah, be tidier, more organised, hmmmm) maybe I need to do a little bit more sewing, just because I want to.