Monday, 29 December 2008

In-between time

The days between Christmas and New Year are an odd time.  Normal day to day life seems to be on hold as we celebrate the holiday for what seems like a very long time.  For many people this is a time to catch up with family and it is the highlight of the year, I wonder if I am the only one who thinks that Christmas just goes on a bit too long!

I love the winter solstice, the house full of greenery, lighting candles and the feeling that the darkest days are passing as the year turns on towards spring.  I enjoy getting the Christmas tree, cooking seasonal food and spending time cosy indoors with the family. Then by about this time every year, I've had enough and I want to resume my normal routine.  For us though, work/school doesn't start for another week - a week of in-between time.

Perhaps its my introvert nature, I like time on my own to think, to organise my time and to just potter quietly in the house letting my mind wander as I complete the day to day chores. I seem to need some down-time to recharge my batteries. The combination of four adults and a television squeezed into one room (the rest of the house is a bit chilly at this time of year) isn't really conducive to quiet and calm.

I'm not really grumbling, I do enjoy just spending time with my family and after all its just once a year.  In a weeks time, I shall be able to clear away all the trappings of Christmas and return the house to its boring, lived in normality - I'm looking forward to that!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008


We have just passed the shortest day and now the evenings are ever so slowly getting lighter.  I like this time, although the coldest winter weather is still to come, we are moving away from the darkest days.  The colours of the countryside are very soft and muted at this time of year. 

Without their covering of leaves the silhouettes of the trees contrast with the pale skies.

Although the quiet colours dominate outside, it is the more colourful evergreen plants that I bring into the house at this time of year.  I haven't been able to find much holly with berries this year, I think the birds ate them all during the cold weather earlier this month.  Instead I have picked this variegated foliage from the garden and mixed it with green ivy and twigs full of catkins. 

We bought our tree at the weekend and it is now taking up a lot more space in our living room than I intended - I think we got a bit carried away when we chose it and Christmas trees always seem to be bigger once they are inside!

My Christmas tablecloth is also inspired by evergreens.  This was embroidered by my great aunt although I don't ever remember seeing it used.  I often wonder why she used only red, I think I would have done the holly leaves in dark green.  Still, it certainly brightens up our Christmas table.

The Christmas preparations are almost finished, just a few more mince pies and a "chocolate log" to be made tomorrow and then theres nothing more to do except enjoy the holiday.

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Green Meme #1:

I have been tagged for this green meme by moonroot.

These are the rules:

2. Link to whoever tagged you

3. Include meme number

4. Include these guidelines in your post

5. Answer questions

6. Tag 3 other green bloggers.

I have to answer ten questions.

1. Name two motivations for being green

Firstly, I try to be green to minimise the impact of my life on the planet because I want it to remain a safe place to live for future generations.

Secondly, I've always liked things to be fair and those of us in the "developed " world take so much more of our fair share of the worlds resources. We are living unsustainably, using more than the planet can provide every year and I feel the way to tackle it is for us to consume less.

2. Name 2 eco-unfriendly items you refuse to give up

At the moment I don't feel ready to give up my car as it would make it so much more difficult to live where I do.

I love my morning coffee and coffee is not very eco-friendly.

3. Are you at peace with, or do you feel guilty about no.2?

Partly guilty about both car and coffee.

I have a small car and do well under the average mileage and it does enables me to make eco friendly choices like having an allotment to grow food and also being able to shop more sustainably even if the car itself is very eco unfriendly. Perhaps in the future there will be changes so that once agin it is easy to live in rural areas without cars. A hundred years ago my village had a dozen shops selling everything that was needed on a day to day basis while now we need to travel several miles. 

I could live without coffee but grinding the beans each day is part of my waking-up morning routine and that first cup is a favourite part of the day. I make sure that the coffee is organic and fairtrade but its still not a good eco-friendly choice.

4. What are you willing to change but feel unable to/stuck with/unsure how to go about it?

I would like to be able to do without the car but at the moment where we are living it would mean a real lifestyle change. Also I use the car to take the boys to sporting events and my eldest son to and from work so it would reduce the opportunities available to them as well. Maybe in a few years when they are independent I will be able to recoonsider, or perhaps if we move to a less car essential area.

5. Do you know your carbon footprint for your home? If so, is it larger/smaller than your national average?

I have done a few of these carbon footprint calculaters and as a household we are below the national average - about a third of the UK average. Our total is kept low (although not low enough) by driving a small ecconomical car, not flying, eating seasonally and locally, and also by the fact that there are four of us living in the house.

6.What's eco-frustrating and/or eco-fantastic about where you live?

Eco- frustrating = the reliance on the car, especially having to drive to my allotment, its eco-friendly to grow vegeatables but not when you have to drive to do so.

Eco-fantastic = having a garden even if its not very big and also living in a village with a railway station.

7. Do you eat local/organic/vegetarian/forage/grow you own?

I try to as much as possible. Ideally I would buy local organic produce but this is not always available or affordable. I choose local foods over organic foods which have travelled long distances. None of us is vegetarian although I am not a great meat eater. For family meals I cook meat usually about twice a week, we eat fish once or twice and the rest vegetarian. I don't forage much, just blackberries, elderberries and sloes. I grow vegetables and soft fruit on the allotment. In the garden I have two small apple trees, a crab apple, a grape vine and a plum tree. I also grow herbs and of course we have the chickens.

8. What do you personally find the most challenging in being green?

Sometimes it is easier not to be green and the greener options take more time, effort or money.  It can be difficult to maintain motivation when that happens. 

9. Do you have a green confession?

I am guilty of using my car for non-essential journeys. Most of the time I plan my journeys carefully, go to the allotment after work, visit the supermarket near to my sons sports practice etc etc but then sometimes I drive off on my own for a few miles just to get out of the house and walk somewhere different. One of the things I would miss if I did get rid of my car is the ability to get to remote quiet places in the countryside that can't be reached by public transport.

10. Do you have the support of family and/or friends?

Generally, yes, friends and family are supportive. Work colleagues think I am a bit mad though!

I now tag these three bloggers,  

Sunday, 14 December 2008

A day in my life

The 14th of the month is here already. Its a Sunday so no early morning wake up required. I had set my alarm for 8 o'clock though because I am feeling really tired at the moment and thought I might oversleep leaving the chickens locked inside their house. It was just as well I did as the alarm woke me from a deep sleep.

The morning here was misty and cold.

I went out into the garden in my dressing gown to let the chickens out into the run and then made a cup of tea and took it back to the warmth of my bed! I couldn't rest for long though because my younger son was playing in a lacrosse tournament and we had to leave the house soon after nine.

By ten I was back and with my older son having an extreme oversleep, I had a couple of hours to myself. I finished the last of my Christmas card writing. The cards which contain letters tend to get left to last but I was undisturbed this morning and they are all done.

I sat at the dining room table next to the doors to the patio and the chickens kept a close watch on my progress.

I made some soup and eldest son did manage to get up in time to join me for lunch!
Next, a phone call from youngest son to tell me the tournament was finishing early and could he please be picked up, so in the car again to fetch him. At home for about ten minutes and then out again to drive eldest son to work.
Back home I went into the garden to give the chickens some grain. I checked for eggs and found two. I was feeling tired and instead of taking the eggs into the kitchen and then sorting out the chicken coop, I put one egg in each pocket of my coat and then started work. This is a lesson in "more haste, less speed" and you can probably guess what happened next.... I complete forgot about the eggs and was leaning over the run when I heard a cracking sound - one crushed egg in my coat pocket! So much for saving time and effort, I then had to wash my coat which will take ages to dry in this damp weather, I really should try to slow down and do one thing at a time.

Time for some tidying and doing the lunch time washing up which I had left when I had rushed out to pick up after lacrosse. I had just about got everything straight and it was time to cook dinner. Only me and younger son tonight so I decided to keep it very simple, omlettes, with salad for me and with potato wedges for him followed by steamed apple pudding.
Its almost 8pm now, packed lunch for tomorrow is done, clean shirts are ready and we have cleared up after dinner so I have time to write this post. My husband has just phoned from Heathrow (he has been in America for a week) to let me know he has landed safely. He will get the bus from the airport and then I will pick him up from the station. I hope he manages to get a bus straight away because I have to pick up my son from work at 10pm and I have a funny feeling that I am going to need to be in two places at once.
That was my day, a rather disjointed, coming and going sort of day but I manged to get everyone where they had to be at the time they had to be there - well so far anyway!

Monday, 8 December 2008


It has been cold here although its not cold compared to many winter temperatures around the world. Early yesterday morning the car thermometer registered -5C.

The cold weather seems to bring with it colds and sore throats, so lemon and honey is being sipped throughout the day. Manuka honey is expensive so I keep a pot just to use when we have sore throats. There seems to be quite a lot of evidence that it helps with coughs and colds and I am sure that just because I think it will help, it probably does.

The chickens got special treatment too, not honey(!) but I did make them some warm porridge which they seemed to appreciate.

It stayed cold all day but as it was lovely and bright, I went for a short walk to enjoy the sunshine.

As usual I took far too many photographs.

In shady places the frost stayed all day. This little patch of moss looked very festive

and even in the middle of winter, the gorse is flowering.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Draught excluder

This is my first sewing project from Ginny and Alices' book. Although the focus of the book is on using recycled fabric, I had to buy mine as I didn't have anything suitable. I wanted to follow the pattern in the book using different fabrics and I found that buying a small pack of fabrics intended for quilting was the cheapest way to do this.

I wasn't sure about adding any embroidery with such patterned fabrics so I just played around with some stitching around the seam lines.

Apart from making curtains I haven't done any sewing for years but this little project was fun quick and easy - it might just make me do a bit more sewing in future.

The draught excluder is now in position stopping the cold air creeping under the living room door and keeping the room just that little bit warmer.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Knitting (and maybe sewing)

It is cold and wintry here, definitely scarf wearing weather. I really have enough scarves but that hasn't stopped me making another one.

A nice little project that was soon finished, I knitted this one sideways using some of the natural Shetland I spun back in the summer combined with some kidsilk haze in a very bright orange. I usually go for muted colours so orange is a bit of a change but I like it mixed with the soft natural colour of the Shetland yarn.

It is knitted in garter stitch with a few rows of yfd k2tog to give it a more open feel.

I changed between using both yarns together and then a couple of rows with each one separately - really I just made it up as I went along. I am pleased with the result, it is so soft and warm.

With the scarf finished I have another little project started, this time it involves sewing. I haven't done much sewing (other than mending!) for years but today I am hoping to make some progress turning this little pile of fabric into a draught excluder.

A perfect activity for a very grey, damp, cold Sunday.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Winter sunshine

Its been almost two weeks since I last posted. We are all fine, we have just been without the computer for most of that time. What was supposed to be a simple upgrade seemed to create more problems than it solved but I think we are all back to normal now. I am just very grateful that my husband is able to work these things out, I would have no idea where to start with computers.

We have had some cold weather lately and the transition from autumn to winter is now complete. The cold weather has brought clear blue skies and bright winter sunshine. The sunlight always seems more precious at this time of year, not only do we see it less often but somehow it seems more fragile, low in the sky casting long shadows.

At this time of year I always feel like hibernating. I find it increasingly difficult to get up in the dark mornings and there is a definite fall in my energy levels. I think this is a natural response of our bodies to the shorter, darker, colder days. For most of human existence there would have been a lot less activity in the winter months and people would have stayed inside for safety and warmth.

It is a downside of our busy lifestyles in the 21st Century that we don't have the luxury of slowing down anymore. Working hours are the same all year round and when it gets dark we just switch on a light and keep going.

Perhaps as fuel prices increase and fuel shortages kick in we may return to more seasonal living making use of the natural hours of daylight for our activities and finding time to rest in the darkness.

One thing which works for me when I find myself suffering from the "winter blues" is time spent outside, so while I like to curl up inside on damp grey days, if a sunny days coincides with a non-work day, I'll use any excuse to go for a walk.

Theses photos were taken last week, there is still a lot of light and colour in the countryside when you take time to look at the details.

I spotted these emerging celandine plants amongst the fallen oak leaves. Celandines are such cheerful spring flowers but I've never seen their leaves this early, a reminder that even as we shiver through winter, spring is on its way.

Friday, 14 November 2008

A day in my life

This months "day in my life" seems to have come round very quickly. Today was a very ordinary day but then that was really the point of this project - to create a record of normal, routine, ordinary days rather than just noting the important dates and occasions which we tend to remember.

Friday is a work day for me and so it was the usual routine, alarm at 6:15am, a cup of tea, then packed lunches to make, soup to reheat to take to work in a flask, chickens to be let out, washing to be hung on the line, dinner to be put in the slow cooker .... sometimes I feel as if I've done a days work before I even leave!

Work was busy but not rushed and by half past three I was home again. There was a lovely smell of lamb casserole when I opened the front door which was very welcoming. The best thing about a meal from the slow cooker is that I don't have to do anything when I get home and I was able to sit down and chat with the boys while knitting.

This is the knitting that is taxing me at the moment. I have an idea in my head of a long skinny jumper to wear with jeans but what I am knitting is not matching up with the picture in my head. I have redone the neck twice and now I've decided that I don't like the ribbing and it might be better looser with some sort of hem. I do like the narrow edging to the neck though

and I'm quite pleased with the stranded colour knitting,

I just haven't got the rest of it right yet. Sometimes knitting just goes right and it turns out as I imagine it, yet another time it just doesn't seem to happen - perhaps I should stop for a while and knit another pair of socks!

After much tea, chat and knitting it was time for dinner, a half shoulder of lamb cooked with potatoes carrots and kidney beans. Lamb seems particularly good cooked slowly, it becomes really tender and just slips of the bone.

Now in the evening I am drinking Rooibos Tea and writing this post. My husband and the boys are watching TV downstairs and I am enjoying some solitary time with the computer.

I'll end with this photo which I took a few hours ago just so I have a record of the wonderful colour of this amaryllis.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Six random things

A couple of weeks ago I was tagged by moonroot for the "six random things" meme. I haven't done one of these for a while so I've decided to play along.

The rules are:

  1. Link to the person or persons who tagged you.
  2. Post the rules on your blog.
  3. Write six random things about yourself.
  4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
  5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
  6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

So, my list of six random things

  1. I was born and lived the first eighteen years of my life in Somerset. I left to go to university and never went back and although I've lived in Berkshire for over half my life, I still think of the West Country as home.
  2. I have rented my allotment for twelve years now. When I first started growing vegetables, it was not so fashionable and there were lots of empty plots, now the site is full with a waiting list.
  3. I don't know whether gardening is hereditary(!) but both my grandfathers grew vegetables and my great grandfather was head gardener at a large country house.
  4. My father is a keen photographer and had a darkroom at home. He gave me my first camera when I was about five. I still have a little packet of black and white photos that I took at that time.
  5. I have been knitting for about as long as I have been taking photographs. Both my grandmothers were keen knitters - perhaps knitting is hereditary as well!
  6. I write a lot of lists, shopping lists, to do lists, menu plans, planting lists - I think that may be why this meme appealed to me.

I now have to tag six people. I have chosen

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Not fireworks

No fireworks for us tonight although I can hear some in the neighbourhood. We must be getting very boring in our old age because not only are we not marking bonfire night, we completely ignored Halloween as well!

When the boys were little we always had a few sparklers on 5th November and went to the school bonfire but we have never really celebrated Halloween. I think it has only become very popular over the last few years and the boys have never shown much interest.

So as I have no seasonal pictures of bonfires, fireworks or pumpkins, I am posting photographs which are a bit firework-like!

I took these (and loads more, it proved quite addictive) from the car as we were driving one evening. I was a passenger by the way! I turned the flash off on the camera and then photographed lights while moving the camera. These are a mixture of street lights, car headlamps and brake lights.

It was good fun to experiment with different effects and light levels, perhaps not quite as much fun as real fireworks though.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Traffic light trees

Acers in sunshine - isn't autumn wonderful?

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Surprise snow

This was how my car looked last night just before 11pm when I went to collect my son from work. I hadn't looked out of the window during the evening so this was a total surprise.

I don't ever remember snow this early in the year. According to the news it is the first time that it has snowed in London in October since 1934.

It was cold last night so the snow was still here when we woke up this morning. It was a bright sunny day and the countryside looked beautiful.

When it snows in winter the trees look pretty with their bare branches outlined in snow. Now the trees are still in leaf so there is a strange mixture of autumn colour and snow. This beech tree looked stunning in the sunshine.

The leaves of the oak trees were all frozen, I expect they will fall quickly now.

In the bright sunlight the icicles on the twigs were melting rapidly but the shade temperatures were cold today and there is still quite a covering of snow in the garden.