Sunday, 18 November 2012

making christmas pressents - son's blanket

For the last few weeks Ive been sat, feet up, quietly knitting long into the evenings making a blanket for the boy in time for xmas.  Here is the end result, stitched up and finished. Its now wrapped up ready for the 25th.

This is the first time I've knitted patterns and designs into a piece and even though I made mistakes with my measuring and counting its turned out ok

Detail of the stripes.
the entire blanket measures 4x4ft

detail of the "deathflake" I cant remember where I found this pattern Ive had it filled away for so long.

The blanket is double sided and the edges neatened with crochet.

Folded waiting to be wrapped.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

A new route

I always run the trails through the woods finding it infinitely more satisfying than pounding the pavement with the local running group. I get a really good workout, even if I only walk the route and for the last two runs Ive mostly walked this woodland trail. I can often hear its residents going about their business. Yesterday a woodpecker high up in the trees. Squirrels foraging amongst the leaf litter and all manner of small birds. On very rare occasions I spot deer and buzzards when running through the meadow.

I love it. The steps that tire me out and leave my legs aching, the track that runs alongside the derelict fort I often dream of exploring. The hidden remnants of WW2 defenses poking out from beneath the mass of glossy harts tongue and feathery fronds of lady-fern. Yet for the next few months I need a new route. One that is a little drier and wont lead to me wading ankle deep  through mud. One that will still let me enjoy the trees, the solitude and the challenging terrain that wears me out so well. One that will make me want to come out and run.  I think I may have found it.  Just a short walk away, across a brook, through trees towering over a narrow track and through an unassuming gate.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

sunshine, showers and gardening

Taking time out to tend to the garden is one of those pleasures I just cant get enough of. Even with winter fast approaching there are no end of jobs to do on my plot. Im not quite sure how big it is. My neighbour suggests its somewhere around a 1/3 of an acre in total - including my front grassy lawn and the plot the house stands on. some days it doesn't feel big enough, others too big.

At least a 1/3 of my garden is still over grown with brambles. Another 1/3 knee high grass and the rest is slowly being turned in to an assortment of raised beds for vegetables and herbs. Its a slow process with the heavy clay soil requiring a lot of work to dig out the weeds, mostly ivy and brambles.

Pots were scrubbed and put away in the old recycling box ready for spring. The boy cleaned his tools ready to go back in the shed until the spring before he digs anymore holes!

I began building a raised bed out of all the house bricks found around the garden. With plans to sink all the various types of mint I have into it in spring saving a lot of watering in the summer months. I first need to get a decent mix of homemade compost into the bed. Its in an ideal spot right next to the back door. It gets a decent amount of sun and shade in the early evenings, an almost perfect spot for them. I'll spend the next week finishing it off between rain showers.

Roses were pruned. A little weeding tended too. The leaves were swept from the path, some spread over shrubs and the rest bagged for spring. Bird feeders were refilled and tied firmly to new spots in the garden and I even had time to wash the outside of the windows probably for the last this year.

Its not quite ready for winter. Its getting there with jobs slowly being ticked off the list.

Monday, 29 October 2012

keeping busy

It doesn't look that appetising!
 Chutney slowly cooking. This one is made from apples given to me by one neighbour, tomatoes that failed to ripen by another and a bag of courgettes reduced down to 50p in the local shop. Appearances can be deceiving and this super chunky chutney is really good!

 Stripey and wavy scarf  finally finished. it was over 15ft in total. In the end I folded it in half and stitched it back to back to make a double thickness scarf and to stop it curling in on itself! This one is to be given away as I've knitted yet another in the same yarn - different pattern - for myself.

Last lot of haws gathered over the weekend simmering with vinegar to make a haw ketchup. First batch tasted really good and has all been used up!

Who can resist a cup of tea and a delicious new teapot?

 I spent an evening untangling all this yarn and for £1 a ball instead of the usual £5 it was worth it! When I get a chance this will make me 2 new pairs of socks or maybe one pair of socks and a pair of gloves.

Autumn Woodland Walk

A few photographs from this weekends walk. Lovely and sunny but bitterly cold with the wind. The woods provided a lot of shelter and gave us a chance to explore and forage for the last of the autumn berries.

I think this is a Birch polypore. This one was as big as my hand.
Sweet chestnuts still ripening.
Fighting the squirrels for the tiny number of sweet chestnuts this year. Just like the apples the sweet chestnut trees were laden with nuts last year, this year we've struggled to find them and those we have found the squirrels had first.
My favourite tree. Its trunk roughly a metre across.
My guess this is one of the oldest trees here, just behind it hidden by the bushes is an old dry stone wall. These woods were originally market gardens gardens and farm land growing everything from strawberries, rhubarb and daffodils and they would then send the harvested produce by river to the train stations. A few of the boundary walls are left, hidden beneath the undergrowth. Cast iron gates are slowly decaying amongst the thriving trees and if you look carefully you can see the old stone gate posts. I walked down what was once perhaps a right of way between the farms. The trees towering over on both sides growing between the stone walls and the path beneath my feet slowly being washed away down to the slate once quarried just a few miles away.

pine cones gathered ready for christmas wreaths and deocrations,
These will be dried out allowing them to open.
A patch of the woodland has been taken over by pine trees. Thick layers of pine needles litter the floor and not much else grows. The odd fungus grows on a decaying pine and squirrels come for the pine seeds. Once they've gone, not even the birds bother much with these trees.
Pine trees. Squirrels were already in the trees
tearing at the pine cones for the seeds.

fallen leaves outside my house.

Friday, 26 October 2012


Today I woke with the best intentions, a morning walk in the woods to gather sweet chestnuts and then the rest of the afternoon to work in the garden. The weather has put a halt to those plans, bitterly cold, windy and very very wet!

Instead I plan to sit here at my desk and tackle to long list of jobs. I have had this list since since June. Many have been crossed off and yet more added. Its safe to say it is a work in progress!

I have a lot of small sewing jobs that need finishing. I'll get to those first, then there is the cleaning. I'll be doing that room by room, locking them up as I finish. It is the only way to save my sanity with the boy.

I have more photographs to mount and frame. Then they can be returned to the freshly (july!!) painted walls in my bedroom freeing up some much needed space.

There's an illustration idea I need to work on. Some small book binding projects. Books I need to find homes for. I want to cross as many jobs off that list as I can today freeing up tomorrow for all those jobs listed in the garden.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Recipe: Laksa

I first had this dish a few years ago from a street food stall in London. I couldn't for the life of me remember its name and only had a vague recollection of it. 32 hours in London with little sleep and I could just about recall the deep fried tofu, creamy coconut and ginger sauce and citrusy hit of lime.

I began hunting for it, looking for a dish that best matched the one I'd enjoyed to no avail. In the end I merged two very easy recipes and came up with my own version of this laksa - a spicy Malaysian noodle soup.

laksa, photo taken by yuri
here's how to make it :

Spice paste

1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 chili - I use a mild red chili
2 inch piece of fresh, peeled ginger sliced thinly
1tsp tumeric
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 lemongrass stalk, sliced and crushed or 1tsp of lemongrass paste
1tsp ground coriander


1 pint of stock - vegetable or chicken are best
1 can of coconut milk
noodles - either egg or rice noodles will work.
firm tofu - dipped in well seasoned flour and fried.
vegetables - I add vegetables depending what I have at home or whats in season. sweetcorn, mange tout, cherry tomatoes, courgette and mushrooms all work well.
Fresh, chopped coriander
Fresh lime juice
handful of chopped mint leaves


First prepare the tofu for frying.  Drain the liquid and set it on a cloth to let the last of the liquid drain.

Gently fry the onion in a little oil until softened adding the garlic, ginger and other spices to create an aromatic paste.

Add the mushrooms and other vegetables and cook for a few minutes before adding the stock and coconut milk.

I bring this to the boil. turn the heat down until its just simmering. then add the noodles (prepared to instructions!) chopped coriander and a squeeze of lime. Take it off the heat, with the lid on.

While waiting for the noodles, coat the drained tofu slices in well seasoned flour and fry in oil until a crispy golden colour. about 3-4 minutes each side.

ladle noodles and sauce into bowls with a fried tofu and chopped mint on top. serve.

Saturday, 22 September 2012


Yes, I'm uttering that dreaded word. The one that has slowly been creeping into hushed conversations and dark corners of the supermarkets since early September.

As a single parent of one and tight budget I have to think about these things early. Im grateful the boy is still young enough to not want the expensive gadgets his friends seem to want. He has no obsessions the other boys in his class do and I can get away with so much! This year has been easier. hand knitted hat, a new scarf and some DVDs. I plan to buy him a new scooter and a helmet. His current ones are getting too small and he does use it on the way to school everyday.

I've put aside a box and started adding food, jars of chutney and jam I've made specifically for that month! Chocolates and biscuits were added last week when finding them on offer and Ive replenished the store cupboard with a lot of extras should the weather get bad enough or I get too sick to go out. last year I fell ill with 3 chest infections and barely had the energy to take the boy to school. this year im going to be prepared!

The usual autumn preserving is carrying on with jars collected from friends and neighbours. Blackberry vodka has been bottled and labeled ready for winter celebrations (i'll post the recipe as soon as i get a spare moment) sloe gin is still in the cupboard I hope to bottle it soon.

We are picking the last of the blackberries, making use of haws, rowan and sloes for a fantastic hedgerow jelly and already putting plans in place for next spring. With new, deeper raised beds and a new patch for the strawberries.

I'll be making a start on christmas cards soon getting the boy on board to help. Thankfully this year I dont have many to send! Then new decorations - last year a lot were damaged when the loft had to be quickly emptied in early spring.

fun with a bird table!

Another Saturday and finally autumn seems to have kicked into gear. It has been one of those slow, productive days. The boy and I erected a temporary feeding station for the birds. Sadly the bird table I bought just isnt up to standard! it needs some minor work to make it usable.

I weighed up sending it back and asking for a refund - I ordered online and I guess this is one of the risks you take when ordering goods over the internet. Instead of sending it back, at a cost to me with postage I've decided to make the repair myself. The stand just isn't wide enough to sustain it in any kind of breeze. A minor job to get it 'functioning'. It has however made me wonder just how many faulty goods are sent back and what on earth do they do with them? not everyone has the skills or the tools to do these kind  of repairs. A little disappointing to think they might end up in landfill.

For now the bird table will sit indoors until i can get out to get some new screws and while I'm at it some wood preservative.

With that let down we decided it was time to get back out and forage. haws for ketchup and jam, sloes for yet more gin, blackberry, rowan and what ever else i can get my hands on to turn into jams and sauces!

First we tucked into good cheese and pickle sandwiches opening a jar of green tomato and courgette chutney I made last month. I had made this batch up with regular sugar rather than brown sugar and I have to admit, its pretty damn good for a light chutney. Im going to experiment using regular sugar as its cheaper especially if there is little difference in taste. The colour however did look interesting!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

reflecting on the year

It has been a crazy, tumultuous year here at number 32. Illness, money worries amongst a whole host of other misfortunes and lost opportunities. It can be hard not to dwell on them, to find a positive spin on life when everything seems so miserable and depressing, especially when for a while things begin to look up and then crash back down around you.

Its finding those little sparks and flourishes, the smiles and quiet moments that make life a little bit more worthwhile. The things you've forgotten amongst the hardship that should be savoured.

This year there was so much I'd forgotten I had achieved and enjoyed.

I gained a qualification. Proof I'm good at what I do and honestly I need a massive kick up the backside when it comes to belief in myself.

There was the day spent roaming around an organic farm. Picking up hints and nifty tricks I've put in place here in my own makeshift organic garden. Theres still much work to be done but its in a far better state than this time last year! An achievement in itself.

The quiet days on the beach, the photography trips, foraging and jam making. They are all things that get drowned out in the haze at the back of your mind when you have so much else to think about.

I guess I need to slow down. take a few good days off and plan something just for me? forget about the projects building up or sons health and just.. be.

Monday, 3 September 2012


September is finally here and I always feel like its the start of a 'new year', the best time to start something fresh for the year ahead. i always stick to plans i put into place now than any other time of the year. The late few weeks of summer we always get in September, the start of the harvest, jam and chutney making amongst everything else have a lot to do with it. Keeping busy gives you less chance to fail it seems.

This month I'm on a mission to reduce the amount of stuff in my home. Over the years it seems to have grown exponentially. For years I lived such a minimalist life. I could cram all my possessions into just 6 boxes. Now, Id be hard pushed to fit it all into the back of lorry. Its one of the joys of having children. I often ask myself how much stuff do I really need?

With impending building works and a complete redesign of my home to fit with how I use it. It sounds extreme but something has to give. I cant possibly, nor do I need half the stuff I have in my house. There is just too much. Proper storage will go a long way to solving my problems *laughs* storage, yes that is a sign you have too much stuff! 

My problem is my work, I have a lot of stuff i need to work. I have boxes, stacked and filled with my art supplies. a decent way to store them would free up room, make it easier not only to get access to them and work faster but to also live in this house.

Im not after extreme minimalist living, I've read blogs by people who own just 100 items. My books alone would fill that and I'm far from ready to give up my entire collection for digital copies.

Today I made a decision. Some of the books had to go. I did make it easy on myself. kept it simple and sorted my fiction books into piles - read, read and will read again,  unread, unread and will never read. I now have a suitcase full of books by the front door awaiting a trip to the charity shop. I also have a self imposed ban, no new books until the unread pile has gone!

I didn't realise I had so many books, books behind books on the shelves  I had yet to read. I'm guessing they were all impulse buys somewhere along the lines. NO MORE!

Clothes too made it onto the cutting room floor. I had things in my wardrobe I'd never wear again. clothes that had memories tied into them and not always good ones. I filled a black sack and they too are awaiting a trip to the charity shop.

I finally sorted the carry tray that is supposed to hold all my cleaning supplies. These days it had become my 'junk drawer' filled with all manner of rubbish finally gone!

Its not much in the big battle against clutter but it is a hell of a start. I hope by the end of the month to finally get rid of everything I no longer use, need or want. Its a small victory. Now i just need to figure out how on earth to get it all to the charity shop!

Monday, 27 August 2012

woodland walk

The school holidays are almost over, I cant wait to get my tiny bit of freedom back. I know! I know! I shouldn't wish away these days but 6 weeks is such a long time to entertain a child on your own.

earlier in the week I made the most of the quiet, early start and made the boy some new crayons. He has a habit of breaking them into tiny pieces and making them unusable.

We started with these, all sorted into similar colours before putting in a medium oven for as long as it too to melt them. I kept checking through the glass so they didnt become a boring, murky puddle but would set with a a swirl of different colours
These are the finished crayon cakes. The boy has happily sat colouring with them since Friday and they are still in one piece!

With a final break in the weather we decided to go on a woodland foraging walk. Pulling on wellies, grabbing our baskets we took the 15 minute walk to the entrance of the woods. We're lucky to have several woodland trust woodlands within walking distance. We spent a good 3 hrs walking through the woods even trudged past the remains of farm boundries, picking up pine cones, hazelnuts and blackberries as we walked.
beautiful textures on a fallen tree. it was covered in bugs, woodlice, spiders even a beetle scurried over it.

roots growing through slate built farm boundries. The path we took was narrow with steep sides.

sloes before we gathered a pot full for homemade sloe gin and haws almost ready. we have a recipe for haw schnapps and haw ketchup we want to try out this year.

The last stop of the day before the long walk home, the boy sitting in the grass while I picked a few apples from the tree. This is a golden-ringed dragonfly and the first time the boy had seen one in the flesh. he was amazed and has the picture of him sat with it on his wall.

we returned to picking what few apples were left on the tree, its has been a particularly bad summer and this tree was laden with so much fruit 2 years ago its branches touched the ground. This year due to the wet weather most of the fruit had split and began to rot. a far cry from how lucky we've been in previous years. we gathered up a couple of kgs and made our way home.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

second hand shops

I love secondhand shops. There is something about them, trawling through them looking for hidden gems that is incredibly addictive.  I have a habit of going into whichever one I pass.

Over the years I have picked up some absolute bargains from sons pristine moses basket to bed linen. clothing, and much more recently a fabulous penguin books box set, not a single book had been read (I am a sort of collector of penguin books. i love the covers)

Yesterday I picked up this incredible find.

I have been after cornishware for absolutely ages and have been saving a little each week to buy myself a teapot. So I was surprised to find this set in my charity shop for just £3. There are no cracks or chips at all and I would have happily paid more for it (i did stick more cash in the donation tin). I'm in love with it and it has to be the best buy from a charity shop for me. I'm already using it for my breakfast cuppa along with another teapot. I might just put the teapot funds towards something else now I have my own little bit of cornishware.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


I've just realised i haven't blogged since may! wow! it has been very busy here. So much has happened in the last few months I've barely had time to catch my breath. so, instead of a long winded post about the last few months, I'll share a few pictures.

 my favourite rose in flower, perfect pea soup and some recent designs.
 beautiful blue and white china from the local charity shop added to my mismatched haul, lavender picked ready to be hung for drying, carrot and lentil soup and my blanket, now over a foot long.
 lastly, leftovers turned into pizza, the begining of a pair of socks, a pretty tea cup i bought for just 75p and sons breakfast pancakes!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

...this week

cuttings from the garden shrubs taking over the path. too pretty to compost just yet.

A new mug purchased for a £1.

Crocheted jug covers. in bamboo yarn and recycled wooden beads.

Daisy picking on the way home from school.

Sunday, 6 May 2012


slowly crocheting another blanket.  just ran out of red yarn so this project is on hold until the next yarn run!

Monday, 30 April 2012


Fabric bought from a secondhand store for a new quilt I'm planning. Still undecided on the design and want to add a few more fabrics to the scheme.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

projects on the go: no 1

Everyone who knows me knows I always have a long list of projects on the go. They sit happily in the basket next to my comfy chair waiting to be picked up and another few rows knitted or crocheted. I probably should just focus on one and get it finished. The problem is i browse Ravelry, Pintrest, even blogs and almost always end up downloading another PDF, disappearing off to the shop and purchasing another few balls of  yarn. Its just too tempting in there!

birdy birds

Birdy birds... thats what my son calls them. I originally planned to make these as single decorations to hang up but the colours went so well together i just had to put them together!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

this week...

a few photos from the previous week and a chance to test out my new app!

knitted blanket in aran yarn.

free flowers from the grocers

freshly picked nettles for soup

hazy early morning walk 

good a time as any...

I had been meaning to start a blog for a while (three posts in I'm telling you why!) repeatedly it was put on the back burner as something much more important came along. first it was a commission, then my son starting school, housework... life! Now, with spring in full swing and summer just around the corner I felt it was a perfect time as any to start. 

so, first things first. I'm a mother, a single parent of one son aged 4. hes happy, healthy and certain to make life interesting!  I'm also a photographer and graphic designer. I have been known to illustrate on occasion, watercolour and print. I'm an all round maker. Sewing, knitting, crocheting amongst other random skills I'll certainly to blog about!

You're all probably wondering what this blog is about. Simply put this is a place for me to share the goings on in my neck of the woods. The ponderings, the crafts, the tiny bit of the good life I try to lead. my forays into foraging,  my many attempts at trying to grow enough to eat throughout the year! the battles with slugs, cats, clients, terrible tantrums, projects that are a success and those that fail. My love affair with horror and zombie movies, the music that keeps me going, the inane ramblings and i might even share my current attempt to write a book solo! I'm already working on joint project but that's for another blog post. The rest, I'm sure will come out as i write.


Hand sewn bunting made from my old vests (printed stars)  some tie-dyed scrap curtain linings (light green/blue flags)  and some dyed, worn bed sheets (watery blue and solid dark green flags).

100% upcycled fabrics that would have ended up in landfill  and over 10 meters of reusable bunting to boot!

Friday, 27 April 2012

felt and things...

One of my favourite materials to work with is felt. I first learned to use and make this fabulous material in a GCSE art class age 14. I've not had the time to make any in years,  tending to stick to the shop bought squares. Acrylic is by far the cheapest however, for the occasional project i do invest in 100% wool felt  and spend time felting my own designs onto it.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

first spring forage

I'm fortunate enough to have a fantastic stretch of woodland right on my doorstep. Just a little further away, across a busy road and down a steep hill there's the entrance to another, a much more hidden away stretch only ever used by dog walkers. This one really comes alive in the autumn with crab apples, sweet chestnuts and a long muddy path overgrown with blackberries. rarely ive stumbled upon much in springtime. perhaps i just need to spend more time there!