The Joy of Snow….up close

IMG_1501Can you see tiny snowflake shapes twinkling?IMG_1530
IMG_1528What about now, slightly closer up?IMG_1524

IMG_1509I’m sure I never used to see ‘proper’ snowflakes when I was a child. Was I just not looking carefully enough, caught up in the more exciting activities that come with snow? Is this viewing of snowflakes the consequence of age or has the type of snow we get changed?

I’d love the opportunity to see snowflakes under a microscope but for now, the macro function of my camera will do.

All images taken with Canon Digital Ixus 80IS and edited with iPhoto.

Inspiration from Little Tin Bird, here. Scroll down to the last picture.

The Joy of…. Washing up

This is my new dish drainer and special, extra long, patriotic rubber gloves (you can’t see but they have a union flag pattern at the end).

IMG_1263Until recently we had a fully functioning dishwasher that we used once a day. We haven’t used it since the start of December and I can honestly say that I have missed it on maybe one or two occasions. Sometimes I think I am the only person who actually quite likes washing up. I just can’t get to grips with the logistics of using a dishwasher. I know I am in the minority and to be honest, it makes me feel like I must be a bit stupid. Everyone else seems to love their dishwasher and I feel as if I must be missing something. However, here are my reasons for still liking washing up…

1. A bowl of hot soapy water is useful whenever you’re cooking so that you can wipe surfaces down or rinse equipment. I just don’t like the idea of using sprays for wiping down work tops though I can’t really explain why.

2. It might be just me but I always seem to need to dry most of the stuff that comes out of the dishwasher anyway.

3. You don’t have to worry ‘is this dishwasher proof?’ when you are washing by hand.

4. I nearly always have to take something out of the dishwasher and wash it by hand anyway because I need it to prepare another meal.

5. Loading and emptying the dishwasher is just as much of a chore if you ask me. It’s also quite a solitary chore. At least when there’s washing up and drying to be done it can be a time for chatting, often a good thing at the end of a day.

I’m not on a mission to convert anyone back to washing up – I was not paid by fairy liquid to write this! If you love your dishwasher, good luck to you, long may it last. Me, I think I’ll stick with the old fashioned way.






The Joy Of……The Internet

When I learned to crochet, years ago, I felt as if I was enjoying my hobby in isolation. There wasn’t much around that was very inspiring and I certainly didn’t know anyone else who I could share ideas with. When I took up my hook again almost two years ago I was lucky enough to discover Attic 24. The first time I looked at that blog I was hooked (sorry, bad pun). At last, here was someone making crochet that looked a bit more modern and fun.

Of course once you find one blog that you like the look of it is only a matter of a few clicks and sure enough, you will find more inspiration than you know what to do with. Sometimes it can be a bit daunting. There is one blog that I regularly read in disbelief. I can hardly believe that one person can do so much crafty stuff. Mostly though, I just enjoy looking at all the lovely things that other people make. I love the fact that a craft like crochet, that had a bit of a fuddy duddy reputation when I was growing up has got a whole new lease of life through modern technology. I wonder what my Grandma would have made of it?

Another visual source of inspiration is Instagram – a photography app for smart phones. I am aware that there was a bit of an upset in the Instagram world a week or two ago over who owns the rights to the pictures posted there. I’m not sure if it’s been resolved but for now I ams sticking with it. It took me a while to get to grips with Instagram as a social network but now that I have, I love it. Most of the people that I ‘follow’ on Instagram are crocheters (is that a word?). Here is the picture that inspired the crocheted jar covers in my last post. I have asked permission to share this here, by the way.89d8870c25a611e2901022000a9e13ab_7The same person (I only know them by the name on their Instagram account – nillams) also posted this…

43e749b60d2a11e29bac22000a1c032a_7and then the pattern…057e3e640f8711e2b3af22000a1fb856_7Which inspired my to make these…IMG_5544

It’s not really about the quality of the photography for me. It’s about being able to connect with other people who like the same things. If you are an experienced blogger/tweeter/social media user maybe this isn’t news to you? For me, this is the joy of the internet.

The Joy of…Having Old Friends

I don’t have any sisters but I do have some great, old friends that I’ve known since my pre-teenage years. It’s a cliche but they really have been with me through most of my major life experiences. I’m lucky to have these close, sister-like friends who know me so well. We don’t all live close together but we fall into place easily whenever we get the chance to catch up.

We had a day out last weekend, two of my old friends, me and our children. It wasn’t anything fancy, just a trip to a local park. I felt quite emotional to see our children playing so happily together. They probably won’t grow up to be as bonded together as we mothers are but it makes me very happy to see our friendship growing into a new generation.

The Joy of……Elderflowers

I was introduced to the delights of elderflower by the Husband’s paternal Grandma. She used to make a slightly fizzy elderflower drink that I suppose was a version of the elderflower champagne that we have taken to making.  I’d like to tell you that I noted down her recipe and picked up her top tips but alas, I did not think that far ahead. The only thing I can remember her saying was that it was not a good idea to pick elderflowers from busy road sides. Bearing in mind where she lived, in deepest Westmorland, I’m surprised she could find a busy roadside.

The Husband and I only started brewing with elderflowers last year. Perhaps it was acquiring this book that did it?

We made two batches of elderflower champagne and it worked really well. We used the majority of it for a toast after we had all three children baptised. However, the trouble with (amateur) elderflower champagne is that it won’t keep indefinitely. We had to drink up the remainder fairly quickly. All ‘essence of elderflower’ was gone from the house before the summer holidays arrived.

This year, I have made elderflower cordial. I hope that doing this will give me a stock of summer flavours to last much longer.

If you’ve never had a go at making these drinks, I would highly recommend it. I think the cordial is the easiest and less likely to go wrong. You don’t even need to bottle it, you can keep it in the freezer. I haven’t tried this because I’ve got a bit of a thing for bottling. I imagine that you could freeze it in ice cube trays and then bag it up. When you want a drink, voila, just take a cube out of the freezer and add it to water, still or sparkling.

There are plenty of recipes around on the internet for example, here and here. The one I used is more like the former of these two. I’m going to try the River Cottage version next because I’m interested to see what the addition of orange juice does. If you do decide to make the champagne, consider bottling it in plastic pop bottles. Glass ones have been known to explode!

Although my cordial is bottled up and ready to drink, I have also got a batch of champagne maturing. Pop back in a couple of weeks to see if it has worked. It’s temperamental stuff, a bit like the British Summer it’s so evocative of.

The joy of…..Lambing time

Son Number One is in love with the farming experience. At Christmas, when I asked him if anything was as exciting as the festive season he replied “Well, maybe lambing time”. I remember feeling the same excitement as a child when we visitied a friend’s farm. There must be some deep connection with our collective agricultural past. As you may know, sister and brother-in-law live on a Cumbrian hill farm. It’s in a beautiful, quiet spot on the far eastern side of the Lake District National Park. The hill on the horizon is Loadpot Hill, this picture was taken on the footpath to Whale (yes, there is a little hamlet called that). The River Lowther is just below the first row of trees. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you will see a white spot next to my arrow. That is the gable end of their home.

We set off for our Easter fix of lambing time activities straight away as school broke up on the 29th of March. This year we had arranged to stay with some friends in the holiday cottage. It’s actually the old farm house and looks out onto a yard full of cows. Our boys were very much looking forward to being involved in the working of the farm. I think it’s fair to say their expectations were exceeded!

Our car parked up in front of the cottage

The (sheep’s eye) view from the kitchen window. The mesh is to ensure they don’t decide to join you at lunch time.

Stove in living room

Did I mention the yard and the cows?

The children were given small jobs to do and that definitely added to their enjoyment. All six year olds like to think that they can do a task as well as an adult, and in the farming world, sometimes they can. No wonder Son Number One’s confidence goes up in leaps and bounds with each visit.

In this day and age, when freedom to play outdoors is limited, what small child could fail to enjoy building a straw bale den, covering their wellies in muck and then washing it off in a tumbling stream, collecting eggs ‘straight from the hen’s bottom’ or herding sheep in a family team. There are few adults who don’t get some pleasure from the experience of bottle feeding a hungry lamb. We did all those things.

Last weekend we sneaked back for one last fix of lambing time. I would be misleading you if I said it was a perfect weekend because actually, we had a fair bit of sickness in the family. All the children have had a bug, which I suspect was ‘slapped cheek disease/fifth disease’. However, I would still do it again. You can’t beat chasing sheep in such a beautiful location, especially when you find out that it rained at home and was fine ‘down on the farm’.

I will leave you with some more images of our trips. Don’t forget, if you fancy a visit yourself, you can find details here. The rates are very reasonable and I think there is still some summer holiday availability.