Sunday, 31 October 2010

Pumpkin Soup

Hallowe'en is now such a bitter sweet time of year for me which hangs heavy on my heart. Throughout my childhood it was always a time for celebration, as it was my Grandad's birthday and we lived in a street full of family friends so trick or treating was quite an event. Last Hallowe'en we went to Weston Park with my brother's family and it was such a magical time.There is nothing more lovely than seeing your own children with those of your siblings. I remember how truly happy I felt and that everything in my world was better than I ever could of have imagined. And then during the next week, my life changed forever, events beyond my worst nightmares shaped the rest of my life and my heart was permanently broken.

Soup is always so comforting and seeing as I'm a vegetarian, chicken soup isn't really on my menu but I do love pumpkin soup. Especially when the pumpkins have been home grown.

This is the pumpkin happily growing amongst the weeds at the allotment.

And for the last week it has been sitting on the kitchen table with other pumpkins we grew and the crocheted pumpkin I made last year.

Then today I made it into pumpkin soup, served in the pumpkin.

Finally eaten in bowls made out of pumpkins.

Recipe for Pumpkin Soup

The flesh of the biggest pumpkin you manage to grow
A couple of onions
Some celery sticks (it's really worth growing your own, we have loads of plants left, they even survived the first frost)
One diced potato
A couple of cloves of crushed garlic
Herbs from the garden (today I used thyme and sage)
Vegetable stock ( I didn't have any so I used water!)
Left over cream from the fridge
A pipkin of pepper
A smidgen of salt
Olive oil

(It's soup so it doesn't really matter a great deal about the quantities but you should definitely have a good proportion of pumpkin)

Roast the pumpkin in the oven with the garlic and potato until they are all soft.
Soften the chopped celery and onions in butter, then add some herbs
Mix everything together in a large pot (not the cream) and cook it until it looks yummy.
Get a small child who has read Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper, night, after night, after night, to judge the seasoning and stir it.
Finally add the cream.

If you want you can toast the seeds in the oven until crispy and add to the top (I toasted some and Charlie ate them all so I toasted some more and forgot to put them on the top).

Most importantly save some seed to grow next year.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Hallowe'en arts and crafts

We've been quite busy over the last couple of days going out and about to take part in Hallowe'en activities. This time of year really seems to inspire creativity in people and my children love making things. Hallowe'en is perfect for Charlie and has so many of his favourite things attached to it: the colour orange, pumpkins and sweets.

Yesterday we went to Wildwood for Hallowe'en crafts in the Education Centre, which a fabulous place full of exciting wildlife related stuff, like a huge pile of deer antelars. There were far more activities than you could possibly complete within an hour and Charlie wanted to do his own thing and make a Hallowe'en book which turned out so well that several children, including his sister copied him.

Charlie's Hallowe'en book, two bats flying across the moon and autumn painting.

Today we went to Canterbury Museum for pumpkin carving and it was so much fun. Charlie and Josie did an excellent job. There were slime experiments, a bat cave devoted to crafting bat related projects and spooky story telling by a witch in a brilliant pink wig.

Charlie's pumpkin is on the left and Josie's on the right

I think that their favourite activity was trick or treating in the Kings Mile this afternoon. Twenty shops in Palace Street took part and it was brilliant. The children had to look out for pumpkin bags in shop windows and go inside to say "Trick or Treat". They got more sweets than they have ever had and we only went to about eight shops. It was so lovely to see such genorsity from small high street shops and all the staff in the shops were amazingly friendly and truly in the spirit of Hallowe'en.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

A day out in Canterbury

Today has been such a wonderful day full of all the good things that school holidays are made of it would be difficult to pick what to blog about. We've done some historic visiting for Josie's half term school project, piratical rubustifications for Charlie to enjoy at lunch time, discoveries and a little bit of sewing. A day jam packed full of happy members with my lovely children.

We chose very carefully when we wanted to move out of London and Canterbury is perfect. We can walk everywhere including a Roman Museum which is right in the centre of the City. Josie liked the museum because it was full of information about Romans, she was able to make lots of notes in her secret diary and learn. Charlie liked it because there were displays about food, cooking and kitchens and you could touch some of the displays. I liked it because there was one door in and then you had to go downstairs to Roman Street Level and therefore there was very little chance of either child escaping and I could leave Josie alone, learning whilst I followed Charlie who run around touching everything.

Charlie checking if the fruit was real or not

Josie making notes about both of our favourite exhibit, bone hair pins and definitely my favourite of her notes (see Josie and Charlieisms)

The greatest part of today's day out was the discovering of a new independent children's bookshop (Kings English) in Palace Street. The children loved it, especially the cushioned reading den. They did not want to leave and when we got home we made a dinosaur reading cushion, inspired by the shop.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Craft afternoon results

It just so happened that Josie's and my craft afternoon, continued into the whole of the next day, following evening and everything was finally finished off today. We bought a fabulous book, The Girls' Book of Secrets, it was really good for reading with Josie and opening up discussions about surviving bullying, how to win an arguement and the secret to understanding your mum. So over the past couple of days we've made a secret diary, a secret den and a secret den wall organiser and all whilst Charlie has been unwell (poor little thing).

Josie chose the fabric from my fabric trunk and we made a secret diary with padlock to keep Charlie out and a matching pencil.

Then we made a secret den in her bottom bunkbed and a secret den wall organiser to keep the secret diary in.

Finally we made a Halloween plate and some Halloween biscuits to go on it.

Sadly now Josie is feeling unwell so I think both of them must have had some kind of nasty bug. I hate it when they are ill, it really is the worst thing.

Monday, 25 October 2010

500 K

Just the little lift I needed.

A message from Paula Radcliff

I've now run 500K this year and that includes the 5 months I took off running. Firstly I tore a muscle in my calf  (I do have old calves now and they've done a lot of work since I started dancing at age 3 years)secondly life was just too much to go out running. As I said yesterday though, Nike+ is addictive and now I'm back on the road, I've already started setting myself new targets. I want to run another 50K by 23rd November. It maybe a bit optimistic since there are such tough times ahead but I can always extend the date if I don't mangage it.

Josie and I had a craft afternoon but the results wont be ready until tomorrow but it was a lot of fun.

Sunday, 24 October 2010


Today we invested in a family membership for Wildwood and it truly is a magical place set in the most beautiful Kentish woodland. We hadn't been since Josie had her fourth birthday party there as an individual visit is quite expensive. However for two adults and up to six children, it is only £6 per month and worth every penny. A good friend gave me a leaflet about the upcoming events after reading my blog about wild mushrooms because there is a Fungal Foray there next week. Apparently it is sold out but people do drop out and I'm sure that if I'm persistent, I'll get a place. I've also booked the children in for Hallowe'en crafts later in the week. They have a fabulous collection of native British animals: beavers, badgers, deer, foxes, mink, otters, owls, pine martins, pole cats, squirrels and wolves. I especially liked the cavern you can enter to view the pole cats sleeping in their dens.

There's also an adventure playground which the children loved. They were able to whizz around the shortest route in record time, so that they could go back to the playground and run around and around the Wild Fort and swing on the swing that gave Charlie a 'tickly tummy and heart'.

Still on the road... I went for my second run this week this evening and this time I went to Jack's grave. I think it's about 6K or 7K there and back but my ipod wasn't working properly so I couldn't record the data to send it to Nike+ . Even after a 5 month break, I'm still under the spell of Nike+ and the statistics addiction it inspires; to tracking every detail of your run, the on going count of the number of kilometres you've run since joining, how fast you've run each kilometre since and that joy of Lance Armstrong telling you, 'Congratulations that's a new personal best for the mile'.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Survivors of the frost

Despite the beauty of the first frost, there have been some garden and allotment casualties. Until Thursday morning, my garden was filled with more glowing nasturtiums than I could pick, but now they look sad, withered and frost burnt. Some flowers and plants remain in more sheltered areas but more than 90% have died. The lovely thing about nasturtiums is that once you have them, they self seed and come back year after year, with more vibrant and unusual hot colour combinations. It was more upsetting to learn that dahlias don't like frost. This is my first year growing dahlias and it was so sad to see my beautiful orange dahlia, still in bud which will now never flower.

As soon as I got my second allotment earlier this year, I was able to start growing the flowers that I have always dreamed of and as the dahlias fade, the chrysanthemums seem unaffected by the wintry weather. The buds are about to flower which is very exciting.

I have also planted a flower den for Josie made from her two favourite flowers: foxgloves and lupins, so I was really happy to see just one solitary lupin spike today.

There were also other survivors, one of which was another new plant for this year. Each year I try new vegetables and always have a surprise success. This year it was celery and it was the celery that has proved to be resilient to a little bit of frost. The outer leaves perished but inside the crown is still growing. I'm not entirely sure when to harvest the celery but as I had so much, I have just been picking it as we need it. However the gold medal winners of the frost survivors are my winter vegetables. I believe they even like frost, it apparently improves their flavour.

My prize January King Cabbage (it wouldn't actually win any prizes because the caterpillars having been munching it, but it's a winner in my eyes)

There is nothing like collecting a basketful of home grown vegetables for lunches for the next few days. Even if there weren't any flowers to pick today, I know the chrysanthemums are on their way, the nasturtiums and dahlias will be back next year and that Josie's foxglove and lupin flower den is going to look spectacular next spring.

Friday, 22 October 2010

On the road again

I was so inspired by my reminiscing yesterday, that I dusted off my trainers and went for a run. There is something about putting thoughts into words, that completely clears issues up and makes everything seem so simple; if I love running, then I should go. However for those lovely friends who know me well, my life is not quite so simple as to 'say and do' at present. I too yearn for simpler times (quoting Viki) where I can think and see clearly.  If I stop still for a minute and take a good look in the mirror, then I can say that I did Stay Gold, a little pale, plenty of wrinkles around the eyes under the grey bags and hair that Lisa Lovelikins would be ashamed to have ever been associated with but there is a glimmer of gold. I am true to myself, if a little harsh and will always march to the beat of my own drum.

It was such a challenge to even get out of bed to go for a run, that I couldn't possibly have remembered my camera. I did have to dig my trainers out of the most appallingly messy pile of shoes in the kitchen, fondly called 'The Shoe Place', that I felt that it could definitely do with a make over. There is fortunately no 'before' picture in this instance as it was far too gruesome for Ridgeway Cottage, but the 'after' is pictured below.

And finally a note to myself is that I should not fall into the pit of despair if that is the only run I do for a while, I have been back on the road and I can do it again.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The First Frost

When I was young and used to spend a lot of time with my Grandparents because they lived around the corner. My Grandma, Grandpa and Dad always used to say that Jack Frost had been out when there was a frosty morning. The way my Grandma used to describe him as impish sprite who danced around the garden painting everywhere with his frost crystal paintbrush appealled to my imagination. I could just see him with his paint pot full of sparkles adding glistening flourishes around the garden. There is something magical about gloriously bright crisp frosty mornings. I particularly like seeing the frost on the pavement. Concrete and tarmac are usually so dull and grey but with a glittering of dust from Jack Frost they become dazzling.

White frost crusted grass, bright sunshine and clear blue skies definately make me smile. I even like the feel of the cold air on my cheeks. I wish I could get out of bed early in the morning to go for a jog, because there is nothing I like more than running in the cold as the sun comes up, but it is a difficult time so for today I will just hold on to the smiles.

I was also happy that I had actually been quite organised at the end of last winter (another first) and had put all the cold weather clothing together in a drawer, so Charlie, Josie and I all had gloves or mittens to wear this morning. It really does pay to be organised and it makes life so much easier. I wish that once things have been organised that they just stayed that way and didn't get Charlied. Charlie even wore his mittens for the whole time we were out on the school run, which has never happened ever, despite all my best efforts. Charlie is a child who does not respond well to changing seasons. In heatwaves he will insist on wearing his winter pyjamas and following in his sister's footsteps, considers jumpers to be some kind of torture. Long sleeves t-shirts were invented for my children and they see no reasons why they should not wear them come rain, shine, frost, heatwave or snow.

Frost is also perfect for leaving messages in but just as Richard Frost so eliquently captures in his poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay"; the sun melted the messages before Mark saw them.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
For nothing gold can stay.

For my dear friend Viki (The Outsiders) - Stay Gold x

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Dinosaur, pirate, zoo animals quilt in 'boy' colours with stripes - Update

There are positives and negatives to having intelligent, inquisitive, confident children. I could go on forever listing how having these attributes can help in life and happiness. I am naturally a proud parent. What parent doesn't recognise and celebrate their own children's achievements? Yesterday I heard talk of the 'Josie show' from Josie's school teacher and could only picture what she meant about her ability to organise the whole of her class in drama session. Josie was indeed born into the role of Drama Queen and has successfully chosen a best friend to share / compete from the crown. For those who know Josie, the best adjective to describe her would have to in fact be 'Josie.' With such a lively, charismatic and incredibly loud first child, I foolishly thought the second would be more quiet and reserved, surely none could be as noisy as Josie. And then I had Charlie who in his own right is just as creative and confident as his sister. I love to hear Charlie singing to himself and about the games he plays with his friends at nursery and his amazing imaginary world.

Generally my blog does focus on the positive aspects of life, but for a short paragraph, I wish to comment on the negative side of such wonderful children.

It is almost impossible to keep anything secret from them, especially birthday surprises.

Yesterday morning I finished sewing together the quilt top of the dinosaur, pirate, zoo animals quilt in 'boy' colours with stripes. I hung it on the line to photograph it and then hid everything away before Charlie arrived home from nursery. I was very thorough as I know he is such a smart boy, he will find the tiniest scrap of material. He had been home for a short while when he brought the camera to me to ask,

"Have you made this for me?"

He loves photos as much as I do and since I have been taking them for my blog, he really likes to look through them on the camera. He had found the camera and was looking at pictures of the quilt top. He informed me that it must be for him because it has dinosaurs and zoo animals on it.

"Have you put a pterodactyl on it?" he asked.

I don't think he knows it is a quilt and maybe he will have forgotten about it by his birthday and it will be a lovely surprise when he opens it. I will have to be far more careful in future and remember that nothing is safe from Charlie.... and I will have to put a pterodactyl on it.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Another new project

I am going to have to admit to being the type of girl who does not always finish what I have started. Well, not straight away. I believe I do finish each project eventually or at least I hope I do. I definitely do finish things if they have been promised to people, so Theo I will certainly knit your second bootie before I start making Joe's bag, although I already have so many great ideas for it....

One of the best things about crafting and being able to make stuff yourself is that you can make it exactly how you want it, in exactly the colours you like. How else would I be able to find a quilt to go with the new room that Charlie would like with farm animals on one wall, dinosaurs on the second, zoo animals on the third and pirates on the fourth? My new project is a quilt for Charlie's birthday; a dinosaur, pirate, zoo animals quilt in 'boy' colours with stripes.

I have already cut out all the pieces, sewn more than half together and plan to use an old sleeping bag for the wadding and backing, so I am quite optimistic that I will finish this project and hopefully before Charlie's birthday. It isn't that I don't want to finish the other quilt I started, I do and it looks fabulous, it's just so large that it needs my undivided attention and lots of space. That is probably the reason, I have so many unfinished projects. They are all ones that can't be done so easily whilst looking after children or with the distracted state of mind I am currently suffering. Life is a bit of an endless project really, always some more to do to it, a few bits and pieces to change, little areas that just need finishing off, but never enough time or space.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Quick watering can makeover

Once you have started blogging, it is hard to stop, especially if you have a creative mind. The world is such an inspiring place and there are so many things I would like to talk about, but today I have chosen something short and sweet and simple. It is another make over with a 'before' and 'after' photo and not much work in between, which is the best part.

The 'before' photo

This watering can had been knocking around in the garden for a while, looking a little sorry for itself really, so I thought it could do with a bit of a makeover. I got some decoupage paper from the brilliant art shop Chromos in Canterbury, cut it to fit the watering can and used Mod Podge to attach it. Then whilst it dried we went to Howletts Zoo, which I love. We have a season ticket and go all the time, but see something different everytime.

The 'after' photo

Friday, 15 October 2010

Harvesting Seeds - seed give away

There is always such a big debate about what is down to nature and what is nurture. I believe it has to be a little bit of both. Perhaps it's as simple as loving doing the same things as the people you love like doing because you get to spend time together being happy. My Grandma and Grandpa both collected seeds at the end of one season to sow for the next season. I used help Grandpa take the seeds out of the runner beans to dry in his shed before we had a big bonfire with the dried plants. Now Charlie likes to collect the seeds with me. He's been carrying around some borlotti beans in his pocket all day after he found the pods that I collected from the allotment earlier this week. My Grandpa took the business of growing runner beans very seriously and his beans were dried on his work bench before being stored in paper bags. In our house, it wouldn't be summer without sunflowers or autumn without the house and garden being covered in sunflower seeds that we've collected. We have so many we store them in glass jars and use them for art work throughout the autumn. So I wonder if harvesting seeds is something that I learnt to do or whether it is part of my thrifty, green nature, I feel that I have to collect seeds even though I could never grow all of them.

Seeds are so full of possibilities and as I picked these fennel seeds pictured above, I wondered what might happen to them. Will they grow into plants? Get eaten by animals? Go in tomato sauce? Become part of a piece of art? Get spilt on the floor? The possibilities are endless and that's what a wanted to share. One of the lovely things about of collecting seeds has to be sharing them with other people.

So if you would like some seeds, please leave a comment with your email address and I will get in touch and send you some.  I definitely have more parsnip, sunflower, fennel and aquilegia seeds than I could possibly use and might even be able to spare some sweet pea seeds that are ready to plant this week. I am not really sure about the rules relating to sending seeds abroad though, but I suppose the worse that could happen is that you don't receive them.

Happy Friday

And if you live nearby, would you like a bunch of nasturtiums in golden sunshine colours?
 They would brighten any one's day.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Little Ruperts

Canterbury is like a mini City, everything that you could want from a City but in a much smaller version apart the cathedral, which is actually quite grand. There is a museum full of little bits of everything from the ice age right the way through history to our favourite part, the Rupert Bear Museum. The museum is so sympathetically designed that you can in fact skip all of the history and go straight through a second door to the "kiddie area", as Charlie calls it. On the second Thursday of each month, it is the Little Rupert's story time in the Rupert Bear Museum. The children sit on the lily pad cushions and are read a story, Rupert Bear and his friends, which includes his best friend Bagpuss (who also has his own little area of the museum) are invited out of a story sack for a sing a long and then it's the craft part of the morning.

Today's theme was Halloween and all things spooky which meant we read "Room on the Broom" by Julia Donaldson and then made Gruffalo Masks. Charlie had so much fun but did not really want to have his photo taken in his mask with the other children so we put it on Rupert.

It really is a brilliant place to go. Charlie loves the "kiddie area", the knights' armour and all the weapons (he is such a boy), Josie is really interested in history and wants to read everything about everything and I adore all the Mary Tourtel and Alfred Bestall original painted illustrations for Rupert Bear. They are truly beautiful. I also love the World War II artifacts, in particular there is a chest of drawers filled with sewing paraphernalia to support the "Make do and mend" slogan which is a philosophy we would do well to think carefully about today. There are blogs devoted to this ideal and even a website Make do and mend. I'm always inspired to make my own clothes but haven't really done so for years. I think I shall put a skirt on my endless list of projects to do. I also couldn't mention World War II without including my favourite government campaign ever: Dig for Victory. Perhaps some of the country's problems might be addressed today if it were to be reintroduced.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Chilean Miners

In general my blog, Ridgeway Cottage, doesn't really comment about news. I feel I am mostly too sensitive for it. It upsets me and reflects all of the sadness that goes on in the world. However I have been closely following the story of the trapped Chilean miners. To be confined to a small space underground would be my worst nightmare and I could not imagine having to be a miner as a job. But here they are, all 33 men, living together, sharing experiences and waiting for today. For this news story is one of great happiness, smiling faces, love, hope and reunion. To see the face of someone you love after such an ordeal must be incredible. Each man will appreciate everything they see around them, like seeing again for the first time in weeks. Sometimes we take the world around us for granted and don't always see it for what it is. Life is precious and fragile, one moment can change it forever.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Mod Podge Paperweight Giveaway Winner

Every morning I wake up and I feel sad. I think about Jack and I cry, but then I hear my children's laughter and my husband brings me tea and I think about all the things I do have, how wonderful life is and all the things I want to do. I drop into Ridgeway Cottage to refocus on what is good about the world and there waiting for me most mornings is a comment from Lisa about yesterday's post. It makes me smile and it cheers me up and makes me glad that I write my blog. This morning her comment was so positive that I decided she should be the winner of the Mod Podge Paperweight. I would have loved to have given it to every single person who left a comment but I think for the giver of the most love on my blog, she deserves it. Sometimes you just have to open your eyes and look close to home to find the most precious things in the world.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Autumn Planting and Winter Veg

It wasn't until I got an allotment that I realised you could get fresh vegetables around the year and since then I've become a real winter veg grower. Last Christmas Eve we picked carrots, leeks, parnips, kale and cabbage from our allotment for Christmas dinner, the Christmas potatoes were a disaster though. The key to growing vegetables all year round is being organised. In the spring, I sowed the summer cabbages, then autumn ones, followed by winter savoys and then in the summer I planted the spring cabbages, but I think they got eaten by slugs.

In the autumn it's time to plant the spring bulbs, broad bean aquadulce and onion-senshyu. I had already planted the daffodils for my cutting flower bed and today was the perfect weather to finish my autumn planting.

Last year the broad beans suffered badly from the cold winter and had all died by the start of the growing season, so this time I am taking precautions and over the next couple of days I'm going to plant some more in my mini greenhouse and I've also put a note on my calendar to plant some seeds on the first Sunday in February.

I always wondered about the old boys at the allotment and their obsession with planting in rows. They measure, they mark out, they place string and look on in distane at my more natural approach of what must look like complete chaos. However I've been watching and noting with interest, how much easier it is to hoe between the rows and easier to spot which are the seeds they have planted and which are weeds. Little by little, I am starting to plant in blocks and rows and today I even measured between the onion sets, although I'm not entirely sure the rows are straight.

Only one curly kale plant survived the attack of persistent slugs this year but this one is doing well.

The most success I've had with winter veg to date though is rainbow and rhubarb chard. It is so pretty and the slugs and snails don't appear to like it. I plant it straight into the ground at any point from early spring right through until the end of August. The plant pictured above was planted at the end of last August. It survived the cold winter and snow, nestled amongst the fennel and has really started to grow over the last couple of months. We eat the leaves and the stems until the frost or the snow causes the plant to die back temporarily but it grows again as soon as the weather warms up and provides early spring veg. It really is a star amongst vegetables, healthy and delicious.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Botany Bay

The Kent Coast Line is hugely diverse and incredibly beautiful especially on glorious Autumn days. Each year there is an opportunity for one last paddle in the sea in October. It is definitely good for the spirit. Botany Bay is our favourite unspoilt sandy beach. From the end of the summer to Easter, there is nothing there other than dog walkers, kite flyers, the odd canoeists and us.

The combination of the clear blue sky, pure white chalk stacks and frothing surf with the gentle warmth of the sand is one of nature's masterpieces.

More often than not the sea is very calm but on the odd occasion there is a really windy day which creates crashing waves and they are so much fun. Josie and Charlie couldn't resist and ran straight into the sea.

Even Mark and I went in the sea. It was so much fun and we all got soaked. The sea wasn't really that cold either and the sun was so low in the sky that it made amazingly long shadows across the beach.

I got a chance to do a bit of knitting with one of the fabulous turquoise silk yarn that I bought yesterday at the knitting and stitching show. I could have stayed on the beach for ever, caught in that wonderful sunny October afternoon.

And if the beach wasn't wonderful enough, there is also a garden centre right by Botany Bay called Botany Plants. It has loads of ramshackle greenhouses that I can wonder through in peace because there is also a trampoline in the grounds and the children want to go on that, not look at plants. There are some rabbits, a gorgeous cocker spaniel called Teal and you can pick your own apples and quinces off their trees. I got some onion sets, autumn planting broad beans and paper white narcissus bulbs. Josie and Charlie discovered a log swing in a tree and we had a wonderful family afternoon by the sea.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Knitting and Stitching at Alexandra Palace

Some days are good days and some days are bad days and some days are golden, to be etched into the memory for a life time. Today was a golden one. If there was a recipe of things to make me smile, today had so many of the ingredients. If you are ever feeling sad about life, a good piece of advice is to surround yourself with your favourite things.

For those who are in love, the memories of where you fell in love are precious places. For those with children, the memories of where your family began are dear to your heart. Alexandra Palace is a place full of those happy times. Mark and I lived in our first flat together about 20 minutes walk from Ally Pally, we were married in Muswell Hill which is next to Alexandra Palace and Josie and I went on our first ever Mummy and baby outing there. It is a beautiful place, an amazing building, stunning views, a breathing space above the city and today it was full of fabulous fabric and sumptuous yarn as well as some incredibly talented people. The key ingredient today though was a old new friend, Kim.

I followed the advice Jane Brocket and took a picnic which inspired by Kim's love of cheese and the fact that knitting has to be combined with cake. There were so many highlights that I felt quite dizzy.

This dress was exquisite. How could a dress not make anyone smile?

I would have liked to have bought lots of things from lots of the stalls but had to choose, so my first choice was Loop. I could resist two skeins of yarn; Blue Sky 100% baby alpaca and KidMelange.

My favourite of the contemporary exhibitors was Gjertrud Hals (flax pulp on linen thread, kozo paper). The images filled me with inspirational thoughts and memories of the pieces for my final degree exhibition at university.

The colours on the Knitting 4 Fun stand were brilliant and I got three more skeins of yarn: Irish Linen Orange, Bourette Silk Green and Orange.

I also really liked Janice Gunner who was so very friendly and a mine of information about quilting, Janie Crow and her brilliant crocheted cushions, Blooming felt (for future purchases and projects) and Crafty Ribbons for their dinosaur ribbon.

If you haven't made a comment yet to win my Mod Podge Paperweight, I just wanted to add one more picture from today's exhibition. The chair above is covered in the same fabric as I used for my paperweight and it looked incredible.