Monday, 25 June 2012

The simplicity of stitching

It has been one of those weeks where challenge after challenge has crossed my path. Work is exceptionally busy as the students rush to get their assignments in before the end of term and at home the weather and stresses of the last few weeks have taken their toll, we all have little sniffles, feel drained and weary. When I finished work for the week on Thursday, I thought it was time to be kind to myself (I had a huge headache) and decided to finally have a go at making an a-line skirt from the beautifully summery fabric I picked up at a charity shop for £2.

Inspired by the WI knitting and stitching circle meeting I went to last week, I thought I might give making my own pattern a whirl. The Internet is simply full of useful advice, tutorials and information and I did use to make my own clothes when I was younger.

The shape is pretty easy for an a-line skirt. I measured my waist added a few centimetres and then halved it and did the same with my hips. With these two measurements I made two points on a folded piece of wallpaper lining. One at the top of the paper and one approximately a quarter of the way down, about the distance between my waist and hips. Then with a ruler and joined the two dots and followed the line down to the bottom of the paper. Finally I curved the bottom and the top.

It didn't take long to sew it all together but I have decided to crochet an edge to the skirt, which is likely to take rather a long time.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


12 years ago, I was lucky enough to marry the man of my dreams and so begun the adventure that is married life. Over the years there have been good times as well as pain and heartache but was becoming a family that has been one of the greatest pleasures. Once you have children, they truly do become the centre of your world and if they are happy, then life is wonderful.

As it was our anniversary and father's day at the weekend, we decided to something special and go camping at Waspbourne Manor Farm (Wowo) in East Sussex. Wowo is no ordinary campsite, it is the ideal for families. The site is large and split into three different camping fields as well as the fabulous tipi trail. If you have children, then this really is a location that offers everything a child could ever need out of a camping trip. For my two, the thing that makes a camping holiday, is the friends you make, in fact the only thing that Charlie doesn't like about camping is that you make friends and then never see them again.

Although the wheelbarrow and small hand pulled truck are meant for transporting items such as fire wood around the site, I'm pretty sure that they are used equally for rides, after all what child doesn't enjoy a quick push in a wheelbarrow.

There are rivers a plenty to swing over, cross via ropes, logs, branches and ultimately fall in. You may well want to pack more clothes and shoes, than you might imagine. Wellies are all very well but do become rather useless once filled with muddy water.

And for the mummies and daddies, there is an adventurous walk through the woods to The Sloop Inn for a pub lunch in a child friendly environment with a large garden for them to play with the other children brought by fellow campers. I enjoyed the walk but did find and reunite two lost children with their parents and need to reassure Josie that it was ok to walk through the area despite the warnings of private property and frequent fire arms use. It's probably far enough to require a small amount of carrying of little ones with tired legs and hungry bellies but once filled with food and the warm glow of a rare lunch time drink for the adults, the walk back is very pleasant. I particularly liked the foxgloves.

In addition to all this fabulous outdoorsiness, there's the barn with delights such as a piano and table tennis table. The game I had with my 5 year old after dark and way past bedtime, could only be loosely called table tennis as the ball hit the walls, super comfy sofas, the doors, the campers' fridges and freezers but rarely on the table. It was hilarious, as was the concertos composed by both children on the piano. There were even some adorable ducklings who slept in there at night.

The aspect that really makes a camping special where ever you go though, is the ability to have a camp fire. There is nothing better than spending the evening building and looking after a fire, toasting marshmallows and watching the hypnotic flames and glowing embers. Wowo has special fire pits for every plot with benches on each side. I couldn't ask for more than that especially when I've been married to the most wonderful man for 12 years and have two truly amazing children.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Women's Institute

For a while now, I have been wondering whether I might have become worthy of membership of The Women's Institute. I do after all spend my summer evenings making jam from fruit that I have grown, I knit (badly), make clothes for my children, have more crafty projects on the go than I can count and have a weekly menu planner. I grow my own food, often from seed gathered the previous year, have an ever growing collection of vintage kitchenalia and appreciate and covert products that are made in England. I have adopted a "make do and mend" attitude and have thrifty habits that my grandmother would have been proud of but despite having looked into membership on a few occasions, I was still unsure whether there would be space for someone like me.

Then a friend told me of a new WI group that was starting in Canterbury and lots of the mums from school were getting involved. She was in fact on the way to post her membership form at that very moment. She told me of the Facebook group and the knitting and sewing circle. It all sounded too good to be true but last night I went to my first ever WI meeting and it was amazing. There was a "show and tell" where uber talented women showed off their knitting and stitching. I am quite ashamed to say that I took a rather messy bag of wool and some unfinished starburst crochet squares for the blanket that I have been making since last summer which remains unfinished. I forgot to take the blanket, but all these lovely women kindly showed great interest in my tatty looking squares and politely asked questions. I also took the sock that I started knitted but have got completely stuck with how to turn the heal in the hope that there might be a talented knitter to show me how to do it, but it looks like I am going to have to work it out myself. I do actually see it as a bit of a challenge... watch this space.

And so in honor of finally taking that plunge and applying for membership of the Women's Institute, I am raising a glass of my homemade and homegrown rhubarb champagne. Here's to all the members of the Women's Institute from its origins in 1915 up to its Facebook groups of today and a special "chin chin" to all the wonderful ladies I met last night.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Traditional parsnips

As my family grows up and develops, little traditions become part of the fabric of life. One of these traditions is the growing of parsnips for Christmas dinner. I can honestly say that I never bought a single parsnip seed but have grown each and every one from plants that have seeded on my allotment. During the first year of my first plot, a magnificent structural plant appeared at the over grown area at the back of my plot. It had the most stunning yellow umbrella flowers and turned out to be a parsnip that had gone to seed. If left, parsnips are prolific seeders that spread their featherweight seeds near and far. I let them grow where there land and leave them until they are just big enough to eat before weeding them out. I save handfuls for Charlie as he loves playing with seeds so parsnips pop up all over the place.

It may seem early but I freeze them for Christmas as I usually need the space for other crops and they just grow all over. This year however things may well be a little different as my dearest mother-in-law will be missing and it was her who liked the parsnips so and the fact that I had grown them. There are too many family traditions that will not be the same now that she has gone but I think I might just continue growing the parsnips each year.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Rain on the Parade

It has been the saddest of times, despite the pomp and pageantry of the Jubilee celebrations, the grief and loss following the unexpected death of my wonderful mother in law have left me unable to express or comment on aspects of everyday life. I have not been able to find solace in Ridgeway Cottage and my days are once again flooded with tear filled moments. How could it even be possible to put into words what impact such a tragic event has had on our world?

Our Jubilee Party was a subdued affair, but Charlie and his excitement about the spectacle of the parade was enough to inspire me to put up the bunting, get out the lace table cloth and paint of couple of red, white and blue flags on scraps of fabric between the Queen arriving back at Buckingham Palace and appearing on the balcony. We had our rhubarb crumble, tea and biscuits and bought our Diamond Jubilee Souvenir tins.

Charlie and I made some Diamond Jubilee Elderflower Champagne. The recipe we used can be found here. The rain and colder weather has delayed the elderflowers this year and I felt a real sense of sadness knowing that my mother in law will not be enjoying a glass.

Perhaps Charlie would like to send a bottle to the Queen? Just the thought of it exploding in Buckingham Palace and making a hole in the Queen's ceiling keeps a little of the rain off the parade.