Sunday, 22 January 2017

Enjoying Winter

Hello again, and a Happy New Year to you! 
I hope you had a great Christmas - it does seem like quite a while ago now, doesn't it? We had a lovely one here - just the four of us, P, D, J and I. We missed B but she is having wonderful adventures on the other side of the world, so we enjoyed Skyping her instead. It takes me a while to adjust to the routine of everyday life after all the sparkle of Christmas, so I keep twinkly fairy lights up all year in the dining room and kitchen. You really can't have enough fairy lights in my opinion. It's been good to catch up with a bit of crochet in the evenings accompanied by candles (of course) and a cup of rose tea.



I'm making another mandala mat for the table in the soft cotton colours I liked so much last spring,


 and here's a wintry one I made in December. I have no pattern to share, as I make them up as I go, frogging back here and there to make them how I want them, and each is different as a result.





Back in November I did a fused glass workshop one evening, which I told you about here. I'd had a go at this a few years ago, making myself a pendant and promised myself I'd one day do more. Cutting tiny pieces of glass and laying them out like a jigsaw puzzle was such fun. My fused glass pieces came back from being fired recently and I'm thrilled with the results. Here's the sun-catcher that was inspired by heathery hills and blue skies.





And here's the hare coaster that I made using powdered glass. As a result of doing this workshop, I've finally realised one of my long-held ambitions and have started a stained glass course. I love the wonderful colours and light-changing qualities of glass and am so enjoying my weekly dose of glass-related creativity.



  A week or two ago there was snow for a good deal of the country, and we were greeted one morning by this not-very-spectacular sprinkling of icing sugar. It looked more like frost than snow, and despite the inconvenience it causes I must admit I do yearn for a bit of proper snow. It's been 4 years since our last snowfall here.


Once the festivities are behind us I start to look for flowers, and love the sight of them in the garden, on windowsills and in shops. Our hellebores aren't out yet, but this one called to me in the supermarket last week. I'm not usually a huge fan of white flowers, but the purity and simplicity of this flower was irresistible.


The little violas on our outdoor windowsill have been blooming away all winter, and in my parents' garden last week there was bright yellow winter jasmine and richly-hued skimmia, as well as heavenly scented viburnum. I'm crazy for its pastel-pinkness and talcum power fragrance.


The outdoors is calling more and more and yesterday was my favourite weather of all, crisp, wintry sunshine and sparkling frost, so we set off for a walk at Stourhead, a place we have been to many times, and which formed part of our children's lives when they were little. As the National Trust's nearest large property, it was a great place to take them to burn off steam, so much so that it got to the point where the suggestion of a visit was greeted with wails of "Nooo, not Stourhead again!" Luckily, that response is long gone and J, who was home for a visit from university, accompanied us yesterday. Annoyingly by the time we arrived the sunshine had disappeared, but it was nevertheless a perfect day for a walk.





On such a freezing day it was sheer delight to discover that these hot pink rhododendrons were already in flower. They looked almost tropical against the frosted lawns.



The first of the snowdrops had emerged too,


as well as some very early primroses.


All around us the palette was one of white, green and brown, but on closer inspection the delicate details of moss, bark and leaves were very beautiful, despite their subdued colours.


Classical Greek and Roman-style temples abound around the lake, making beautiful reflections.



Inside the temples there are impressive statues, but we didn't stay there for long, much preferring to be outside.



My favourite building at Stourhead is the sweet, tiny Gothic cottage.



In the winter a log fire is always lit inside, and you can buy a hot drink or a snack there. It was bliss to stand for a moment or two to warm ourselves in front of the flames.


There are man-made features all around the lake, including this 'ruin', and a grotto.


Deep in the grotto Poseidon was looking suitably imperious, if a little chilly. 


This view was taken yesterday, and on the right 3 years ago on a warm early October day. How the colours change with the seasons.


The upper lake was frozen over and looked beautiful, edged with faded bullrushes. J enjoyed skimming stones across the ice, creating a weird sci-fi sound effect (there are lots of videos of this effect on the internet, but I don't know if it has a name).



After our walk around the lake we stopped to warm up with refreshments in the cafe - hot chocolates and flapjacks, which were very welcome. We drove home as the sun was setting, looking forward to more of these sorts of days in the coming year.


After all that wintry scenery I shall leave you with this lovely little iris which opened on our kitchen windowsill last night. 


Its deep, dark blue flowers are best photographed from above, I discovered.



Hope you're keeping warm and enjoying winter too. 
See you soon x

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Shortest Day

Hello again, and thank you all for your kind comments - it's very nice to be back. Now that we have broken up for the holidays a sense of comparative calm has descended, and already we have reached the shortest day. I love the winter solstice, with it's cold, clear skies and promise of longer, warmer days to come. You can read about why I enjoy this time of year so much here and here.



It's all about light and the celebration of its return at this dark time of year, and I do love to light candles, making the house cosy and warm.



Returning home on a dark afternoon, putting the heating on and switching on the Christmas lights is such a pleasure. I love to make things look twinkly and welcoming when the light levels are so low outside.





There's some greenery and foliage too, to brighten our home with growing things. The hyacinth smells wonderful.


This week I've had time to concentrate on home life and have been busy with our Christmas preparations. At the weekend we went shopping in Wells, and I felt the usual sense of peacefulness that this beautiful place induces. It's medieval architecture is just right for me at Christmas time.




I imagine centuries of people sitting on this worn window seat.


Above our heads starlings were chattering and roosting in the trees as light levels fell.


I hosted a little get-together earlier in the week with four of my best friends who I've now known for over two decades; a festive craft session in which we made some table decorations and clove-studded oranges. I gathered lots of greenery from the garden, having already bought some mistletoe and crab apples. Here it all is ready for my guests. 


I added heather from the garden this year, as well as purple callicarpa berries, cranberries and some bright red and white candles.


We drank mulled wine and ate mince pies and snacks, and it was all very jolly and convivial. 



So jolly and convivial, in fact, that I completely forgot to take any photos of the event itself! Here instead is my finished table centrepiece, with some added feathers brought by one of my lovely guests. We made clove-studded oranges too. Their fragrant, spicy scent is the smell of Christmas for me.  And with the left-over foliage I'm going to make a wreath for the front door.


Hope you're finding some time to relax during your festive preparations too x