Saturday, 29 November 2014

This week

This week's been a busy one with D performing in two music concerts and a fun night out for an early Christmas meal with work. Looking back, I'm surprised to discover that I managed to squeeze in a fair bit of other stuff too in evenings and at the weekend. Last weekend we started our Christmas shopping in Bath and I was delighted to discover that one of the large trees had been yarn-bombed.  The cheerful knitting was really bright and fun in the middle of a rather tasteful Georgian square.

The rest of the week was mostly dark, in contrast. The light levels are becoming ever lower, and the hours of light ever shorter now (with about 8 hours of daylight a day), and I must admit I am fighting the urge to hibernate. Getting up in the dark isn't easy when bed is so cosy and warm, but I do enjoy opening the curtains to see what the weather's doing outside. Recently we've been having a lot of foggy, misty mornings and evenings, which feel very atmospheric. These were the views from our windows.

We also had our first frost this week which made everything sparkly in the sunshine. As I walked to work I enjoyed looking at the frost-dusted rooftops, and found the sharpness of the cold air quite invigorating. It was a shame that I didn't have time to get out my camera to take photos.
We're on the brink of winter, with just a couple of days of November left, and I feel ready to put away my seed heads, dried corn and autumn leaves in anticipation of more wintry things. I'm enjoying my pot of white hyacinths which have just started to bloom. I don't usually buy them until January, but this year feel the need for some white flowers before all that sparkle and richness arrives.

I'm still enjoying seasonal colour, though, in the form of these very bright and quite delicious clementines. Somehow the ones with leaves still on seem to taste even better - I'm not sure why! They won't last long because at this time of year they are at their sweetest.

I also managed to pop out to my local craft shop and buy these sparkly white and silver balls of yarn, as I fancy making a few crocheted snowflakes for Christmas. Last year I went a bit crazy and made some to decorate our home and lots to put into Christmas cards. I got a bit carried away and made about 25, so this year I'm sticking to my Resolution and will just make a few (honest!).

This morning the sun is shining and the sky is a wonderful azure blue. It feels good to be alive on a morning like this. Our hazel tree is losing its leaves fast now, but the ones remaining are a bright yellow, and look incredibly colourful against that sky.

In our front garden a gorgeous snapdragon has seeded itself on our garden wall and is flowering quite happily, despite the fact that it's nearly December! The frost this week didn't spoil it, and I'm hoping it'll keep going a bit longer.

Whatever you're doing this weekend, I hope it's a good one :)

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Secret Garden

Not so long ago two of my friends and I were arranging a trip to celebrate two of our birthdays. We usually go out for a meal, or for coffee and cake, but this time we decided that we would go somewhere for a Sunday afternoon stroll first. We'd talked about a beautiful garden which we'd seen on TV and wasn't too far away, so at the beginning of November off we went to Kilver Court. The day was damp and a bit overcast, but it didn't deter us and we arrived late in the morning, ready to explore.

The garden is tucked away behind a shopping village, and we weren't aware of its existence until quite recently. Beside the garden is an old viaduct which is reflected beautifully in the water of the mill pond. 

The sun shone at points during our visit, and illuminated the garden wonderfully. The rockery was a tapestry of rich autumn colours, a feast for the eyes. It really was lovely.

Even on a dull day the colours of the flowers glowed. I wonder why so many autumn flowers are deep pink and purple?

There were interesting features, like this graceful willow arch ...

... and this intriguing, sweet little round cottage.

There were unfamiliar plants, like this hard, citrus-like fruit (or perhaps it was some kind of quince).

Everywhere leaves made fabulous patterns on the ground ...

... and on the trees.

This acer looked positively on fire in the sunlight, an incredibly bright red.

And this succulent in the rockery reminded me of one of those springs children make from paper. It almost didn't look real.

Some dahlias caught my eye, wonderfully seasonal and jewel-bright.

A more formal parterre finished off our visit, satisfyingly clipped and geometric.

After exploring in the garden we had a delicious lunch in the restaurant, and a bit of a wander around the shopping village. Amazingly I didn't buy anything, but did admire this gorgeous berry-covered, standard holly in a pot.

I had a very restful, happy day in this most secret of gardens, relaxing with my friends and taking in all that glorious colour - heaven!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

A November Resolution

I'm beginning to feel a little bit Christmassy now, and I've been thinking about making some creative preparations. This year, however, I am determined not to be too ambitious about what I think I can make before the big day comes. It's always the same. I get out my yarn, felt, ribbons, trimmings, sparkly thread, glitter etc and begin several 'small', 'manageable' projects. I then proceed to panic as the month wears on and I can't get everything finished in time. 

This year This Will Not Happen:
  • I will not try to make all of our cards and gift tags myself 
  • Or wrapping paper (one year I made it all by stamping gold and silver paint onto brown paper).
  • I will not decide to make exquisite sweets and chocolates to give as gifts 
  • Or attempt to crochet, knit or sew every friend and relation a thoughtful, hand-made present 
  • I will not become feverishly inspired by TV programmes such as 'Kirsty's Homemade Christmas', and start to make tree decorations and wreaths as well
No. I will be sensible, and curb my festive, creative urges. I have made a November Resolution.

 I will plan a few small items, make them and then stop. In this way the month of December will not fly past in a mad whirl, and I will be able to appreciate the festive season in a more relaxed way.

Good, glad I've got that all sorted :)

Thursday, 20 November 2014


Whilst life is as busy as ever, November seems to have a quietness about it here at the House with the Blue Door. Autumnal festivities, like Halloween and Bonfire Night have passed by, we have no birthdays or family celebrations this month, and Christmas is coming, but still a little way away yet. There's still time to enjoy the end of autumn before the solstice comes and winter is upon us (and the promise of spring). As we head into the darkest part of the year, the sun sets a little earlier each day, and I find I am drawing the curtains earlier and switching on the lights. We've had the odd bit of sunshine here this week, and it's been so welcome. On stepping out of the door to go to work this week I noticed the rose hips on our 'New Dawn' rose, and popped back indoors to grab my camera.

The colour of the sky was wonderful; I had forgotten it could be that blue! It made a change from some of the very grey, wet and misty mornings we've had lately. In the evenings after work most days I have crocheted more squares for J's blanket, baked or even nodded off on the sofa in the warmth. Now that the central heating is on, Clover has headed for all the cosiest nooks and crannies she can find, including my basket which contains some of my nicest yarn on top of our cupboard. Hmmm, think it needs a new place to live.

In this quiet spell I have the time to appreciate small things. The hydrangeas which I dried a month or two ago now have a depth and richness about their colour which suits the season, and their dark, papery petals drop attractively on the table underneath them. This green spotty jug was one of my birthday presents, and I love it. It seems to have suited everything I put in it so far.

I like the regular patterns made by the four and three-petalled florets.

I've also had the time to browse through one of my favourite seasonal books 'Cattern Cakes and Lace'. I've had it since the 1980s, and it details folklore and traditions throughout the year as well as seasonal recipes. 

I like the idea of making Soul Cakes and Spiced Ale in November - perhaps I will one day. I'm not sure I've ever made any of the recipes in it, but like to pore over the beautifully-illustrated pages.

I like this calm before the lovely storm that is Christmas, and am resisting the urge to begin any new projects until J's blanket is finished. Just enjoying recharging my batteries, and being mindful. On that note, I'm off to do some more crochet. Hope you find the chance for a bit of relaxation too x

Monday, 17 November 2014

Weekend Stuff

It's was a weekend of clearing and tidying here at the House with the Blue Door, which was fine because it's been very gloomy and damp outside. Here are some little things which made me happy this weekend, and I thought I'd share them with you:

1) We popped out to do some shopping and I bought some of these squashes from the market in seasonal hues. I love their varied forms, colours and textures, and they are so essentially autumnal.

I came home with a selection of them and will display them for a little while, then cook them using this recipe from River Cottage, which is delicious.

2) I picked up these bright orange chrysanthemums too. I find their colour energising as the days become even darker, and the urge to hibernate kicks in. Think I'm feeling a bit of an orange vibe at the moment.

3) While we were out I purchased another Mark Hearld card, this time with a stunning barn owl scene. I've put it on top of our dresser in the dining room where I had the harvest hare one a month or so ago, and love the wintriness of the images. Barn owls are beautiful, rather ghostly creatures, and I love the little fox in the field.

4) It was foggy on Saturday, and when I squelched out in the garden to top up the bird feeders I picked a bunch of rain-soaked flowers. I brought them in and put them on the dresser where they are a real splash of colour. I must be imagining it, but they seem to be brighter than ever as the autumn progresses. It's probably because the limp foliage around them outside is losing its colour, and they are all the more precious as a result.

5) I've also returned after my crocheted wreath diversion to J's university blanket. I have dillied, dallied and procrastinated long enough, and am determined to have it finished before Christmas. There - I've said it in print! Now I'll have to do it. He's been at university for two months already, and I don't really want it to end up as a graduation present!

Right, I'm off to cook tea now and see if I can crochet more squares this evening.The twinkly fairy lights are on in the kitchen and the curtains are drawn. I do enjoy finding ways to brighten up the November gloom.

Thursday, 13 November 2014


On my walk home from work before half term I collected some gorgeous autumn leaves in a delicious array of colours. Once home, I arranged them on a sheet of white paper to photograph them (my family are used to this now, and no longer raise an eyebrow when I set up my little photo-shoots!). Then I looked at them more closely.

Just look at the sunset colours in this acer leaf. I like the shape too, with its seven points (I think it's called a palmate leaf in botanical terms).

This one is a deep crimson.

Here's a bright, buttery yellow leaf in vivid contrast.

Out in the garden these strawberry leaves have turned a lovely dark pink.

And while not strictly autumnal, these sage leaves are a rich, muted purple.

Back in this post I had started to crochet some little leaves in autumn colours and had bought some Sirdar Crofter yarn, without a definite plan for them. I considered a few different ideas while I was making the leaves, but none really grabbed me until I remembered an Easter wreath I'd made a year and a half ago. I took a look at crocheted autumn wreaths on Pinterest, and found some very inspiring ideas. That's what I would make!

So I bought a 17cm polystyrene half-ring and, using Sirdar Crofter dk in 'Bria' and a 3.50mm hook, started to crochet the strip which would cover it. I made a chain of 16 stitches with one extra for turning and then crocheted rows of double crochet until it fitted snugly around the ring.

Once I was happy with the length I sewed the ends together ...

... then over-sewed all around the back to make a snug fit.

Now for the decorations. I used a variety of cotton dk yarns from Rowan and Debbie Bliss, among others. This is where my habit of buying individual balls of wool comes in useful, as I never have them ear-marked as part of a larger project. I'd already made a few leaves from a pattern in Nicky Epstein's Crocheted Flowers, and improvised a couple more.

To make an acer-type of leaf, I crocheted three small and two very small leaves and sewed them together, adding a chain stitch stalk.

 I didn't just want to have leaves on my wreath, and I had been inspired by my purple callicarpa berries, as well as the yellow pyracantha berries which I photographed in London, and the orange rowan berries which are growing in our garden. To make the berries I crocheted tiny triangles and then sewed them up after sort of scrumpling them (a technical term I just invented).

Flowers were needed next, Michaelmas daisies for their soft mauve shades from Lucy's pattern.

I didn't want to overload my little wreath so I pinned the leaves, berries and flowers into place to see how they looked.

A quick crochet of more leaves and a flower and lots of sewing in place, and finally here it is - ta-dah!

I'm happy with the colour combinations ..

... and the shapes of the leaves, flowers and berries together.

I'm delighted with it and have hung it in pride of place on the door to my living room.

It makes me smile every time I go into the room, and looks very seasonal. It's a much-needed dose of colour, now that it's getting dark earlier and things are looking a bit drab - some of the best bits of autumn put together into a little wreath.