Monday, 25 December 2017

Merry Christmas!

🌟🌲Merry Christmas!🌲🌟

Just dropping by to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! Hope you're having a good one so far and enjoying all the festivities.

It's a lovely one here at the House with the Blue Door with everyone at home, sparkly decorations, scented candles, games and fun - here are a couple of photos from today.

Wherever you are and however you celebrate, I wish you peace and a very happy Christmas indeed.

Cathy xxx

Thursday, 21 December 2017


Midwinter. There's something about this word that I love. It conjures up images of frosty days,  glowing fires, berried greenery, dark woods, shadows, ghost stories and above all quiet. The winter solstice, when it comes is for me very welcome, and is a moment of stillness amid the madness of pre-Christmas celebrations. Having said that, today here at the House with the Blue Door is a busy day of tidying, cleaning and generally making sure that everything is ready for Christmas, and our guests. Nevertheless, I am making sure to light some scented candles and reflect for a moment or two on the fact that we're at the darkest point of the year, and that the days will now get lighter as the earth starts to turn towards the sun - hooray!

Yesterday P and I went shopping in Frome, a pretty town not far from here. I had a very productive time buying some last-minute presents and finally some berried greenery. There doesn't seem to be much holly with berries on it in the florists at the moment, but I managed to find some.

Here I am looking very pleased with myself after finding some mistletoe, rosehips and red-berried foliage.

As it was almost lunchtime, we stopped off for coffees, and a mince pie for P and a pastel de nata (one of my favourites) for me. Very nice too.

 While we were shopping I bought this little collection of 10 poems with an evergreen theme, and am looking forward to reading them with a cup of tea later.

I do so love the different shapes and colours of winter greenery. It's just as lovely as spring and summer flowers, but is very different - more structural and striking, and the berries are so bright. I'm especially fond of mistletoe. Its simple green and white combination is a beautiful contrast to all the rich and sparkly colours of Christmas. I also like its connections with our distant past, and the fact that it grows in orchards on apple trees. It's a fascinating plant all round. 

In my little midwinter arrangement is also some winter-flowering honeysuckle which I grow in a pot next to our back door. When the year is at its drabbest and spring still seems so far away it's gorgeous scent is a treat when I'm popping outside for something. I stop and inhale its sweet scent on the cold air and think of warmer days to come.

Here's some more winter greenery, spotted on a recent run in the woods. I love the shape of ivy very much and was particularly taken with this rather pointy-leaved plant. There's still so much to enjoy outside at this time of year if you look for it.

Right, better get back to the Christmas cleaning now! See you soon, and happy solstice! x

Monday, 18 December 2017

December So Far

Hello there! I really can't believe we're so far through December already. The madness of the final weeks of term has ended and at the weekend we collected J from university, so I am finally breathing a huge sigh of relief and feeling able to focus on our own home preparations for Christmas now.

Winter has arrived, and we've had some of my favourite weather of all recently in the form of cold, cold days full of bright sunshine and frost. I've loved my walks to school in the mornings wrapped up in scarf and gloves along frost-sparkled pavements being dazzled by low winter sun. It makes me feel so alive and zingy. Afternoons are short at this time of year, and it's dark by 4.30 now. It makes the evenings feel long and I'm enjoying switching our fairy lights on as darkness falls.

I have found time to make some of our own Christmas cards this year, in the form of lino printed ones (remember the workshop I did last spring?).

Here's my first run of prints. The design depicts frosty fields on a starry night, and they turned out pretty much how I'd envisaged, so I'm pleased with them. 

I added glitter to them to make them extra sparkly.

Two weekends ago I went to a carol concert at a church in Bath which P's choir performed at. While I was waiting for it to start I sat and looked closely at the stained glass windows. Since I've been going to stained glass classes I find I look more at how they are designed and made, and these were gorgeous. Listening to Christmas carols was a magical and very peaceful experience, made even better by the fact that outside the snow was falling. It settled on the hills around the city but turned into rain in the centre. It certainly was a very festive experience!

We walked past the Christmas market as we returned to the car and this sparkly, twinkly paper lantern stand caught my eye in the dark.

The Christmas market in Bath has been bigger and better this year, but absolutely packed with people and almost impossible to get close to. It's over now, but I don't recommend visiting next year on a Saturday afternoon!

One evening after P and I had been to the cinema it was lovely to just stand in Abbey Churchyard after the market had closed for the evening and enjoy the space after all the rush and bustle.

On recent shopping trips to Bath I've stopped and stared at this gorgeous window display. It's in Waterstones bookshop, and I just love the white paper snowflakes, doilies and beautiful cut-out designs. I felt a bit self-conscious taking a photo of a shop window, but it was only after I got home that I realised that the Georgian buildings opposite were reflected beautifully in the glass, so I was glad I did.

On one of these Saturday afternoons as the light was failing we walked up to Royal Victoria Park after shopping and had a wander around one of our favourite haunts, the Botanic Gardens. I loved these fatsia japonica flowers which are so very structural and wintry,

and a little robin waited for us on a bench looking suitably fluffy.

We rounded off the trip with a coffee. For me my favourite festive hot drink, a gingerbread latte, the first of the winter (I'm not having too many of these since I discovered how many calories they contain!).

I shall leave you with a photo of Clover taken a few days ago. It must've been cold because instead of snuggling into her cosy basket, she decided it was much cosier to be squished between it and the radiator. Silly creature!

Hope you're enjoying the winter so far - see you very soon x

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Yarn Therapy

Hello all, and thank you for your positive and encouraging comments on my last post. It does feel good to be blogging again.

 I've been quite busy on yarn-related projects recently, mainly as a result of having been laid low for several weeks with flu and a respiratory infection. After the initial phase of being stuck in bed wore off, I had some time off work which I spent sitting around coughing a great deal and generally wondering if the lurgy would ever go, with my ever-constant companion my little furry friend Clover.

 I decided that this was a good opportunity to stave off boredom by keeping my hands busy, and managed to complete several little yarny projects. First was this dark blue mandala mat for my table. I've made lots in pastelly colours, but felt in need of an autumnal one to complement the rich shades of seasonal flowers like these and remind me of the deep blue sky which comes at dusk at this time of year.

Then I finished this little crocheted wall-hanging - a bit of an experiment really, based on the colours on Porthmeor Beach in St Ives, our holiday destination this summer. I think I caught the colours well, even if the crochet is slightly wonky.

I've loved having my new yarn bowl which I bought from ThrownInStone. It arrived in time for my birthday and I've been using it each time I knit a few more rows on my yellow woollen scarf which I began last year. Isn't the bowl a thing of beauty?

Next up were these little cotton pumpkins, courtesy of Attic 24 and Planet June. As soon as I clapped eyes on them I had to make some, and as I already had oddments of cotton yarn in all the right colours, there was no stopping me.

I enjoyed giving the pumpkins their own photoshoot. Now that I've typed that sentence it sounds weird, but I know you know what I mean, don't you, dear readers?

On a roll now, and starting to feel a bit better, I wrapped up very warmly and headed out into the garden to pick a few twigs, and did something that I've toyed with doing for a while - some twig weaving. I've seen lots of twig or branch-weaving on Pinterest and fancied having a go, but something has always stopped me. What are they for? What do you do with them when you've made them? This time, though, I ignored such thoughts and got to work. I used wool to keep a natural feel, and really enjoyed a freestyle approach to weaving. They now stand in a stoneware pot on our shelves, and I may well be tempted to make some more. 
As William Morris said, "Have nothing in your house which you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful". They're not useful, but to me they are beautiful.

Finally I crocheted this little poppy in cotton for Remembrance Sunday from Kandipandi's pattern. I gave it a felt leaf and finished it in time to wear it.

I've taken out these two crocheted pots for use in my shed too. I made them both a year or two ago, and like their earthy and jewel-like colours. They're just right for keeping odds and ends in - I think I put some conkers in this woolly brown, orange and green one.

This little very fluffy pot was made from recycled sari fabric and is very tactile.

Well, I'm feeling better now, and the cough is almost gone, definitely helped along by all that yarny creativity.
I'll leave you with this gorgeous perennial wallflower which I planted back in April, and has been blooming ever since. Aren't these rich, velevty colours just gorgeous?

See you soon x

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

A Return and A Fresh Start

Hello again - remember me? I have been an errant blogger haven't I? I can't believe that we're on 1st November already. It's been months since I've posted and in the meantime the summer and a good deal of the autumn have passed by. All is well here at The House with the Blue Door, and I'm pootling along as usual, but I have very much missed blogging, and sharing my thoughts and photos with you - Blogland is such a warm and friendly place. 

I realised though, that working full-time is just not conducive to frequent blogging, not to mention actually finding the time to be creative, make things, stay active and run a home. So I reluctantly stopped for a while and as time passed I got a sort of blogging block. Every time I thought about posting it felt like too much time had gone by. I have now decided that this is nonsense and I need to stop thinking about it and jolly well just get on with it. So here I am.

It has been a full house here with our three young people in residence again. B returned from New Zealand in the spring and is now working, J is back at university and D is in her final year of 6th form. It's been a busy house full of comings, goings, friends and visitors, a pleasant buzz of activity. Now that we are in a house of adults, you'd think that I would have more time to myself, and I suppose I do in many ways. This year, though, many weekends and holidays have gone on DIY and house-related stuff, kind of catching up with ourselves. 

However, some changes have been made in the time I've been away. One is that I've made a change to my fitness routine. I still have weight to shift, and whilst I've been a frequent visitor to the gym, after almost 2 years I was becoming very bored with it. I am quite an outdoor, seasonal sort of person, and need a daily dose of fresh air and to be surrounded by greenery and nature, even if it's just the garden. After a busy day indoors at work, I need to breathe in the outside: touch leaves and flowers; feel the rain, sunshine, or cold air; smell the soil and vegetation; listen to birds. I don't feel right if I don't do this. And I felt stifled at the gym: the same view every time I went; breathing in re-circulated, air-conditioned air; watching the little numbers on a screen ticking away the time as I exercised; my only idea of what the weather was doing was a view through a skylight. The people there were lovely, but I couldn't justify the monthly cost. 

P has been a regular runner for years now, and in the last year or two has taken to running in the countryside around us. He often returned with tale of places 'you'd love', and suggested I run too - remember the poppy field he showed me? Now I haven't run for years (make that decades!) and scoffed at his ideas of me jogging along behind him, gasping for air and red in the face. However, I knew I had to make a change. Then two things happened to make my mind up.

 Firstly I went to cheer P in his most recent half-marathon, and noticed that not everyone taking part was a super-fit, highly-polished, Lycra-clad athlete. Secondly I started to wonder if I could actually run, so a few weeks ago I put on my T-shirt, leggings and trainers and cast aside all feelings of embarrassment and self-doubt. We went to a lovely spot in local countryside and went for a walk/run. I ran when I could, and walked the rest - and surprised myself. It was a warm day and now and again we stopped to admire views and take photos. We went 3 1/2 miles up and down some big hills and even explored a prehistoric long barrow along the way. It was heaven! I was tired when we got back but happy, so happy and P didn't mind going at my pace because he runs with a running group and on his own. Here are some photos from our first run/walk.


Since then there have been more walk/runs in other lovely local places, sometimes with my camera and sometimes without, just to see how far I can run without stopping. 

And I have so enjoyed it! It's made exercise into a fun activity that I look forward to, rather than a chore which hangs over me and which I invent reasons to escape. There are at the moment no targets or goals, other than to get out weekly and do a bit more than last time. I get out of breath and hot, and know that it's doing me good, and we get to chat along the way and stop and look at beautiful sights like these orange, gold and green beech leaves.

And this delicate tracery of tiny silver-grey seed heads which made me want to go home, grab my knitting needles and cast on a delicate lacy shawl.

Or make a necklace like this gorgeous garland of bright red bryony berries adorning the hedgerows.

Back at home I've been busy too. There's been a fair bit of crochet going on - lots of little woolly flower brooches for my Etsy shop, as well as sewing and embroidery too. I've had an Etsy shop for years, but have recently spruced it up a bit, given it a new name to match my blog, and generally brought it up-to-date.

There's been knitting too, in the form of a heathery hills wall-hanging.

In the kitchen I've managed to keep up with our modest harvests, producing through the summer rhubarb and vanilla jam, redcurrant jelly, blackcurrant jam and most recently blackberry jam with berries I'd frozen as I picked them. They were all a success, with no runny or over-cooked batches among them. I think I've got the hang of this jam-making lark now.

I've loved gardening this year, and have moved plants around and introduced some new ones, like hydrangeas and heathers, as well as planting more fruit - blueberries and gooseberries in pots.  The Japanese anenomes have only just finished flowering.

My shed is looking suitably autumnal now, and the evenings are really drawing in.

Reading-wise, I've been enjoying natural history books lately, and have just finished this one which was a brilliant and very seasonal read about apples and orchards. I got it for my birthday a few weeks ago, which was apt because my favourite birthday tea has been in recent years what P has described as a 'large cheeseboard' involving local cheeses, lovely grainy bread, appley chutney, quince jelly, posh crisps, and delicious local apples.

I started the book in the garden and finished it in bed with a dose of flu, followed by a chest infection which I'm still trying to get rid of (ugh, that's the only downside of lovely autumn - the return of the horrid bugs). But that's enough of that.

Thank you if you've taken the time to read to the end. I really do appreciate anyone who reads my blog, and I am so glad that I've posted again. It just feels right and makes me happy, however infrequent it is ♥ ♥ ♥

See you soon x