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Sunday, 29 September 2013

Country house car boot sale

Signs for a country house car boot sale went up around here a few weeks ago. It seemed too good to miss, despite an entry fee of £10 per car (all to a very good cause). I went with a friend and we arrived to find lots of stalls amidst rolling parkland in full sunshine.

Now strictly very few of the stalls were what I would describe as car boots. They were antique dealers, charging pretty hefty prices (£150 for a tea service, for example). Not so good. However, the best bargains were on the clothes stalls. There were some lovely ladies who were obviously emptying their wardrobes and there was plenty of Cabbages and Roses, Boden, White Company, White Stuff and assorted cashmere.
I managed to find quite a good stash of things for winter. All of the above little heap came from the same person. I loved everything she was turning out, and it transpired that she deals in antique French linen. There wasn't any of that but she did have some really unusual French labels. I picked up this little dress (unworn, with the label still attached):

A crisp white shirt:

A beautiful zip up cashmere jumper in cream. And an old leather bag for a fiver.

Sadly I didn't find the boots at the boot. They're my winter treat. 
I managed to resist the antiques, as they were pricey, and I bypassed some really fantastic fabrics, even though I was itching to buy. However, there was just one lapse:

This little horse is almost beyond repair, but he is so sweet, I had to bring him home to see what I can do with him.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Quilt scraps and snippets

If you've been reading my blog since last year, you may recall that I began making a patchwork quilt. The project fell by the wayside over the summer, but I've decided to try to finish what I started now that the nights are drawing in. During the car boot season I've been keeping my eye out for fabrics, the only criteria is that they had to contain some reds.  I've found them in all sorts of places: charity shops, old sample books, a Primark teatowel or two and my existing stash of material.

The quilt is growing nicely (don't worry about the squares that are sticking up, they haven't been tacked or ironed yet!). It's very exciting. I don't have much clue about wadding or backing, but I have a little book that should help me through that process when the time comes.

In the meantime, there are small piles like this appearing all over the place. I'm on a mission now (and thanks to  for inspiring me to continue. Her beautiful patchwork blanket was the catalyst). 
In other enormous parcel arrived at 7am yesterday morning, my birthday present from my parents:

All will be revealed soon (I hope it won't turn into a flat pack nightmare). 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Autumn snapshot

Woke early and popped out to the car boot, bearing in mind there probably won't be many more this year. I didn't find much vintage, just this pretty jug for 50p and a few old books, but there was some autumn bounty.
A huge bag of tomatoes for 50p, ripe Victoria plums, crisp cucumbers from the owner's greenhouse and the flowers above (50p). So, tonight's food was: tomato soup:

Home made bread (it was so warm today, the bread rose in about half an hour):

 And apple cake, of course there was apple cake....there is going to be apple cake for months and months to come! This is Mary Berry's recipe, thanks to Fiona who left a comment suggesting it was a good one. It is great, but I am going to try lots of different ones and see which is the most successful.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

An apple a day...

I've been hard at work in the garden all afternoon, picking apples, and scooping up the windfalls. There are so many, we've never had such a huge haul. 

They are Discovery, crisp and sweet, but they won't keep. I wish I had a cider press or juicer....

I foresee a LOT of apple cake...

In between picking and gathering, I have taken a lot of photographs of apples. I am sure my neighbours think I am strange. But the apples are beautiful, and it was a perfect autumn afternoon.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


It feels like a long time has passed since I last wrote my blog, but it was only last Friday. It was an intense weekend, taking my son to uni, and coming home to a house with only three of us in it, and what feels like a new phase. There was the excitement of driving to Manchester, heading over the Pennines in bright sunshine. Then arriving at the halls of residence with hundreds, no thousands, of other parents and their children, spilling out of cars with duvets, pillows, hockey sticks, guitars, chairs, pots and pans. Those of you who've done it will be old hands, but it really is  like no other experience I've had. There is happiness and pride, because your son or daughter is doing something that they've been working towards for years at school; there's nostalgia, if you've been to university or college yourself, you can't help but recall your first day. Sadness, of course, because you're leaving your child for the first time, and worry that they'll settle in (or more in my case, that they'll work hard as well as enjoy all the socialising!). And a very real sense of time passing, and circumstances changing. So actually I am quite glad that the day is over and my son is happily installed, and his texts tell us that he's having a great time and has made friends. Today, though, still feeling a bit raw,  I thought I'd indulge in a day of pottering.
First up, jam making. I've had plums and apples and blackberries in the freezer or in bowls for a few days now. Chopping, peeling and boiling is therapeutic, so I made a batch of plum, and some apple and blackberry.

Then I've always wanted to bake myself a new header, so I thought today I'd do that as well.

Wasn't sure about the background...neutral or colourful?

In the end, it had to be the colourful one at the top of the blog. Talking of the blog, I thought it was time to give that a shake up as well. I think it has been looking very tired recently, and I hadn't realised that the design elements are now much easier to use. So I hope you like the fresh look (and that you can see it if you are reading the blog via an iPad or phone).

Much more bounty to come from the garden. I've never seen so  many apples on our two trees. 

And finally, I'll end with a really special present that a friend painted for me. She took me completely by surprise with this:

She took a snap of me at my 50th party, and painted a  watercolour. I had no idea that she was doing this until she popped round the other day and handed me a lovely package. So, a massive thank you to Jo for such an amazing gift. This is me stepping into my next phase....

Friday, 13 September 2013

Hello again

That was a somewhat unexpected break from the blog. I had to make the magazine ready to go to press, and get Jack ready for uni and somewhere in the middle I picked up a nasty bug and spent two days in bed. Anyway, the luggage is all ready for tomorrow, mountains of washing done and boxes packed. I hope they will all fit into our tiny car. I had to go and buy some food today, so I made a small detour to Stamford Antiques Fair, a small local event on the riverside meadows. Sometimes it is disappointing, but today I had such a lovely hour combing the stalls.

I met a great stallholder. We had a good chat, and I bought a few goodies from her, just little things such as a tin of buttons. She had lots of things I would have liked, but no place to put them. 

I had to say no to that lovely basket which was brimming with sewing things.

There is nothing nicer than sipping a coffee, while browsing through boxes of bric a brac in a late summer sunshine....

Even if you only have a couple of pounds to spend, you'll always find something that sparks an idea or leads to an interesting chat.

I'll never stop going, even when I'm on a Zimmer....

I did buy the pink stool at the top of the post. It wasn't very sensible really, but it is soooo sweet. 

I hope you enjoyed having a browse with me.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Blackberry picking

Isn't it strange how places you think you know really well can throw up surprises sometimes? This is the field at the back of our house. It used to be a cow pasture, but over the last ten years, it has been left to go wild. There is so much wildlife here. Barn owls, deer, fox and rabbit, red kites and buzzards. I waded through the nettles and thistles on Sunday to pick some blackberries. It was a beautiful afternoon and I felt like having some solitude as life is quite hectic at the moment, and full of impending changes with my son preparing to go away to university in ten days time. I really enjoyed zoning out of all that, and doing battle with brambles instead.
Almost exactly two years ago, when I came out of hospital in a very weak state after a nasty bout of colitis, I would come into this field every day,  pottering around the edges at first, and walking a bit further every day. I always feel very grateful now when I am striding across it in my wellies.

Although the field is in close proximity to our village, this is a wild area where dog walkers don't go. There were rabbits at my feet, and I was just reaching for this bunch of berries, when there was a tremendous crashing in the undergrowth. I wondered what was about to emerge. Well, it was a stag. Honey coloured with a very impressive set of antlers. He was too fast for my camera, as he charged off through the undergrowth. I was quite thrilled, but in my excitement, like Alice I fell down a rabbit hole, sprawled on the ground with my berries held high.
There is outline planning permission on this land. It is supposed to be a green belt area, and it is very marshy too with poor road access. But I have noticed recently that buildings are springing up in all sorts of places where I don't think they should be. I believe that the present government relaxed the planning laws, and I think we are possibly feeling the effects. I'm not a Nimby, and I know we need more houses and agricultural buildings, but it pains me to see the few wild places that are left being eaten away. 

Okay, stepping off the soap box, here is my haul, complete with dandelion down on top. They are now residing in a blackberry, apple and almond traybake, recipe from the August issue of Country Living (the recipe is also on the website - thanks Karen :) )