Bluebell woodland

A walk on a lovely warm May morning in the bluebell wood.

It is an annual tradition to go whenever the bluebells are flowering, to listen to the swell of birdsong, to notice the leaves on the trees rustling in the breeze, to drink in the haze of colour of the bluebells and to smell their dusky sweet perfume. This only seems to happen if the breeze is blowing in the right direction, or the sun is filtering through the leaves of the trees above to warm the flowers. When I catch the scent it instantly reminds me of other walks in this wood.

When you see the candles on a horse chestnut tree you don’t expect them to be such pretty flowers, do you?

We were the only people in the woods this visit, apart from at the beginning of the walk when a girl came out of one of the paths onto ours, carrying her puppy. She said she was worried because he is very young and gets so excited, he would be jumping up at us. I’m ashamed to admit that this country girl replied: “Oh good because today I put new jeans on and I don’t want muddy paws all over the legs!”

It was a dachshund puppy…I’m blushing as I remember.

Mum and I have looked out for deer since the time we came across a huge pair running in the field at the back of the woods.

I regularly see muntjac deer where I walk at home, but that pair (roe deer I think) near the bluebell woods were enormous. And scary. But exhilarating and wonderful too.

This time we experienced mild disappointment when we left, the wildest animal having been a small over-excited puppy with mucky paws…

Celandine and bluebells look so eye catching together. There are delicate patches of celandine in the woods. So fragile, some are along the very fringes of the paths, that I watch where I place my feet. Aren’t those dark green heart shaped leaves lovely?

Here are links to my previous bluebell posts:

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

My next post will feature some crochet!

Five things

One: I can’t tell you how good it is to have made something. From beginning to end in about 10 days. Yes!

Less yes, and more noooo was experiencing the sewers equivalent of yarn chicken. I’d asked on Instagram for any suggestions and someone said tie the old and new thread together. That seemed a bit rubbish, so I undid it all and started again with a longer thread and, would you believe, it happened all over again! I Googled thread tying and it is a thing. Sorry to whoever suggested it – I was an unbeliever – but it worked. It was initially a bit tricky trying to get the knot to stay at the back and not pull around, but anchoring it behind a tuck of the gathered material worked perfectly. Looking at the back you wouldn’t know.

Two: As mentioned on my last post Corinne Lapierre sent me a thank you gift, and someone there wrote a really lovely note. It’s so lovely that it’s pinned on my noticeboard in the little room.

Three: Yes your eyes are not deceiving you… I have managed to do some crochet this week. The first picture was taken after my allotted ten minutes. The first time I’ve done any crochet since, I think in about November. I had the yarn and hook poised in my hands ready to go just before I started the ten minute timer. I wanted every second! I felt thoroughly relaxed even having just done a little. Crochet always feels like a tranquilliser!

Ahem… The second picture was a few days later and I completely blame Nikki and her lovely Nan for my going way, way, way past the ten minute timer.

I’ve never got into vlogs. Generally I find them full of umming and ahhing, repetitious and overly long without enough content the fill the time. (Say what you think, why don’t you?!) I think this is probably only the third one I’ve ever watched in full. I’ll definitely watch another. This is the episode.

Four: This fluffy lovely spent ten minutes sitting in one of our two balcony feeders, sun basking and occasionally pecking at the crumbs of mealworm. I was right next to the window chatting to him and he just blinked at me. Looking at the fluffy tummy feathers I would say this is a juvenile.

Five: And it’s bluebell season again, seems to come around fast doesn’t it? This isn’t even my official bluebell visit, but some that are filling my local woods. What a gorgeous sight.

The Woodland Trust has lots of general info about bluebells and a search box to find bluebell hotspots. I enjoyed reading the article about ancient woodlands too.

Here’s a guide to identifying native bluebells.

And if you’re in the UK The National Trust website is always a good place too to search for bluebell woods and walks.

Sewing, seaside & something sweet

I’m really enjoying doing a little bit of sewing every day still. It doesn’t seem to be affecting my hand unless I do too much. I am as happy as a very, very happy thing to be able to be a little bit creative again.

Corinne Lapierre saw my progress posts on Instagram and says she’s had quite a number of clicks from my last post here to her website, including purchases, and has offered to send me something as a thank you! How nice and totally unexpected. Thank you for clicking through to check out her site, if you did. Does this officially make me an influencer I wonder?! What will she send? Exciting.

I understand Corinne does demos on Create and Craft TV on Freeview. Have you seen any?

I saw hand drawn felt tipped numbers in the window of someone’s house the other day. This gave me the idea for a new cross-stitch. I thought I could rest my right hand on top of a hoop to keep it steady on the edge of my desk, while I stitch with my left. This is going really well and doesn’t seem to aggravate matters. The last time I did any cross-stitch was last July in Regents park, London. It feels like aeons ago.

I know the five is a bit dodgy. I drew it freehand after looking at cross-stitch number patterns online. I wasn’t copying a specific design, but went with the flow. Do you think I ought to add a bit more thickness to the bottom? Apparently it looks a bit like a letter S, but with the four next to it should be identifiable.

You can see if you zoom in when I started smoothing out my thread before stitching, and periodically letting the needle dangle from the hoop to untwist the thread. The perfectionist in me is tempted to undo the messy rows but I’m resisting.

I found myself looking at sewing kits and threads in John Lewis and The Range while away in Aberdeen. If you were around The Range and heard a man muttering about “Pikey tat” and a woman shushing him, while looking embarrassed, then that was probably us. He’s not that impressed with spending time in Hobbycraft but The Range always provokes strong emotion for some reason. Idiot.

Look at those rabbits! How can anyone resist a rabbit in a carrot racing car?

I might have spent a few minutes arranging them, but no one seemed to notice or care. The rabbits enjoyed the attention.

Lucky weather on Friday meant it was unseasonably sunny and warm. A bus out of the city to Don Bridge seemed like a good plan. We walked along the esplanade and onto the beach to collect sea glass, then had a couple of scoops of Mackies Scottish ice cream before reaching Footdee, wandering around the harbour and back into the city centre. A good walk by the sea in bright sunshine, is a pretty perfect day for me. Plus it was capped off with a selection of curries at Shri Bheemas with old friends in the evening. That was the best lamb biriyani I’ve ever eaten. The paratha were really good too; lacy and light.

I read on an airport poster that Aberdeen has 15 miles of unbroken beaches. There’s a coastal trail to drive, see here, which would be fun to do sometime.

So far I’m on target with my aim to walk 1000 miles this year. I’ve walked well over 200 miles and this despite my dodgy knee giving me jip. Fingers crossed that I can carry on because it’s a really good way to motivate yourself to walk, even on non fair weather days when the temptation to curl up on the sofa is strong. I guess another way would be to get a dog which needs lots of walking. I’d probably inadvertently get one as lazy as me on rainy days!

Tell me a few things? How are you?

Catching up

You know when someone’s been away from blogging for ages and they say they really don’t know what to write, but then just start and it’s okay in the end? I feel a bit like that today, although it’s only been a few weeks. I’m starting with this opening, random photos and seeing where it goes.

The lack of craft content is a big factor. It’s so frustrating that many times I’ve thought about just putting this on hold, without a big announcement or anything, but then I pop online and read a few of other peoples’ posts and enjoy just catching up with their news. Seeing what’s around in their gardens or neighbourhoods, what the weather’s like, what they’re eating, let alone what they’re making that I don’t really think it matters. It’s just natter without the knit, isn’t it?

The thing is I’m still being contacted by PR people for yarn companies and magazines. This week it was for a prominent High Street magazine who wanted me to do a How to Crochet series of pictures and instructional posts for their website. I love the compliments about my blog and that they really love the content, but it makes me wonder how recently they looked because I don’t think crochet has featured since last year. I shall look forward to seeing which blogger gets the gig!

This morning I’ve also had a dodgy looking email about some blogger awards. If I thought it was kosher I wouldn’t jump on my own chances by writing this here, but you know when the grammar is so odd and the website and email address are iffy looking that you just think ‘Ha ha, probably not?’

Do you know by the way that I always dictate my posts on my iPad now? So if there’s any very strange looking mistakes it’s Apple technology, not Rachel technology! Although I do keep being told off for not proofreading my messages. I sent the most bizarre instructions for baking sourdough this morning which included putting the sprinting on the third gravestone from the top…

I went to see the Hand Therapist last week. I’ve had to do a lot more lifting and carrying recently and it is she said: “A soup of ickyness and not anenomes.” Not quite the way I would’ve put it, although that description did make me laugh, but I get the message. I’ve got to go back to see the Hand and Wrist Consultant. I am resistant to anything invasive, but it does look probable as it’s not improving.

Beautiful Valentines Day flowers. Just gorgeous aren’t they, but unfortunately we kind of missed them, more about that later.

Snowdrops have appeared everywhere. Beautiful, but you do have to lift up the flowers to see how pretty they are on the inside, there are so many varieties, the variations are amazing.

Hyacinths from last year in one of my favourite blue pots. I know that second year bulbs don’t necessarily come back in flower very well, but I took the lazy approach and thought I would suck it and see. Probably not the best expression I use, picked up from an Australian. But I do like it!

Tulips. I have no idea what colour these were last year, maybe purple? Queen of the night variety? I could look in my notebook; but I quite like the idea that I’m going to get a surprise. Fingers crossed. What’s been nibbling them?

I think these are going to be Paperwhite narcissi.

I think I’ll never apologise, content-wise, for my sourdough pictures. If they annoy you then just imagine I’m smirking at you! Having said that I’m not sure I’m going to post anymore for quite a few weeks. Right now they’re flatter looking, because neither of us can lift up the cast-iron pot I bake them in. They tend to flatten out more when tipped out of the Banneton onto a baking sheet. Still taste good, but not so photogenic.

Have you heard that we had the hottest February on record? We had temperatures of 15° – 16°. T-shirt weather. I even saw a few people in shorts and sandals. It has been amazing, though ever so slightly bizarre for this time of year.

The spring flowers are out in force and it’s really lovely spotting croci, snowdrops, daffodils, grape hyacinths, blossom on trees and flowers on heather. I love the close-up I took of Mum’s little pink heather flowers.

And the reason we kind of missed my Valentine’s Day flowers: they drooped and dried out as the underfloor heating was still going on without us breezing in and out of the room or moving them to a cooler spot while we were away…

I’ve always fancied a ride in an ambulance; thought the flashing lights on while speeding past the traffic in a swift ride would be kind of cool. Yes I know, I’m a moron! Don’t think I’d really thought it through properly. Not so fun have to call it for a loved one at 2 AM, who is in pain, with all the worry and scary thoughts alongside that.

There were some funny moments, in retrospect. It is not a comfortable ride; it is noisy, the suspension is awful and both of us said they haven’t *even* put the lights and siren on! No need as at that time on a Monday morning there is nothing to slow down the journey. I find it interesting that having been woken from a deep sleep of only two hours that the things that I grabbed were his two phones, my iphone, my charger, my mascara (!) and I hid the whisky bottle in the cereal cupboard! We’d had a couple of drinks that evening, after a nice Sunday with family. There is no deep-seated problem or associated guilt, but for some reason I popped it behind the pack of Fruit and Fibre.

This was my view for several days and I did the thing of buying some lovely refreshing fruit (grapes are traditional, I went for melon and mango) for any time Someone felt like nibbling something. Of course those times were rare, it was all about lots of liquid morphine, codeine and paracetamol via IV. Incidentally I did ask the nurse if I could have a bit of that, because I had a cracking headache on the Tuesday after being up the previous night and the following day. She laughed and said “Absolutely not, do you realise how expensive it is given this way?!” Apparently it’s incredible, in a matter of minutes it’s taken effect.

I also was rushing about like a headless chicken and hadn’t had breakfast one day so did the classic thing of having to apologise when he did feel hungry for the first time, because I’d eaten all the melon! Oops.

There is a real club that forms when you’re part of a situation in a ward where everybody’s been rushed in without warning and are awaiting diagnosis or emergency operations. The patients are usually too unwell, sleepy and high on painkillers, but the families are really supportive of each other. I ended up chatting and waving to people all along the ward and in the lift, every time I popped out to get something. There is such a camaraderie and fast track relationships, albeit brief, are formed. I still wonder how some of them are and what happened. Maybe we’ll bump into each other in a cafe or shop one day. Fingers crossed all works out for them.

I know this is a horrendous picture of my hand but for me it sums up the black humour you can find in situations. There is a triage part of the ward and so at the end is a waiting room for about 10 people. There are clearly very unwell people waiting to be seen; they all had dark circles around their eyes, faces so pale it looked like stage make-up and nobody ever picked up a magazine. Some were there for hours and hours and I really felt for them. It’s not somewhere people chat. I think they’re just focusing on getting through so they can see a doctor. Then they get antibiotics to take home, or are admitted to the hospital.

Why a picture of a water bottle? This water machine was one of a kind. I kept on going down past the bays of beds to keep my legs moving and to keep myself hydrated. Can you see the tiny trickle going into my bottle? I’m actually sitting down to fill that water bottle. Honestly it took so long (about 10 minutes to fill 500ml) that at one point in a full waiting room I could feel 10 pairs of eyes on me and suppressed mirth. Far too much in pain and poorly to actually laugh out loud, but the atmosphere certainly lifted.

I want to give huge thanks and appreciation to the paramedics who came when I called 999 at 2 AM, the A&E team, ESU ward staff and the surgical team, anaesthetists and all the others who looked after my husband. NHS staff are AMAZING.

Home again now, taking it easy, he is well on the way to recovery.

I loved being outside for a walk again, enjoying the surprise sunshine after the trauma of the last week. I can’t leave without telling you what I’m reading. I’m listening to this audiobook and really enjoying it. Read by Juliet Stevenson it’s such a good story, the only downside is her voice is so soothing I can’t listen to it lying down; because I’m asleep in 10 minutes.

Yesterday I finished two books: The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven and Tin Man by Sarah Winman. Both very good.

If this is natter, without the knit then this definitely needs your comments! How have your last few weeks been, what have you been doing, has it been sunny where you are and what are you reading?

In the last ten days

We finally got the promised snow, the Friday before last. These few photos were on the Saturday when my Snow Face was all go. (Manic grinning and crazy happy eyes.)

I do like snow a lot, I’m just not so keen on falling over when it’s icy. I definitely need to buy some new walking boots; because although they are still smart and comfy, my leather Timberlands are a bit worn and shiny on the soles. It makes me very wary walking the day after snowfall, when everything’s frozen solid. Last year I ended up making the shape of a capital A, with my hands flat on the pavement in front of me and my bottom in the air, when I slipped on the ice! No one needs to see that again.

At the beginning of the week I’d driven Mum around to four shops to try to buy a couple of small brown loaves, as I wasn’t planning on baking any sourdough for a couple of days. The snow had been forecast and it seemed sensible to make sure she had some. We found they were all sold out nearly everywhere. In the event it was a wet kind of snow and so didn’t hang around. By Sunday, when we went for another walk, it was beginning to melt at the edges.

Snow days means soup days. I made a new recipe from Olive: Creamy Tomato Soup. It’s a delicate blend of flavours and went down well with the others, though personally I’d halve the quantity of cream, it was a little rich for me.

I don’t have the same comments about the chocolate in the cake I had last Monday, courtesy of John Lewis rewards on my app. Get the app if you ever go anywhere near a JL. The free cake and hot drink can be perfect, when you’re shopping and in need of a pitstop. What I love about it is the free cake includes pastries, which means you can have a rather nice cheese scone! This was a rare time when I actually had the cake and a cappuccino, rather than peppermint tea and a cheese scone for lunch.

Now I know daffodils, snowdrops and hellebore are winter flowers, croci too, but just seeing flowers popping out and nodding their little heads can’t help but make you think of spring.

By Wednesday it was hard to believe we’d ever had any snow at all. Did you spot the foraging ducks amongst the fallen beech leaves? They were too busy to turn around to chat to me even, though I did try to start up a conversation.

Look at that handsome strutting boy heading back to the pond, he was all wiggling hips and attitude as he knew I’d snap him.

Thursday it was time to cook a warming curry. Another Olive magazine recipe to try. We really liked their version of Chicken Saag. It’s a good blend of spices, filling lentils, chicken and shiny spinach. It was declared “A Winner!”

Friday morning and I made cheese scones for lunch. Oops I forgot to start the timer, so they were rather more crispy than usual, which actually went down really well. Good!

Then lasagne for dinner. This one. Absolutely yummy, a proper Winter Warmer with bells on. A robust Malbec to sip and the promise of some chocolate after.

If you’re not going anywhere Friday nights are made for a tasty meal, which has to fit within the criteria of a Friday Night Tea, there are rules about what constitutes a Friday Night Tea and definite no-nos. Do you know what I mean? I was delighted to find out a friend thinks exactly the same way, that made me realise how in sync we were when we started to get to know each other. You also need a good film, or tv which makes you laugh, nothing serious, and the evening has to include a little something sweet for later. No dessert or chocolate to hand is very, very bad.

It’s not all food, drink and chocolate cake, as lovely as that is. My weekly tally, added to my accumulative total showed I’ve completed over a tenth of my walking target now. I’m aiming to walk 1,000 miles this year, without pressure or in competition with anyone else. Over 100 miles walked already. Go me and my shiny bottomed Timberlands!

What about you? What are you doing, cooking or making in your spare time? Have you read any good books lately? I am absolutely stuck into Last Letter Home by Rachel Hore. It’s going to be a quick read for me as I can’t put it down.

Serendipity

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Lao Tzu

Today I had a rather nice thing happen. While walking at Blenheim, lamenting that my usual six mile loop is still not able to be accessed, I paused to ask a couple who passed through the same gateway if they knew of a circular route in the direction we were headed. It’s always nicer not to retrace your steps. Also familiar with the loop I walk, they were trying another one by using a map app. I ended up joining them, after saying a few times that I was happy to drop back and follow at a distance so I didn’t intrude, but instead she asked me if I bake and had I heard of Bundt cakes? Well, you know me….I LOVE talking about baking, cake recipes and eating cake is one of my favourite pastimes, and so we were off!

While we walked we covered topics like bundt cake recipes (I’ve never actually made or eaten one in England, though I have in Australia and USA as they’re not that common here, but I do fancy a cherry and coconut version I said) walking 1,000 miles in a year, backpacking, living in the countryside, NT membership and much more.

It was a really lovely 5 mile circular walk with good conversation. At the end we swapped numbers saying we could maybe meet up and walk together again, but I knew that even if I never heard from, or saw them again, I’d had a really lovely time.

However by the time I got home I found I had a text from L with a Fitbit map of our route so I could do it again, if I wanted. How thoughtful. I said they’d got me looking up bundt cakes…! They’re based on European cakes, but actually bundt tins were invented in the 1950s by an American guy who’d bought an Aluminum Company in Minnesota to make Scandinavian items. I could tell you more facts, or you can Google them too. I love finding out random information. I know I’ll have forgotten it all in a few weeks time, as my brain is custard, but I like the short-term knowledge!

We exchanged a few cake based messages and I went to the dentists for my annual checkup and came out absolutely starving hungry. I don’t know about you but I don’t eat too near to an appointment. I’d had another message to say R was making a coffee and chocolate fudge cake as he thought that was suitably American. Aww!

I received an email from Ramblers this afternoon about Time to Talk Day. This will be on February 7th and aims to get people together to walk and talk about mental health issues, with an aim to reduce the stigma around talking about it. This seems like a very good thing indeed.

Mental health problems affect one in four of us, yet many people are still afraid to talk about it. Walking is a perfect way to start having a conversation with others and opening up. Being physically active, connecting with nature and other people – the ingredients of a Ramblers group walk – are all things which have been shown to have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.

From the Ramblers website

I’m recording my pedometer mileage as usual every week, but this year am totting up the miles to see how close to a thousand I walk during the year. I’m not putting any pressure upon myself, especially as I have a tendency to knee problems. So, if it’s half that amount then so be it, but it’s cool to have a goal to keep in mind. I can then aim to beat this year’s total next year.

How are you doing? (I always, always hear Joey from Friends when I say that! Do you read it in his voice?!)