Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Home is where the heart is

It's pouring rain outside and last night I used a hotwater bottle for the first time this season. It's the time of year when I start thinking about those snug days, or evenings, I'll be spending at home over the coming months. Evenings with hot milk and honey and a good film, or afternoons with homemade soup and embroidery. At this time of year it doesn't matter where I am or what I'm doing, whether I'm having a weekend away in the North or I've gone for a nature walk for a couple of hours, I always look forward to coming home.

For me it's the personal things around my home which make it a happy and calming place for me to be, little pockets of my home which I can look at and feel appreciation and happiness. Though, there certainly are pockets of my home which I look at and feel less than happy (the cemented holes in the ceiling which I haven't bothered to paint over for example!) but when I look at those dusty areas I try to remember that my life just isn't going to look like a magazine shoot, for one my life and my home are real. So without further a do, I'll show you around some my favourite little pockets.
Starting with the hallway. Hats and shopper bags hang on pegs. Daniel won that medal for playing football. The straw hat is a traditional boater which I bought at a market to wear when hosting The Winter Entertainment Club and the camera is from when I was a teenager.

Lets go into the kitchen. Almost everything in the kitchen belonged to my Gran. Almost everything has a childhood memory of Summer days at my Gran's cottage attached to it; the biscuit tin which seemed to have 30 biscuits on our arrival and none by the time we went home, the glasses she would drink apple juice from every morning and say 'ah, nectar', almost everything has a memory of those summer weeks in the countryside. Above is my wall of birds, I've only managed to collect three so far, but I still love them.

The kitchen is my favourite room in the flat. This is the stack of mixing bowls. Those plates and bowls at the bottom also belonged to Gran and bring back memories of stews and casseroles and crumbles, all the foods I wasn't fond of as a child but love to cook now. I collected all the mixing bowls and pudding basins once I new we were moving in and now I use them for baking.

Everything in the kitchen is old and that's just how I like it.

This is my bedroom door and over time I've added special things to it. You can see a note to Daniel, a tiny swedish picture, an old cracker jack toy my friend brought back from America, a hand sewn russian doll by another friend and a bouquet of dried heather which I collected when we went on a big hiking trip together.

In the bedroom. A huge stack of vintage suitcases are full of all sorts; crafting materials, paints, twigs, shells, my Grandma's hankie collection, dress making patterns, audio tapes, and one suitcase that I never go in is filled with every letter I've ever recieved. The first post I recieved is in there - postcards from Gran on my birthday each year, letters from my childhood penpals, and teenage penpals, love letters, one line letters from Grandma, each letter that has gone through my letter box, treasured.

I often find myself wishing that my home looked like the pictures I look at on blogs, or like the pages of my favourite magazine, World of Interiors, but really, I like it just the way it is.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Blackberry Picking

This weekend Daniel and i went Blackberry picking. Last year, when the blackberries had become ripe we took a long walk along a disused railway stretching from one area of London to another. I'd thought that we'd go back there but a few weeks ago whilst cycling around our local green area, we noticed long stretches of blackberries which would soon be juicy and ready for picking.
I wore my jeans and a long sleeved jumper to protect myself from nettles and brambles. A mixing bowl, and a measuring jug were our containers of choice and I popped them in my bycicle basket. We cycled along a few streets then over the canal bridge, along the canal and into the fields. It's a strange green space that we live next to. In what was once a big industrial area, next to the building site of the Olympics. There's big old factories and electric pilons and a railway running through it but it's a nature reserve with many birds and insects, fruit bushes and trees. When I first went there I didn't like it and thought it was to industrial to be pretty, but as I've spent more time there I've seen different birds (a heron and a kestrel on this occasion) and the changing of the wildlife through the seasons. I've come to appreciate that nature doesn't only exist in peaceful countryside, it lives all around me in the city.
Just like last year i found myself wishing I had a walking stick to pull down those high branches laden with plump berries, just out of reach. I'd learnt that trick as a child. I remember a lovely day trip to the Lake District with a friend and her parents to fill tupawear upon tupawear with berries. On arriving back at their house we made jam with my friends mother in the kitchen, us two girls stiring the pot.
Daniel and I didn't have a walking stick and couldn't find a stick on the ground to use so I thought of an alternative. He put me on his shoulders and I could reach the big juicy berries on the fruit laden high branches. I only managed to get about ten before he needed to put me down but it was fun. The train kept going over our head and we were so near that the passengers could probably see us filling bowls and our bicycles near by. I always thought that my dream would be to live in the countryside but there is something fun about finding alternatives in the city. Blackberry picking in big open fields is the perfect way to spend an end of summer afternoon. Do I mind the pilons and train going by? Not so much these days.
I'd love to hear your recipe suggestions. I'm thinking crumble and muffins......

Friday, 23 July 2010

Our campfire

It was my birthday recently and as a special birthday treat Daniel arranged our first camping trip. A little one night camp at a local place. This was especially kind because Daniel doesn't consider himself to be a camper but he knows I love it. I had been collecting equipment for a little while. The site was only an hour away in Epping Forest. It was ideal, we don't have a car and so we didn't have to carry our bags to far. We could get there by tube - which incidentally made me a little sceptical about just how pretty and peaceful a campsite within the boundaries of the London tube map could be!
On arrival we were told we could have a site on the rather thrilling sounding 'Fire Field', which was great news - we quickly went to the local shop (well, this is London) and bought sausages and marshmallows. After setting up camp we went into the forest, located directly behind our tent, and collected wood for our fire. I have to admit I got rather enthusiastic about seeing how many large pieces of wood I could find and then carry. There was something about camping next to the forest that reminded me of being a child and camping with my Cub Scout leader parents. Every other weekend I'd be running around some mucky woodland, buying sweets from the tuck shop and playing games with the Cubs.
To my surprise Daniel started carving the tops of sticks to use as our cooking utensils. He looked rather natural sitting next to the campfire with a stick in one hand and a knife in the other. I thought to myself ' He might just have turned into a camper'. Our dinner consisted of sausages in buttered rolls followed by a bag of toasted marshmallows. I thought of Emma Bradshaw and knew that she would have made something much more nutritious, but hey, it was our first trip. We sat next to our campfire enjoying rum and ginger beers and peppermint tea before bed. As we were climbing into our little tent Daniel said 'there's something not quite right about going to bed before all the kids'. I said 'your right, but it's 10.30 and I'm sleepy'. It was when fireworks started being set off in our field that we thought maybe we had left the fun a little early.
After waking up in the morning we got the fire going again and had scrambled eggs on bread with a hot cup of tea. Sitting around the warm fire early in the morning reminded me so much of my early childhood camping days. A peaceful sort of feeling, the quiet of the campsite as other campers potted around - children walking about in pyjamas and people starting fires and cooking their breakfasts. Suddenly it was time to go home again, but it was ok, I knew that both of us would be going camping again soon.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Taking a dip

One happy memory of mine is from a few years ago. I was visiting a very good friend of mine in California. We were on a horseback trek in Yosemite National Park and our camp had been set up next to a lake. My friend and I went for a walk around the lake but there was no clear path and after about half an hour we decided to give up and go back to camp. My friend is particularly brave, and persuasive. She persuaded me to swim back to camp across the lake with her.
The water was ice cold from nearby melting glaciers so it took a lot of persuasion and giggling before we actually jumped in. We had our shoes and clothes, even a camera. It was no easy task to swim, holding all these items above our heads, in a fit of giggles, in freezing cold water but we did. And why did doing it make me feel so good ? because I new I could have easily done the half hour walk back, but instead we did something silly and joyful that made me feel like I was fun and free.

Here in London I don't have lakes in the middle of nowhere, with views of glaciers whilst I'm swimming, but I do have Hampstead Heath Ponds and my local lido. Even though a local outdoor swimming pool may not sound like a luxury to some, it is to me. After all, I don't know of anywhere else in Britain which has a selection of outdoor pools and it was something I had never experienced before moving to London.
I'll certainly be packing one of my costumes (seen above) and taking the train to Hampstead this summer. I'll be riding my bike over to my local lido quite often as well. What do you do when it's hot and balmy and you really need a swim?