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A bunch of May

May Day posies

A bunch of May I have brought you

And at your door it stands.

What does the first of May make you think of? May poles, ribbons and pretty dresses, perhaps? Or maybe it’s the old wives tale about getting up at dawn to wash your face in the morning dew. There are lots of complicated, intertwining traditions, most of which are now long forgotten.

These days, most of us just hope for a day of good weather.

But we can still enjoy May Day in its very simplest form. The desire to celebrate spring and spread some joy never goes out of fashion.

Last year I wrote about May Day traditions, and this year I’m revisiting the subject.

One very sweet May Day tradition from the nineteenth century were the floral garlands made by children. These garlands were carried around the village by children, who would sing and dance at people’s doors.

In Lark Rise to Candleford, Flora Thompson remembers that:

on the last morning of April the children would come to school with bunches, baskets, arms and pinafores full of flowers – every blossom they could find in the fields and hedges or beg from parents or neighbours

These flowers were woven round a wooden, bell shaped structured, carried about on sticks.

May Day posies

I’m not about to resurrect this tradition (although it could be rather lovely if you live in village), but how about talking a little of its spirit and re-interpreting it for today? I love the idea of using flowers to spread a little joy around the neighbourhood.

So, this May Day I’m going to gather flowers and greenery from my garden and make posies. The children are going to help, and we’re going to deliver them to our neighbours. All you need are a few empty jam jars and some gathered blooms and blossom.

May Day posies

Tie on a label and leave one on someone’s doorstep to make them smile! 

If you’d like to share your photos on Instagram please use hashtag #abunchofmay – I’d love to see what you make! 

 

Dreaming of worktops

Image source: Devol Kitchens

The other night I had a dream about a kitchen. It was pale, light-filled and elegant. The cupboards were painted soft grey and there was a beautiful sweeping marble worktop. I think it might just be my dream kitchen. 

Of course, when I came down to make breakfast in the morning the reality was quite different. Our kitchen was the same as ever: tired, messy and boasting a very old IKEA wooden worktop.

Marble isn’t something I’d ever contemplated in a kitchen, but this feels like a bit of divine inspiration. I was, and am, a big fan of wooden worktops. When we had our (former) dream kitchen installed in our old house, one of its main features was the solid oak worktop. It was really beautiful.

But that was about seven years ago, and I’m not sure wood would be my first choice again. Increasingly, I’m drawn to harder, shiner surfaces like granite or marble. It’s not for practical reasons – wood deteriorates, but marble is also very sensitive. It marks and stains just as badly as any bit of oiled oak. It’s a natural substance so it’s going to change as it ages – getting scratched and discoloured. In fact, it would probably be a very expensive and high-maintenance choice.

But I just love how it looks. Pale, polished marble is a wonderful, timeless look that is never going to date.

Image source: Pinterest

If the price (and the idea of caring for it) terrify you, then you could consider a laminate worktop in a marble finish. It might not be so sumptuous, but it’s a whole lot more practical! A great option if you’re looking for a cheap kitchen work surface.

Marble laminate worktop

Marble laminate worktop

I’m nowhere near getting a new kitchen. But I’m going to keep that bright, shiny marble-topped image firmly in my dreams.

This post was written in collaboration with Worktop Express. All thoughts and ideas are my own. 

Home Etc

Thick jumpers and swishy skirts

Pleated skirt and woolly jumper

Pleated skirts have been on my radar for many a year, but for some reason I’ve never bought one. Mainly for boring reasons of practicality. But sometimes a swishy skirt is just what you need. And who says they have to be impractical?

I recently invested in this one from H&M. It’s dark grey, with a subtle sparkly thread running though it. At £14.99, I was happy to take a chance on it. It’s pretty, yet comfortable (got to love an elasticated waist!) and works equally well for day or night.

Chunky jumpers and pleated skirts

By day, it’s great with lots of layers – a chunky jumper, scarves, thick tights and a baggy coat. It’s general swishyness stops all the things keeping me warm feeling too boring and dowdy. What to wear on your feet is mildly tricky – I want to avoid looking overdressed. I’ve decided that simple trainers are the best thing.

Your basic fomula is…

Chunky jumpers and pleated skirts

Skirt, £14.99, H&M / Jumper, £14.99, H&M / Trainers, £14.99 by (you’ve guessed it) H&M. My coat in the previous pictures is also from H&M and is £39.99.

The whole thing – minus a few layers – also works really well in the evening. I wore it recently to an early evening event with a simple black jumper and the succulent necklace (from my shop).

Pleated skirt and woolly jumper

It’s pretty and practical…with just the right hint of sparkle. Perfect for the busy month ahead! 

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Things to do before Christmas: visit a gallery

Visit an art gallery

Already a bit tired of the high street’s generic offerings this Christmas? I know I am. And it’s not even December yet.

How about trying something new? Most towns have an independent gallery. They’re not scary places, I promise – and they’re a fantastic place to buy beautiful and unusual Christmas presents. Most galleries will have a great range of things – from small paintings and more affordable prints, right down to little handmade craft items, jewellery and cards. You don’t have to have a full purse to be able to leave with something.

Recently I went to a special evening hosted by Cambridge Contemporary Arts, and their sister gallery Cambridge Contemporary Crafts. I had soon compiled a Christmas wish list as long as my arm.

Blogger evening at Cambridge Contemporary Arts

My husband and I both fell in love with some gorgeous linocuts by Gail Brodholt. Our favourite was Every Moment So Fleeting (£300). Clearly it would be an expensive purchase, but we were both tempted to have this as a single, joint Christmas present to each other. A great investment, and something we could keep on enjoying.

linocut 33cm x 34cm edition 75

linocut 33cm x 34cm

I also loved this screen print (£345) by Angie Lewin. I can completely picture it in my house and I’d love to own it.

shoreline

It’s worth noting that both of these prints are available to buy via the Arts Council’s Own Art scheme – where you pay for your purchase over ten monthly payments. The scheme is available for artwork priced between £100 to £2500. Such a good idea – especially when it’s hard to justify spending so much in one go.

But galleries aren’t just about paintings and prints. I also love the little decorative objects available, which are often much more affordable than the paintings – but every bit as unique and precious.

Ali Smith Angel

Ali Cooper’s beautiful Christmas porcelain pieces were my favourites – white, glossy and with the merest hint of gold. I fell completely in love with this little bird house (£20) and it came home with me. It’s always wonderful to buy a really special ornament for the tree every year.

Ali Smith ceramics at Cambridge Contemporary Arts

Will Shakspeare’s hand blown glass baubles are also completely covetable and I was thrilled to add another one to my collection.

Will Shakspeare's glass at Cambridge Contemporary Arts

So, whether you’re looking for jewellery, crafts, prints – or maybe just a gorgeous Christmas card – try calling into your local gallery. I came away feeling very inspired with lots of ideas.

Or how about a trip to Cambridge? It’s a magical place for festive shopping.

If you’re planning a visit, here’s how where to find the galleries. You can also order direct by viewing their websites:

Cambridge Contemporary Arts, 6 Trinity Street, Cambridge, CB2 1SU

Cambridge Contemporary Crafts, 5 Bene’t St, Cambridge, CB2 3QN

 

 

 

Wildlife spotting in the garden, plus a vlog!

Cloud binoculars craft

There’s so much going on in the garden at this time of year. In even the smallest outdoor space you can spot all sorts of bugs, insects and other wildlife. You don’t have to look hard: just pause for a moment and it will come wiggling, buzzing, creeping or fluttering its way to you.

This summer BEAR nibbles have partnered with the Wildlife Trust to encourage children to get out in the fresh air. Each box of yummy BEAR paws contains some cards with fun and inspiring outdoor projects – from building a den and leaf rubbing to camouflage headbands and open-air yoga.

Our little town garden is absolutely teeming with wildlife at the moment. And what do you need to spot all that wildlife? A pair of binoculars of course! One of the little activities from BEAR is for a simple pair of cloud-spotting binoculars.

Making cloud binoculars craft

Making cloud binoculars craft

Tom loved making his and used them to go and look at his favourite garden residents: our bucket of frogs. We discovered them when we were clearing away a pile of old fence panels and buckets. We’d inadvertently created a perfect habitat for them. After we’d cleared everything we worried they’d be unhappy and leave, but they’ve stuck around. We spotted three in there with the binoculars yesterday!

Frogs living in a bucket

Here’s an adorable video about our wildlife crafting session!

Thank you to BEAR nibbles, who kindly sent us our crafting supplies and lots of yummy snacks. 

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#OnePerfectThing in May

Pink vase

Perfection often feels out of reach. But however imperfect you’re finding life, you can make an effort to find #OnePerfectThing. Something which makes you pause, smile and feel thankful.

Earlier in the month I started my new hashtag #OnePerfectThing over on Instagram. It’s all about capturing a little moment of your day – a small piece of perfection. This might be a cup of tea in the sunshine or a new pair of shoes. It’s all about taking the time to step back and appreciate the little things.

I’m so thrilled that so many of you have joined in and I’ve loved seeing your photos.

Here are some of my favourites:

OnePerfectThingMay

Top row, left to right: @mummyspooner, @three_sons_later, @pushingthemoon

Middle row, left to right: @jennyseaves, @sallytangle, @tobyandroo

Bottom row: left to right: @helloitsgemma, @someone_s_mum, @trot_a_mouse

And my absolute favourite of the month is this photo taken by Fionnuala of Three Sons Later of some pretty eggs from her new hens.

eggs

The image summed up everything about #OnePerfectThing and this little present from my shop will be winging its way to Fionnuala soon.

Bird bottle stopper

Thank you all so much for taking part, I’m looking forward to seeing you next month for #OnePerfectThing in June.

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What I’ve been reading lately

What I've been reading lately

The Way We Live Now – Anthony Trollope

This is the first Trollope novel I’ve ever read, and I have to admit it was a bit of Herculean challenge at times. It’s not that it wasn’t good – it was – but at 762 pages, it required a bit of sticking power and there’s a lot of detail. I’m glad I did though. Set in London in the 1870s, it’s a sharp social satire on greed, ambition, love (and maybe a bit of lust) and other human follies. If you fancy a sweeping, panoramic read, then give it a go – despite its age it really does feel remarkably fresh and modern.

A Summer at Sea – Katie Fforde 

This is something completely different, and perfect if you fancy a bit of light (but reasonably intelligent) froth.  This one follows the usual quirky pattern of a Katie Fforde romance: plucky heroine meets handsome chap… this time it’s a midwife on a career break, spending a summer cooking on a steam boat in the Western Isles of Scotland. It was as light-hearted and charming as Katie Fforde books always are, although I think her more recent novels are a bit weak compared to her earlier ones (my favourites are Living Dangerously and Wild Designs). Nevertheless, it’s a nice, effortless summer read.

Sister Carrie – Theodore Dreiser

Now we’re back to the past again, although this time it’s Chicago in the 1880s. The story is all about Carrie, who arrives in the city from the country aged eighteen. We follow her struggles to find work in the rapidly growing city, and then her fascinating rise as the mistress of a wealthy, but flawed, man.  The novel is very direct and modern and was considered pretty shocking at the time, and was first published in a heavily edited form in 1900. Carrie is not always a particularly likeable character, and her decisions (and the narrative of the novel) are strikingly modern and brutal at times. It really is a fascinating read – in parts sad, shocking and unsettling – but, also a great page turner and I couldn’t put it down.

What have you been reading lately?

Five things you probably don’t know about me

DSCF9842

1. I need glasses but I’m too vain to wear them except when I’m driving or watching TV. I just don’t feel like me in them, although it is nice to be able to see things occasionally. If I scowl at you across a road, I’m (probably) not grumpy, I’m just squinting to see you.

2. I hate washing my thick, wavy hair. It’s such a long, drawn out palaver. But I love it when it’s clean. Oh, to be the kind of person who can just whizz it under the hairdryer and run out the door. Does that person exist?

3. I would love to swap places with Lucy Worsley for a day. Wouldn’t be fun being clever for a living and getting to poke about in all those old buildings? She also has the most enviable hair and wardrobe. I’ve tried to imitate the hair, but it doesn’t really work so well on me (see point 2 above).

4. My house is often very messy and my children don’t always behave beautifully. I’d rather only share the good moments. I realise that by doing this I’m perpetuating the Instagram/blogging myth that everyone has a beautiful and perfect life, but that’s ok isn’t it? I think we all know by now that even the most beautiful photos have a heap of old junk pushed just out of shot. Or maybe that is just me after all.

5. I find it easy to justify spending money on clothes, but stint on shoes. I’m beginning to think it should be the other way round.  I’m always the one in the beautiful dress with the scuffed old boots covered in mysterious stains. I think I find it hard because I usually find pretty shoes uncomfortable, and spending money on sensible shoes is just too sensible.

I’d love it if you’d like to join in with me on this. Do tag me in and share your five things either on your blog, or on Instagram! 

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Our Easter holiday: chocolate, castles and an extinct volcano

Blossom

Hello from the other side of the Easter holidays! It’s been very quiet around here lately, as I’ve been spending time with my two energetic boys on their long school holidays. I hadn’t meant to have such a long break from the blog, so this is a bit of a rambling post.

Hot cross buns

The Easter weekend was right at the beginning of the holidays. The boys enjoyed two egg hunts – one here and one at their grandparents’ house. They were both treasure hunts with clues and the boys had such fun. And got a lot of chocolate (I totally failed to follow my own advice here). It was wet in the end, but the hunts were just as successful indoors – and actually the potential for clever clues is much better!

Tulips

After all the chocolate we needed a good walk by the river…

Puddle jumping

Followed by our first ice cream of the year!

Ice cream

After the Easter weekend we headed off for a few days in the Leicestershire countryside. We stayed in a beautiful little country cottage in the Vale of Belvoir, which is just over an hour away from us. James grew up in the this area and couldn’t wait to take the boys to some of his favourite places.

On our first day we visited Beacon Hill, overlooking Loughborough. It’s an extinct volcano and has the most amazing rocks to scramble about on. The boys love a bit of climbing and had a great time.

Beacon Hill

The hill is part of a larger country park which also has a Labyrinth made our of Rhododendron roots. The boys were fresh from watching Labyrinth the film for the first time, so were deeply excited by the thought of this. In reality, it wasn’t quite as exciting as the Goblin City, but it was still pretty fun and completely deserted.

Beacon Hill Labyrinth

For our next adventure we drove over to Nottingham Castle. The castle is sadly nothing like it would have looked to Robin Hood and his merry men (it was demolished after the Civil War), but underneath its unassuming exterior it still has its famous ancient tunnels.

Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Castle

The castle was built upon Castle Rock, and within this huge lump of sandstone (and underneath the rest of Nottingham) are a whole network of tunnels. We had a tour of Mortimer’s Hole which leads right up to the top of the rock. The history is really palpable down there and we all had a fascinating time – it’s not at all claustrophobic, more a big open tunnel which is quite steep in places.

Mortimer's Hole

Mortimer’s Hole

On our last day at the cottage we went to Belton House, which is near Grantham. Belton has the most amazing adventure playground with a miniature railway.

Miniature railway at Belton House

It’s also a beautiful house and garden, where the book and TV series Moondial was filmed in the late eighties. Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have noticed that I recently read the book and re-watched the TV series. So, I lured the boys with the adventure playground, and in return I got to spend a while wandering around pretending to be Minty from the book and generally being a bit sad.

Moondial at Belton House

I must apologise to the National Trust for standing on the Moondial (well, sundial really), but I couldn’t resist recreating this photo from my childhood…

Moondial

All in all, It was great to get away and we all fell in love with the wood burner in the holiday cottage.

Wood burner

Over the last weekend of the holidays we found ourselves at another castle. This time it was Castle Rising, an old favourite of ours in Norfolk.

Tom at Castle Rising

We usually just go to the castle, but this time we also did a three mile circular walk through the pretty countryside around it. We had a lovely picnic in the sunshine and even saw a beautiful hare close up. We rounded things off with an ice cream and a run around the castle. It was the perfect end to the holidays.

I hope you all had a great Easter too. I’m looking forward to catching up with all my favourite blogs over the coming week!

Lizzie x

An Easter giveaway!

EasterGiveaway

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed choosing the things for my shop and now I want to share a special treat with you – the chance to enter a rather nice Easter Giveaway. Just the thing to cheer up a Monday morning!

The prize is the lovely bundle of goodies shown above – a Renu jug, a sweet blossom candle and a leaf bottle stopper.To enter, simply use the competition form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!