Friday 30 December 2016

Hygge ...

I have to 'fess up to never having been to Denmark, and to have a knowledge of that country, its language and its people that has largely come to me as a by-product of my enthusiasm for crime fiction. So far, so good. These days however there is one aspect of Danish culture that I find myself drawn to, and that is this thing called hygge. Everyone seems to be talking about all over social media.

Now I certainly don't pretend to totally understand what it's all about. For one thing the internet tells me that hygge is a concept incapable of direct translation into English, which is a bit daunting. Apparently we simply haven't got any words to express it.

The Danish word, hygge (pronounced “HUE-gah”) is translated by Babylon as cosiness, which is, I suspect, an over-simplification. Other sources elaborate on it being the art of enjoying life's simple pleasures, such as family, friends and warm homes in cold weather. It could, for example, be the pleasure of taking off your unwieldy ski boots, massaging your cold feet and slipping them into the furry embrace of a comfortable pair of Ugg boots. Do you ever feel elated when you finally get those cumbersome ski boots off? Me too! Well, I'm pretty confident that what we're recognising here is a warm, happy moment of hygge.

Whatever the sense of it I'm probably not doing hygge in a way that many Danes would recognise, but out here on the Costa Brava I'm making a valiant attempt to nail it. These sleepy down-days between Christmas and New Year, when the holiday mentality carries on regardless of whether there are bank holidays or not, seems to present the perfect opportunity to achieve moments of hygge.

Thursday 29 December 2016

Mas Molla ... going strong since 1338 ...

At this time of the year we tend to go through rather a lot of vino, with friends and family dropping in, dinners, celebrations and general merry-making. Having had a fairly thirsty Christmas we headed out yesterday afternoon to replenish supplies for the New Year.

Rather than trekking off to Oddbins, we went to the bodega of Mas Molla, where the same family have been making wine  in the same way on the same land since 1338. I kid you not. They cared for their vines in the fields hereabouts as the Hundred Years War raged across Europe. They shivered with fear as the population round about perished from the Black Death, which flared up for the first time in 1348 - just 10 years into their history here.

When they first started out in business it was still (fairly) respectable to believe that the world was flat, and it would be almost 200 years before Nicolas Copernicus suggested (in 1543) that the earth revolved around the sun. Can you imagine that? The Molla family were working here when heliocentrism was regarded as a dangerous heresy. They were doing their thing whilst poor old Galileo was being investigated, and held under house arrest by the Roman Inquisition for having supported the heretical notion that the sun was at the centre of the solar system.

More than a century and a half would have to pass from the time they opened shop here before Christopher Columbus sailed across the pond and discovered America.

I could go on in this vein for some time ... .

Standing there yesterday looking out over the terrain, dotted with rows of (very dead-looking) winter vines it sent a real shiver down my spine to think about just how long this family-chain, down through the generations of the Molla family, has been tied to these same fields. I was more than a little bit blown away by my own roll-call of events that they've lived through ... .

Mas Molla, Calonge (Girona)
The cellars of Mas Molla, Calonge

Tuesday 27 December 2016

La Sardana

Yesterday was Boxing Day - or Diada de Sant Esteve, as it's known in this part of the world. To celebrate the village went dancing in the Passeig del Mar.  They laid on a live band, everyone brought their dog, and the young and the old and everyone in between came out to dance the Sardana in the bright Christmas sunshine.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas ...

I'm all cosy and snug with my nearest and dearest here on the Costa Brava. Our tree is up, our presents are wrapped, the turkey is stuffed and set for roasting, and there's nothing left to do but enjoy the moment.

Well, seeing as I've got everything under control, how'd you you like to step out with me for a moonlit stroll around my pueblo? They've really pulled out the stops and put on the Ritz with lots and lots of Christmas lights. Come on! You'll hardly need a coat. After the recent winter storms the weather's turned benign.

Sun set over the bay in Sant Feliu de Guíxols

Friday 23 December 2016

Harbour fix-ups ...

It's a quiet time of the year down at the harbour, with not so many boats going out every night. But that gives the fixer-uppers an opportunity to get ahead. There's been a lot of activity mending nets, painting hulls and doing refits.

Early morning at Sant Feliu de Guíxols harbour

Thursday 22 December 2016

Super-chunky-knit cushions ...

Super chunky knit cushions - pattern follows : dog - an inimitable one-of-a-kind!

I bought some of this ultra super chunky wool a while ago. I'd noticed that other people were getting into all sorts of knit-something-in-a-day projects, and I was curious to see how it would work out. So I ordered some colours that struck me as harmonious without a very clear idea of what I was going to do with them.

Now I have to confess that this kind of knitting is not really my thing. I'd never advocate using the resulting textile for anything other than upholstery. It produces a knit that's just too chunky and unwieldy for my tastes: think Axminster carpet as opposed to 2 ply cashmere ... . Wear it and you're likely to melt in any environment that boasts even the most rudimentary heating system, and, even if you're as thin as a pencil, a padding of this ultra super chunky knit is guaranteed to make you look like a bear who's ate all the honey and is heading off to hibernate.

But where it does come into its own is for seat cushions. I'm a big fan of sitting outside on sunny days right through the winter months. I love to be outdoors with fresh air and winter sunshine. When I'm skiing I love how they cosy up the patio seating with throws and cushions and padding. And this is where ultra super chunky wool comes into its own: if you're looking for über insulation it's the real deal. For seat cushions that are guaranteed to keep your rear end cosy in the depths of winter it's the business. Added to which whatever you make will knit up in super quick time.

I knocked these together in just a few hours. You could have a whole new suite of patio cushions knit and sewn together over the course of a stay-at-home Saturday.

Just read on for the patterns:

Tuesday 20 December 2016

All set for Christmas ... Costa Brava style

You know you're a grown-up when you're the person who has to deliver Christmas. And this year I'm the designated adult. All of Mr B's siblings and their families are coming to us for Christmas Day. And out here on the not-so-sunny Costa Brava finding an ostrich-sized turkey to feed them all with is proving to be a bit of a challenge ... .

Friday 2 December 2016

Oxtail soup ... the ultimate winter warmer

It's turned really chilly here in London. The days are bright and clear, with blue skies and sunshine, but once the sun goes down it gets s-o-o-o cold.

At this time of the year, as the nights draw and the cold strengthens, I turn to hearty food: soups and stews are the things I want to cook most. And there's nothing better on a cold winter's night than a steaming bowl of oxtail soup. It is the ultimate, luscious, warming, comfort food. Mine gets cooked all day in the slow cooker, filling the house with its tantalising smell. By nightfall the meat is falling off the bone, and the liquid is a rich, deep chocolatey brown ... ambrosia in a soup bowl!

Given that there are only three bears who usually sit down at my table every night, this recipe has been calculated to feed three people. You can big it up if you've got more folk to feed. Just read on for my recipe:

Oxtail soup

Friday 25 November 2016

Festibear ...

Okay, he's arrived a bit late. I'd intended to have him off the needles in time for Festiwool, but, with one thing and another, life got in the way and poor Festibear missed his launch date. Still, better late than never, as they say. He can be a Christmas bear. I'm sure there are lots of little people up and down the land who'd happily give him a home for the holidays.

He's knit in the round (mostly) from my own-label Costa Brava Knitting Splatter dash Merino double knitting wool on 3.00 mm/  double-pin needles. You'll need about 70 g/ 140 metres for a bear of these proportions (he stands 30 cm/ 12" tall). In addition to the wool you'll need a circle of felt (diameter 9 cm/ 3.5") for inside his head to hold his facial features securely in place, some toy stuffing and a pair of 6 mm safety eyes. You may even like to push the boat out and treat him to a nice length of velvet ribbon, just for decency's sake so that he's not a naked bear ... .

Anyway, whichever way you want to dress him up, please read on for the pattern.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Ealing's swamp cypress ...

Today I'm loving a swamp Cypress - native of a mangrove swamp in the Florida Everglades, - that's made its home in Walpole Park. Who'd have thought? A swamp cypress? In Ealing?

Walpole Park, Ealing, London, W5
Ealing's Swamp Cypress

Sunday 20 November 2016

The Knitting History Forum ...

Yesterday I went for the first time to a meeting of the Knitting History Forum. I'm an avid knitter and a keen social historian, so it was always guaranteed to be something that I would find interesting. What I wasn't prepared for was the colourful cast of characters, with strong and very well-informed opinions, who made up the audience. Yes, the speakers were interesting, but the folk scattered around the room were brilliant. They listened attentively, needles clicking as the speakers talked, and then asked incisive questions, and chipped in with additional information from learned papers and books that they'd written on related themes themselves.

Here in London I'm an enthusiastic lecture attendee, but I've never been part of an audience in which every other person brandished knitting needles as they listened. Of course it makes total sense that they should be multitasking in this way. Indeed educational psychologists often suggest that having something to fiddle with whilst you listen helps the information go in, and so many of us (self included) enjoy our favourite television programmes curled up on the sofa working as we watch.

We had lectures about Frisian lace making, the publication of knitting and crochet patterns in northern Europe from 1790 to 1870 and debunking the myths around Shetland lace making. The speakers included a museum curator from the Fries Museum in the Netherlands and a clutch of academics.

Listening in the audience were no lesser authorities on the subject that Professor Sandy Black of the London College of Fashion and author of (amongst other books) the wonderful Knitting: Fashion, History Craft, which is one of my favourite reference books, Dr Jane Malcolm-Davies, author of the Tudor Tailor, Dr Angharad Thomas of Knitting Gloves, who is the Textiles Archivist at the Knitting & Crochet Guild and Joyce Meader of the Historic Knit.

We had been invited to watch two recent documentaries on the history of knitting to which several members of the audience had contributed before attending, so that we could talk about them in the discussion section. I found them both interesting, and recommend them to you if you've got an idle hour to fill over the course of the next few days.

Fabric of Britain - available on BBC iPlayer until Thursday, 24th November.

The Secret History of Knitting - available on YouTube.

All the best for now,

Bonny x 

Monday 14 November 2016

Thank you to all my lovely Festiwool customers ...

It was a truly splendid little fair with lots of lovely, friendly people - both buying and selling. I'm always impressed by how nice yarn-lovers are. I know it sounds schmaltzy and trite, and that there are always exceptions to every rule, but in my experience - gleaned from days on my feet talking to the passing public at yarn fairs, and weeks of my life given over to knitting retreats - I've come to the firm view that a love of all things woolly is, of itself, a pretty good character reference.

Friday 11 November 2016

Festiwool 2016 ...

I’m really looking forward to Festiwool this Saturday. If you’re in the Hitchin area please drop by and say Hello! I’ll be on the Costa Brava Knitting stand all day.

It’s a lovely, friendly fair with some fabulous exhibitors – just the thing for stocking up on all your woolly essentials for the cold weeks of November and December … brr … isn’t it cold these days?

Friday 4 November 2016

Happy Friday, peeps!

We've been battling to make teddy bears - and not teddy mice. It's been a challenge, but we're getting there.

This was the outlook across the dining room table yesterday afternoon as the sunlight filtered in through the half-open shutters.  Emi was writing an essay about three birds in a nest, and battling to get the punctuation right, whilst I persevered with my teddies, battling to get the eyes sufficiently far apart. A nice bottle of red beckoned with the necessary promise to get me through until dinner.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Teddy Mouse ...

We've been practising for the 11+ exams over here at Talk-a-Lot Towers, and I can't exactly say that it's been a bag of laughs ... . 

To keep hold of my sanity I've been playing around with some of my Merino double knitting, trying to make a good-luck mascot for the big day. The idea was to create a teddy bear in this lovely tweedy wool, but do you know what happens when you make your teddy's eyes too close together ... he morphs into a Teddy Mouse!

Anyway the pattern's a work in progress, and were he given a voice to reply he'd probably quote Marilyn Monroe and tell us: Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's always better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.

And his name is ... Dave. Not sure why, but it's definitely Dave. 

All the best for now, and happy All Saints' Day!

Bonny x 

Monday 31 October 2016

Costa Brava Rag Dolls

Here's what we got up to last week in sunny Sant Feliu:

For our October Knitting retreat we made these sweet rag dolls. They're knit in the round, starting with the legs, which are joined with a knitted gusset to create the basis for a body, which is then knit up to the head. They're a great way to use up scraps of 4 ply wool left over from other projects. We used our own-label, Costa Brava Knitting 100% organic cotton yarn. You'll need one 50 g ball of the skin-coloured yarn to knit the body of the doll and scraps for her shoes, dress and hair.

Just read on for the pattern:

Sunday 30 October 2016

October in Sant Feliu ...

This was the view from the quay-side, here in Sant Feliu, yesterday afternoon. We had a day of perfect sunshine and clear blue skies with hardly a breath of wind. I like it better now than in high summer; the October temperatures suit me: never too cold and never too hot.

I'd like to say a big thank you to my lovely guests who came on our October knitting retreat. You were all fantastic.  I'll post a teddy bear pattern soon for those 4 ply left-overs from our project during the week.

And finally I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Halloween! We're all set to carve some pumpkins later on tonight.

All the best for now,

Bonny x 

Saturday 15 October 2016

Choco-nana muffins ...

In our house we very occasionally don't get around to eating all the bananas before they get over-ripe. Given a choice I prefer a slightly green banana. Too much time of the shelf, and they develop a chalky texture and cloying sugariness that I really can't be having.

When this happens I often peel them, put them in a sandwich bag and store them in the freezer for a batch of my Choco-nana muffins. With the sweetness of the over-ripe bananas there's no need to add much sugar, and the addition of some cocoa powder with bake-stable chocolate chips ups the ante to produce a really tasty muffin that can't be too terrible for the waistline ...

Just read on for my recipe:

Thursday 22 September 2016

Knitting tote bag ...

Happy Autumn Equinox, my lovelies!

I've just finished making a batch of these super-quick tote bags for a wonderful group of ladies who've asked me to organise a knitting group get-away in deepest, darkest Devon. The idea is to hand out their knitting kits in custom-made tote bags that they can then carry them around in, and which will also help (super myopic) me to spot all my gorgeous ladies in a crowded bar. Brilliant idea: win/ win for all concerned!

We're staying down by the Exe estuary, so I thought I'd go with a jaunty nautical theme.

Just read on for the pattern and instructions.

Sunday 4 September 2016

Farewell to summer ...

Farewell to a wonderful Costa Brava summer. It was warm, golden and gone too soon.
Thank you to all our lovely guests.
And here's to the autumn ...

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Sunday 28 August 2016

Chasing the fish ...

Yesterday morning I happened upon the last fishing boat as it re-entered the harbour. It was pretty spectacular. In its wake were more seagulls than you could have shaken a stick at. The fishermen clean out their catch on the way back to harbour and I'm guessing that they toss the bits they don't keep back into the sea. As a result this big boat is a serious gravy train for all those hungry sea birds.

Sunday 21 August 2016

Perfect beach cardi ...

I've just made the perfect beach cardigan for covering up with as the evenings get a bit chillier. It's still lightweight and airy, which makes it perfect for summer evenings and dining al fresco as the sun sets over the bay. It feels casual enough to pull on over a bikini if you want to cover up on the beach - hence the name!

And it's knit in my wonderful own-label double knitting bamboo in the aptly-named colourway: Sandy Beach. This pattern makes a generously sized cardigan that will measure 48cm or 19" from arm pit to arm pit with the wool un-stretched. If you'd like it a bit smaller or larger you can adjust it by adding more / removing some pattern repeats. The pattern will repeat over 6 stitches and four rows. I used 570 g of wool, which totals 12, 50g balls of double knitting bamboo yarn, which totals about 1,200 metres of yarn. This yarn knits to a tension of 22 stitches x 28 rows on a 10cm x 10cm square in stocking stitch.

Just read on for the pattern:

Saturday 20 August 2016

Sant Feliu sunset ...

Here's to the golden aura of a Sant Feliu sunset. It's a precious moment when the sun disappears leaving the warm glow of its rays to linger for a while like happy memories of the day just gone.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Friday 19 August 2016

Loving the sunset ...

We face the wrong way to get stunning sunsets over the waves, but I'm often out at the tennis club in the (relative) cool of the evening around dusk. It's the best time of the day to knock a few balls around, after the heat of the afternoon has passed.

Now in truth I'm not a brilliant tennis player, and it takes very little to distract me from those clay courts. The club is set in rolling farmland. And at this time of the year, with the cereal crops harvested and the great round bales of straw waiting to be collected, it turns into the most glorious golden landscape. Just at the point at which the sun is dipping below the brows of the surrounding hills and the shadows are lengthening it's at its very best. So there you are, that's my excuse for ducking out of play.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Shopping Girona ...

Normally when we go to Girona we wander around and soak up the history and the ambience. Each time we find new things that we've not noticed before, and marvel at how many layers this place has. It feels like you could spend a whole lifetime here and still not know what was round every corner.

Whilst I'm not much of a recreational shopper, Girona has some lovely, quirky shops that can tempt even the most jaded consumer.

Thursday 11 August 2016

Costa Brava Colours ...

Out here on the Costa my days are full of colour. The amazing blue skies and clear, bright light make this a perfect destination for photographers. Quite honestly, all you have to do is point the camera and click. Whatever you've focussed on will look marvellous in that wonderful sunshiny light.

Even the weeds out here are photogenic. I mean who would complain about having weeds in their garden that looked like this?

Sunday 7 August 2016

Costa Brava sunflowers ...

We've made it! We're finally here on the Costa Brava! And it's hot. Very hot!

Emi goes to sailing school down on the beach every morning. He's made stacks of new friends and totally L-O-V-E-S being on the water. He's only had a week of instruction so far, but has taken to having a critical opinion of the wind every time we venture out. His great grandfather was in the Spanish Merchant Navy, so Mr B has been encouraging him to believe that he comes from a long and illustrious line of seafaring folk. The big joke is that their home village down in Murcia, a place called Águilas, has a big sign just outside of town announcing that it was once home to a notorious band of Barbary pirates ... enough said, Mr B!

Friday 5 August 2016

Fabulous Foxes ...

On our last day in London I came down early to get ready for my final day at Fibre East. When I looked out into the garden I was amazed to see a vixen with two cubs chasing each other through the flowerbeds. They were so puppy-like. One of the cubs was a great deal more timorous than the other one, and immediately ran off to hide when my sleepy-eyed mug appeared at the window, but Mum and the braver brother didn't scamper. They stayed and partied until I let the WonderDog out for his morning comfort break.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Bed time bunnies ...

One of our favourite things to do when we're down in Devon is to pull some lawn chairs just round the gable wall of the house so that we can sit quietly and watch the rabbits play in the meadow. They seem to come out just before darkness falls to graze and chase each other in the cool of the evening.

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Fibre East 2016

A big "thank you" to everyone who stopped by at the Fibre East Fair last weekend. We enjoyed meeting you all very much.

And Fibre East? Well, it was sensational. We had the best time. If you're a serious yarn enthusiast who enjoys the company of like-minded souls who share your passion, then this fair was tailor-made for you. I don't think I've ever been to such a friendly gathering of yarn-fans. And there were so many talented designers and makers exhibiting. It was a real honour to be part of the line-up.

And the good news is that they've got another one in the diary for next year. So save the date for Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th July 2017.

I was also hugely assisted by Emi, who gave out an amazing number of flyers, and by Mr B, my tech guy, who drank an equally amazing volume of coffee in the cafe marquee out back - so a big "thank you" to them too.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Traditional Devonshire Long Straw ... for thatching ...

Yesterday whilst we were out on our travels we were delighted to come upon this field of straw stooks. Whilst I'm not much of an expert on traditional thatching techniques I'm pretty sure that this is long straw, grown and harvested in the the time-honoured way, for thatching the local cottages to keep everyone weather-proof over the winter.

It always makes me smile when I come across something like this: a country scene that hasn't changed in a millennium. I'm not saying that I'd have liked to live under William the Conqueror, but in a rapidly changing world it's sort of reassuring to know that some things stand still.

And then I had a play to see whether I could turn the shot into something a little more atmospheric, fiddling with monochrome and sepia to make it feel like Michael Henchard, the Mayor of Casterbridge, might come marching out of the rows.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Sunday 24 July 2016

The Mid Devon Show 2016

One of our favourite days out in Devon in July is the annual Mid Devon Show. I'm a big fan of country shows that celebrate all the wonderful aspects of country life from the livestock on the farms to the wildlife in the fields to the country sports and the fabulous things that grow in our country gardens. They're a great day out for all the family, with something there for everyone. And you can bring your dog along. In fact I'm not sure they'll let you in to the Mid Devon if you don't have a pooch on your arm ...

Friday 22 July 2016

TGI Friday ...

And what a  week it's been. We've had a heatwave in Ireland. In Ireland! A heatwave! Who'd have thought? We showed up and brought the summer weather with us. It was brilliant. We had glorious afternoons of blue skies and sunshine as we walked our dogs. Being further north the days are so much longer at this time of the year, giving us lots of opportunities to enjoy the great out-of-doors into the late evenings.

Thursday 21 July 2016

St Patrick's Chair and Well ... a place of pagan wonder ...

The other day we headed off in search of an ancient druid site, where some of the old magic still lives on in the dappled light of the forest floor. Like many of Ireland's pre-Christian sites it had to reinvent itself when St. Patrick brought Christianity to these shores, but it was a fairly simple process. A few tweaks here and there and the new order was born.

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Wild Raspberry Jam ...

... is a really tasty thing. I jest you not. Here in Ireland in the month of July wild raspberries grow at the fringes of the forest that are the sweetest, most raspberriest raspberries in the world. One of our favourite summer afternoon activities is going for a walk, and picking the wild raspberries as we wander. It's our thing in July. And yesterday we went armed with little buckets to harvest enough fruit to make some jam.

Sunday 17 July 2016

Emma Bridgewater's motorway stopover

On Friday we had an unexpectedly enjoyable lunch break whilst we were bombing up the M6toll on our way to the ferry. We took a 10 minute detour from the motorway to shoot into Emma Bridgewater's lovely factory in Stoke-on-Trent.  And it was a wonderful sight for road-weary eyes.

The Bridgewater factory is a joyful little spot of homestyle served up in a post-industrial setting. It's all about rejuvenation and turning things around so that, to coin own her strap-line, it feels like home. For hungry folk like ourselves, who'd had more than enough of the M6 traffic, it felt like an oasis in the desert.

Friday 15 July 2016

TGI Friday ...

And TGI the holidays!

Finally school's out for summer ... and we're already on the road! We're bombing up the motorway to Holyhead to catch the fast boat to Dublin. The weather doesn't look entirely congenial to sightseeing, and, as I'm incapable of not turning up 8 hours early for the ferry, we may have a soggy time exploring another epic Welsh castle. I'm really grateful to Edward I, back in the 13th century, for giving me so many stonking stop-off castles to kill the time until the Dublin Swift weighs anchor.

Wednesday 13 July 2016

Summer Pavlova ...

This is my go-to dessert whenever I have a brain freeze and can't think of anything else to make. It's so easy, and yet at the same time looks like it took a bit of effort to put together. For me it's the perfect dessert when the soft summer berries are in season. The sweetness of the meringue needs something slightly tart to cut across it and balance the flavours. In my book a mixture of alpine strawberries, raspberries, and blue berries would be a pretty perfect accompaniment, but you can add whatever works for you.

And if there was one recipe that I was to pass on to my son as a perfect keep-it-up-your-sleeve secret to impress any dinner guests with in the future, this would be it. Just read on for the details ...

Sunday 10 July 2016

The Basilica of Sant Feliu, Girona and a case of mistaken identity ...

The Basilica of Sant Feliu is an ancient place, a very ancient place indeed. It’s an older church than the Cathedral of Santa Maria on top of the hill, and arguably just as important in terms of its role in the history of the city. During the Moorish occupation it served as a cathedral for the city's Christian population, who were displaced when the Moors commandeered Santa Maria as their mosque. 

Basilica of Sant Feliu, Girona
Basilica of Sant Feliu, Girona on the banks of the River Onyar

Saturday 9 July 2016

Fibre East

We're going to Fibre East!

Come and join us! I'd love to see you there. You can find us in the Romney Marquee. 

Held at the Redborne School and Community College, Ampthill, Bedfordshire, MK45 2NU on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st July 2016, Fibre East will cover everything woolly from the sheep to the wool to the finished articles all knit-up, crocheted and felted to yarny perfection. It promises to be a great day out for all the family. You can check out the website here: Fibre East

Friday 8 July 2016

TGI Friday ...

... and the last Friday of the school term at that.

Boy I'm glad we're almost done, but kind of sad all at the same time. It always feels the same as we trudge towards the last day of term. Back in God's Own Country we wound up for the school holidays at the end of June, so this business of plodding on to the middle of July is a bit of a faff in my book, and by now it feels like the end is long overdue.

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Reasons to be cheerful ...

My goodness these last few days in the UK have been a volatile, roller-coaster ride. I can't quite believe what's happened, and, whilst I don't blog about politics, I have to say it's all a bit unsettling. The old certainties seem to have gone, and we're facing a whole new ball game for which they've still got to write the rules.

So I've been casting around for a few every-day gems that rock my world, and make me smile regardless of the maelstrom outside caused by the Neverendum. If I focus on the small and the familiar I'm sure everything else will be okay.

Friday 24 June 2016

Marmalade flapjacks

My lovely builders are still working ... and I'm just about managing to keep my nose above the waterline. Our house feels like a very disorganised camping site with fairly primitive cooking arrangements in place when my chaps are working.  One of my challenges during the day is managing to get by without all of the electrical circuits operating. At the moment I'm feeling lucky as I've got electricity feeding the circuit that my ovens are connected to, but nothing else in the kitchen works: no food processors, no mixers, nothing ...

So I've resorted to making  golden marmalade flapjacks. They're Emi's favourites, and they're really easy to make, even if you don't have a food mixer.

Just read on for the recipe.

Sunday 19 June 2016

Slinky 2: Bonny 0

Having been totally defeated by Slinky Paws in round 1 I was beginning to feel that I’d got the peanut situation back under control. There hadn't been a raid in at least a fortnight, which is pretty impressive around here.  I'd finally got the feeder safely anchored to the tree with lots and lots of wire. Parakeets had come and gone. Slinky Paws and his mates had swept through, and everything seemed to be going just fine. 

They're mine! All mine!

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Fledgelings fleeing the nest ...

My goodness it's been a strange few days over here at Talk-a-Lot Towers. It feels like Emi, age 10, has grown up and moved out. He and Mr B were off for a fathers and sons' camping trip with the rest of the gang from school last weekend, and then, yesterday, he headed off on his school trip to York - not returning until Thursday night. He's an independent little soul, and I have no doubt that he's having a whale of a time, but the rhythm of life here at home has changed. A lot.

Home is upside down and such a mess that I'd prefer to be living elsewhere. We've had the builders in, and, as is always the case with building work, it's taking much longer than expected due to all manner of unforeseen hiccups and complications. So we're stuck with jumbled up, everything everywhere, and nothing-in-its-place living arrangements for at least another week <sob>.

Out in the garden - to which I escape at every opportunity - there are lots of sweet fledgelings, who, like Emi, are spreading their wings and exploring the world beyond their nests. Look at this adorable little robin who's still lacking his lovely red bib.  And I'm so happy that he's after the monster slugs who live in my garden and eat my lupins. Have you noticed how slugs love lupins?

Thursday 9 June 2016

Costa Brava Video

Hot off the press!

Check out Costa Brava Knitting's latest holiday video:

All the best and hope to see you there,

Bonny x

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Just keep breathing

We've got the builders in today, and everything's upside down. I hate it when everything's upside down. 😳
I'm up early (very early) being ineffective. 

Note to self: Just keep breathing, and drink lots of tea! 

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Wheelie Bin Stencils

Over here in leafy Ealing we're in the throes of a revolution. Big changes are afoot ... and not everyone is totally chuffed about what's in the pipeline.

The local council has abandoned the weekly black bin-bag collections, and, having given us all not one - but two - HUGE wheelie bins, is now planning on collecting our rubbish on a fortnightly basis. We'll have recyclables carried off one week and non-recyclables the next.

On the school run this morning we came upon this graveyard for our old recycling bins.

Ealing Council's new wheelie bin project swings into motion

Sunday 5 June 2016

Half-term hols in the green heart of Ulster ...

We've spent the half term holidays back in the green heart of Ulster where I grew up, and they were a bit of a treat. The sun shone, the hawthorn bloomed, the beech trees burst out the fresh green of their new foliage and, beneath perfect blue skies, it felt like warm, glorious summer. When the sun shines over here in God’s Own Country, there’s nowhere else quite like it on earth.

We’ve gone for long walks around our favourite lakes. South Tyrone and neighbouring Monaghan are full of charming little lakes, fed with run-off from the surrounding hills. We’ve added a new one to the collection this trip. A cousin of my father’s suggested we try Emy Lough, just outside of Emyvale in County Monaghan. And it didn’t disappoint.

It was a hot day, the day we went, and the trout were jumping, casting rings of ripples through the shallows. Anglers were waist-deep in the water, throwing their rods back and forth to cast flies to tempt them. Try as I might, however, I couldn’t manage to catch any of those jumping fish with my camera. Although Emi did catch this little chap wandering along the path all on his lonesome. The WonderDog was very keen to play with him, but we sent him on his way safely through the long grass by the lakeshore, and out of reach of the inquisitive snouts of the local pooches.

Saturday 4 June 2016

The Ulster American Folk Park ...

It's hard to think of a time when this folk park, devoted as it is to the theme of emigration, has been more relevant to the world we live in. As a child growing up in South Tyrone I visited it from time to time, and found it interesting for the story it told about generations of my countrymen who'd emigrated to seek better lives in the United States. It had a resonance with my own family: each of my four grandparents had at least one sibling who emigrated for economic reasons during the interwar years. Emigration and the parting with a loved one has been a constant feature of rural life in Ireland for much of modern history.

Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh, County Tyrone
The Hughes family home

Over the generations they fled famine, persecution, war and civil unrest. In an age in which mechanisation had rendered much manual labour redundant many who couldn’t earn their living in the shipyards and the rope-works set their sights on the west and went in search of a better life.  Yet today these background themes that drove them away from home seem desperately contemporary.