Tag Archives: life in a Northern town

Where to go?

Okay, my lovelies.  I need some advice.

It’s a not very well kept secret that I have a rather large birthday looming and although Paris was our first port of call for birthday celebrations, circumstances are conspiring against us (in a good way) to prevent this from happening.

So that’s my 51st birthday celebrations sorted. *wink*

However, The Husband, because he’s a superstar, has offered a bit of a jaunt and some fabric shopping as an alternative.  Of course I’m in for that!

So now I need to decide where to go. I’ve narrowed it down to Harrogate or Birmingham.

Harrogate….because Fine Fabrics and Betty’s, of course.

But Birmingham has the markets and Guthrie and Ghani.  And we could go on the train and both have wine with lunch.  There’s also the library which I’ve read has a super sewing reference section, so I could also have a browse and audition some new books for my home library. (I cannot remember who blogged about this recently, but if you know please do share and I’ll credit appropriately.)

So what do you think?  Which should we choose? And do you know any other great places in either city for food, yarn and fabric?


Remembering

Tomorrow it will be 7 years since Pa passed and Button came into our lives.

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So much has happened since then.  We now have Boy too. Hubby and I have been together for 10 years and married for 5. Both Button and Boy are succeeding against all the odds. They are doing well at school and with their dancing.  They are kind and joyful and healthy. We have wonderful family and friends. We have our own business. We will soon (hopefully) move to a beautiful new house.  I have a degree and am retraining for a new career.

We have so very much to be grateful for and proud of.

And I know Pa would be very proud of us too.

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Today I’ve bunked off all the things I should be doing to escape, quite literally, to the hills. Pa always called Lancashire ‘God’s Country’. He had a point. I need to take a breath, reflect, regroup, make lists.

Tomorrow Ma and I will have lunch and remember.

And it turns out that I was right 7 years ago.  I still miss you, Pa.  We all do.


A little getaway

“I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden Daffodils;
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”

William Wordsworth, 1804

Living just over an hour from Windermere in the South Lakes, you’d think we’d spend more time there.  But life gets in the way and we haven’t had a break here for too many years.  We rectified this over the weekend, when we escaped for two childfree nights to celebrate The Husband’s birthday.

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With daffodils fluttering and dancing on every verge we arrived at The Hideaway Hotel in time for tea and cakes and spent a blissful two days and nights relaxing with hot stone massages, gentle walks, excellent food and comfy beds.

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Links:

The Hideaway Hotel

Hooked Fish Restaurant

Wild & Co. Restaurant

This post was sponsored by Nana, Grandma and Grandad, without whose fabulous sleepover services this trip wouldn’t have been possible.

Thanks, you guys!  We love you. 


Mothering Sunday

It’s Mothering Sunday here in the UK, and I’m sitting here replete from a posh pub lunch with the family.

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Today, of all days, it’s easy to remember just how blessed I am.

My children are fit and healthy.  They attend an amazing school with fantastic teachers and wonderful friends.

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We are surrounded by family and friends and have time to spend with them.

Our home is warm and welcoming. We have good food and plenty of it.

They have a Daddy who loves them, is present in their lives, and works hard to provide for them.

We have books and toys and games and pens and paper.  We can walk in the park, ride our bikes and dance.

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So today, as I’m surrounded by the people I love most in the world, I’m counting my blessings.

But I’m sparing a thought for those not as fortunate as I am.

And raising a glass to mothers everywhere, and wishing them the best of times this Mothering Sunday.


Priorities

It’s agreed then.  I’m going to jot down my sewing thoughts and plans so I’ve got some sort of written record of them and, hopefully, I’ll feel a little more motivated to actually get some of them in the wardrobe!

But before I do that I thought I’d take a wee step backwards and lay the foundation with the stuff that driving my plans for the year.   Namely, my priorities for 2016.

I haven’t made any New Year’s Resolutions this year, because frankly, I don’t have the bandwidth for that kind of pressure at the moment.  But there are four main areas of my life that I want to tackle, other than the obvious ones of keeping the family fed, watered, educated and alive by the year’s end.

So here we go!

Health

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock or should’ve gone to SpecSavers, you can’t help but notice that I’ve packed on a pile of weight over the last 12 – 18 months. This was triggered by a change in medication that prompted a huge and rapid weight gain that has proven particularly tricky to lose.

This has partially been due to menopause (can I just say here that I loathe and detest menopause.  Hot flushes…I’m looking at you in particular!), but also partly due to recurrent chest infections last year necessitating repeat doses of steroids and antibiotics.

All this means that I’m starting the year feeling uncomfortable in my skin and determined that this year will be healthier.  I’m focussing on the health in the hope that the slimmer will follow.  Health has to be the focus.  I was ill for nearly half of the year last year and I’m not doing that again.  Also the amount of steroids I’ve been ingesting are detrimental to bone density, which I can’t afford to lose any faster as I get older.

So here’s the plan:

  • I’m eating predominately gluten and sugar free.  I did this for about 6 weeks last year and lost weight but more importantly gained energy and slept better.   It’s not that difficult to do.  I don’t feel deprived.  I just need to be organised.
  • Move more.  I’ll be honest that I loathe exercise.  I’d rather be knitting or sewing. Or, truth be told, cleaning the oven.  I just have to suck this up and do it.  I’ve already added a little gentle yoga to the mix, but not enough, and Hubby and I have started to learn to ballroom dance with the same guy who teaches the kids.  But I need to find more ways to up the movement ante.
  • Top of the movement list (other than yoga and dancing) are swimming, pilates, Zumba and weights.  I need to bite the bullet on a gym membership and get my arse in gear. 

 Home

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This is the year we are moving house.

It’s going to happen.

It has to happen.

Half of our life is in boxes.  We have outgrown this little house of ours.   I’m longing for a dedicated sewing room and an office for the hubby.  And the tidier more organised home that this will bring.  Both of those things are carved in stone as “must haves” for the new house.

Our little home is back on the market. I’ll share more when there’s more to tell.

With a bit of luck and a fair wind we’ll be in our new home for the summer.   Watch this space.

Exams

I’m currently retraining to be an accountant.

This is the funniest sentence I think I’ve ever typed.

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Of all the jobs I ever thought I’d do, accountant never even entered my head. And retraining as I approach 50 is something I never thought I’d do.  But my husband’s business needs an accountant and we might as well spend the money on training me to do it than keep paying someone else.  That’s the whole reason for having our own business. We’re working for the benefit of our family, not lining someone else’s pockets.

So accountancy training it is.

It turns out I’m pretty good at it.  That’s coming from my tutor not me.  But I’m immensely proud of the work I’m doing on this course and the results I’m getting.

So this year I intend to pass my AAT Level 2 and commence my AAT Level 3.  It feels good to be supporting my family in a more tangible way than food/drink/cuddles/clean clothes, even though they are undoubtably all they really need and want.

But this…this is good for me!

Sewing

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With the house on the market and life in boxes I have limited access to my sewing supplies, BUT I will still be sewing.

It’s been a long slow road to get to the point where I know what I want to sew, what I need to sew and what actions I don’t want to repeat in my sewing life going forward.

My next post will start to lay out my thoughts, rationale and plans.  With some specifics on patterns and fabrics.

What do your plans for the year look like?

Do you have specific resolutions or simply some clear priorities?


It’s the most wonderful time of the year

I know it’s been a while since I posted a finished project, and I do have some to share, but, frankly, I’m sat on the sofa with the kids watching Christmas movies and relaxing and that seems like the best thing to be doing today.

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There’s still stuff to do before the big day, but it’s the last minute stuff so it can jolly well wait.  Whilst the house looks like a grenade has gone off, most of the Christmas lunch is prepped and in the freezer.  Joy!

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So, from our family to yours, we wish you a peaceful and fun filled Christmas, and a New Year blessed with health, happiness and love.

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And if there is yarn and fabric in the mix, well, that will just be marvellous too!

A very Merry Christmas to you all.

xxx

Photos were take at Lantern Magic at Chester Zoo last weekend.  The rain couldn’t dampen our spirits.  If you get the chance to go, it’s a lovely adventure for small folk.

Dear Cafe Owner

Hi there,

I know it’s coming up to Christmas and you’re super busy, but I swear on the all the tinsel in Tescos, I’m losing the will to live with your shoddy offerings.

First up, can we talk about the tea.  I know that the cool kids are drinking a double frappa cinnamon snowflake with a candy cane twist, but I just need a really good cup of tea.  And by that I mean a hot beverage that tastes of tea and isn’t just lukewarm brown water with some milk slopped in it.

We’ve managed to put an Englishman in a B&B orbiting the earth.  Is it beyond the wit of man to serve an Englishwoman a decent cup of our national beverage.  In England? In a teapot that doesn’t spill the contents all over the table?

And speaking of cinnamon.  Can I let you into a wee secret?  I detest the stuff. Except for a cautious smidgen in an apple pie or Christmas pudding, of course.  But 3 teaspoons sprinkled onto a cinnamon flavoured ham sandwich.  Not so much.

So I’ll just take some toast.  Of course you don’t have gluten free, but I’ll take the hit because I’ve been wrestling bears avoiding little old ladies in John Lewis and I am, quite frankly, ready to gnaw the branches off of the upside down trees.  Ah….cafe toast.  Or, more appropriately, cafe toast and the lack of butter.

One little pat of butter does not cover one slice of bread.  It’s a mathematical certainty up there with e=mc2.  Or if the butter does cover the toast, we have another conversation to have, Mr Scrooge.  Please don’t make me get up again, fight my way back through the bears little old ladies to the counter to be told that you charge extra for extra butter. What happened to the season of goodwill?

What….you’re out of toast?  At 10am?  Oh, you’ve been busy? Christmas took you by surprise this year did it? In that case, do you have anything else that isn’t covered in cinnamon and/or isn’t stale?

No?

Didn’t think so.

Bah humbug!


The Knitting and Stitching Show, Harrogate

Although the north of the UK has been battered by storms for the past week or so, last Saturday started off chill but calm as we headed off to Harrogate for the Knitting and Stitching Show.  The ‘we’ comprised Ma, her best friend Pauline, Hubs, and The Boy.  We set off early as we were meeting our friends Sue and Dave who were up from Surrey for the week and whom we hadn’t seen since our wedding, 5 years ago.

Our rendezvous was an Italian cafe restaurant opposite Harrogate International Centre.

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Stuzzi is a complete find and highly recommended if you’re ever at a show at the HIC.  We had excellent coffee and pancetta or sausage on delicious bread rolls with homemade tomato sauce.  The Boy inhaled his doughnut and proclaimed it the best he’d ever had. Praise indeed as that boy loves his cakes!

Replete and happy, us womenfolk bade goodbye to the men and turned them loose on Harrogate whilst we headed off to the show.

It’s been 6 years since I last came here (I can’t believe how quickly time is flying) and things were very different to my last visit.

Whereas last time the queues for entry were halfway around the building, even for those of us who’d purchased our tickets in advance, this time we were in through the door in minutes.

Last time the halls had been jammed with folk and their wheelie trolleys, all anxious to get to the next stall and oblivious to who was on the receiving end of their sharp elbows.  This time the crowds were manageable and the whole atmosphere much more genteel.

Whilst this undoubtably makes the shopping experience much pleasanter, this can’t be good for the exhibitors.  Which might explain why there were fewer actual stalls than when we last visited.

Which has got me thinking.  Is the mega craft show (like Harrogate, Alexandra Palace, or the NEC in Birmingham) in decline?  Are the new specialist shows like Yarndale, Wool Fest or Wonder Wool Wales taking over?

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Click on any of these logos to go straight to each show website.

These boutique shows seem to be happily maintaining theirs crowds and exhibitors. Or could it just be a North/South divide thing?  And if that’s the case for yarn, will we ever have niche events here in the UK for fabric and sewing too?

I’d be happy to hear your take on this.  What do you think?


The tyranny of a handmade wardrobe

Image from BurdaStyle

For as long as I’ve known him, which is nearly 10 years, the husband has been giving me a very hard time about the state of my wardrobe.

I’ve know women who have snuck bags of clothes into the back of the wardrobe and burnt the receipts in the vain hope of their other half not noticing that they’ve been shopping again.  I am not one of those women.

Neither am I one of those women who struggle to fit another thing in the cupboard and have no idea what delights lurk at the back of the closet.

Nope…I’m the girl with 6 things in her wardrobe and who, when an event comes up unexpectedly, genuinely has nothing to wear. I’m not even kidding!  I can wear a pair of jeans and 3 tops to destruction…and frequently have.  That’s why tumble dryers were invented!  And why hubby has been so frustrated with me!

Whilst I can in clear conscience say that during the early years of our relationship our finances meant that it was more important for the kids to be clothed well and for the husband to be kept in suits than for me to have an outfit for every event; or that, at 5 foot 7 and plus sized, clothes shopping isn’t the most fun because I sit squarely between standard and tall sizes and, well, everyone over a size 14 knows how tricky finding your size on the rack can be, these were really nothing more than excuses for not having anything to wear.

No. In reality, the single most significant contributor to the lack of clothing in my wardrobe is one small and seemingly innocuous phrase.

“I could make that.”

I could make that blue instead of lime green with pink dots. I could make that cheaper.  I could make that with a better fit.  I could make that better quality. I could make that and people in Bangladeshi sweatshops wouldn’t die so I have clothes on my back.

I could make that.

Except…I have 2 young children who have faced challenges due to the circumstances of their births.  Boy didn’t sleep through the night or past 5am until he started school.  It’s only in the last 3 months that he regularly sleeps past 6.30am. He used to sit and scream for hours on end.  Hours. I’m telling you…that makes for one tired mum!

Except…For the early years of their lives I was studying to finish my degree.  Then I was doing up the house.  And doing it again.  And now I’m studying to become an accountant.

Except…my husband works away from home all week.  He leaves at 6.15 on a Monday morning and gets home late on a Thursday evening.   It used to be Sunday to Friday.  This is bliss!

Except…I have a home to run and family and friends.

Except….

Now don’t get me wrong.  My life is exactly how I want it to be.  Well…apart from the husband working away bit, but we’re a team and it’s the nature of his work, so I’m not complaining.  And my kids are champions to have come through some much.

But adding to everything the desire to make every. single. item of clothing I wear. And for the kids too.  It wasn’t my greatest idea!

Let’s face it, though.  We are surrounded by people who do this.  Who sew fabulous garments one after the other.  Who have drawers full of beautiful handmade lingerie.  And stunning hand knit sweaters.

We are reminded that oftentimes the clothes we can purchase are made with the sweat and blood and lives of people who will never have the luxury of choosing whether their wardrobes are handmade, ethically produced and locally sourced. Sadly the tone is often one of reproach towards anyone who strays from this path.

I hasten to add at this point that I’m not advocating mass consumerism.  Regular trips to the shops is not my idea of fun.  I have never and will never purchase a thing from Primark.  £2 t-shirts cannot be considered a Good Thing for anyone.

I still want to get to a point where I’m making more than I’m buying. But let’s get real.  At the moment this ain’t gonna happen.

Over the last few months, however, as my thinking on this has shifted, I’ve been making a few strategic purchases.

So now, if the hubby wants to take me out to dinner, I’ve got a couple of nice dresses that do the trick.  Coffee with friends…jeans and a cute top.  Ditto cinema dates or a day out with himself.

I have cosy boots to do the school run and cute loafers for a lunch date.

It is wonderful.

I used my Wardrobe Architect knowledge to ensure that everything goes together. And something quite marvellous has come out of this.

I now have a very, VERY clear idea of what I want to sew. I know what it is I reach for in any given situation.  I know what colours garner the most compliments and what shapes I feel most comfortable in.

This has been a revelation.  Not only is this one less thing to stress about, but it’s also given me a plan for moving forward with my sewing.  I promise to share that soon in another post.

The moral of this story is that whilst the goal of a completely handmade wardrobe is a worthy and worthwhile aim, it’s ok if life prevents you achieving that right now.  It’s ok to cut yourself a little slack and shop a little.  Who knows…it might be as revelatory for you as it has been for me!


Overabundance!

Last weekend we finally found time for a little outing to Hebden Bridge to take the hexie quilt to The Quilt Cabin to be long arm quilted.  It’s my first time using a professional long arm quilter so I’ll report back on that in due course.  It was also our first visit to Hebden Bridge.

I wasn’t prepared for just how pretty HB is.  It’s a enchanting former mill town full of independent shops, quirky cafes and restaurants, and charming little streets.  A river runs through the centre of the town and as the day was overcast but dry we spent a happy few hours wandering in and out of the shops and taking a hearty and warming lunch at The Blitz 1940’s themed tea room.  Hubby had oxtail stew, I had a steak pie…both were delicious.  The meal was rounded off with a bowl of jam roly-poly and two spoons. Heavenly on a chill October afternoon.  And the staff are simply delightful.

Image courtesy of Feathegills Emporium, Hebden Bridge

Image courtesy of Feathegills Emporium, Hebden Bridge

On our meanderings we stumbled across Ribbon Circus yarn and sewing shop. Whilst I chatted happily with the owner and some of the other knitterly customers, Hubby prowled the shop with a sharp eye and the next thing I knew four new lots of sock yarn were being rung up on the till.  The man is a demon!

This is what we came home with:

Sirdar Heart & Sole in “Happy Camper”

This is a new yarn for me so I’m quite intrigued to give it a go and see how it wears. One of the other customers at Ribbon Circus was knitting another colourway of this and it stripes up beautifully.  If she hadn’t got the sock out we’d have escaped without these two purchases.  Damn you, lovely knitting lady!

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Sirdar Heart & Sole in “Find Your Sea Legs”

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Juniper Moon Farm Herriot Fine in “Lakeville”

Another new to me yarn and the one I’m most looking forward to knitting. Whisper soft alpaca with the gentlest of halos and 25% polyamide for strength.  Saturated, heathered colours.  What’s not to love?  I think these will be a joy to knit as well as wear!

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Juniper Moon Farm Herriot Fine in “Deep Plum Passion”

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With such an overabundance of lovely sock yarn, not to mention projects for Button and Me, I’m really rather pleased that I’m already on the second of the Tannat socks.

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