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Archive for the ‘Cottage life’ Category

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There really is no such thing. Even when a friend has kindly given me 3kg of apples, and I have all the jars, vinegar, sugar and raisins to make chutney right here in my cupboards, the actual process of preserving always takes so much longer than I think it will. Even with the aid of my apple master, an ingenious contraption that peels, cores and slices even the tiniest of apples with a few twirls of the handle, I got a bit fed up after 2kg and endless jars of chutney.

So I used some of the remaining apples with rosehips to make a jelly, which meant only rough chopping and no peeling or coring.

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Even this took longer than expected, with the picking of the hips, boiling, overnight straining and then boiling again with sugar. As much of a faff as this all is, the resulting jars of chutney, jams and jellies is more than worth it. Just- not quick.

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For Otis. As I sit every night at the moment, huffing and puffing grumpily into a dust mask as we scrape and sand hundreds of reclaimed hardwood parquet blocks, I try to remember that not every purchase of second hand goods from gumtree means blood, sweat and tears. Although Otis’ antique brass bed, acquired at a price to make the bargain hunter in me very pleased indeed, did require some serious polishing and a bit of repair work on three decorative spindly bits, it was nothing compared to the mammoth task of restoring Sol’s bed.

I really wanted a metal bed of a similar age to sit next to Solomon’s, which meant waiting a while for the right one in a reasonable location to pop up. But pop up it did, and we’re all really pleased, none less so than Oti!

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As often is the case, a quiet blog belies a busy time here at the cottage- the Easter holidays promted a huge push on the ‘garden’ (still more accuratey described as scrub land) and I’ve not been idle on the crafting front either. In addition to wee Fergus’ quilt, I’m still knitting ‘Quill,’ a Shetland hap-style wrap for my sister,which is a Jared Flood pattern. There’s no rush on this, and the progress on it creeps ever more slowly as each round gets larger. It’s great TV knitting, though (until I get to the rather more complicated-looking border!)

Also on the needles is another Old Shale baby blanket, this time in a dark grey superwash merino, which is soft and bouncy. I’ve knitted this (yep, another one of Jared’s) pattern several times now, so despite its lacey appearence, is also now quite happily mindless.

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It’s the first Easter holiday we’ve spent at this house, and I must say I’m loving the days warm enough to spend outside but evenings cool enough to still warrant a fire. The cold, dusty hearth of summer is such a sad sight, I feel.

As always, the last weekend in April heralds the Banchory Scout Jumble Sale, a bit of a Deeside institution which raises in excess of £10,000 for the Scouts every year. It must be a mammoth undertaking, but, as ever, the queue snaked round the block. The bric-a-brac table was  full of hidden gems and slightly out of breath punters jostling for space as we raked through the piles of baking tins, china and a large porcelain white tiger figurine (which, along with two very, um, sculptural candelabras, was sold to a most satisfied chap). I did my best to steer clear of the embroidered textiles this year -tempting as they always are- because I am amassing a huge collection and am rapidly running out of space! Instead I bought some glass jars for flour, lentils and the like, for £2, and 9 beautiful hand thrown pottery mugs, interior and rims glazed in a lovely bluey green, also for the measly sum of £2. I feel very much the cat who got the cream as I sit here sipping tea.

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I also bought two very large, very fluffy and -crucially- very absorbant towels for… the dog. A 5 year old German Wirehaired Pointer named Amber came to live with us just over a month ago, and after a few issues here and there, is settling in pretty well. She’s very sweet and very affectionate, and despite now having to sweep the floors pretty much constantly, the happiness she brings the boys and the joy of taking her for walks (good recall! A first for most dogs I’ve known!) is worth it.

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A while ago I posted a series of photos taken by my then-4-year-old son. It has proved to be one of my most popular posts. I found it fascinating what he considered worthy of photographing, and enjoyed his sense of wonder at the technology of the camera, in particular the flash. In recent weeks, he has also been giving the camera to Otis, who is 2. He too takes pictures of the things he likes, but seems to prefer photographing people for now. Here are a select few from the pair of them, Sol’s love of the macro first:

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This one is a mystery, even to him. Answers on a postcard please.

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A favourite object, with hand to lend a sense of scale:

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The use of flash often lends a crime scene flavour to many shots- or perhaps skanky motel. Either way, it impresses upon us the need to refurbish the bathroom:

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There are still plenty of selfies

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And some family members too

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And I love the joy in Sol’s face at this, Otis’ first ever photo:

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More from Otis

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I know this is slightly off-piste for a crafty blog, but photography is such an expressive and creative medium, and it’s fun to see not only what children do with it, unbound as they are by ideas of subject matter and style, but forms an intriguing glimpse into their world.

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Ah, Gumtree. Source of great amusement (cries of who will buy that?! and, How much?!) and great local bargains, it can also lead to disappointment, which I experienced on Friday. But we got back on the Gumtree wagon the next day with the snapping up of this mid century Ercol-alike Danish coffee table for an absolute steal. Ok, so it was in Macduff (on the very tippy top of the Aberdeenshire coast), but we incorporated a visit to the aquarium and an award-winning fish and chip shop and it was, all in all, rather a nice day out! It won’t stay in this room, which is stuffed to the gunnels with furniture, books and the inexorable creep of toys, but in the -eventual- sitting room. Just once we get that unasked-for water feature sorted…

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Well I didn’t finish the cowl in time to give to my grandmother, but she received it a few days after Christmas and reports are that she likes it. I wasn’t very happy with it: I made a mistake with the leaf pattern and couldn’t do the crochet bind off required to make the pretty scalloped edge.

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But I was so fed up with ripping it back and re-starting I decided to just live with the errors.

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I made another little owl hat with the leftover yarn- it’s Debbie Bliss cashmerino so it’s perfect for little baby heads.

I’ve moved on now to a hat for Sol, just a larger, green version of the one he currently has, and then I will have to tackle the tidal wave of babies and baby presents that looms large ahead of me- both knitted and sewn.

It was with some trepidation that we approached our little cottage on the hill after being away for so long. An old, exposed cottage with no landlord to call makes for a slightly nervy homecoming, but luckily all was fine. The weather this winter has been extreme, but not in the usual, snowy sense. At night, up with Otis and listening to the wind, I’m reminded of a large rock at sea being battered again and again by the crashing waves. The storms and gales this small stone building has withstood over the years have taken their toll, but remarkably the house still stands. I can’t help but yearn for a crisp, cold, snow-sparkling day, without a breath of breeze and icy blue skies. The sort of cold, cold air that hurts when you breathe in deeply. Instead we have mild, wild, rain and mud. Be careful what you wish for, of course. But it’s the British way, isn’t it, to obsess over and moan about our erratic, capricious weather?

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Make merry

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In between packing, watering the slightly crispy Christmas tree, digging out jars of chutney and generally muttering, ‘mustn’t forget that…’ before happily consigning said must-remember item to the depths of forgetfulness, Christmas and a new year are fast approaching.

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The long nights, firelight and getting together with family all lend themselves well to ruminating over the year and what’s to come. It has been a busy year, with weddings, partings, reunions, changes at workplaces, growing children and new starts at school. I didn’t -I never do- manage all the crafty projects I had dreamily planned (hand pieced and hand quilted double wedding ring quilt, anyone?!) but I’m pleased with what I did achieve, and learn, and who knows what 2014 has in store. I’ll be away over the festive period so I wish you all a happy holiday, however you spend it!

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Oh and no, I haven’t finished the neck warmer, Take Two. Or is it Take Four now. I can’t remember. But I have printed the pattern, and a long drive awaits. I can totally knit in the dark, can’t I?!

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