More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Thursday, 20 October 2016


Hygge has become a bit of a buzz word recently. There's no English word for it, but this Danish word is best translated as cosiness or living well, and pronounced hoogah. I was curious to find out more so I bought the Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. Even this morning's Guardian is sporting an article in G2 that claims the concept of Hygge is being 'sold by the yard' this Christmas. I have to admit I didn't read much of the article as I couldn't stand the smug attitude of Jess Cartner Morley, who seemed to be mainly interested in the commercial  (particularly fashion) opportunities it presents. I was put off by her slightly facetious tone, and also because the piece seemed to say exactly the opposite of what I had understood from the book.

Hygge can't be sold or indeed bought. Apparently you can have all the candles, log fires, fluffy blankets, handknit socks, hot chocolate and marshmallows, mulled wine, home-made bread, and walks in the country that money can buy, but if you can't take pleasure in the simple things in life, make time for friends and family, or celebrate what you have instead of what you don't have, then true hyyge will elude you.

Several other European countries have their own words for Hygge -  gezelligheid in Holland, Koselig in Norway, Gemütlichkeit in Germany and hominess in Canada. But whatever you call it, really it's just a word to express happiness, finding a cosy intimate nest where you can feel safe. Hygge espouses togetherness, harmony, mindfulness and gratitude, as opposed to selfishness, competition and greed.
So... what I really want to say is that reading about all this was like coming home. Everything I love is in this word, so hence a blog on the things which are making me happy right now over the past few days.

First up is the garden, in all its autumn glory. It lifts my spirits even in the rain, which seems to intensify the dazzling colours and textures.
Jewel colours after the rain a couple of days ago
This one was taken in the same place about a week before the one above
Coffee in the garden yesterday - gotta get it while you can!
Fuchsias, geraniums, and verbena bonariensis still going strong and the
sculptural castor oil plant flowers are in big fat bud just beyond 
The acer on the right is a fabulous burgundy
Next are the cats, Django and Arlo, who are the catification of togetherness... well when they're not fighting that is  😉.
Kitties chilling in front of the wood stove  
Then there's all the beautiful fruits and vegetables. We're still harvesting tomatoes from the garden, as well as using nasturtium leaves, seed pods and flowers in salads. Also pansies are edible and good for a  splash of bold colour too. We're lucky to have several friends who bring us home-grown veggies, this week squash, spinach, beetroot, apples and pears, so the autumn larder is a wonderful feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.
Pumpkin and edible gourds
Conference pears from a friend's tree
I lovr pmomegranates for both their looks and their goodness
Cabbage and purple kale
I'm enjoying my new-to-me Guild F30 guitar that I bought on Ebay from a store in upstate New York. Despite my reservations about distanced transactions across the pond, it turned out to be a very good experience with great customer support.  I'm also listening to a lot of music at the moment. This week the new John Renbourn and Wizz Jones album, Joint Control arrived on the dorrmat so poignant as it was the last CD John Renbourn made before he died last year. Also we've got tickets for Loudon Wainwright 111 playing live with Chaim Tannenbaum at The Barbican next Tuesday - I know for some he's an acquired taste, but I've always loved his dark humour. Which reminds me I'm also revisiting my old knitting song More Yarn Will Do The Trick.  I'm working on a pared-down version  - just me and my guitar so that it's easier to focus on the amusing lyric. Hope to be able to post before Christmas...

...And talking of Christmas, which I don't usually like to do in October, I noticed the shops are full of Xmas crackers, cakes, puddings etc, when we haven't even had Halloween or Bonfire Night. When I asked why, I was told that they had to do it to keep up with other stores or they would lose ground in the battle to get the lion's share of customers' cash. Am I just growing into a grumpy old woman or are there others like me who object to receiving Xmas greetings in October? Ooops, sorry to digress into something that I'm not happy about. What I was going to say is that I've been making knitted gifts, small projects from my book, Great Little Gifts to Knit.
Over the past few weeks I've set myself a target to take a walk every day around the leafy backstreets of our neighbourhood. Sometimes P and I walk to the pop-up library café in the local park, where you can either sit in the book tent or at tables outside the caravan"s serving hatch with a large cup of coffee or steaming hot chocolate.
Beautiful old horse chestnut tree
Collecting conkers by the library café in Homestead Park
It's fun to be there, and difficult to stop P from joining the many little ones picking up conkers from a nearby chestnut tree - even if I wished to 😉. I've managed to walk into town too and on that occasion clocked up more than 5000 steps on my phone. So... super pleased, since I got ill, that's a record!
Vitis cogniettiae starting to turn on a walk at Harlow Carr about ten days ago
And finally, here's what really makes my cup runneth over - the grandkids! Izzi and Ava will be over today, filling my heart full of grandmotherly love. We've taught them how to play cards recently, which brings me back to hygge. Board games and cards are very hyggeligt, said to be much better for children than the ubiquitous Playstation or other computer games, as they're interacting with real people rather than virtual ones.
Lovely colour on the foreground maple in the parkland
Sunset in the park today
Would love to hear what brought hygge into your life this week. I've had a bout of the local sniffles over the past few days, but it's a good excuse to have lots of lemon tea with lashings of honey 😉. Enjoy the autumn and thanks for dropping by xo

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

We had a fun day out with Isabella and Ava at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park last week. It was the final day of the school holidays for them so we decided to go out. The weather wasn't brilliant, in fact it was decidedly grey, but still warm so we packed a picnic lunch and set off. Thankfully it's only about three quarters of an hour in the car, so we arrived just as we were feeling a bit peckish.
I took this photo through a plate glass window in the beautiful new building that now houses the museum shop, restaurant/cafe, a small gallery and loos.
Big Tongue by Not Vital
The first thing we saw on entering the park was this phallic work which was determined not to be overshadowed by the trees, thrusting itself high amongst them.
Let 100 Flowers Bloom by Not Vital
Luckily we had no problem finding a bench in the lee of a tall red brick wall, which was covered in espaliered pear and apple trees, with a view over the whole park - the perfect place for a picnic! There were interesting sculptures in the landscape everywhere, many more than I managed to photograph. The pieces below are a mixture of ones we thought Izzi and Ava would enjoy, together with a couple of my own and P's favourites. 

Moon by Not Vital
I love this wonderful steel sphere and the girls where highly amused by how the small spheres turned our reflections upside down.
This moving horse was fun, a digital Edweard Muybridge!
Pinocchio by KAWS
None of us were really sure what to make of this ginormous figure, but what I did like was that it was made of thousands of slivers of wood - awesome craftsmanship!
Seated Figures by Magdalena Abakanowicz
Sometimes it's hard to know what was in the artist's head when he/she conceived of a particular piece, and for me that's definitely the case with this row of seats with headless occupants  - I was almost more interested in the lovely old cedar which perfectly framed the sculpture😉 .
Promenade by Anthony Caro
I'm not a great fan of this work, which has been here since the Sculpture Park opened. It presents a very menacing image to me - almost like a battleship. However, when you look back at it from the bridge crossing this little stream, it seems to sit well in the landscape and becomes less threatening.
Sitting Lady Hare by Sophie Ryder
This piece was thought to be rather rude, bringing on fits of giggles from the girls.
Reclining Figure by Henry Moore
Although I usually like Henry Moore, I'm not a big fan of this one - too much like a sarcophagus maybe? 😊
Large 2 Forms by Henry Moore
This Henry Moore I did like, in fact it's one of my favourites. I love the colours and textures of the patina, acquired over years of people clambering over it. It was a big hit with the girls too as they explored the various ways of posing in its orifices.
Upright Motif No 2 by Henry Moore
More Moore here with this collection of three totems, with ever more ways with form, textures and patina.
Walking through this culture-crammed landscape created four very large appetites. So on the way home we stopped at Luigi's for pizza, pasta and pudding.  A perfect end to a perfect day!

I couldn't sign off without showing you our fruit bowl. What struck me whilst finishing off the grapes was that the four fruits - mango, apple, fig and grape - present a painterly palette of autumn hues.

Here's the link to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for more sculptural goodies.

Have a great autumn and thanks for dropping by x

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Season of soups...

... yes, the season of soups is upon us again! But there's definitely something about autumn that's in the air well before the leaves start to turn. The light, for instance. As the days get shorter, the light takes on a luminous quality which makes colours seem to pop more, as if someone's flicked a switch and transformed the bright and brash hues of high summer into the sultry glowing technicolours that we all love in autumn. Also there's a slight nip in the air in the mornings, often not even enough to feel chilled by it, but you know it's there. Then there's the mist. The kind that burns off once the sun is up, but it's nature's gentle reminder to stock up the larder and the wood pile in preparation for whatever the winter might bring.
Here's one I made earlier, beetroot chutney waiting to be labelled!
Once I notice any of the above, regular as clockwork I start to respond. At the moment there's beetroot chutney on the stove and a huge pot of red lentil and vegetable soup for supper. I can't say that I do a lot of canning and bottling these days, but I just can't imagine not putting to good use the free bounty that's on offer, even if you don't grow them yourself there's often people putting windfalls of fruit and surplus veg at the end of their gardens, free to good homes. Courgettes, apples, plums, beetroots are all plentiful right now and so suited to being preserved in lots of different ways as well as enjoying them fresh.
Love the patterns of the slanting light as the trajectory of the sun gets lower
I've been asked for the recipe by a few friends, so I promised to put it on my blog. The problem is I'm not good with recipes, and don't really do quantities in any exact way, but what I can do is give you the ingredients and bare bones of what to do with them and you can make your own version. I learnt to make this soup from Sadie, my mother-in-law, when my kids were tiny. I think it might be the understatement of all time to say that Sadie was not well pleased when told that we had become vegetarians and that chicken soup was no longer on the menu. Being a typical Yiddishe mama she thought that depriving the kids of chicken soup was tantamount to child cruelty. In an effort to compensate we started to devour double-sized portions of her lentil soup and I asked for the recipe. Sadie was more than pleased to teach me how to make her soup, a recipe her own mother had passed on to her and I've used it ever since with a few tweeks of my own now and then. My kids have grown up on it and their grandmother is now immortalised through her lentil soup as well as being the unique and wonderful woman that she was.
Lentil and veg soup
So... the recipe for the soup above:
325gr/12oz red lentils
160 gr/6oz mung beans (or you can use split peas)
110gr/4oz butter beans
1 large carrot, thinly sliced in rounds
1 medium potato, chopped in smallish pieces
1 large onion finely chopped
*4 cloves garlic finely chopped
*1/2 fresh chilli, or pinch chilli flakes
4 bay leaves
Olive oil to cover bottom of pan
*2 teaspoons veg bouillon
salt and pepper to taste
4 pints water
For Sadie's original soup omit the starred ingredients.
Put the onions, garlic, chilli and bay leaves in a large pan with the oil and sauté gently until soft. Add the lentils, and beans and stir in the pan for another five minutes. Add the water, bouillon, salt and pepper, bring to the boil and add the potato and carrot. Simmer for about an hour or until the beans are tender, adding more water if necessary to stop burning. Makes about 6 large bowls. Enjoy!

So what else have we been up to since I last posted, which I'm sorry to say was about a couple of months ago. I'd be here till Xmas trying to mention everything, so here are some photo highlights. 
It's been a bumper summer for figs - we've been eating them every day for a month!
We spent nearly a week in Wales with Izzi, Ava and Felix. This was a real treat and we did lots of fun things. The weather was great to begin with, in fact warm enough for the girls to don their swimsuits and go messing about in the stream at the bottom of the garden.
We had quite a few wet days, so we paid a visit to a nearby slate mine, then on to the Centre for Alternative Technology. We're so lucky to have this wonderful resource practically on our doorstep and we spent an interesting afternoon learning about wave power and woodcraft, riding on the funicular hydro-powered railway, and other innovative things just too numerous to mention. Follow the link above to read about everything that goes on there.
We were particularly struck by this caravan, completely insulated by upcycled CDs. It's a sweet pic too of the girls who had been expecting good weather when packing, so ended up wearing our old gardening fleeces and a couple of my numerous knitted hats.
Small is beautiful at CAT. We loved this rustic gateway with 'Smallholding' written in found objects above it.

Uncle Filo brought his 3D marbling kit, so candles, stones, plates, boiled eggs and more were instantly transformed into bright and colourful objets d'arts.
Ava's marbling bucket
Great to see Toej and Wyck, who came over for coffee one morning with their grand-daughter, Sofie, and Klaas, her boyfriend. They live in Holland and Sofie came bearing gifts from her Mum, aka Madame Sanspareille. This gorgeous green box was filled with hand-made tea bags, each containing a detox mixture of herbs and flowers. What a glorious gift! And although I was warned it might be a little bitter, with added lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey as directed, it tastes delicious.
Back in the real world though, when we arrived home in York the work on replacing lead pipes to every house in the street was starting. So a couple of days of deafening noise ensued, whilst the most enormous contraption dug large holes. Just an observation, but I don't know what it is about men and holes - whenever I went out into the street there would be two or three male residents looking down with great interest into a hole 🤔. 
By the third day I needed a serious walk to clear my aching head and ears, so off I went with P down to the river. It was lovely and I was so glad to be away from all the noise that I forgot about my peripheral neuropathy and overdid it a bit. However, I was absolutely over the moon when I looked at my phone to find I'd walked 2km. Red letter day!!! 😊.
Went up to the moors the other day to pick up some organic veg from Newfields Organics. On the way back the combine harvesters were out in force, confirming the inevitable - autumn has truly arrived!
Right now Django and Arlo are doing their usual sit-in when they would like more food - the next thing they try is scratching sofas and knocking coffee cups off the table. Partners in crime, they know just how to get their own way. What was that about dumb animals? 😉

This is the first summer I can remember when I've had no knitting on the go. I sit and look at yarns and put colourways together, but I must say I haven't felt moved to pick up my needles. Someone said it sounds like burn out and I think they might be right - there's been an awful lot of knitting in my life up to now. We'll see! But I have been playing tons of guitar and enjoying my new Guild F30 enormously. Anthony, if you're reading this, I didn't have time to get in touch in Wales as we were with the girls, but I'll bring the Guild next time, I'd love you to see/play it and hear what you think.
Can't finish without telling you briefly about a visit to one of the best gardens I know - the Piet Oudolf gem, Scampston walled garden. It would take another post to show you everything but I'll finish with a pic of P taking a break amongst the plants in one of their lovely wooden bench/chairs.

Thanks for dropping by. Come back soon xo