Sunday, 29 March 2015

It's Amazing What a Change in Pace can do.

Things good things happen when you change the pace in which you live your life. As busy as you are, or as scary as your every increasing work load may be, forcing yourself to pause and take stock can open your mind to possibilities you wouldn't normally consider.

For the last few months it has felt like I have done nothing but work, don't get me wrong I love my work but sometimes I let it get all consuming. Our domestic arrangements don't help either, sometimes it feels like my husband and I, have my daughter on a time-share arrangement. I'm up at the crack of dawn, while my husband works late into the evening, so we only spend time together at the weekends. Consequently we haven't been getting the quality time together as a family or to do the things we love.

Well some thing changed. During the well needed Christmas break, my daughter and I joined my parents down at their cottages in Cornwall. Just crossing the boarder into Cornwall acts like sedative  to me and I start to relax and that combined with spending time with my Mum, which makes me revert to the secure and comforting feelings of childhood (actually it's because I enjoy my Mum looking after me again for a while and I become very lazy. I know, I know we should be looking after each other equally now but something about being there with her turns me into a kid again).

St Nectern's Glen
We had a smashing time, just the right mix of exploring Cornwall and cosying-it-up in front of the fire. The inner hippy in me always surfaces at some point and a trip to St Nectern's Glen was needed. For those of you that don't know, St Nectern's Glen is a beautiful waterfall set deep in glorious woods up near Boscastle. Many myths and legends surround the falls and it does feel like a truly spiritual place. In more recent times it has become a shrine to loved ones, a place to forge wishes and a place for you to just be. After tying ribbons to the trees in memory of my loved ones past, my thoughts turned to more self indulgent thoughts of me and what I wanted. In a more whimsical state of mind, I thought, yeah I wish for more financial security but that didn't feel right. That's not what I need, I need for my family to be able to actually be a family not a time tabled rota for people that happen to live in the same house. So I wished for us to be a family.

It was back to reality and back to work, back to school, back to living for the weekends. A few days later I had a chance conversation with a friend. She mentioned a Playground Mum she knew was looking for someone to join her business. I inquired and very soon met with the Director. An entrepreneurially type that lives her life at a 100 miles an hour but absolutely had the right attitude to life. Incredibly driven and passionate about her business but equally determined to dedicate time to her family and outside interests. She offered me an exciting opportunity. I was so excited, fabulous new company, a new boss with whom I shared so many interests, within walking distance of home, everything seemed perfect,  but at what cost? I would leave a place I had worked for more than thirteen years, I would leave some great work colleagues and I would leave the safe, the known, and the security that brings with it. Not to mention the change in finances.

I knew I had some soul searching to do, I knew I wanted to take the job but my sensible head kept throwing in doubts. At half term we were lucky enough to be able to escape back to the cottages and this time my husband was able to come too. As well as our adventures on the beach we took him to St Nectern's. While I stood in the gushing stream, my right welly leaking away as a generous hole had appeared in the sole, I thought 'why on earth am I still hesitating? I asked for change and the opportunity has been given to me'. So there we are, after all those years getting up at 4am to commute to work  I'm not going to do it any more. I'm so excited about my new job but I'm even more excited about getting our family life back. Already I feel different, it's Sunday morning and I don't have that feeling of impending doom associated with the next day being Monday. I even spent a couple of hours painting with my daughter yesterday, without worrying about all the things I still needed to do. (I wonder why I always revert to Poppies when I feel a creative urge?)

So this is a long winded way of saying, every now and then force yourself to slow down, give yourself time and space to ask 'what is it you really want?' because when the answer comes, in veritably the solution tends to follow.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Hand Hooked, Rag Rug Lunch Bags

Every year as most of my friends know, I try to make some Christmas presents. This year was no different, despite the groans of guess what we will all be getting for Christmas when I announced I had just been on my life changing rag rug course (it truly was life changing but that's a story for another day).

I decided on lunch bags, partly because they would be simple, and partly because, well everyone eats lunch and there are few people I know that can afford to dine out and a little packed lunch seems to be the meal of choice.

I'm no seamstress so I sourced the pre-made bags from a little company selling organically and ethically grown hemp bags for a very fair price.

Then set about making the embellishments. Choosing fabrics and colours that I felt suited the recipients. Where possible I used recycled materials and off-cuts. Rag rug flowers are perhaps the most satisfying elements to make, with taking probably less than half an hour to finish each flower. After completing a flower for each bag, it looked a bit lost and I ended up making 4 flowers per bag and quadrupling the making time but they did look more balanced and maybe because of the extra effort they became a little more of a substantial gift. Then using my trusty glue gun fixed them to the bag. (there are loads of clips on YouTube on how to make them)

Well I'm not sure whether everyone will use them but I know I enjoyed making them and every petal was made with love and best wishes.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Skimmia Japonica - Number 1 plant for December

Skimmia Japonica number one plant for December
Every year, as Christmas gets closer I am reminded of the charms of this wonderful shrub, Skimmia japonica, so it was an obvious choice for my number 1 garden plant for December. There are loads of varieties, most of which are small or moderately sized bushes, ideal for containers. The one I love in my garden on the other-hand, is huge. I have no idea what variety it is but it is a fabulous addition to the garden. This time of year it is at its best, copious numbers of large red berries with large glossy evergreen leaves. A robust plant that can stand a generous prune in December for any number of festive arrangements for the house. It also has the most heady spicy scent, which gives it an additional Yule Tide tick in the box.

There are 4 species of Skimmia and all are found in Asia; all of the species having attractive berries, aromatic foliage and fragrant flowers.

The Skimmia species is a member of the Rutaceae family which we know better for giving us citrus fruit such as oranges, lemons, limes and Grapefruit.  Other members are as diverse as the bitter herb Rue(Ruta) and Zanthozylum which gives us Sichuan Pepper and Prickly Ash.  Many members of the family are edible and provide us with important fruit, spices and medicinal components. Skimmia is probably is the most important  of the strictly ornamental plants, even the birds don't seem to eat the berries.

 The berries of Skimia japonica are a bright shiny red and are very festive looking at this time of the year.

Skimmia japonica and all its forms are easy plants to grow, I do absolutely nothing with mine, except chop it back to clear the path. Ideally they like fertile rich soil which is slightly acidic but tolerate clay soils quite well, we live in a chalky area and the plant still seems to thrive. They like a site which is well-drained but is well watered during the hot summers as they do not like drought conditions but again mine thrives in a sun scorched south facing garden. They prefer a site which is dappled or is more on the shady side or their leaves will yellow even in a strong winter sun. Mine being in an open sunny site suffers a little from yellowing but I quite like having the mixture of dark glossy green with the brighter yellow sun scorched leaves. As they are evergreen they will do best being in a location which is protected from drying winds especially in the winter season. It also looks stunning with a heavy winter frost.

Use Skimmia japonica as an accent, in a winter garden, for fragrance in the spring, along paths where you brush the aromatic foliage. Their colourful berries are bright winter interest and the foliage is not popular with pests. They work well as foundation plants especially when placed near entrances or windows. Skimmias are also popular in a woodland setting or in borders as they are very low maintenance and will need little care over their long life.

Read more about these wonderful plants here