Monday, 26 April 2010

Chip off the old block???

One of my Grannies was a dressmaker. She made beautiful clothes for people and of course her two daughters and then for her granddaughters. My mother inherited this talent and although she didn't have a stitchy career, she made almost all our clothes when we were small, way back in the seventies. She made suits for my dad, beautiful outfits for weddings and other big occasions, trousers. She made her own wedding dress and all the bridesmaids dresses. She made sofa covers, curtains and nearly all the costumes for The Big Show by Pat Brittans ballet group in horrible silky nylony fabric which she cursed A Lot because it didn't stay still in her Singer sewing machine. I have very vivid memories of having to stand still while she measured and pinned (often into me and they hurt MUCH more if you are tense and expecting them) and the anticipation of something new to wear was just so exciting and seeing it grow and evolve before your eyes was just fantastic. I have a really amazing memory of a little pinafore dress which was made using the offcut of some tweedy stuff Ma had used to make a pair of Jack Nicklaus flares for Dad. I just loved wearing that pinny- matching my tall Dad's legs- I was probably quite camouflaged aged 3.

Not only is my Mumma good at sewing ('cept she hasn't got the time any more- her social life is amazing) but she is Mrs Clicky Knitting Needles, too. She has in her day, knitted an Arran coat (COAT for goodness sake- just think of all that cable). I had a beautiful Fair Isle cardi, there were fishermans sweaters, Norweigan type jumpers, dolls clothes with the left overs; gorgeous gorgeous knitwear she clicked out in the evenings. And she still does. Mostly for the Small Beans and their cousins but the clicking goes on nonetheless.

Now. You may be wondering where all this reminiscing is all going. You may be thinking 'Good. There is a really strong gene for sewey, knitty creations here. I want to see what Magic Bean has made in her time.' Well. This gene. It is strong. But it is a tiny bit jumpy and it has missed me out! Yes, you did read that right. I am not a clicky sewey type. My sewing machine has palpitations when it sees me coming. It siezes up and the thread just says 'No'. My Ma dreads the days when she answers the phone and I am on the other end saying 'You know when you thread the machine and then...'

When I was pregnant with Small Bean I decided that this had to be addressed. I knitted him a scarf. It took me about 5 months. We still have it and Small Bean is actually very fond of it- he gets quite possessive if Smaller Bean wears it. When I was pregnant with her I wanted to make her something too. Just to be fair and equal. I found a monkey kit and started. Except I couldn't even cast on. Hormones? Not reading the instructions properly? Jumpy genes? I gave the kit to Ma and she polished it off in a couple of evenings. I sewed on the eyes. It took me about an hour. Smaller Bean is not all that keen on the monkey.

Then a few weeks ago, I was cycling past the wool shop on King Street in Cambridge and they were selling huge balls of wool for £1. A quid. And I thought one should be bought by me and made into something for someone else and after a bit of a juddery start, and a bit of unravelling and a bit of swearing, this is what I've made. And I am really pleased with myself. Just don't look too closely at the detail. Hope you like them Orla.

And yes, I do know they have no eyes, they are the Three Blind Mice.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Sorry Mrs Pankhurst

Look away now if you are of a slight feminist disposition. This is one of my best things when the sun is shining. There is something very pleasing about hanging out the washing and seeing it dry in the sun and breeze. Sorry Mrs Pankhurst but there is.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Time Travelling

Well, hello. We Beans have been away for a weekend to Sussex. We stayed in a beautiful oasthouse, near Uckfield. This is the view of the beams and rafters from the galleried sitting room. The Small Beans had the best beams though. They were in the roundy end but every time I remembered to take a photo of their amazing bedtime view, they were in there, supposedly sleeping. And they really didn't need any encouragement or distraction from their task. So that view won't be seen by any of you unless you visit Mallingdown Oast for yourself. I can't believe we were only away for three nights. It seems as if we have just come back from a fortnights holiday. We did pack in quite a lot, so maybe that's why...

Yesterday afternoon we hopped onto a shiny green steam train on the Bluebell Line and had a ride. This in itself is fun fun fun but imagine how much more exciting the return trip is when the trusty old puffer has to keep stopping so that the men in orange jackets can Put Out The Fires in the cutting! Yes. We were setting fire to the countryside as we went along. It was a bit too early for the bluebells. Maybe it will be too late as well.

On Shoreham Beach I picked up a few pebbles. I have to ration myself now, as our house was beginning to look like a shingle beach for a while. So, I allow myself to pick up heart shaped stones, or pebbles with a line in them. Or hagstones. (They have a hole going all the way through.)

And every now and then I am permitted to keep one which is not any of the above, like this gorgeous, fantabulous one which in cross section looks like a fried egg.

On the way home, this very morning, we went here, Bodiam Castle. It is magical. It has a real moat and ramparts and a very rare, original, wooden portculis. Beware of the many steep spiral stone stairs- I had jelly legs for quite a long time after, though that may be down to age as Small Beans was very springy until bedtime. I haven't even got that need-a-holiday-to-recover-from- my-holiday-feeling, so we must have had fun.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

A good week

This week has been a very pleasing one in the Bean house. There has been LOTS of this going on. Every morning I tell myself that there must be No More, but the delicious brown stuff just stares at me until I have to stop it by popping it into my mouth. Thankfully there is not too much left...

We have been outside much of the week. On Tuesday we went to Milton Country Park, just north of Cambridge, with some friends. The Beans ran and ran with their friends (Famous Five or what?) and of course we had an Easter Egg Hunt half way round. When we got home the Beans and friends spent the WHOLE afternoon in the garden in their swimmers, in and out of the sprinkler. Now, the weather has been gorg, but I think they were being a bit optimistic.

There has been a teensy bit of this going on this week, mostly in the evenings with a cold glass of white by my side. I have lots of ideas going round in my head but not enough time to get them done- a bit frustrating but nothing is too bad when the sun shines.

Yesterday all the Beans went off to Eversden Wood. This is a really magical place just up the hill from Wimpole. As we drove past Wimpole Farm and Hall, it was heaving with people, all having a great time, but just too crammed in togther for our liking. A minute up the hill and we parked and walked. For two whole hours we did not see another soul. There was a lot of mud, a muntjac deer and a hare. In a couple of weeks the whole wood is going to be covered in bluebells- I can't wait to go back and have a look.

Big Bean had packed the hammocks so after he had strung them up, they had a quiet(?) half hour swinging and talking...

...while I lay in the sun in a not so muddy bit looking up at the bright little hawthorn leaves and listening to a woodpecker. That is when the small Beans were not in hysterical laughter.
There has been increasing amounts of this too. Until I finished it. I feel a bit bereft without a good book on the go and this has been FANTASTIC. I found it a trifle slow to get going, quite disturbing in parts but gripping for the most part. I think I need a change of scene before I start the next installment, The Girl Who Played With Fire, but I am really keen to read it. Any recommendations would be gratefully received.
At home we have spent hours in the garden; eating, gardening, playing, reading and sitting. A little while ago we planted some wheat. This is how it's doing so far. Eventually we are hoping to be a bit Little Red Hennish and make a bread roll from the grain. Am I being totally unrealistic??? I have no idea how much wheat we'll need to make a bun. Mrs Mouse had quite a bit of seed from the last row and Smaller Bean is not very helpful in the garden so we may not even get this amount growing to its potential. I will keep you posted on how it's doing.

And suddenly everything is looking frothy and green and gorgeous. The pear blossom is about to burst and I have pots and pots of tulips all so near to opening. Grape hyacinths are my favourite and my best- I can't get enough of them in my garden. Or tulips. Or euphorbia. Or foxgloves. Or wheat...

Thursday, 1 April 2010


Well. The spring flowers are all beginning to look happy out in the garden despite it being blooming cold today. (Where is the sun hiding?)This dark little beauty has survived both the chilly spell and the grabby picky fingers of the smaller bean, quite an achievement in our garden!
The Easter branch has been suitably decorated by the beans and admired repeatedly by us and a few visitors... and I did a little bit of baking for the teachers. They definitely deserve a bit of a sugar rush after all their hard work this term. I had great fun making these chick'n'egg cupcakes. Don't you think they look quite charming? I'm sure they look much better than they taste though.

So, we're ready for Easter here, just waiting for that Bunny. And some warm sun. Hope you have a good one.