Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Autumn approaches

Autumn is gradually but surely starting to make itself known here in the north west of EnglandI have a double edged relationship with autumn - on the one hand, I take real comfort and much pleasure from the amazing array of colours on show as the trees shed their leaves, and I really look forward to the forthcoming cosiness of autumn - wrapping up warm and battening down the hatches as the weather closes in. But I always feel somewhat melancholy as the nights draw in and the temperature drops, and we say farewell to summer for another year.

In an effort to embrace all things autumn and to sweep all negative thoughts from my mind, I've been busying myself by making some small but fun changes to the house, preparing for the cooler and darker days ahead, and reminding myself of all of the positives, the opportunities and the fun that this most beautiful season can bring.

And it has definitely helped to lift my autumnal 'gloom' - I'm actually feeling quite positive as I type! 

Blanket Crocheting
Blankets are probably my all-time favourite thing to crochet - they're quick and easy , and serve a practical purpose once complete. But summer is most definitely not the season to be crocheting one - the heat a blanket generates on your knee as you work on it can be significant! And psychologically I'm never in the right head space for creating cosy blankets when it's 80 degrees outside. So any blanket that I'm part way through tends to get put aside in early summer, with work resuming in early autumn.  This year is no different, and I've just completed a blanket that I started back in the spring that I'm very pleased with. It's a lap blanket of my own design, simple and colourful, and I've really enjoyed working on it.

My completed, self designed blanket, all ready for those colder nights

I made the cushion in the background, adding a retro pear design to a plain red cover

I find a crocheted blanket a good project to work on while sitting in front of the TV, or during my weekly craft class visits - I don't have to concentrate on it as it's such a simple pattern, and so I can chat to friends (and have the odd slice of cake) without worrying that I'm going to mess up a row.

I've got another blanket which was abandoned in the spring and which I'm really excited about finishing; this one features a circular repeat pattern and is, again, my own design.

I need to make some more of these circle shapes and hopefully, in the fairly near future,
I'll have another blanket completed

When I have the time (hopefully in the next week or so) I'll pop the patterns online - they're really very easy and if you're even halfway decent at crocheting I'm sure you'll be able to manage them.

General Cosiness
I'm a cold person by nature, in that I get very cold hands and feet; I don't suffer from Reynauds, but I do have a tendency to develop chilblains on my fingers, which can be incredibly sore at times.  As a result, I love anything that makes me cosy: blankets (see above), cuddling the dog (who is THE best dog for cuddling that I've ever come across - he seems to enjoy it as much as we all do, and he's a great spooner too!), extra layers of clothes… I love them all.

This is possibly the cutest dog in the world - he loves to cuddle up alongside the Girl

Best friends

My lovely friend, Sophie, who I met through my craft class, is an avid sock knitter and she made me the most beautiful pair of woolly socks which I shall wear with pride and joy come the colder months.  How amazing are these??!!

Sophie's amazing socks

How is this pattern even possible with one ball of wool?!!

What fascinates me is that the wool and knitting pattern are produced in such a way that not only do the socks develop stripes, but within the stripes they produce actual patterns too - it's like witchcraft!  I've long coveted a pair of Sophie's amazing socks, and I could watch her knitting them for hours as I'm a terrible knitter myself. I was so humbled when she gifted this gorgeous pair to me, as I'd been especially admiring the colours of these.  Thank you Sophie!

For all those who hate getting into a cold bed, I can also heartily recommend an electric blanket.  I fought against getting one for years, finally agreeing to try one a couple of winters ago.  How wrong was I? The blanket takes the chill off the sheets and warms it up to just the right temperature as to make your bed feel cosy but not hot.  It makes me smile every single time I get into bed.  Honestly, try one - you'll thank me for it!

Nature's Gifts
Autumn, for me, is by far the most beautiful of the seasons. It's when Mother Nature really goes to town on the colours, the smells and the sounds, and all my senses feel heightened somehow.  Winter rolls into spring gradually, and before we know it we're in summer without much of an obvious transition, but autumn comes in with an absolute bang and blaze of glory, and it is breathtaking.

Acorn and leaf, collected on a recent visit to relatives in Frome, Somerset

Acorns collected by the Boy locally for his 'autumn display'

The leaves on the trees are the first sign of autumn approaching - some of the trees around our home have yet to succumb to the change of season, but many are starting to develop leaves of all shades of yellow, brown and red.  The oak trees are losing their acorns, which the Boy has been hoovering up for his autumn 'display' (it's a bit sparse at the moment but he plans to add to it later!). Conkers are also about to fall and I'm sure we'll be making a trip to a local park, where they can be found in abundance. 

Last weekend I spent a happy hour foraging for the last of the wild blackberries, which the Husband made into another tasty Blackberry Fool.

The last of the blackberries in our area

Not a bad haul, and they were delicious in the Blackberry Fool

I'm a bit of a tame forager - I recognise blackberries and a couple of other, more common, berries and fruits, but I really should learn about the other available foodstuff which grows wild around here - a friend of mine, Sarah, is a keen and successful forager and I really should ask her to give me some tips (you can read about her exploits here on her fascinating blog, Frond and Feather).

We've had a couple of autumnal misty mornings in the last week or so, so dense that the hill opposite our house all but disappears from view.  And the sun's reach and angle is definitely changing; I've noticed this especially when walking the dog in an evening.  We're still getting some warmth, but it's definitely the exception rather than the rule at the moment.  That said, we regularly get a late blast of summer around about now - do they call it an Indian Summer? - and one year when The Girl was very small it got up to around 70 degrees in early November, and we were collecting conkers in t-shirts and shorts, very bizarre.  So we may yet get a last sunny week before summer really bites the dust.

The Girl collecting conkers in shorts and t-shirt in November - I think this was 2011

One of my all-time favourite sounds is of a flock of geese heading in for the summer or away for the winter, and I have been treated to the sight of two flocks heading for pastures new in the last week. I find the flight of birds - how they fly without bumping into each other, and how they navigate for hundreds of miles and manage to find their way back to their nesting sites - an endless source of fascination, and I especially love to see and hear geese. I love that their bulk and general clumsy gait whilst on land transforms into grace and speed in flight, and their 'honk, honk' sound just makes me laugh!

Home Adornments
I'm not one of these people who changes the entire look of their home as the colder months approach, swapping cushion covers, curtains and the like for cosier versions.  But I do like to make a couple of small amendments to our home décor which just give a hint of extra layers of comfort and a nod to the changing of the seasons.

I've found the autumn wreath that I crocheted a couple of years ago, which I've displayed proudly in our lobby to welcome visitors.  I love the range of colours within it, but mostly I just love the hedgehog!  I think this will stay in place until it's time to replace it with my winter one.

My autumn wreath is on display again

This hedgehog!!

I've also been rearranging the various bits and bobs around our dining room fireplace.  To be honest, we use the stove sparingly - the heat it omits is quite something and very omni-directional, and we find that for most of the year the central heating is sufficient.  But you can't beat a real fire for the ultimate in cosiness, and it really does do the trick on the coldest days.

Our dining room stove and fireplace

The little trees on the branch are actually supermarket gift tags that I bought ages ago - I stuck them back to back and they make a lovely display.  The large ceramic tiles were bought as samples when we were doing up our lobby - in the end we went for a simple black and white design and so these samples became redundant but they're so pretty that I couldn't get rid of them. I think they look lovely on the hearth here.  I made the tealight holder from small pieces of driftwood collected from beaches in Northumberland, and the yellow tealight holder was picked up from a charity shop years ago.

This pile of my crocheted blankets gets bigger every year as I add to it - we really don't need this many blankets but again, I struggle to part with them!

More blankets...

They do come in useful though - we use them to snuggle under on the sofa when watching a film, and I usually pop one on my lap when working on the computer or crafting.  The kids also put them to good use when they're making dens in the living room - a blanket stretched between two chairs makes a good tunnel or 'room'.  I'm not overly protective of them, but the kids do treat them with care, which is lovely. The blanket I crocheted for the Boy's bed has also reappeared after a summer break; we snuggle under it at story time just before bed and he keeps it on overnight.

Change of activities
Autumn tends to be the time when the board games start to come out in our house.  We have a big chest in our living room which I bought from - you've guessed it - a charity shop for around £10 years ago, and repainted grey.

Our games chest

It holds our games and is full to the brim.  Some games are relatively new, some are old. We really enjoy playing them on cold days, rainy days, and winter evenings.  The Boy struggled with losing for quite a while, as all small children do, but we try not to make too many concessions in that area, and he's now (mostly) content to be on the losing side!  Current favourites are dominos and Peppa Pig snakes and ladders, with the odd game of Bug Bingo thrown in for good measure.

I think I need a sort out...

Our current favourite games

I also find that we tend to get the craft stuff out more often in the colder months, primarily as a way of keeping the kids amused on gloomy days.  If you're looking for ways to keep the kids occupied indoors, I suggest you check out Home Bargains - they have some brilliant things in stock just now at great prices.  I bought this kit last week - all three animals come in the one kit and I think it cost £1.99.

Home Bargains, we love you

How cute is this fox, for around 66p?!

The animals are pleasingly sturdy and simple to make, although very small people may need help with the (supplied) double sided tape.  The Girl has the elephant in her room, the Boy has the rabbit, and I bagged the fox, although I still need to find a permanent home for it.

Autumn - bring it on; we're ready for you!

Bye for now xxx

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