'If you have a dog, you will most likely outlive it; to get a dog is to open yourself to profound joy and, prospectively, to equally profound sadness.' Marjorie Garber

Sunday, 24 July 2011

June and July

June and July are always such busy months for my household. Both of my Daughters have birthdays, as does my Mother-in-Law, so there is lots of preparation and planning and cake eating, all within the space of the last week of June to the second week of July. But these two months, since the birth of my Daughters, have always been my favourite time of year.

When the girls were younger, I was busy not just because of the birthday preparations but because I was a Junior School Chair of Governors and there were always numerous end of year events which I was expected to attend. I loved it, mind you. Happy children running from school to start the Summer holidays clutching their artistic efforts or certificates for spelling or sport were one of the highlights of being involved in Education.
In recent years June has meant EXAMS for both girls - GCSEs, AS Levels, A Levels and very soon, Degrees! 
 But last year, June was the month Misha first started showing symptoms of her illness. At the beginning of last July, she was diagnosed with Immune Mediated Disease; she passed away later that month.  Of course, I now have Rosie and Mowgli, who have both just celebrated their first birthdays in June and July to soften the memories of last year, but the months are now tinged with sadness for me.  Remembering losing Misha still has the power to reduce me to tears at the most inappropriate moments. Is there ever an appropriate moment?

So, I just wanted, no, needed, to say this...

Misha, 28 March 2003 - 24 July 2010
Misha, I miss you and cherish your memory every day.  I was blessed to have spent such wonderful times with you. 

June and July are still my favourite months, but now they are also months for reflection as well as celebration.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Broad Band Bean Blog!

I don't think I've ever mentioned before that I am a bit of an amateur gardener. We moved into this house about two years ago and the thing that attracted me to it the most was the large garden that, luckily, was already stocked with many perennial plants and fruit trees. I feel like it is my little bit of countryside.  Since moving here, Hubby has also become interested in the garden, which is wonderful because it is far too big for me to manage myself. He has planted the first stage of our herb garden, and it's going to be wonderful.


We owned the house for a while before we lived here and had lots of remedial building work carried out on it because the place hadn't really been touched since the 1970s. So unfortunately, the first year we didn't take full advantage of all the bounty we had, and many of the raspberries, strawberries, apples, pears and plums went to waste. Last year, after most of the 'indoor stuff' had been finished, we started to tackle the garden with the help of my dear Dad, who is an expert and prize-winning gardener. I planted a few things but apart from my lettuces, nothing was particularly successful, and I took my eye off the ball when Misha, my Dog, became gravely ill. This year, however, we are reaping the benefits and for the first time ever I have grown broad beans! (Plants courtesy of Dad.) I know, all you long standing gardeners out there are thinking: "Broad beans - what's all the fuss about!" But I have never lived anywhere before where I've been able to grow vegetables so my first crop of beans are a real cause for celebration here!

The Beans!
Tonight, they are joining the roast chicken and I'm positive they are going to taste just heavenly! Later this week, I'll share some more of my garden treasures with you...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Didn't We Have a Lovely Day...

Copyright: Visit Dunster
Sunday was such a beautiful day. We went to Dunster and Exmoor.  
Dunster is one of my favourite places. For those of you who aren't familliar with the West of England, or Somerset in particular, Dunster is known as the 'Gateway to Exmoor'. It isn't far from Minehead, a 'seaside' town on the Bristol Channel and the starting point for the South West Coast Path. Dunster is an ancient village with a grand Castle and it's own little stretch of beach on the channel. 
Gallox Bridge
The village as we know it now really is a 'Chocolate Box' village with most of the buildings dating from Medieval times. It isn't a sleepy village though, as there are always lots of activities and events. I'm considering holding my half-century celebrations there next year, if I can persuade my friends to come along. Anyway, if you ever find yourself in this part of England, then a visit to Dunster and Exmoor is a must.

Exmoor is a National Park and the setting for 'Lorna Doone'. It is a beautiful expanse of heathered moorland reaching down to the sea - far less bleak than Dartmoor. 

We were lucky enough to come across some Exmoor ponies and foals grazing - just wonderful!

We also spotted an adder, but it was too fast for us and we couldn't get a picture before it disappeared into the hedgrow. 

The gorgeous soft magenta foxglove were in full bloom, holding their majestic bellheads high on the horizon. If only I could get the foxgloves in my garden to flourish like these.

When I visit Exmoor it just fills me with the joy of life. I leave there refreshed and amazed at how beautiful the world can be. It really is one of the most uplifting places, especially when the sun is shining!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Brenda's Chair Revisited

Some of you may remember one of my posts from last year when I revealed my latest creative venture / adventure - upholstery. Well the love affair is still going strong and I am on my fourth project, but I realised the other day when I was merrily stripping, (a chair, not me), that I never gave an update on Brenda's chair. So this is what it used to look like:

Brenda was a very close family friend of my Brother-in-Law's, and when she passed away last year, he, together with her son and my Sister had the task of clearing her home of all her worldly possessions; a sad  and depressing task for anyone. They very kindly gave me this chair, and another later chair, to reupholster. I say they gave it to me but it has such history that I feel more like a custodian than the owner! But I was very excited about the prospect of rejuvenating this piece. So I took it along to the workshop.
And this is what it looked like half way through:

The chair caused much excitement amongst my fellow upholsterers because it was a genuine 'Utility' chair. Utility furniture was produced during and just after the Second World War when materials were scarce. The furniture was supplied under strict rationing to newly-weds or those people whose homes had been destroyed by the bombings. Many of the styles were Arts and Crafts inspired, which was what attracted me to this chair - the lovely lines of the arms, without getting too technical or arty, they are almost organic! So, as you can imagine, I had second thoughts about interfering with this little bit of history, but the original fabric was very poor. I tried to retain as many of the interior bits as possible but a few things were beyond repair after seventy years of wear and tear.  I had to replace the cushion completely because it  had lost all its bounce, but the main body of the chair was in fairly good condition. I used a lovely natural linen mix fabric from Laura Ashley  called Lilacs for my top covering, and natural calico underneath.

Anyway, I am very pleased with the finished product. After the initial embarrassment of my 1970s bedroom stool, Brenda's chair was a triumph!

This is the replacement cushion, complete with piping which I made myself.

And this is Brenda's Chair now...

My Cat, Mowgli, loves it and I think Brenda would approve too.