‘Growing’ a Crochet Blanket

OK so it’s maybe a bit off at a tangent, but I often feel like a home-made crochet blanket is something that I ‘grow’ on the crochet hook – it starts off small then gets longer and longer until finally, it’s done! πŸ™‚

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Things People Grow

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Home is Where the Heart is…

Fandango’s Provocative Question asks this week:-

Which of these four types of community to you currently live in – urban, suburban, exurban, or rural? Are you happy there? If so, why? If not, why not, and which type of community would you prefer to live in?

We currently live in the midst of an urban community, by choice, and I absolutely love where we live. Three and a half years ago we bought a detached 1930s bungalow with private garden front and back in a mixed business and residential area within the town of Inverness in the North of Scotland. Our intention was to buy somewhere we could grow old in – basically our retirement home, bought early enough that we could do what we wanted to it BEFORE we actually retired.

As a plan, it’s sort-of worked so far. We are within easy walking distance (10-15 minutes) of four different supermarkets and one dedicated freezer store, not to mention our doctor’s surgery and dentist. And it only takes 15-20 minutes to walk into the middle of the town centre, so everything is reasonably accessible for us here. We are also on a bus route so that when walking is not so easy, public transport is an option for us, and there are always taxis to take where necessary.

We are also within easy walking distance of both the River Ness (which we have to cross over to go into town) and the Caledonian Canal (on the western-most edge of town) so have easy access in either direction to somewhere pleasant and tree-lined to stroll along just for enjoyment. Location-wise, then, it’s the perfect place for us, a best-of-both-worlds urban home situated on its own little garden plot with easy access to business and pleasure, amenities and nature.

The house itself is a bit of a fixer-upper on all counts – we bought it understanding that everything would need to be redone or replaced eventually, but nothing needed doing immediately as long as we lived with whatever dated fixtures and fittings and decor were already there. So far we’ve replaced all the windows and the two external doors, have fixed the ageing roof, have replaced the ancient heating/ hot water boiler, and have replaced all the light fixtures.

There’s still lots to do but we’re getting there at our own pace, work and health issues and family and everyday life often taking precedence over the never-ending list of DIY jobs to be tackled, but even though much remains as yet undone in the house, I love it no matter what and thank my lucky stars that this particular house should be on the market at exactly the right time for us to buy it.

I remember the first day we came to view it, I saw a tired but clearly much-loved old house with loads of potential, and the minute we walked through the front door I simply knew it was going to be the right home for us. And there’s not one day since we moved in that I’ve thought any different. I realise an old fixer-upper house changed bit by bit instead of all in one go is not to everyone’s taste, but it has a character and an eclectic style all of its own and it suits us just fine… πŸ™‚

JusJoJan: Write

It hardly seems possible that it’s the last day of the month already, and so the end of JusJoJan for this year… I’ve not managed to post every day this month but I’ve done OK, I’ve managed to write something most days, so I’m happy enough with what I’ve achieved… πŸ™‚

JusJoJan: Amenities

In any home, two of the most important amenities to be found are the bathroom and the kitchen.

In our home, we knew when we moved in three and a half years ago that at some point, both the master bathroom and kitchen would have to be not only updated but replaced. But, oh, how difficult it is to decide exactly what to do with them! We look at kitchen designs and bathroom designs and just when I think we might have made a decision on what may be best, we change our minds again. That level of renovation and remodeling is just so expensive it’s really important to make the right choice – the right style, the right colour, the right feel

Neither room currently works as well as we would like, but neither doesn’t work, either, so in one sense there’s no rush, but in another way we’re in danger of having got so used to it as it is, we almost don’t notice the inconvenience any more… almost… but not quite… πŸ™‚

JusJoJan: Amenities

Kitchen Memories

Family memories seem to be order of the day today – the JusJoJan prompt word is Family and Amanda at Something to Ponder About asks us about memories of our grandparents, so it seems sensible to cover both at once…

My paternal grandparents lived on a coastal farm set high on the cliffs on the North-East coast of Scotland, just South of Aberdeen. It was mainly an arable farm but they kept a couple of cows for milk and chickens for eggs, and always kept a vegetable garden. The busy square-roomed farmhouse kitchen was large and multi-purposed, and as I picture it in my mind’s eye I see it from the simplistic perspective of childhood.

The door was in the top right hand corner, and on your right as you entered the kitchen was a huge carved wooden sideboard filled with boundless treasures, or so it seemed at the time. On the wall facing you was the fire – an old range when I was younger, later replaced with a ‘modern’ tiled fireplace as I grew older. In the right-hand corner corner was the hot water tank housed in a slatted-shelf airing cupboard, heated by the back boiler behind the fire. In front of the fire were the tired old armchairs where my grandparents sat in the evenings, although not so much during the day, constantly busy as they were. There was a small black and white TV tucked in to the left-hand corner, behind my grandmother’s chair, but I honestly don’t remember it being on much.

Along the left hand wall sat a solidly huge extending kitchen dining table, with heavy wooden carved legs and an almost-out-of-place cream formica-style top. I know it was an extending table because of the seams in the surface but I never saw it other than fully opened. There were mis-matched chairs pushed in all around the table, maybe nine in place constantly, but often seating twelve at a push. On the back wall was the big stone sink with draining board, a standard electric cooker, a small fridge and the kitchen ‘press’ – a 1950s-style larder cupboard with a hinged pull-down door creating an extra work surface as needed. Inside the press sat a large white enamel bread bin with blue trim.

The pantry was a separate deep-shelved small storage room off the hallway, and it was in this room external to the kitchen that the big, bulky pots and pans and suchlike were stored, and the milk-house (an outside stone-built cool-room close to the back door) was where meat and dairy were traditionally stored and where jams and jellies were cooled and set. I remember the old wooden butter churn being kept in the milk-house, but by the time I was born butter was regularly made using the much-prized electric bowl mixer that was stored in the pantry until needed. The milk was still left to settle on the marble work top of the milk-house, though, with the cream being skimmed off carefully as it separated.

So this was the big old kitchen in which I learned to cook – my mum has never enjoyed cooking, for her it was always a chore, but my paternal grandmother was a typical farmer’s wife and an excellent cook, and it was from her I learned to make the hearty soups and stews and everyday cakes and bakes that traditionally fed a farming family back in the day. My dad remembers his mum making oatcakes on the old range when he was a boy, but by the time the grandchildren came along oatcakes were generally bought in. Pancakes, however, were made almost daily, a staple sweet treat. Not thin crepes, but thick, fluffy Scotch pancakes, lined up in rows and cooled in a folded tea-towel before being transferred to the table.

One of my dad’s cousins regularly made a variety of cheeses, so oatcakes and home-made cheese (plus home-made butter) were the usual mid-meal snack eaten hungrily around the table, along with the home-made pancakes dripped with thick, sticky golden syrup. Meals I particularly remember eating there include boiled eggs in egg cups dipped with toast ‘soldiers’, mince and tatties and peas, smoked kippers, boiled crabs collected fresh from the fishermen, tasty cauliflower cheese with baked ham. Soup and pudding was a regular on the menu, too – a big bowl of thick soup with hunks of bread, followed by crumble and custard was a surprisingly filling meal without a ‘main’ course in between.

My dad was one of six children, so I grew up with myriad cousins and aunts and uncles and my grandparents’ farmhouse kitchen is the space where I picture us all in various combinations of family groupings at different times of the day and year, preparing meals, eating meals, and the inevitable clearing up afterwards. Another of dad’s cousins regularly avoided the washing up by always going to the toilet immediately after each meal, and always showing surprise on her return that the dishes had all been done already. This little trick was known within the family as ‘doing a (family member’s name)’ although we always had to remember not to say it when any of her immediate family were present!

I later realised as an adult just how hard a life it must have been for my grandmother, bringing up a large family as she did with minimal mod cons at the time, but for me as a child it was simply the perfect family environment, always warm and welcoming, always busy and bustling, always a place I loved to be. And I realise in my heart of hearts that’s the feeling I want people to get in my kitchen when they come to visit me. We don’t live in a farmhouse, or on a farm, but I try to make sure there’s still a warm welcome and wholesome, homely food on offer for all everyone we invite across our threshold… πŸ™‚

Imperfect Witness

Twice in my life I’ve had to give a formal statement to the police about incidents that occurred while I was at work.

Neither incident involved me directly, but I was an external witness to them, and as such I was required by my employer to do my civic duty and help the police with collating all relevant information. The thing is, it’s surprisingly difficult to give a description of something (or someone) at a later date that you had no reason at the time to believe you would have to remember.

Because when something that seems to be a reasonably normal part of everyday life occurs in the course of a working day, when you are distracted and thinking about usual work-related stuff instead of – ‘Ooh, I’d better pay attention to every detail of everything that’s happening around me just in case an alleged crime happens’ – you simply don’t remember anything accurately because at the time there was no reason for you to make note of it in the first place.

And in your normal daily life, if you do notice something about someone or something while just going about your everyday business that you are able to describe, it’s usually because there’s a particular circumstance that captures your attention just at that moment – a specific event happens, a loud noise occurs, a moving colour or a shape catches your eye, something looks out of place or odd, you’re feeling ominous or afraid, or whatever.

In general it’s surprising just how oblivious to our surroundings we can be, though, as we sail through our lives engrossed in our own little internal worlds, focusing on a million things other than looking around and taking note of others and their actions in order to become the perfect witness should something untoward arise in the future… πŸ™‚

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Description

An Ever-Fixed Mark

My introduction to Shakespeare came not only formally from studying Macbeth and Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice as a required part of our English curriculum at school, but also creatively from my mum’s love of traditional ballet – Prokofiev’s balletic version of Romeo and Juliet re-tells the tale so beautifully in music and dance, but ideally you have to read the original to be able to follow the story.

So one way or another I’ve always loved the challenge of reading Shakespeare’s plays, but to be properly understood I always felt they really needed to be read out aloud with proper expression and animation, breathing life into the sparkling narrative rather than just read out word for word in a meaningless monotone that inevitably leaves everyone bored to death by such a dry and dusty delivery.

And much later on I discovered Shakespeare’s sonnets, often bringing another challenge of true understanding if not read out aloud with feeling. They can sometimes be quite repetitive in their themes but are beautifully written nonetheless. I have a treasured silver bangle in the shape of a Mobius strip with the first two quatrains of Sonnet 116 engraved onto it. As the strip twists, the wording continues on to the ‘other’ side of the bangle, so it is engraved in its entirety.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

William Shakespeare

This is also the sonnet that Marianne quotes in Sense and Sensibility, when she finally comes to the understanding that Willoughby could not have loved her enough if he chose to marry someone else for money after he was disinherited due to his own bad behaviour. And it is this sonnet (engraved as it is on my bangle) that immediately sprang to mind this morning for me, too, when I read the prompt word ‘bend’… πŸ™‚

Weekly Prompt: Bend