The Small Things

Summertime

  

bathroom

I haven't written for ages, have I?  I have found it really difficult getting into a routine working for myself.  I don't always make time for the things that I love; one of those things is writing.  

I am going to try really hard to discipline myself to blog more regularly.  I know we all agree that with instagram it is easy to neglect our blogs, given that IG has been described as a form of micro-blogging.  I love instagram but I can lose hours there but there is something missing that only real blog posts can offer.  I still prefer to read well-written blog posts, I find them comforting and cosy to read when I'm queuing at the shops, having a coffee or off to bed.  I don't always want the quick and easy version that instagram offers.  Posie Gets Cozy is my absolute favourite blog.  I love to read Alicia's words, I think she has an inspiring life as a fellow maker.  I share a lot of things in common with Alicia and love how she appears to make the most of every day by making the little things special... It is something that I try to do myself too.  

I had considered vlogging but I don't think that's me.  I like to make little videos of what I'm up to and where I've been every now and then but there is no way that I can just sit in front of a camera and chat.  I have tried and I just don't feel comfortable.  I feel awkward and exposed.  I talk to myself at home all the time and I've spent years pretending to run a cookery show in the comfort of my own kitchen!  (I think I used to drive my mum mad emptying all the weighed ingredients into separate little bowls for my 'shows').  For some reason when there is an actual real-life camera in front of me I just feel like a wally.  And that is that.

Summer is passing for us in a blur of salted caramel ice creams, fruit cider, long dog walks in the late evening and lots of cool showers.  Electric fans whirring, duvets relegated to storage and small posies of roses at our bedside.  Brocantes, antique fairs and car boot sales.  Fresh sourdough loaves and my favourite Portugese custard tarts.  Watering the roses, sweet peas, hanging baskets, geraniums and tomatoes with a morning coffee.  Trips to the zoo, parks and paddling pools with my nieces who cartwheel and dance on every spare inch of ground.  It is all so perfect.  We have had such wonderful weather and we are relishing every minute of it.  Since my workshop at the Cozy Club at the end of May I have been obsessed with seaside paraphernalia - I have been making tiny bunting for tiny vintage boats and digging out all of my old ticking in red, white and blue stripes to make cushions, lavender bags and hanging hearts.  It is so nice to have a bright white bathroom at last, that I can decorate with pretty handmade things.   I have a few more boats to make, a few more hearts and a little drawstring bag to keep my make up in. Mostly though I am spending my time working on a few new embroidery designs that I will be bringing with me to the brocantes at the end of August.  Sign up for our newsletter, below, to get advance notification of sales and Little Green Door news! 

Speak soon, thanks so much for popping by.

Nicki x

Β 

Β 

Β 

Floral Ice Cubes for Summer Drinks

ice cubes1.jpg

Ever since buying Fiona Cairns Seasonal Baking Book earlier in the year I have been obsessed with edible flowers.  Some of the prettier and more unusual types are not growing in my garden (yet!) but I do have an abundance of violas which, I think, are super cute.  

I started off with crystalising a few.  I felt squeamish about using egg white for this purpose so I found an egg white substitute in powder form to use.  It was Ok but I expect a bit thicker and stiffer than actual egg white.  I went a bit crazy with the sugar too but was really pleased with the results and the lemon drizzle cake looked very pretty.  (I thought I'd already blogged my cake so here is a quick pic.  I'll share the full post another day.)

Obviously, freezing flowers in ice cubes is even quicker and less fiddly than crystalising them but I did treat myself to a couple of new ice cube trays so that I'd get good, big, square cubes.  Find them here.  (They will be nice with little berries and things in too don't you think?)

My only tip here is to use cooled boiled water so that the ice is clear.  My flowers sat on the top of the ice cube as I filled the tray to the top and dropped the viola in.  If you want to make sure the flower is in the centre of the cube then just fill the tray half full first when putting the flowers in.  Once that part has frozen you can top up with more water and freeze the rest of it.  Easy peasy. 

I have been enjoying my decorative ice cubes with that lovely pre-mixed gin and rose lemonade but they also make my orange and mango cordial look pretty too.  Can't wait to get more flowers and perhaps try some berries too.  Ooh and mint leaves.  Excited!  (I know, I am sad.)

Here's to a sunny summer, right?!

Love

Nicki 

Happiness is.....

spring flowers and jammy dodgers

Fresh, hot, coffee.   Pink roses.  New skeins of embroidery thread.  Old, slubby, linen.  Little bowls of pastel coloured sweets.  Long chats with friends on the telephone.  Giant jammy biscuits.  Taboo on the telly.  Long walks in the winter sunshine.  A niece with glittering eyes and rosy cheeks; happy after her first day at a new school.  Catching up with family over fish, chips and mushy peas.  Thick watercolour paper and little tubes of paint.  Art class.  Bath salts and lavender oil.  Heirloom quilts.  Homemade banana bread, pots of tea and stitching with friends.  Beautiful hand-dyed yarn.  Tiny clay hearts.  Old tins filled with art supplies.  Kindle library books.  Miniature zinc buckets for collecting threads.  

*******

We are a bit out of sorts here.  Andrew has ruptured his achilles tendon which means he is in plaster and on crutches.  Minimum of 8 weeks to recover and months of physio for him.  I am responding every five minutes to requests of "could I have a glass of apple juice" and "would you mind fetching my book for me".  The poor chap can't do anything; he is thoroughly miserable and I feel so sorry for him.  Hope he heals quickly, for both our sakes! 

Love 

Nicki xOx

Β 

Β 

Β 

Β 

Β 

How to love Winter

Have you heard that today is 'Blue Monday'?  I am not sure I believe there is any science behind it and I kind of agree with Innocent Drinks that it was made up by someone in Marketing.  However, it does seem plausible.

As someone who has battled with bouts of anxiety and depression (thankfully less often these days than in previous years), I have to be extra kind to myself at this time of year.  I have found lots of tips and tricks to help support my mental health; principally mindfulness and meditation but also yoga, aromatherapy, journalling, knitting and chocolate.  

I used to hate winter.  September through to 31st December was (and still is) my very favourite time of year but as soon as New Year's Day hit I would feel the familiar dread and despondency of the looming winter months.  

I know that I am not alone and many of us feel like this, to varying degrees.  So far this year, though, I am loving winter.  Loving it!  So, I thought I'd share some of the little things that are giving me joy this January.  

  • I prepared well.  My Christmas list consisted of mainly books, craft kits and art supplies.  I chose a few books with winter themes and they were gifted to me by Andrew as a cheering 'bundle of books' to snuggle up with on the dark evenings.
    Β 
  • My new year resolutions are joyful and spoiling.  No strict diets, exercise regimes or money-saving schemes for me just now.  My number one resolution was to buy myself flowers every week.  So far, I've nailed it!  Daffodils were on sale in Aldi for 95p a bunch last week and I bought some hyacinth bulbs in Sainsbury's for the price of a coffee on Saturday.  Although the hyacinths are just shoots at the moment, it is really cheering to have some greenery around the place.
    Β 
  • Andrew and I made up a lovely big watch list on Netflix of all the boxsets and films that we have been meaning to watch.  Every single night we light the fire, cuddle up and watch an episode of something together.  We don't watch an awful lot of television; we don't really bother with the soaps or reality shows so it is nice to make an effort to watch something great on the box every day and means we make time for a smooch too.  (We are currently watching the American version of The Killing and really enjoying it; it is just as good as the Danish original.)
    Β 
  •  I walk every single day.  Lizzie gets dragged out, rain or shine, and at the very least we do a quick circuit of the village.  The fresh air and even the drizzle make me feel alive after a day working indoors.
    Β 
  • Soup!  I am working my way through one of my favourite soup recipe books.  Very little food is more comforting than a hearty bowl of soup and hunk of crusty bread.  Great way to eat more healthily too, as the ones we love most are chock full of veg.
    Β 
  • Something to look forward to helps; I am no artist but have signed up for weekly watercolour classes that start in February.  I took my first lesson in mid-December just before the teacher finished for the year and I am champing at the bit to start properly.  
    Β 
  • Self-care is always important but feels especially good when we have slipped into a habit of being hard on ourselves.  Gabrielle Treanor launched a free seven-day e-course called The Warm Embrace this year.  I have so enjoyed receiving her gentle emails, reminding me to look after myself and be kind.  The course is based on mindfulness and positive thinking - there is still time to sign up if you are interested and Gabrielle's website is packed with uplifting articles and photography.  
    Β 
  • Candlelight... Ah!  We all know how much I love candles and these antique black candlesticks in my shop are my absolute favourite.  I have them dotted around the house and use small pillar candles from Ikea which last ages and melt very prettily.  They make me feel Dickensian and cosy, trick me into thinking I live in simpler times.  They are rustic and old-fashioned and coordinate nicely with our black cast iron woodburners.  Treat yourself here if you fancy; I promise you will love them! 

I hope my approach to winter will help if you struggle at this time of year.  If nothing else, maybe it will be comforting to know that you are not alone.  If you have any other happy little tips it would be great if you could share them here or use my hashtag on instagram and twitter #blues_busting. I also recommend the hashtags #savouringJanuary2017 and #making_winter for some cosy, soul-warming photos. 

With my very best wishes for a joyful and healthy 2017.  Thank you for coming to visit this little webspace of mine, it is so nice to have you here for a virtual cup of tea every now and then.

Love

Nicki 

x0x

Β 


Β 

Β 

Β 

Β 

Β 

Β 

Β 

Β 

Β 

Making Christmas Memories

These three photos sum up my festive mood at the moment:

1) a pair of ceramic house tea light lanterns bought at the Bath Christmas market last week,

2) a stolen afternoon for Andrew and me in front of the telly with Home Alone 2, tea and mince pies, 

and 3) my adorable little niece at the village Christingle service a couple of weeks ago.  

Things are not quite calm and bright yet but I feel as though we might be getting there. My workroom is finally straight after a thorough sort out on Monday morning - I just have a bundle of thread skeins to wind onto bobbins and then I will feel organised enough to complete the embroidered bookmark commission that I am currently working on.  

We are still eating ready meals, though, so I am planning a whole menu for next week (which I privately refer to as 'Christmas week') so that we can eat lots of seasonal vegetables and comfort food like mashed potato and risotto in the run up to Christmas Day.  We still don't have a tin of Quality Street in the house and I need to rectify that tout de suite! 

I have been out and about over the last couple of days; yesterday was Lizzie's Christmas-hairdo-day and then I went off to a watercolour class that I'll be joining weekly from February.  I have been looking for a good art class for months and finally managed to reserve a space at a Wednesday morning class.  I have got some homework to get started on throughout January and I have put some lovely sable paintbrushes and art supplies on my birthday wish list.   

This morning I went to church for my eldest niece's school advent service.  It was very sweet; there is something about children singing Silent Night or Away in a Manger that tugs hard on my heart strings and puts a lump in my throat.  This morning there was a mishap involving a small boy and his microphone - it gave my sister and I the uncontrollable giggles.  The more we tried to stop ourselves laughing, the worse it got until eventually Sarah erupted in a shout of laughter and fell behind the pew with her shoulders shaking and eyes streaming. My mum and grandma were there too and had no idea what had tickled us; in fact my grandmother looked a bit cross that we were misbehaving in church.  Makes me laugh just thinking about it now. 

After church, when Izzie had gone back to school, we all squished into Mabel (my little fiat), cranked up Feliz Navidad on repeat and navigated the winding country roads to a local garden centre for a full English breakfast.  It really was the most lovely morning; my grandma was in the front of the car with me having a little seat shimmy and sing-along.  It made me happy to see her so cheerful as she was wired up to a pacemaker on Saturday and is feeling a bit sore and sorry for herself.

Tonight Andrew and I are watching the football with a takeout pizza and I am going to give myself the night off with my knitting.  Back to the needle and thread first thing tomorrow morning so I can get my work done before Christmas.

Hope everyone is having a lovely week - thanks for stopping by again :)

Love, Nicki 

xOx

30 Days of Hygge in November

Being prone to bouts of depression, my friend Lynda and I have embarked on a bit of a personal development journey together this year to maintain our wellness, mindfulness and positivity, and look after each other.  We regularly send each other little gifts in the post, meet up for coffee, and share book and film recommendations.  We both love books about Hygge and in one of the books, 'The Cozy Life' the author recommends a 30 day hygge challenge.  We both loved the idea and as November has just 30 days we thought it would be the perfect month.  Forget the 30 day squat challenge, or the 30 day ab challenge - 30 days of hygge sounds much more nurturing and enjoyable!

We have created a list, taking into account some of the activities suggested by Edberg and made it our own.  If you feel like joining in we'd love to see your hygge photos on instagram, twitter and facebook.  Please use the hashtag #30daysofhygge 

  • Make a proper hot chocolate, with all the trimmings.
  • Read a favourite book from your childhood (mine were The Hundred and One Dalmatians and White Boots.  Lynda's favourites were The Secret Garden and Little Women).
  • Bake bread (make two loaves and deliver one to your neighbour as a random act of kindness).
  • Hang a new string of fairy lights somewhere in the house.
  • Buy and enjoy a new bubble bath.  We like Philosophy Fresh Cream, Origins Ginger Float , Philosophy Cinnamon Buns L'Occitane Lavender Harvest and Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir.
  • Make a breakfast picnic, pack a cosy blanket and watch the sunrise.
  • Go for a walk to gather pretty leaves, twigs, feathers, berries, flowers and nuts then make a nature mandala with them when you get home  - photograph or sketch it then destroy it, making a wish as you do so (taken from How to be a Wildflower by Katie Daisy).
  • Enjoy an outdoor fire; either attend a bonfire party or have drinks and snacks around a fire pit at home.
  • Wear a gifted item of jewellery that you have not worn for a long time.
  • Cosy up with a favourite film from your childhood.  (Lynda loved Swallows & Amazons, I liked The Sound of Music and we both loved Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory).
  • Go for a walk in the woods and kick some golden leaves.
  • Wear some woolly loveliness. 
  • Choose a new novel, grab a blanket, hot drink and a scented candle and spend the afternoon reading.  We have read and enjoyed Florence Grace,  The Lake House and The Girl in the Photograph recently.  On our to read list we have Yellow Crocus , I Remember You , At The Edge of the Orchard and A Memory of Violets.
  • Dress your bed with fresh, clean, brushed cotton linen.
  • Make a homemade gift for a loved one.  
  • Take your book/knitting/sewing/journal/sketch pad to a cosy cafe and spend an hour on your chosen craft with a favourite drink.
  • Bake something new.
  • Give yourself a facial and get an early night.  I am loving this mask at the moment for brighter skin and tighter pores.
  • Get comfy by the window and quietly watch the birds outside.  I love to feed the birds and find they like suet blocks, sunflower hearts and nyger seed best of all.
  • Go and visit a friend or family member you've been meaning to see for a while.  Take some flowers and give them a big hug to let them know how much they mean to you.
  • Blow the dust off your board games and spend an evening away from the TV.  Wine, snacks and a favourite music playlist make for a lovely night in.  We always enjoy a game of Harry Potter Cluedo
  • Have a candlelit bath.
  • Try out a new farm shop cafe for breakfast, cake or lunch.
  • Visit a National Trust property and wander around the gardens.
  • Spend an entire day watching a new boxset.
  • Style your hair differently or accessorise with cute clips, flowers or combs. 
  • Wear a warm sweater with comfy leggings and spend 20 minutes on some candlelight meditation.
  • Treat yourself to a restorative yoga session somewhere beautiful.
  • Sort through your digital photos and print off your favourites for your own hygge journal.
  • Invite family over for Sunday lunch.
  • Light a scented candle.  1803 Candles are our very favourites; we love Weathered Crow, Banana Walnut Cake and Yummy Pumpkin Seeds.  
  • Do some colouring in.  We love the Johanna Basford ones and there is a lovely Christmas version out now too.

These are just suggestions of course - if you have any more you can add then please pop into the comments!  We'd also love to hear the books and films you've loved.  

If you'd like to read more about Hygge and cosy living, we really loved the The Little Book of Hygge, The Art of Hygge and, of course, The Cozy Life.  For mindfulness and positivity reading we love Flow magazine and Breathe

Day one of #30daysofhygge for me was a walk in a local country park with my folks this morning, kicking golden leaves and searching (unsuccessfully) for fairy toadstools.  

Thanks for reading - wishing you a hyggeligt November :)

xOx

The Beehive Embroidery - Beginning

My next embroidery project is in the hoop!  I have spent the last few days pulling together some images and flicking through my vintage books for floral inspiration.  I have also pulled out the fabrics and some of the threads that I think will work with the colour palette I am using.  This piece is going to be a framed picture; an antique style wooden beehive surrounded by flowers in delicate blues, soft whites and poppy red.  I have sketched a (very rough) design just to give me something to work from in terms of sizing and placement but now that the beehive is in situ I can just randomly add flowers and grasses to where I think they look best as I work.  I prefer that my embroidery develops in this way because it means that each piece is unique.

I have cleared my diary to ensure that I have plenty of time to work on the beehive and there are a few films that I've been wanting to watch for ages (Testament of Youth, XandY and Enchanted April) so I'm going to have a really lovely week!  

I joined a restorative yoga class last Tuesday and I'm off to my second session tomorrow.  It is absolutely the most wonderful thing I have treated myself to in ages.  The venue is beautiful, the teacher is hugely inspiring and the practise is just what I need to help calm my busy mind.  The yogi, Lisa, also teaches on the use of essential oils for wellbeing and I went to a workshop on Friday evening.  It was amazing.  Such a warm and nurturing experience.  I am skeptical of the benefits these things claim to bring but also open-minded and wanted to give it a try.  I created a personal blend, with input from Lisa, specifically to help me focus and clear my mind.  I spritz myself every morning before I sit down to a ten-minute guided meditation (I like the app 'Calm' which I use on my phone) and - I am not kidding - I have been so productive every day!  I feel like I have magic fairy dust shooting through my veins, haha!  Next I think I'd like an essential oil blend to stop me eating so much chocolate..... 

Thanks for stopping by; have a great week.

Love

Nicki 

xOx

The Spooky Month!

pumpkin hollow final.jpg

I am so excited to welcome October and release the final Autumnal scented candles that we have in stock from 1803 Candles.  Hocus Pocus, Yummy Pumpkin Seeds and Pumpkin Hollow are all really gorgeous autumnal fragrances and their jar labels are very festive! Perfect whether you go all out for Halloween decorations or like to give just a subtle nod to the season.  Shop now here

I have lots of plans for October, both from a work perspective and personally.  I had fun updating my Bullet Journal this afternoon with my plans for the month and I have written a blog schedule so that I can blog every day without having writer's block.  

I was given the all-clear to wear contact lenses again on Thursday as my eye has healed.  Hooray! I am taking it steady and only wearing them for short amounts of time at the moment but my mood has improved vastly!  It is so nice to see properly without a thick and heavy pair of glasses on my face that steam up every time I pull something out of the oven or slide down my nose with sweat. It is also brilliant to be wearing make-up again and remember that I do actually have a pair of eyes rather than two tiny raisins squished into my face (which is how I felt in my specs).  

Oh! And I can drive Mabel, my new little car!  My lovely friend Lynda (Laalaa) came to visit me again yesterday - we have managed to get together loads this summer, it has been great - and we had a proper tour of Northamptonshire in my minty pride and joy.  We had such a lovely day fabric shopping, stationery shopping, lunching and drinking coffee.  Although it has to be said, Lynda still gripped the door handle a little too tightly when I was driving, I think I still scare her even though Mabel is much slower than my Mini.   To top off a lovely day I went to an aromatherapy class at a divine yoga studio yesterday evening with Debs.  There's really nothing better than spending time with treasured friends is there.  

We are going to settle in front of the TV now to start Season 3 of The Bridge.  We have boozy drinks, blankets and a bowl of Hula Hoops.  Perfect Saturday night in doncha think.

Love love

Nicki 

xOx

Β 

Right Now...

The time right now, as I start this blog post, is 7.55pm and it is very dark outside.  I have got my woodland lantern burning alongside a new 1803 candle (trialling a Halloween scent - love it) and a big pot of soup bubbling in the Aga.  Andrew is playing football tonight and he'll be home soon.  It is cool outside but not cold (today was a pretty warm day) so as soon as he has showered I will fill two bowls with the soup, top them with shaved parmesan and we will sit outside to eat.  These are late summer days at their best... the glorious slow transition to Autumn.  I am savouring every moment. 

My work tray holds an embroidery commission that is very nearly finished and I am joining a friend tomorrow afternoon to work on it whilst we have a catch-up.  I am spending tomorrow morning with my parents; we are taking a breakfast picnic to watch the sunrise and, hopefully, a few water birds down at the scrape.  I love our mornings at the nature reserve; such a gentle yet energising way to start the day.  

I hope everyone is having a lovely week and not feeling too thrown with the children back at school.  I am sure it takes a while to get back into the flow of a regular day. 

Sending love,

Nicki 

xOx

An Uplifting Morning

sunrise

I've said before that the small things make me happy and after a successful recce of the local nature reserve last week, dad and I were out early this morning for some proper bird watching.  At 4:45am I was dressed and in the kitchen making bacon sandwiches and a flask of milky coffee. 

I knew it was going to be a hot day but packed a sweatshirt anyway and I am glad I did - it was a bit chilly sitting in that bird hide at 5:30 this morning watching the sunrise!  We set up with our binoculars, tin mugs of hot coffee and my reference book, first watching Moorhens and Coots.  I saw my first ever Little Egret, swiftly followed by two rather majestic Herons.   The walk around the nature reserve is just 2.5 miles so after a good half an hour watching the scrape we made our way leisurely along the footpath.  We saw so many different birds including a Bullfinch, a pair of Green Woodpeckers and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.  I was very excited to spot a Blackcap for the first time!  I have started a record of the birds I've seen and am researching the best places and times of year in the UK to see those birds.  

There was something so special about being out and about early in the morning, before everyone else.  When I worked at the bank, I was not a morning person at all.  Now I work to my own agenda I have developed a love of slow, early, mornings where I can take my time over a cup of coffee and watch the morning unfold.  When my depression was really bad it took all of my willpower just to get out of bed and I remember days when I'd be still in my nightdress as Andrew was coming home from work.  One of the positives that I have taken from depression is that it *really* makes you appreciate the good days! 

Such an uplifting start to the day and I was home by 10am after a cheeky coffee at Costa.  Just perfect!  I have had lots of admin to do today, so I set up a den in my bedroom with the windows wide open and a fan on full blast.  I think I am going to pack up now and spend the early evening in the garden with my book and a drink. It's been a hot one here!  

Hope you are all having a great week; not long til the bank holiday weekend.  Yay! 

Nicki 

x0x

PS No update on the capture of our fat little mouse, I'm afraid.  It seems that humane traps are difficult to come by so we've been waiting for the postman to deliver some from Amazon.  It is becoming a teensy bit stressful now and if I could send Lizzie to some kind of canine boot-camp (to improve her non-existent hunting skills) I absolutely would.