Wednesday, 29 August 2007


No one could say that we have had a good summer this year, no, far from it. The summer I'm lovin is the one that I've spent with my children and the times when Andy could dip his toe in and leave the stresses of the daily grind behind him. Every year at this time, without fail, the same pangs of woe fall over me. I swear that I can even smell it in the air, the smell, that as a child I dreaded because it meant only one thing, Autumn is coming and with that, SCHOOL. I did not like school, I found it a hard place to be, I felt that there was no room for individuality, you had to become one of the crowd, like sheep, and I still have these concerns to this day.
My little girl starts school in two weeks! she's so little, and my pre - conceived ideas of what school is about does not help the situation. We had non of this with George, our eldest, as he entered into an independant curative Steiner education, where ' The Lord Of The Flies ' mentality just does not exist, he's been a very lucky boy!
Poppy is a strong willed, independant little girl, and I have to take comfort in that and believe that she will be one of the lucky ones too.

We like the school and they allow the parents to decide the amount of hours the little ones do before the age of five, thats good.
On a more positive note, Poppy starting school means that mentally I am now seeing my life back in my studio and am planning the way forward for my arts and crafts , Christmas on the horizon and ways to make some income.

My business used to be called ' Sculptural Skulduggary', but it's time for fresh pastures, so I've taken the name I've given my space, ' The Little Wren House Factory'. It's past life was as the old wash house , a lovely old brick building with stone walls inside, a really sweet space.I must say though, it does need a bit of a make over inside and hope to do it this weekend while the children go off with their beloved grandparents. I hope to show some before and after pics soon, wish us luck!

Meanwhile I shall have to be contented with washing all my bits of fabric ready for my new big adventure.

The last pic is of my Pops on her hobby horse that we made for her a couple of Christmas's ago, Andy cut it out and I painted it , have some more ready for painting, maybe could sell them at Christmas? maybe.......xxxxxxxxxx

Sunday, 26 August 2007


Woke up to this early morning sunshine, the sort that makes you excited about the day ahead, mmmm, what shall we do?We could sit up here , relaxing, enjoying the fine start to the day ?
Naaah, lets go down and make some JAM!!!!!

Oh look , someone's stealing my thunder , should have guessed he would get involved , a sniff of food and he's in there.
Seriously though, it was great fun and we were like small children in a sweet shop when the plums magically turned to jam. Andy said this was our finest hour! I do hope he's joking ( he'll deny it now after all the excitement, tee hee )

Ah look, there they are, all safely tucked up in their bonnets.........
Plumb chutney tomorrow!! xxxx


I would like to talk about my favourite room in the house, our bathroom. I think I have always been pleased with it because it was produced from nothing, that is, it started it's days as a dirty dark coal cellar that showed no promise whatsoever.
I remember all the hard work it took to transform the space, evenings digging the dirt floor up with a pick axe while our little boy watched with wonder. I'd always dreamed of having a big bathroom with a free standing bath and it was very exciting seeing my dream come true.
As you can see from the pics, it's not what you'd call a subtle colour. I went out to buy a beige shade and came back with this Designer's Guild paint, you should have seen Andy's face! but I knew it would be right. We love it and everyone that pays it a visit gasp at the fantastic glow it gives off. It desperately needs redecorating but we want the same colour, we haven't had enough of it yet, if I cant find it I will have to get a colour match done. In the pic with the cupboard, you can see where we have had plaster work done, it REALLY REALLY needs doing!

I don't mind bits of chipped paint, infact it's what I like , but this is going too far. Everything we have in the house seems to come with a story, for as much as possible, we have exchanged or bartered for the things we've wanted or they have come from charity shops or sellers of vintage delights.
The bath is a lovely old french claw footed beauty that we exchanged a french day bed and some cash for. The lovely overmantel I aquired from a friend in exchange for some child care, it's one of my favourite things in the house, it's where I keep my small collection of perfume bottles and there is always an image of my maternal grandmother watching over us, don't know if she would approve?

The last pic is of a ceramic Bast Cat , it is very special to me because it was the last cat I made and I was heavily pregnant with my son George at the time. The cat has spent most of the time in the garden in various positions, lastly used as a monument on my cat Margo's grave before I decided to put it in the bathroom. Andy was a bit unsure, for it was well weathered and a little bit green, I just explained how it was just perfect because of that, he just gave up.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

A pre-occupation with food

It seems to be a busy time for us at the moment, and all based around collecting fruit and vegetables. I didn't see much of Andy last night as he marched off to the allotment to collect some veg. He appeared an hour or so later carrying these little lovelies. He spent the next few hours stringing them together, dont they look great?!!
As you can see from the kitchen pic, we do have a bit of a storage issue to address , we have onions hanging from everything!
We, that is, me and the children spent some of the morning picking plums in the garden, there were twice as much again that will be ready on the weekend. I plan to make jam and have picked up a few good tips from the more experienced jammy bloggers out there, thanks Gena at ' These Foolish Things' ( how do you do links anyway?) and Niki at ' Nostalgia at the Stone House'. Wish me luck , TTFN,Annie x

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Bees Knees, Chicken's Elbows, Rasher Winds And Fried Snowballs!!

The rain is falling quite heavily yet again today, it's getting to be a little bit tedious now, don't you think? The children are restless and so am I. What to do? What to do?
When I'm feeling like this I always find it best if I go in the kitchen and make something. It is always to the sound of music, today it's the blues, Billy Holiday.
George had informed me yesterday that I hadn't made a Lasagne for a while, so I decided I would make a pasta bake ( no Lasagne I'm afraid ), it would give me the opportunity to use some of the courgettes that seem to grow like magic beans over the allotment.
I always find that this time in the kitchen always puts me in a better place and the rest of the family, strangely enough, find things to busy themselves too, it's like setting an example.
George without fail, every day, will ask me, " what's for dinner today?" Today I replied with, " bees knees, chicken's elbows, rasher winds and fried snowballs ". When I was very young, under five, a neighbour used to look after me , her name was Magan and her husband was called Cledwin, they used to say this to me and it comes out of my mouth when I least expect it. That old couple are gone now, but their expressions live on. I've never heard it used by anyone else, have you?
Even Rufus has had enough today, he's taken to his bed, or should I say, my basket. Never mind Rufus, tomorrows another day, maybe the sun will shine for us.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

The knitting Circle And Other Knitting Tales.

I like to try my hand at different crafts, sewing , rag rugging , felting , I even made a huge crochet blanket as a teenager , but the one that got away was knitting. The reason for this I think was that my Ma was a fantastic knitter and did all our jumpers and cardigans. I think I always felt that it was her baby and what was the point when it was already being catered for. That was until Poppy was born. My Ma could no longer knit due to a touch of athritis in her fingers. Luckily, i had kept some of the little baby knits she had done for my first born.
In February this year, Betty, one of my friends, suggested starting our own knitting circle, just a gathering of five or six to meet in one of our houses one evening a week. I always intended to learn how to read patterns and make something one day, but I hadn't lifted a pair of knitting needles since I was eight, a very long time ago, I was not alone, and we were up for the challenge,and all the goodies we would bring to each circle.
I love vintage knitting patterns and scoured ebay for any that grabbed my attention. A lovely pattern of a childs zipped cardigan came up for auction, and I made it mine.On delivery of the pattern it became obvious to me that it was beyond my capabilities, but desperate to have the little cardigan for Poppy, I set about finding a whizz with the needles. Audrey Mitchell, what a star! lovely retired lady who spends her time lovingly producing beautiful knits, for the cost of £8!
As you can see from the pic she did a grand job, and just in two weeks, I was very pleased, and insisted on giving her more for all her good work.
Meanwhile I started gingerly with a pattern of tea cosies ( I love tea cosies! ) and enjoyed the knitting evenings with my pals, not so much stitch and bitch, more bake and binge!The tea cosy in the pic I've made with left over wool and some of my lovely vintage buttons, also aquired from the wonderful Ebay.
It's a friends birthday, so I decided to give her a cosy, I found a lovely teapot for £4 in an antique shop, there you go, sorted!
I think I must try knitting something a bit more challenging now, there's a lovely little cardigan with ducks on, maybe that? or should I phone Audrey?it's too easy is'nt it!
Thought I would put a pic in of the lovely cupcakes my mate Lianne made for her Birthday, arn't they great colours, very fifties. Lianne is on a baking frenzie at the moment ( it's all that breast feeding! ) she brings all sorts of delights to the knitting circle. I got her the cake stand from the same antique shop, the biggest cake stand i've seen! Keep baking Lianne, I'll keep eating!!! xxxxx

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Three friends and a wedding.

I want to tell you about what was happening in my life exactly a year ago. A very old and dear friend of mine had decided to get married on August 20th 2006. Cath, the dear old friend, as dear as she is, is completely bonkers!she not only had started a new challenging job, she had undergone IVF for a much wanted baby, got pregnant and said baby was due at the end of June, yes, six weeks before the big day!
Cath asked me to be her ' Maid of Honour' which I was all too pleased to do, bit nervous, not too keen on too much attention, but hey! this is my old mate....
THEN, they ask us to do their WEDDING CAKE! three tiers, chocolate, carrot and small fruit.It's one thing making cakes for fun and enjoyment, but making someones' wedding cake? the nerves kicked in.
It has to be said that we were getting a bit of a name for ourselves and our late night baking sessions, Andy baking, me decorating. We didn't have a mixer at the time and Andy was a whizz at beating up the mixture. Midnight would find us in the kitchen beavering away, it was great fun.
Ebay came to our rescue, I'd longed for a kitchen Aid and this was just the excuse I needed, Andy wasn't arguing, he looked more worried than me!Aaahhh, voila , our fine friend, brand new and half the price, not red, but hey, we had to get our priorities right.
July found me in the library and book shops, looking for cake decorating books. Cath was having Roses and Freesias with variegated ivy. Everything was discussed over the phone, Cath lives in Wales and I live in England, I had to guess the colours, and bought the flowers from the flower stall to copy.
I found the most fantastic cake book in the library, so we were ready for the meg baking session of our lives, crumbs!
The thing to mention is that at this time we were in the thick of the school hols and we were the proud new owners of two gorgeous new baby kittens who were very lively and naughty.
I juggled my days with making sugar paste flowers and play dough with Poppy on the old scrub top kitchen table, while the kittens climbed and creaked their way into the table draw, my nerves were in tatters by the end , each day being a midnight/1am finish.
We pulled it off though, a hundred mile journey , down some ropey welsh mountain roads, on to the stands, GREAT! now just the Maid of Honour bit to get through and the guests EATING the cakes, Andy's turn to worry, would they taste ok?Yep, Cath and Jeff loved the cake, thank goodness.By the end of the day we were exhausted, we'd spent weeks working on the bloody thing and it was a VERY expensive wedding gift, but their worth it. Don't ask me to do it again in a hurry though.
P.S. I was amazed by how well the cake matched the wedding bouquets, lady luck was on my side. xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Monday, 13 August 2007

Allotment Love

This is our allotment, which is situated at the end of our road, two minutes from our house. We had an allotment before Poppy was born, but reluctantly gave it up for time was needed for nurturing our new offspring and renovating our cottage. Last September I aquired a new allotment for Andy, stress was getting the better of him with work commitments and the allotment always seemed to do a good job of putting him in a better place. Also, all the organic veg would be a fantastic bonus too. I try to buy as much as I can organically, but find the cost shameful.
I am very proud to show some of the produce collected by Andy yesterday, spinach, onions, beetroot, beans and courgettes that seem grow to giant proportions overnight!We have a store of raspberries and gooseberries in the freezer waiting for me to do something fantastic with them, Oh the pressure! must find some great jam recipies, I've never made jam.....
The great thing about the allotment is that the children can witness how food is produced and how magic it is to be able to go pick some beans and be eating them off the plate at tea time.
As for my man, he's not stressed and it fulfills the hunter/gatherer in him.
What can I do with all those courgettes? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Saturday, 11 August 2007

How green is my valley?

Today on this beautiful summers day I want to write about a part of our house that is very important to us. It's the balcony that we wisely had built three years ago onto our back lounge.As I have mentioned before, our house is on three floors at the back, our lounge being on the first floor and kitchen in the basement.
Needless to say, we thought the back of our house resembled a block of flats while the front looks like a quaint cottage, something was needed! The balcony was just what we needed, and as you can see from my pics, the views are pretty good too.
The picture on the left is the view we have down the valley towards the picturesque village of Slad. this little village became famous for one individual who was born and grew up there and later wrote a book called ' Cider With Rosie ', his name was Laurie Lee.
When we first moved here, I read this book and the books following his adventures in the Spanish civil war, and it made me fall in love with the place. Our elderly neighbour, Mr. Woods told me of some of the charecters in ' Cider With Rosie ' that he knew from his days working in the co-op in the thirties, I loved that.
The balcony has had it's uses in other ways too, great for hanging baskets on and swings to keep the little one amused while we potter.
The last pic shows the balcony with it's awning, don't know why, but it always reminds me of a mad sailing vessel, like something out of Swiss family Robinson, no?oh well, must keep taking the pills...
On the left is "the little wren house factory", my workroom ,it was the old wash house in it's original state. I'll blog about that another time.
Time to go and enjoy the view one more time before making dinner. TTFN Annie x

Wednesday, 8 August 2007


Arn't flowers wonderful ? more and more as I get older I seem to fall under their spell and am amazed by how seductive they are, not only to bees and insects but to us humans too. I haven't met anyone yet that hasn't fallen under their charms, wheather it be as a love token , for their beautiful perfume or the part they play in producing food. look at these beautiful flowers, they are growing on our butternut squash plant, and look what they turn into, a squash!

Now you may think that we named Poppy because we love poppies, well, yes I do, but no, I feel that fate played a part in this. You see Andy, Pop's dad loved the name but I was not sure, may sound strange, but I just couldn't imagine the name growing with her, I could always see a Poppy as a cute little girl but not as a woman or old lady, I was not buying it.
One sunny Saturday morning in early July I went into labour. I can remember standing at the sink gazing into the garden trying to breath through the pain, when something caught my eye, there was a beautiful pink Poppy bobbing in the breeze, all on it's own. It hadn't been there when we went to bed and there had never been Poppies there before. FATE I told myself, how could she be anything else. We still have that beautiful Poppy, pressed into ' The Hutchinson Encyclopedia', our name. It's one of my most cherished things and I think Poppy will enjoy the story of how she got her name.
Poppy starts school on Thursday, she starts a new adventure, without me. I thought I would make her a kit bag using odd bits of material to make her name and of course flowers are used, she'll know it's hers, Mammy always gives her flowers. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxEnjoy baby girl.
P.S. I was watching the news one evening , a wonderful sweet 80 year old lady was being interviewed, her name came up as Poppy, I smiled to myself, my fears were very much unfounded. xxxxxx

The Big Chill

This is Andy at the 'Big Chill' music festival last weekend. Andy and the children had never been to a festival before, and I hadn't been since my late teens, so it was quite a new experience for us as a family. We went with some good friends of ours, Lianne and Rich and their two children. It has to be said, a good time was had by all. the weather was great for us, and it was very much geared to families. We particularly enjoyed taking Poppy to the daily puppet show, I love the traditional puppets and hope to make some some day, but the stories can be a bit savage!
I'm not what you would call a born camper, the first night was sleepless but luckily it was a one off and everyone else slept well.We would have a night cap of hot chocolate with brandy(just us grown ups) and that would set us right for the night.
It's surprising how quickly you grow accustomed to the constant music and sleeping with 27,000 people. It was a welcome break and a great experience for the children, where's the next one? It's a bit quiet round here. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Sunday, 5 August 2007


Arn't flowers wonderful!!!I don't know of anyone who doesn't fall under their spell, do you ? Not only are they seductive to all bees and insects, they're seductive to us too.

Look at our Butternut squash plant, the wonderful flowers that are produced and then develop into the squash itself, I think it's magic! and this is something that has really dawned on me since growing our own veg and fruit. We take flowers a bit for granted I think, can you imagine a world without them....dreary.
This is our flower, Poppy. I love poppies as I love many flowers, but it was not my choice in naming our baby girl, I believe fate had a hand to play, let me tell you why.
We were going through the baby name book with George one Sunday, late on in my pregnancy, now Andy is difficult to please when it comes to names, and I was reading through the names trying to stay positive amid the gasps and groans coming from the father. We got to the 'p's, and I was starting to lose the will to live. On announcing Poppy, Andy brightened and said," thats it! it's lovely". Now I had no such certainty rushing through me and all I could think was that I could only imagine a little cute child called Poppy, but not an old Poppy , it was not my first choice that was for sure.
Anyhow, one sunny Saturday in early July, while having breakfast, I started having labour pains. I stood at the sink gazing out of the window onto our garden, breathing through the pains, when something caught my eye. There was a beautiful pink Poppy bobbing in the breeze, I'd never seen one there before and it had'nt been there the day before it must have opened that morning. I thought how wonderful this was and how could I not call our baby girl after this beautiful flower, and so this is how Poppy got her name. We still have that Poppy pressed into an old Hutchinson Encyclopedia, Hutchinson is our surname, it is very precious to me. This sort of thing happens to me from time to time and this is why I believe there is such a thing as fate.
Poppy, my sweetheart, starts school next week so I decided that I would make her kit bag myself, just to feel like I'm doing something positive towards her new adventure without me.Ofcourse flowers were involved yet again, how could they not, it's what she is to me. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
P.S. I have since seen an eighty year old Poppy and all my concerns were unfounded, she was wonderful and the name does age well.