Cinderella cupboard

It's funny what lurks in sheds. Brian-next-door was showing me a pair of old oil lamps and I spotted this. I squealed. I really did squeal. He was a little confused at my delight as it was 'just some old shelves' which he uses to store oil and paint cans. The back has rotted and was replaced with paste board, which is also rotting. 

Although my lovely neighbours have become accustomed to my love of what they consider to be junk, I think this one had Brian stumped. But bless him, he removed the cans, levered it from the dirt floor, chased away a colossal fat, black spider and together we dragged it out into the sun. 

It must be about seven feet long and quite low. I think it was probably once the base to a huge farm dresser. The cupboard space is deep, however the doors are long gone. I can't remember the exact story Brian related, but it seems to have lived in a few local places, including an uncle,  before being entombed in the damp old privy.

Look, I know, it's a bit shafted. Apparently it's been used as a workbench in previous lives. Hence the paint blobs, the oil spills and the gouges.

But imagine if it were cleaned up and restored. It's a good, honest chunk of country pine, crying out for some attention and a good dollop of beeswax.

Brian did his best to dissuade my enthusiasm, seeing nothing but a knackered old unit which would otherwise serve it's purpose and eventually fall apart. And the surface damage  bothered him. I said repeatedly that I liked that and would probably leave some remains of it, if I sanded it down, to show the history. I think I lost him there; he would replace it with a new bit of wood. 

He was convinced that the top might be an add-on, as it appeared to be screwed down and maybe underneath there would be a better, original slab of wood. So he got his screwdriver out. I held my breath and tried not to wince. 

But no, it was part of the piece. So, having convinced Brian that I really did love it, warts and all, it is now mine. But it has gone back into the shed, for the time being. The cottage is still in a state of partial renovation, and walls need plastering before anything else goes in. It is going to look amazing though. 


Weedy pots and little toad

So the garden continues to be gradually tidied. By the end of the summer, this plot should be cleared for a herb and pot garden. Once we've managed to dig out the remains of a hideous washing line pole, which the previous owner had cemented into the earth with a huge dollop of concrete. 

What remains of the potted plants and herbs I brought to Shropshire four years ago are pruned and potted up and as they've survived the neglect, they are now thriving in their new homes.  

There is a courgette in the coal bucket and basil on the windowsill. And a sweet pepper plant, gifted to me by a gardening neighbour.

I now have a cuttings area and two tomato plants, the first I've had for a few years. These may sound like very small things, which most people do all the time, but for me, they are big steps in the right direction. The garden is finally beginning to feel like home.

We also have a resident toad - so small and delightful.


It was released into a denser part of the garden, but first it had it's portrait taken with some old fungi.

Since uprooting from the Cotswolds in 2012 and with everything that has ensued, my life has felt a little like these potted auriculas; choked with weeds and  pot bound. They have somehow endured and so have I.

Now my life is getting tidier and I feel more like a freshly potted plant. With regular care and a bit of sunshine, our roots should grow back and we may even flower again.


Six Spring bunnies

This month's workshop was held at the 'Make It' shop in Chorlton. 

I had a lovely group, including three people I either know or who read this blog. One of whom I have 'known' for nearly a decade, via the early days of this blog and I recognised her as soon as she arrived. And another blog reader who had brought 'my' book to be signed. As it was the end of the day by then, my mind was in several places and I stupidly signed it to the wrong person and had to write it again. But then, as she observed, it was the only one like that! (Apologies again to 'L') 

I have also known Louise Peers for several years and have often seen her amazing little teddy bears on-line. what I hadn't realised was just how eye wateringly small they are; I had estimated them to be quite a few inches. In fact, they are just several centimetres. Roughly the size of a cotton reel, in the case of the little white fairy bear. Mouse sized. And all hand stitched, beautifully. No wonder they sell so fast!

And yet again, everyone produced a lovely creation - despite most of them being complete beginners. I always hope that afterwards they carry on enjoying needle felting as I know some of them will. 

Next workshop in Oxfordshire is almost sold out, and it looks as if I may be holding one in London this year. All the details can be found in my April/May newsletter, which you can read (without subscribing) here


Tackling the beast

The garden has been, to say the least, neglected. Andy and I moved here over four years ago in November 2012 and less than three months later, he was gone. As you can imagine, the last thing on my mind was keeping the lawn down or sowing hopeful seeds, as I used to. The bitter loneliness of planning a long yearned for garden, without the person you had once intended to do it with, would have been too much to bear. And pointless.

That didn't stop well meaning people advising me to get out there and tackle it ('it will make you feel better') or from giving me kindly meant plants which never got potted out. I think the best gift you can do give to someone in deep mourning and shock is simply to be with them, should they want it. But for some people, this may be the hardest thing to do. And so you get a geranium, which eventually dies as well.

I can't say that my old love of gardening gradually returned. To be honest, for the first year or so I was on a  different planet and just getting on with whatever I had to do to keep my mind intact and to try to scrape a living. That last bit remains true and I still don't have much spare time. However, since meeting Joe and having someone to share it with, I have felt what you might call a few green shoots stirring within me. 

So during one of my recent at-home stays, Brian-next-door and I got to grips with it. It was a little like Sleeping Beauty's Castle, without the castle. There was a monster vine - or creeper - which had run rampant everywhere, despite being the one thing I have occasionally cut back. 

Not to mention the ivy, which has had free run. But last year the robins nested in it's deep green depths and  we found their old nest, so it served some purpose. Brian tackled the vine, but the behemoth ivy was mine. I went to battle. 

And Brian decimated the creeper. Or vine. Or whatever it was. And all the cuttings were carefully trimmed down to several inches, so that they would fit in the compost bags.

In a corner, we found the mother-lode. It still has to be dealt with.

Brian began dismantling the decrepit old dog kennel once it was free from the jungle of creeper, and the garden really began to open up. Hopefully one day we will be able to turn this side of the garden into a raised vegetable bed. All the spare bits have been carefully stored by Brian,  'just in case they may be useful later'.

And after many hours with the loppers and secateurs,  I cleared most of the ivy. Except for the huge trunks and roots, which also have to be dealt with soon. Look, you can see the cottage!

It has been very therapeutic, which is why, of course, people initially urged me to do it. But I had to do it in my own time, and when there was a reason to do it. Thankfully, unlike myself, Joe enjoys mowing the lawn.


A golden day

It didn't seem very golden at first. A chilly grey day with rain threatening. We went into town and went to this little shop, E & J Jewelers, in Shrewsbury, where we have made a few visits before. The owners are lovely.

Then across town to The Armoury, a long, low red brick building situated on the side of the river.  Where we bought a bottle of decent red wine.

Ate exceedingly well and enjoyed fantastic service. 

The golden day was hidden in a simple wooden box.

My engagement ring. I am not a big fan of gemstones. but I like a bit of classy understatement. So last year, when this was decided, I picked a simple ring of white Welsh gold from the Aur Cymru company. It may be plain, but it was not cheap. The gold is hand panned on private land in Wales and there is precious little of it left. Living so near the England/Wales border, it seemed appropriate.


Only a very few close friends were told. It feels right to share it here first, on this blog, as so many people have seen my ups and downs over the years that it's almost like having a distant, virtual family. 

Nobody ever wanted to marry me before and to be honest, I never felt the need. However, after the perilous and messy situation I was left in when Andy died (and without a will, which made the whole nightmare even more grievous) it has taken on a new meaning and importance.

I only intend to do it the once, mind. 


Bears and hares

At last, I've finalised the project for my Oxford workshop at Hill End Nature Centre which I visited recently. As it's an all day workshop, I decided to go for something a little larger than normal, so the project is to be stumpy bears.


It's not a difficult pattern, but it will need the whole day and there is a choice of making a brown bear or a polar bear. As with all my workshops, the price per person is all inclusive of materials and use of tools. Details can be found on my workshops page. As I'm organising this all on my own (which feels a bit scary) I'm the contact for everything.

My new running hare design from my line of 'Flights of Fancy' range went to a new home last month.

 And now I've finished another - a white hare with violet grey Siamese points.

This one is adorned with twisted silver wire, natural pearls and smoky quartz teardrop beads and is on sale in my Etsy shop.

My Manchester Spring Bunnies workshop is at the end of the month, and we are almost full - just two places left! If you'd like to come to this one, please book directly through the Make It shop site here. They may look small and simple, but each one takes me about four - five hours to make. All that smoothing.

Now I've got to crack on with my April newsletter - if you'd like to see any of my previous newsletters, without subscribing, they can be found archived here