Knit for Winter campaign

Back before Christmas I was asked to take part in the Knit for Winter campaign, launched by Sunrise Senior Living, a group of care homes for older people (jokes aside that I’m a young-old-lady, it’s a great project to be involved with.)

The project is hoping to get knitters to make either blankets or bonnets for premature babies supported by the charity First Touch, which looks after preemie babies in St George’s Hospital. Babies born prematurely need extra help in the first stage of their lives and First Touch is there to help babies and parents at such a tough time.

I was asked what I’d like to make and I chose to make the bonnets. I was kindly sent some yarn and set to. As you can see, they’re SUPER bright, but I think they’re cheery!

IMG_20160207_201936(They remind me a bit of the hats I used to wear at festivals in my mis-spent youth..)

Anyway, the pattern took a bit of working out at the start, but nothing too strenuous. They were a quick knit and, had life not got in the way, I would have knit more. I knit the smallest three sizes and they took about an hour and a half- and would be good to use up any odds and ends you might have.

You can get the pattern here (scroll to the bottom).

#PaperHaul Featured: Becca M Designs

Q: Why is everyone super happy when the mushroom’s in the pub?

A: Because he’s a funghi!

(I currently have a three year old going through a ‘dad joke’ phase. I’m not apologising.)

Anyway, welcome to January’s #PaperHaul review! This month, the illustrations are courtesy of Becca M Designs and have more than a whiff of Beatrix Potter crossed with William Morris (with a side order of Arthur Rackham.) And, as my bad joke hints, there’s a few mushrooms around.


These are the cards. Now, I’m more of a fan of the creature illustrations in this box (and no, the mouse isn’t drunk, my photography was just rubbish), but these cards are pretty. I’ve recently been accepted as a ‘letter friend’ for the older people’s charity Silver Line, in which I’ll be writing letters to someone who may not have much contact with the outside world. These cards will be lovely for introducing myself in the early days.


Despite the fact that snails were the BANE OF MY LIFE last year in the garden, and that I’m not a huge fan of frogs (well, when they’ve been traipsed into my house via the cat, I’m not), I love these stickers. I would re-purchase these if I could. 20160128_124659

Sorry for the MASSIVE PICTURE of washi tape, but I wanted to be clear when I explained why I wasn’t a fan of this month’s tape selection. I’m a fan of the bolder, brighter tapes. This one feels very delicate and it’s quite hard to see the pattern. On the other hand, I reckon lots of people will love it for its delicacy and hint of faded lace charm; YMMV.


The piece de resistance of this month’s box, though, is the notebook. The illustrations on the cover-inside and out- are so intricate and wonderfully detailed. Instead of lines, the pages have spots on them; perfect for field notes out in the wild, or for sketching interesting flora.


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I can say that, from initially not being sure what I thought of this box (other than ‘mushrooms?’), I’ve fallen in absolute love with it; the British flora and fauna will make my letters abroad pretty special.

You can register for #PaperHaul here.

Disclaimer: I get my box at a discounted rate, but my reviews are honest and reflect my own opinions.



The Bronte Project- the books

I’m a month into The Bronte Project- I’m currently reading Juliet Barker’s The Brontes, which Benn referred to as ‘a weighty tome’ (and it is- it’s 800 pages before you even get to the notes) and an edition of the stories Charlotte wrote, in conjunction with her brother, called Tales of Angria.

Tales of Angria - Penguin Classics (Paperback):

I thought I’d list the editions I’m using- although I have a couple of vintage editions of some of the non-fiction, which I’ve listed a newer version if you want to read along with me. None of these links are affiliates, by the way!


Jane Eyre- Penguin Clothbound Edition

Wuthering Heights- Penguin Clothbound Edition

Agnes Grey- Wordsworth Classics-it’s really hard to find a pretty edition of Agnes Grey, which reminds me that Anne has an undeserved, neglected position in the Bronte legacy. It also reminded me of this comic by the brilliant Kate Beaton:


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall- Penguin Clothbound Edition (I’ve pre-ordered this. Hurrah!)

Shirley- Penguin English Library

Villette-Penguin Clothbound Edition (my grandma has pre-ordered it for me for my birthday- it’s one of her favourite novels ever.)

The Professor-I have yet to buy a copy of this, so I’m not sure which edition I will end up buying (I’m allowed to break my book buying ban for the Bronte Project!)


This section may well expand as I discover new books, but at the moment I have on my bookshelves:

The Bronte Myth- Lucasta Miller

The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte- Daphne du Maurier (I have an old edition- 1960s?- of this)

The Life of Charlotte Bronte- Mrs Gaskell My edition of this is from 1905, so I will probably borrow another edition from the library; I can’t remember if the print is tiny in my book.

Charlotte Bronte- Claire  This will be another book I get from the library.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list by any means! However, it’s a good resource for anyone who might want to read along, or to dip in and out of Bronteana in a year which is important for Bronte readers and scholars (it’s the 200th anniversary of Charlotte’s birth.) Let me know if you have any thoughts, recommendations or if you’d like to read along with me!

What I’m listening to RIGHT NOW

As I’ve got older, I’ve found that my musical tastes have grown into a very broad spectrum (I could probably name you a song I like from most genres, except maybe prog rock and experimental jazz- I’ll leave those for Benn) and I always, always have an earworm on the go. The first song I hear most mornings, because it’s both my alarm and my ringtone, is Oliver’s Army by Elvis Costello.

This morning, this was replaced in my brain by Mellow Yellow by Donovan, which is the last song on the Minions soundtrack- I’ll let you guess why that might be. No matter that the film itself is a bit daft, the songs on it are pretty good (the action takes place in London in 1968, so it’s got some great Swinging Sixties classics.) I did drive myself quite mad with this one.

I started the weekend thinking-sadly- about music, as I watched Amy on Channel 4 on Friday night. I’d never seen it before, but I remember how profoundly sad I felt when she died; I’d always been rooting for her and it was just so tragic that she could never fulfill her potential. Although everyone always goes for the classics- Rehab, Back to Black- I’ll always have a soft spot for heartbroken but upbeat Tears Dry On Their Own.

I got a few albums for Christmas, which is unusual. My current favourite is Leon Bridge’s album Coming Home. It has a really old-school, Sam Cooke/gospel feel to it which I love. It’s replaced 1989 as my current most-played album.

Speaking of Taylor Swift, I also got Red for Christmas- so 22 is never far away from being hummed at some point in the day.

And, of course, a certain Mr Bowie is there, too. If my weekend started on a sad musical note, it ended on one too. It was slightly surreal to see the news start filter through on Twitter as I was starting to get ready for work. The denials, the hoping of a hoax and then the confirmation- it was a news story developing before my eyes. I didn’t grow up listening to Bowie, as my parents were never really into him; my interest came much later and his music was pretty much my main soundtrack during my pregnancy and afterwards (I have no idea why it was that moment that made his music important to me.) I remember being surprised at just how much of his stuff I knew without realising it. Anyway, it’s hard to choose one Bowie song, so I’ll choose the one that I played a lot when D was a baby- he always settled when it played (and he is a pretty thing, but he does drive me insane sometimes!)

What are you listening to right now?

Some thoughts on detox teas

A few years ago, I had a nerdy tea blog (you can read it here.) It really was the start of my tea obsession- I mean, I reviewed sixteen types of Earl Grey as an experiment- and it’s really interesting to note how massive tea has become since I wrote it.

Every now and then, though, I find myself going back to it when I see the expensive detox teas doing giveaways. I did a detailed breakdown of what went into these teas and why they really aren’t worth the money; they are pretty much the modern equivalent of snake oil in some cases. The case I looked at back then was a spectacularly dodgy-looking outfit (there were accusations of fraud and over-charging) and, while I’m not accusing any of the newer brands of doing anything like that, I do think it’s important to research what goes into this often very expensive, highly marketed teas.


If you want to see my whole post, it’s here– but I’ve also cut and pasted the breakdown of ingredients in that particular tea, which are pretty common in the ‘detox regime’ teas. You could have similar effects with bog-standard (read: cheap) herbal teas. The teas promise fast results for a very expensive system (this one was offering a two-week course for £40); in fact they won’t do much.

BTW, I’m not a scientist. I Googled. Check with your doctor if you intend to do anything health-related, obviously. I’m just trying to save you some money.

Oolong tea: on its own, oolong is used as a weight loss aid. So you could pick up a decent packet of this for around four quid (you’d get more than thirty cups out of it too…)

Hawthorn: Again, another ingredient that is used in Eastern medicine for digestion. You can buy tablets from Holland and Barratt if you really want to try this (but fennel and peppermint are much cheaper and nicer as teas)

Lotus leaves: basically another digestive aid, with added roughage.

Alisma rhizome: stimulates the kidneys and makes you pee. So you’ll lose water weight. Which you would put back on really easily. You could just drink more liquids (including green tea and water) if you want to cut down on  bloating.

Cassia seeds- most commonly used in laxatives.

Gynostemma Pentaphyllum- this may lower cholesterol. But so do apples, brown rice and avocados. Still not seeing how this tea is worth eighty quid a month.

Poria- another pee-inducing ingredient

Anyway. Nothing will ‘detox’ you except your liver and kidneys. You could have these effects by eating better, upping your water intake and exercising. I get it that these are attractive (I would love to be able to not worry about my weight!), but please think before you give up your money for a silver bullet that just isn’t worth it.

Musings on a mural


The day after Boxing Day, I needed to get out of the house for a bit. I wasn’t up for a run (I haven’t been for a run since my ill-fated attempt at Hove Park Run last month…), so I decided to go for a long walk around where I live.

I found myself in a tiny graveyard. I was half looking for a particular grave that I knew was there but, like most of December, the day was damp and gloomy- and it wasn’t a good day for a grave hunt (I’ll probably blog about the hows and whys of my search in a future blogpost. It’s a writing related thing.) I also felt a bit odd, wandering around a graveyard on my own, dressed ever so slightly like Justin Bieber. I appeared a bit weird, if I’m honest. And then my eye was drawn to the little church that sits by the graveyard.

I’ve lived near this church, on and off, for most of the time I’ve lived in Brighton, but I’ve never been in. I only found the graveyard about ten months ago, by accident. I noticed that the church was open, so I stepped inside. It was a welcome respite from the weather and I was curious to see what it looked like in the actual church itself.

What I found was a small, pretty church with three thirteenth century murals- the picture above is the best one and it tells the story of the murder of Thomas Becket. It fascinated me and I sat there for a while, just looking at it. I’m not religious, but I found myself sitting in this deserted church (it’s no longer used for worship, but is open most days for visitors), deep in thought. I mean, it’s not every day that you unexpectedly come across a mediaeval religious painting about a mile from your house, is it?

The thought that struck me was that the mural was nearly 800 years old. Somebody at that time painted these pictures on the walls, with no idea that some weird girl, 800 years in the future, would sit there thinking about it all. I thought about all the people who had sat in the church over the centuries, looking at the paintings- whether through devotion, boredom, curiosity or a mixture of all three. Inrealised that the existence of the paintings means that the area where I live has been inhabited for nearly a thousand years and that the church has seen plague outbreaks, survived Henry VIII’s reformation of the church, civil war, a massive fire in 1906 and everything else. It’s slightly mind-bending. I’ve looked at a book that was published just after Shakespeare’s death and the park that contains the church has two ancient elm trees which have stood since the time of Elizabeth I. Both of these thungs impresed me with their longevity. I feel it whenever I go to a museum. Time is everywhere.

I found that I thought a lot about that mural and about time in the days running up to new year. We all get wrapped up in thoughts of ‘new year, new me’ and become focused on stuff like that. But we’re just specks in time, aren’t we? We all think, thanks to stuff like Doctor Who, we’ve become more confident with stuff to do with time and space and history and science, but it’s funny how one thing-in my case, a picture of a martyr- can make you really stop and look hard at your life and your place in the world.



#PaperHaul Featured: Eleanor Carter


Things I love:

  1. Foxes
  2. Bright colours
  3. My house
  4. Cups of tea
  5. Stationery

The latest #PaperHaul box- a collaboration with Eleanor Carter– is right up my street. If last month’s box tapped into my childhood, this one definitely represents all the things about life that make me happy as a grown up. It’s a coziness that is especially welcome in the cold, dark, dreary days of January.


Apologies for the terrible photography here- but aren’t those stickers super-cute? The washi tape has little caravans on it! Very sweet (although caravans remind me of the time I got badly sunburnt in Bridlington- I probably wouldn’t have minded so much if it had been as pretty a caravan as this one.) The fox is clearly the star this month.


The notebook is cute and I’ve got it earmarked for a friend who is cycling mad and also mentioned that she could do with somewhere to write knitting notes (they’re just the right side for a craft bag!) The Home Sweet Home card will end up being framed and placed somewhere to welcome guests and the bath card will probably end up being sent to someone who’s under the weather.

I love this and, a few months in, I’m loving the Featured series. It’s fun seeing an artist showcased and being able to look at their website (and buy stuff directly from them if it’s available!)

You can register for #PaperHaul here.

Disclaimer: I get my box at a discounted rate, but my reviews are honest and reflect my own opinions.