Monday, 22 August 2016

Notes From My Summer

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I'm not sure how so many weeks have passed, but it's been a busy summer and suddenly the evenings are getting dark early and it doesn't feel too long until it will be over, however, we have a few highlights still to come, including going camping with several other families to celebrate a friend's 40th birthday. My husband tells me that like dogs, iPhones, areas of land not covered by pavement, wellingtons and numerous other things that I've previously claimed not to like and then subsequently learned to love, the same will be true of camping. Our four-day camping adventure will take place at a location that proudly distances itself from any form of glamping; I'm not sure why anyone would actively choose to cut themselves off from a hairdryer, but if I find enlightenment on that then I'll report back on my return. I generally read while drying my hair, so it's not a mirror and styling brush event, but if allowed to dry naturally my hair has a propensity to sneakily rise like a loaf of bread left to prove until it has doubled in size and inhibits my passing through doorways easily. I've yet to formulate a game plan to try and avoid the loaf effect, so please do share any tips the you might have if you're a more experienced camper who harbours a love of creature comforts and normal-sized hair (I know that not everyone has hair that expands alarmingly with natural drying, but I'm assuming there must be someone out there like me). Not washing it isn't an option, due to my dislike of it not feeling clean being greater than my fear of being Mrs Loaf Head, although that may be subject to change once showering facilities have been sighted, which are apparently 'basic'. There's a temptation for my face to become fixed in Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' pose at this point, but for the thought that the company is guaranteed to be lovely. 


Earlier in the summer we spent a dreamy week in the Cotswolds (with electricity and hairdryers in every room) where my parents joined us for a few days too. We spent the time walking, eating ice-cream, pottering around pretty villages and generally watching the sky change (pictured above). I also fitted in plenty of sewing in the evenings. We then spent over eight hours winding our way back home through the countryside to avoid the motorway. My husband map-read me on a surprise detour when he noticed that we were only twenty minutes away from a village where I'd lived as a four, five and six year old, before my family moved to Australia. In my head, this place has existed as a thing of perfection: it's never raining there and everything about it is idyllic. It wasn't raining when we visited, but seen through an adult's eyes, it didn't actually possess any particular charm either. The sundial in the front garden that I sat skulking beneath with a small suitcase on the occasions when I decided to 'leave home' was gone; the roses that my sister and I used to make litres of precious perfume from every summer seemed to have disappeared and there were no small children swinging on the large wooden gate that spanned the driveway pretending it was a horse, which is what we seemed to spend most of our days doing for the time that we lived there. Even the dilapidated farmyard opposite our house, which had been been the home to many chickens scratting about, had left to make way for an estate of new houses. It's good to have removed the rose-tinted glasses that my six year old self created and to know that I can cross this off my list of 'Perfect Villages That We Could Move to When We Are Older'. 


Our house has spent the summer being turned upside down as we had some electrical work done and decided to replace the wooden work surfaces that we had put in eight years ago that haven't fared particularly well - somehow, this resulted in an entire ceiling and wall being replastered, floors being ripped up and other unexpected delights. My father came over and helped me repaint (my husband had injured his back lifting what he thought was a suitcase of clothes into the car, but what was actually a suitcase filled mainly with hardback books - the surprise of this unexpected extra weight seemed to throw his back out and left him unable to paint). Only people who know my father well can truly appreciate what a sacrifice helping me paint was, but I felt incredibly touched and we merrily splattered the old work surfaces with paint anticipating that they'd be gone within a week...several weeks later we are still surrounded by paint splattered surfaces as the whole thing has a slightly mañana time scale to it, due to there being so many other things going on at the moment and because it's taken forever to decide on basic what we want to replace the work surface with (finally chosen samples seen above). My mother left the pink roses for me to arrive home to on August 1st and they have somehow looked wonderful until August 19th, making them the most joy-giving flowers imaginable as well as providing welcome visual distraction from the paint-splattered surfaces for over a fortnight. 


Other lovely things from my summer have been suddenly spotting this drain cover on a rainy street that I've walked down many times before - this may well reappear in quilt form at some point. And Rifle Paper's long-awaited fabric line finally arriving to keep my favourite notepad company.


I raced up to Birmingham one day to visit the wonderful Festival of Quilts - it was a complete delight (both the people I met and the quilts), although I realised when I arrived home that I'd missed several quilts that I would have loved to have seen - I find the layout is quite confusing and the display of quilts feels to be mixed closely around the retail areas, meaning it's easy to lose focus and to be sucked away into the heavenly vortex of quilt-related pop up shops that exist there for the four days that the festival is on. The quilt below is from the Splendid Shreds of Silk and Satin exhibition, curated by Tracy Chevalier, which celebrates Charlotte Bronte in quilts. It's sewn by the Totley Brook Quilters group as a modern interpretation of an original quilt created by the Bronte sisters. Gorgeous.


My favourite exhibition was a small display of quilts from Kaffe Fassett's private collection - these quilts were breathtaking, especially for anyone obsessed by English paper piecing.



Loveliest of all the lovely summer things though, was my girl asking if she could do some English paper piecing. I was busy at the time, so she made her own way with sewing the pieces together, having seemingly picked it up by osmosis. I'm so pleased that I couldn't actually be in the same room to make 'helpful suggestions' as she probably had far more fun working things out for herself and perfecting her technique - while the first flower has more visible stitches, those on the half-finished yellow flower are barely perceptible - I remember being completely delighted by working out what I needed to do differently to achieve that. 


I hope you're having a happy August, 
Florence x


  1. Camping hair means French braids in our house. Two braids work best we find and you can usually get three days out of the braids before they're too fuzzy. Have fun!

  2. I was just going to suggest tying hair back to dry (but some campsites do have hair dryers!!) but plaits is a better idea. Failing that: a hat. Hope you have a great time - I LOVE camping :-)

  3. Your summer sounds lovely! I always wear a hat when we got camping. If it is too warm for a hat, a large handkerchief tied in pirate style has the same effect. Sometimes the mirrors in 'basic' facilities are a bit milky, or otherwise weird and you only notice your loaf hair when you get home :-) We are also replacing wooden work surfaces (in fact the whole kitchen and the entire part of the building), not sure what surface to choose yet if you have any tips! Your daughter sounds like a star, fantastic achievement to work it out all for herself. Enjoy the rest of the month. x

  4. My husband jokes that I consider staying in a chain motel to be camping. When I travel, I prefer the bathroom to be more luxurious than the one I have at home, but I don't always get it.

  5. Camping. Eww. I think you'll need pigtails with barettes or go the french braids as suggested above. Or would a good spray of dry shampoo help - I find it gives a bit of weight and body and helps things stay where they should - added bonus: it's shampoo.
    Your summer sounds wonderful and I hope you can embrace the slightly smoky, gritty feeling of camping (just give in to it as quick as you can) and remember to take a big packet of disposable baby wipes. Those things are gold x

  6. Love the list of things you didn't like, and now do. My hair does that sometimes, and I find hair oil (Elvive or similar) helps. Superdrug sell tiny bottles of a different brand

  7. Glad you've had a good summer so far. We're spoilt by living so close to the Cotswolds and the NEC. I think the quilt displays are confusing too. This year I didn't go until Sunday -I usually go on Thurs,and expected the usual crush of people. Revelation, on Sunday there was space to look properly at quilts and stalls, plenty of seats in the cafes and the picnic area, and time to chat with the stall-holders! Plus the dreaded M5 was compartively free of hold-ups. Shall definitely go on Sunday in future years.
    Revisiting places from childhood is always bitter-sweet. Everything seems smaller and rather ordinary from an adult perspective.

  8. We don't camp, the kids would love to, but it's so not my thing. Re the hair I have very badly behaved hair if not passed by a hair drier. I sometimes wonder what horrors would await it when camping. I have a bob so can't tie it back, that would be my solution if it were longer, good luck and let me know if I am missing out on something amazing!!

  9. I'm glad I'm not the only person to photograph attractive grilles, ironwork and inserts in pavements. I often feel people must think me somewhat mentally challenged as I suddenly halt and snap away at my feet. We camped several times when our girls were little; they loved it but ablutions were definitely a challenge which I did not relish. No hair tips, as I'd love mine to gain some volume...though I appreciate that the risen bread look can't be a good one. I too have received my Rifle Paper fabric, which is to become a dress, a skirt and a top. Hooray! Jen

  10. I'm so glad to hear that you too, of much younger age than me, finds the F of Q layout confusing! It drives me potty.....I cannot offer advice on camping and hair, despite my vast experience (first time ever this summer!) as I don't much give my hair much thought except to brush it, and wash it once a week! How I produced daughters who pay a lot of attention to their hair I'll never know. What lovely work your daughter has produced! You can take credit it for that!

  11. I agree, one or two French plaits are definitely the way to go - plait while wet for longest staying-power, I reckon, plus you'll have lovely 90s crimpy waves when you undo them. Mind you, I wash my hair rather infrequently, only resort to the dryer if the alternative is hypothermia, and generally embrace big hair... When I entered the kitchen one morning recently (just out of bed and not having looked in a mirror), A looked up and said, "Oh, good morning Diana!" I had a brief moment of wondering how I could possibly be resembling Princess Diana before realising that he meant Diana Ross. So perhaps my advice should be ignored! Have fun. x

  12. Camping is my favourite way to spend summer! I do hope you find yourself pleasantly surprised by the experience :) I'm not help on the hair issue, though. Mine doesn't rise up like yours, but I still keep it in a ponytail most of the time when camping. Your summer sounds like it has been lovely so far and your daughter's EPP work is beautiful.

  13. I have the opposite problem, avoid hairdryers at all cost as it makes my hair static and fluffy! Love camping, but definitely make sure you have enough wine and nibbles and a good air bed ;-)


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

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