Mindful Summer Living

"Tell her your troubles, she's a good listener"

by the sea

These words, whispered in my daughter's ear one evening sealed her love for our beautiful coastline. My tiny 3 year old, who has become positively wild from her new life of catching bugs in meadows, stills each time she sees the sea. It was during a recent beach visit recently that she turned to me in complete awe and asked why I love the sea so much. After giving her the simplest answer I could, that I pour all my feelings into the sea, I noticed her staring at the waves in a way that I recognised well. Turning our thoughts over to the sea has become a habit we're growing together and just like Mama, she's letting the sea figure it all out for her. I sit quietly, watching her stare at the waves and before long her words and questions start to come. When she's done, we leave all those words there on the beach, for the tide to take away for us. 

We find ourselves running regularly to the coast, eager for its vastness, its simplicity and its constantly changing shape. In Winter we greet it with flasks of warm milk and blankets but Summer is where the exploration starts in earnest. No longer weighed down by woollens, waterproofs and bracing against the ferocious wind that cuts through even the thickest layer, we scramble, dig, paddle and forage. A beach is my favourite playground and I'm so grateful that it has become my daughter's too. 


So, when Hannah of Seeds and Stitches dropped me an email, asking me what my simple summer pleasure was, my mind turned instantly to our beach days. I grinned and thought of the longer stretches of light that's meant after school beach foraging extends to evening picnics at last. Sand in the bed is now a near constant and I'm entirely ok with that. Knowing how I love to soak in the best of days at the beach, Hannah invited me to share that joy as part of a new ecourse launching this week. 


Hannah understands that Summer takes a little run up sometimes. Before long, gardens will be abundant, summer holidays just round the corner and travel companies will be vying for your last minute attention. It can start to feel as if Summer is getting way from you so Hannah's latest collaboration to help address that feeling seemed perfect. The project is called Stitch + Forage and is a new seasonal living project created by Hannah with Herbalist Natasha Richardson. Born out of a mutual love of wildlife, nature and a desire for a more mindful, joyful life, Stitch and Forage is designed for people with a touch of wild in their hearts. A self-paced E-guide that aims to inspire you to find easy affordable ways to incorporate slower, gentler, wilder living into your daily rhythms  without compromising on style. The course is split into 4 modules: Forage, Make, Gather and Tend, and features contributors such as myself,  Melanie of Geoffrey and Grace, Laura from Circle of Pine Trees, Sara from Me & Orla, and Rachel from The Foraged Life.

Stitch+Forage, for mindful Summer living

Stitch+Forage, for mindful Summer living

Stitch+Forage is now available for preorder and includes free resources with the sign up at the following link:

I am part of the Stitch + Forage project and would love you to be too. Simply click the image for more information

I am part of the Stitch + Forage project and would love you to be too. Simply click the image for more information

Taking Chances

I've always been a person who needs a lot of variety in my week to keep my attention. I like new challenges to help me appreciate the more familiar spaces in my life. I prefer to be juggling slightly too many things so that when a day of very little stretches in front of me, I know just how to let it wash over me and see it for what it really is. I've spent a lot of time over the past year making new things happen: learning new skills, changing the way that I work, seeking new friendships, new places to call home....

The thing is with constantly seeking out new stimuli is that you can start to feel like you don't have a centre any more. If, like me, you need a constant supply of new and exciting experiences in order to feel truly alive, you can sometimes feel a bit untethered. It's the feeling that I crave, a sensation that I am capable of truly anything because things are fluid and loose. Of course, once you shake off that feeling of claustrophobia and feel unleashed? Things can feel a little uneasy in your day to day as you flounder for something to pin it all on. 

I find sticking to routines hard. I establish one and pretty soon it's gone and I'm moving on to try the new thing that's "going to make my life better". Lately I've not even tried routines but instead bounced from project to project or simply reacted to the next demand that crops up. It's left me pretty low with Imposter Syndrome. Without a sense of goal or purpose, I've questioned what I'm really doing in life. 

However, today I interviewed a guest for Season 2 of the podcast. This guest talked lovingly and knowledgeably about the ebb and flow of life. She spun the tale of a woman who also craved constant change and challenge and that this was ok as long as you had a thread that ran through it all. It was there, in that moment that I came to realise that A Playful Day has become the thread that holds my day to day together. When I chase stories and offer them on the podcast, blog or various other online spaces, I do so in a way that reflects my present mood. This season is dedicated to a sense of adventure and I'm swirling around ideas of being untethered and grounded all at once. I don't think that's an accident, 5 weeks from the Big Move. 

It was well timed, perhaps, that this morning the podcast reached it's first Patreon goal. I'd dared to share a little dream that the podcast would be entirely supported by its' listeners and that dream seems to be pleasing to more people than just me. With this new phrase 'ebb and flow' sounding in my head, I started to plan. I've started to ask "What if?"

Writing postcards for Season 1 Patreon subscribers

Writing postcards for Season 1 Patreon subscribers

A Playful Day has many voices and spaces and I love adventuring in all of them. Sometimes my interest in writing will wane when I'm photographing or recording more and then suddenly all I want are words on a page and the familiar tap of my keys. 

So it was easy to switch on a camera today, despite my deep sense of Imposter Syndrome and make a video explaining that I'm daring to dream we can make the podcast even better. There's a new goal for monthly pledges and I would love it if you popped over to Patreon and considered joining the community we're growing there. You can even tell your friends. 

Patreon rewards, Spring

Patreon rewards, Spring

Sometimes we just need a thread. Inspiration seems like a pretty good place to start. 

 

May's Maker of the Month

When I decided to have a year long focus on making, sourcing and documenting creative pursuits for The Maker's Year, celebrating those who are adding value to our creative community was at the forefront of my mind. I've decided to feature one Maker for an entire month on my sidebar to give visitors the chance to know who I'm being particularly inspired by. Whether that Maker skills people up, leads us to resources or adds a diverse voice that keeps our community rich with fresh inspiration, I want to share those stories. 

So this month, I would like you to spend some time getting to know Clare Devine of 'Knit Share Love'. I've been lucky enough to share time with Clare and was honoured when she asked me to shoot some of her work a few months ago. Clare has a mission to get everyone knitting and has just relaunched her website with this exact purpose. It seemed fitting to host her on the blog today and you will find her nestled on the side bar throughout the whole of May. 

(Maker of the Month is part of the sponsorship I offer for APD. If you'd like to be a part of this community, drop me a line and let's make that happen!)

Knit Share Love

I asked Clare to share what makes her tick as a maker and she blew me away with the answer. If you'd like to hear more from Clare, stay tuned for Season 2 of the podcast because she has a great story to tell.....

 

"Making things fills me with joy – they needn’t be complicated things or a grand undertaking – just the simple act of putting something together that I need to, or want to create is enough. I love the process, but what I love more is the sense of community I find as a “maker of things”. Using my hands to create something brings the strands of my life closer to the strands of others, both near and far. In a world so often connected by tiny snippets of information in this technological age I find a real sense of comfort in the slower process of creating with my hands and the connections it has formed in my life.

Knitting came to me slightly later on my life path – I do not have endless memories of knitting as a child but I do have so much to thank knitting for in my adult life.

Clare Devine

A year ago I was feeling a little overwhelmed, at a cross roads with multiple life decisions, nothing overly serious – just one of those moments when you have to stop and take a deep breath, ask yourself where you are going and why. I looked at what I had created around my passion for knitting and saw in it a warm and loving community who cared deeply for their craft and those they shared their love of fibre with.

I knew then that I wanted to continue sharing my knitting – that is what I love most. I started a knit-along and tagged it #knitsharelove, the core of what I felt in that moment. The response was just what I needed to guide me through the cross roads – the joy of people knitting, sharing their creations and finding support and love in the fibre community, it filled my heart with joy. I had found my space to share my passion - #knitsharelove.

The act of making needn’t be a grand one, the stitches don’t have to be complicated, sometimes the most soothing making is effortlessly simple, it is what making brings to our lives that is most important – the moments of joy, the friendships made, the skills learned, the comfort found. I am so grateful to be part of this community and love the sentiment behind #themakersyear. I have found sharing in the creative practices of others so rewarding and inspiring, everyone makes and creates so differently. Learning from each other is where the real beauty is."

knit share love

You can find Clare on most social media as @knitsharelove, join her hashtag #knitsharelove, and you can also visit her website:

 

 

Mondays that Feel Like Sundays

Three day weekends really help ease me into weekending. Anyone whose read this blog before will know that I have a pretty big crush on weekends that make you feel good somewhere deep down in your soul. A 3 day weekend with May Day celebrations is a pretty sure fire way to  help me ease in gently. 

So I'm thinking of today as a Sunday. I've let loose the coils of the week and am now in that amiable mood where everything just feels right in the world. If you're easing into this Slow Monday too, here's some  Sunday Vibe moments that made me a little gladder to have some down time to appreciate them all the more:

Pink Blossom

1. Blossom- Not only is it exploding all around our neighbourhood but it's also all over the internet. Instagram is about two posts away from Blossom saturation and I'm entirely fine with that. I adore these frothy petals that make me stop dead in my tracks each Spring and I'm all for it. I say let's celebrate blossom and take another billionty photographs. 

'Lazy Sunday Socks' by Jane Burns, images via Kat Goldin

'Lazy Sunday Socks' by Jane Burns, images via Kat Goldin

2. Sunday Socks- Or more specifically, Lazy Sunday Socks. Jane Burns has just released a new knitted sock design collection and it's pretty decadent. Each design involves intricate stitch details accented by beads and it's all shot by the incredibly talented Kat Goldin. Eden Cottage Yarns for the yarn support means a beautiful colour palette so this is a yes to decadent socks to be made on long weekends and wore round the house as a treat. You can find more details here:

Little One Sleeping

3. Magic Baths- Little One has been having a tough time with sleep lately which means we're both having a tough time in dealing with our exhaustion. I've been irritable as heck and she's permanently stuck on "emotions in a blender" mode. It's meant that I've been heading towards night time with a sense of dread each night so this weekend I decided to change that script. We've made reading dens and read our bed time stories in them with windup torches. We've popped glow sticks in the bath to make a disco. We had a cuddle competition where we got all our squeezes out for the day. All in the hope of just adding a little extra sparkle to a bedtime routine that's been increasingly fraught with unhelpful negotiations on both sides. Bonus points for Portishead and Lamb playlists too. I'm rolling with it.

4. Snaps- After declaring that Snapchat needed to get a haircut and quit with the attitude I finally stopped being so curmudgeonly and made myself spend a weekend getting to grips with it. I came out with some thoughts and ideas I'll reflect on later but for now I'm saying it's a yes and you can find me with the username aplayfulday. I'm thinking of it as Instagram on a day off. Expect food, nature walks and at present, a lot of blossom. Because blossom. 

 

"Women’s issues are men’s problem" - Meryl Streep via The pool UK

5. Meryl Streep- Can I be her when I grow up please? I mean really. Love this brilliant piece in The Pool that made me fall deeper into hero worship in a way that I actually didn't think was possible. 

 

With thanks to Jane, for kindly providing a copy of 'Lazy Sunday Socks' for review. Opinions expressed here are my own. 

Awakening

Sometimes the best way to find ourselves can be to become entirely lost. I say this as someone who has the knee jerk reaction of feeling claustrophobic at any given moment. At any moment, of any day, I will have a moment when I just want to drop everything and run.... somewhere... anywhere. Anything can trigger it: a crammed diary, too many things on a to do list, or even things just being too predictable and routine. I am nothing if not contrary in my need to feel in control. 

A year ago these feelings were seeping in with all too frequent regularity. I was trying to establish myself as a full time blogger, podcaster and writer. I had a small child who relied on me every day of the week. I was navigating the tornado that is separating from your child's father and the legal and financial twists and turns that result. I'd often find myself in the garden, absentmindedly plucking at weeds or sitting in the local park, eyes shut and turned to the sun. I sat quietly in these moments and tried to ignore a growing discomfort with our life in London. Any small comfort rapidly turned to a claustrophobic need to escape. Cafes felt like they were full of others nailing their parenting or freelance lives. The parks crammed so full of people on sunny days that it was like sitting within a mob when you had a picnic. Suddenly I just needed to get us out or face a day to day existence of the mean reds. 

I picked us up. I took us elsewhere. Against advice and people worrying my impulsive streak had gone too far this time, I took the greatest adventure I've ever taken. I landed in rural Dorset with limited furniture and funds and invited it to surprise me. It's not disappointed me yet. 

Dorset coastline

Since moving to the countryside, I've spent a lot of time just soaking in the surroundings. Moments with my camera getting entirely lost bring me the much needed space for my mind to shake out all its complicated knots and tangles. It's in these moments that I start to feel creative and free again and words flow more easily. I pause and note the new flora and fauna that week. I take in the dry stone walls. I soak up the stonework of the few scattered cottages and above all, I wander without any plan other than to observe. 

Knowing I'd been feeling a little overwhelmed by a second house move, speaking at a fairly big deal conference soon and all the to-do list items I wished to achieve before both, I deliberately got lost last weekend. On my visit to see a friend in Yorkshire, I picked a path and simply put one foot in front of the other. Without any bearings, I went in search of much needed calm.  

Awakening- blossom

The most surprising thing that I found in those isolated few hours was a sense of home. There in the hedgerows was blossom that I recognised. The smell of wild garlic beginning to burst into life reminded me of the same event a few weeks earlier on our warmer Southern shore. Clambering over tree stumps, watching a different flock of lambs, felt at once familiar as it did new and stimulating. My brain was mighty glad for the distraction and my heart beat just a little harder as I took in the sight of Spring filling up the world with colour and texture once more. 

tree stumps and stream

It was tucked by a stream, listening to birdsong and the gentle babble of water that I realised I finally have a sense of sanctuary. It wasn't that London was scary and overbearing, it was that I didn't have a place there anymore. My adventures lie in green spaces, landscapes washed with seasonal colour and outcrops of buildings rather than a jungle of them. 

To me outside is home. It's what I need to reset and make progress again. 

 

Where do you go to refocus?

A Slow Moment

A few month's ago I was lucky enough to be invited to curate a knitwear collection for Knit Now Magazine. Given a blank canvas, I suggested the concept of 'A Slow Moment'. The collection began from the words "Nest. Be still. Be creative & soak up some mid afternoon sun in sleek, comfortable knits". I gleefully filled a Pinterest board with beautiful blankets, this season's pastels and then a good slathering of rustic/ grey love for the designers to ponder. We then turned it over to the designers to see what they made of it. 

As the pitches started to roll in, Kate, editor in chief at Knit Now, sent me an email "Do you think we should include a cookie recipe?" 

The reply was simple. 

"The answer is always yes to cookie recipes" 
Baking cookies

So I set about reworking my first ever recipe on this blog, Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies. In the interests of thoroughness, Little One and I made quite a few batches. Dutifully, my little girl taste tested each meticulously and I wondered if oatmeal cookies could replace an entire meal. When they're a little chewy and filled with Chocolate Orange, I think cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner is the only way to go. 

Little One Taste testing cookie recipe

When the time came to generate some suitable images for the publication, my mind drifted to cosy Sunday afternoons with legs curled beneath you and a stack of recipes books and knitting to plod through. I decided to shoot a little tin of the cookies at Deans Court as their recently renovated holiday cottages are the perfect backdrop for slow afternoons like these. I made tea. I nibbled cookies between shots. I pondered whether adding chocolate orange to everything was acceptable. (These are the places your mind goes when you spend time shooting knitwear and cookies.)

The cookies were such a hit that if you're in Wimborne over the next few weeks, you'll find the cookies featured in Squash Court, the wonderful kitchen garden cafe at Deans Court. They've even shared the recipe for these delicious treats on their blog. 

Orange Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies

Orange Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies

If you're too weighed down by your knitting to bookmark them via Deans Court or pick up Issue 59 of Knit Now, you can pin this mini version included below. For the full method and all my tips for chewy oaty goodness please do check out Deans Court or Knit Now. If you want to see the amazing job the designers did with the design brief, drop over to the pattern pages on the Pinterest Board, A Slow Moment and pick up the latest issue of the magazine. It's a pretty special feature. 

Ingredients

175g/ 6oz butter
275g/ 9 ½ oz Demerara sugar
1 medium egg
4 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla essence
350g/ 13 oz rolled oats (the less processed the better)
140 g/ 5 oz plain flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g Terry’s Chocolate Orange, chopped
55g Hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180®c/ gas mark 4 and grease large baking sheet.
2. Cream butter and sugar together before beating in the egg, water, and vanilla essence.
3. In a separate bowl, mix oats, flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda before gradually stirring this into the butter mixture.
4. Once fully combined, fold in the chocolate chunks and hazelnuts.
5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins or until cookies are golden brown.
 

And here's a handy pin for you to save for your next baking session:

Chocolate Orange & Hazelnut Cookie recipe Via A Playful Day

Chocolate Orange & Hazelnut Cookie recipe Via A Playful Day