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December 2011

A year of reading

A year of reading

by Clare Mansell

I’ve nearly completed my first full year of my photo a day project and along with documenting everyday events, I’ve also kept track of every book I’ve read this year…

There were good books and bad books amongst my selections this year. Some which were published years ago and which I’ve only just got round to reading, and others (like The Land Of Decoration which I’ve just started) which aren’t published for another couple of months.

If you’re looking for some good reads for the new year, may I humbly recommend a few of my favourites from the last 12 months…

The Glass Castle – Jeanette Walls : The true story of the author’s unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents. Eye-opening and page-turning, but not depressing. Both this and The Help were recommendations on another blog I follow.

The Help – Kathryn Stockett : African American maids working in white households in America’s deep south during the early 1960s. Recently made into a film.

Fire Season – Philip Connors : Something different! An autobiographical tale of 10 summers spent at a remote outpost in the Gila National Forest. I got a preview copy of this as part of the Amazon Vine program and would have been unlikely to have discovered it on my own.

No Great Mischief – Alistair McLeod : The first of my Atlantic Canada books to read before our trip in April. Part set in the Scottish Highlands and part set in Cape Breton. It’s beautifully written and incredibly poignant. 

Unsurprisingly my husband thought it a wise idea to buy me a Kindle for Christmas. I’ve still got seven paperback books to read before I can switch formats, but I’m intrigued to discover how I’m going to find reading on it. A wise friend told me that everyone hates the idea of them until they try one!

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Christmas quilt

Christmas quilt

by Clare Mansell

Millie's Quilt

With all the festivities out of the way, it’s time to share my “secret” Christmas quilt project with you…

Last year I made a quilt as a Christmas present for my then 8 year-old niece Millie. I wasn’t entirely convinced an 8 year-old would really appreciate a quilt, but she loved it, so much so she announced in November this year that the “number one thing” on her Christmas list this year was another quilt!


To be honest, I was part delighted and part horrified. I could have done without the pressure of a small person really wanting a quilt for Christmas when I was having enough trouble juggling dogs and baby on my own while Jim was away! However I got there in the end (hurrah!) mostly thanks to the brilliant quilt design book Dare To Be Square.

If I’d had a month more time for the project, I would have made the owl quilt in the book, but for simplicity’s sake I opted for the wiener dog design with an added border. At the beginning of December I hadn’t even cut a single square of fabric, but once I started the quilt top came together in one weekend.

And one final thing to finish the year. I am honoured that my applique circles quilt from earlier this year has been featured on the excellent Quilt Story blog. Click on the link below to visit the site…

Fresh Poppy Design

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Christmas treats

Christmas treats

by Clare Mansell

Chocolate Eclairs

Forget the presents! Isn’t one of the best things about Christmas eating all the wonderful food? And doubly so if you’re not the one cooking!

I’m at home on the south coast of England for a few weeks enjoying longer daylight hours, time with family and filling myself up with my mother’s cooking (I’ve eaten two of these chocolate eclairs already today!) I hope wherever you are you are also enjoying festive treats and spending time with the people that are important to you.

Things may be quieter than usual here for a bit (and elsewhere in blogland I suspect!) but do pop back after the big day when I’ll have some photos of the secret Christmas project quilt to share, until then Happy Christmas!

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My lovely Harris Tweed bag

My lovely Harris Tweed bag
Look what I got in the post yesterday!

I’m not usually the kind of girl who gets excited about bags, but this is no ordinary bag, it’s a Harris Tweed bag!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this very Scottish fabric, Harris Tweed is handwoven in the Outer Hebrides. Its famous for being the fabric that Miss Marple’s suits were made from and is a favourite of Vivienne Westwood (whose logo looks a little similar) and as you can see from my bag, Harris Tweed isn’t all browns and greens anymore, they’ve released some really beautiful modern cloths in recent years…

Harris Tweed - Pinks & Purples

I’ve wanted a Harris Tweed bag for ages and I eventually got round to ordering one in October, but then had to wait two months for just the right shade of tweed to be available. My bag was eventually made by a lady on the Isle Of Lewis, which is off the north-west coast of Scotland.

Now all I need is a coat to match…

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What a difference a year makes…

2nd December 2010…

Still waiting for rain

2nd December 2011…

The morning walk

I have been doing the photo a day project for the last 15 months. Its not always easy to find something to photograph and sometimes the pictures I take can seem boring and mundane at the time, but become interesting with distance. Now my first year has elapsed I’m finding looking back at events a year ago fascinating. Photos often trigger memories of a day which are far broader than what is captured in the frame.

This time last year we were living in Cyprus. Whilst the UK had snow, we were having a drought. I remember walking round our estate on the dry ground and praying for rain so the grass would grow and the dogs would stop getting the spiky seed pods stuck in their paws and now just look at the difference in the view of the countryside this year – All that greenery!

 Last year we were living in houses like the ones you see on the left of the top photo, and despite what Jim’s wearing it was actually very cold inside them as they had no central heating and temperatures dropped to single figures at night. This year we’re living in a modern house with central heating – so its warmer inside, but definitely colder out.. as you can see from my gloves!

And of course there is another really big change. This time last year I was pregnant just, but still a week away from a positive pregnancy test, so I think the view on the dog walk yesterday would have surprised us both last year!

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