Return to the Wild

When you're tired out from moving house and feeling creatively low, driving 4 hours might not seem that appealing at first glance. This was me on Friday morning, breaking down the last of the cardboard boxes and journey planning for a getaway with friends. As I typed the postcode into Google, I let out a small groan and started to reconsider the icebox of local sausages, cheese and gin already stowed in my boot. 

What if I told you though, that at the end of that long drive would be a long track......

farm track to The Damson Cabin.jpg

.... that led you through an orchard where sheep left their wool on their favourite scratching post....

Wool on the scratching post

... and tucked into a meadow was the most beautiful cabin?

The Damson Cabin

I've just returned from a magical time away with friends this weekend at The Damson Cabin, a beautiful cabin located in Kidderminster, Worcestershire. When a group of us wished for a weekend away to celebrate a birthday, we all agreed it needed to be inspiring, soothing and if at all possible, remote. The answer came courtesy of Canopy and Stars, a company who specialise in properties with a little more.... character

What I love about Canopy and Stars is their commitment to helping travelers reconnect with nature and experience a holiday that's a little wilder than your average hotel stay. The choices of accommodation are pretty varied, meaning you can find a slice of adventure that suits you or your family's needs pretty easily. The cabin was typical of the sort of thing you might expect to find from a Canopy and Stars property, with a wood burning stove, fairylights to accompany evenings on the porch and eco features such as solar power. 

We spent our time treating one another to delicious meals, using lanterns to light our suppers and blankets to warm our legs as we sipped morning coffees on the porch. When we fancied stretching our legs we found easy walks through woods, orchards and meadows that gave way to stunning views across the Worcestershire hills. 

meadow walks
Worcestershire hills

Ambling back through the farm on which the cabin is located, we stopped to make friends with some of the local characters and all sighed happily at the roses in full bloom, the textures and above all, the quiet. 

farm friends

Sometimes the best thing you can do is step away from the world and let in just a few brilliant, bright and warm women who make your heart sing. When I recall moments from this weekend I think of smiles, time to indulge our crafts and the endless supply of favourite bakes we shared, gladly. Gatherings in which every participant wishes for the greatest of happiness for their fellow travelers are extremely nourishing for the soul. 

As are the oatmeal cookies and cream teas. 

Oatmeal cookies and scones

What's more, somewhere, in the midst of all this celebration of our friendship, creativity and the beautiful surroundings, I even found time to learn something new....

Learning to crochet

 

//// ~ Notes from a blog post:

Pattern- Tenbury Hats & Mittens, Kat Goldin for The Crochet Project

Yarn- The Plucky Knitter Primo in Classic Rock & Bottle Blonde

Damson Cabin via Canopy and Stars, booked and paid for by all guests. Loved and adored by all. 

Under the Same Sky

This sponsored blog post is brought to you by Swiss Wulle. Opinions and views expressed here are my own. To find out more about sponsorship opportunities, please email me using the envelope icon on the bottom left of your screen. 

Under the Same Sky by Nadia Crétin-Léchenne

Under the Same Sky by Nadia Crétin-Léchenne

Almost anyone who knows me will tell you I get the WORST decision paralysis. If you put an endless number of options in front of me, I freeze, barely able to compute them all and definitely incapable of making any actual decision. Yes, I am that irritating dinner companion who looks longingly at your steak after choosing the salad. This is one of the many reasons that ordering a side of chips has become my default because chips are like a decision regret buffer which I'm clearly in need of. 

So imagine my delight when I was presented with a two colour shawl by one of my favourite knitwear designers and the yarn to knit it with. It's like the universe heard that I was restless for a new cast on and also knew that I would spend hours trying to come to a decision. The universe has thrown me a bone and I have gladly grabbed it. 

I now have in my possession the first heady hit of a new kit that's just launched for pre order. The kit has been created in order to celebrate the forthcoming Swiss Wulle Festival. Organised by Fides of Siidegarte yarns, I was kind of hooked from the moment Fides explained that it will take place in Zug, a beautiful lakeside town with all the medieval charm that continental Europe does so well. In my mind there shall be knitting, alfresco meals by the bucket load and great scenery. So far, I'm sold. 

Under the Same Sky by Nadia Crétin-Léchenne

Under the Same Sky by Nadia Crétin-Léchenne

Under the Same Sky is a collaboration with native knitwear designer Nadia Crétin-Léchenne and is a crescent shape shawl that combines lace and garter stitch, using two colour’s of Siide-Fideel, a 50/50 Silk and Merino fingering weight yarn that is hand dyed and sourced locally by Siidegarte.  The shawl features a knitted-on border with a beautiful wave edging that lets the silk and handdyed colours really shine. 

The kits have just been launched, ready for a knitalong to celebrate Swiss Wulle's love of the fibre arts, the festival’s beautiful location and all the friendship this event has already created. The knitalong is open to everyone and there will be prizes for finished, photographed shawls (see further KAL details here). Kits are now available for preorder from the Swiss Wulle website, and cost 62 SFR. Each kit contains:

- 2 skeins of Siide-Fideel 

- A printed copy of the pattern (available in English, French and German)

- A Swiss Wulle Festival Tote bag (keep an eye on the Swiss Wulle instagram account for  sneak peek of what to expect very soon)

Orders will ship in mid July, ready for the 1st August cast on date. Available colour options are:

Under the Same Sky Colour Options

My colour options are Silberdistel and Himelsröösli which will surprise no one I'm sure. I'm getting ready to cast on once I'm finished here so you can get a sneak peek of the yumminess in progress over on Instagram (where I'm @aplayfulday) very soon. 

Under the Same Sky colour options: Silberdistel and Himelsröösli on Siide-Fideel

Under the Same Sky colour options: Silberdistel and Himelsröösli on Siide-Fideel

No chip regret buffer needed for this knitter!

 

 

Why It's Ok to Take a Blog Break

I have a confession. 

I often fall down right after all my best intentions. 

Before my trip to Berlin, I read up on how to take a break from your blog. I packed a journal with the intention to  plan out how I will rewrite the website copy and restructure the pages. I set my email out of office to tell people I'd be checking in when I could. It all seemed very organised and I was going to be the person who had her stuff together and glided through a vacation with no blip in content or contact. 

Life got a bit, well, 'lifey' just before I left and those scheduled posts and up to date emails didn't happen. Berlin is distracting. A silence fell over me and I've not fought it. 

Easing in to some good relaxation time can fill you up again with creativity

Easing in to some good relaxation time can fill you up again with creativity

Instead I've built new nests in new surroundings and walked through the city with no real sense of purpose, just letting life wash over me a little. 

Why it's ok to take a blog break

It's felt good I won't lie. 

So what is my lesson from this? Blogs can be like a city break- you feel you need to cover all your bases, keep the momentum going and seize every opportunity. That can become particularly true when your audience and following is growing rapidly- suddenly you're aware of those eyes on you and it starts to gather a pace that even you don't know if you can keep up with.  

So be all means, schedule those posts, pre schedule some tweets but also? Just wander. Aimlessly wander and see what happens when life surprises you. You might just find yourself lost in it and longing for a little more time to notice the small things like the way a stitch catches the depth of a hand dyed yarn. 

Then you know that you're on to a good thing. Trust me x

Postcard Bloggers with Curious Handmade

Here it is, the final post for #postcardbloggers2015! 

I've really enjoyed hosting this wanderlust filled blog hop and I hope you have enjoyed travelling with us too?

You can find all the previous postcard blog posters on A Playful Day here. Alternatively, come find the 'Wanderlust' board that I have created on Pinterest where you'll find all the postcards we sent as well as travel journal and photography inspiration, travel tips and advice and just a little more wanderlust enabling too. Check us out on social media with the hastags #aninspired2015 #postcardbloggers2015

Here's Helen from Curious Handmade:

Dear Kate

I’m writing to you from the most perfect place at this time of year – Paris in the Springtime!

For the love of Paris- design inspiration for textile artists

Paris is one of those special cities where you can go, wander around and be thoroughly entertained without planning a single thing. Everywhere you look you will see exciting architecture, tempting shops and of course beautiful people. It really is true that the Parisienne women have a flair for accessories! I always come away brimming with design inspiration after a trip to Paris.

Inspirational Paris markets and haberdasheries

The city is bursting with flea markets, fabric and yarn shops and all kinds of haberdashery and passementerie (which is a fancy French word for trimmings and tassels –I just love how it rolls off the tongue).

Parisienne patisserie

And then there is the food! Did someone say patisserie?! Gotta go!

Love Helen

Postcard Bloggers 2015 with Subway Knits

Today's postcard blogger is Maria of Subway Knits and she's talking food.  You might not be surprised to hear I spend quite a bit of time chatting to Maria about food. 

Next week I will be hosting my final guest blogger, Helen of Curious Handmade. Remember you can find all the blog hop participants by following the hashtag #postcardbloggers2015 and #aninspired2015

--------


Dear Kate,
Something happened recently that has taken me quite by storm, and stoked a flurry of inspiration and creativity: I have cooked more in the past two weeks than I have in the past 6 months. 

This may be an oxymoron, but while I love food and love to eat, I hate cooking. Or rather, I used to hate it. Chalk it up to the change in weather or the help of a new toy, but lately I am really enjoying it - the experimentation, the results, the lessons learned and using what I know about the food I ate before as inspiration. 

grilled octopus in thessalonki

grilled octopus in thessalonki

While I am far from The Aussie's [Maria's husband] cooking levels, thinking about food in general made me realize why I love to eat: I travel through food. When I travel, I am always looking out for something new to try, and places to go that are off the beaten path and really reflect the nature of a place. 

Sunset in Santorini

Sunset in Santorini

This was definitely the case this past summer in Greece. It was The Aussie's first time there, and we really wanted to get a sense of what Greece was like beyond the Acropolis (though going there is pretty much mandatory, especially when you are in Athens!). 

Riverside Restaurant

Riverside Restaurant

Food - and sharing that food with others - is a global unifier, and a way to go off the beaten path, set things aside, relax and just enjoy the moment. It was around the endless cups of Greek coffee, or around the dinner table with my family - with The Aussie trying to coax my yiayia's recipe for her yemistes piperies (stuffed peppers) out of her by using Google Translate on his iPhone - that now serves as inspiring memories for me which I try to recreate at home in my kitchen. 

Greek Coffee

Greek Coffee

Try to being the operative phrase, as I am still a bit of a novice cook. Often, it is The Aussie who recreates it, though he does ask me for my input on the Greek dishes he ate in Greece. He made pastistada again tonight, which takes me back to the hot summer days on Corfu, where the dish is from. 

Pastitsada

Pastitsada

Now I'm hungry!

Good food, good company, good meals for postcard bloggers 2015

Good food, good company, good meals for postcard bloggers 2015

xo,
Maria
 

Postcard Bloggers 2015 with Clare Devine

I'm so happy to host today's Postcard Blogger - Clare Devine of Yarn and Pointy Sticks.  Clare has included some great resources for planning your train travel world wide which has got me itching to book something!

Tune in next week for Maria of Subway Knits and remember you can find all the blog hop participants by following the hashtag #postcardbloggers2015 

The Journey is the Destination. 

Journey is the destination

After a year of travelling and working in Australia I was headed back to South Africa. As always I was keen to turn the return journey into an adventure and decided to try and travel home the long way round, travelling overland as much as possible. My chosen method of overland travel, if given the option, is always the train. I love train travel, there is something about feeling connected with the land as you watch the changing scenery from the comfort of your train seat. 

I’ve always had a soft spot for train travel but it was really cemented when we travelled through the red centre on our way from Darwin to Adelaide. Watching the sunrise over one of the most spectacular landscapes I have ever seen is a memory I will never forget. 

view from the Ghan- The Red Centre

view from the Ghan- The Red Centre

We plotted and planned our journey across Asia and into Europe, spending many hours gazing at our trusty map, following the piece of yarn I had carefully pinned along our proposed route. 

Map with Yarn

We had planned to take the Reunification Express from Saigon to Hanoi but due to some visa issues we ended up with a slight detour to Thailand and a flight to Hanoi instead. Our train journey then began in earnest with a trip from Hanoi to Beijing. After a few days in Beijing, and a lovely long walk along the Great Wall, we set out on our epic six days journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway towards Moscow.  

Six days of train travel may not be everyone’s cup of tea but for me it was pure magic. 

Beijing to Moscow

Beijing to Moscow

People watching is always excellent for getting a sense of somewhere new, and this train journey didn’t disappoint. As we left Beijing the train was packed with migrant workers, they gradually left the train and were replaced by traders returning to Mongolia laden with all sorts of interesting parcels and packages. The leg through Siberia was much quieter and our carriage was virtually empty, save for a few backpackers. Stops were characterised by a myriad of officials and station staff, especially at border crossings, traders on the platforms and locals going about their daily business; each moment offering me a snapshot of the world as we trundled along. 

Trundling through China

Trundling through China

The rhythm of the day was filled with random tasks, mainly filling water from the samovar and making tea. The soothing clack of the train on the track and gentle rocking motion was perfect for gazing out of the window and watching the world go by. Then of course there was knitting – trains are perfect for knitting. On this journey I had space and oodles of time. I read, knitted and watched the world go by for six blissful days. 

Watching the world go by

Watching the world go by

Besides the knitting one of my favourite parts of the journey was the dining car. As we travelled through each country the dining car changed, and so with it the food and the staff. This fascinated me and far from what you might expect on a long distance train this food was pretty decent. The Mongolian dining car was a sight to behold, gilt and velvet, with rich meat dishes to match. My favourite though was the Russian car and endless Borscht that warmed us as we travelled through the frozen Siberian landscape. 

The Mongolian Steppe from the train

The Mongolian Steppe from the train

And with each stop their was wonderful local produce to sample including at one station a fantastic haul of smoked fish and the best dark rye bread I’ve ever eaten. 

Supplies for the journey

Supplies for the journey

The Siberian leg was long, snowy and involved a few very chilly ‘showers’ with a small flask of warm water and an icy blast blowing up through the drainage hole in the floor (I am not usually one for travelling in luxurious style, and this train journey was no exception). 

Nonetheless it was magical and I spent many hours gazing out across the frozen landscape as I knitted thinking about what life must be like in the tiny villages we passed. The joy of this type of travel is the time you have to think … 

Snowy Siberia

Snowy Siberia

And, for me, nothing beats a magical sunset from the window of a train. 

Sunset from the train

Sunset from the train

Has this stoked your wanderlust, fancy embarking on a long train journey of your own? 

What about one of these adventures for your bucket list.  

Journey inspiration

-  Tran-Siberian Beijing to Moscow a respectable 4,735 miles, taking in 3 countries over 6 glorious days.

- Saigon to Hanoi 1072 miles, 30 hours with many fantastic stops along the way.

-  Johannesburg to Cape Town 956 miles and 26 hours. You can travel for very little on the Shosholoza Meyl or in luxury on the ‘Blue Train’. I know you can fly in a matter of hours but watching the changing landscape of a country is magical. 

- Retrace the old Orient Express route from Paris to Istanbul. It no longer runs in it’s original format but your could string a series of train journeys together. This is at the very top of my bucket list!

-  I fell in love with the Canadian Rockies last year and would dearly love to return and travel through Canada by train. Embark on the trip of a lifetime from Vancouver to Toronto, an epic 2775 miles. 

There are some magical journeys across Europe, the United States of America and Australia too. In all honesty the bucket list of dream train journeys could go on and on! 

If you're thinking of planning a trip, be sure to check out Seat 61, this is a fantastic resource for train travel across the globe.