Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A brief crafty blog, with a bit of a rant thrown in!

It's funny how you get fads isn't it? How, once you start doing something crafty, it's the only crafty thing you want to do? Or is that just me? I have always meant to crochet flowers, never got around to it. Got books of designs for knitted and crocheted flowers, all of which terrified me slightly with their diagrams of stitches (I prefer the written word to a diagram), and their complexity of pattern. I am a basic person in most things I do... I have basic cookery/gardening/knitting/sewing/crochet skills, and they suit me just fine. I have neither the patience nor the time really for extending the skills, and as long as they satisfy my crafty needs, then that's fine by me. But at last I found a flower pattern.... and since then, every odd bit of suitable wool has been turned into either a small granny square, or a flower. As you can see... and several of you will already have seen the large orange on in the front of the above group. I made it into a brooch, and sent it to a dear friend, Katiemac, aka Calico Kate, and she made a blog post of it, which elicited many compliments, for which I thank you.
Does the 'I LOVE YOU' button remind you of the love hearts sweets?

This is the result of the crochet squares from a previous blog, turned into a cushion, same front and back.

And this is a tapestry cushion I just unearthed. I made it many, many years ago, on ten count, with two ply wool, two strands together from cones, to give it a tweedy effect. It was looking a bit sad and squashed and dusty, so into the washer it went, and out it came, all plumptious and pretty again.

Cushions feature a lot at the moment... the picture below is of a cushion that Katiemac sent me, posted the day she received my brooch coincidentally... doesn't it look at home on my chair?

And this is it, closer.... she used her shirt front idea as the cushion back, which is so brilliant I am now hovering around my husband's wardrobe waiting for a shirt to be considered past it enough to be ditched. Trouble is, when they get soft and worn, that's when they are at their most comfy isn't it, so I may have a long wait! But to have that ready made opening with buttons and buttonholes already made is just such a good idea isn't it?

And this is my opal fruits ripple cushion...

But if this is a bit too loud for you, then maybe you'd prefer the back...

Here are some more flowers just made... I really must try doing something else now.

And finally, a little rant... and a question about saving/wasting money in the NHS. Yesterday evening, my husband received a text from our local surgery, reminding him he had an appointment this evening. To me, this seems a gross waste of money... I have no idea how much a text costs; I do have a mobile, but haven't switched it on for months since nobody knows the number and it is only there for emergencies (like the landline is only there so I can use the computer!). But my pragmatic husband, if that is the right word (pragmatic that is, not husband!) says that it is probably seen as a saving, since they lose so much each year in missed or cancelled appointments. What say you all... a waste of money, or a saving?
Right, this is my little posting for this week... off to net the pond now, birch leaves blowing about the place now, yet it doesn't seem a year since we were doing it last. How time flies when you're having fun....

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

'A fallen leaf is nothing more than summers' wave goodbye'.

I don't know where the above line comes from, it's just something I read once that stuck in my mind, the way these things sometimes do. Why can you never remember something important when you need to, yet silly bits of daft poetry - 'beans, beans, are good for the heart, the more you eat the more.... ' well, you probably all know the end to that one, but it illustrates the mess my head is in, holding lines like that, which are absolutely no use to anyone, and yet the number I need for the cash machine is nowhere to be found. Ah well, must be because I am in the autumn of my life maybe?
No matter which school of thought you follow, we are now in autumn having passed the equinox at a quarter past nine last night, give or take a few minutes. The season of mists and so on, fabulous colours on trees, which should be extra good for many of us this year as there has been less than average rainfall, which does something chemical to the leaves and means there will be even better foliage colours for us to enjoy. But for some people it's a depressing time of year, it means summer is gone, and it's all downhill to winter/Christmas... but then dear miseryguts, Spring must surely follow, so not all bad news then?

We were delighted to discover a group of about four sweet chestnut trees recently. Well, we weren't sure that's what they were, and were rather hoping we'd be proved wrong as they are on a narrow, open country lane between two little hamlets, which we travel along many times during the year, and have never noticed these trees before. Instead, being lovers of chestnuts, we have spent lots of money on imports from Spain which are OK, better than the vacuum-packed chestnuts any day in my book. And what we don't munch roasted, or use in casseroles and so on, go into the freezer to be used later in the season when they are no longer around. Because like many good things, their season is short, and unlike strawberries and so on which people can grow all year round, to the detriment of the fruit many say, nuts are there that one time aren't they? Make the most of them... so we bought the above prickly offering home, and looked in our BOOK OF THE COUNTRYSIDE, and had it confirmed that yes, they were indeed sweet chestnut trees. Since then, of course, on other ramblings about the place, we have noticed others, and kicked ourselves again for lack of observancy.

My favourite garden centre is a riot of colour at the moment, having had a new delivery of plants when we visited last week. We didn't go for plants but for jigsaws... I know that seems strange, but there is nowhere else that sells them, and in the now obligatory (so it seems) gifty area you find in most large garden centres these days, there is a fabulous selection of Gibson's puzzles. We usually buy a few during winter, and always a couple of special Christmassy ones. However, when you visit a garden centre it would be churlish not to buy a plant, don't you think? Or two even? Maybe three? The heucheras above were so gorgeous, everyone was stopping to comment, and as we have a couple of them already, I decided to buy another, PEACH FLAMBE it's called, in autumnal leaf shades. I also bought a pennisetum, black stems and narrow leaves, with wonderful, fluffy, cat's tail-shaped furry flowers, which I can't resist stroking as I pass. I used to do it to our old Rosie cat, even though she sometimes objected! And we bought a crocosmia, in flower. The other two we have, the rather common (in that most gardeners who have crocosmia seem to have it) LUCIFER, and a smaller orange one. Both are well over now, just the interesting flower heads left, and we wanted another one to follow on.

But I resisted the mophead hydrangeas, such great fat cushions of flowers they had....

and this pinky spikey plant, and the conifer behind it. But couldn't resist getting out the camera.

Of course, there are many reasons why I love autumn. It's not just the colours, or the drawing in of the evenings, when you can close the curtains, shut out the world and snuggle down in front of the fire with a good book, or watching the telly with a bar of Green and Black's chocolate - one of the very small ones for me, thanks. Nor is it all down to spending time with gardening books, seed catalogues and Gardener's World magazine, looking at what to grow next year - and did you know Monty Don has just won a prestigious award for Columnist of the Year, something like that? So WELL DONE MONTY, and well-deserved too.
But I digress.... I also love the crisp, frosty mornings, with pearl necklaces strung across the plants, a white sparkliness covering everything, and that particular smell you get at this time of year, redolent of woodsmoke and compost, even though there's not a bonfire in sight usually. And I also love the foodie side of the season..... lots of appley puds, brambly puds too. Sponge pud and custard, with golden syrup. Heart-warming soups and rib-sticking casseroles... the former with garlicky croutons and the latter with herby dumplings. Lots of lovely meals made with lots of lovely root veggies like those above... I couldn't resist buying the squash... must grow some next year.

There is still a lot of colour in the garden to be enjoyed. The grasses down the bottom of the garden with their huge feathery plumes look beautiful against the blue of the sky, as does the holly tree below. But some of the foliage in the garden is slowly changing colour, this photograph shows a climber over one of the arches leading to the lawned area. Pretty soon it will all be in varying shades of this red, and then not long after, they will all fall to the ground and the bare bones of the arch on show again, revealing the fact that it's a bit out of shape. Leaves do the wonderful job that clothes do for us humans, hiding the imperfections.

And amongst the hundreds of holly berries, a honeysuckle still flowers, but you can't get close enough to smell it.

There are marigolds, small wild poppies of all colours, chocolate crocosmia still flowering like mad, as is the white cosmos, penstemmons, wallflowers opening now too, and lots of foliage from the many grasses we have dotted around. The peonies dying, have a wonderful deep red colour to the leaves, the hostas are dying too, their leaves going a bright, bitter lemon colour, some a deeper shade almost buttery, and others still vibrant and green. In the raised bed my carrots are still growing, as is the garlic and giant Italian parsley, and there are still a couple of lettuces to be cut. Tomatoes ripening like mad, but I am not happy with this particular variety, which are small, but with very tough skins, large seeds and little flesh between the two. I shall maybe roast them and make roast tomato soup at the weekend. That's a good autumny flavour, don't you think?
Enjoy your autumn, and thanks, as ever, for dropping by.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A happy, smiley, thankful sort of blog post.

Although the skies are grey and heavy, my mood is golden and light. Well, that may be stretching it a little, but you get my drift. So even though I still can't put weight on my left ankle, and now the right one has produced a small bright red itchy patch so as not to be left out of the attention stakes, I am in one of those moods when it's good to reflect on the positives. My friend below says it all... the GOOD bit at the bottom can be turned to show BAD, but of course, that rarely happens!
And the main reason I am in a happy sort of mood is due in part to the box of goodies that arrived from the lovely, clever Alex yesterday. If you remember I won her giveaway, news of which came on a rather grey and heavy day, mood-wise.
This was the box, revealed when I had opened it, complete with prettily-wrapped goodies.

And here they are, revealed. A warm woolly hat, a green swirly brooch, a lovely beaded and embroidered heart sitting in a fabric box, a photo album with a crocheted cover, the mad loveable dog and gorgeous rabbit complete the contents. Here's a close-up...

And this is where rabbit and box ended up... the box is holding small crocheted squares, plus a large fancy one I don't know what to do with yet!

And dawg is in my cupboard looking after Yvette, the french knitting dolly and keeping company with the rocking horse etc. He hasn't stopped smiling, so I guess he's all right with being in a cupboard, and I am definitely all right with it as I get to see him every day, several times, same for rabbit of course.

And this is an overall view of one of the craft shelf units, so you get a bigger picture of rabbit and gorgeous fabric box.

Thank you Alex, so much... I love them all.

Other things which made me smile today.... almost-finished crochet project, smiling because it means I can soon choose what I want to do next as well as the satisfaction of seeing a project from start to finish in one fell swoop. Often they go in a cupboard, where they are forgotten until the next time I decide to have a blitz on clearing out cupboards.

Then when I was dusting the dresser in the hall, there was this photo of Simon, my eldest son when he was a year old - and now he's almost forty!!! I just love this, taken at a boat yard where my late mother worked at the time - would they could stay like this, I sometimes think! Then I hobble around the house on my poorly ankle and thank my lucky stars I don't have a toddler to chase after of course! But still, there is something sweet about that innocence.

A couple of new magazines to read, this always makes me smile, and thankful I can afford them when there are many people who struggle to feed themselves, let alone have the luxury of expensive magazines.

And I am thankful the forecasted rain didn't happen and I was able to enjoy pegging out and bringing in fresh-smelling clean washing.. pegging out being one of those simple pleasures, as we have talked about before.
And I am thankful for the friends I have made via the blogosphere, and look forward to reading comments, and more blog posts from you. Enjoy your week!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Thoughts of finding fame, having a close relationship with a bag of frozen peas, plus the usual ramblings.

Well, I wouldn't say that this sudden fame has put me on cloud nine, or even has me with my head in the clouds. It came as a surprise, and still has me a little perplexed. So what is this fame... well... you might need to be sitting down for this but I was nominated for the POTD on authorblog. YES, I KNOW!!! Heady stuff indeed. Well, when I found a strange comment on my last blog, strange in that it was from a stranger not that it was weird you understand, and she was congratulating me on this POTD thingy, I had not a clue what she was talking about. Nor did I know what authorblog was, and I was beginning to think I had missed something, but then another fellow blogger assured me she had never heard of it either until she was nominated. I felt less dinosaurus-ish then let me tell you!
And for those other dinosaurs of the blogosphere among you who don't know what this is, let me direct you to a blog ... http://david-mcmahon.blogspot.com This man has over NINE HUNDRED followers would you believe!!!!! Any road up, he has this POST OF THE DAY 'award' for want of a better word, and mine was a runner-up. Personally I didn't think the posting was one of my best, but somebody obviously did, sent the suggestion in to him (which seems to be how it works) and so there I was, Honoured indeed. I have to also admit that most of the winners and other runners up over the last month or so are people who I have never heard of. I did go and look at a few, but then got bored, as I usually do. Of course, the lovely Maddie Grigg was there amongst those Honoured, and Mrs Jones too, she with the fab coloured hair... oh that I had the nerve!!! And the face under it to carry it off. Anyway, there you have it, fame at last. I would like to think fortune would surely follow, but somehow I doubt it.
Before I go any further, I should perhaps mention my reference to frozen peas. Occasionally you will now find me sitting with said bag of frozen peas on my left ankle. Not the most comfortable of things to do, but needs must. I seem to have strained/sprained the ligaments in my left ankle, no wonder it hurt for the past ten days when I put weight on it! I am terrible about going to the doctors, maybe it's because most of the time I have no say in the matter and it's just routine, so that when it comes to going to the GP about matters other than renal, I am reluctant, to put it mildly. I will put up with something for ages, but always know, from this inner voice of mine, when I really should just go and get it over with. Yesterday was one such occasion, when within minutes of getting out of bed I was hobbling around like a little old lady, minus walking stick - though that will definitely be employed come shopping day! I decided enough was enough, that this latest niggle wasn't going to go away by itself as they usually do, and that as it seemed to be worsening, perhaps seeing the GP was the sensible thing to do. (Not known for my sensibleness, when it does appear, it is ALWAYS commented on by Himself!) Anyway, that is how I know I have done this thing to the ligaments, and the only treatment is good painkillers when it's bad, getting up close and personal with the frozen peas, and resting it as much as possible.. which is the really easy-peasy bit of the whole treatment. Now I have legit reasons for watching recorded LAND GIRLS, reading for hours on end, doing my crafts likewise. And so I am especially looking forward to the weekend, when I can do the resting bit properly, having Himself here to make me a cuppa, fetch me a biccie, peel me a grape and so on.
And speaking of crafts, as I just did briefly, did I mention that I love getting my hands all sticky with papier mache? I do it the really dirty way, with strips of newspaper and wallpaper paste... can you imagine the colour of my fingers with all that newsprint? I never use coloured bits of the paper, since this can sometimes leach through, and it is so difficult these days to find a newspaper without lots of colour. So it's not something I do that often, and indeed, these two examples are years old. The above bowl, was painted with a matchpot of this glorious pale purple paint which has a slight silvery sheen to it. I then added glitter whilst the paint was wet, and now it sits on the landing windowsill, filled with rose pot pourri, and because of the deliberate ripples left in the paper, once painted it took on the look of something covered in pale purple silk fabric.

And this is Henny... I made her about ten years ago possibly, no frame or anything, just scrunched up newspaper made roughly into the shape I wanted, of a fat, sitting hen, and then I added the strips and paste. She is a bit battered, normally sitting on the outside of the kitchen window ledge, which is actually in the conservatory, so that when I open the window, she invariably falls off. But I rather like her, for some strange reason.

Most of you who regularly read this rambling will know of my glamorous raised bed, kindly built by Himself earlier this year, and in which I grew carrots, spring onions, lettuce, beetroot and so on, quite successfully if I do say so myself. Well, we are having more raised beds next year, only not as high. And this is the proposed first row of them, three feet away from hedging on the left and at the back, and this taken at nine in the morning, when there is some shade cast by the birch tree off to the left, but during the day, in full sun until later when it has begun to sink and has moved to the right. The one furthest away will be for leeks, then the middle one for broad beans, and the one nearest the camera will actually be built up another couple of layers, and I plan to sink a pot of mint, as well as growing garlic chives and chervil. Each bed is about a metre long by just under that in width, a lovely, easily-manageable size I think.

There is a lot of colour in the garden at the moment.. this white crocosmia has been flowering its little socks off for months now, and the pink-flowered salvia something-or-other which you can just see a little of, has been going even longer, and improved greatly since we moved larger plants out of the way. I love geraniums, have a large blue pot full of them on the terrace/patio (terrace always sounds too grand, patio too common somehow but don't know another word for the paved area which wraps around the house on two sides!), plus other pots scattered around the place, dotted in amongst other things or standing alone, and then these on the kitchen wall, where I can see them from the conservatory. A bit slow to do anything, they are at last looking pretty. I also have lemon scented ones which are just lovely, delicate pink flowers and the most heady lemony scent comes off the foliage when you brush past.
Reading has to feature in my ramblings doesn't it? These are the books I have read in the last week. The one by Louise Candlish is absolutely brilliant, I couldn't put it down, a real page turner if ever there was and definitely one of the top five books I have read so far this year. It's about Olivia, happily married with two young sons, whose mother dies and leaves her the address of her first boyfriend. Olivia and Richie met at University, he was from California and she was madly in love with him. For her, it was the Real Thing, but he left, went back home and that was it. It felt like unfinished business for her, but what about him? When Olivia goes to find him, she tells her husband she needs a break after nursing her mother and will be away for the weekend. That turns into the whole summer and what will she do at the end of it, for there has to be an end to it all, again. Great read.
My reading of Patrick Gale, great author though he undoubtedly is, has been very hit and miss. Some of his writing I have loved, and then gone and chosen another to read, and been disappointed. Some I can't put down, others I can't even get started with. This was somewhere in between really, and again is about a couple who meet up after having broken up twenty years previously. Life has changed a lot for both of them, but have their feelings? Interesting read at the end, not what I expected and felt a little flat in a way, maybe because of that. But a good read nonetheless.
And so this brings me to the end of another rambling, with no rants, and just a little bit of a rave. Thanks to everyone who popped in again, and for your comments, and especially whoever it was who recommended me for the POTD.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

How a little ray of sunshine lifted my mood and a bit of retro this and that.

As someone who is no stranger to depression and who used to counsel women with depression brought on by low self esteem, I know the difference between feeling a bit low and being depressed, and today I am feeling a bit low. Or I was, until a ray of metaphorical sunshine came my way. It came via Alex at pinkfeatherparadise.blogspot.com and her recent giveaway, consisting of lots of lovely handmade goodies. I never win anything, but put my name forward and as she said, everything happens for a reason (something I firmly believe in) and I read the message from her today, on my blue day, saying I had WON!! It may seem such a little thing, but it has really lifted my mood. I won't bore you with the whys and wherefores of The Mood. Suffice to say that some childhood habits are hard to leave behind it seems, for I used to build up my hopes and expectations out of all proportion to reality sometimes, and was always let down. Like a pin stuck in a balloon, the hopes and optimism would leave me, I would be left deflated and empty and sort of sad. The Mood will pass, in time. Thankfully I don't often feel this low and empty. And if truth be told, the reason for my feeling this way is silly and would cause some to raise eyebrows quizzically and wonder at my sanity... much like I do myself sometimes. It should have been a cause to rejoice and sigh with relief, but other options had presented themselves which I sort of built my hopes upon, now they are being shelved for the sake of being wise, acting wisely and grown up and sensibly. For now, I hope. Maybe they will be realised in the not too distant future, those dreams and expectations and hopes of mine. But thank you Alex... and Jamie, who drew my name out of the hat - such an intuitive child don't you think?
I like retro stuff... and think these book covers fall into that category. Those of you who know me, will know that books form an integral part of my life, and many of the books from the forties and fifties in our collection, have been bought as much for their wonderful jackets as for the content. The contents have all been read though, black and white photographs evoking a sense of the romantic to travel books as well as nostalgia for a more gentle, slower and less stressful life. In the ENGLAND'S PLEASANCE book for example, there is a photograph taken in Derbyshire of a popular walking trail near Raven's Tor, and there is only one couple walking, whereas often these days a similar photograph would show many groups of walkers. There is a photograph taken in Ramsbury in Wiltshire, on what was obviously a sunny summer's day, showing thatched cottages lining the street, overhanging eaves giving some shade to the upper rooms from the glare of the black and white sun, and a mother pushing a large cumbersome pram, a toddler by her side. Are those thatched houses still there? Would a similar scene today show people hurrying by, ears plugged with music cutting them off from the rest of the world and prohibiting conversation (is that the idea?), mothers pushing these ugly three wheeled contraptions instead of the stately Silver Cross prams of this bygone era shown in the book?
And THE ENGLISH INN, what a lovely notion that is, where it still exists. We have heard that there are hundreds of pubs going out of business in the recession, so the days of an Inn in most villages are long gone - though most of the inns in this book seem to be on a rather grand scale, no little village inn with it's skittles alley, sawdust on the floor in these photographs.

I am not a fan of Dennis Wheatley, though his KA OF GIFFORD HILLARY was one of the first grown up books I read in my teens, and to this day I haven't a clue what a KA is or was, and nor can I remember what the book was about! I do remember the Mazo de la Roche books though.

My mother was a great fan of this series of books about a plantation called JALNA, and again, these were amongst the first adult books I read, along with Georgette Heyer and Elizabeth Goudge. Later I read Nevil Shute's 'A Town Like Alice', and John Braine's 'Room at the Top' as well as the above title.
H. E.Bates's stories of the Larkin family are well-known of course, and this book, 'When the Green Woods Laugh' (taken from William Blake's Laughing Song) is the third and final book about Pop Larkin and his lively, colourful lot, following on from 'The Darling Buds of May' and 'A Breath of French Air'. This one is set in the long, hot summer of 1959... when I was almost eight, and amongst life's greatest pleasures for me were taking my dolls for walks in their pram in the Marine Gardens, paddling in the edge of the sea across the road from where we lived, watching the marionettes show and eating an ice cream. Would it have had sprinkles on I wonder?

Because obviously this has!! I know that a 'proper' English trifle doesn't have them. Nor does it have jelly apparently, so this is very common possibly, and no, it didn't come out of a packet with BIRD'S written on it! It has sherry-soaked sponge fingers in the bottom, a thick layer of fresh raspberries and peaches covered in raspberry jelly, then a layer of custard, finally cream and of course, SPRINKLES. It may not be posh or proper, but boy was it good or what? My husband has a way of telling if it is a particularly good one or not, and it is all to do with the sucking, wobbly noise made by the jelly when you remove the first spoonful. If it doesn't make the right sort of sucking, squishy, squelchy sound, then he gets a look of abject disappointment - after all, he only gets trifle a couple of times a year, maybe three at most, so like me, builds up his hopes and expectations from the time the sponge fingers go in the bowl. I am pleased to say his hopes are rarely dashed.
And finally... is this a bit retro do you think? A crocheted cushion just finished, two sides of it, this can be the front...

and this the back...

or it could be the other way around of course. But I am grateful to Vanessa (doyoumindifiknit) for reminding me about the pleasures of crocheting little squares, which had been long forgotten. Then I sort of got hooked on it, and made a couple of things, this is the one I kept.
Thank you for dropping by again.. feel free to leave comments, but only if they are positive, for despite the lifting of the mood, I am still feeling just a tad fragile in The Mood department!