Friday, 30 September 2011

Winter Greens!

I decided to try to grow some winter vegs this year and have planted lettuce with violas in the pot above.

These are a type of sprouting broccoli which I hope to deter the pigeons from eating before I get the chance to enjoy them. The 'proper' gardeners among you will cringe at how close they are to each other, but I have no real space for vegs and just have to squeeze them in as best I can.

In this wooden half barrel I have black kale with more lettuce. I shall give both the cut-and-come-again treatment. This is an experiment really - I have no idea if these plants will put up with the conditions I have given them. I have strung old CDs from canes to deter the birds and just hope the bugs etc., keep away too. In this heat the lettuces will probably bolt!

It has been too hot to do any real gardening lately so I have been getting on with my course work with the french doors wide open. My poor tutor's computer completely died on her earlier this month and she has had to wait for it to be repaired and must now try to reload everything before being able to carry on with her work and sending out tutorials. I have two lots of work ready to post on my other blog but will wait until I hear from her again before I do that.

I am enjoying the course immensely though am not finding it easy. The course is so well written that even when I have produced a piece of work that I find disappointing, I feel I have still learned a lot from it. Just two of my problems lie in trying to remember to time myself on each activity and to breathe when I am painting!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Inside and outside.

It's been too wet to work outside lately so I had another go with the Flower Stitcher foot and am beginning to get the hang of it now. I even managed to get a small circle centred inside a large one, after the third attempt. The first two look like googly eyes!
I like the border you can get by taking a hot soldering iron round the outside edge, and it is very therapeutic sitting and burning out the centres with it. I plan to try attaching single 'flowers' to the ends of a cord for decoration.

Yesterday morning we woke to grey skies and fine rain which left everthing decorated with tiny drops of water.

This is the bronze fennel which I keep meaning to cut down before it seeds itself everywhere. If the sun had been shining the droplets would have sparkled like diamonds.

The purple toadflax keeps on flowering week after week. I'm longing to cut it down but can't yet as the bees love it, though it is getting to look rather untidy.

I love this 'beaded' netting over the strawberries - isn't it fantastic? It would have taken ages to stitch all those in place!!

Strangely this spider's web escaped the drops of water completely. I'm glad to say the occupant was not at home.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

I seem to be making preparations for Christmas!

I'm not usually so well organised but came across this recipe in my book about preserves and thought it sounded good. I liked that I could prepare the orange peel sticks and then store them until nearer the time I want to use them.

Here they are just beginning to bubble away, after which they sat for 24 hours.

This morning they had another session of bubbling away and are now looking like this and sitting in the airing cupboard for another 24 hours to dry out. As long as my husband doesn't chuck any clothes on top of them all should be well.

I am left with a small bowl of delicious tangy orange syrup which may set into clear marmalade, or find its way onto something for a pudding for this evening. I can't waste it.

This is the sloe gin. It's had it's daily shake up for the past week and now only needs shaking once a week until the beginning of December when I can strain and bottle it. It should be left to mature for 18months but I can't see anyone in my family wanting to wait that long!

57years ago today, I was buttering bridge rolls for other members of my family to spread with various tasty fillings for our 'afternoon tea' wedding reception. How the years have flown by, and how things have changed, particularly with regard to weddings. We were lucky to have the church already decorated for Harvest Festival - it looked wonderful. Many things were still in short supply - not least money - and I was lucky enough to be loaned my cousin's wedding dress. My grandmother kindly lent us her garden and allowed the local scouts tent to be put up on her lawn. When it had been decorated inside with trails of ivy and flowers it looked lovely and provided covered seating for about 50 guests. It was very much a family/DIY affair and parents, cousins, aunts and grandmother all had a hand in it. I remember being surprised at the number of people in the church. It was a magical day and all done on a shoestring. A lot of hard work all round, but very worthwhile and a great success.

Friday, 23 September 2011

What a grey day!

I have spent ages today, mixing colours to produce various shades and strengths of grey. It is much harder than I thought, apart from the obvious method of mixing white and black. Even then I found it hard to get an even progression from dark to light.

Considering the fact that the complimentary colours are made up from the primary colours, I was surprised at the different tones achieved by mixing two complimentarys and then adding white, compared with mixing all three primary colours plus white. I found it quite hard to achieve a good grey and kept getting lovely rich browns and at one time a rather nice dark green.

I took these photos quite quickly and in not a good light - in reality the grading is better than it appears here. I must correct that when I photograph them for the blog post for my tutor.

My poor tutor has not been able to contact me for the past ten days as her computer has had to go for repair. I haven't liked to do another post before she has a chance to deal with the previous one, but hopefully will be able to post again some time next week.

I am off now to clear up the awful mess I have left all over the dining table. We have a lounge diner type living room so I can't just shut the door on it, and I do hope no-one calls and has to be asked in before I've tidied up.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Flower Power.

I acquired this Flower Stitcher foot in a giveaway months ago and it was ages before I realised I would need an adaptor to fit it to my Bernina sewing machine. There was a further delay when I found I had to order one and wait for it to be posted to me. I had previously treated myself to Dale Rollerson's little book 'Let's Play with the Flower Stitcher' and have found it so useful and much clearer to understand than the official instructions which came with the foot.

It's full of useful tips and suggestions for trying out the various stitches on the machine - not just the decorative ones. It's also packed with colourful samples of the many different patterns possible as well as pieces of work incorporating them.

Here is my first attempt - a bit of a shaky start and I have distorted the fabric slightly. I began with the smallest sized holes and worked on kunin felt so that I could burn through the centres. The larger holes on this piece are done with utility stitches.

The four linked circles are done with an ordinary zigzag stitch - the others with a decorative stitch. I must do some more and keep a note of which stitch gives each effect as it is all to easy to forget what you have done.

These are all utility stitches and I have gone round about 3 times on each one to get a more pronounced pattern.

Getting better! The one on the left is nice but the thread kept breaking on the right hand one.

I found it easier with a smaller piece of felt and changed thread too. The three rings at bottom right are simple zigzag stitch, and all the others are different utility stitches. I think I like these better than the decorative stitches.

It doesn't even look too bad on the reverse side. To get a really interesting effect the circles need to be massed as on the front of Dale's book. The circles can be worked in several sizes and small ones can be worked inside large ones, but that sounds a bit advanced to me. I must do a lot more experimenting to become more proficient before I can add them to my work, but they are fun to make and have great possibilities.

Just when I thought the flowers in my garden were coming to an end I noticed this ...........

................ and this, and there was another picture of the variegated weigela just coming into flower again. I seem to have lost that one somehow. I thought they had all done their stuff for this year.

I can see a small patch of blue sky through the window, but it has become a wet and dull Sunday here with sporadic downpours. What a good job I reproofed my wax jacket a couple of days ago!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Garden Bits.

These should have flowered back in the spring and I didn't expect to see any blooms on them this year after dividing the plant. I now wonder if I will get any next spring. I can't remember their Latin name and call them Double Kingcups. The pond weed has gone mad and completely covered the surface of the water. I have had to scoop quite a lot off twice already this summer after thinking I'd have to buy some earlier in the year when it just wouldn't get started.

It doesn't feel very much like summer any more and the leaves are beginning to turn colour. However, my pot of strawberries is having another go and they are ripening quite nicely. The cherry tomatoes are also cropping quite well since being put into the greenhouse, so I can pretend it is still summer for a little longer.

I love this clematis - it's Bill Mackenzie and has completely filled a corner of the garden. He can get a bit untidy and needs a good haircut every so often. The flowers in bud look like little yellow Chinese Lanterns and the seedheads are very soft and silky. The petals of the open flowers look thick and almost as if they have been cut from lemon peel.

I'm nearly ready to post again on my other blog. I hope the light will be good enough tomorrow or the next day to photograph the work I have done.

I also want to try out my flower stitcher foot. I acquired it months ago and wasn't quite sure what to try to make with it, then I bought a little book by Dale Rollerson, full of great ideas, only to find that I needed an adaptor for it to work on my machine. Now I have no excuse for not using it. Maybe in my next post there will be one or two samples to show you.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

A lot of crying!

It seemed like a good idea to make onion marmalade, until I remembered I can only slice two onions before my eyes stream and my nose runs! I dug out my little food processer which has a slicing blade and cut down the time considerably, but there was still a lot of nose blowing, eye mopping and sniffing before the 2kgs of onions were ready for the pot. No gain without pain - I hope it tastes good after all that. It looks decidedly amateur in my motley collection of jars and lacks the shabby chic of the Country Living look. They are the last six remaining and I even had to evict half a jar of jam into a plastic tub to get those.

I found the recipe in this little book on Preserves - one of the titles in the River Cottage Handbook series. I have already made the Hedgerow Jelly using sloes and crabapples and want to make Sloe Gin next. My sloes are in the freezer as it is recommended that they be frosted before use. Leaving them on the tree is risky as the birds could well have eaten them all before we get any frost.

Apologies for the rather blurred photo - the book has a very textured cover which prevents a clear sharp image. That's my excuse anyway. Pam Corbin is the author and the book is full of useful information, interesting recipes for flavoured vinegars and oils, and as well as the better known ones for preserving vegetables and fruits there are also some quite unusual ones. I walked past a tree today absolutely laden with rowan berries and thought 'I wonder what they'd taste like'.

I must pick some more blackberries - we've already eaten those we picked a couple of weeks ago. They will have to sit in the freezer till I can use them as I've run out of jam jars and shelf space in the larder. I love blackberry and apple jam and my husband loves blackberry and apple crumble so I shall need several pounds to keep us both happy until next year.

Friday, 9 September 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like autumn.

It's a rather dull, drab day here today so I thought I'd make some sunshine soup to cheer things up. It's really just a vegetable soup made with chicken stock, but this time I added butternut squash which gives it a lovely golden colour. It tastes pretty good too, if I 'says it as shouldn't'.
It went down a treat with a couple of little cheese and herb scones.

I am very miffed with the postal service. You may remember from some time back that I made fabric hearts for the second Heartfelt exhibition in Bristol. I posted them weeks ago to the person who was setting up the exhibition only to learn that she has not received them. I put my name and address on the back of the package so there is no excuse for them not being returned to me, even if they can't be delivered to the address on the front of it. Luckily they are not of any real value, but would have been sold in aid of charity and might have raised a bit of cash.

I have just completed the first chapter of my online course and done my second post on my other blog. There is a link to it (Inspiripedia) at top left here. I will start work on the second chapter next week.

Hope we all have a nice weekend - I want to do some much needed tidying up in the garden. Whatever you have planned, have a good time.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

This and That.

I have been spending quite a bit of time with this little furry friend recently. She was with us over last weekend and again today while her owners were busy elsewhere. She is such good company and can be quite vocal when she wants my attention.

It's doubtful that the Glastonbury Thorn will ever look like this again after being vandalised several months ago, but the good news is that the new shoots which appeared earlier this year are growing well and there is a strong possibility that it will even flower at Christmas.

I have started work on my course with Distant Stitch and made the first post on my new blog which is named Inspiripedia. My daughter came up with the name after I had got fed up because every time I thought of one, I found it had already been taken.

The first exercise was mark-making and I had to use various implements and brushes as well as different papers but work with only one tube of paint, apart from creating a contrasting background colour. I started quite tentatively and then found it hard to stop. I hope I haven't done too much!


I read through the new Workshop on the Web programme yesterday - there are some great things in this issue and I have printed off a couple. I can foresee a very busy autumn ahead.