Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A spotty parcel!

I was fortunate enough recently to win a giveaway over at Dorothy's creative blog "Dorothy's Room". Dorothy must have put a lot of thought and care into her prize, because a fun-looking package arrived today:


I really like the bag it came in. It made me smile, and I am sure the postman was smiling too! DD was almost as excited as I was, but I managed to persuade her to pose with the package before we opened it. It did feel rather like Christmas...

Inside was a beautifully wrapped parcel. The rose is actually a clip! Inside the parcel was...

...this lovely bag. You can't see from the photo, but it is a "Dorothy special". She has lined it, embroidered the flowers and inserted a zip. I am very impressed. Zips appear to be a black art to me, which go in by some sort of unknown magic. Inside the bag was...

...this beautiful selection of fabrics, buttons, cotton and all manner of things. It really is a treasure trove. The dark blue spotty material is Cath Kidston, who I usually admire from afar as I have never actually bought anything by her. I really liked the beige material in the bottom left. It fits in well with our living room, so I am thinking of possibilities for it. The chocolates didn't last very long! Here is a close up of the rather sumptuous peacock material, with a sweet little scented dog who somehow missed the original line up:

He is now hanging up in my kitchen. So, thank you Dorothy for such a wonderful gift. I feel inspired to get out my sewing machine...

Monday, 26 August 2013

Finding the Lost Gardens of Heligan

One of the places we really wanted to revisit on our Cornish holiday was "The Lost Gardens of Heligan". DH and I visited in the 1990s. We had fantastic memories of it and we were keen to see what had changed.  

The original estate went into decline after the First World War when many of the staff went off to fight. The "big house" was eventually sold off in the 1970s. In 1990 the gardens were rediscovered under a tangle of laurel, and the restoration has been going on ever since. 

This friendly gentleman greets you as you arrive. I think he could do with a hair cut! Heligan is a very large garden, covering 200 acres, but we did our best to see as much as we could. In the morning we walked in the woodland and the "Jungle" and after our picnic lunch we explored the formal gardens and the kitchen garden.


The "jungle" looked almost prehistoric. Dragonflies zipped around the tree ferns and palm trees reached upwards. 

I felt much more comfortable in the large walled kitchen garden. This rather well-to-do scarecrow kept watch over orderly rows of vegetables and flowers.

I loved the way the rows of dahlias were nestled between the runner beans and cordon apple arches. I assume these were for cutting for the big house.

The pineapple pit was built in the early nineteenth century. The local gentry would compete to see who could grow the biggest fruit. They also grew melons, which were hung in little nets as they grew.

The formal gardens were spectacular, with well thought out colour schemes. There were lots of nooks and crannies to explore, far more than we could manage in one day. We were happy but tired by the end, and grateful to return to our cottage to recover!


Saturday, 24 August 2013

Making memories

I had intended to keep my blog up to date during our holiday, but with four of us fighting over one laptop it was not to be! So while I sort out all my photos, here are a few of the highlights of our holiday. We had a fabulous time, were very blessed with the weather and enjoyed being family. I will be writing posts about all the beautiful places we visited, but first I have a lot of washing to catch up with!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Kernow a'gas dynergh!

Or, for those of us not fluent in Cornish...welcome to Cornwall!

DH and I love Cornwall, but we have never taken the children as we couldn't face the long drive with young kids. Now they are older, and need less in-car entertainment, we have brought them here for the first time. We have rented a cottage in Polgooth, a very lovely village within a stone's throw of the Eden Project. We arrived yesterday, and spent the evening sitting in the sun, watching rabbits and buzzards. (Although, fortunately for the rabbits, not at the same time!)

However, today it rained. With attitude! Were we downhearted or dismayed? No! We are British, so accordingly we donned waterproofs and headed to Mevagissey to explore the beautiful fishing port.

Mevagissey is a quintessential Cornish fishing village with narrow winding streets, higgledy-piggledy brightly coloured houses and a working fishing fleet.

Normally Mevagissey is full of tourists, and has its fair share of souvenir shops and eateries. By mid afternoon we needed to escape the weather and we found a particularly good tea shop. "Moo and Two" styles itself as a tea gallery, and exhibits art from new artists as well as providing reasonably priced, excellent tea in gorgeous china.

We were all very impressed, particularly DD who has inherited a love of tea shops from her mother, and an artistic bent from her father.

The weather is set to cheer up tomorrow, for which I am very grateful! I have vivid memories of soggy childhood holidays spent wearing bright orange kagouls, (did anyone else wear those?), and eating sandwiches in the car while peering out of windscreens misted up from mugs of tea precariously balanced on the dashboard. All very character-forming, and we inflict similar things on our own children, but we are hoping to do lots of outdoor activities and I don't have webbed feet.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Crochet goes large!

I was wandering around Ravelry the other day when I came across this lovely fellow:

I have to say that I did fall for him in rather a big way. I could find so many uses for a basket like that. He is a very handsome chap. I was rather swept away and did something I hardly ever do; I paid for a pattern on Ravelry. Admittedly it was only a few pounds but it did feel strange! The talented designer is Deja Jetmir and she blogs at "Crochet Ever After". She also produces plenty of easy to follow tutorials to go with her patterns.

Once I'd downloaded the pattern I realised that is worked with FOUR strands of chunky wool and a size 10mm hook! The pattern itself is really easy and is made in a spiral, but the difficulty is in trying to hold everything all together!

I can't seem to get into a nice rhythm with it; I have to concentrate on each stitch. However, it is growing quickly so soon we will have another owl to add to our growing collection. I am thinking of adapting the pattern to produce his little brother, which could then hold a crocheted washcloth with some homemade soap to make Christmas presents. Probably for 2015!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Liebster award

Dorothy from "Dorothy's Room" has very kindly nominated me for the Liebster Blog award. I've never been nominated for an award before! I've decided to answer Dorothy's interesting questions, but not to nominate anyone else. Most of the blogs I read either don't accept awards or have been nominated fairly recently. 

Dorothy is a craftswoman with a lovely sense of humour who hasn't been blogging for very long. We are at similar stages of learning to crochet, and she has been very encouraging over my struggles with my sewing machine! Here are her questions with my answers:

1. If you could spend a day anywhere and with anyone how would you use your time?

I would love to take DH to the Austrian Tyrol. I went with my parents when I was seventeen and I was awestruck by its beauty.

Photo from
DH and I would wonder in the hills with a picnic lunch and then pop into a town for "Kaffee and Kuchen".

2. What craft person would you like to meet and why?

I would like to meet Lucy from Attic 24. She is the main inspiration behind my love of crochet. Her patterns are simple to follow and she is very down to earth. She does a good line in homemade cake and frothy coffee too. Can you spot a trend here?

3. Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

In ten years time I will have two adult children, so I suspect that I will be working. I don't know quite how that will look as I haven't been in paid employment now since DD was born. I have been volunteering in various roles in the education sector for years, so maybe something along those lines.

4. What is your greatest quality and the thing you would like to improve about yourself?

My greatest quality is probably that I am reliable and will stick with something until the bitter end. The thing I would most like to improve is my self-control. I am far too fond of cake!

5. Apart from your family, pets and home, what is the one thing you would save in an emergency?

If I am being prosaic I would say my folder with all our financial information in it. If I am being less practical I would say my Mum's wedding ring. Or our wedding photos. Or my children's creations. Let's hope I never have to choose!

6. Who has influenced you the most in your life?

My Mum! She was a very gentle and affirming lady. If I can be half as good a mother as she was then my children will be OK.

7. Who is your favourite actor?

David Tennant! Don't tell DH... For his acting ability, of course!

8. Describe a meal you always enjoy.

My current favourite is a Hugh F-W recipe for barbecue chicken available here. I serve it with couscous and roasted vegetables. Really lovely and fairly healthy too.

9. What was your best subject in school and it is still something you enjoy now?

My best subject was maths and I went on to study it at university. I do still enjoy it, but in a more abstract way. I don't sit down and contemplate second order partial differential equations, but I do think about the beauty of maths and the way the universe hangs together.

10. If you had £1000 to spend on yourself what would you buy?

Like most mothers, I would struggle to spend it on myself rather than the family! But if I was absolutely forced to I would like a better camera. Although DS has a very cheap camera and takes better photos than I do! 

11. If there was a big craft competition and you were asked to take part what would you make to show off your skills?

I don't actually feel that I am particularly good at any craft, but I suspect that I am best at knitting. I have always wanted to have a go at a lacy shawl, so perhaps something like that.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Counting butterflies!

While DD is away at camp, DS and I have been getting out and about into the local countryside as much as possible. As well as our trip to Warnham on Saturday, we visited a country park in our own town on Sunday and today we visited the RSPB reserve at Pulborough Brooks. We particularly wanted to get involved in the Big Butterfly Count run by the Butterfly Conservation Trust.

Butterflies in the UK are having a tough time. Long term problems such as habitat destruction and climate change combined with the recent dreadful summers has led to 75% of UK species being in decline. The idea behind the count is to "take nature's pulse" as butterfly numbers are great indicators of the health of the environment. It is really easy to take part. There is even an app available on the website. (Thanks to Gill from Frugal in Derbyshire for pointing this out!) All you need to do is to spend 15 minutes in a sunny spot and count all the butterflies you see, then upload the results onto the website. Simples!

Until this summer, I could possibly have identified a cabbage white, (which isn't even it's real name!), and a peacock butterfly. Over the past few days we have identified lots of different species, and DS has photographed quite a few:

Common blue - such a beauty!
Gatekeeper - one of mine!
Large skipper - actually quite a small butterfly.
Meadow brown feeding
Green-veined White

Peacock - I took this one!

Caterpillar of the Cinnabar moth - identified thanks to iSpot
Painted Lady
We've had a lot of fun, and DS is revelling in his new hobby. The Big Butterfly Count only runs until August 11th, but it is well worth getting involved if you can spare the time.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Warnham nature reserve

It feels very strange in our house at the moment as DH and DD are both away. Yesterday DS and I decided to check out Warnham nature reserve, which is on the outskirts of a nearby town. DS is currently loving wildlife photography and I need very little excuse to abandon my housework and disappear into the countryside for a while!

Warnham is run by the local council, and only charges a nominal entrance fee. We loved it. We sat in the meadow and watched the insects.

We were dazzled by the light on the water of a millpond.

DS took this one!
 We wandered through the woods and marvelled at the butterflies.

A comma butterfly
We were very glad we didn't meet any stag beetles!

A stag beetle hotel!
We lingered in the hide watching birds on the feeders. We loved the antics of the chaffinches.

The squirrels amused us with their acrobatics.

DS took this one too!
We got very excited when we saw a greater spotted woodpecker!

And this one!
We had a fabulous, peaceful afternoon. I felt very blessed!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Courgette and mozarella pasta bake

I haven't posted much about my veg box for the last few weeks because we have been mainly ordering the salad box. During the recent heatwave we could only really face salad! Now that the British summer has returned to whatever passes for normal these days, we are back to "proper" veg.

Courgettes, (known as zucchini in most countries), have been featuring heavily recently. Usually I have to hide or disguise them in some way - DD is not a fan. However, as she is away at camp at the moment, I decided to let them take centre stage with a Hugh F-W recipe available here.

It is a simple pasta bake. Don't be deceived; it takes a fair while to make as you have to gently soften the courgettes for half an hour. It needs a good amount of seasoning otherwise it is a little bland but would probably be really tasty with some added sun-dried tomatoes, bacon or chorizo. I have never bought sun-dried tomatoes; I must find a method of making them which works in the British unpredictable climate.

One of the main selling points of this recipe is that it uses about one courgette per person; very handy in a glut!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Ancient Mongolia??

Like most mothers who have put a child through primary school I am used to requests for costumes. This year my ingenuity has been tested by a Victorian outfit and a costume inspired by art for DS. However I was completely stymied when DD came home from Guides claiming she needed an ancient Mongolian costume for camp! She is off to a large Scout and Guide camp; each section of which is named after an ancient civilization.

When I had recovered the power of speech, my initial reaction was "No, you have got to be joking!" followed by "Why couldn't we get Rome?". An internet search revealed that ancient Mongolians favoured heavily embroidered, brightly coloured tunics. My mood was not improved, but eventually I decided to give it a shot and trawl the charity shops for inspiration. Surprisingly quickly I found a double duvet cover which had an embroidery inspired print:

I have blogged before about conquering my fear of sewing machines. I would now call it a mild anxiety as opposed to a full-on dread, thanks mainly to the encouragement of other bloggers. I can now thread it and sew in a straight line. This is Major Progress in my world!

Fortunately I only needed to produce a shapeless tunic. I created a pattern by the crude method of lying DD on the duvet and drawing around her. Not a method I've seen on the Great British Sewing Bee, but I wasn't going to spend hours faffing with a tape measure, thank you very much!  The only difficult part of the actual sewing was the neck-line, and I remembered enough of my needlework lessons to negotiate that one.

Quite what it will look like after being in DD's camp bag for a week is anyone's guess. Ancient Mongolians didn't have steam irons so she will look authentically creased!