Thursday, 29 May 2014

Swirl beads, jewel enamel powder and bracelets

 I really enjoy working with polymer clay and am constantly finding new techniques which I just have to try.  The swirl bead was new to me, as was using jewel enamel as a glaze, which gave a look of enamel.  The swirl techniques worked better on some than others but it was a good way to use up some scrap clay and the end of a striped cane I made some time last year.
 Here are my beads, ready to go into the oven, with a top layer of the jewel enamel.
 This is what they looked like once cooled.  The jewel enamel has given a glaze to the top surface.
This is my favourite as the swirl worked well and the blue translucent polymer clay I used for the base has silver foil running through it (a bit of gold also got in there!)  This is a technique I shall use again...
 The macrame bracelets were commissions from a work colleague who loves pink, but wanted a delicate pink. I used crackled quartz, rose quartz and star rose quartz to create these and made two different sizes so that she could choose which one fitted her best.
The flash has washed out the delicate pink, but this combination works well, I think.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Chelsea Flower Show 2014

 I don't know about you, but I have been glued to the Chelsea Flower Show coverage on BBC1 and BBC2 this past week.  I have never been to the show itself, but I do like to watch the programmes.  Here are some of my favourite gardens and I think they all have 'floofy' planting in common. The photos are all from the RHS Chelsea website here.  Not for me the best in show choice, with clean lines and restricted beds of plants.  I like the exuberant planting where things are allowed to spill out. Irises featured strongly in a lot of the gardens as did foxgloves. First is the Homebase garden by Adam Frost, with lovely native countryside plants.
 I really want one of these tree trunk seats (when I get my slightly bigger harm in dreaming!).  It looked such a peaceful and relaxing place.
 The Hope/Help for Heroes garden had more beautiful planting and lots of grasses.  It symbolised the journey through recovery for injured members of the armed forces and won the People's Choice award too. The other great thing about it is that it is going to be a garden for injured service people to use, so will have a new life helping those very people it was designed for.
 Cleve West always has lovely planting schemes.
 This was the No Man's Land garden with a mound at the back with natural planting, symbolising the trenches in the battlefields slowly being taken back by nature.
The Topiarist's Garden was in the artisan category and had incredible attention to detail. The planting was mainly white and green.
 The Night Sky garden was another lovely example of planting combinations and used lots of white flowers to represent the stars . The black background had little brass circles on it which did look as though they glinted.
Another view of the Night Sky garden.
Finally, the Potter's Garden, another in the Artisan category but again showing such an eye for detail.  Call me old fashioned, but these gardens all appeal with the planting and the atmospheres they conjure up.  I'd be happy to sit in any of them.  Now that Chelsea is all over for another year, it is strange to think that all this beauty has vanished, as if it had never been there at all.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Purple in the garden

 The vibrant colours of the tulips have gone, to be replaced with delicate shades of lilac and purple.  Above, Clematis Ice Blue starts to unravel its petals, showing just the faintest hint of lilac/blue.
 The alliums are in flower and looking wonderful (they always seem to flower for Chelsea Flower Show week!)
 They are amazing in close up too...
These alliums (Christophii, I think but am not sure) are just starting to explode into life.
 Reliable and beautiful geranium Rozanne (complete with a coups of aphids - yuck- which are plaguing my roses and pretty much everything else at the moment.
 Here's a more tropical flower.  It's more on the pink side than purple, but I am delighted because it is flowering for the second time!  I am not that good with house plants, so when my Mum gave me this orchid, I was rather concerned.  I put it in the bathroom because I thought it would like the humidity and I think it does.  It probably needs a bit of food now though.
Nothing to do with actual flowers, but I was intrigued by the pattern the sun made shining through the net curtain this morning. It has been lovely to enjoy the sun, but all my pots now need watering!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Spring garden

 The wet weather has encouraged the plants to put on a lot of growth and it is all looking rather green and luscious.  Above is Clematis Crystal Fountain which is looking very flamboyant.
 The blowsy clematis contrasts well with the understated elegance of this aquilegia (I don't know the variety).
 This one is supposed to be 'Navy and White', but appears to have turned pink.  I do like it, despite it not being blue!
 Here's one of my newest plants, Magnolia 'Fairy Blush' which has such pretty flowers.  It is supposed not to get too massive, can be pruned and is meant to be really hardy. I'm impressed so far - how could I not like those flowers?
 Really pretty delicate colours.  I also have a white/cream one, but it only has leaves as it is a younger plant.
The tulips have been beautiful this year and I have already put in my order for next year!  Although most of them are now over, Red Shine continues to give a splash of colour which offsets all the green so well.  Chris said how much he liked these particular ones (just as well, because I have ordered more!).  Although there is quite as bit of dodging showers for us, the plants are loving it and I am looking forward to seeing what flowers next.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Polymer Clay Play Day

 A friend of mine came round yesterday to be introduced to the joys that are creating with polymer clay.  Eventually, she wants to use polymer clay for sculpture, but as an introduction, we made canes and turned them into pendants.  We made bull's eye canes, flower canes, spiral canes, kaleidoscope canes and stained glass canes.  She had a go with the extruder too and investigated foil and stamps with mica powder.  Above are some of her pendants - I really liked all the greeny blues she used.
Here are my creations. I tried to make myself use different colours from the ones I would naturally choose and used the bright lime green colour, 'wasabi'. However, we both discovered that despite the bright colour,  it is actually a versatile shade and will work with a variety of other colours.  The cane I used for the pendants on the right I christened my 'rhubarb' cane as the colours really reminded me of a stick of rhubarb!
Here's a close up (it is a little blurry, but you get the idea) - well, I think the colours look very rhubarby!  All in all, a very productive day was spent and I think my friend may well be at the start of an obsession (sorry about that!)

Monday, 5 May 2014

Apricot Rock Cakes

As you may know, I have an aversion to raisins and sultanas (although I like grapes).  I'm not that keen on dried fruit much at all, but, for some reason, I do like dried apricots.  I have made and posted about apricot rock cakes before but can't remember whether I posted the recipe.  If I did, apologies, but actually, it is so nice and easy and gives such good results, it is worth posting again.  For anyone who doesn't know what they are, they are a cakey-biscuity-chewy treat (I am sure that is a very helpful description!) and of course, they have fruit in them, so could possibly be thought of as healthy (!)

225g/8oz self raising flour
110g/4oz margarine
110g/4oz granulated sugar
175g/6oz dried but ready to eat apricots
1 egg
a little milk to mix
brown sugar to sprinkle on tops

Makes 18 cakes.

1. Heat oven to gas mark 7/220 degrees centigrade/435 degrees fahrenheit. Lightly grease 2 baking trays.
2. Sift flour into mixing bowl and rub in the margarine.
3. Add sugar and apricots. Make a well in the centre.
4. Beat the egg, then add to dry ingredients with a little milk, to make a stiff consistency.
5. Place the mixture in rough heaps on the baking trays, leaving a little space between them as they will spread a bit. Sprinkle on some brown sugar
6. Bake for approx 10 mins (mine take longer but I have a very old oven) until golden brown.
7. Cool on wire rack.  Once cool, test quality of rock cakes (cook's prerogative) and enjoy!

Of course, if you don't have problems with dried fruit, you can put whatever you like in the cakes; traditionally it is mixed dried fruit. Dried cranberries, dried blueberries... Chocolate chips might be a nice addition too...