Sunday, 13 October 2019

Autumn soup recipe - sort of...

I have been asked for the roasted squash, pepper and sweet potato soup recipe.  Chris didn't use a recipe (unlike me who always has to follow a recipe), but here is a sort of recipe.
He roasted a squash, onion, peppers, tomatoes and garlic in the oven, until they were softened, having drizzled them with a little oil (or Frylight).  He then chopped up sweet potato and ordinary potato and added the roasted veg into a pressure cooker and added vegetable stock.  He let it cook for 5 minutes (this could all be boiled in a large pan for about 20 mins (that's the way I would have to do it, because pressure cookers scare me!).   As I am fussy (!) he then blitzed the soup down until smooth, although if you like chunky soup, you can leave the chunks in.  He probably added a little butter, some salt and pepper and some wine too.
It does taste lovely!  

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Autumn food and gardening

There is a definite feel of autumn now.  Subtle changes such as darker mornings, cooler evenings and foliage starting to fall or change colour.  I have been enjoying comfort food this week and soups and rice pudding have featured.
Above is a delicious soup Chris made - roast squash, peppers and garlic, sweet potato and potato.  Really warming and gorgeous.  We have also had leek and potato soup which was also delicious.  Leek risotto has featured as has Yorkshire Sponge Parkin cake with the ginger and spice flavours.  I made my first rice pudding yesterday which tasted really good, but I need to work out how to get the rice and milk mixture incorporated better.
My autumn gardening has included planting my allium Globemaster bulbs which I bought from RHS Chatsworth and finally getting round to planting a replacement Winter Flowering Jasmine which has been in a pot for a year or so and which I hope will grow well now it has been released into the garden. I have also planted some foxgloves 'Foxy Hybrids' and 'Apricot' which I grew from seed so I am looking forward to seeing them grow too.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Walking round the garden, whatever the weather

 We have had quite unsettled weather this week.  There have been beautiful blue skies...
...roses enjoying the sunshine (Olivia Rose Austin)...
 ...dry days which the sempervivums have liked...
 ...and the japanese anemones, both white...
 ...and pink.
 When we have had rain, the droplets settled beautifully on the alchemilla mollis leaves.
 They look a bit like liquid mercury.
 Clematis Prince Charles looked really awful and brown last month, so I cut it back and it has rewarded me by re-growing and flowering, which was an unexpected and very welcome bonus.  Some flowers have five petals...
 ...and others have four. 
 The little hydrangea I bought at RHS Chatsworth is turning shades of pearly pink and green.
 Liriope Muscari is getting bigger every year and giving a very welcome splash of colour to a shady border.
 The combination of buddleia, perennial sunflower and aster look lovely when the sun shines.
It has rained all day today, on and off, but occasionally, there is the reward of a rainbow.  Seeing one never fails to amaze me.

Sunday, 22 September 2019


...more cards.  This was for my friend Alison's birthday.  I watercoloured the background floral stamp and then used a 'spotlight' die effect for the sentiment.  This was cut from the background and then layered up so that it stands proud.  It looks a bit like an optical illusion and I think it is really effective.
 Here's a close up.
This second card was a little different as I made it for someone I don't know and doubt I shall ever meet.  His name is Rhys, he is fourteen and has a life limiting condition.  His mum put out a call on Facebook for cards to cheer him up and Chris said we should send one, so we did.  He has now received over 18,000 cards and also presents too.   There is a short report about him here. It just shows that despite the world news, the depressing statistics and upsetting images, there are still a lot of decent and kind people out there and that is a comforting thought.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Favourite plants in September

 While things may be starting to turn autumnal, there is still lots to enjoy in the garden at the moment.  This combination of Japanese anemone, fuchsia and geranium Rozanne makes me smile.
Seeing a Red Admiral butterfly enjoying the buddleia was also a happy moment.
 The asters are also in full flower.
I am collecting a few more fuchsias...this is Rivendell (bought last year at RHS Chatsworth).
 Bella Rosa (I think)...
and Lady Thumb, all looking good.
 Hardy cyclamen are so delicate and beautiful - these are something I look forward to seeing every autumn.
 I think this is cyclamen Rose something - I shall have to check!
 Aster Little Carlow which is always a good flowerer.
Finally, my miscanthus are doing well and adding some elegance to the borders.
 This is 'Morning Light'...
...and here is Starlight.  Just some of my favourites at the moment.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Gardeners' Question Time

Chris and I were very lucky to be able to go to a recording of Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time which took place in Lincoln last Tuesday night.  It's a programme I always try to listen to on a Sunday afternoon and to be at a recording was a bit of a bucket list opportunity.  We duly arrived at the time specified and were entertained by a playlist of music all with gardening or plant associations, such as 'A good year for the roses' by Elvis Costello, 'Flowers in the Rain' by The Move and the slightly more tenuous 'Sitting on the Dock of the Bay' by Otis Redding.
Chris took the opportunity to take a photo before the evening got going
A man came onto the stage and gave the safety information as well as announcing the first set of questions and those people were asked to sit on the front row.  Kathy Clugston, the presenter, then introduced herself and the panel, Matt Biggs, Pippa Greenwood and Mathew Wilson.  There were lots of interesting questions ranging from dealing with pests and diseases to renovating trees, how best to use chicken manure and everything in between.  (Sadly, neither my question on pruning a hibiscus and Chris' on dealing with a plantaholic wife who has used every space in their small garden weren't chosen.)
What I found most interesting was the interplay between the presenter and panel; face pulling and gesturing to show that a panellist wanted or didn't want to contribute, being the most obvious.  Kathy Clugston also had to keep the pace right, deal with comments from the producer in her earpiece, re-do some linking pieces and introductions, think of suitable comments to round off each question while  remaining calm and relaxed - not an easy role at all.
Chris said he had really enjoyed the evening too, which is high praise as he is not really a gardener.  The shows will be broadcast on 20th September 2019 and 18th October 2019 and it will be fascinating to hear the final edited versions. 

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Latest cards and papercraft experiments

I have had a few birthdays to make cards for over the last month. 
 This Daisy edger will be quite versatile as you can put it onto different backgrounds and it will look different every time.  This needs to be put onto a card.
 I need to stick this stencilled flower panel onto a card too.
 This card was for Chris' Mum and I think she liked it.
 Two more experiments with a new die - using watercolour crayons...
 ...and watercolour paints.
 This card was for a colleague at work.
 I made this tag for our friend, Rachael, who starts an MA in September.
 I hope this quote will keep inspiring her.
Finally, an 80th birthday card for a friend who will be travelling to Australia and Canada to see relatives.  I thought this was quite appropriate for him!
I have been working in my art journal too and sewing, gardening and reading.  It is back to work tomorrow after a very nice week off but there will be more crafting at the weekend.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Serendipity and a trip into my childhood memories of Hunstanton

I was walking past a little bric a brac shop at the end of the street the other day and was stopped in my tracks.  I spotted the little dish in the window and was convinced it was the pattern I remembered from a house in Hunstanton which belonged to my Great Aunt Margie and which we stayed in every year (usually off season!). 
 I bought the little dish and have since found out it was made by Midwinter around the 1930s - 1940s and is stamped with 'Brama' on the base.  I always asked to have the plate as I just loved the lady in her crinoline in the garden and the gold pattern.  Since then, I have seen many similar looking patterns but was never sure they were right.
The house we stayed in was at Hunstanton in Norfolk and was 28, Victoria Avenue.  I loved going there as you never knew what you would find.  The house was often rented out to friends and relatives and sometimes had other less than welcome visitors, who took advantage of it being occasionally empty.  Often, on arrival, Mum would have to spend some time sorting the toilet out.  One year, there was a big hole just inside the door and we all had to jump over it to get in.
It was a magical place to me though, with old metal spring mattresses which would attempt to throw you off the beds if you sat down too heavily.  There were two cane chairs with wooden poles which you could move into slots to adjust the angle of the back.  There were huge prints of coronations or parliament gatherings and pictures of John the Baptist.  There was a little ornament of the three carved monkeys, 'Hear, See and Speak no evil'.  There were some books that I remember - Howdy Doody with Princess SummerFallWinterSpring and one called 'Horace, the little black pig'.  There was a toaster (probably from the 1930s), which had sides that let down to place the bread in and then were put back up to toast.

Of course, Hunstanton itself was a wonderful place for a child.  At that time, at the end of the promenade, there was a fair with a proper Helter Skelter (removed in 2000 and according to the internet, renovated and available to hire) and my favourite Gallopers.  There was a lovely beach, striped cliffs,  crazy golf, roller skating rink, ice cream booths, cream cakes, knickerbocker glories and fish and chips.  There were two playgrounds, one with the 'Life on the Ocean Wave/Witches' Hat' ride, long since banned due to Health and Safety. There was a shop called Guise Brothers which sold buckets and spades, flip flops, nets, rock, and lots of other things necessary to a seaside holiday. There is a Green and we used to enjoy eating fish and chips while watching the sun go down.
We went back to Hunstanton in 2007 and found 28, Victoria Avenue.  It was looking rather better than it had done.  We were always told that HG Wells had lived there, but we were not convinced about that.  Why would he have lived here?  However, it was true - well, he certainly must have visited here.
The house is now included on a trail and has its own plaque!  (I did ask the owner's permission to take the photos, but I expect the owner is used to people stopping and and photographing now).  So, after all this time, finding the little dish with the pattern I remember has brought back many happy memories of many happy times at Hunstanton.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

The ebb and flow of hobbies

I am a person who has a lot of hobbies.  Reading, Crafting, Gardening, Jewellery making, Baking...the list goes on.  In 'Crafting', there is a whole load more - Sewing, Lino Printing, Silk painting, Gelli plate printing, Card making, Felt making, Paper crafting, Art Journaling...
As with everything, there is an ebb and flow and I have decided to put some of my hobbies on the back burner for the moment. Felt making is one - for a few reasons:
  • Felt making is an autumn/winter occupation for me as it is a very physical activity with all the rolling that is necessary to felt the wool
  • I need to devote a whole morning to making a few pieces
  • I need to clear the whole of the table to work on
  • I made so much for the craft fair a few years ago, I am a bit 'felted out' still and I am just not feeling all that inspired to make felt pieces at the moment
Lino printing and silk painting are other hobbies which I am not doing at the moment either, even though I do enjoy them.  Jewellery making was also something I was doing a lot of (and spending a lot on, of course!), but now it is more if I need something for a birthday or something for me (I do need to make some blue earrings for myself).

My other crafts are easier to set up and tidy away and I can do some of them for just a few minutes should I need to.  Of course, this doesn't mean I won't come back to felting (particularly in the autumn and winter) but that other things have more of an interest to me at present.
 I am loving the gelli plate printing and have been following a tutorial and making 'galaxies' as well as learning more about layers.   
Here are some of my galaxy prints.  I also created some interesting ghost prints on the way to making these.
 I am continuing to work in my art journals - the rainbow textured page above...
...and the printed page below are two of my most recent (the washi tape says 'let's enjoy this day' but doesn't show up well in the photo).  I really enjoy the way I can pick up a page, do a bit and then put it down again as the mood strikes me.  Card making is always useful and I shall continue that too - little projects that have a finished product as well as an enjoyable process.
So, I shall continue with the hobbies that I am interested in and no doubt, there will be more activities which come and go with time.  One great thing about hobbies though, they will wait patiently until you pick them up again.