Friday, 15 February 2019

This and that

 Star plant at the moment has to be this rather glamorous Hippeastrum.  I showed a photo of it just starting to flower, but look at it now!  It certainly makes a dramatic statement.
 There are more buds yet to open, so I hope to enjoy it for a while yet.
I had a birthday recently, so have been making some thank you cards.  I have really enjoyed making these - some with stamps, some with dies and some with embossing powders.  I have also been steadily adding to my crafting stash!
I am off to see some snowdrops on Sunday, which for me is the start of the gardening season proper.  I'm not sure where we are going yet, but there are several gardens to choose from locally. 

Sunday, 10 February 2019

More pink, white and green

You may remember this camellia bud from my last post.  I was worried about it as temperatures were due to fall and frost was forecast.  I found some fleece and rushed out to make it a little cover.  Thank goodness, I was just in time.
 I was in the garden this afternoon, pruning my autumn fruiting raspberries and tidying up hellebore leaves.  The sun came out and it was lovely.
I saw the pink of the camellia bud through the its fleecy coat, took it off and here's what was underneath!  No sign of being frosted and a pretty double flower. (No good for early insects, but with a fleece jacket, they wouldn't have been able to get to it anyway). 
 The combination of snowdrops and cyclamen coum in a pot always lifts the spirits.
 The winter flowering honeysuckle keeps on flowering (since December 2018), so is doing incredibly well.  It does need sun on the flowers to really get the scent, but even without the sun,  if you get your nose close enough, you do get a waft of that lily of the valley gorgeousness.
Exciting news inside the house too.  I was given this Hippeastrum at Christmas, potted it up, watered it and have been watching it develop buds.  I think it is supposed to be red and white stripes, but I will see when it opens.  Last week, there was no sign of any colour in the buds except green, so it has come on quickly.  Oooh, the anticipation...

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Green, white and a hint of pink

 The snowdrops have been growing away recently and I took this shot a few days ago.  They aren't quite as upright now.
 I noticed my camassia bulbs coming through too, again, this was a few days ago.
 This is what the blueberries looked like this morning.  We had a frost and the coldest night of the winter so far.  Now I know that -5 degrees centigrade is not really cold, particularly when America is suffering -30 degrees centigrade, but -5 is cold enough for me. 
 Hydrangea Annabelle always looks elegant, even with dead flowerheads.  They look really sculptural with a layer of frost.
My palm won;t really be liking the cold, but its frosty leaves made a nice pattern.
Rhododendron Tinkerbird edged with white.
 Even the stainless steel spheres looked a bit more magical and mysterious than usual.
 So, there is the green and white.  Where's the pink?  Well, my camellias are trying to flower despite the temperatures and the fact that it is only January (February tomorrow).
 I really hope the bud survives the weather as it looks as though it will be a pretty flower.  I should really have fleeced it - I hope it's not too late!
Another sort of green - peridot and sterling silver earrings.  The pair on the right went to a colleague at work and the pair on the left went to my mum in law.  They both have August birthdays.  I think they liked them.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Projects List for 2019 (and probably beyond)

Being a person who enjoys lots of hobbies, (some might say 'Jack of All Trades, Master of None' and there may be an element of truth in that, but I like to do different things, depending on my mood) I have many projects in my head that I would like to complete during this year (there may be too many for one year, so this may need to continue into 2020...).  I have written them in my hobbies book, but thought it would be a good idea to share them here too.
Are you sitting comfortably?  Then I'll begin (shades of Listen with Mother...theme music here (Berceuse from Faure's Dolly Suite) - I do remember listening to this, but not until the early 1970s.) After that little meander down memory lane, let's get started.

  • a proper patchwork quilt (my first ever and a small one to start with)
  • a hexagon cushion cover in shades of blue (I have just got some hexagon templates to help with this)
  • three more pinafores - denim, stars cord and cat material (which will need lining I think, so that is another challenge)
  • stretch fabric tunic dresses (my first attempt at sewing with stretch fabric) 
  • using jelly roll strips in some way (yet to be decided)
  • Kantha embroidery kit
  • four crewel embroidery kits (I seem to have quite a collection of these, but haven't actually got round to starting any of them!)
  • mend toys - Panda bear and Gonga (he is the knitted rabbit pictured above in his new clothes). (Both 40+ years old and showing signs of neglect.  Panda bear had holes in him and is literally threadbare in places, but I have darned what I can and patched over the holes.  Poor Gonga also had many holes in him which I started to repair years ago, but got distracted by other things.  He now has new trousers and a new tie.  Both look much smarter and properly cared for now.)

  • make a thread catcher basket (actually completed as I had the pieces all cut out, just needed to sew them up.  I do like making these little fabric baskets/boxes.  This is my favourite cats in glasses material, also destined to become a pinafore at some point)

  • seasonal hare decorations (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, with appropriate charms and gemstones)

  • pompom wreath or two (I have actually started this and am enjoying making the pompoms.  I am also trying to secure the wool threads by stitching around the wool which ties the strands together).  Pompoms are such happy things - even the name sounds happy)
  • polymer clay muse/icon figure (this is still forming in my mind, but it has to have jewel colours, silver, wings, positive words, a crown or halo and a serene face.  I am especially inspired by Laurie Mika's work and I have her book, which is lovely. I may start with a 2D plaque, but would like to make a 3D figure at some stage)
  • make a canvas with favourite floral papers in a grid of squares
  • keep working on current art journal
  • begin another art journal
  • Christmas leaf wreath using different papers and card


  • bracelets with sterling silver spacers, either macrame or knotted cord
  • multigem earrings
  • multigem bracelet
  • multigem kumihimo necklace
  • rainbow moonstone bracelet with sterling silver spacers (and matching earrings)
  • blue goldstone knotted/macrame necklace
There will also be gardening this year, naturally, and reading.  There will also be card making too. Looking at the list, perhaps it may be a little ambitious (!).  Still, it's always good to have things to aim for. I will post my progress now and again and see how I get on.
I have also tried to increase my creativity so that I am doing something every day, even though it might only be something small, like sewing a button on, or wrapping wool to make a pom pom.  I can watch the TV and still be making/doing/thinking about creative projects and I am really enjoying that.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

January in the garden

 It is always lovely to wander round the garden and see what is growing.  Owing to the relatively mild winter weather so far (this is apparently set to change from next week), some plants from last summer are still flowering and winter plants are also growing too.  My favourite flowers for this time of the year,  snowdrops, are starting to push through which always make me happy.
 Small clumps of snowdrops are all around the garden - you can never have too many in my opinion!  I do like the named varieties with their different markings, but for reliability, you can't beat Galanthus nivalis, the 'common' variety.  (How can something this elegant can be called 'common'?  That is just wrong!)
My young replacement winter flowering jasmine is flowering too and I will get the poor thing planted in the border at some stage.  It is a bit of a birds' nest of a plant as it can become very straggly, but my previous one, which had to come out when the wall was rebuilt,  was very forgiving and I did hack at it without much planning.  The burst of bright yellow is so welcome on a dull winter day.
Camellia Yoimachi is becoming a regular feature at the moment and I make no apologies for this as it is a beautiful plant.  It has been flowering since December and apart from moving it out of full sun in the summer, it has been left to its own devices.  It has rewarded me with lots of these stunning flowers which shine out at the bottom of the garden.
It is just so pretty.  I am going to repot it in Spring and hopefully will enjoy a repeat performance next autumn and winter. 

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Recent crafting

I have been doing a bit of crafting recently.  Before Christmas, I made a variety of cards using stamps, embossing powders, die cuts and ink.  The ones I used most were the simple trees - two die cut trees on the front and a glittery one inside.
 I made these decorations inspired by a post on the Folksy blog, using letter tiles glued together.  Chris helped me by drilling the holes in them.  They looked great on the seasonal tree.
 This macrame bracelet was for a colleague at work and was a little more delicate than some I have made, as I used 6mm gemstones in blue and silver.
 I made some snowdrop thank you cards too, using a stamp.
I have also made a bracelet for myself, using black spinel and silver spacers.  I think I need some more of these in different colours!
I have lots of ideas for different crafting projects I would like to complete this year, but will save them for another post...

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Happy New Year 2019

Happy New Year to all - let us hope that 2019 will bring us moments of peace, joy and happiness.  Welcome to new followers and welcome back to those who have been followers for a while.
(Big Ben ringing in the New Year this morning/last night)

Today, as has become a bit of a tradition, I review various aims from last year and think about this coming year.  (These aren't really resolutions, as I find they don't last very long with me!)
  • Make more felt - this didn't happen, because I had made so much for the craft fair the previous year and was a bit felted out!  I may do some again this year, but this will be as and when inspiration and inclination hit me.
  • Read interesting books - yes, I have done this again!  102 books in total this year, many re-reads but some new to me.  Quite a few crime thrillers have featured, balanced by romantic stories too.  I have enjoyed the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde and am on number six now.  The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths was enjoyable, as was the Peter Grant series number seven, Lies Sleeping.  I wonder what 2019 will hold - certainly the first in the Cormoran Strike series...
  • Be Creative - I think this has definitely happened and will continue in 2019.  I have been sewing, gardening, reading, making cards, making jewellery, making gifts, creating an art journal (on-going) and have also completed four online leisure courses with FutureLearn (History of Royal Fashion, History of Royal Food and Feasting, Jane Austen and Introduction to Music Psychology, which was my favourite so far.  I have signed up to one starting in February - Literature of the English Country House - which I am looking forward to.  I would like to sign up for one on weather for gardeners, but that doesn't appear to be available at the moment.  I really enjoy the creative side of my life and find it has become increasingly important to me.
  • Get rid of/donate things I do not want or need - I have been doing this but need to do more of it this year.  Alongside this, I also need to stop being so precious with my various stashes for my various hobbies and actually use the things I have (that's why I bought them, after all!).  As part of this aim, I am going to make myself a tunic using stretch fabric (something I have not used before and am a bit wary of).  I have the pattern and material, so I shall make that a definite aim for this year.  I also have quite a few kits for sewing/crewel work which I haven't yet started, so I need to start with some of them too.
Phew, I think this year is going to be a busy one for me.  

(Part of the firework display at the London Eye )

I hope 2019 will be a good year for us all.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Merry Christmas 2018

Merry Christmas to all blog readers and commenters (who celebrate this festive season).

As has become my Christmas tradition, I again quote from one of my favourite Christmas carols, "It came upon the midnight clear" written by Edmund Sears in 1849. 

"Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not 
The love song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing." 
 To end on a positive, I again quote from Desiderata (a 1927 prose poem by Max Ehrmann):
"...And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."
(Photos are of some of our decorations - some quite a few years old now...)
I hope we all have a peaceful New Year.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Christmas reading 2018

I wrote about my favourite Christmas reading back in December 2010 (you can read the post here).  They are: The Wind in the Willows, Little Women, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Children of Green Knowe, The Pickwick Papers and A Christmas Carol.While I have revisited some of these books so far this December (The Children of Green Knowe and A Christmas Carol), I have added another to the list. This is The Box of Delights by John Masefield (those of you of a certain age will remember the BBC dramatisation with what was then cutting edge animation).  I may also sneak in A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley as the story includes some wonderful descriptions of Christmas feasts and entertainment.
I really enjoy revisiting these books and in fact,  I get a great deal of pleasure re-reading many of my books.  I am quite a quick reader, which means that sometime I miss things the first time round.  I do view my books as old friends, ready to welcome me back in, no matter how long I have been away.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Winter plants

 I was continuing the rather time consuming job of insulating my many pots and tubs today.  I have left it a bit late this year because up to now, the weather has been reasonably mild. However, it is definitely colder this week and the forecast said there might be snow at the weekend, so I thought I should get a few more done today.  I managed about six before I got too cold.  While I was having a wander, I noticed some winter plants flowering.  Above is the winter honeysuckle, a shrubby and rather untidy plant, but I forgive it everything when it's in flower.  The flowers, though small, smell beautifully of lily of the valley, particularly when the sun is on them.
 This one is flowering a little earlier than usual, as it is normally January and February.
 My camellia 'Yoimachi' (which I bought last year) is flowering away too.  The flowers are white with a pink flush and lovely yellowy-orange stamens.
 The buds have that same flush of pink too.
They are so pretty and brightened up a grey December day.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Creative things...

Recently, both Chris and I have been involved with creative things. For Chris' birthday, I made him the card above.  I do like stamping and die cutting (and knowing it's the only one in the world like that!)
 Chris was a workshop leader for the Drama students at the University where we work recently, where he presented a whirlwind guide to puppets. He had asked if I could make him some 'bunraku' style puppets for the students to use.  These are puppets which are manipulated by a group or team of puppeteers and each movement has to be carefully considered.  I managed to make enough for the group to use and Chris said they had really enjoyed using them and were surprised at how difficult it was.
 Chris excelled himself with this apple and quince pie which we took to Mum's when we went for Sunday lunch.  It was delicious and the quince, while not necessarily identifiable itself, really enhanced the apple flavour. Yum!
 I made myself a bookmark, using stamps and stencils.  It needs a nice blue ribbon to finish it off though...
Here's someone who has not been creative at all, but he contributes a lot to our household in his own way.  He does choose the most uncomfortable places to sleep though!

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Permission to play - Art Journal

I follow a very enthusiastic and colourful American mixed media artist called Carolyn Dube.  Her blog is here .  I noticed that she had a free tutorial (Permission to Play) in five parts on making an art journal using cardboard, paint, stamps, stencils, inks and whatever other art equipment you have lying about.  I looked at the introductory video and thought it looked really interesting and fun.  It has proved to be just that.  I am nowhere near finished but I am thoroughly enjoying the whole process.  She has a encouraged me to use my supplies that I had been hoarding (I had been a bit precious about many of my supplies for most of my hobbies, only wanting to use my best stuff for the perfect project - which seldom came along, if I am honest) and apply anything I want. If something isn't quite right, she calls it an OOPS (Outstanding Opportunity Presenting Suddenly) and reminds you that you can always add more until you are happy.  
I have been working away when I can, using stamps I have never used before, or have just got and loving every minute.  The second page in the photo above was a big OOPS when I painted it at first and I didn't like it at all, but I gessoed over the offending colours and then stamped and painted and it is much better now.
 The other good thing is that it is just cardboard which would end up in the recycling bin, so it really doesn't matter if it all goes wrong anyway.  The second page from the right above has my Blockwallah tree stamps on it.  They have been sitting patiently in a drawer for ages, so it is lovely to use them.
Carolyn has also sent some colourful patterned papers to use which can be ripped, cut up, collaged as you wish.  I used them on several pages.
As you can see, there is a long way to go yet.  The pages all need some colour and then there are stencils to add on top, and whatever else takes my fancy.  There's no right or wrong and this in itself is very freeing.  If your inner critic starts nagging, you also have permission to remind it that this is play.  If you are into mixed media and have paints, stamps, stencils and other art equipment, then I would definitely recommend this workshop (did I mention that it's free?)  If you are a facebook user, there is a facebook page linked to the workshop where you can see other journals.
I am really enjoying this and will post about progress again soon.