Tuesday 26 June 2012

Historical Costumes (and dolls)

 You may remember that I posted photos of some of the materials and dresses that Mum had which had been passed down through the family.  Mum decided that she would like some dolls made up in historically accurate (or as near as possible) costumes and as luck would have it, a maker of such dolls lives in the nearby town.  Her details and more information can be found on her website:   http://www.costumecavalcade.co.uk/   So, Mum commissioned her and here are a couple of the results, with photos of the originals.  This Regency dress is intact and I did once fit in it (it was in 1988!).
It is hand sewn and made from pale pinky/beige silk, with cotton lining.

 Here is the finished doll, in a very similar dress, although the material is a little thicker than in the original. She wears a straw bonnet with feather and has a lace shawl and a reticule.
 The back view, showing more of the bonnet and shawl.
 The other piece of material is from around 1750 (there was a label pinned to the piece which said it was a wedding dress).  The colours are so vibrant and the pattern is so dramatic, it was hard to picture a dress made from it.
 Here it is, in the 1750 style, with laced bodice and stomacher.  The artist scanned the material into her computer and printed the pattern onto some material - you can see the swooping shapes, even though the colours are not as strong as the original.
 The back view shows the attention to detail (if you enlarge the photo).
This close up shows the detail from the original material. 
There is another doll too, but I haven't yet taken photos of the original dress to compare.  When I do, I'll post it.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Midsummer blues - or should that be pinks?

 Here we are, at Midsummer.  Drought conditions have now been lifted in this area and parts of the North are under flood warnings - just a typical English summer.  However, I am pleased to say that my garden is doing well, despite the rain and wind and occasional sun.  Above is Poppy 'Checkers' which I grew from seed and is now in its second year.  The flowers aren't quite as big as they were last year, but still delight me.
 Clematis 'Ice Blue' with a hint of lilac on the petals...
 ...contrasted with Clematis 'Rouge Cardinal' and its deep luscious velvety tones.
 Cistus pulverentus 'Sunset', with a fiery glow.
 R. 'Rosa Mundi' which combines the pale and vibrant pinks to great effect.
 The delicate pastel pinks of R. 'Blush Noisette', which has small sprays of ruffled flowers...
 ...and R. Cottage Rose continues this pale theme, but with larger flowers.
Finally, R. 'New Dawn', with a flush of pale apricot amongst the soft pink.  Midsummer is a lovely time of year, despite the vagaries of the weather.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Open Gardens (part two)

 Still in the first garden we visited, in the more shady areas, there were lots of foxgloves, also alive with the sound of bees.
 Looking up through one of the trees in the orchard area.
 The second garden we visited was not quite so large, but was still cleverly sectioned off into smaller areas.  I was very envious of the lovely iris display the owners had.
 The third garden looked small but went around the back of the house and had room for a vegetable plot, pleached lime walk and rather a nice vista at the start.
It also had a gate, leading into the rest of the garden.  Looking at these photos, I am obviously drawn to doors or gates in walls.  This is partly because they frame the view beyond so well, but mainly because I read The Secret Garden far too much and this longing for a secret garden of my own has stayed with me.
 A very tranquil part of the garden with harmonious shades of green and white.
Even the stables (no horses now) were pretty, thanks to a covering of climbing roses.  I thought that the mounting block steps were crying out for some terracotta pots of red geraniums on each step.  I seem to think that image comes from Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit, but it could also be influenced by The Little White Horse, except the geraniums in that book were salmon pink.
What a wonderful way to spend a lovely afternoon (and the cakes were delicious too!)

Monday 18 June 2012

Open Gardens (part one)

 My second proper garden visit this year (there have been lots of gardens open since April, but for various reasons, including the weather, I haven't managed a lot of visiting).  I love the Open Gardens idea - where several gardens in a village, or in an area, open their doors and are usually accompanied by home made cakes and tea and possibly even a plant stall. This one was in a village 20 minutes or so away and the contrast between the city and countryside couldn't have been greater.  In the village, all we could hear were birds singing and the occasional dog barking.  In the city, we hear police sirens, cars speeding along, people shouting, dogs barking (but a lot of them) and a constant level of noise.  I suppose the city has some advantages - in the snow, we don't get cut off, we can always walk to work if the car won't start and we can always get to the shops for the necessities of life.  I do love the peacefulness of the country though.
The first two photos are from the Quaker Meeting House in the village, which really did have an air of tranquility.  There was a small graveyard in the garden which was so beautiful and was lovingly cared for.
 This iris in the Quaker Meeting House garden caught my eye.  I do like irises but don't have the space for them.  This one really did have velvety petals.

 The next few photos are from my favourite garden.  The path up to the house had lavender either side and through the door in the wall, I went into garden with a lawn and some lovely trees.
 Then another door in a wall called me on, giving a glimpse of a purple haze of nepeta, alive with buzzing bees.
Through the doorway, this is the sight that greeted me - roses, eremurus and more nepeta, flanked by the yew sentinels.
Everywhere I looked there was another photogenic area.

 A stripy rose - Variegata di Bologna, I think.  If only I had room for one like this at home...

 I think this view could grace the cover of a posh gardening magazine.  Just gorgeous.

Looking back down along the path to the yew shapes.
We were so lucky with the weather too, as earlier in the day, huge grey clouds hovered menacingly just where we were heading.  Happily, once we arrived, the sun decided to join us.
 More photos in my next post.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Blooming lovely!

June is one of my favourite months due to the abundance of roses (even with the rather wet weather we have had lately).  I seem to have mainly pink roses in the garden - not a conscious choice - however, I do have one yellow rose and a couple of white and red stripy roses too, although none of them are out yet.  Above is R. Geoff Hamilton which is very disease resistant, but its flowers do not like the rain at all.
Here is R. Cottage Rose, which has a delicate fragrance and a lovely flower form.
 R. Gertrude Jekyll which is a stronger pink and has a strong fragrance too - really delicious.
 A small handful of roses with R. Margaret Merrill in the centre, which has a beautiful fragrance. The perfume can certainly give Gertrude a run for her money.
Here they are in the mini milk crate, perfuming the sitting room and reminding me why I like June, despite it having been wet, cold and dull so far this year. 

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Swamp Juice

 No, not a recipe for a strange drink, but a fantastically good shadow puppet show by Jeff Achtem which we saw last Friday night. Chris had seen (and been involved in - audience participation) a show he gave in Edinburgh at the Festival two years ago, and was sure that I would enjoy the latest show. The puppeteer is quite a strange character but he is amazingly inventive with his puppets and the way in which he manipulates them.  He spoke to the audience in a gruff, guttural way which took me a little while to decide I liked, but when he spoke as himself at the end of the performance, he had a quiet voice with a Canadian accent, so the previous incarnation was very much part of his performance.  He used all of his body including his hair, which became part of a snail and he also operated the lights with his toes.  The puppetry skills he demonstrated were incredible, especially as the puppets were created out of all sorts of bits and pieces.  Some of  the audience members were involved and became the bottom of the swamp/sea which gave the rest of the audience members who weren't involved, some good comedy moments.  Although this was a show for children, it had plenty to keep the adults amused too.  I was a little concerned when I saw all the very small children coming in, but actually, they were as transfixed as the rest of us!  He gave us a warning before the scary monster appeared, and the children could see that it was him actually manipulating the puppets, which helped those of a nervous disposition.
The back of the flyer shows some of the puppets he used.  The story was simple but effective (although I wanted to know what the motivation of the main character was - why was he so unpleasant - but Chris said I was over thinking it!) and the 3D finale was a real show stopper - if you have never had a shadow puppet fish come right at you, you haven't lived!  (He even lent us 3D glasses although we were asked to give them back and not 'nick them').  All in all, I would thoroughly recommend this show for the family and above are the remaining venues he is visiting, just in case there is one near you!  Here is a link to a preview of the show to whet your appetite:

Sunday 10 June 2012

Fantastic Meal at The Jackson Stops

 Yesterday, we had a family celebration for my eldest sister's birthday at a lovely country pub just off the A1 at Stretton, in Rutland.  The above photo is from their website: http://www.thejacksonstops.com/  . 
Being a vegetarian, I sometimes find my choices can be a little restricted and I often have to plump for a roasted pepper.  I have had some truly awful roasted pepper dishes, but not yesterday.  In fact, it was one of, if not the best, I have tasted. It was beautifully cooked, all lovely and soft, with a mixture of sweet potato and mushrooms in the filling and some delicious sauces - cheese and beetroot.  It was delicious. 
As I am really a pudding/dessert girl, and given the choice, would probably be happy with two puddings as a lunch (or dinner),  the choice of pudding was very difficult. 
In the end, Chris chose the pear poached in pear cider with ice cream and biscotti and a berry compote, while I went for the brandy snap basket with peach and mango ice cream and tropical fruit.  I know it is a bit sad to take photos of  puddings, but they were so lovely, I just had to, so that I could share them with you!
Having two different choices meant that we could share them, which was an added treat! I can vouch for the delicious-ness (that's probably not even a word, but it should be) of them both!  I think we'll have to go again...

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee celebrations - sort of

 Like everyone else, we have watched the jubilee celebrations this weekend - from the wet Thames sail-past, via the concert to the service and appearance on the balcony and the fly past by the amazing planes.  However, my post doesn't really have much to do with all that (although Chris did wave a flag while sitting in his chair in front of the TV, if that counts).  This is all about a vegan chocolate tart which I made for lunch with Rachael yesterday, before she heads off to London.  Amazingly, this recipe was by Jamie Oliver and was actually called a vegan chocolate tart.  Anyone who is a vegan, or knows a vegan will realise how difficult it is to find yummy recipes that everyone else would enjoy too.  Such is this one.  The filling is rich and smooth, made with soya milk, cornflour, sugar, dark chocolate and vanilla essence.  The pastry is made in the usual way, but has icing sugar and ginger in it.
 I had enough pastry left over to make some individual tartlets.
Here it is with the recommended accompaniment of baked rhubarb.  You only need a very small piece of the tart as it is so rich and I used half the amounts in the original recipe.  I have to admit, the pastry caused me a bit of a headache as it was really hard, more like a biscuit than pastry, but I think this was down to the addition of the water (too much) and the way the icing sugar reacted (by going very squidgy).
 Not exactly red, white and blue - more like lilac, pink and purple, but these are some of the flowers blooming away at the moment in the garden.  I treated myself to the lovely mini-milk crate from   dotcom giftshop  as I saw one on a blog that I follow ( Helen Philipps ) and just decided that I needed one!  I love flowers and beautiful floral arrangements, but can't quite get the hang of them myself.  So, this is perfect!

From top left: geranium (probably Johnson's Blue), purple viola, Rose 'Geoff Hamilton, bottom right: chive flower and Clematis Arabella, Clematis 'Crystal Fountain' and Geranium Oxonianum.  I think the colours are lovely (even if they aren't traditionally patriotic).

Saturday 2 June 2012

New Felt work

 It was my friend and colleague, Rachael's, last day at work yesterday before she goes off to 'that London' to pursue a new life. She had suggested that I should try my hand at a felt decoration with an ethnic feel, using ribbons and bells and rich colours.  So, I thought it might make a good present for her new room in London.  I had already made lovely rich red felt, so I machined the ribbons on (it was quite a challenge trying to keep the stitching straight!), added sequins and a bell at the bottom of the plaited cotton.
Chris suggested that the back needed a little something, and he was quite right, so I added some embroidery and more sequins.  I think Rachael liked it and it was a new challenge for me.