Saturday 30 March 2013

Happy Easter

 Here is my Easter celebration 'tree' which has been a joint 'Foster' creation.  I decided I wanted something to hang felt (and other) decorations from and found a simple tree design in a craft book (Sew Pretty Christmas Homestyle - details on amazon, here), showed the picture and instructions to Chris, who then went off and made it and I love it.  He is great!  I then had the fun of making decorations for it.
 I found the little bird and rabbit pegs at Paperchase and thought they would be perfect for securing the decorations and for looking lovely by themselves.  I made the felt eggs and flowers using my own hand made felt (of course) and hand embroidery.
 I have made several decorations in different colours.  I also spotted some commercially made egg decorations so added a few of those too.  The lovely daffodils were provided as an Easter gift by my work colleague, Leanne, (a big thank you to her)and have made all the difference to the display.
I feel that I need more flowers though, and then there are chicks and rabbits to make - although I probably need to make some more felt first. (They'll perhaps be ready for next year!)  Of course, my 'tree' will be useful at other times of the year too, so may well appear in other posts.
Happy Easter!

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Finished project and learning new skills

 This is a post of celebration because I have actually finished my Spring bunting!  I know, I have actually finished a project!  Just to prove it, here it is, draped rather unsuccessfully on the door.  I am really pleased with it and am looking forward to decorating the mirror with it.
I couldn't resist putting it on the mirror, just to see what it looked like. Even though it is not Spring-like at all outside, but we are so thankful to have missed the awful blizzards in the North, the Easter weekend will see the bunting going up, even if it is still in the only-just-plus temperatures outside.
I am also quite excited because I have signed up for a beginners' crochet workshop in May and also a spinning taster session (spinning wool using a spinning wheel).  I have a sister and a mum who have both got spinning wheels and we also have plenty of wool, so I thought it would be sensible to have a go and see how I get on.  If it is something I get the hang of, I can spin wool to use in my felt making or crochet (see, it is all linked in, really).  Chris is hopefully signing up to a two day stained glass making course, so that will give him a creative weekend to look forward to. Here's to learning new skills!

Saturday 23 March 2013

Wombat Friday, Jane Morris and extolling the virtues of lemon curd

Here is my offering for this week's Wombat Friday.  Accompanying my wombat today is the painting 'Proserpine' by Dante Gabriel Rossetti - the first painting of his that made an impression back in my teenage years.  He painted several versions of this image of Jane Morris and I was fascinated by the colour of her dress, ranging from teal green, through green/turquoise and purple/blue, depending on which version you see.  I was also fascinated by the model - feminine but with a masculine jaw.  Was she real and if she was, did she really look like that?  Yes and yes was the answer.
Jane Morris was the wife of William Morris (the Victorian version of a 'Renaissance Man') and she really did look like that.  I was particularly envious of her beautiful curls as my hair was (and still is) fine and straight as a poker.
I have also managed to include cake this Friday, which is homemade lemon curd and buttercream sponge.  The lemon curd came about as I had been seeing it on various blogs which I follow and decided I needed to make some.  Having bought lemons, I set to, following Nigel Slater's recipe ( link here):

Nigel Slater's LEMON CURD
Most lemon curd recipes instruct you to stir the mixture with a wooden spoon. I find that stirring lightly with a whisk introduces just a little more lightness into the curd, making it slightly less solid and more wobbly.

Makes 2 small jam jars
zest and juice of 4 unwaxed lemons
200g sugar
100g butter
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk

Put the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and the butter, cut into cubes, into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the basin doesn't touch the water. Stir with a whisk from time to time until the butter has melted.

Mix the eggs and egg yolk lightly with a fork, then stir into the lemon mixture. Let the curd cook, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes, until it is thick and custard-like. It should feel heavy on the whisk.

Remove from the heat and stir occasionally as it cools. Pour into spotlessly clean jars and seal. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

 It made two and a half small jars of the most delicious, mouth watering lemon curd.  I didn't have unwaxed lemons, so just omitted the zest (I don't really like 'bits' in the lemon curd anyway).  I am going to make some sponge buns with lemon curd in their middle as I think that would be gorgeous too.  With the weather the way it is at the moment, and winter still very much in charge, we all need some sunshine, whether in the floral form of daffodils, or the edible form of lemon curd.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Sunshine in the garden (briefly)

 The sun shone, briefly, yesterday and what a difference it made to the hyacinth and crocuses. 
 They had been tightly curled up in bud for quite some time, but a bit of sunshine and they suddenly unfurled their petals and revealed their beauty.
Cream Beauty really is just that, with the contrasting orange centres.
This is my favourite photo as it shows the delicate veining on the petals  - beautiful while the sunshine lasted.
However, they are all tightly shut again now as we have had snow today!

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Spring/Easter swap

I have just taken part in my third swap of the year which was organised by Joy over at Welcome to Daisy Row ; this time a Spring/Easter swap.  The idea was to fill an ice cream carton with lots of goodies with a Spring/Easter theme.  Once we had our partners, we emailed and my partner was Jean from Talking Beads .  Once we were ready, we did email again to check all was on schedule and at that point I admitted a couple of things wouldn't fit in the carton and she said she wasn't going to use the carton, so that was all fine!  I received my parcel yesterday and with a lot of excitement, opened it up.  Red tissue and lovely red ribbon greeted me, followed by red gingham material.
It was a bit like pass the parcel!
 Once I had opened that, here's what I found.  Individually wrapped packages and a lovely card.
 Inside the packages were: a bag of chocolate eggs, a yellow scented candle, a notebook with a beautifully hand made cover and my challenge - a seed bead necklace kit in a lovely spring green.  I have never made a seed bead necklace, so Jean was right, it will be a challenge!  Thank you so much to Jean for these lovely gifts and for being such a lovely swap partner!
So, what did I send?
My parcel was a bit squashy looking because I chose a very nice but rather flimsy cotton checked material to wrap it in.
 (I did have to pack the things quite carefully, and not all would go in!)
Here's the selection of Spring/Easter bits and pieces (including, of course, a felt decoration and some earrings made by me!) that I sent.  It was great fun to be involved in this swap, so thank you to Joy for organising it.

Friday 15 March 2013

My first Wombat Friday

 Yes, I know, this is rather an odd title for a post.  I blame Kirsty at The Kissed Mouth and Stephanie at Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood for making this such an irresistible idea!  I am supposed to include cake on Wombat Friday too, but have failed at that part.  Still, I have got a toy wombat (who is really sweet and is nameless at the moment) and a Pre-Raphaelite painting.  Now before you all click away, shaking your heads and thinking "She's flipped!", a wombat was one of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's favourite animals and he had a real one.  In case you are not familiar with Mr Rossetti, he was a Victorian artist and poet and one of the founder members of the Pre-Raphaelites.  I love their work and their draughtsmanship was phenomenal; in my opinion, they created some of the most beautiful drawings of women ever made.
I have had a long relationship with the Pre-Raphaelites; I first saw April Love by Arthur Hughes (in the background) in a book in the school library when I was about 16, I think, and from then on, have been a huge fan.  I was lucky enough to go to the major Tate Exhibition in 1984, which made a big impression, as it was so full of vibrant colour.  The early works are known for this vivid colour and extreme realism and it is difficult to find reproductions which do the originals justice.  In reality, the purple of the girl's dress is stunning - a wonderful mixture of lilac, purple, blue. 
I have since collected (and am still collecting) many books about them - both the artists and their wives and models - and find more and more fascinating information out about them.  I have always enjoyed social history and have a particular love of the Victorian age.  The women involved in the group and those who were influenced by them also hold a fascination for me.  Who were they? Where did they come from? What happened to them?  I have enjoyed being able to find out.
So, here's to Wombat Fridays - perhaps I may not be able to join in every week, but I'll do my best.
If you are interested in the Pre-Raphaelites, both of the above mentioned blogs are excellent.
Also, a huge welcome to my recent new followers - I hope you will enjoy reading my blog.

Sunday 10 March 2013

Thoughts of Spring (in the depths of Winter...still!) and a meditation on Works in Progress

 I know that people in the UK are famed for their obsession with the weather.  This is a fact and one which I am not going to dispute.  I am going to conform to this stereotype and talk about the weather (briefly).  As I write, there is a covering of snow outside with a freezing wind coming from Siberia and winter has definitely decided to show it is not over yet.  So, to cheer myself up, I shall allow my thoughts to stray to lovely Spring-like patterns of material.
 As you know, I am someone who likes to have lots of hobbies and projects on the go.  This is all very well, but having so many things that I enjoy means that I have to spread my time between them and consequently, there are many, many works in progress.  I do occasionally finish some of them, but there are many more in my head as well as started and not finished.  You may remember that I did make some Christmas bunting which I actually finished and was pleased with, despite some slight problems with measuring.  I had a brainwave the other day and rashly suggested to Chris how nice it would be to have seasonal bunting to add some colour to our rather neutral sitting room.  He agreed and off I went to order some material to add to the rather interesting stash I already have (much of which is not suitable for this project).  These photos show the results of my internet shopping.
They are chintzy and floral and gorgeous! I am particularly fond of the paisley inspired one in the photo above.  Now all I have to do is to get on with the bunting making.  Oh, I also need to make some things for the Spring/Easter swap which needs to be posted this week, oh, and make some jewellery, oh, and then I would really like to learn to crochet so that I can make some flowers and then there is the Kumihimo braiding I need to do and the wirework...*Sigh*...rolls eyes heavenwards...

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Gardening Plans

 I have been busy making plans for my little garden this year.  I have decided that I am going to attempt to grow a few more edible things so have bought two more blueberry plants (compact and designed for pots) called Blue Pearl, from Marshalls, which arrived safely and are waiting for the weather to be a bit warmer before being planted in their larger pots.  I have also been inspired by the RHS book Grow your own crops in Pots (which I bought very cheaply from The Book People ) ...
...and also ordered three autumn fruiting raspberry canes (variety Joan J) which arrived yesterday and I am considering braving the cold to get them in a pot too.  Apparently, according to the book, autumn fruiting raspberries will grow well in a large tub and should last about ten years, which is fantastic. 
 I am also going to have a go at growing beetroot too, because I discovered that I really like raw beetroot grated in a salad (but I do not like pickled beetroot at all!). 
Not forgetting the flowers, however, I have ordered phlox plants as I have two in the garden which did really well despite the awful summer last year.  I have also treated myself to an oriental Poppy, Plum Pudding, from Thompson and Morgan.  There will also be cosmos, sweet peas (my first time growing from seed) and a multitude of other things which are in my seed box.  I pruned my clematis and roses last Saturday, on a gloriously sunny afternoon, so got things underway.
I am really looking forward to this growing season and I hope it will be a successful one for all of us gardeners. 
In my excitement, I nearly forgot to mention the photos - the top one is a double snowdrop from my garden and the daffodil and hyacinth planter was a belated but extremely welcome birthday present which is reminding me that Spring isn't too far away.  There were also some Lindt chocolate rabbits and a Lindt carrot nestled in the moss as well! Chocolate and plants - does life get much better than this? 

Saturday 2 March 2013

Four Happy Things Swap

 I recently took part in Bobo Bun's Four Happy Things swap which was great fun.  The idea was to include one thing from childhood, one thing in your favourite colour, one thing vintage/retro and one thing handmade.  I was partnered up with the lovely simply vintage and we emailed a couple of times and then it was all systems go.
The parcels were duly exchanged and the unwrapping began! I was extremely lucky and received some beautiful gifts.  Above is the childhood collection - sweets, ribbons and little gardening buttons all in a Flower Fairy tin.  I loved the Flower Fairy books when I was little.
The vintage thing was four beautiful embroidered napkins, in lovely seasonal Spring colours.
The favourite colour thing was an egg shaped tin containing an egg shaped soap.
The handmade thing was a ribbon bookmark, made by simply vintage, with a ladybird on one end and a leaf on the other.  As a wonderful added extra, she had added a book, all about gardening tips.  
 Here it all is - wasn't I lucky again?  Thank you so much to simply vintage, who was a perfect and very generous swap partner. 
What did I send?
 Here are my four happy things waiting to be wrapped for posting.
 The childhood thing - Lindt chocolate (I remember little Lindt moulded animals with flat backs, which tasted creamy and gorgeous, from when I was little) and Iced Gems (which were PARTY FOOD to me, as we only had them when there was a party).
 My vintage thing was this cake plate from the 1930s/1940s or thereabouts.
 The favourite colour thing was a blue macrame bracelet with agate, sodalite, fire agate, lapis lazuli, aventurine, quartzite and a polymer clay bead.
The handmade thing was a felt heart made from the wool of my sister's sheep (well, you knew that jewellery and felt would be featuring, didn't you?)
I really enjoyed this swap, so many thanks to Mrs Bun for organising it and to my swap partner, who was fantastic.