Monday, 30 June 2008

Hen Weekend...

I've just come back from a weekend away in York. The occasion was for one of my close friend's Hen Party and I won't lie and say I was looking forward to it! I don't really do 'girlie stuff'... although I may have acquired a taste for pink champagne.

It was a revelation! Boy, do those girls know how to shop! We pounded the pavements for the whole day on Saturday: dresses were bought for the wedding, hats were tried on and accessories were deliberated over. Fortunately, my outfit is sorted, although I have had my eyes opened to the world of fascinators. Although I have 2 perfectly good hats, either of which will go with my dress, I may have to join the trend and get a fascinator instead.

On Saturday night we ate at The Biltmore Bar and Grill. The food was excellent. I had asparagus to start, followed by halibut and then creme brulee (who wouldn't?). I'm a real sucker for tasteful table decoration and everything got a seal of approval!

It was all quite tame in the end, although it's obvious that late nights are much harder to cope with - there was a distinct quietness on the train coming home compared to the excited chatter that went on on the journey up on Friday. The train service from London is now much improved and it took less than 2 hours, so I would definitely go back and have another look around, Driftwood!

I'm sitting here (actually, I'm slumped) and thinking how on earth I'm going to find the energy to go to work...

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Summer cushions...

When I visited The Quilt Room a couple of months ago to buy the wadding for my Urban Garden Quilt, I also slipped into my basket a little fat eighth pack of Heather Bailey's Freshcut fabrics. The colours are so summery; they were too hard to resist not having a little piece of each!

I decided to give my garden furniture a revamp and came up with these quilted cushions. The plain and big spotty fabrics are from John Lewis and I got all 6 cushions out of a metre of each with some to spare. In fact, I've got enough of all the fabrics to make at least another 2 cushions. Enough to fit on each seat at the table.

I used some wadding off-cuts to give them a bit of body and hand-stitched along the seams with a running stitch. Then I bought some more of the Freshcut fabrics to make the binding.

In the past when I've made cushions, the faffing about with zips and other methods of closure has been my least favourite part of the process. So, at pains to avoid all the unnecessary swearing and stomping at unevenness in the zip department, I put my new found quilting skills to use by binding the layers together and just leaving a gap like a pillowcase in the back to slip in the pad. It works a treat and is stress-free.

So, along with a nice new pink tablecloth, the seating under my lovely pergola is rejuvenated and looking very inviting. It's strange, I've not really been in to pink before, but here I sit in my new pink crocs... I wonder if I bought them to coordinate with my cushions?

Sunday, 22 June 2008


Meet Monkey. I have not named him because as soon as he was finished he moved out. Not before I managed a quick photo shoot in the garden though.

He has gone to live with my nephew, who chose him from my Seriously Cute Amigurumi book that I raved about in this post.

I hope he is behaving himself and not getting up to any monkey business like over at Kitty's...

Thursday, 19 June 2008

New books...

Borders is a dangerous place. Dangerous on the purse, that is.

No2 and I ventured over there on Tuesday evening. He thinks that I will never say no to buying him books. Because it's good to read, isn't it? So, off he goes to browse in the children's section and comes back with a couple of novels. I am lost in the craft section, which they have recently moved and improved. So much so, I could have got a trolley and filled it. Books are good, right?

I drew the line at these 3 books, but I thought back to a previous post and the question of being a billionaire and it suddenly became clear to me that books, actually, might be high on the list! There were a couple of novels - buy one, get one half-price, so that's an order, right? Plus a few bit of stationery from Paperchase.

When we reached the checkout I noticed there were 2 other books hidden in the depths of a full basket - a Garfield cartoon book and The World's Funniest Headlines*. But they're books... Meanwhile, No2 created a suitable distraction by destroying a shelf full of something or other while I nearly fainted at the total and punched in my PIN number in a daze.

Anyway, I've been looking out for a paper-cutting book since I downloaded Emailorder #8 from AngryChicken. I played about with the sizing a bit so I could use all the designs to fit on a smaller card.

The heart one has become a favourite for anniversaries, although this one was for a girlie friend who likes all thing pink.

The rabbit on this one is supposed to hang on some string as though he is on a swing.

The book has some great templates in it for all sorts of occasions. There is a great one for Christmas - a string of jingle bells.

Changing the subject completely, did any of you watch Coldplay on BBC2 last night? I have played their new album, Viva La Vida, since Friday on my iPod. I'm obsessive like that. I love it. I have got tickets to see them at the O2 in December, I can't wait...

* From aforementioned World's Funniest Headlines:

Tornado rips through cemetery, hundreds dead.

I'm sorry, but I can't help keep laughing at that one...

Sunday, 15 June 2008

La Spinosa...

This time last year I had just returned from a wonderful long weekend away in Tuscany to celebrate my 40th birthday. I stayed in this beautiful farmhouse, being served delicious food, drinking wine produced from their own vineyards and relaxing with four of my close friends.

We spent a day in Florence - one of my favourite cities.

But mostly, we just sat about chatting and enjoying our child-free time! It was my second visit and I would go back again anytime. The family who run it are lovely; very laid back, but attentive at the same time and you are constantly reminded by the smells wafting from the kitchen about your next meal. GianFranco, who served our dinner each evening, always made us smile with the little ritual he performed each time he opened a bottle of wine (let me tell you, this was quite often!)

Since returning, I have hankered after all things La Spinosa. In a previous post I showed a pile of wood.
I have had a delivery from the marvellous Crocus.

I have found and bought some bargains in Homebase. On my first visit they were 50% off...after a couple of days deliberating, I went back to buy them and they had another 50% off PLUS, it was 10% off everything day! Bargain!

And now I have a pergola on my deck just like the ones at La Spinosa, where we would eat breakfast.

I decided to weave a couple of panels of reed fencing through the rafters until the grape vine gets established and does the job of shading the area underneath. The vines are planted together with scarlet geraniums and white lantana to keep the Mediterranean feel. The straggly-looking barrels just on the left of the photo have also been planted with scarlet geraniums so look brighter now the remains of spring's tulips and narcissi have been cut back.

A couple of weekends ago, we had a little reunion, and I cooked a meal inspired by what we had eaten last year. I made a pecorino and fig salad with a warm honey dressing from the Ottolenghi cookbook followed by roasted guinea fowl with rosemary new potatoes and green vegetables (although I made sure all my veg was British!). For dessert we had Gordon Ramsey's quick tiramisu. We drank the last of our wine stash brought home tucked into suitcases - this no liquid thing in hand-luggage makes it impossible to bring back wine now. Having already had a smashed bottle of red in my suitcase once before, I'm very reluctant to do that anymore...

It seems that since I posted about my lovely hammock, the sun has decided to go elsewhere for the summer - sorry! But I do wish it would come back so I can enjoy more alfresco meals in my own little corner of Italy.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Where I hang out...

The weekend was productive. My back is sore from bending and digging and pulling. This is where I like to hang out at the end of a day's gardening.

This hammock came home all the way from Barbados and the wooden frame was constructed just for it. It is the shadiest part of my garden and Tom loved to swing gently out of the glare of the sun. Actually, everyone likes to have a go. It has had to be reinforced after crashing to the ground as a result of too many people in at one go! Dogs are rather fond of it too...

Looking up, this is what you see. Blue sky (hopefully) and lush green leaves.

Slowly (being the operative word) my only rose, Albertine, rambles up the wooden frame. This is the first year it has had more than one flower on it. I wish you could smell it - it is divine. Alice, this is for you, I know how you love roses.

The toils of the weekend transformed my untidy back border from this... this neater version.

I have planted out all my seedlings from the greenhouse and sowed some seeds directly into the soil. I'm probably a bit late, but better late than never... I took this photo before the final touch of a small green wire fence to keep the dogs and chickens off. Do you see one of my beautiful alliums strewn on the lawn? That's mad dogs for you. I could cry.

Here's a photo of that wonderful orange iris, the one that got battered in the rain last week. It just about survived. I love the furry-looking tongue - it's like a brightly coloured caterpillar looking for a place to hide.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Urban Garden Quilt...

It seems I have the quilting bug good and proper.

I found the pattern for this quilt here and used my own selection of fabrics. I wanted something to use in the garden for the chilly evenings, when it is still nice enough to sit outside but would be nicer if you were snuggled under something.

Most of the fabrics on the front came from the Cotton Patch, which I visited a while back while staying with my friend in the Midlands. They carry a brilliant range of fabrics and I could wander around the shop with my bolts stacked on top of one and other to see if they would work together.

The fabrics are predominantly floral and leafy, with a few scattered fruit and vegetables to fit in with the overall garden theme. Then I used Martha Negley's vegetable stripe, which was on sale at Glorious Color, and at $7 a yard (about £3.50) it was a bargain! Some of the pieces were tiny - an inch and a half by 3 inches - so worked well with the little sprig fabrics, whilst I used the big prints for the staggered bigger pieces. I hand-quilted along each stripe and around each big piece.

The quilt measures 54" x 57", so is not massive, but just big enough to cover you up on the sun-bed! The trouble is, I have 2 sun-beds...I can feel another quilt coming on. To save any arguements, of course. Luckily, I have enough fabric left to make another. I haven't decided which pattern to follow yet, but I think that two complimentary quilts will look very House and Garden!

Being Miss Co-ordination, I also crocheted this cushion. It was a doddle to make as it used a huge 7mm hook. It is based on the popcorn cushion in Vintage Crochet, but I didn't do the popcorn stitches and added the ruffley edge instead. I used Debbie Bliss cashmerino chunky.

Now all we need is some sun...

No2 is off on a Weekend-on-Water with Scouts. He is staying on the Lord Amory and I am not looking forward to bags full of Thames-soaked clothes that will accompany him home tomorrow, but I know he will be having the time of his life. Like a fool, I had tears in my eyes as I drove home from dropping him off last night. I think maybe because, despite being in front of about 50 or so Scouts from his district, he came and gave me a kiss goodbye. Twenty quids worth of Haribo does wonders for mother/son relationships...he could barely carry his rucksack...

Off out in the garden now...


Your comments on my last post are very special to me, thank you. I've tried to reply to everyone who left a comment, but for those of you I couldn't contact, this is for you!

Tuesday, 3 June 2008


Julia over at MarmaladeKiss tagged me with this meme. I have given it a lot of thought and decided to go for it...The first question is very difficult, but I thought it was an opportunity to get some more about me and Tom in writing. Sorry if it makes for depressing reading.

I have to answer 6 questions about myself. At the end of the post, I then tag 6 people and post their names, then go to their blogs and leave them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read my blog. Then, I must let the person who tagged me know when I’ve posted my answers.

What was I doing ten years ago - 1998

10 years ago I was trying to come to terms with what had happened to my life. Tom had been in rehab. for 8 months following a catastrophic brain injury that had left him profoundly disabled the previous June. He was at The Children's Trust in Surrey, miles away from me at home and I was trying to juggle being with him and looking after No2, who was 20 months old. And being a wife. That bit got lost and their Dad and I separated 10 years ago this month too. I was living out of a bag, often in nurses accommodation and spending huge amounts of time on the M25. No2 was being hoicked around from pillar to post to whoever could look after him while I spent what days I could learning how to look after my child. Tom's medical needs were high and I was taught how to care for him again by a team of people to whom I will be forever grateful. I could reel off a list of Tom's 'problems' but maybe a meme isn't the right place. Tom remained in rehab. for 18 months, having been in hospital for 2 years altogether, before he came home again.

5 things on my to do list for today

  1. Photograph my irises before they get ruined in this continual rain...

  2. Make a banana cake with the brown bananas lurking in my fridge (I know, I know, you shouldn't keep bananas in the fridge...)

  3. Get the ironing board out

  4. Take No2 to the dentist

  5. Finish hand-sewing the binding on Urban Garden Quilt

Snacks I enjoy

  • Green and Black's Maya Gold...may have mentioned this before.

  • Caramel flavour Snack-a-Jacks

  • Maoam stripes (is that how you spell it?)

  • Dried apricots (but have to be M&S's, they're nice and squidgy)

Things I would do if I was a billionaire

The usual I suppose - pay off mortgages etc. Buy somewhere to live out of London with a wonderful garden, big enough for more chickens and maybe an alpaca to keep the foxes away. I don't really dream about lots of money because I know that at the end of the day it's not that important. But we would love a hot tub out on the deck!

Places I have lived

Very boring - only London, I'm afraid!

6 people I want to know more about

  1. Dottycookie

  2. Jolly Hocky Sticks!

  3. Driftwood

  4. Little Cotton Rabbits

  5. Domesticali

  6. Quilt while you're ahead

Sorry, ladies! Only if you fancy it!

Monday, 2 June 2008


I made 2 New Year resolutions.

  • To make a quilt. Done.

  • To learn amigurumi. Done.

The quilt has been unveiled and now here is My First Amigurumi.

Although he doesn't really look like a chocolate Labrador, probably more Bull Terrier, all things dog in this house have to be chocolate brown. He was spectacularly difficult to photograph! He has been commandeered by No2 and has taken up a position on his bedside table.

I bought this book after spotting Ana Paula Rimoli on Ravelry. It is full of seriously cute crochet as its title suggests!

Having been left laying next to my knitting-or-crocheting chair in my conservatory it was duly pounced upon by my nephews and niece and it seems that no-one is too old for their favourite amigurumi toy. So up next was an octopus (who, I have to confess, was my favourite in book).

Followed by an ice-cream...

They do look extra cute when they're all together.

I now have an extensive collection of eyes. They make or break the finished toy and are an absolute nightmare to put on, there has been a lot of swearing trying to fit the little washer thingy over the shank of the eye, I can tell you.

I read in the book that amigurumi is roughly translated from Japanese as "knitted stuffed toy". I will stick to amigurumi, it sounds much more interesting and, bearing in mind these are crocheted, the translation sounds a bit half-hearted. They are surprisingly quick to make, which is always a bonus in my book.

I am part way through a monkey for nephew No2, and he is looking very cheeky...