Thursday, 17 March 2016

Take 5

1) We've been really lucky with the weather for the past week. The end of last week and the weekend were particularly lovely, with even a reasonable warmth in the sunshine - though don't get me wrong, it's not balmy yet! But it did mean that swimming season has officially begun! Spurred on by the fact that Venetia was off on a residential trip with school at the end of last week and, as part of that, spent an hour or so body boarding in the sea, the boys were keen to also get back in the salt water.

Although Maria most definitely did not want to swim, she did manage to get completely soaked!

Hard to see but there's a little head bobbing around in the sea on the left hand side that belongs to Theo.

The rock pools weren't really any warmer than the sea!

Although there's no photographic evidence (happily!), I swam as well, and without a wet suit, so I get all the plaudits for bravery/craziness please! It might be the earliest in the year that I've ever been in the water, and it was really cold, but it was also gorgeous, and it felt amazing to be back in the sea. (And twelve crabs found in the rock pools, so the girls were very happy too!)

2) As well as swimming season, we're now definitely back into gardening season. I was extremely excited to see 'Gardeners' World' returning to our screens on Friday evenings - which the rest of my family found quite sad! And I've been out there making plans and getting grubby fingernails lots already.

There's not too much looking 'pretty' out there yet (other than masses of snowdrops, primroses, and daffodils of course - I could have taken lots of very pretty photos of them if I'd thought to!), but here are a few of the patches I've been working on. This first one is going to be a strawberry bed soon...

It's an old wooden 'shelter' which was once in use to store very large calor gas cylinders. We haven't used calor gas in the house for years so this shelter was lying around redundant. Once I'd cleared an area for it, it didn't take a lot of adapting to turn it into a planting bed. I'm hoping the strawberries will be very happy there!

I was incredibly extravagant the other day and treated myself to a new, posh wheelbarrow.

See that big orange ball that's there in place of a wheel? It makes it unbelievably manoeuvrable and is apparently impossible to puncture! (I haven't told either of the boys this fact, that could be fatal!). Of course it could be that this wheelbarrow just feels amazing in comparison to my old one...

Here's a close up of the wheel - it wasn't overly manoeuvrable!

But, once I've drilled a few drainage holes, it will become a wonderful planter - I haven't decided whether I'll put herbs in it, or maybe a small selection of lettuces to be right next to the back door - so I don't have to go off on an expedition if I decide to make a last minute salad to go with the tea.

A few other 'bargain' plants have found homes recently too, there was a fig tree hiding up behind the new wheelbarrow in a huge tyre, and here are a couple of honeyberries newly planted.

I'd not heard of these before so it will be really interesting to see what they're like.

My broad beans and white onions are doing pretty well.

But my red onions completely disappeared, they must have been much tastier than the white. And I've also had problems with pests eating my purple sprouting broccoli and the garlic I planted. We have had some smallish black flies lurking around the soil in various area, and lots of jumping grubs on and just below the surface of the soil. I think they may be Fungus gnats, and I have a bad feeling that they may be my pests. Does anyone have any experience of these and, if so, is there a super effective way to deal with them?

3) A recipe for you. This is one of our favourite cookie recipes, and the one Venetia requested I make for her to take off on her trip last week.

Chocolate Chip Orange Cookies
175g butter (softened)
75g icing sugar (sieved)
225g self raising flour
The grated zest of 1 orange
60g plain chocolate chips

Beat, or blend, together the butter, icing sugar and orange zest, add the flour and combine thoroughly. Mix in the chocolate chips (make sure you do this by hand). Form the dough into a ball, cover and refrigerate for an hour. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about half a cm, and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Arrange on a lightly greased tray and bake at 180C/350F for approx 10 mins. You want to get these out when just golden, don't let them brown at all, and they will harden up as they cool. They are melt in the mouth moreish!

4) There has been some sewing going on too. Another pair of slippers for a friend...

Find the pattern at BigLittle on Etsy.
I experimented a bit with the flowers to go on there. The finished violets have hand embroidered centres, but I had first tried a machine embroidered version. It wasn't quite the look I wanted to work with the slippers, and, even more to the point, the dense machine embroidery made the flower quite rigid in the centre and I think it would have been uncomfortable to kneel down in slippers with it on. So the reject violet became a decoration for a hair bobble for Venetia's planned hair accessories Christmas hamper.

5) Speaking of which, a couple more flowers have been made to decorate clips/bobbles.

These 2 are very straightforward. A long, thin strip of fabric, folded over to double it up on the shallow width, wrong sides together - iron it down and then sew along the fold to secure it. Then cut out even 'bumps' like so...

Tapering one end to be narrower for the centre of the flower and leaving the other end a smooth petal shape.

Machine sew along this new wavy edge to secure it (leaving it raw edged). Then just roll up your flower carefully from the narrow end, securing it with some regular hand stitching as you go. I think it works well to coil it quite tightly in the centre initially, and then to leave it a little looser and maybe add a few pinched gathers as you get nearer the other end for the outer petals. Keep putting in a hand stitch or two to hold it all in place. And then I finished it off by hand stitching a 'circle' of green wool on to the base.

All done. The pink one is now on a hair band and the smaller yellow one on a clip.

I've been working on a 'basket' for the storage side of this present too, but it's not quite finished yet. Have you got any favourite fabric flower making methods or other hair accessories you've made which have worked well?



  1. I amazed at you all for braving the water! <3 It sounds like it was a great day, though. :) I need to start planning and planting my garden, too. Thanks for the reminder, my husband and I can chat about it over dinner tonight.

  2. Your new wheelbarrow is quite an upgrade! A planter by the door sounds perfect for the old one. As always, I enjoy seeing the joy of your children as they play in and around the water. You all get BIG points for braving the cold. We are still under snow here, so no gardening yet. I should probably start some tomatoes indoors, but need to search out some soil and containers first. Too bad the pests have such good taste - they could eat the weeds, but NOooo, they have to go for the yummy stuff. Hope you find a way to get rid of them, pronto!

  3. Wow, you are brave, getting in that water without a go girl!!!!! I love your new wheelbarrow, and the old one will be perfect for use in the garden as a planter. Have a wonderful weekend Sally. xo

  4. Love the photo of Maria with the sunbeams landing on her head. What beach was it?

  5. I don't think you could have temped me into the water! Well done you. I love your flowers, simple but effective. I have thought about cutting out shapes of felt and sewing them together to adorn hair slides but I haven't got much further than thinking about it!

    Love your new wheelbarrow I can see a why you wanted a new one. I have not had a problem with anything actually eating my onion sets but the birds always dig them up and leave them lying on the surface, I cover mine with horticultural fleece to stop them. Could that work for you too?

  6. You've been busy....gardening in both dirt and fabric and still finding time to spend at the beach. I enjoyed the tour of your garden and yes, you were overdue for a new wheelbarrow.

  7. Nice to read about all your Spring activities Sally, though I am shivering at the thought of swimsuits and cold water! I am most definitely NOT a water baby! X

  8. It'd be way too cold for me in the water. Wheelbarrows make great planters. I have an old one planted with dietes and ivy geraniums.


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