Tuesday, 28 January 2014

January Harvest

I have a little chilli plant, which has been working its socks off....

Last year when I needed some chillies for a chutney.  I usually buy a small bag, use half and then throw away the rest when I find them mouldering away in a little bag at the bottom on the fridge.

There always used to be a plant or two growing out by the back of the kitchen when I was small, and often the red ones used to just disappear.  I used to wonder whether the birds ate them, until I asked one of our gardeners, and with a cheeky smile, he said they went on their lunches, bowls of rice and veg and bean curry, which they used to heat up on the gas ring on the outside verandah.

This time, however my eyes caught site of plant in Waitrose.  Ever since June last year it has been bountiful in its produce and it was a cheery and bright decoration over Christmas in the conservatory.  Its crop has been such that several friends have had some, and I even found 'Mr Matthews', the very polite street sweeper from Kenilworth to give him a bagful.  Mr Matthews has kept our shopping street in tip top condition.  I made sure that last year before I resigned as Chairman of Kenilworth in Bloom that he was given due mention for the work he does including removing any litter from our great tubs.

So, even though its over seven years since I left my  allotment  in Swindon, I can still enjoy a little harvest, and share with friends.  If there are any in September this coming year, I may enter our local gardening competition!

During the last couple of weeks, I have noticed small leaves uncurling, and flower buds appearing.  Time to remove the last of the chillies....

Here's looking forward to the new season's growth...but I've had to keep an eye on the greenfly, squashing them, to keep them in check.  The plant gets moved between the conservatory and the kitchen windowsill depending on the temperature.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

New Knitted Shawl

Usually I write about my knitting projects on Ravelry.  This is a wonderful site for knitters, as one can write all sorts of details about projects, and also view other comments on similar projects by other knitters.  I had my eye on the Color Affection design for months and months, and finally bought the pattern, downloaded and printed it.

Usually I pick a complicated shawl pattern, one which means that nearly every stitch had to be counted, and which is not easy at all to pick up if you are trying to do other things like watching a complicated plot on TV, or trying to be interested in another person's conversation and making appropriate comments.  A frequent reply to hubby, is COUNTING!  They an apology at the end of the row!

In November I went on a WI workshop day and learned a simple but very effective technique called German Short Row Shaping, on a garter stitch scarf/shawl.  For non knitters, garter stitch is the first stitch that new knitters learn.  The scarf was pretty and made the most of the variegated yarn.  This type of yarn is 'pre-printed' with changing colours.  Something which I could very nearly knit in my sleep!

I gave this away to my daughter in law for her Christmas Present, and it matches one of her coats very nicely.  She has had a very pretty lacy scarf in a much more luxurious yarn previously!

It took me several days of looking at  colour combinations and drawing on my pictures for inspiration, and searching the internet for possible yarns, to such an extent that I started to wake up in the middle of the night with this question on my mind.  At the very best this is probably an indication that I have nothing more worrying on my mind or in my life, the very worst it is sad that I was loosing sleep...

Since I have been trying to declutter: giving away bits and pieces, I put my foot down, and decided to get all my stash out, and told myself to choose something from this.

RESOLUTION: I am not going to buy any further yarn, without a specific pattern and without the intention of knitting it up within the following six months.

I found three colours in a similar weight, that is thickness, and have made a start.  One in a pale lilac which is a colour I have worn for many years, which I have had for many years, and two further hanks which I have had for at least four years or more! All three yarns are lovely and soft in a silk and wool blend.

 It took me an evening just to rewind the hanks into cakes, using my wool winder and lovely wooden swift...

This is where I am now....

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Visit to Pitt Rivers Museum

In all the years of living not too far away from Oxford, this is our first visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum.....

Tips for others:  use the Park and Ride, the parking costs are really high...in the end we paid for two hours, which was not even enough to do justice to this museum, then we drove out and found a village pub for refreshments on the way home.  Had we chosen Park and Ride at the outset, we would have stayed the day in Oxford.

There is so much to see at the Pitt Rivers Museum...with all manner of things packed very closely in cabinets on several floors.  The building is magnificent Gothic Victorian.  There were building works in the Main Natural History Museum, with large dinosaurs protected by bubble wrap, but walking round the cloister like corridor to the Pitt Rivers Museum, I looked up to the beautifully decorated Victorian Gothic Capitals.  Each had carvings of different plants:  this one of the Monkey Puzzle Tree was striking...

On our next visit, I'll take a torch, as the light levels are low and it would help to illuminate some items. We saw some magnificent Parka Coats made from the intestines of seals, beautifully decorated with thousands of stitches along a border at the cuffs and hem.  We saw some like these at the British Museum.  There is so much to see, that really this visit was just an overview for us, and we did not have time even to peer into each cabinet.
Here are just two of many thousand of pretty things:  some brooches
a Pendant made from shell
Easter Eggs
There was some original art work for the cover of The General Pitt Rivers' Catalogue for 1898 to 1899, which took my fancy, and which I may use as inspiration for a calligraphy project.

There is so much at this Museum, not only to celebrate the skill and ingenuity of peoples from around the world, but as a source of inspiration for people now.  The medical instruments were ingenious, and the weapons gruesome....Just think of what interests you and there will most probably be something here of interest.

Visit to Stratford

I'd planned this for a few days....my first visit to the Stratford knitting group, primarily to surprise my friend.  I  caught the bus and enjoyed a ride with views out to the countryside, and even saw catkins out in the hedgerows.  For how long have I been saying I would do this...what a lovely time I had.  There were a few familiar faces at the group and it was nice to catch up.

Afterwards I visited a favourite place: Lakeland, the Kitchen shop.  I had a little browse round with my friend, then again by myself.  I came away with a little stash of goodies: small items and some of their baking parchment, their largest reel lasts me years. My current peeler I have had for over thirty years, but the new ones are so very sharp so I am very pleased   As for the tart tins, I now have some deep ones which will be good for meal sized savoury tarts.  Here you are Diane you wanted to know what I bought...you know about the wooden pastry push, the last one in the shop, which does fit the tins I have.  Since I came to enjoy woolly things, some moth stop to add to my drawers of shawls and jumpers.  I have not had any further moth damage since I started using these, and top them up each year.

With some time to spare before my bus, I popped into a couple of shops to look for a handbag.  My current one is starting to show signs of wear, but what can you expect.  Its been my sole handbag for several years now, and gets put in and out of my bicycle panniers etc.  I had just had to send back a bag I had bought from Hotter.  It was too large, too heavy, and very dark inside.  The trend seems to be for big handbags.  I like ones with a bright lining as this makes it so much easier to find things inside, large enough to hold my essentials, but small enough to go into my pannier. 

This medium sized Fossil bag is very close to my old bag, so I'm not really keeping up with fashion trends, not having a bag for every coat or outfit but I err on the side of functionality.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Present to myself

I hope I am not the only one who buys themselves a Christmas Present.  Its such fun, I know just what will bring the greatest of pleasures for myself,  something which I can share with others, and may in time put in a public appearance at the local gardening show....

...its taken me maybe three months to choose, maybe I ought to have bought them earlier....but no it does say that bare rooted plants can be planted up to March.  The season has been mild, and I have gradually shifted things around the garden to make way for them....

Roses, roses, roses....

I was extravagant, life's getting shorter, why wait?

Seven plants arrived, tightly packed.  I read the instructions and followed them...but they did not give the tip: do not cut the string which binds your plants until after you have put them in a bucket of water...they sprung apart, and it was hard to get them all to steep in the same water.

I took no pictures of the plants, but remember well rushing between rain storms to get them planted.  One climber is to go where I was digging out the wisteria...it was greater than me, and I had put that rose in a temporary position. 

Mr S felt quite sorry for me when he say me knee deep in a hole trying to get the stump out...it has huge roots.  He was going to get it out for me...but since then someone else has done the job.  During the high winds one of our fence posts finally left it rotten stump, and our local fence repairer came out and gave it a concrete 'godfather' fence footing, and he also dug up both the wisterias...Hurrah!  He had all the right tools and took the stumps away too, and I do not have loads of muddy clothes and shoes and boots to clean!

Roses all from David Austin:  Munstead Wood, Gertrude Jekyll, A Shropshire Lad, St Swithun ( will the rain that fell the day I planted this bush continue for forty days, it feels like it will), Princess Anne, Crown Princess Margareta, and Claire Austen.  I've linked these to the David Austin site as I just wanted to have peep again of the delights which await me.  I am already lucky enough to have several roses in my garden which I love to cut to bring into the house.

On one of our walks down the garden, Izzi asked me what the sticks were, and I said rose bushes.  She asked if there were pink ones, and I said yes.  It will be only a few months before we walk down the garden together to see how they are doing and admire their flowers, and I hope she also likes the red, white and apricot ones too !

Big Birthday

Mr S treated me wonderfully...I had tea in bed, with a beautifully designed schedule of what lay in wait for me during the day, then breakfast with balloon and banner, and presents...to enjoy and claim later in the year...and mid morning there was knock at the door, and this was delivered...Mr S wanted to remind me of my roots, and tropical flowers were just the thing...All of them grew in the garden in Mauritius except for two small yellow fruit in middle, are they edible? 

And for a big birthday, a little cake

I was treated to a lovely dinner cooked and presented by Mr S...I felt loved and cherished, thank you.

December 2013

There was so much going on, that I just did not get round to downloading photographs or felt like writing up about some of my activities in December.  It seems that nowadays Christmas starts some time towards the end of November, then stops on Boxing Day.  The twelve days of Christmas which started on 25th December seem to be a thing of the past. 

An early Christmas Activity was making a fairy for our WI Decorated Christmas Tree for the St Nicholas Tree Competition. 

As usual Kaye our crafter, sewer, and gold work embroiderer extraordinaire came up with something even the least handy person could attempt.  With everything ready we all met for laughter and conversation, and with Kaye's patience really tested, we ended with a nice collection.  I even spun a tale when Mr S and I went to view the trees on the evening of the High Street Christmas Light Switch on, when every one was in a very good mood, to some people who were stood by our tree puzzled by the decorations.  This had everyone laughing and getting the message.  I explained that as our WI group had had a few people ill with the big C recently, we had decided to have angles with the little pink crossed ribbon symbol, most had lost their hair, hence the little black bow, and one even had a wing amputated, and they were all wearing their pink hospital gowns!

Their numbers were completed the following week by some of us, so that each of our members had a fairy to hang on the tree.  What is nice is that each member was given back their fairy at our December meeting.

This year the season has been a little sad for me too.  I have been thinking of a friend who is facing this Christmas with a big hole in her family, and another one whose husband was sinking fast...I received the news on Boxing Day that he passed away on Christmas Day.

The weather has been wet and dreary, and shopping is not quite the thing for us this year.  We have thought of going a little further afield to a gallery or museum, but the weather is too bad, and we venture forth for local walks between the showers.  

I did have a fancy for a new cooker, for one with a double oven, with windows and  lights, with timers: all bells and whistles and got quite excited about this.   After Christmas I went into a well known store, and after comparing all the wonderful gas cookers available, came away perfectly content with mine! 

Just before Christmas, a spring went in our settee...we pondered this, too late to do anything about this until the shops reopened.  We went to look at suites, sat in them, compared them with what we have, considered what they would look like in our sitting room.  We even got out the receipt for the current furniture, was amazed by how long we had had it. We considered having it reupholstered , tracked down the original manufactures and outlets, it had just been discontinued!  We love the cheerful yellow, it fits us both, we are comfortable on it, we like our furniture so much that if we could have replaced like with like, we would have had no hesitation.  In the end a good clean, and a new spring...I did the cleaning, and Mr S found out how to do the repair, ordered the spring, and today fitted it, and now contentment reigns again in the household.  We know Izzi will still want to climb and look out of the window, so a new precious settee would limit this.

On the other hand, we had our little Izzi to bring us cheer.  She came to stay on her own for 4 days, 3 nights the weekend before Christmas...and Mr S and I spent Christmas day down with which our loved ones which of course includes Izzi...

One of the big themes of this stay was a visit to the local Panto: Humpty Dumpty at the Talisman Theatre.

Izzi had on her pretty party dress and pink cardigan knitted by Grandma, she joined in with  much shouting and singing and there was not stopping her when volunteers were called for to come and sing a song onstage.

There were other activities that weekend: covering our cake with Royal Icing:

Making tangerines studded with cloves to fill rooms with Christmas smells...whether or not they last to add to drawers, I am not sure, since the fruit were very juicy and they were speared rather deeply.

Decorating the tree with Grampy

And thanks to a bagful of felt and templates from Kaye, a joint effort with glue and a little sewing from Grandma when the sticky stuff did not work, a little collection of Christmas decorations:

And lots of splashing in puddles.....my camera battery needed recharging at this point...

With one day to go to Christmas, and one of our bought mince pies tasted, it only took me a second to decided that what we needed is some home baked ones with some of my pear mincemeat I had already made a couple of months ago...Veronica and Izzi also had some great tasting almond pastry mince pies for Christmas day some tiny ones with a tiny star on top...and hey I now have a tiny star from one of Izzi's cookie cutting sets, so next year there will two sizes to choose from.

And finally I posted this picture which I had made up onto Facebook to send friends and family Christmas Greeting, started during my calligraphy lessons, using gold leaf, gouache, and gothic script.