Friday, 31 May 2013

Photo Scavenger Hunt: May

Joining in with Greenthumb at Made with Love again for this month's Scavenger Hunt.

Aqua : Lots of aqua at Niagara Falls. The picture quality isn't great as I didn't have a digital camera when we visited so this photo had to be scanned. For me, this was the most difficult of the words to find.

4 : Dandelions.

Something patriotic : The Queen! Well, it doesn't get more patriotic than that! Taken last year while she was on her Jubilee tour.

Door : A house at Arnside.

Skyline : Manchester seen from Cloud 23 where I met some friends for afternoon tea.

Map : Preston city centre.

Lines : Railway lines at a local station.

Washing : Starlings washing themselves in the lake

Flag : Golf course.

Broken : Terracotta pot in my garden. One of the many which didn't make it through the winter.

Keys : Piano.

Construction : Rebuilding and repurposing a derelict church which had also been damaged by fire.

I don't know about the other participants but I found some of this month's selection of words quite challenging: well, at least to find interesting interpretations. But I guess that's part of the fun and I'm looking forward to finding out next month's selection. If you'd like to see how others have interpreted the words, pop over to see the list of participants. x

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Garden update

Before I started blogging, I kept a journal to document what was growing in the garden: when I sowed the seeds, when I harvested, my successes and failures. Although I do sometimes still write in the journal and stick in newspaper clippings, seed packets, leaflets and poems, I also want to record progress here. So this is an update on what is growing with photos taken over the last week.

The chives are getting ready to flower though I've been using the leaves for a couple of months for cooking. My mint has thankfully started to grow too after a slow start.

I planted two courgette seeds and both have done well. One is in a pot in my garden and the other has been adopted by my Dad.

Taken this morning at 7am and showing how much greenery is now along the side border. When we moved in 3 years ago, this border housed a conifer hedge. It took a lot of sweat and brute force to dig them all out but it was worth it as I've had flowers and vegetables growing here since. Over Easter I dug in lots of homemade compost to prepare the soil for new plants.

Let's just move the camera up shall we? What do you think we'll see?

Yep, the ducks were here again. This pair are regular visitors and particularly like perching on the fence.

Growing in the border are my sugar snap peas. I've had mixed success so far as, out of 8 seeds, only 5 grew. Of those 5, 4 of them made it into the soil - the other fell victim to a renegade snail who scaled the giddy heights of my greenhouse right up to the top shelf to claim his prize! At the same time as planting these, I added a few seeds which hopefully will germinate in the soil now the temperature has improved.

In front of the peas I've sown radish and spring onion and covered them with some wire shelves to keep the cats off.

In another pot, the carrots are coming along nicely.

I'm sorry to say that growing flowers from seed has been less successful and I don't have a single seedling to show for my efforts. I'm not sure what went wrong but luckily I bought some supermarket plants just in case. Petunias and geraniums have been planted out in troughs along this low wall which runs along the back of the house.

In the front garden there is a hint of beauty to come. There are at least four buds on my oriental poppy which is the most it has ever produced. If you can't wait to see what it will look like, I posted a photo here of it in full bloom last year. My peony is covered in buds too - I can hardly wait!

In the meantime I'll have to be content with the aquilegia which have seeded themselves all over the garden. This elegant understated plant is on one side of the drive.

And this frilly beauty is on the other side. I didn't plant either of them - they just appeared as if by a sprinkling of fairy seed.

The flowers are just so pretty. The photo was taken this evening at about 6.30.

It'll be interesting to see how much the garden changes from month to month. Maybe next time, the clematis climbing up the netting will be in flower?

Back on Friday with my May Scavenger Hunt entry. x

Monday, 27 May 2013

Gawthorpe Hall

It was such a gorgeous sunny day yesterday that we decided to head out for one of our favourite activities: visiting a historic house. Our destination was Gawthorpe Hall near Burnley which has been on my 'must visit' list for a while because of its textile collections.

The house was built between 1600 and 1605 for the Shuttleworth family who owned it until 1972 when it was given to the National Trust. It's our kind of house as we prefer the older properties and this still has a lot of Jacobean decoration and furnishings. We particularly liked the plaster ceilings and tiled fireplaces and floors. And, of course, I loved the textiles which are on the first floor. There were some beautiful examples of embroidery and lace but my favourites were a couple of christening gowns and an exquisite cot quilt with the neatest and tiniest stitching.

As always though, because of National Trust rules, I can't show you any of this. However, if you go to National Trust Images and search for Gawthorpe Hall, you can see a selection of interior shots. There are also some photos of the textile collection on a dedicated blog.

I can, however, show you some of the exterior. There was this lovely knot garden at the rear overlooking the valley, and a large lawned area to the front of the house. I really liked how tiles had been embedded into the stone pillars.

There are no formal gardens as such but there are some woodland paths so we set off to explore.

Of course you can't go anywhere in an English woodland at the moment without seeing carpets of bluebells.

Our walk took us along this little path through the trees.

On our right was this sun-filled meadow covered in buttercups.

And the inevitable dandelions. One of my aims this summer is to get a photo of the seeds blowing off into the wind - still trying yet.

Further along was this pond with a few clumps of lily pads.

The path then took us along the edge of the wood and a field and, to our delight, we came across a couple of apple trees in full blossom. I wondered if this was originally part of the gardens for the Hall or whether the birds had carried the seeds to this corner?

Finally, at the end of the path, the view opened out down the valley to the River Calder and Pendle Hill (of Pendle Witches fame) beyond. Such a lovely view and the perfect weather to appreciate it.


Hope you enjoyed your weekend and especially if you had a long one like we did here in England. As Saturday was also a beautiful sunny day I caught up on some gardening but I'm going to post those photos next time as a record for myself of progress. Today has been mostly rainy so it's been a day of housework, knitting, sewing and quilting - all of which you'll get to see at some point - well, not the housework!

Back soon. x

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Knitty kitties

Chickpea and I love cats. Actually, Chickpea adores cats and has pestered me constantly over the years to get one. However, we're often out of the house 12 hours a day so, even though cats are very independent creatures, it never seemed fair to get one. We came close a few years ago when a neighbour's cat, Moggy, adopted us as her second home. I'd see her owners leaving the house and say to Chickpea, 'Moggy will be round in a minute' and, sure enough, a few seconds later she'd be strolling into the living room. I'd often find the pair of them curled up asleep together on each end of the couch. We were heartbroken when she moved away.

So, when I saw this book, Knitted Cats and Kittens by Sue Stratford, how could I resist? If we can't have a real one, I can knit one!

Of course, I had to make it hard on myself and choose the most difficult pattern to start with! I had been trying to knit a chick using double-pointed needles but the pattern defeated me. It's not like I hadn't used them before as I'd made these socks a few years ago. The yarn is Lana Grossa Meilenweit 'Fantasy' (shade 4833, though this colour is discontinued now). If any of you have Jane Brocket's book The Gentle Art of Domesticity, you'll see the identical socks in there as that's where I got the idea.

When I saw a pattern in the book which used self-striping sock wool, I thought I'd give it another go.

Meet Tiny! As you can see, he's a rather unusual colour for a cat - obviously the result of a liaison with a ginger tom and an exotic breed. He's a very cheery, cheeky little chap and, although a mere 2 inches tall, makes his presence felt.

I thought he was getting a bit lonely though so decided to make him a companion.

Meet Scout. Alert and inquisitive, he's into everything.

The yarn I used is Rico Essentials alpaca (shades 001 and 004). The pattern was easy to follow but the making up instructions left a lot of detail to be desired. I also made an error with the eyes. Not having made toys before, I hadn't realised that eyes come with a post and need to be put in place BEFORE you sew up the toy - doh! Button type eyes were impossible to find around here so I had to compromise with some bright blue normal buttons. The pupils are food labels coloured in black with a felt pen. The eyes look a bit odd but it gives him character!

Tiny and Scout are already the best of friends!

Of course, I'm not going to stop there and bought some yarn the other day to make a Moggy-coloured cat. I've got another knitting project to finish off first but I hope to introduce you to her fairly soon.


I can already hear the chorus of 'you must get a real cat'. We are NOT GETTING A CAT!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

China cups

Over in Blogland, I've noticed quite a few lucky people writing about the lovely china they've found in charity shops. As Chickpea has been wanting to make a teacup candle, I've popped into a few every now and again looking for something suitable. I've also been hoping to find a couple of pretty cups for us to have afternoon tea but without much success. Until a couple of weeks ago that is, when I found two real beauties.

I spotted this cup first, mixed in with lots of others but with a non-matching saucer. Never mind - it would make a lovely candle. And then I started rummaging through the stacks of saucers nearby and hit lucky!

So pretty! The trademark says it's Queen Anne bone china though not what the pattern is - no doubt something like Blackberry or Bramble.

The second cup does have a pattern name which is 'Chinese Rose'. I'd seen this in the same shop but again without a saucer. On a second visit I had a good wander around the rest of the shop (which is pretty big) and noticed a couple of china dishes on an old dressing table.

Success! As soon as I saw the pattern I knew it was a match and dashed back to find the cup.

Chickpea has claimed this one because of the unusual saucer and its perfect space for cake or biscuits!

We now have enough cups for afternoon tea for two. The candles will have to wait a while longer.


With this post I've hit a milestone.

Yes, this is my 100th post! When I started this blog last July, it seemed almost impossible to achieve but somehow I've managed it. Thank you for reading and for your encouragement - roll on the next 100! xx

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Flowers, foliage and feathers

After thinking that Spring would never arrive, there's so much around to photograph at the moment that I wanted to capture and record it. Here are a few photos taken over the last couple of weeks.

This lovely tree is in a neighbour's garden, though I'm not entirely sure what it is.

Camelia in another neighbour's garden.

There's no such thing as too many cherry blossom photos at this time of year! This one was taken over the Bank Holiday weekend when we had the gorgeous weather and blue skies.

And this was taken yesterday. What a difference a week makes as all the blossoms are now in full bloom. A pity then that the weather and light hasn't been kind so that I could get a decent photo.

Lighting up another local garden was this golden berberis.

The one in my own garden is much more delicate.

These aquilegia are also in my garden and line the fence along the driveway. They're not as decorative as other aquilegia I've seen, until you look underneath.

And then you can see all the dainty, delicate beauty of the petals.

The foliage is just as lovely at the moment, all fresh and bright green. I love how alchemilla gathers raindrops into little bubbles of water.

I spotted this fern near work and could have used it for the 'curl' category in the Scavenger Hunt if I'd seen it in time.

Down by the lake there are lots of willow and I've taken so many photos it was really hard to choose. I loved the combination of the bright yellow and the blue sky in this one though.

And the fluffy buds in this one.

There's also a lot of activity on the lake at the moment. Great-Crested Grebes stop by from time to time but usually only two at the most. This spring we've had three. They don't hang around for long though and don't breed here.

There's only one swan on the lake after having nine at one point. S/he looked so beautiful lit up by the setting sun.

For the first time in many years, a pair of Moorhens are nesting. We're eagerly waiting to see if they're successful. I'll have to figure out what to call the babies by then - moorchicks?

There's not just water birds around the lake: there are several pied wagtails darting around on the shoreline.

But, of course I couldn't leave you without a duck update. This handsome chap was on my fence one morning. He and his lady friend are regular visitors at the moment and I wonder if they're the same ones who keep sitting on the roof.

Duckling sightings are increasing. This Mum had 14 fluffy bundles. I don't know whether I should tell you that a couple of days later, there were only 11.

Ducklings are lively little things!

But eventually they need to rest and have a cuddle with Mum. I was amused and delighted watching these ducklings clambering over each other, pushing their Mum this way and that trying to get under her wings. So sweet!

Looks like they're getting a little too big to fit: Mother duck can barely sit down!


Hope you've all had a lovely weekend. It's been pretty wet here but it didn't bother us too much as our activities have been mostly inside: the theatre yesterday (a play you probably won't know 'Can't Pay, Won't Pay') and the new Star Trek movie today - both excellent. I've also started a new knitting project which I'll share at some point.

Finally, thank you all so much for the lovely, lovely comments lately - they really do make my day and make me laugh a lot of the time too! And also welcome to my new readers and followers - I'm really enjoying meeting you all. x