And so, September…

The trusty hydrangea, attractive whatever stage it’s at!

I always feel September really is the turn of the year. There’s that Autumnal nip in the air, the earth smells different – richer somehow – and the days become noticeably shorter. It’s a time of year when you could start to feel melancholy if you weren’t careful. But rather than feel a gathering gloom, reflect and take a moment to savour… and then think of it as a time to plan ahead. The children have started their new school year and it’s harvest festival time, so that means home made harvesting projects like jams and preserves – so there’s plenty to do!

I used to find my garden looking rather forlorn at this time of year. To counter this, I made a point of ensuring I had plenty of plants that come into their own in the Autumn.

Fuchsia, always so pretty.

Hydrangeas became terribly unfashionable a few years ago, but I have always loved them – they are such good value! They go on and on flowering well into September and, nowadays there are so many stunning varieties to choose from, you are spoilt for choice. Allow the final flower heads of the year to stay on the plant, to provide winter interest… and I am sure I don’t need to tell you how wonderful they are dried in arrangements, or sprayed silver and gold for Christmas.

Fuchsias, so very pretty (I thought they looked like ballerinas when I was a child) cannot fail to brighten any garden. Make sure you choose a late-flowering variety such as ‘Marinka’ and you’re guaranteed extra autumn colour.

Japanese anemones.

I have become a recent convert to Japanese anemones, they look so elegant and delicate, yet they flower from August until late October and look fabulous at every stage. Whether tight bud, long-lasting flower or neatly spherical seed head, the Japanese anemone manages it perfectly. There are lots of lovely colours to choose from they are a really uplifting choice!

Try not to be too enthusiastic with the shears and secateurs (I know it’s tempting!) there are lots of flower heads you can leave on over winter to add interest. Here’s a few to leave and admire:

  • Hydrangeas (obviously!)
  • Teasels
  • Nigella
  • Nigella seed head.

    Echinops

  • Eryngiums
  • Artichokes
  • Poppies

And if you are still looking for positive things to do… start planting your spring bulbs!

 

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More seaside memories

As the last blog featured lost ice creams, I thought we should continue the theme of seaside memories but instead of cards, here are a couple of 3D projects that you can make using the Signature dies.

There are lots of inexpensive frames you can buy that are deep 3D designs. This beach scene would look lovely in a child’s bedroom or perhaps just the thing for a bathroom. Just like making a card, you build up the picture and I use Pinflair glue gel for attaching the die cuts as you can add height with larger blobs of glue. We have quite a few beach related designs in our section ‘On the Beach’, so you could chop and change the ingredients to suit you. Perhaps a set of three pictures featuring different beachy scenes would look nice?

Likewise, this wooden plaque makes a pretty ornament. How about hanging it from the door knob or drawer front? It’s an MDF base with the string stapled to the back. You can then add whatever ingredients you fancy. I love the ice cream image, so many happy memories!

Before I redecorated, I had a completely beach-inspired theme for one of my bathrooms. Red and white life belts as towel rings (ok they were bought not made!), a lighthouse lamp in one corner and baskets of beautiful shells! I have collected pretty shells for years and have oodles of them. My towels were striped red and white and blue and white, and the bath mat was cork so looked vaguely beachy! Now I have a much more traditional lavender and roses theme – rather predictable, but I love the big arrangement I created using dried roses and bunches of lavender for the windowsill and pretty towels embroidered with lavender.

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A dropped ice cream!

‘A dropped ice cream is a seagull’s dream’ – these words made me smile. Nearby in Teignmouth, there’s a lovely promenade where you can walk along next to the sea and relax – we love walking there and often take friends and visitors. The only drawback really is the number of seagulls. I love all the parts of the British seaside… but gulls hmm not so much really.

If you live near the sea then seagulls can be quite difficult. My parents’ bungalow had a persistent seagull that nested in their chimney several years running and when the eggs hatched she became quite over protective and territorial. Fine, I’m a mother, I understand your feelings, but aghhh! This meant we were dive bombed arriving at the house, the postie was more scared of the seagull than any dogs and my poor father trying to trim the climbing plants up the side of the house, resorted to trying to trim with one hand and hold up an open umbrella over his head with the other! They are also VERY noisy.

Whilst walking down the prom at Teignmouth, we have often been beset by scavenging seagulls. Tina Dorr, our newsletter editor and I were quietly looking forward to a couple of gorgeous clotted cream ice creams we had just purchased. Ok, I admit we were probably talking and not looking at the ice cream – but 30 seconds later – whoosh… speed of light! Two thieving seagulls and the balls of ice cream on top of the cones … gone. We had to laugh as we gazed down at our empty cones! However, they are part and parcel of our British coastal areas and so I will have to put up with them!

This card could be for a birthday – or perhaps I should just send it to Tina as a laugh at a shared memory! The seagulls are a signature die and, to save you colouring, the beach huts have been die cut in striped card. The backing paper is just carefully slit and the ice cream posted into the layers. The card measures 170mm square, just under 7 inches.

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Squeezing through the Corinth Canal

Here’s a final holiday blog for you… some pictures from the island of Sifros and our journey through the Corinth Canal. I hope you have enjoyed some of the highlights of the trip.

One of the main reasons we wanted to do this journey was to see what it was like for a medium sized boat to squeeze through the Corinth Canal. The really big boats can’t make it but we did last night and wow it was spectacular. With only a foot or two to spare each side we took about 45 minutes to cross through this gap carved through solid rock. If you can’t take this shortcut then it’s a 180-mile trip round!

We were guided by a pilot boat and sailed through at a constant 5 knots, excuse me if I don’t regurgitate the mass of techy information the captain gave me about pressures and constant speeds… I just smiled and nodded!

The island I wandered round today was called Sifnos. The guides are all lovely and each one insists their island is the best. I have been trying to be friendly and learn a little Greek and smiled at everyone saying “Calamari!” (Good morning) till the guide politely pointed out that I was yelling “Squid” at everyone and I should have been saying kalimera not calamari. I thought they were looking strangely at me!

The island is so pretty and some of the walls were from 1500BC… so something like 3,500 years old… amazing and the flowers were beautiful, mainly bougainvillea and, as always, tons of olive trees. Lots of locally made bits and pieces, honey, olive soap, amazing ceramics and the ever present wine.

I bought some honey yesterday when I visited the site of the Oracle of Delphi. Apparently, the honey is made from local bees who all use pollen from the calm, positive atmosphere of Delphi and so the honey will bring positive vibes every time it is used. Ok, so I was persuaded…. but it tastes nice so what the heck!

Sadly home again soon, but it has been a very educational but fun trip, will it influence my work, no probably not but it has given us a wonderful rest!

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Tasting olive oil and rocket fuel!

Continuing my holiday adventures…

Yesterday, we docked at a town called Kotor in Montenegro. It was quaintly medieval in many places and very beautiful. I will admit to complete ignorance about Montenegro, the only time I have heard of it was as part of the Eurovision Song Contest but that’s faintly embarrassing! The tour we chose took us around the town and on to a small family olive oil producer.

Left to right: Here I am taking a wander around the old town of Kotor. Ruschka and Mischka the weed control management team. The olive grove.

Our first stop, once we arrived on the farm, was to meet Ruschka and Mischka the weed control management team. Mischka is 18 (on the right) and expecting a baby donkey soon and we shared some of the little welcome doughnuts we had been handed. We didn’t share the welcome drink we were given, I took one sip and immediately passed the rest of the glass to Richard… 50 per cent proof home made brandy… made variously from grapes, apples, plums or, I suspected, any fruit they had handy. It wasn’t unpleasant but wow it blew your head off! They didn’t call it rocket fuel for nothing!

We then moved on to the 300-year-old olive press and machinery, so beautiful, and lovely that it has been preserved. There was a careful explanation of how the oil is extracted. The rubbish/paste left over they reuse as compost material and animal feed. They had goats and sheep for cheese and rabbits for… OK, I will gloss over that one but I kind of assume they may not have kept 20 or so rabbits as pets. They showed us their brand new modern machinery, much less work for the donkeys than the old version, hence their transfer to weed management!

Then we had a lesson on how to taste olive oil and a serious lecture on how the stuff we are all buying is very unlikely to be proper olive oil as most of the supermarkets sell oils that are hugely blended and taste nothing like proper olive oil. Well having tasted some I suspect he was right, it was far fruitier and a little more peppery than the big bottles I buy in Tesco… and a 100cl bottle cost 3 euros direct from the farm, so that is about £25 a litre. Hmm, now what do I pay, about £4.99 at most for a litre. So I may change my ways, I’ll look more carefully when I get home.

Left to right: The old and the new olive presses… and the finished product.

They then gave us a gorgeous lunch, with cheese from their sheep, prosciutto ham made at home by the mother, eggs from their chickens and some lightly battered courgettes. Followed by apple cake (yup made by Mum) and Turkish coffee (fab if you like strong coffee). The cheese was interesting. One was a pale soft cheese which tasted like a mild Lancashire or something along those lines. Then they take some of those cheeses and place them in wire mesh cages and hang them over the patio (!) for three weeks. This dries them out and they then immerse them in olive oil. The resulting cheese was quite firm and almost had the strength of a Parmesan.

Then back to the ship where we found an invitation to eat with the captain tonight, aha … maybe I can persuade him to try card making, he already does various crafts like wood carving etc. in his spare time… so who knows!

The photo at the top is of the beautiful fish filled river and ponds in the town of Kotor.

 

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