Sunday, 23 May 2010

The First Crop

This is something of a delayed post, I actually took the photographs (and did the eating, yum!) a few weeks ago, but due to wedding plans galore I haven't found the time to write anything yet!

My experiments in growing have been going surprisingly well, particularly as I've only got a small balcony and a couple of wide window sills - and a few weeks ago there was an especially happy moment. My first crop!

The salad leaves were looking pretty tasty, and I decided that due to space, I would pick them all and then replant lettuces instead of sowing simple leaves. Although it looked a rather small amount while in the pot, there was an absolute abundance once picked, and they were very tasty in a sandwich with some extra mature cheese! Yum!

Wedding Bells

I haven't posted about this yet, as I didn't want to jinx anything (we've already had to postpone twice due to lack of funds...), but on the 3rd of July I will be happily going from a Miss to a Missus! Yes folks, in just five weeks and three days, we will be spending the morning at Portsmouth Registry Office, and the afternoon at a lovely country pub having a very relaxed afternoon tea.

The whole affair is being done very much on a (quite tiny) budget, but I've learned along the way that low cost doesn't necessarily mean low class - we've gone for a mismatched, vintage style, hippy-ish type wedding, with a wedding dress from eBay, a blue cord suit from Paul Smith, silk flowers and a vintage beetle as the wedding car. Instead of a veil, I'm having a wreath of flowers and two vintage style pearl hair clips which were a gift from my Mum, and instead of a sit down dinner (no table plan, yippeeee!) we're having an afternoon tea style buffet with finger sandwiches, scones, china and cake stands. I'm utterly determined that the whole day is going to be relaxed, fun and a pleasure, instead of one of those weddings you see on the television where the bride needs a valium before she has even finished the invitations.

I was looking through all the goodies I've gathered so far, from eBay and little local shops, and decided to take a few pictures just to show you the progress. I really, really love everything I've managed to find - I'd love to hear what you all think!

The invitations were little notelets with teacups and saucers printed on them, with the wording printed from the computer slipped inside - I decided not to glue them down so people could reuse them as they pleased, very eco-friendly!
There will be bunting and floral garlands decorating the interior of the reception venue, and the centre-pieces will be made from the tea lanterns, jam jars filled with silk flowers and tea lights. I also snapped up some napkins from Paperchase, which have the word 'love' printed on them in a vintage style typeface, and some Cath Kidston lovelies are on their way.

The bridesmaids dresses were from Debenhams, and were on sale for £28 - I almost couldn't believe it, they were the right colour, the right length and even had a beautiful crochet panel around the neckline. All the flowers, from those to go on the tables to my bouquet, are from the Boarhunt Silk Flower Mill, which specialises in the most realistic looking silk flowers I have ever, ever seen. So much better for the environment, and cost effective as well - what more can you ask for? My dress (not shown, for obvious reasons!) was £200 from eBay, from a lovely girl who had never worn it (she found a better one and ended up with two dresses!), and is just perfect - to accompany it are a gorgeous pair of delicate lace pumps from New Look, no less, which cost a grand total of..... £6. They were £12 originally, but due to a mark on them (which I can't even really see), I got them for half price! I'm so, so pleased with everything we've managed to get so far - I only hope we manage to get the same kind of fabulous deals for our honeymoon, wherever that may be!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Owl's About That, Then?

Sorry for the awful pun in the title, but I literally couldn't help myself. This has been a lengthy project, full of much un-doing and backtracking, but finally, FINALLY, on Tuesday, I could actually announce it to be finished. Hurrah!

It's been under construction for so long now that I can't even remember where the idea of a cuddly crochet owl came from - but if memory serves me well, it started with the idea of an owl cushion, with the details stitched onto a rectangular cushion and slowly morphed into a rather lovely companion to sit next to Paddington Bear on the shelf in The Boy's room.

I suppose, after all this time, I should show you really - I feel like there should be a drum roll or something. Drrrrrrrrrr-drrrrrrrrr-drrrrrrrrr....

Could that be a wing, maybe?

And now what would an owl be doing with a rather smart green gingham ribbon?

I can't put it off any longer - I present, without further ado, Mr. Owly....

The shaping of Mr. Owly was an absolute nightmare, and although I was intending to write the stitches down as I went, it turned out to be very much a 'make-it-up-as-you-go-along-then-go-back-three-rounds-and-completely-forget-what-you-just-hooked' kind of project. The type where you're not really sure what you're going to do on the next row until you get there - does anyone else have those types of project? Or is it just me?!
Once the body was done, hooking the wings, tummy and face were relatively easy, and both the beak and ears were just triangles folded in on themselves. Once he was finished, I decided Mr. Owly still looked a little bare, and then spotted the lovely gingham ribbon lying abandoned from another project (which will be blogged about ever so soon!) - and doesn't it look just perfect tied in a smart bow around his little neck?

I love his sweet little face, and I can't help but think he looks almost wise in some way! I do think he sits rather nicely in my craft area, nestled next to my Sublime cashmerino DK...

...but as soon as The Boy saw him, sitting on the little bookshelf, amongst his brightly coloured pictures and other toys, his face lit up and he pointed to Mr. Owly. "Umm," he said, looking at me delightedly. And suddenly, all the un-ravelling and head scratching when the hooking wouldn't sit properly became completely worth it. Welcome to your new home, Mr. Owly!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Starry Eyed

Many, many months ago, Lucy from Attic24 made an advent garland for the festive period using the Grandma Twinkle pattern from the lovely Royal Sisters blog. I ahhh-ed and sighed over it's loveliness, and filed it away in the back drawers of my brain as a Future Project.

Last week the Future became the Present, and after a month of hooking (a toddler, a part time job and various other projects mean things take slightly longer than I'd like them to...), I finished my very own star garland! It's nowhere near as long as Lucy's, but it fits in exactly where I wanted it to just perfectly. Happy days!

I hooked everywhere, in every spare minute I had - I found it was the perfect way to spend a quiet half an hour before work, with a mug of steaming coffee beside me...

The stars slowly began to pile up, and pretty soon it was time to get the blocking process underway - I've heard you can use corrugated cardboard and cork as a makeshift blocking board, but being short on space to store such a bulky item, it was a bit of a non-starter. So I improvised with.... a 99p garden kneeling pad from Wilkinsons, covered with an old towel! It works a dream, although if I ever need to block large pieces, I'm not entirely sure how it'll fare!

The stars came out wonderfully soft and drapey, all corners flattened and no curly edges at all - just right to sit nicely on a long string of chain stitches... (The photo below hints at my next project - crochet bunting! I'm desperately trying to think of a way to give it that extra little something, though.)

I love the colours in this little garland so much - the yarn is Sublime cashmere merino DK, and I can't get enough of it. It sits beautifully, has minimal splittiness when being hooked, and is super soft. The only problem is that at £4.55 per ball, it's not exactly economical on the purse strings!
After they were all blocked and finished, I had the dreaded task of sitting down to weave in all the yarn ends - I absolutely detest doing this, it's dull and it takes far too long. I should probably start doing it as I go, but I'm always eager to move on to the next bit. A bowl of cherries, the soaps on TV and my favourite blogs on the laptop made things a bit more bearable!

I slowly chain stitched them all together and hey presto! The garland was FINISHED! I was beginning to think it might never get there, I'm so bad at starting projects and never completely them (I'm actually sitting on a half painted chair to write this, would you believe!)

The only thing left to do was pop some nails into the wall to hang it from - after a lot of balancing on the arm of the sofa and leaning on the bookcase, the star garland finally had it's home!

Sunday, 9 May 2010


Saturday was a day full of small achievements, from boring but necessary tasks (the weekly food shopping and fitting a new washing machine part, yawn) to rather more exciting things such as baking, shopping and crafting.

On our travels, I found the most wonderful tea towels I think I've ever seen. How sad, to get such excitement and joy from a tea towel! But look, they are soooo lovely!

They have flowers! They have stripes! They have spots! And most of all, the colours match all of the other things in the kitchen perfectly. The most surprising thing of all about them was that they came from Wilkinsons!
On a trip to the tailors we popped across to my favourite gallery shop, and I just couldn't resist two rather lovely sheets of wrapping paper which will live in frames on the wall - it's such a good way to buy artwork on a budget!

Every time I visit the Southsea Gallery, I know I will come away heavier handed and lighter of pocket - they have such a delightful array of postcards, prints, wrapping paper and vintage posters that it takes a good half an hour just to choose a small selection to take home!

Saturday was also the day I spent some time in the kitchen having fun with baking. I've tried my hand at several different pies, cakes and biscuits before, but I've never made bread - what better to do on a rainy spring Saturday than fill the kitchen with wafting smells of fresh bread? After watching The Edible Garden on Tuesday and seeing the wonderful Alys Fowler making some rather yummy looking rosemary bread, I picked up some fresh herbs (mine haven't grown fully yet, sob sob) and decided to give it a go. If you've never watched Alys, make sure you log on to the iPlayer and catch up on previous programmes - I find her so inspiring that somehow I've ended up with far too much produce to grow on a mere balcony!

While we're talking about gardening - look at the tomato plants on the kitchen windowsill! I think the time for planting out has arrived...

Anyway, the bread making process requires patience (of which I have very little!), and I found myself peering under the tea towel every five minutes or so to see if the dough was rising. It was! Watching it grow and grow through the oven door was almost as satisfying as taking it out and cutting the first slice - almost!