Friday, 23 July 2010

I Heart Camping...and Crochet!

Hello there!

Remember last week I tormented you with a picture of some tiny granny squares? Well, here is my little reveal!! This is what those teeny tiny grannies became...can you guess what it is yet from the picture above?

Did you guess right? It's a rather pretty little table mat! What do you think of it? I'm very pleased with it, those bright squares and the picot edging makes me quite deliriously happy, and the Little One has already asked if she can have it for her very can guess what the answer to that was of course!

So! What else did I have to tell you this week...hmm, let me think. Ah yes, as if I could forget!! Our first foray into the world of camping!
Oh people, I have to tell you I am absolutely, completely and ridunculously hooked.

Here we are, all pitched up and oooooooooh it was so exciting!

We arrived in Oxfordshire under warm blue skies, the day looked promising and the weather held as we pitched out tent. Of course, the instructions said it would take about 10 minutes, in reality it took about an hour...and a half... ;)

Summer was blooming in abundance, wild flowers bobbed their cheerfully bright heads at us and the landscape unfolded as far as the eye could see into a patchwork of fields the colour of clotted cream fudge and faded limes.

As soon as the tent was pitched, an ominously dark grey cloud floated over and dispatched a large rainstorm onto us. We didn't care, we were cosy in out tent boiling a kettle for our first cup of camping tea and giggled outrageously at how much fun it all was!

Our friends arrived and over the weekend we visited some gorgeous little villages. Nature seemed to be wearing her prettiest dresses as everywhere we looked were colourful feasts for the eyes...

...hanging baskets and window boxes burst at the seams with vibrant colour, every village was festooned with tall hollyhocks that swayed gently in warm breezes, in wonderful shades of darkest burgundy to the softest pink tinged with lemon. The wild flowers were in competition, putting on their own gloriously technicolour show in hedgerows and fields and glades!

We took a trip to Oxford, so much beautiful architecture, and bustling with 100 languages of visiting students and tourists...
...I loved Oxford, I loved the atmosphere of it and the delicious little shops, but I was glad to come away to the serenity of Woodstock where there was a photo opportunity around every corner!
We also visited Burford, I am completely taken with this little corner of our country folks, it is chocolate box perfect in every way, gentle on the eyes and the soul and a pleasure to visit.

We found gorgeous little shops like this one above, boutiques and delicatessens housed in age old tipsy buildings with dark beams running higgledy-piggledy across the much to see, Iwas bursting with delight at everything we found!

The buildings in the villages are built from that famous golden stone that seems to glow with a warmth even on a grey day. They are enhanced by lavender frothing onto the pavements, geraniums bobbing their scarlet heads from terracotta pots and tiny windows that lean crazily at odd angles under swags of gauzy lilac wisteria.

Back at camp, some of the simple moments were the best ~ hot coffee and freshly baked pain au chocolat from the tiny camp store made a perfect breakfast...

...and in the evening, we told ghost stories as we sipped fizzy rose wine. As twilight cast its luminous blue glow over us a japanese lantern was cast off from the opposite field with much ooohing and aahhhing. We watched silently as the flickering amber lantern made its way up toward the first twinkling stars of the night, it was a lovely moment.

So, I think you can probably gather that we had a good old time of it. We were lucky with the weather and after that first afternoon downpour it only showered during the night.

I have to say, I cannot wait to go again!

I think that's about it for today, I hope you enjoyed my ramblings and before I go, there is just one last thing I would like to share with you all, and that is I'm having a bit of a sale at my website - and if you fancy having a nosey, you can see more here:

Thanks for stopping by today, and for all your lovely comments that you leave for me. I love hearing from you so if this is your first visit, it would be lovely of you to say 'hello' as it means I will be able to come and find you and your blog (if I haven't already!)

Sending love to you all for a delicious weekend!

Much love
J x

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Going Easy

Hello dear souls ~ how are you?

I'm in the process of making something, and I've taken a picture of it to show of those horrible sneaky peaky pictures that doesn't really give anything away, but lets you see a little bit of what has been going on hooky-wise here this last week.

I'm afraid the light is a bit rough today, try as I might I just cannot get the colours to zim and ping as they do in real life...but suffice to say they do, and I'm very skippity-happy about this little project which I will hopefully be able to show you properly next week...when it will all be finished. Am I awful for teasing you with it? I am sorry - perhaps to ease the frustration, you could all play at Guess What It Is?!

Ah look. That's much better. Now you can see just how zimmy and pingy those colours really are!

Well, I've been stuck indoors these last couple of days (as most of you around this island of ours probably have at some point) due to the typically British July weather conditions of gale force winds, lashing rain and cracking thunderstorms. My garden is a mess, but during an impromtu blue bit, I ran out and had a tidy up.

What a heavenly relief to see blue skies again, with drifty white clouds billowing about instead of nasty dark grey ones silently flashing with far away lightening...

The sun squeezed itself out for only a few minutes, long enough to illuminate our first little sweet pea...oh my goodness I do love these flowers, and I'm sure the fairies must come out at night and paint their soft petals those beautiful colours!

Life this week has been mostly about small moments like that. I've got to tell you that seemingly out of nowhere, my poor little bod succumbed to an awful outbreak of exzema...and that usually means that something is becoming a bit too much in this life of mine and needs dealing with pronto. It has been several years since this happened, and that was due to the perils of working away for months at a time and not being particularly happy with the job I was doing then.
Anyhow...I've worked out that in all, I've got rather too much heaped on my plate and I've got to do a bit of prioritising...let a few things go, start being a bit easier on myself as far as those mental To Do Lists go.

Do you have those? They are created in your mind (or in my case, increasingly more on paper too these days) and they are rather long. They include all the usual things like 'tackle that mound of ironing that is now making friends with the lampshade on the ceiling' and all manner of other pressure inducing things that have been made Very Important and Very Necessary.

So...I am making more time for the small stuff. The simple, necessary stuff that makes us feel good - the stuff that is necessary to ground us and keep us sane, like quite literally smelling the roses and admiring a blue, sunshine filled sky.
It's also about saying No to things that can't be achieved, or to things I don't always feel I want to do. No can be a hard word to say at times, but I've realised if I want to keep my sanity, and have an hour or so to myself each day then I'm going to have to.

And so far so good. The skin has cleared up, the gentle pace and just making time for little me has proved to be the best medicene there is!

I've been eating a bit healthier too, after some recent baking jaunts I felt enough was enough, there is only so much rocky road one can consume without being sick, and so it was a real pleasure to go into the garden and pick our first little crop of dwarf peas and broad beans...

The daughter's first strawbs appeared too...

...look at all those pretty borage flowers! Methinks I can feel a recipe coming on...

A Tasty Summer Garden Pasta if you please!

It's so very easy, and you don't have to have borage flowers to decorate (but you know me, I couldn't help myself) :D
I cooked up a batch of spaghetti and grated a big handful of parmesan cheese.
Meanwhile, crush a little garlic clove and sizzle gently in a tablespoon or so of good olive oil (don;t let it burn though, it tastes revolting)...when the pasta is half way cooked, toss in the broad beans and peas to cook for the remaining 4 minutes or so, that's all they need honestly - drain when ready and add to the garlic and oil mixture. Toss well and add the parmesan, stirring quickly as it will melt beautifully over the pasta, peas and beans...season with salt and pepper and eat it quickly, before somebody else does!


It doesn't get much better than that, from garden to plate in 15 minutes.

(This has turned into one of those famously long posts again...)

Before I go, I just wanted to show you something we bought at the weekend, and I was in a rapture about it the minute I clapped eyes on it!

Now, some of you who kindly visit me regularly will know about our camping escapade that we have been planning for a few weeks now...buying the tent and all manner of bits and necessary bobs so that we have the delicious luxury (weather pending of course) to take off somewhere on a whim if the weekend is free! Hurrah!! What a plan indeed!! And yes, already our first weekend is looming large, we travel south tomorrow to road test our new kit! Lets hope the weather is kind, but if it isn't I can heartily thank Diane at Heartshaped for all her generous and thoughtful camping wisdom.

But anyway, I digress...I was going to show you my latest purchase that had me swooning...

Isn't that the sweetest, most retro, most funky camp kettle you ever clapped eyes on??? And doesn't it just sit beautifully with its little melamine neighbour? Oh people, I can only imagine that with age a slight lunacy decends when one is reduced to having raptures about a camping kettle...add to that it whistles and I really felt I had gone to camping heaven. Honestly.

I suppose it happens to the best of us, and yet its just those very moments that make ordinary life so very extraordinarily special!

I'm off to pack now, keep your fingers crossed that we don't suffer the mercy of those vile storms that crossed Yorkshire last night and we'll be happy...if it's dry, it's a bonus isn't it?!

Have a good weekend, thanks for stopping by.

Mucho love
J x

Friday, 9 July 2010

Salt Breezes and Other Stories


This has been a funny old week - one of restless mind (yes, again) which was partially soothed by a nice morning making Rocky Road but followed by a general unsettled~ness which began with a very tiny need to be by the sea, and which turned into a bigger and bigger one as the week drew on.

Saturday promised to be a fine day, and without much persuading we gathered ourselves, buckets, spades, shrimping nets and hefty picnic and drove off pronto to the east coast, to Filey, where we set up camp on the vast sandy beach and enjoyed a warm and happy day which we finished off with delicious salt and vinegary fish and chips on a bench overlooking the Brigg.

I'm so happy by the sea, I can hardly put it into words. Its all the simple things like the wonderful scent of the salty sea breezes, the fresh and tangy air, the views, the light heartedness that inevitably comes from being by the coast...There are other little moments too, like that divine feeling of soft white sand under your feet, and cool crystal waves lapping about your ankles as a seagull cries overhead...

It was a tonic, but alas we had to drive home that evening as the following day there was a rather Important Job to be done.

We were off to buy our tent!

Well, at long last we have brought it home, along with a few other goodies such as a little stove and cooking set...and you probably want a peep at it don't you? Oh - well alright then!! Here you go!
This is our new portable home!! Next weekend it will be coming with us to the Cotswolds for its first outing. We are having a trial run (a sensible thing to do we've been told) and are going to put it up in my parents back garden first, to familiarise ourselves with it, and then probably go loopy with excitement and jump about in it a bit, like you do!

We are all looking forward to the adventures we are no doubt going to have, and I will try my hardest to remember to squeeze the camera in the car somewhere and take lots of pictures.

So what else has been going on here?

Well, some art work has been done - here are a couple of line drawings that I did and rendered with greyscale watercolour. These sorts of drawings are fairly quick to do and great fun, it's almost like messing about and not 'proper' drawing at all, the imagination can go wild!

This one above looks a bit like me, going wild in the kitchen on baking day...!
...and this one was inspired by my two little nephews, I think they're monster hunting or something boyish that boys generally do when equiped with torches and much mischief!

The picture at the bottom of this post is from my sketch book, and was done using watercolour and inks. It was just something I did for fun, but overall I'm liking the effect of ink and watercolour together, and the rather scratchy way I've edged it all. I generally work with acrylic paints and so it's nice to experiment with new stuff to see what works (and what doesn't) and move away from what's familiar. I think I'll be making some new pictures with the ink in future!

Well, someone Small is in the sandpit, the sun is shining and I can feel a spot of crochet coming on, a nice and relaxing pursuit for as long as I can get away with it methinks!!

I hope you all have a nice weekend, we are off to my Mum's village tomorrow for the yearly Carnival, I just hope the weather holds!

Til next time, much love and thanks for visiting me today!
J x

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Lemon Shortbread, Raspberries & Apricots...

We've been busy again. :)

My dear friends, despite the hot weather, the Little One and I found ourselves rushing into the kitchen yesterday to concoct an exciting recipe, something of an experiment ~ which was to become Lemon Shortbread.

It all started with a punnet of raspberries and a bag of apricots that I'd brought home the previous day.
I found my mind wandering to them at intervals and suddenley an idea was born, to eat these delicious, soft summer fruits with a generous daub of creme fraiche and a little shortbread biscuit, flavoured with the essence of the warm Mediterranean: Lemon.

Searching high and low for a recipe proved a little difficult believe it or not. And so, after some pondering and some musing, we decided to forge ahead and make up our own, adding zingy lemon zest to a long standing family shortbread recipe which I will share with you today...

Just look...what do you think?

Dear souls, I cannot describe how deliciously Melt-In-The-Mouth these little biscuits are, you will just have to try them for yourself and see. The lemon is a wonderfully subtle flavour that seems to emerge at the end of each mouthful, and seems to work beautifully with that buttery flavour without being too rich.

Ok, here is the recipe :D

Lemon Shortbread


150g plain flour
100g lightly salted butter
100g unsalted butter & a pinch of salt
50g golden caster sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon (add more if you prefer a stronger flavour)
sugar for sprinkling

How to make:

Preheat your oven: 150c/130c fan/Gas 2
Put the flour and the butter (and salt if using) into a mixing bowl and rub together until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.

Mix in the sugar and lemon rind and knead until it all becomes nice and soft.

Roll out on a lightly floured surface about 5mm thick.
You can then cut out biscuit shapes, or if you prefer smooth the shape into a circle and mark triangles out.
Prick the surface with a fork, and pop in the oven for about 25-35 mins. The shortbread will retain its nice pale colour when cooked.

Sprinkle sugar on top when you take them out of the oven!

Eat when cool.

I hope you enjoy them as much as we did - in fact, we have none left and I can feel another batch coming on pretty soon!

Well, the sun has shone relentlessly this last week, just a bit of cloud now and then but almost continental temperatures that have left us all a bit weary not to mention hot and bothered. It's a faff to do much when it's like this but I'm not complaining at all - I love the warm weather and love getting out to enjoy it (pity there's a pile of ironing about 5 feet high crawling up the wall but c'est la is to be enjoyed, and we can iron when it rains!! Ha!)

So, yesterday - ignoring the ironing pile and walking hurriedly past the hoover, the Little One and I decamped outside with our paints and whiled away an hour under the parasol painting Lemons and Things.

I dug out my old watercolour paintbox from my college days and presented them to the Small Person who asked what all the holes were in the paint pans! I hastily explained that Mummy had painted lots of pictures when she was younger with these paints to which she proclaimed me to be a 'Naughty Girl' for making such a mess of them. Anyhow, she seemed quite taken with the fact that she'd been gifted with some real Big Girl paints and set to work.

It wasn't long before she wanted to do what Mummy was doing, which at that moment was painting a lemon (which you can see at the top of this post) and this is her effort here!

Bless her, she's even managed to do the paint splatters and was enormously pleased with it.

Talking of finished paintings, I have completed the watercolour piece I started last week. I must say a big thank you for all your nice comments about the sneaky peek I showed you, but I appear to have misled you all a bit. I was telling you about my tree problem if you remember and bless you, you all said how smashing they looked thinking I meant the small background ones....little did you know I had not taken a shot of the culprits who were causing me so much grief, they were the big beasties at the front of the woodland scene!! However, after much messing about, I'm happy with the final outcome and can now show you what it all looks like!

This will be finding its way to the printers in the next day or so, and then on to the Agency. I've been fretting a bit lately that I just don't have enough time to create as much work as I would like (I think I've always set high standards for myself and sometimes suffer because of it). I suppose I just want to make the best of what is a wonderful opportunity and not blow it, it's my absolute dream to eventually have a book to illustrate.

Well, the day is still young and there is still oodles of time to start work on another painting, or perhaps begin some more line drawings. Must make the most of my time as I'm being whisked out to Cafe Rouge for something to eat en-route to picking up the child from Mums house later on, and I'm really looking forward to that...moules et frites are calling me...

Have a wonderful weekend folks, thanks for stopping by!

Much love
J x
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