Friday, 28 June 2013

Twilight garden

On Wednesday evening we made the most of the short-lived summer weather and went to Jay's mum's house for tea. 

We sat outdoors and drank apple and elderflower juice, and I wandered around with the camera snapping some of the flowers.

There are lots of pastel shades: periwinkle blue, baby pink, lilac, white... and they all took on a luminosity as the sun moved behind the house. Our garden at home is like an explosion in a paint factory. Crazy bright colours everywhere. We didn't really go down the tasteful route this year.

I liked that there were soft colours in the pebbles and shells around the garden too. They complemented the plants.

And I love the markings on these miniature iris.

Naturally, someone else was appreciative of the space to crawl and the opportunity to make new discoveries. The cat wasn't so sure.

Hope you have a nice weekend. We're planning a quiet one. Creativity, cooking and slowing things down after a busy week.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


One of my favourite, favourite flowers. We have several - in various colours - growing outside. The one I'm most looking forward to hasn't even got a bud yet but will be white and purply-red. My mum told me they used to grow red and white dahlias in Poland when she was little.

There are lots of those huge daisies growing around here at the moment, but not in the garden. Other whites we do have: trailing geraniums, alpine strawberry flowers and something I can't identify (it's not a weed but I have no idea what it's called).

After photographing this bloom I put it in a heavy glass vase. I think it might end up on the bedside table.

Joining in with Lou's Nature in the Home.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Northern Quarter

It's been a bit Manchester-centric recently. Last night we went to see Kings of Leon (and consequently have been yawning a lot today), and Jay booked last Friday off work and we had a trip to the Northern Quarter. Luckily the rain held off so we got to wander around my favourite part of the city without umbrellas and soggy feet.

Apparently, the remake of the Michael Caine film 'Alfie' was partly shot here due to the similarities to New York. I'm not too sure about that, but it does have plenty of rusty fire escapes and grimy old brick buildings. And although there are lots of trendy cafes, bars and boutiques, these days they sit alongside the more established and traditional businesses like clothing manufacturers and shopfitters.

We always have a look in the Richard Goodall Gallery and gaze longingly at the film and music posters. Some of them are originals dating back to the 1960s and 70s. I really loved the Woody Allen ones, but would happily have taken any of the others home.

The Craft and Design Centre is in a converted Victorian market. It has lots of little shops run by craftspeople: photographers, ceramicists, textile artists, jewellers... so many covetable things to look at and admire.

Naturally, we had to visit the cafe. 

I had some very spicy falafels, Jay had a toastie and we both partook in the blackcurrant and ginger cheesecake (Joe mauled ate some baby biscuits and mushy stuff, and stared at a fellow customer in an unnerving fashion).

The upstairs area is galleried so you can people-watch. And the ceiling is glass so it's always nice and bright - even on a grey Manchester day.

Our final stop was Fred Aldous. It's an art and craft supply shop and a Manchester institution. There were lots of lovely things you usually only see online (my notebook fetish kicked in immediately), and downstairs they had everything you could possibly need to draw, paint, print, knit, sew, crochet... whatever your Thing happens to be.

I bought some supplies and would have liked to peruse the books and magazines, but Joe had other ideas. It was time for his afternoon nap so we lifted him in his buggy up lots of stairs. He looked like a little emperor, sitting there while we huffed and puffed.

Still, with a short drive home we got back in good time to put him to bed for a while. Which is always nice.

Sunday, 23 June 2013


To join in with Lou's Nature in the Home series...

When my mum's visited recently she's brought green things: lilacs and this time, a cutting of a little houseplant. It's growing away enthusiastically on the kitchen windowsill. So much so that I repotted it yesterday afternoon. I like the colours. Mossy green and purple are one of my favourite combinations.

We tend to get plants, bulbs and flowers quite often as gifts. I think they're the perfect offering. In fact, here's a list of nice things to give (and, of course, to receive):

Perennial seeds such as aquilegia or wildflower mixes
Hyacinth, muscari or miniature narcissi bulbs (to flower in the house)
Cuttings from houseplants - geraniums are easy
Home-grown fruit and vegetables (or jam/chutney made from them)
A pot of herbs - again, easy to take cuttings
Alpine strawberry plants
A clump from a plant which has been divided: maybe snowdrops or hosta

I could go on and on and on... I love plants!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Jewelled Garden

Fellow Gardener's World fans will know that Monty Don has a 'Jewel Garden' among his many, many other gardens at Long Meadow. Well, our garden is probably smaller than one of Monty's compost heaps. But last week we had our very own Jewelled Garden.

A heavy rain shower left the place looking as though we'd been visited by the Swarowski fairies.

Some plants - hostas, nasturtiums, crocosmia, alchemilla mollis - made the raindrops look like little balls of mercury. I know that lupins do the same. Maybe I'll get some next year.

And the images lend themselves to black and white, I think. Although the colour versions are nice too. But the crystal-like drops look a bit more like jewels in monochrome.

Even a rainy day in summer (is it officially summer yet?) has its charms.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Nature walk

The past few days have been really hot and sunny. Joe's been on the swings most days (he loves them so much we now know what to buy for his first birthday in August). But today we went to look at flowers and insects and trees.

I took him around the Mounds. There are lots of paths near the house with a couple of ponds and woods. We spotted wild orchids and dog roses and buzzy creatures.

And buttercups everywhere.

The pond we visit has a little jetty-type thing so you can get right out into the middle and see the ducks. Unfortunately today they were heard but not seen but I still got a photo or two. The flag irises were out in abundance.

As were the dragonflies. They were zipping around too quickly but these (damsel flies?) were easier to snap.

I think the heat made Joe a bit drowsy...

After the pond we climbed to the top of a hill - pushing a pram up it was heavy going. We did a bit of off-roading to look at the ragged robin. Then the wheels got stuck in the grass. Joe found it very funny.

You can see across to Manchester from the top of the hill. The view was a bit hazy today though. I could just about make out the Beetham Tower.

We walked back home through the trees. The shade was very welcome. 

Monday, 17 June 2013

Five Things

Aquilegias growing in the 'nursery garden' (for children) at the local park. Most of the beds are overgrown with weeds or mint but there are a few gems here and there. 

Avocado on brown toast. It was very creamy - almost like eating mashed up egg yolks - and one of my favourite breakfasts.

Detail from a shallow dish I made in my ceramics class. It's for Joe to put finds in from our walks when he's a bit bigger. 

This plate belonged to my Polish grandma (who now resides in North Wales). It's a bit wonky but nice and big. And I'm partial to an oval plate. It needs to be piled high with pierogi. Cheese and potato-filled pierogi. Best served smothered in fried onions and melted butter. 

Another retro typewriter. I love the pale green colour. Unlike my other very old one, I think this may actually be capable of producing some nice typing. Maybe I'll look out for some ribbon.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

My new Favourite Thing

On Thursday evening I went to my first art class. There was good news and bad: because only four of us had signed up, the course is being postponed until September. But... we had a free taster session and got to try our hands at printmaking.

I'm now addicted.

Yes I got covered in paint. Yes my first few attempts were awful. But the monoprinting and lino cut were fun to try out. So much so that I'm going to invest in this book and buy some printmaking equipment. It's inexpensive and I can use the kitchen table (must stop eyeing up James's shed and imagining it all painted white inside with my radio and a tin of biscuits handy).

I came home with sheets of paper flapping in the breeze and a cardboard box full of my previous efforts at ceramics. 

I even framed this image (landscape, not portrait). An Ikea 'Ribba' frame - complete with mount - can make even the most amateur attempt look quite professional.

The tutor suggested that, come September, I spend the whole course working on printmaking (other topics include paper making and drawing techniques). I can't wait - and in the meantime am going to make sketches and cut lino to my heart's content.

Friday, 14 June 2013


To link in with Lou's Nature in the Home theme (this week: Your Favourite Plant). So: ferns...

I don't have houseplants as such, apart from a pot-bound palm on the bathroom windowsill. I'm partial to an orchid or two. But the plants I really like don't seem to like me.

I love those miniature cyclamen but they never last. 

It's the same with ferns. They have a sort of bohemian appeal, but they perish too. So I took a frond from the garden and pressed it. I have an old Habitat flower press lurking up in the loft somewhere, but in this case I just piled a load of books on top and left it for a few days.

Then pinned it on my old mood board (must start using that again) alongside a picture of Louise Brooks. And I gave her a little hair decoration. Not that she needs it. I would love to be able carry off a hairstyle like that.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Foraging trip

Here are some images from last week's foraging trip (a local wander to find hedgerow items for this post).

I don't often use black and white images but felt like a bit of a change.

Normal colour service will be resumed shortly.

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