Sunday, 28 July 2013

The edible bouquet

I see plenty of beautiful flowers in the florist’s window. Supermarkets now stock an abundance of bouquets, and even petrol stations stock enough blooms to cover an emergency hostess gift. But my favourite posy to give is an edible one, picked straight from my herb garden.

All you see here is can be eaten! I love picking an array of pretty blooms and leaves and arranging them in a wildflower-style bunch tied with twine.

These posies make me happy, even happier when the recipient discovers that they can snip various leaves and blooms throughout the week to flavour dinners!
The variety of herbs varies week to week – the little purple orbs of chive flowers always look pretty (be careful, though, or the bouquet will smell entirely of onion!) but they died out last week. The soft green sage leaves haven’t grown high enough yet. So what culinary treats are in this particular bouquet? Let’s see...
Start with one perfect rose...

Add some more floral colour with bronze fennel flower, lavender and marsh mallow

The liquid resulting from boiling the marsh mallow plant can be used like egg whites.
Then we need some background greenery. The ferny fronds of sweet cicely and the bold bay leaf work well...
Need some architectural interest - some arching, frothy bronze fennel leaves

And the dainty white-dotted stems of oregano and savoury

Just caught the oregano flowers before they completely fade
The savoury stems curve up nicely...
I usually give a posy to a fellow foodie friend. To make the offering even more of a ‘proper’ gift, add a little recipe card featuring one or more of the plants in the herbal bouquet – a soup, a salad dressing, even sugared rose petals for cake decorating...
Happy crafting and bon app├ętit!

Chrissie x

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Learning my ABCs...

I’m about to start work on not one, but two alphabet samplers, both very different in style but each with its own challenges and techniques for me to learn.

The first is the S is for Stitch quilt from the book by Kristyne Czepuryk.
I’ve roped in two friends in the village to make quilts with me, so we’ll all learn the quilting together and keep each other going.

The girl's ABC quilt

We met up to rotary cut the white background squares for the embroidery blocks – oh how fun it is to zip that pizza wheel along layers of fabric! *Zoom* and you’ve done a nice stack of squares! (Ah yes, you accomplished quilters, I’m easily impressed!)

I cut tissue squares to trace the alphabet designs from the book, then I popped them on the lightbox to trace onto the fabric with my super-fine marker pen.

This sweet book is divided into two alphabets – one for girls and one for boys. But all the blocks and letters are the same size, so you can mix and match – some of the ‘boy’ letters would suit my girls! I love the simplicity of the stitch designs, and they aren’t your typical ‘A is for Apple’ letters, either...

I’m adapting certain letters to personalise the alphabet for my girls – B is for Bunny, obviously! The book is American, so we’re brainstorming substitutions; for the ‘B is for Baseball’ we’ll doodle a simple play ball, and we’ve decided ‘Q is for Quarter’ (the US 25-cent coin) could be changed to Quack, with a little drawing of a duck (or perhaps a cartoon Freud?).
I’ll keep you posted as I trace and stitch all the letters...and then when I take the plunge and start sewing the quilt. I’ve ordered the fabric (I’ll keep that secret for now), so I am well and truly committed!
As if I wasn’t challenging myself enough with quilting, let me unveil my second sampler, the Flowered Alphabet:

Stunning, isn’t it? I was instantly enchanted by this sampler and had to have it. Of course mine won’t look like this, but hey, I aim high. This lovely gift came with a pre-printed linen square, so all I have to do is work the 16 different stitches onto the flora and fauna scattered about this beautiful fabric...I will learn a lot of new techniques, and if this doesn’t help me master the French knot, then there is no hope for me!

I might have to work on both alphabets simultaneously – when I feel overwhelmed by the Palestrina stitch or the pistil knot of the Flowered Alphabet, I’ll just backstitch a rainbow for the quilt and regain my confidence! I do love a challenge!
Chrissie x
P.S. We have a busy schedule now that we're into summer holidays, lots of fun planned with the kiddos, so if I don't reply to your comments or post anything for a few days, please understand! Happy crafting!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Crack the WIP!

The Blossom Bag was pushed aside and stitching was left in the hoop as I frantically put the finishing touches to the baby blanket I’d been sort-of-secretly working on for a while.

Can you guess why? Yes, my friend’s baby boy couldn’t take this summer heat anymore and arrived early! (Which puts to rest any fancy ideas that I was, maybe, just maybe, making the blanket for a certain royal ‘friend’...c’mon, didn’t you think it for a brief moment when I first showed the WIP? Nah, I didn’t think so...)
I really like the picot edge, this little detail gives the blanket a baby sweetness.
All that’s left now is gift wrapping. I don’t know why I’m rushing, with this heat it’s not like mummy will be using it anytime soon!
I used a soft green shade – Sirdar Snuggly 0403 – and the size is perfect for a pram or a buggy. I enjoyed making the raised shell pattern, where every odd row was worked Back Loops Only.
But wait, there are more babies about!

Here is the second baby robin this year; I guess the fine weather has stimulated a baby boom in the bird world! This fledgling hopped up along the feeder...

Then made himself comfortable sitting squarely on a seed ball! He pecked away for a long while – imagine sitting on a giant chocolate chip cookie you have all to yourself? *Mmmm*

These are the latest brood from the Blackbird Clan, who arrived during our first summer in this house, nearly 10 years ago. I love the friendliness of blackbirds, like robins. They all know me, and most mornings one or two will stand outside the French doors in the kitchen, looking sideways at me as if to say, “Breakfast, please!” Then they sit on a branch, hanging around while I put out the seed.
For a special treat, the girls and I put out handfuls of sultanas or raisins, then sit and watch them scoff the ‘candy’

Steady on, piggy!
Little Flower is fascinated by how close they allow us to be. Our back garden has a little area that you can see here – about 15 patio tiles just plonked down by the previous owners, probably for their barbecue, but for us it’s a spacious bird feeding station!

Here is daddy bird, with distinguished patches of grey feathers...

I’m afraid there are no more photos of The Woodpecker Family, at least not this summer. The last time I saw Baby Woody, he looked well into his teens, all slimmed down feathers, sassy look in his eye – even the red tuft of feathers on his head looked gel-styled! I grabbed the camera as quick as I could but, alas, he was gone. I’m not sure he even ate that much – perhaps he was just coming to say goodbye. Best of luck to the fella! 
I will end this post with a big swathe of jasmine flowers for my new friends and followers, welcome and thank you for visiting!

Happy crafting!

Chrissie x

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Gifts for the teachers

I once read a brilliant quote that went something like,
“Imagine a society where the salaries of celebrities and teachers were reversed.”

I finished the cherry blossom heart today. It is for Little Flower’s key worker teacher at pre-school, who also happens to be a dear friend of mine. She is from Japan, and I know she misses the annual the Cherry Blossom Festival, when hundreds of cherry trees burst into flower and petals fall to the ground like pink snow.

So I embroidered a tiny tree to remind her of home, in a heart shape so she knows she is loved here, too!

Because I was working without a pattern, I felt almost like a painter as I stitched various shades of thread onto the linen. It was free-flowing creativity on a very small scale. The best, and most liberating, aspect was that any mistake could be simply snipped out!
I drew the trunk on the fabric, then stitched over the line with a single thread, one light brown, one dark. Then I started dotting blossoms here, there and everywhere in three shades of pink.

I started with dark fuchsia thread on the left branches, a few large blooms, a few small stitches. I layered the colours, building onto the branches with rosy hues. The lightest pinks came last, highlighting the uppermost part of the tree, with a few miniscule stitches falling here and there as little petals. Oh, it was so fun to make. I am really getting into this...
But what’s that lovely smell wafting from the oven? Tomorrow is the last day of term here, and my kitchen is buzzing!

When faced with the endless array of candles, mugs and lotions on the “Teacher Gifts” shelves of local shops, I decided I’d bake something for Bunny’s teachers when she was in pre-school. She is finishing Year 5 tomorrow and nothing has changed. Mrs Isaac, a chocolate lover, will have a lovely batch of my favourite chocolate cookies tomorrow (sans sugary cream filling), tucked away in this lovely teacher pocket made by my friend Jooles
Pre-school ended last week for Little Flower, so along with my friend’s cherry blossom heart, we gave the rest of the teaching staff cookie bags

Some with cranberry & white chocolate-chunk shortbread
Some with raspberry & dark chocolate-chunk cookies
(They all seem happy that Little Flower has one more year of pre-school left...)
These recipes are from this book, full of very special cookies ideal for gift-giving

I can’t believe another year has girls are getting older...oh dear, the timer’s gone off – must dash to get those cookies out of the oven!
Thank you teachers, each and every one of you, all around the world. xoxoxo

Chrissie x

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Colours, colours everywhere...

...but which ones should I choose?

Hello to my newest visitors, and thank you to all of you who left such lovely comments on my last post – y’all make me smile!
I’m glad everyone seems to like the colours of the Blossom Bag I’m crocheting, because choosing a range of colours for one project is nearly impossible for me.

Three rows done!
I tend to play it safe with colour. I love my neutrals, soft blush shades, pale greens, greys and taupes. I love ivory and shades of white.

I gaze longingly at the happy brights found throughout Attic24’s crochet world. I drool over MemeRose’s Kaffe-inspired hot colours. The vintage and retro-style blogs, with their candy-coloured papers and fabrics – I’m captivated! But alas, when it’s my turn to start a multi-coloured crochet blanket...
I have stood in yarn shops, arms full of sunny colours, but then I have total brain melt. My eyes hit a completely unrelated shade, and I start adding colours in that range...and then get frustrated with the mismatched lot and leave. I have filled online shopping baskets with eight striking shades of dusky plum, only to turn off the computer after being distracted by the equally beautiful intense aquas and acid greens. Indecisive.

Oh, how I envy the carefree crafters who reach blindly into a yarn basket and hook on whatever colour is chosen by chance! I’m afraid I would reach in again and again until the ‘right’ random shade appeared.
I have managed to complete a multi-coloured granny stripe blanket, mind. For Bunny, about three years ago

Juicy, eh? I *loved* this colour palette, and working on it was a joy. I selected and combined the yarn shades, but the palette was based on Bunny’s favourite colours, so I can’t take total credit. I followed up this project with a little dolly blanket for Little Flower’s baby
Three colours, safe and sweet!
So. I couldn’t wait for Cherry Heart to release the pattern for the Blossom Bag, it is just so darling, but I really wanted to choose my own colours. Action was needed.

My lightbulb moment happened in the local DIY shop. I spotted those paint colour strips, with everything lined up in a neat little row. Then I grabbed some home decorating mags and found their mood boards and colour wheels.
I know it’s obvious, but it’s taken me this long to figure it out – I’ve started a new Pinterest board – Colour Palettes. I do a search for various shades that strike my fancy - hydrangeas, pinks, rainbows - and good ol’ Pinterest gives me loads of beautiful variations on the theme.
My Blossom Bag is from the ‘Autumn Hydrangea’  pin on my board – go over and take a look! I can see me going a bit bonkers with this every season – I already have about a dozen projects that I want to make based on pins alone! And yes, I have plenty of neutral loveliness on there, but oh the shades that accompany the photo of a log pile...
As I took a break from writing to check out what’s happening in Blogland, lo and behold the Colour Collaborative came to my rescue! As if they knew I was flailing in a sea of colour choices, this group of creative bloggers are writing about seasonal colours and providing inspirational palettes – a lifesaver. Ah, this is why I love blogging – we’re all in the same boat, and we lend a hand to those who seem a bit lost at sea. (I have no idea how or why the whole nautical metaphor is on my mind, but it’s evocative so I’m going with it!)
Ahoy, maties!

Chrissie x


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Blooming marvellous...

The Great British Summer has caused an explosion of blossoms at my house!

There are the blooms in the garden...

There are foodie flowers on the breakfast plates...
And there are the best blossoms of all – crafty flowers! The sun has curtailed finishing my WIPs, but I’m not complaining, oh no! But I shall show you my progress...
I am embroidering another tree, this one a bit bigger and full of pink blossom.

I’ll tell you all the details once I’m finished...
And I simply couldn’t stand another day without a new crochet project!

Sandra from Cherry Heart has just released her Blossom Bag pattern, and I snapped it up quicker than you can say “too many WIPs!” (And there is no such thing!) You can read about it here.
And like the embroidery, I promise to tell you more about this project in the next few days, including my new inspiration for colour selection...
Another hot day here – Little Flower tends to wilt a bit in the midday heat, so we’re all going to the cinema after lunch for her first proper cinema outing!
I wonder if there’s enough light from the screen to crochet a few more blossoms?
Chrissie x