Garden flowers – spring through to summer

What a wonderful summer it has been, the cherry season seems to have gone on forever, and the blackberries are showing promise but aren’t yet ripened. The gardens have been stunning, the weather has brightened not just the gardens, everyone is happy and smiling. 
There is nothing more pleasurable than having vases of flowers indoors that are home grown.  These peonies were lovely back in May, we have clumps of them in many different beds. We had some wet days,  so I rescued these from the ground their heads were so full of water – they brightened up the kitchen for a good ten days. 


 Peace lilies are so stunning, the flowers are huge – I think they are my favourite lily. We have several clumps but the blooms this year seem to have been extraordinary – the gardener kindly gave me a few enjoy. I am planning to do a drawing study, but time runs away with me.

 The poppies were also abundant, we have a huge bed out the front which was alive with the lovely pink flowers dancing in the breeze.

They have seeded all over the gardens and I spotted them in at least six places, must be the birds!

These are the more traditional poppies I could not resist taking a picture.

The roses were also stunning in June, this one has the most delightful sent. It is amazing just how much nature puts on a display every year, creating such beauty that was hidden under the frost and snow.
The thing I most enjoy about the gardens is that as one flower fades another takes its place. 

In August the hyacinths are all in flower, they make the most magnificent bouquets they are such huge flower heads this vase has only four blooms! Ours all seem to be pink, I think it depends on the soil. 

As the summer is drawing to a close, it won’t be long before the trees change colour – my favourite time of the year. I used to think gardening was boring when I was younger, but now I find I love the ever changing beds. 

Time slips by ..

I woke up this morning with this poem running through my head. I met my children for dinner yesterday, it is so strange to think my daughter is a married woman now. Motherhood is very strange, if you are doing a good job then you are hopefully making yourself redundant – that they can live their lives independently. But I find it is mixed, sometimes they seem so grown up and responsible, and then they seem like little children again, in need of love and encouragement. One thing I do know, is that they make me proud every day, and I feel it is always good to let them know.

The Lesson of the Water-Mill

by Sarah Doudney 1841-1926 English poet and hymn writer. 

Listen to the water-mill
Through the livelong day,
How the clicking of its wheel
Wears the hours away!
Languidly the autumn wind,
stirs the forest leaves,
From the field the reapers sing,
Binding up their sheaves;
And the proverb haunts my mind
As a spell is cast–
“The mill cannot grind
With the water that has past.”
Autumn winds revive no more
Leaves that once are shed,
And the sickle cannot reap
Corn once gatheres;
Flows the ruffled streamlet on,
Tranquil, deep, and still;
Never gliding back again
To the water-mill
Truly speaks the proverb old
With meaning vast–
“The mill cannot grind
With the water that has past.”
Take the lesson to thyself,
True and loving heart;
Golden youth is fleeting by,
Summer hours depart;
Learn to make the most of life,
Lose no happy day;
Time will never bring thee back
Chances swept away!
Leave no tender word unsaid
Love while love shall last–
“The mill cannot grind
With the water that has past.”
Work while yet the daylight shines,
Man of strength and will!
Never does the streamlet glide
Useless by the mill;
Wait not till to-morrrow’s sun
Beams upon thy way
All that thou canst call thine own
Lies in thy “To-day”‘
Power, intellect and health
May not always last–
“The mill cannot grind
With the water that has past.”
Oh, the wasted hours of life
That have drifted by!
Oh, the good that might have been–
Lost, without a sigh!
Love that we once have saved
By a single word,
Thoughts conceived, but never penned,
Perishing unheard;–
Take the proverb to thine heart,
Take, and hold it fast–
“The mill cannot grind
With the water that has past.”
Sarah Doudney wrote this when she was 15 years old.

Paolozzi

Saturday we visited the Pallant House Gallery which was exhibiting works by Eduardo Paolozzi, it is well worth a visit. Paolozzi created a beautiful mural for the Tottenham Court Road Underground station. His work seems to be mainly influenced by the space era of the 1950’s with mechanical shapes and collages of 1950’s American advertising. Like many artists his work is not limited to just painting, textiles, and Wedgwood plates, film as well as sculpture. He experimented with wax casting, creating heads out of cast metal it was interesting to see the process unfold.

The poster prints are a riot of colour and mechanical shapes, that I found it a little busy there was so much to attract the eye, but it reflects the colour explosion of the 1950’s so well – this was a time when vibrancy was an reaction to the deprivations of war time Britain.

The mechanical drawings and prints remind me of the Steam punk imagery that is a subculture of today, where steam and monster structures combine with robotic implants on humans. These have been recurring themes throughout the ages, right back to the luddites who saw machines replacing jobs.

It reminded me of a period of drawing I did a few years ago, when I discovered some old engineering stencils – I loved the technical aspect of drawing and used them to create an imaginary machine of my own. Sadly the original is lost, but this is a photocopy – the tones have been lost from the original pencil but it gives a flavour.

My two favourite objects from the exhibition was a gold porcelain piece – it had been cast from impressions and then made from porcelain which was then covered in gold. I think the structure would make the light reflections absolutely beautiful.

I really liked the gold version of the Wedgewood Plate, mostly because I can follow the pattern and texture more easily than the colourful version. 

The combination of blue tones and pattern is gorgeous, and very inspirational.  Well worth a visit if you can it is running until the 13th October 2013. 

Kitch Kitchen – dresser revamp

I bought this dresser top for £15, it was the usual yellow pine – so I painted it a light blue and cream. There has been a lot of popularity for expensive paints that give a more chalky effect but the cost of them is huge! as much as £50 per 2 1/2 litre! In order to thicken the paint and create a more chalky texture I added three tablespoons of fine plaster to an ordinary standard tin of paint. I kept on mixing until the consistency was like whipped cream. It meant the coverage was very effective without too much preparation. 
I painted the back of the dresser in a white cream as I intended to use napkins to create a colourful background – the white would create a better base for the pattern. I gave the dresser a thin coat of varnish and allowed it to dry for a day or two. 
Patio paint is a wonderful medium, it is waterproof and can be used outside. It transforms napkins into a easy decoupage as it is gentle enough not to tear the delicate print. I buy the clear paint, but you can also get them in a range of colours. 
 You simply separate the sheets of the napkin until you have one fine patterned layer. 
With a very soft brush you simply paint the patio paint onto the surface and then gently lay the napkin over – painting another layer of glue and gently smoothing it onto the surface. 
If the napkin does break, you can repair the gap by laying a matching piece over. 

Keep pasting the napkins onto the surface until you have covered the area – allow to dry and then repeat another layer of patio paint over to seal. 
This can be used on any number of items, I have used it for tins as well as pots. My little kitchen is very short of space – and I could not use shelves because the walls are plasterboard. This has given a solution for all the necessities close at hand. It looks pretty too. 

Style with a smile?

I was reading Afua Hirsch’s article in the newspaper this weekend and I was completely in agreement with her, in this country we all try and alter our body shapes to fit clothes that often don’t flatter or simply distort our shapes and accentuate our least loved features. What madness is this?

Where did we get to this position where women really struggle to accept their bodies and love who they are? I have to admit I often visit clothing stores when the season’s change, just to keep up with what is on trend and often I leave without spending a penny. I look around and see women wearing ‘this season’s colour’ or ‘this seasons’ look’ without giving it any regard to whether it enhances her or not.

I am not bashing women and what they wear, I feel saddened that we all have pressure to fit in, I remember my svelte daughter wearing low slung jeans and a teeshirt that exposed a middle that did absolutely nothing to enhance her beautiful shape, it just made her look like her body was spilling over.

Thankfully the current trend for retro styling has allowed women to express their own sense of style – even if it is the vintage forties with victory rolls, rockabilly chic or fifties flair. There never is a better time to sew because not only can you chose your clothes and fabric that reflects who you are, but you can make clothes that don’t make you feel like you are ‘too big on the hips’ or ‘too busty!’ which is often why I have to return lovely summer dresses, they simply make me look trashy!

The great thing about making your own clothes is that you can choose everything right down to the cut or the weight of the fabric. It takes me back to the dressing up box and the most favourite item of all, a circular elasticated waistband skirt – the waistband moved with me, and it was simply glorious to spin and feel the fabric flow around my legs. That is how clothes should make us feel.

I am just back from Austria and came across shops full of dirndl dresses when I put one on it was like a childhood dream come true! I finally had a dress that I spent my childhood drawing after reading Heidi!  Not only that the blouses can solve my summer dress difficulties, they look gorgeous and feminine without exposing more than I am comfortable with.

My daughter got married and had a ‘steam punk’ wedding it was terrific fun, everyone dressed up in what they wanted to wear and I have never seen so many broadly smiling faces! We all went to the park after the ceremony for the pictures and many people thought we had come from a film set. Dressing up is fun!

If there is one thing I am passionate about it is the desire for every woman to dress to please herself and we can all take part. Next time someone is dressing ‘outside the norm’ encourage her confidence! it might just be me.

Using my loaf!

The lovely sunny weather is perfect for bread making, it is wonderful to leave the dough on a sunny windowsill and see it growing. These foccacia breads to the left a roasted red pepper and paprika while the other is a plain white. I am amazed at how easy it is, very therapeutic kneading the dough. 

this is a seeded pumpkin loaf, I use my slow cooker when it is not so sunny, it maintains a lovely warm steamy atmosphere for the bread to rise. There is nothing quite like a loaf hot from the oven.