Blooming Bluebells

Last week I was fortunate to have a couple of days off work so, with some spare time on my hands, I decided to take the dogs on a longer than usual walk and we headed off to our nearby woodland. This is a planned forest which is going to be the largest new forest of native species in England. It is popular with local walkers and horse riders as well as a great place to walk the dogs with plenty of space for them to run free.

I was in for a real treat. As I approached the first wood, I caught a glimpse of a blue haze through the tree trunks and realised that it was,of course, bluebell season! What a spectacle! Bluebell woods

Here in the UK, bluebells are a protected species, so no picking is allowed. They are often found in ancient woodland and flower at this time of year before the trees develop a dense canopy.Bluebell woods

The violet-blue carpet along the woodland floor is such a magnificent sight – almost magical.Bluebell woods

Bluebell woodsEven Oscar was overcome with the beauty of the bluebells!Bluebell woods

A good long walk and Oscar is ready for a home. A drink to quench his thirst and then a well deserved rest!

 

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Summer’s in the bag!

I had finished my baby ripple blanket and my fingers were itching to start a new project (just something quick because I knew I was going to be starting a granny square blanket). Looking through Attic24 , which is one of my favourite sources of inspiration, I found just the thing! A crocheted bag – reasonably quick to do and would also use up lots of my odds and ends of yarn.

Crocheted sunflower bag

Crocheted sunflower bag

I have slightly altered the pattern because I wanted to make it for a child. So the base is a little smaller than in the pattern and was completed in one colour (which is not visible in the photo). As suggested, I used Stylecraft DK doubled up with a 4 mm hook as an alternative to aran weight wool. Doubling the yarn was a bit tough on the fingers but nevertheless resulted in a firm bag which stood up on its own.

Crochet with DK yarn doubled

Doubling the yarn made a firm bag

I decided to do a scallop edging along the top edge of the bag which, when I looked back at the pattern, was exactly what was written anyway! A couple of handles and the basic bag was done. I loved the sunny colours I was using and thought sunflowers would complement the bright summery theme. Sunflowers always make me smile and remind me of family holidays in France. I found a pattern for a sunflower, which was actually part of a granny square, so I just did the central flower section.

Crocheted sunflower

Crocheted sunflower

Then it was just a case of sewing it all together. This is a fantastic way of using up all your end bits of wool and you can choose any colour theme you like. I was really pleased with the end result which has been given to a friend’s little girl. The only problem is that now I want to do one for myself!

Rhubarb rhubarb

Look how the rhubarb has grown!  I would like to say it is because of my green fingers but, to be honest, I haven’t touched it, it’s just grown all by itself! So often that’s what seems to happen on the plot, I nurture some particular crop and it doesn’t produce much. Others are left to their own devices and thrive!

Rhubarb on allotment

Rhubarb in February

Rhubarb on allotment

Rhubarb – beginning of April

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a chequered relationship with rhubarb which goes back a long way. When I was a child my Dad grew rhubarb in our garden, very successfully. So successfully did he grow it that we used to have rhubarb in some shape or form for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Boy, was I sick of rhubarb. Coupled with that was his growing technique – surrounding the rhubarb crown with horse manure. My Dad used to keep a cardboard box and a shovel in the boot of his car, an Austin A40.  Whenever we went out for a ‘drive’, (which is what people used to do in the sixties when petrol was cheap and before anyone worried about pollution), my Dad would travel along the local country lanes looking for horse riders. On spotting a freshly deposited pile of horse manure in the middle of the road, Dad would stop the car, retrieve the box and shovel, collect the manure and put it in the boot. Off we would go again, looking for the next pile. Oh, the embarrassment!Rhubarb

It is no surprise then that, as an adult, I could never quite face eating any dish containing rhubarb. However, to everyone’s amazement I bought a rhubarb crown a couple of years ago (don’t quite know what came over me!) and have since been trying out various recipes. In actual fact I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve actually enjoyed it! Although I have avoided rhubarb crumble, which we had every Sunday!

One of my favourite recipes is this one for rhubarb and date chutney. It is from the BBC Good Food website:

Rhubarb and date chutney

Ingredients

500g red onions, chopped

Rhubarb and date chutney ingredients

Ingredients for rhubarb and date chutney

500g grated root ginger300ml red wine vinegar

500g eating apples, chopped

200g chopped dates

200g mix of dried cranberries/raisins

1tbsp each of curry powder and mustard seed

400g light muscovado sugar

Last, but not least, 700g rhubarb sliced into 2cm chunks

 

Method

Put the onions and ginger into a large pan with the vinegar. (I used a preserving pan) Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the rest of ingredients (apart from the rhubarb) and bring to the boil, stirring. Simmer, uncovered, until the apples are tender, about 10 minutes.Rhubarb and date chutney

Then add the rhubarb. My rhubarb stems were quite thick so I sliced slightly thinner than the recommended 2cm. Cook, uncovered, until the mixture thickens – about 15 to 20 minutes.

Leave for about 15 minutes then spoon into clean jars. It should be left for a month before eating.Rhubarb and date chutney

When I made this last year everyone thought it was yummy so I have just made another batch with the first of this year’s rhubarb. It is great for eating with cold meats or with cheese and of course you can give some jars to your  friends and family.

There’s  still loads of rhubarb to come so if anyone know any other good rhubarb recipes, I’d be delighted to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

Another baby, another blanket!

Earlier this year I made a baby blanket using the ripple pattern, following the excellent tutorial on Attic24. I was so pleased with the overall effect of the pattern; I love the gentle, wavy look. So when I realised another baby was about to arrive, I set to work on yet another baby blanket.

Ripple pattern crotchet baby blanket

Baby blanket #2

This time I wanted to have a change of colour. ‘It’ is going to be a ‘she’, but I wanted to stay away from the traditional pastel pink. So I opted for yellow – for a Spring baby. I used Sirdar Snuggly yarn in three shades; cream, a very pale yellow and a slightly brighter yellow which created a very muted effect.

Crochet ripple pattern

Ripple effect

I changed the edging on this blanket, because I wanted the edging to reflect the ripples of the pattern whilst still remaining clean and ‘unfussy’ The pattern was 3dc, 2htr, 2 tr, 1 dtr, 2tr, 2htr (UK terms) and I fiddled it round the corners to fit.

Edging pattern for ripple pattern

Edging pattern

So blanket is finished and just waiting for the baby to arrive!

Ripple pattern crocheted baby blanket

Ripple pattern baby blanket

I’m definitely ‘hooked’ on blanket making now. Once you have memorised the pattern, it’s just so relaxing, your fingers almost working on auto pilot as the rows go by. Then you have the satisfaction of seeing your blanket gradually growing until you have to make the decision to call a halt and add your edging.

With this project finished I have nothing ‘big’ on the go and my fingers are getting twitchy. I would love to do another blanket. However, as far as I know, there are no more babies on the way! So perhaps it might be a throw?  I have been having fun experimenting with different granny squares – I never realised there were so many patterns. Ah. I feel a trip to the wool shop coming on!

 

 

Easter Eggstravaganza!

Happy Easter!

When I saw this pack of beautiful felt squares, I immediately thought ‘spring’ and, in my imagination, saw Easter decorations!

Felt squares

Spring colours

That was in February. Well, nothing like leaving it to the last minute, I started my decorations on Thursday and hung them up today, Good Friday. Just in time to write this post.

So, Thursday afternoon saw me searching through my cupboard looking for some bits and bobs to go with the stash of felt.

Ribbons felt material

My spring hoard

I had real fun fiddling around and eventually decorated six eggs. As I was so short of time I had to cheat and use a glue gun to fix everything on and then spent the evening stuffing and stitching them together.

Felt egg decorations

My egg collection!

This afternoon I strung them up on ribbon and hung over the fireplace. Voila!

Felt Easter egg decorations

Easter Eggstravaganza!

Hope you have a good Easter and enjoy your yummy chocolate Easter eggs!

 

Crocheted Spring Flower Garland

At last I’ve finished my crocheted spring flower garland, I seem to have been working on it for ages. The idea came into my head in February. I had just put up my Valentine heart garland when The Husband remarked that he rather liked it on the mirror and that perhaps I could do one for every season. So that sounded like a challenge. I started by fiddling around with crocheting different daffodils. I looked up various patterns and adapted them to suit. I ended up with a rather pretty stash.

Crocheted spring flowers

Crocheted daffodils

Next I crocheted a long string, making it slightly wider than the one in the heart version to prevent it twisting so much. I decided to have 2 clusters of flowers either end and a smaller group in the middle.

Group of spring daffodils

End cluster

Spring daffodils

Central cluster of daffodils

Cluster of Spring flowers

End cluster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The finished product!

Crochet daffodil garland

My spring flower garland

 

The flowers go rather well with the green of the walls to give that ‘spring’ feel! Now I need to start thinking about a garland for the summer!

Beautiful Spring Flowering Tubs

When we moved into our house 21 years ago, we inherited a beautiful garden. It managed to withstand our two Jack Russels and our two growing sons – learning to ride bikes, playing football etc. Then …… we had an extension built on the house and a summerhouse erected in the garden. The garden became a building site and we lost lots of plants and shrubs, but gradually it started to recover. Our sons grew up, the Jack Russels passed away and our new family pet, Rosie – the border terrier, enjoyed sunning herself in the garden without causing any serious damage, other than occasionally attempting to dig holes. Then along came our black labrador, Oscar……

Oscar the labrador

The culprit

Looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, I know! However, he has no respect for horticulture in the garden. The lawn has been churned up with his enormous paws and he does not differentiate between the paths and flower beds. Anything of a delicate nature is trodden underfoot.

Undeterred, I returned from a garden centre last autumn, armed with bags full of bulbs and decided the way forward was to plant them in tubs in the hope that they would flourish unharmed by Oscar. The Husband had the brainwave of planting the bulbs at different levels. So early on in the year there was a lovely splash of colour from the crocuses and miniature irises.

Spring flowers

Early crocuses and irises

Then gradually my selection of daffodils began to bud.

Daffodils spring flowers

Daffodils just about to flower

Now the daffs are starting to blossom, standing proud and bold.

Spring flowers daffodils

Daffodils blooming

I have so enjoyed the little splash of colour the tubs have brought to the garden, especially when the skies have been grey. A reminder that milder weather is on the way and hopefully a glimpse of sunshine. Yes, a solution to the Oscar problem too.

Ahhh! Today we have experienced gusty winds in this area of England! What has happened to my beautiful blooms?

Daffodils in bloom

Horizontal daffodils

Daffs blown over! Well, I solved one problem this season but another one’s developed. Better luck next year!