A Garden Tour

I must confess that blogging has been quite low on the priority list over the past few months, mostly due to my obsession with gardening, but also in part due to being very busy (and very tired) during Ramadan.

I only became interested in gardening last year, and decided to start off a few things from seed and see what happened. We managed to get quite a few tomatoes and 2 or 3 marrows (and a few measly potatoes). We have a tiny garden which was taken over on one side by a large and ugly ivy which was over a foot deep and 8 foot high. I had this removed earlier in the year, which meant the fences had to be replaced, but once this was done we had a lovely empty border and lots more light and space.

gardenI bought some perennials from the Beth Chatto gardens to fill the space, but to my beginner eyes, it all looked rather sad and empty.

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Despite being reassured that the plants would fill out the space with time, I couldn’t resist popping in new plants here and there to fill up the gaps. I was given a pot full of tomato seedlings and stuck them in randomly (10 in all on three sides of the garden), as well as a ball courgette plant, annuals including verbena bonariensis, cerinthe major, cosmos and antirrhinum, scented stocks, rainbow chard and dwarf french beans.

After three weeks, we ended up with this:

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I love the picture above, even though the garden is starting to look quite ramshackle! It was how I had imagined the colours to look together. The Moerheim beauty and agastache both flourished and I was also pleased with the number of echinacea flowers we had (and they attract lots of bees).

DSC_0514I noticed that Echinacea has a starring role in the new Pretty Potent collection.

DSC_0509I also bought some argyranthemum in the Sarah Raven sale which have finally bloomed. I also bought Cleome and the pink pot collection – the nicotiana were not at all successful unfortunately and the snails devoured most of the cleome.

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Overall, I think the garden has been a real pleasure over the past few months. My only regret is that we didn’t get the fence and gate painted as planned before everything grew as it is now impossible to paint without trampling over everything. I will also not be planting any vegetables in the flower border next year! I didn’t anticipate the tomatoes getting so big – one of the plants are taller than me!

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We have had some vegetables from the garden, including some very pretty patty pan squash. Unfortunately we were away for 4 days which resulted in a lot of new vegetables just giving up altogether so I think we will have to wait a while before we get a good crop. We may go all out and get an allotment next year as I have discovered there is one 0.3 miles away!

 

Ramadan Meal Planner

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I have planned for some time to try and get more organised this Ramadan, and make a meal planner to save the headache of not knowing what to cook on the day and then having to go to the shops on the day to get the one ingredient that’s missing! I’m aiming for a zen-like calm this year, which means thinking ahead. The reality may of course be different, but I can try!

I put out the idea of a meal planner on a fantastic Facebook group I belong to and the response was overwhelming! I am clearly not the only one who feels daunted by the task of preparing delicious food during Ramadan, as well as managing all the other requirements of additional prayers and the physical demands of the long fast.

Due to the ‘hype’ that was created, I have put some extra work into making this planner attractive and easy to use. I hope you find it useful – it is literally what we will be eating this Ramadan, so not everything will be to everyone’s taste – it is very easy to adapt by substituting your own recipes. I would love to hear your feedback and ideas for how to make it better. Please bear in mind this was done in two days so it will not be perfect, and some recipes are not specific on quantities.

Download the planner below and feel free to share:

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2D Zoo Quilt

I made this quilt recently for my friend’s new baby. I bought the fat quarter set with the intention of making a baby quilt some time ago because I really love the Alexander Henry 2d Zoo print in the primary colourway and thought the coordinating fabrics were a great match.

I backed it with a piece of linen cotton I bought from Namolio on Etsy ages ago (I think at least 6 years!). It has a lovely wobbly red stripe across the back which matched beautifully with the red on the front. I also tried the Cluck Cluck Sew machine binding method to save some time and was pleasantly surprised by how neat and quick it was! I think I will use this technique on my huge Patchwork Prism quilt which I was not looking forward to binding!

I gave the quilt with a pair of little trousers I made using the pattern from Handmade Beginnings.

 

I have since had a couple of requests for similar quilts but there is no 2D Zoo in the primary available in the UK! I enjoyed using my stash as a resource to make a practical and well received gift.

Kids Clothes Week: Mustard Paris Skirt

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I managed to miss the last KCW – even though I knew it was happening there was far too much going on at that time to even think about sewing! It’s still fairly hectic here but KCW always gives me a bit of momentum..its also very satisfying to be able to get a small useful item done in a short space of time. 

I had to abandon my first KCW project – a cord polka dot jumper dress, as one of the fabric pieces has mysteriously disappeared into thin air and there isn’t enough to cut another. Hopefully it will appear before the end of the week, but I have given up searching for it now to preserve my sanity! 

This morning I pulled out a mustard coloured cotton which I bought on Etsy a while ago, and decided to make a skirt. I had pinned the Paris skirt tutorial a few days ago and it seemed like it would work with the fabric so used that. The little bit of maths at the beginning is very simple and makes it so easy to customise the skirt – my daughter was asleep so I estimated her waist size and the final skirt turned out to be a good fit with a bit of room to grow. 

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will have to remember to cut those thread before photographing next time! 

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I have some plans for tops to match this skirt – a lovely white and red polka dot Nani Iro double gauze and a charcoal floral print. I’m sure I’ll be making more of these skirts too – I think it would be great in a floral cord or quilting cotton too.

2014

It took quite a long time for the dust to settle after our holidays, what with returning to work, illness and family gatherings, but I am finally back blogging! We had a wonderful trip to the Middle East, and spent time with family and friends there. Our priorities were relaxation and eating great food, so not many photos were taken! But here are a few photo highlights: 

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Sumptuous food at Kitchen 6 in Dubai – so many different cuisines on offer including a wonderful roast turkey meal. I especially enjoyed seeing my son eating a baby octopus – he even surprised himself!

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The market place at Global Village – admittedly a little kitschy but the goods on offer are genuine enough. The Yemen market had some beautiful displays of dried herbs and fruit, and we tried some Sidr honey which is prized for its medical benefits and fine quality. 

 

 

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Sultan Qaboos mosque in Muscat, which was beautiful and serene. We were a bit disappointed that no (well behaved!) children under 10 were allowed in, but as the weather was good we enjoyed being outside during the Friday prayers. 

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The view from our hotel in Musannah

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The kids enjoying the view 

 

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The stunningly restored fort at Nizwa surrounded by mountains. 

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Nizwa fort

As you can tell, it took a bit of time to adjust to the weather and change in pace when we got back! I attended the London Modern Quilt Guild meeting soon after we got back and am looking forward to starting some new projects and learning new skills. I’ve also made my first fabric purchase in a long time – of course it is Anna Maria Horner’s new line, Dowry which looks beautiful. I am hoping I can sort out the rest of the decorating too so I can finally show what I have been busy with! 

 

 

Giveaway winners!

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway, especially all of you who now follow my blog! The winners are below:

1) Winner of the Fat 1/8th set of Andalucia fabrics:

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MoeWest – congratulations!

2) Winner of the 2nd fat 1/8th set

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Kelly Williams

3) Winner of the Aurifil thread set Image

The final  winner is Beezus.

I will be in touch with you all so I can send you your prize! Thank you again to all those who entered, and I am planning to host more giveaways in the new year.

Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day!

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I thought I had missed this and was disappointed, as it was fun last year. I see that I can still add my link though so will join in again!

I am giving away 2 fat 1/8th sets of this gorgeous Andalucia fabric by Patty Young – I love this line especially the little flower print, it really has a mediterranean feel, especially in the bright hot pink/orange shades! I made my daughter a peasant dress in one of the prints and she had lots of compliments on it.

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I also have this lovely Aurifil thread set to give away, this came from the Fat Quarterly retreat and is a great way to try out a few different weights of Aurifil, especially if you have never tried it.

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I will ship internationally so anyone can enter! Please leave me a comment, or follow me for an extra entry (just add an extra comment to say you have followed).  You can also like me on Facebook for a 3rd entry! Thank you and please have a look around while you are here!

The giveaway is now closed, thanks for those who entered! I will announce the competition winners shortly. 

Mandela

Nelson Mandela's cell by azmiat Nelson Mandela’s cell, a photo by azmiat on Flickr.

We visited Robben Island in 2006, and since Nelson Mandela’s death I have been thinking about his time in that cell, condemned to life behind bars, particularly since my own grandfather has been subjected to the same unjust treatment.

As a young man, he must have had many moments of despair. It would be difficult not to be bitter when looking back on the time he would never regain with his family and friends, but his philosophy was of looking forward instead of at past injustices.He even worked with his former oppressors to build a new South Africa based on freedom for all races.

This isn’t a blog about politics, but it is amazing to have seen something of Mandela’s life, as I don’t know of another person in the world who is so universally respected and admired. His long life is a testament to the dignity that comes from holding onto one’s principles.

Minimalist Crafting

I’ve had a busy time over the last few months with having the house redecorated and rethinking how to manage our rather cluttered home. Although I am definitely more magpie than minimalist, I have started to rethink what we keep and whether it has value in our home or not. For ages, I have tried to keep things organised with more storage but have realised that stuff expands to fill the space available! And then I read something which made complete sense – you can’t organise clutter.

Since then, I have eBayed, Freecycled, and given away a number of possessions but still have a long way to go with craft items. I have been reading the Miss Minimalist blog, however I think her philosophy is a little too extreme for me – I think of a home as a warm, comfortable place to come back to; I  like lots of books to flick through and be inspired by, colourful piles of yarn and fabric, pictures and photos that remind me of good memories. At the same time, with stashing comes guilt. Recently I’ve been occupied with a crawling (now walking) baby, going back to work, and decorating, and there has been little time to sew and knit (besides the small problem of the sewing machine being in the room the baby sleeps in).The boxes of yarn and fabric have become something I ‘should’ use up and another source of clutter. I also worry about finished objects becoming part of the problem too, I mean who needs the worry of shawl clutter on top of all the other stresses in life!

I went to the London Modern Quilt Guild meeting yesterday and feel inspired to get back to sewing, but at the same time I’d like to keep the stash in check and at a level I am comfortable with. I revisited the Slow Stashing article on Knitter’s Review and think it is a great way of making sure the stash is a ‘happy place’. I have decided on a few ground rules for now which should help me to keep my crafting more minimalist. 

1. Knit/sew from stash – sounds obvious, but it is so tempting to buy just the right print for your project instead of using something you already have. Sewing or knitting from stash is doubly gratifying – you’ve made something beautiful and cleared space in your house. I also find it wasteful to keep buying when I already have so much and have felt less and less tempted to splurge recently.  

2. Sell/give away what I don’t intend to use or feel uninspired by. What can’t be sold can always be given away – I have previously not wanted to part with things I’ve paid good money for, but there is a pleasure in giving away things to people who really appreciate them. I gave away a bundle of embroidery magazines to an old lady who shared them with a group of elderly/disabled people and she was so grateful and appreciative. 

3. Approach Pinterest/Flickr with caution – there is a lot of scope for inspiration, but also the temptation of ‘oh I can make that!’ and before you know it, you’ve bought the yarn/fabric and added to the monster stash! 

4. Reduce the number of crafts – I now have scrapbooking, knitting, and sewing supplies, as well as small amounts of jewellery making supplies, yarn dyes and beads. I don’t enjoy the fiddliness of jewellery making and beading so it is probably time to let those go to a good home. 

5. I have more patterns than I have time to make them. So it’s ok to let go of the ones that are so far down the queue that they are unlikely to ever get made. 

6. Have only 1 or 2 projects on the go at a time – this reduces the frustration of never getting anything finished, and reduces clutter as there are fewer half finished bits of fabric hanging around. It also minimises the chance of said bits of fabric getting lost and having to dig out the pattern and cut the piece out again. 

7. Have a dedicated space for crafting which is available when I am free. This is going to be in the living room which has now been divided into two areas. That way I can sew in the evenings or when the baby is asleep. 

8. Make things that can be used and appreciated by others. Sounds obvious, but I often like making shawls, and don’t know anyone who wears them so don’t feel I can give them as gifts! Mittens, scarves, children’s hats, sewn items like aprons, potholders, table runners, pillowcases, bags and pouches are all useful and more likely to be used. 

I think that’s it for now! I’d love to hear your ideas for minimalist crafting or at least keeping the stash under control!

Reversible Staple Dress

I bought the Staple Dress pattern from M is for Make a couple of months ago, and thought it would work really well with a reversible gauze I bought a couple of years ago. I couldn’t really think of a pattern that would make the most of both sides until I came across this one. As you can see, the reverse fabric shows through because of the dipped hem so I thought it made an interesting contrast.

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This is the ‘wrong side’ of the fabric, but I wear it just as much this way round. Sorry about the wonky photo!

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This is the best photo I could get of me wearing it! Unfortunately there is never anyone on hand to take a picture for me.

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I do like having pockets, and actually made the whole dress with pockets initially, which meant that it was not reversible. I had a change of heart so had to rip out all my sewing and overlocking, and started again! The second time, I used French seams on both sides, which provided a neat seam on both sides. For the bottom of the skirt, I cut a separate piece of fabric on the bias and sewed it all around the edge (same technique as for the neck and arm holes). Unfortunately my sewing machine was not working well and the fabric kept pulling – I only thought to change the needle after I had nearly finished, and the tip was broken! I did one row of shirring as I don’t like things too tight around my waist.

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I wore my new dress on an outing to Dulwich (to buy Annie Sloan chalk paint, more on that later!). The photo above was taken in Ed on North Cross Road, and we finished with a latte and raspberry financier at Gail’s.

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