Sunday, 7 February 2016

Snapshots from January

 Hi friends. Here is my first lot of phone snapshots from the new year. The weather was all over the place, keeping a semi-regular schedule of its own... A few day of hot temperatures, then a couple of days of cloud. Some rainy days. Then repeat from the start. The garden (and weeds) are flourishing, and as long as we keep getting the warm temps, I'm not complaining too hard.


 I started the year with a quick project for my niece's 4th birthday. She wasn't super impressed with the handbag to begin with (as she opened it, she muttered to herself, "oh, I hope it's not a hat!") but I'm hoping it will find its way to the dress-up box and be useful in the future! The pattern is from Tangled Happy - if you want to disappoint a 4 year old in your life, you can find it here.

 It was an exciting day when I picked the first tomatoes of the season! These Juliet cherry tomatoes were ready on the 5th of January and they were quickly followed by Orange King... I'll go into more detail about tomatoes in another post, but they are all doing quite well this year.

 I continued working on my Greg blanket. Once all the squares were completed it didn't take too long to join it up, and it was a good way to spend a few grey afternoons.

 Before I went back to work after my summer holiday, I spent a few days with Mum in Timaru. On one day we drove down to Riverstone in Oamaru. This is a restaurant surrounded by lush, mostly kitchen gardens. They grow all their own produce for the restaurant and visitors are free to wander around and take it in. It's quite a drive to get there but worth the effort! We had a lovely wander around the gardens, before sitting on a sheltered bench with coffee and a punnet of delicious locally-grown cherries.

 This is another vista from Riverstone. And a view of my propagation station (set up on the top of a compost bin)... I've said before that you can never have too much lavender!

 Back in my garden, the bees are getting busy. My garden flourishes mostly thanks to the efforts of bumblebees. There are a few honey bees around, but as we all know they are in decline so I'm glad for the work of my bumbly friends!

 I finished The Luminaries on my second read. It was good, but I think could really have been edited into something a lot slicker. There was a lot of unnecessary epilogue stuff at the end, filling out plot points that had already been explained. I also finished Greg (details in this post).

 More tomatoes in my harvest basket - also spring onions, zucchini and beans. The glasshouse is in full on production mode and becoming more of a jungle with each day!

And the month ended on the saddest possible note with the passing of Mr Lui. Still missing him like crazy, but taking heart from these pictures showing him enjoying the everyday pleasures. He mostly had a very happy month.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

A post about Lui

 This morning I had to say goodbye to my beloved boy Lui. We had a normal start to the morning where I got up, greeted him, gave him his breakfast and had my own. But when I went to get ready for work I could see that he was not well, so I took him to the vet where they could immediately tell that he had developed a blood clot, apparently caused by an unknown heart defect. There wasn't much to do apart from ease his suffering, so that is what I chose. I brought him home and we laid him to rest in the garden. 

I'm feeling quite devastated but I want to record some of my memories of Lui. I had him for 12 years, ever since my 24th birthday when my friend Carol asked me what I wanted for a birthday present and I replied, "a kitten!" At the time Jon and I were living in a flat where we weren't supposed to have pets but luckily my landlord was forgiving and even installed a cat door for him. The first night I decided to set some ground rules of not having the cat sleep on the bed, so we shut him in the lounge and I warned Jon not to give in even if he cried. Well, he did cry and I lasted all of ten minutes before I got up and let him into the bedroom. He was so happy as he launched himself at the side of the bed and pulled himself up on little kitten paws. He slept where he pleased after that.

 I have to say that having a warm furry presence curled up next to you is one of the best parts of cat ownership. Lui liked to get right under the covers and curl up in the crook of my elbow with his head next to mine. He could stay there all night taking up half the bed and of course I would let him... easing my arm gently out from under him if it started to go to sleep.



He always had an obsession with food. When he was young a vet told us he was overweight and to put him on a diet. We got quite strict with weighing his food and the meals always seemed quite small. Lui thought so too, and so began his obsession with getting more food out of us any way possible, usually by pestering with loud and annoying meows. He would scavenge from rubbish bins, even our neighbours had to weight the lid of their bins to keep him out! (Fortunately he stopped this habit as he got older.) He also loved to be in the kitchen while anyone was cooking and would move in swiftly on the dirty dishes as soon as we sat down to eat. (I ended up turning a blind eye to this in the end, if the dishes were soon to be washed anyway, and one of his nicknames was 'Busboy' since he got them so clean!) We relaxed the diet after a while but food remained one of his life's pleasures. I'm so glad he ate and enjoyed a normal breakfast on his last morning.

 Lui was fairly sedentary, so to help keep his weight down I'd encourage him for walks around the property. I'd often pull a dead leaf from the flax bush and pull it along for him to chase. We live on a quiet street, and sometimes in the evenings (preferably after dark) Lui and I would go for a walk along the street. He absolutely loved that. I would walk slowly along and he would follow behind at a distance, pausing to sniff fences and look up driveways and investigate under parked cars. We'd go a little way up the street, sometimes to the corner, and pause a minute or two, then turn around and head home. That was his favourite part and he would trot along close behind me, until we got almost there and then he would dash past with a "prrrrrraow" to get home first.

 His meal times were breakfast and an afternoon meal. It was supposed to be late afternoon but due to the persistent pestering, it gradually got earlier and earlier till it was about 1.30pm! After that he would find somewhere to sleep for the afternoon, and this spot would vary depending on the season, the weather and his mood. The first thing I always did on arriving home from work would be to look for him in his various possies, and say hello. He'd raise his head and let out a happy "prrraow", and I'd spend a few minutes scratching him under the chin while he purred. Then I'd go about my chores, and we'd meet up in the kitchen to cook tea.

My darling boy, I miss him so much and I don't honestly think there was a more loved cat in all the world. He was happy and content his whole life and I'm grateful I could give him that life. Lui has been a staple fixture on this blog since I started it - my mum once said that he is a very well-documented cat - and he inspired my occasional series "Weird Cat Behaviour". All my older posts about Lui are found under this tag.  As you can see in these photos he loved to sleep, and he is sleeping peacefully now. Thanks for reading. xx

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Greg crochet blanket

 Hi everyone, I'm so excited to show you my latest completed blanket. I've been crocheting for about eight years and I honestly don't know what I'd do with myself without it these days! I'm constantly driven by the need to create but I don't always have the time or energy to plan something brand new, so having a big project on the go that can be worked on in little bits is the perfect use of creative time. Last year I was working on a blanket (of my own plan), but then I came across this crochet along and just had to get in on it. A crochet along (CAL) is when little parts of a pattern are released across a period of time, usually giving you a couple of weeks to complete part A before part B is released, and so on. It seemed to me to be a good way to finish a decent size blanket in a decent amount of time! 

 This CAL was hosted by Shelley at Spincushions. The name of the pattern is Greg, and each individual square has a name - Tom, Joe, Tim, Ian and Bob. These brothers are rather handsome, I'm sure you'll agree. I decided on Shelley's suggestion to work my blanket all in one colour, which I love as it really highlights the texture in the squares. I hadn't made anything so textured before and I love it - I'll be coming back to these stitch combinations in future projects I'm sure! I also really appreciated the advice on how to construct the square so the start of each round is as invisible as possible - really good tips that I'll utilise in future.

 To join the squares I used this technique. (sc, ch 1, skip 1) I couldn't do the diagonal join because the squares are different sizes, but the actual joining stitch was super quick. I will definitely use this technique again in future.

 There is a border pattern given as part of Greg, but I decided to repeat the pattern from Bob (the largest squares). I liked the idea of repeating it and I especially like the V-stitch row! Lastly I edged it with a row of hdc in aqua yarn.

 Here is Greg in all his splendour! He has turned out a decent size for a lap blanket, and perfect for a throwing-over-the-back-of-the-couch blanket.

I had to take Greg outside for a photo shoot too. Doesn't he look lovely draped over my park bench? 

The CAL finished up before Christmas, but life got in the way and I worked on him a bit less for a few weeks. But he's finished now, and I still consider four months for a blanket to be very good time!

If you want to make a Greg of your own, you can find all the information at the Spincushions website. I have also updated my Ravelry page with details of this project.

Friday, 15 January 2016

January flowers

Welcome to January in my flower garden! I've still got a lovely selection of summer flowers which I'm pleased about, as sometimes in previous years I'm in a bit of a dull patch about now. I planted some lily bulbs last autumn and a couple of them are flowering, and the roses are still mostly doing well. The poppies are moving into the pretty seed head phase and the dahlias are starting to open.

Above, clockwise from top left: one of the new lilies (scented, and pink, double yay); lavatera; astrantia; cupcake dahlia; hollyhock; carnation; sweet pea; Christmas lilies; poppy seed head; dierama (grown from seed which I thought was pink but it's come out more red sadly); lacecap hydrangea; pelargonium. Centre: Claire Rose makes a beautiful statement in a vase.

I'm joining in with Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day where gardeners from all around the world share what is blooming in their gardens.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Snapshots from December

 Here are some of my phone snapshots from December. It's such a beautiful month for flowers and decorating, and the trick is to try and find the time to stop and appreciate it. I had the last of the bright vivid peonies to admire, and roses and sweet peas moved to take the spotlight as the peonies faded. 

 I usually try to go for a subtle look when editing my photos for Instagram... but sometimes I just can't help myself and go all out with textures and colour washes. I love the dreaminess of the rose above. My favourite editing programme is Pixlr, which has lots of options from simple to dramatic.

 Of course that little thing called Christmas began to slip in and the decorations came out. My favourite little glass baubles ornamented many an Instagram photo.

 I made several doilies for Christmas presents. In the above left photo, the doily at the bottom right is called the Passionflower Doily and you can find the pattern here. There was something wrong with my first attempt at the doily (not the one above) and I wasn't happy with how it turned out. So I began to work out another design, roughly based on a vintage doily from my collection. The first couple of attempts are in the left photo and the blue doily on the right is how it turned out. Hooray! In the meantime I attempted the Passionflower doily again and realised I hadn't made the right number of stitches to start with, which had thrown out the whole thing. So I started again and this time was very happy with the finished result.

 These pictures mostly sum up the December crafting... doilies and blanket squares. 

 My friend Caren and I had a swap in December for 12 Days of Christmas. We each sent the other 12 little gifts to be opened one each day in the 12 days leading up to Christmas. It was such fun to open a present each day and really made Christmas feel exciting. Caren sent me all sorts of delicious treats such as chocolate, fudge, organic vanilla, coffee and drinking chocolate. She also sent beautiful Christmas ornaments and the little house above... it is lit from within by a battery tea light. I do love adding a little house to my collection.

 Lui enjoyed getting into everything I was doing this month! Here he is testing the blanket squares for softness, and photobombing my carefully styled shoot! He is 12 years old now and very companionable. When he was younger he wasn't really interested in hanging out with me too much, but these days (when he isn't sleeping) he is quite happy to accompany me around the garden or through the house. I love his company.

Let's end the month with some more dreamy flowers! The Cecile Brunner roses are always lovely in a vase. Poppies don't last as long so I take close up photos of them in the garden... lovely!

Happy new year to you all. xx

Oh and just for fun, this is my #2015bestnine (ie most popular Instagram photos). It's interesting to note that it's all crochet... well, those are some of my favourite photos too!

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Christmas mantelpiece

 Hi again! Christmas has been and gone, and I thought I'd better share these pics of the Christmas mantelpiece before they become too redundant. I meant to do this a couple of weeks ago but the silly season got away on me, as it generally does! There is quite a lot going on here with the advent calendar in the background but I kept the colours soft and calming. I would have liked to finish it off with a big sign or star at the top of everything but I didn't come across anything exactly right, and as I said the time got away from me... I'll improve on it next year!

One thing I like a lot about this display is that I kept my plants in it! I also added fresh garden roses.

 There is a little light-up Christmas tree along with some glass baubles (and is that Santa I see peeking out of the door?)

 I finally got around to glittering some little houses to use in my village scene. 

 I really like this calendar! It's called the Silent Night Calendar and has such sweet illustrations. One of my favourite childhood Christmas memories is opening the doors on the advent calendar, excitedly waiting to discover what the little picture would be. We didn't have chocolate advent calendars and I didn't care. These days it's so hard to find a calendar that isn't licensed to Disney and full of chocolate crap, and I was super happy to find this one. It's been as thrilling as I remembered to open the little doors, and I intend to put it carefully away so I can bring it out every year.

 I made this retro ornament garland in soft colours to tone in with the calendar. The pattern came from the Persia Lou blog.

It's nearly time to take down the display in favour of something more summery, but I think I'll enjoy it for a few more days first. Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and holiday time! xx

PS I'm also going to count this as my last Styling the Seasons post for the year! Styling the Seasons is a monthly styling challenge hosted by Katy at Apartment Apothecary and Charlotte at Lotts and Lots. Find out more by searching the hashtag #stylingtheseasons on social media.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

A summer hailstorm

 My lavender bushes are at their peak right now, loaded with fragrant purple sprigs. The best way to spend a summer evening is out in the garden with snips and basket, harvesting bunches and hanging them upside down to dry. They only take a week to dry and then it's just a matter of crumbling the dried buds into a container and hanging some more up to dry. When I've harvested all I can, I'll fill lots of little organza bags for under-the-pillow sweetness.

 Of course I'm not the only one who likes the lavender... bumble bees are very busy getting in there and gathering pollen. I must say I enjoy the company of these hard little workers and I find them very obliging in getting out of the way as I pick my bunches, although they do often continue to harvest the flowers in my basket!

 The plants on the deck are filling out as well. 

 In fact everything was looking pretty good, until last Sunday when a rather bolshy thunderstorm blew in. Rain and wind lashed the garden, and then hail pelted down. It was rather heavy and rather loud.

 Not to mention cold... brrr! This looks like a nice coating of cherry blossom, but it's actually hail. Fortunately more rain came along after this and washed most of the ice away.

 This is not as bad as the big storm that lashed Sydney, but it was enough for me and my garden! 

Most of the damage was sustained by big-leaved plants which are all looking battered and tattered. I was sad to see the damage on the Cercis Forest Pansy (top left) because I love it's heart shaped leaves. The hosta my neighbour gave me (top right) really took a pummelling. I might be able to trim and feed it to convince it to grow some new leaves. 

In the vege garden, the beans mainly bore the brunt of it (bottom left), but luckily they have only just started producing flowers so there weren't many to be knocked off. My apples have been the main casualty (bottom right), with lots of little apples knocked off (I'll consider this nature's way of thinning them out), but the rest were badly pock marked. I'll still use them for cooking and cider making, but I feel bad for commercial growers who have probably lost entire crops.

So that's the latest from the early summer garden! How are your summer/winter gardens going?

Thursday, 17 December 2015

December flowers

Here we are in the December flower garden. Rose season is in full swing, and I have to say the roses have never looked better! All that watering at the start of the season has led to strong foliage and lots of flower heads. Take note for the future, self! 

Above, clockwise from top left: purple poppy, pink gypsophila, The Fairy rose, Claire rose, sweet peas, Queen Elizabeth rose, pink peony poppy, Peace rose, a little pastel pansy, lavatera, Sexy Rexy rose, Queen Anne's lace. In the middle is a grouping of sweet peas and roses in little glass bottles... a lovely scented centrepiece.

This area in the garden always gets a bit wild over summer as everything grows tall and bushy. I like the pastel tones of the lambs' ears and lavatera but I realised recently that something had always struck me as jarring about the scene, and that something is the pink penstemon. It's a really hot coral pink (more so than this picture shows I think), and just clashes too much with the surroundings. So I'll leave it be since the weather is too hot to shift it now, but next winter I'll whip it out and replace it with something more pastel.

Everything looks much prettier when viewed from the other side! I'm enjoying the poppies while they last too. They are self seeded from last year and about every third plant has reverted back to red, so I pull those ones out, and hope I'll still have some pink seedlings next year!

It started to rain while I took these pictures, so I popped into the glasshouse and spied on the sparrows in the feeder. I love hearing birdsong in the garden.

That's it for today! I have some more garden pics to show soon along with some Christmas decorating. This month is flying along so fast!

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