Tuesday 31 March 2009

Here's my handle, here's my spout

Needled alerted readers of her blog and fans of Yorkshire Tea recently that the gift scheme ends in June. I'd been collecting the little tokens that are on the inside of each packet for ages and thought I had enough for a tea pot. I checked and was just three short, lo and behold the large box of tea bags in the store cupboard provided just the right number and I sent off my order.
The postie delivered my lovely teapot at the weekend. Postie and I have an arrangement whereby if he has a parcel he simply tries the front door and if its open pops the package in the lobby, saves him ringing the bell and waiting. I expect this action contravenes some Health and Safety directive, there is always the risk I or a mad axe man could be waiting behind the door. It may also be an infringement on my human rights as it denies me the possibility of sitting naked in the lobby at least until the post has been delivered. But we both live with these limitations and though our house guests were a little surprised when the front door flew open and shut again whilst we were sitting chatting, I knew it could only be good news.
And why you may ask did I photograph my new teapot in the garden. Because I'd already taken my new Emma mug out to be snapped against the pot of miniature tulips on the patio and I liked the colour combination. There would have been more tulips but the under-gardener failed to set a mouse trap in the greenhouse as I asked him and the vermin ate most of my bulbs.

Saturday 28 March 2009

Dawyck Botanic Garden

We've had house guests these last couple of days, Roger and Christine were here from North Yorkshire and Bill was over from the USA. They are all ex-colleagues of Mr FF and of course friends so there has been lots of chat, food and drink with not much sleep in between. Bill left yesterday and though the weather wasn't up to much the rest of us did drag ourselves away from the stove and visit Dawyck Botanic Garden at Stobo near Peebles, a very lovely part of the Scottish Borders and quite close to our home. The first time we went to this hillside garden about 20 years ago there was simply an honesty box to leave your entrance fee, now they have a visitors centre, plant sales, gift shop and cafe, where we lingered until the rain stopped.The amazing collection of azaleas and rhododendrons looked quite dramatic on a damp day and the tumbling streams were in full flow.The skunk cabbages were in bloom. These plants always amuse me and I'd love to grow them if ever I have a garden with the required damp conditions.
It was good to get out for a gentle stroll in the fresh air and pick up some garden inspiration which I hope I can hold until next week because for now I think I am too tired for much more than weekend newspapers and a little light knitting.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Happy Birthday Helen

Into town yesterday to celebrate Helen's birthday by taking her out to lunch and delivering her presents. I was delighted to find one of Jane Brocket's pretty cards for her when I was in Darlington
and knitted her a pair of summer socks from the yarn I bought in France last year. Look, I now have my own labels and am able to write washing instructions and fibre information on the back.
Finally some nice smellies from Philosophy for her bath.We went to a new restaurant just across the Meadows from Helen's office in the development taking shape at the former Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Its a busy place with leafy views out onto the Meadows and tempting views inside of the wonderful bakery products. Best of all they make excellent coffee, both delicious and beautiful, what more could we ask for.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Start of the Season

Yesterday I decided it was time to wash down the green bench that sits on the patio year round and gets a little dirty during the Scottish winter. Doing this made me think of all the tourist and holiday venues that will be preparing for the onset of the season, National Trust houses and gardens dusting off and opening up again, hotels and bed and breakfasts having a spring clean ready for their visitors and even the seaside donkeys that will have spent the winter with a family being collected and returned to the beach for the summer. My niece homed a donkey from the sands at Filey when she was little, she looked after Snowy and occasionally rode him until it was time for him to work again. In fact she did such a good job that eventually the owners decided she could keep him and he lived happily on the farm to a ripe old age.
So we are embarking on our seasonal work, Mr FF has given the lawn its first gentle cut, so nice to see the stripes and smell the mown grass again.

I've embarked on what I hope will be a full season of being able to dry the washing outside
and we no longer have the stove burning 24/7, in fact we've had the french doors open wide for the last couple of days and only lit the fire late afternoon.
I'm really enjoying this new routine, warmer weather, longer hours of daylight and so much happening in the garden. We officially had the first day of spring earlier this week but its the seasonal activities that confirm when spring begins not the calendar, I think its here, I really do.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Wool Relief

A while back my chum Ann asked if I had any spare wool she could use to knit and felt. Ann hasn't been too well lately and is undergoing quite aggressive treatment so she's had a bit of time on her hands for knitting, I was happy to get rid of some of my stash and sent off a parcel that I called Wool Relief.
This morning the postie left an envelope on my doorstep marked for the Chairwoman of the Wool Relief Committee containing a beautifully wrapped parcel, note the Prada ribbon.
Inside was this gorgeous felted brooch, the colours are just perfect for me and I love it. Ann and her daughter Lucy have been busy making them for a craft fair, I'm sure they'll sell well. I can't stop smiling because Ann always tells me she's a hopeless knitter and obviously she isn't.

Monday 16 March 2009

My weekend

I am exhausted after a full on weekend.
Saturday's yoga session was brilliant, so good to get back into it again with such a lovely group of women. I managed to stand the pace and afterwards we all tucked into coffee and cakes kindly provided by Julie.
Lunch yesterday with the girls was delicious is every way, though I really need more practise eating big lunches, I was very sleepy and sluggish afterwards and didn't eat another thing all day I'm pleased to say. Seeing the Jean Muir exhibition was wonderful, took my thoughts back to the late 60s early 70s which I remember as a happy liberated time when my hair was longer than my skirts. What I appreciated most was how beautiful Jean was, a really elegant individual woman who wore her own style so comfortably.
Edinburgh was looking well. Even though I have a bus pass, I usually park on the outskirts and walk everywhere when I'm in town. The path across the Meadows, a large well used public space, was a treat with all the spring bulbs flowering. This planting is a fine example of municipal gardening that lasts from year to year with little attention and makes a great impact.
This morning Mr FF went off to London on business for a couple of days and its raining which prevents much gardening so maybe I'll just take it easy and try not to slob out - that would be so un-Jean Muir.

Friday 13 March 2009

Coming out

Wow, I have a busy weekend in front of me. Tomorrow I have a morning of yoga in the village hall. I haven't been to yoga since last summer, our Friday morning class fizzled out as numbers dropped and I didn't commit to another class because basically I'm a bit lazy. Although I've been studying yoga for more than 30 years, I haven't done much apart from the odd dog pose or occasional stretch for some time. So I've asked Julie, our teacher, to be gentle with me, I'm sure she will be.
Sunday I'm off into town to meet the girls for lunch and visit the Jean Muir exhibition, cancelled from last week. Things had better work out this time because its the last day of the exhibition.Meantime I've finished the first pair of what I've decided to call my put together socks, knitted from left overs I think these have worked out well. They are actually a bit small for my size five feet but there was a limited amount of yarn so they can go into the gift department for now. Some of the other wool I have left doesn't match up quite so well but will still make socks even if they are a bit garish.
Thats all, enjoy your weekend whatever you are doing.

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Spring days

The garden is really waking up and I've had the big loppers out these last few days cutting back and shaping up. Its a good time of year before the leaves open to take a look at the structure of the garden and decide what needs to be thinned out or pruned. I just love this job, its really satisfying slicing off awkward branches, opening up the borders to let in light and generally tidying though I'm not so keen on the big heap of clippings I now need to burn. I do keep things natural, not for me the square shaped shrubs that seem to appeal to some garden fascists. The man who used to look after my ex-office garden, with help and unheeded direction from me, delighted in cutting hedges several times a year to within an inch of their lives and making every shrub into a perfect square on a stem, regardless of whether it was about to flower or not. He had no interest whatsoever in weeding, dividing or soil improvement.
I found this creature crawling round, I'm not sure what type of caterpillar he is so I gave him the benefit of the doubt, hide him under a broken pot to keep the birds away and he eventually disappeared. I hope he'll survive as it seems quite early for him to be out.
The house is quite springlike too since my hyacinths are finally and fantastically flowering. I bought these locally, they cost less than £1 for 4 bulbs and are perfuming the house better than any overpriced scented candle. I nearly didn't plant any hyacinths this year, these were a late purchase and I really wish I'd bought more as they can be planted in the garden when they finish and will produce flowers on a smaller scale each year. I tied them up with some left over Christmas ribbon, much nicer than string, almost a present.

Sunday 8 March 2009

Not going out

I was going into town today to have lunch at a restaurant with the working girls and then take a look at the Jean Muir exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland. In the way of a girl who hasn't been out for a week I was quite excited about this, cleaned my shoes, painted my nails and this morning washed, conditioned and blow dried my hair. A fair amount of snow had fallen overnight and it has continued to snow all morning to the extent that I'm not prepared to venture out for a 40+ mile drive. Oh dear, the disappointment. I'm not one for spontaneity, I hate a sudden change of plan and now I don't know what to do with myself. Mr FF is watching football and I really need a big project to occupy me.
I've finished the Opal socks, I really love them and intended to wear and show them (and my nails) off today .
I've started another pair using up odd balls, knitting the rib, heel and eventually the toe in one yarn the body of the sock in another. They'll make a decent pair for me and reduce the stash. Not as exciting as going out though, I feel like a child that has just had Christmas cancelled, I must get over this I'm 60 not 6.

Friday 6 March 2009

It may be winter outside

but in this room its spring. I love our conservatory, its something I always wanted and we agreed before we built our home that it was a priority. So we altered the original house design to create this lovely room off the eating area of the kitchen that looks onto the back garden and opens out onto the patio. We did a lot of the work ourselves, laying the foundations, installing underfloor heating and the ceramic tiles with help from contractors to build the brick plinth and the frame.
Yesterday the temperature outside struggled to reach 3 degrees, in the unheated conservatory it was 17. Not all the time, but when the sun was at its most brilliant it was glorious in there. As soon as the weather improves we'll be in there most days even just for a quick coffee or a look round and the French doors from the kitchen will be wide open. Our cats adored being in there too, especially if the heating was on when they'd spread eagle themselves across the floor to warm every inch of their little bodies.
I have my own rules about this room, I have rules about most things, and for me the conservatory is about people and plants, no soft furnishings, table lamps or ornaments. Candles of course are permitted and make it a magical place when the soft light reflects in the glass.
At the moment my cymbidium orchids are doing really well, the blooms last for months and plants that aren't in flower all have big fat buds waiting to open. Its also a great place to bring on pots of bulbs that can be moved into the house as the flowers open.
In the summer many of the plants move out into the garden for a few months, the candles have to be taken out otherwise they melt and I have to mist regularly to keep some humidity in the room. For now its wonderful to be able to look through into this room and see flowers and greenery when the rest of the garden is covered in snow. Maybe I should rename our conservatory The Winter Garden.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Its back

It was snowing last night when I went to bed, which was rather late as Mr FF is away for a couple of days and I happily sat knitting until almost midnight. The power kept flashing on and off as often happens here during bad weather and I didn't relish the thought of being home alone without electricity. However, I woke this morning to a bright day, still plenty of the white stuff around but the sun is out, the sky is blue and the appliances are working.
I hadn't planned to go out today, I'd planned to do some gardening which isn't going to happen and later on some baking. So for now I have two things to do, press on with the latest Opal socks and check out the frocks at the Oscars. Pam came round yesterday with this and we had a critical look through it together. Now I need an in depth study of all the glitz and glamour, though I'm finding the view from my window quite distractingly beautiful (and completely natural).

Sunday 1 March 2009


Trillium is finished, blocked and stitched. I am pleased with the results though wondering if I need to wear a camisole underneath, I might feel differently in the summer. The bonus is I have quite a lot of yarn left, certainly enough to knit a sleeveless top. Nice.
So back to socks for now. I have for a while been hankering after a set of sock blockers, not through any great necessity but I have admired them on other blogs. Trouble is they are quite expensive so I was delighted to come upon this post that gives instructions for making blockers from wire coat hangers. Not as beautiful as the handmade wooden ones I've seen but equally effective. Unfortunately I could only find one wire hanger in the house, lurking in the depths of Mr FF's wardrobe, my garments would never hang on such a thing. It was easy to bend the hanger and luckily the blocker seems to have turned out about the right size for a lady's sock, I need to make a second identical one and then think about the maths and geometry of producing different sizes but not today.
So good progress with my knitting, delighted with what I've done so far and even more delighted that we are now into March. I am just waiting for the hail to stop and then I might go out into the garden or more likely the greenhouse.