A skirt for all seasons

12 Aug

Around the time my babies reach three months, I’ve noticed, I start to get a bit of energy back.

Inspiration strikes. I decide not to buy whatever latest baby need has arisen but to make it instead. I start pinning endless craft projects. I start making endless lists.

And so the past weekend was a frenzy of ideas of all the things I am desperate to sew, knit, paint or make in any other way possible.

This time round, though, my free time isn’t quite in proportion with my plans. The permanently unfinished house calls out to me to be painted and any dual naptime that’s achieved is taken up with decorating rather than crafting.

So the lists remain lists, for now, but I plan to prioritise finding time soon for the very first item on the very biggest list: a few more maxi skirts following the Versa skirt tutorial by Delia Creates.

Home sewn maxi skirt | Wolves in London

Why hello! This is me wearing my maxi skirt in casual mode…

I have one of these already in my wardrobe, you see, that I made myself shortly after the sprog was born. I’ve barely stopped wearing it ever since.

It’s a skirt for all seasons, yes. And all occasions, shapes and sizes.

Home sewn maxi skirt | Wolves in London

Nice skirt, you say? Why thanks, I made it myself

I wore it throughout my pregnancy with the latest babe. It looked great at six weeks and when I was nine months preggo it was about the only thing I could fit into.

Home sewn maxi skirt | Wolves in London

Oh! I just remembered I made this skirt myself! Go me…

I wear it in winter with tights and in summer with flip flops.

I wear it to slump around the house, as comfy as if I’m in my PJs and I wore it, with a glorious floral jacket to a friend’s wedding.

I’m wearing it right now, sitting here writing this…

Home sewn maxi skirt | Wolves in London

The exact outfit I wore to a friend’s wedding when 8.5 months pregnant. Just with a much bigger tummy…

In short, I wear it whenever it’s not in the wash…

So, it’s high time for a few more, I think. I dream of a nautical blue-and-white striped one, Delia style, and a really bright and vibrantly coloured geometric print one – Aztec / 1980s style.

Oh, and I forgot to say the absolute best thing about it: to make one, you just need to sew three straight lines. Which makes it, in my book, the best sewing project ever!

Home sewn maxi skirt | Wolves in London

Off I skip, straight to the sewing machine to make myself a few more of these beauties…

Does anyone have any other suggestions for super simple but super useful sewing patterns / tutorials? Drop me a comment as I’d love to expand my repertoire…

Related articles:

August Break 2014: lots of photos

9 Aug

Well, 31 photos to be precise. These are the first nine…

August break week 1

Left to right, top to bottom, the prompts were: orange; pattern; selfie; lunch; today is…; three; reflection; pattern (again!); window

Last year, I took part in Susannah Conway’s August Break for the first time.

It’s a brilliant (and brilliantly simple) idea. For the month of August, you take a photo every day and publish it on your blog or share on Instagram (or Facebook or wherever…)

There are prompts to follow every day, if you choose, or you can just take whatever photo you like.

It’s called a “break” because the idea is you stop bothering with blogging your usual posts, but just take a lovely photo and share that instead.

Last year, it absolutely stressed me out beyond belief. It was the most exhausting month of blogging I’ve ever had since starting the blog.

Even though I didn’t follow the prompts or insist to myself that the photo I posted was one I had actually taken on that day, I found it utterly draining finding a decent photo to publish every day. (I wrote a bit more about it on August 31st last year, if you want to hear more specific moans!)

This year, I’ve got a phone with a decent camera so I’m over on Instagram instead of the blog and, let me tell you, I am loving it!

I’m doing it properly. Following all the prompts. Taking the photo on the actual day. And yet, somehow, I’m not finding it loads of extra effort. I’m just finding it a joy to take a picture each and every day.

I thought at the end of each week I’d round up my pics over here too, in case anyone who isn’t on Instagram is interested in seeing them.

If you want to join in too, you can find out all the info on Susannah’s blog: August Break 2014.

Check out everyone else’s photos over on Instagram by searching #augustbreak2014.

And you can follow me on instagram if you’d like to see the day-by-day shots as they occur: @wolvesinlondon.

Come and play too, it’s really fun!

Related articles:

  • I’m sure that a big part of the reason I’m finding this so much more fun this year is thanks to the bloggers’ photography course I took with Emily Quinton last year. You can read more about that here: Makelight workshop.

A peek in the garden

7 Aug

I thought it was high time to take you for another little stroll round my garden and a photographic browse of what’s going on outside in August.

I’m thinking about my garden pretty much non-stop at the moment, planning what changes I want to make for next year. Which plants need to be dug up and moved. Which new plants I want to buy. Which of the beds should be dedicated to what.

So – amongst all the looking forward – it’s nice to take a little break to remember what’s there right now.

In the front garden, everything is looking pretty happy at the moment. The verbena, as I have mentioned perhaps a million times before, is putting on as good a show this year as the last two. I’ve read that you need to replace these after about three years, so I’ll have to check on its performance next year. It flowers for months on end, but best of all the bees love it.

Bee on verbena | Wolves in London

Bzzz bzzzz bzzzz, I loooove verbena

The new wild rose hedge that we planted earlier in the year is very perky. The roses are stunning and smell delightful, but I’m equally fascinated by the way the leaves unfurl from a tightly-packed whorl…

Rosa rugosa | Wolves in London

They only last for a day or two, but the scent is just stunning…

Rose leaves unfurling | Wolves in London

Wouldn’t this be great in time lapse?

The Nectaroscordum siculum seedheads have been all but fully eaten by birds. All that is left are these spiky fronds. I plan to leave these in place all winter, I really love them. (You can see a photo of the full flower here and the seed heads pre-eating here.)

Seedhead | Wolves in London

Just one of the seed containers remaining…

The flowers are almost over on my amazing sea holly (Eryngium ‘Jos Eijking’) but its striking blue stems haven’t lost any of their colour. This is one of the plants that I’d like to move – it’s overshadowed by all the verbena and the electric blue doesn’t go well with their more mellow purple — so I think it’d look better in a bigger bed out the back. But reading up, it doesn’t like disturbance, apparently. Hmmm, might have to just see how it goes.

Eryngium 'Jos Eijking' | Wolves in London

Eryngium ‘Jos Eijking’

Moving round to the back garden…

Do you remember my obsession with Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus)? The good news is, the three plants I put into the back garden are all growing well and flowering. Hoorah! I hope they’ll colonise this stone wall nicely.

Erigeron karvinskianus | Wolves in London

Whoop whoop, welcome to my garden little daisy-like flowers

Close by, in what is to be my mixed border once I’ve planted it up this summer, the last remaining cosmos (which should have been planted at the back of the border, but for some reason I put at the front and it looks rather gigantic there next to the smaller plants.) I feel I should apologise for yet another cosmos photo, but really, how could you ever tire of photos of this lovely flower?!

Cosmos | Wolves in London

Beautiful cosmos

Just as there is a pink rose bush in the front garden that I claim as my own, but in fact belongs to a neighbour, so too in the back garden. These roses have been blooming since the spring, now, and the bush, though technically originating next door, takes up a substantial space in one of my beds. They’re unscented, but I really like the loose natural petal arrangement. So much more attractive than the traditional tightly-packed roses, in my opinion.

Pink rose | Wolves in London

Anybody know what sort of rose this is?

Over on the other side of the garden, the apples are ripening nicely on the trees, though I fear many are filled with caterpillars.

Apples | Wolves in London

Almost ready for picking, I would say

Also ripening, shockingly early, are the blackberries. The same neighbour with the lovely pink rose also has a garden that is basically 80% bramble bushes. I spend a lot of time trying to stop them taking over our garden too, but it’s something of a losing battle. Which I mind less when I am greeted by a sight such as this.

Blackberries | Wolves in London

Ready to be turned into jam…

Meanwhile, the actually intended veg is doing less well. My courgette has put out lots of male flowers, but just the one female so far. I don’t think it got pollinated, either, so I’m afraid this solo courgette is just likely to drop off sometime soon without growing further. Fingers crossed I’m wrong…

Courgette | Wolves in London

Please don’t fall off, little baby courgette

In the greenhouse, I’ve just treated myself to some gigantic trays and some capillary matting, in a quest to overcome my crappy watering schedule. My plants are consequently neatly lined up and looking rather smart despite the hot weather.

Tray of seedlings | Wolves in London

Lovingly grown from seed and not yet dead, hurrah!

On the right of the photo are Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ with lavender and Aubrieta deltoidea ‘Purple cascade’ in the front. I’ve grown far too many of the last two, I think I counted about 35 little lavender seedlings. If I grew these all to adult size and planted them out, that would pretty much take over my whole garden, ha ha. I plan a nice little lavender line to go down the side of my path in the front garden but I suspect I won’t need more than five plants to complete that. So if anyone in SE London wants some lavender, give me a shout!

Ditto for the aubrieta, which will one day soon have lovely purple flowers all over, but currently just looks like this:

Aubrieta seedling | Wolves in London

Aubrieta seedling

Also in the greenhouse, for now, are two jasmine plants: an evergreen (Trachelospermum jasminoides) and the standard jasmine (Jasminum officinale). I’d planned to grow them up a certain wall, but completely changed my mind once I got them home. They’ve been sitting here, gently baking in the summer sun for the past few months and I really must decide where I want them. In the meantime, though, the greenhouse smells amazing…

Star jasmine | Wolves in London

Lovely star jasmine

And finally, a few photos of my kalanchoe. I normally have this indoors, but I moved it outside this summer, for no real reason other than the fact we were decorating inside.

The sunlight has done it the world of good though, tinting the edges of its fat leaves a wonderful red colour. I think it’s looking more glorious than it ever has before in the ten years I’ve owned it…

Kalanchoe | Wolves in London

I love its chubby little leaves

Kalanchoe | Wolves in London

Beautiful red outlines

Phew, well that was quite a long stroll, wasn’t it? Thanks for joining me. Perhaps time for a nice cuppa and a biscuit now. Have a lovely afternoon.

Related articles:

Garden moodboard: August 2014

1 Aug

Oh the joys of an English summer!

July was gloriously sunny for the most part and my garden has been putting forth some of my favourite flowers as a result.

Garden moodboard August 2014 | Wolves in London

Pinks, whites, purples and blues: my favourite colours in the garden

If last month was a little bare, this month has surely been making up for it, with snapdragons, pink roses, white cosmos, frothy nigellas and a profusion of sweet peas. Hurrah for cottage garden flowers!

Cottage garden flowers | Wolves in London

No month will be prettier than this, in my book

I grew five cosmos flowers from seed this year but — as is frequently my wont — left them too long in the greenhouse and four of them went horribly leggy as a result. They bloomed on top of their spindly legs, stuck out a mere two or so flowers and then collapsed groundwards, never to recover.

Cosmos bipinnatus Purity | Wolves in London

Lovely white cosmos ‘Purity’

The one stunted runt of the litter, however, has turned into a lovely bushy shape and has been putting out a profusion of blooms over the last few weeks. I absolutely love white cosmos, so I’ve been very happy to see this plant colonising its patch of the flowerbed.

I also grew some annual sweet peas from seed, the cultivar ‘Matucana’ — said to be one of the best scented. I’m not actually that crazy on the purple and blue colours of the flowers, but they certainly do smell wonderful.

Sweet pea Matucana | Wolves in London

If only this was real life and you could smell this…

Luckily, unexpectedly, a gloriously attractive pink sweet pea stuck its head above ground in my front garden. I’d completely forgotten that last year I had planted a few annual varieties but also a perennial, so was most pleased to see this reappear. It has absolutely no scent at all, but it does look stunning. So a little jug full of the two varieties together gives me good looks and good smells, ha ha.

Perennial sweet pea | Wolves in London

I don’t know what this pink version is. Anyone have any ideas?

Pink sweet pea | Wolves in London

I love the grading from white to pink…

Another unexpected but warmly welcomed visitor was this white snapdragon, self-seeded in the front garden from a whole window box full that I grew last year. (They were meant to be used as wedding table flowers, in fact, but bloomed too soon for our September wedding.)

Snapdragon | Wolves in London

We used to make these “talk” when I was a child

Also in the front garden, we pulled out our diseased box hedge earlier in the springtime and planted a new hedge of rosa rugosa instead. I wasn’t expecting it to flower this year, so was ecstatically happy to see a few flowers this past week. Again, one with a phenomenal smell, redolent of an English park in summertime.

Rosa rugosa alba | Wolves in London

I bought 12 of these glorious plants for a mere £2 each…

The nigellas I sowed in the flower bed in front of our kitchen put on a brilliant display for about, oooh, two weeks tops. Has anyone else had better luck at getting them to stay around for longer? Yes, they looked beautiful when they were in flower, yes, I love their little blue heads appearing over all the feathery leaves, but it felt like an awful lot of time with nothing but bare soil, then tiny seedlings, then a little froth of green, only to have a fortnight of the lovely flowers.

Nigella damascena | Wolves in London

Such a crazy looking flower…

I do like their seed heads as well (despite their fairly strong resemblance to green testicles) and have even harvested enough for a whole display on their own (see this pic on instagram) but I definitely would rather have a bit more usage of the flower itself. Any tips?

Nigella seedhead | Wolves in London

What does this look like to you?!

My coriander all bolted while we were on holiday a few weeks back in the hot weather. Useless for eating, but I guess I’ll try and harvest the seeds instead. The white frothy flowers are rather attractive as well.

Flowering coriander | Wolves in London

No good for eating but rather pretty…

And the hot weather seems to be bringing out plants far more quickly than in usual years. I pulled my first crop of blackberries the other week, not normally this plump and juicy til September.

Blackberry | Wolves in London

Yum yum yum

In the greenhouse, I also spotted my first ready-to-eat cucamelon. I’ve been growing these for a few years now. They’re a cross between a watermelon and a cucumber (as if you couldn’t tell that from the name) and I really like them in salads because, well, they look super cute.

You can see the beauty of them here:

Cucamelon | Wolves in London

This could be a normal sized melon, couldn’t it?

But this gives you an idea of the size:

Cucamelon and blackberry

But actually, it’s just teeny tiny!

The Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ that I bought a few months back is the plant that just keeps on giving. When I first got it there was one little purple flower spike. Over the past few months, a steady succession have pushed on through, heading higher and higher for the sky and putting out more and more tiny purple flowers with every day. I cut some of the tallest spikes back as they were starting to look a little straggly at the bottom and plenty more have taken their place.

Wallflower ' Bowles Mauve" | Wolves in London

Pretty and endlessly flowering!

Finally, the last delight I’ve cut down in its prime purely to photograph is this lovely pink rose bud.

Pink rose bud | Wolves in London

Glorious

It’s the last to bloom on the rose bush in the neighbour’s garden that leans over our fence to get the best of the sunlight. We’ve had a succession of flowers for the past few months, but I love them the best when they’re still just in bud. Unscented, sadly, but beautiful to look at…

Phewee, that was something of a bumper post, many congratulations if you’ve read the plant chat all the way down to here! It’s been a profusion of prettiness this month but, I fear, nothing is there waiting in the wings to take its place in September. So next month, you might have just a solitary photo of an apple or a plum. Watch this space!

Related articles:

  • Check out the rest of my garden moodboards if you’re so inclined
  • And over on Pinterest, I’ve pulled together my favourite photos from my moodboards and others: Garden moodboard board (or click on the photos below)…

Homemade birthday T-shirts

30 Jul

The sproglet turned two at the weekend and I couldn’t resist making him a birthday T-shirt.

 

Homemade 2nd birthday t-shirt | Wolves in London

Two today!

(Is this an addiction? Quite possibly. But one I just can’t seem to beat…)

We had a brilliant party in the local park, with a gazebo bedecked with bunting. I felt I was fulfilling my SE London parental duties correctly. (If you walk through Peckham Rye Park on any weekend day in the summer, all you see are children’s parties, the park festooned with bunting, gazebos and balloons. I once even saw someone erecting a bell tent in the arboretum for the afternoon.

I did, actually, forget about balloons, so we walked to our chosen party spot with the sprog pointing at all the other birthday children’s balloons on the way going, “Oh! Balloon! Balloon!”

I made a mental note for next year.)

The sprog wore his T-shirt all day long, spilling not one little drop of drink or cake on it all day.

I thought he might recognise the number 2 on the front, but he didn’t really. But all the grown-ups complimented him on the lovely Quentin Blake drawings.

Homemade Quentin Blake birthday t-shirt | Wolves in London

Who doesn’t love Quentin Blake?

I made the image using one of the free colouring in templates on the Quentin Blake website.

(I found out about these in a great post with links to loads of kids’ colouring in resources on the beautiful blog Kate’s Creative Space.)

I used the central part of the image, put it into a simple black square frame and then just stuck in a giant number 2 into the blank space in the font Curlz MT.

I then used my beloved transfer paper following the method outlined here. And I was pretty pleased with the result…

I thought about writing “2 today” but decided that rather limited the usage (or at least gave the wrong impression for any other day) so I just stuck with a simple 2.

In case anyone else fancies making one, you can use my template here and just insert the appropriate number in place of the 2. This is, ahem *hides face with shame*, a Powerpoint file so it’s super easy to edit…

Download a template for a birthday t-shirt | Wolves in London

Click here to download the template

Copyright of the Quentin Blake picture is obviously Quentin Blake’s, and these can’t be used for commercial purposes. See more on his copyright on his original colouring-in sheet.

I think I’m going to make this an annual tradition; a new t-shirt every year.

Just nine months to go til the baby has his first birthday — I might start planning the outfit now…

Related articles:

I’ve made a fair few different t-shirts now.  (I even have plans to start up my own little shop selling things like this…)

Take a look at the following (all include links to the images I’ve used):

Homeprinted carrot babygrow | Wolves in London

Carrot babygrow

Homemade Russian doll babygrow | Wolves in London

Russian doll babygrows

Homemade elephant T-shirt | Wolves in London

Elephant T-shirt

Homeprinted dog T-shirt | Wolves in London

Vintage dog pic

Vintage image babygrows | Wolves in London

Three vintage babygrows

Homeprinted tomato t-shirt | Wolves in London

Er, tomatoes?!

Grow forage cook: morello cherry vodka recipe

28 Jul

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you might know that the wonderfully talented Laura at Circle of Pine Trees is a good friend of mine.

Laura and I met back in our student days at Bristol Uni, both of us studying English Literature and then taking a masters in poetry (otherwise known as wasting a year in a rather enjoyable but completely pointless pursuit…)

It wasn’t over our mutual love of 20th century poetry though, that we really bonded, but through our mutual love of cooking (and perhaps more specifically a love of cakes, now I think about it…)

In the years since (oh, one or two I would guess, if you’re asking, definitely not more than a decade, ahem) that love of cooking has developed for both of us into a love of cooking with natural ingredients; often either home grown or foraged.

So we thought it was high time we got together and collaborated to share some recipes, growing tips and foraging ideas with each other – and any of you dear readers who might be interested.

Here then, as a first installment for our new series Grow, Forage, Cook, is my recipe for morello cherry vodka.

Morello cherry vodka recipe | Wolves in LondonWhen I removed the giant cactus from the front garden a few years back, I planted a morello cherry tree in its place.

Morello cherries are wonderful because they’re rather bitter and don’t taste good until you cook them. In itself, not necessarily a plus point, but it means the birds don’t eat them and you can use every single last one on the tree. This year, the first year I got any fruit, it wasn’t a bumper crop. (The tree is still very young. Barely into adolescence in tree years.) But it was perfectly sized for a batch of morello cherry vodka.

Ingredients:

Morello cherry vodka supplies

All the supplies

  • Morello cherries (or you could use normal sweet cherries and reduce the sugar)
  • A bottle of vodka
  • Granulated sugar — enough to fill about a third of the bottle
  • And then you need a bottle with a seal to store it in

What to do:

1. Cut all the cherries in half. I leave the stones in, which gives a slightly almondy flavour to the vodka as well, but you could take the stones out if that doesn’t sound pleasant.

Homemade morello cherry vodka recipe | Wolves in London

Good enough to eat!

2. Fill your storage bottle a third full with sugar (you can simply re-use the original vodka bottle if it has a screw lid. Just drink remove a little bit of of the vodka first) and then push the cherries in on top.

Homemade morello cherry vodka | Wolves in London

Looks delicious already, I know

3. Pour the vodka over the top until you’ve filled the bottle…

Homemade morello cherry vodka | Wolves in London

You can see the colour of the cherries bleeding into the liquid already

…and then seal the lid and give it a really good shake.

4. Store it in a cupboard and give it a good shake every time you notice it for the first month or so. (Or, if you’re more organised than me, do it once a week to schedule.)

5. If you can, leave it for a year, even better leave it for two years to really infuse together. Once you’re ready to drink it, strain the liquid through a sieve to remove the vodka-soaked cherries.

Getting all Blue Peter on you, here is one I prepared earlier. Two years ago, to be precise:

Homemade morello cherry vodka

It genuinely is that amazing pinky red colour…

Isn’t it a phenomenal colour?!

So, five minutes prep and a mere two years in waiting and you’ve got some cherry vodka.

What to do with it then? you might well ask.

Of course, you can just swig it from the bottle (I did this a few times while I was waiting. Checking that the sugar content was right, naturally, not just having a cheeky glug.)

But the classier option is to use it in a cocktail.

It’s really good in a cherry vodka fizz: one measure vodka, the glass topped up with tonic water. (A vodka tonic by any other name…)

Cherry vodka fizz | Wolves in London

Top with mint and some spare cherries for a truly photogenic drink

Or, for a more boozy / celebratory alternative, you could put a measure of the cherry vodka in a champagne glass and top with champagne.

Or, of course, you could just use it in place of normal vodka in about a million other cocktail recipes and make them a wonderful pink colour.

[My husband just looked over my shoulder and commented that if he couldn’t see the actual items, he would never believe that these were real, so bright are the colours. But yes! I trick you not, this really is the vodka I made and the cherries really are that bright red. Here’s a final shot of them, unedited straight from the camera:

Morello cherries

Morello cherries; one of the fakes-looking fruits in the world?

So go forth, all, and plant a morello cherry tree in your garden!]

Let me know if you have a go, I’d love to hear any other wonderful concoctions you make with it!

Related articles:

Styled: an Ikea jug

24 Jul

Last year I took a blogger’s photography course with Emily Quinton (you can read more about it here: Make light photography workshop).

Last month, Emily set all her past students a challenge to take an object and style it three ways.

It was a challenge I really wanted to take part in: styling is the thing I find absolutely the most utterly difficult in photography (especially photography for my blog) and the area in which I really want to improve.

I mulled it over for a few weeks, thinking of various different things I could style and then dismissing them again as I imagined the disappointing photographs I would take.

Then I saw A Quiet Style’s amazing photos for the same challenge and I almost threw in the towel then and there, so beautiful were her shots.

But not wanting to fall before I’d even reached the first hurdle, I looked myself in the mirror and had a stern word.

“Come on, Sabrina”,  I said, jumping up and down and making little motivational jab shots towards my own reflection, “you might as well at least try. Practice makes perfect and so on. Why don’t you take a few photos and if they’re heinously awful then you don’t have to put them on the blog or even admit to anyone else that it ever happened…”

So, safe in the knowledge my reputation would remain unbesmirched whatever the results, I settled on photographing a humble Ikea jug in three different ways. These are the results.

Firstly: the lazy option

I was photographing my July garden moodboard, when I saw the jug and decided to just stick it onto the backdrop and take a photo.

Jug and leaves | Wolves in London

No, there is no rhyme or reason to this photo

One of the very few things I know about styling is that you’re meant to tell a story with your vignette or wotnot. What on earth this story would be, I just don’t know. Milkmaid is on her way to milk cow, but stops to pick some herbs and accidentally leaves her jug behind with the discarded herbs on a pristine piece of paper?

Verdict: okay, definitely failing in the whole story telling stakes, but I quite like the simplicity of the white background with the white jug and the reflections of the green foliage on the jug’s sides.

Secondly, the ‘is it actually there?’ photo

I picked some of my delicious-smelling sweet peas and put them into the jug. (Y’know, in my real life, rather than my pretend styled life.)

And I think it was about two days before it actually occurred to me to take a photo of them. Ha.

Sweet peas | Wolves in London

Look carefully and you can just about make it out…

When I did, I got a bit carried away with the delicate sweet pea veins, which you can’t really make out unless you have quite a close up shot. So the jug becomes nothing more than a tiny background accent.

Verdict: nice sweet peas. Irrelevant jug.

Finally, number three, some actual styling

Okay, please don’t laugh that I call this styling because what is in this photo? A jug. Sitting on a tea towel.

Jug on tea towel | Wolves in London

Styling is all about napkins and tea towels, right?!

But, I have to confess that this took me almost 30 photos to get something I was even a little bit happy with.

I took my jug upstairs to the wooden floorboards (something Emily taught me in the last class, this one: wooden floorboards look nice in photos!) Then I took a nice (unused and still actually clean) tea towel and spent the best part of 15 minutes farting around trying to get a nice fold on it and wondering whether or not the jug should sit on the tea towel or next to the tea towel…

But, finally, I was actually pleased (or, at least, not displeased) with this shot.

Verdict: even things that apparently look really simple can take a bit of time to get right!

So, what do you reckon? I don’t think my phone is going to ring off the hook anytime soon with people begging me to style things for them, but a definite improvement along the way there…

I already have plans to try and style some other things in three ways. Watch this space for more agonising!

NB Can I just let you know how hard it was to resist calling this post, “Jugs.” But resist I did. Some acknowledgement due, surely?

Related articles:

  • I had another mini fight with my lack of styling instincts when I was doing a Blogging your way course last year. That time, the subject was some carrot jam

A few holiday snaps

22 Jul

Is showing some holiday photos on a blog the modern day equivalent of the dreaded slide evenings in the 1970s?

Quite possibly, but, stuff it, I’m going to show you a few pics anyway. At least if you’re not interested you can just look away now, and I won’t force you to drink any of my homemade elderflower wine. (My grandfather used to make this. Believe me, it sounds nicer than it tastes…)

Where once holidays with the hubby meant diving in exotic locations around Asia, these days we’re firmly staycationers (the one foreign holiday — our honeymoon — that we attempted to take the sproglet on being something of a disaster of constant night wakings and the like…)

So this summer, we packed up the car and set off for sunny Dorset, for a few days staying on one of the Featherdown Farms campsites. This is glamping to the extreme: a safari tent, with an actual flushing loo inside, two bedrooms and a wood burning stove. It’s basically a house but with fabric walls.

View at Featherdown farm | Wolves in London

Every campsite needs a kettle planted with herbs…

We’d carefully selected the farm that had the most animals, so that the sproglet would have the best time animal admiring for a few days.

Of course, as is always the way when planning stuff with kids, for the time we were there he completely lost his normal love of farm animals and showed no interest in them whatsoever.

However, there was a conveniently-placed rowing boat in the field outside which provided hours of entertainment. As well as hours of cajoling parents into joining him for a row…

Boat in field | Wolves in London

Possibly the most exciting thing for an almost-two-year-old

Boat in field | Wolves in London

“Row, Mum-Mum, row…”

There were also some glorious views for us to enjoy from the comfort of our deckchairs.

Golden hour | Wolves in London

Golden hour one evening. Just out of shot, a frazzled looking hubby, trying to persuade the baby to go to sleep…

Horse in field | Wolves in London

The horse in the adjacent field provided some interest for the sprog

It was all so picturesque that I didn’t even mind that we had to walk to the shower block when we needed to wash, or that it took 30 minutes to boil a kettle for a cup of tea. (Okay, the last one bothered me a teensy bit. I am something of a tea addict…)

Early morning sun | Wolves in London

Off to the shower block in the early morning sunshine…

Camping stove | Wolves in London

Making a cuppa on the outside stove

As well as mooching around on the farm we took a few day trips — I won’t bore you with details of the one to the Sea Life in Weymouth where we met one of the Octonauts — but by far my favourite was Honeybrook Farm, close by in Wimborne Minster.

The most glorious red brick farm buildings are set in a courtyard, with stables on one side, a dovecote on another and a lawn with ducks, geese and a terrifying-looking turkey in the middle. The estate is set in stunning river meadows, with a chalk stream running down through the grounds.

Honeybrook farm | Wolves in London

This photo comes nowhere close to showing how attractive these buildings were…

We spent a long time fishing in the stream, followed by a lovely walk along the banks, the sprog persuaded along with the promise of another bridge to cross.

All this, plus a cafe, restaurant, tea shop, heavenly kitchen garden, soft play area, tractor rides, two playgrounds, a water area and the chance to meet and pet some of the animals.

I was so busy having a wonderful time that I only took a few photos on our riverside walk…

River meadows at Honeybrook Farm | Wolves in London

The mown path in the river meadows

Honeybrook Farm river meadows | Wolves in London

Oh the sky!

But if you’re ever in the area with young children, I highly recommend a visit.

Me, I could barely drag myself away at the end of the day and have spent every second since dreaming of a more permanent life for us on a similar farm. I just won’t expect the sproglet to help out with the animals…

 Related articles:

  • Featherdown camping is across a huge range of farms in the UK. We stayed at one near Blandford Forum. Though full of glorious pictures, I found their website a little bit lacking in info, but if you’re interested in something similar it’s here: Featherdown Farms. (Needless to say, they’re not paying me to say any of this…)
  • At the other end of the scale, the Honeybrook Farm website is lacking in photos of their beautiful surroundings but has lots of info on the various events and activities available: Honeybrook Farm.
  • And, naturally, I’ve got a Pinterest board dedicated to nice-looking places to stay in the UK, with links to these and other places I found when I was researching our hol. It might provide inspiration if you’re looking for child-friendly accommodation: Holiday cottages UK.

 

Down on the farm

14 Jul

We’re off on hols this week; staying on a farm where we plan to ride horses and tractors and collect our own eggs from the chickens every morning.

Perhaps we might even spot a pig as glorious as this one…

Vintage pig image | Wolves in London

Glorious pig found at Old Book Illustrations

I intended, of course, to schedule lots of blog posts in advance so you wouldn’t even notice my absence.

I failed, of course.

So have a wonderful week, everyone, and I’ll be back in seven days or so.

(Depending on how long it takes to do all the post-holiday washing.)

5 ideas from Hampton Court flower show

12 Jul

Last Wednesday I spent a gorgeous sunny day wandering round Hampton Court flower show.

Forgotten Folly summer garden at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

The Forgotten folly summer garden. One of my favourites from the show

It was an English summer personified: the drowsy song of bees in the air, the sun beating down with occasional white clouds drifting across the blue skies, endless (endless!) stalls selling Pimms and rather a lot of people dressed in striped blazers and Panama hats.

I managed to spot a glimpse of Carol Klein, Joe Swift and Mary Berry, which added to the excitement of course, but I also got lots of inspiration from the gardens and stalls around the show.

I am planning to redesign and replant my own little patch of green this autumn and I came away with lots of ideas I’d love to translate back to my own space.

Here are five pieces of inspiration I took away from the show, in the hope they might also inspire you!

1. Use native planting to attract insects

Macmillan legacy garden and Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

Wonderful naturalistic planting of native flowers

As far as I’m concerned, this is preaching to the converted. Who wouldn’t want lots of colourful butterflies and buzzing bees in their garden, helping pollinate all the fruit and veg?

Lots and lots of gardens featured naturalistic planting and wildflowers, but the Macmillan legacy garden, above and below, was definitely my favourite.

Macmillan legacy garden at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

I’m pretty sure I need a rusty metal cow in my garden too…

The plants chosen were all native to Somerset (where Douglas Macmillan grew up) and included verbena, alchemilla, ammi majus, anemones, campanula, grasses, foxgloves, geraniums, hostas, sedum and thyme. In short, loads of my very favourite plants!

2. You can still pack a punch with small borders

It’s easy to walk around a show like Hampton Court and think, “sure, this all looks lovely, but I just don’t have space in my own garden to do anything like this…”

Al Fresco summer garden | Wolves in London

Small bed + loads of plants = lovely

The Al Fresco summer garden, though, provided great inspiration for planting in small beds. The majority of the garden was hard landscaping, with a central dining table, covered by a pergola, and built in barbecue.

The area was surrounded by a number of raised beds, of fairly small dimensions, but full of gorgeous flowers, more than making their mark despite the small space they were confined in. Definitely one to provide encouragement to all those who, like me, only have a small space for planting…

3. Use your garden for what you love

Before I started my horticulture and design course last year, I had rather set ideas about what a garden should be.

Surely every garden needed a lawn, a patio, some borders and so on?

Of course, this is complete nonsense. Your garden should contain only the elements you want and will use.

No interest in a lawn but lots of time entertaining outside? Don’t bother including one, just create an amazing dining space like the Al Fresco garden above.

Allitex greenhouse at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

Sigh, dribble, drool. How I want one of these beauties in my garden

Obsessed with growing tender plants? Forget everything else and just have a greenhouse then! This one from Allitex is surely the greenhouse dream and I loved the way it had been surrounded by flower beds.

Not a show garden, of course, just a display by the company, but I lusted after it nonetheless.

(Perhaps one day I will be able to afford one to replace the beast…)

4. Simplicity is key

I am something of a magpie when it comes to my garden. I want to include every single lovely plant I have ever seen somewhere within its four fences…

Allium stall at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

Stunning. Just stunning. Love me an allium

But this display on an allium nursery’s stand reminded me of the importance of paring it back with plant choices and with colours. Less range of plants, but growing in profusion, is definitely more in design terms…

Sure, I don’t want to restrict myself to just alliums in my garden, but this was a great reminder of just how striking simplicity can be.

5. Plant up in everything you can…

…but don’t forget a cohesive style

Zinc planters at Hampton Court | Wolves in London

These amazing buckets only cost £25. But I couldn’t carry one home, with the baby in a sling, and the guy said he only sold at shows. Sob, sob. Next year…

I adored this stall which sold lots of zinc planters and buckets and milk urns and a million other wonderful things.

My garden currently has everything planted in the beds, with a few scattered pots here and there.

But planting up all sorts of unusual objects can have a wonderful effect. These zinc buckets, for example, would look fabulous planted as a herb garden.

Remember to match the planters to the style of your garden, however, to ensure you achieve cohesion of ideas. These would look great in a cottage style garden, as would terracotta pots.

A contemporary urban garden might suit aluminium or concrete pots better. Don’t be tempted to mix too many different materials together or the overall look can become a little bitty…

So, plenty of inspiration for me as I start to plan the next phase of my ever-evolving garden. And I’m booking myself a ticket to next year’s show as soon as I can!

Related articles:

  • You can see more photos of all the gardens over on the RHS website: RHS Hampton Court flower show
  • Of course, but of course, I have Pinterest boards for these sorts of things too. If you love a beautiful garden as much as I do, follow my Dream garden plans board for lots of stunning designs. And my board Plants, plants, plants started as a place to save plants we were learning about in my horticulture course and has evolved into a place to save details of every plant I come across that I love. You can see a preview of both below, just click on the photos to go to the full board…

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