Hello world!

I’m back! Did you miss me?!

I had my full day of horticulture exams on Monday, so revision time is over and I’ve emerged, blinking, into the sun, like a little mole reappearing after a winter of hibernation. (Disclaimer: previous sentence may not be factually accurate. I’m not that sure that moles do hibernate, nor, in fact, could I really be described as particularly similar to a mole…)

My exams were harder than I was expecting, but hurroo hurray, they’re all over now and normal life can resume. A life where I don’t feel obliged to spend every second of free time reading up about fertilisers or how to T-bud a rose…

So normal blog posting will recommence this week, with all the half-written posts I’ve had sitting in my drafts for the past month. Oh, I’ll probably try and finish them first though.

I have to confess, though, it’s not all been revision revision revision over the last few weeks.

I went out elderflower picking a fortnight ago and made some lovely cordial (recipe to follow one day this week):

They’re so very frothy, aren’t they?

I amused myself hugely putting my partner’s sunglasses on my baby for a father’s day card. (The card read: When I grow up, Dad, I want to be just like you…)

Wearing Daddy's sunglasses
I know I’m biased, but this photo is too cute for words… I’m telling myself that his face is mostly covered by the sunglasses so it’s okay to put it up online, but really I just can’t resist sharing it

And I massively neglected all the plants in my garden and house, but some of them managed to pull through, nonetheless, including these glorious cornflowers. (No time for gardening when you’re revising for gardening exams!)

Jolly, jolly cornflowers. Oh how I love the summer months

Oh, and I managed to squeeze a bout of food poisoning in there too, but that’s not a particularly photogenic event…

So, tell me, what have I missed since while I’ve been gone?


A garland of tomatoes

I feel I should offer some apologies to anyone who isn’t that keen on gardening, if you’ve still stuck with this blog long enough to read this post, for I realise it’s been a bit plant heavy round here these past few weeks.

Stuffed tomato garland
Is that a delicious looking apple I see, hanging from the apple tree? Nope, it’s a tomato in fact. Of course.

Whenever I’ve put my head above ground from revising for my horticulture exams (I totally made that sound like I was doing loads and loads of work, when in reality, I’m pleased if I manage to do 30 mins a day when the baby is napping, but still…) I pop outside and water my actual garden.

So plants and all things plant-related have been taking up a lot of my brain space recently. And blog space too.

Not so much on the whole fabric or crafting front recently, I know.

So, I was all excited to sit down and write this post to share something I actually managed to create the other day and then I realised…. …it’s still got quite a horticultural bent to it.

Ah well.

Stuffed tomato garland
Just one of the delicious looking tomatoes

I made this tomato garland for a friend’s daughter’s first birthday. Unfortunately, true to type, I’ve finished it three months after the birthday but, hey, at least it’s finished.

She is a big fan of tomatoes (or was three months ago, anyway), so I thought it might be fun to make her a garland for her bedroom, to go with the T-shirts I printed at the time.

Now I look at it, I rather think this is quite the weirdest idea for a present I’ve ever had. A garland. Of tomatoes. Hmmmm.

Tomato garland
Oh it’s just so lovely to see sunshine in the garden, isn’t it?

Still, it will be wrapped up, stamped and posted to Ireland nonetheless. Hopefully before her second birthday.

This was my second attempt at making it. (I know! I actually sat down and thought it was a good idea to make a second one!)

For the first attempt, I ironed the tomatoes onto a big expanse of fabric first (I showed you a sneak peek of that some many months ago) and then cut them out and sewed them into the circles. The trouble with that, was the ironed-on tomato pictures got really creased and crumpled in the turning out process and you can’t iron over them again so there was no way to fix it.

They looked so tatty, I thought I had better start again, and the second time round I made the circles fully first, then ironed the tomato pictures onto the front of each circle, just before stuffing.

I also stitched them onto the ribbon too far apart, as you can see from the gigantic loop between these two tomatoes:

Tomato garland
They’d look better a bit closer together, wouldn’t they?

But by the time I’d sewn it all up for the second time, I just didn’t have the energy to take them off and do it again. I’ll just have to hope they don’t mind the tomatoes taking over the entire room…

Though I still think a tomato garland was a bit of a weird one, I could see this working quite well with some other images. Little gingerbread houses, perhaps, or circus animals, maybe some sharks for my partner, or horses for my horse-obsessed three-year-old friend. Many, many possibilities. Yet another project to add to the endless “To make” list!

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A letter to spammers

Dear spammer,

I know you’re a terribly busy person, what with all those blogs to comment on and useful links to share with everyone, so firstly, thanks ever so much for taking the time to read this letter.

Vintage spam advert
Image from vintage ads

Naturally, I’m delighted that your sister loves my blog. It’s very good of her to say so and of you to pass the message on. Please relay my thanks back to her for her kind words.

I’m also pleased to hear that your friend who has some awesome LOLZ has set up a website specifically for his aforementioned LOLZ. As someone who writes a blog, I know that it takes quite a lot of time and effort to keep a website going, so he should definitely be applauded for his work starting up a whole new site. My only concern for him is whether he’s done his market research well enough? It strikes me that there are already quite a few sites out there on the internet offering LOLZ of all kinds. Some of them even quite well-established. Of course, it might well be that your friend is far more internet-savvy than I am and has identified a hole in the LOLZ market, in which case I am sure his new site will be a huge success.

Whatever the specifics of his LOLZ, he is a very lucky man to have such a dedicated friend as you, sharing details of his awesomeness and new launches with the likes of me and my readers. With that sort of support, I’m sure he’ll do well.

It’s also great to hear your constructive criticism on my writing style. I was obviously delighted that you thought I had unique views and that the information in my blog is clearly written. Though, I did wonder if I detected a hint of criticism with your comment that you agree with “many of my primary points” — was there perhaps an underlying suggestion that you disagree with some of my secondary points? I’ll certainly bear that in mind for my next article anyway, ensuring that my secondary points are just as well-articulated as my primary points.

I do have to confess to being a little surprised that you thought the information I included was particularly suited for readers who enjoy challenging content. It hadn’t occurred to me that photos of my garden or a tutorial about making paperweights could be considered “challenging content” and I think I might try and dumb things down a bit in the future. I know, of course, that you and your sister and your friend with the LOLZ website are up for being challenged any time you read content online, but I fear that some of my regular readers might prefer things a little more easygoing with their morning cup of tea.

Now it may seem churlish, after all the information you’ve shared with me, to say that I’ve deleted your comments from my blog… But in the spirit of shared constructive criticism, I thought it only fair to tell you why.

Firstly, dear spammer, your grammar and punctuation are terrible. Your spelling’s not so great either. I hope you don’t mind my bringing your attention to this, but I really feel you could benefit by running your comments through spellcheck first. It’s ever so quick and will immediately show you any changes you need to make. Were you to read back over some of the comments you’ve left for me, I think you’d cringe with embarrassment at the typos. I won’t highlight them here, because I don’t want to jeapordise your good reputation.

Secondly (and you’ll see I’ve taken your advice and made my second point the most salient), your propositions just aren’t calling to me. It almost makes me yearn for the days of Hotmail spam when I was frequently contacted by Nigerian princes asking me to put all their money into my bank account. Now that’s an offer! LOLZ, no matter how audibly they might make me chuckle, just can’t compare to the offer of $50million in my bank, I’m afraid. And while it’s really lovely of you to tell me that my posting is “on point” I’m sorry to say that a brief sentence like that just doesn’t pique my interest enough to make me want to click on your links. Even when the URL contains such promises as “cheapairjordanshoes.” I know, I know, my loss entirely.

So, rethink and regroup, my old spammer chum, and if, by the time you come up with some more appealing offers, WordPress still has whatever glitch in their spam filter that has led to all your comments being posted over the past few days, then I can promise that I and my readers may well start clicking with abandon…

Til then, dear spammer, on with your lonely task. I wish you well.

Happy World Oceans Day!

Someone really needs to make a calendar highlighting the good “World days” of the year, because I have only just this second, at 5.34pm, discovered that today is World Oceans Day.

Octopus Japanese woodblock print
Image from Vintage Printable

So, happy World Oceans Day to you all!

I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned it, but I am a really keen diver. Before the arrival of the sproglet, I’d had a few excellent years spending large swathes of time out in Asia – a lot of it under the water. I even met my other half out in the Philippines while we were both taking part in a marine conservation programme. (AKA a good excuse to spend lots of time diving every day; looking at beautiful unspoilt coral, making friends with cuttlefish and checking out the progress of the cuttlefish eggs living in a bit of fire coral. Oh, and sunbathing on a beach surrounded by palm trees whenever you’re not diving. I know. It was tough…)

Sea anemones
Image from Clip Art etc

I’m not going to launch into a diatribe here about the importance of oceans or their degradation around the world, partly because this isn’t really the place for all that and partly because my brain is a little mushy and inarticulate after a day in the sun. (If you do want to read more about it, you can take a look at the main website: World Oceans Day.)

Had I actually found out about this in advance, and had a little preparation time, I would have definitely tried to make something in honour of the day. However, here we are, Saturday afternoon, it’s now 5.40pm, and I’ve got no Blue Peter here’s-one-I-prepared-earlier up my sleeve, so instead I’ll do what I always do when I want to celebrate something in a slightly half-arsed way: I’m going to share some nice vintage ocean pictures with you. Giving you a little view of some of my favourite under sea creatures along the way…

Firstly, the wonderful octopus. Is there anyone in the world ever who doesn’t like an octopus? I would always be seriously happy to spot one of these lovely creatures on a dive.

There are so many amazing octopus images it was hard to whittle them down. But whittle I did, to these two.

Octopus zoology plate
Image from the New York Public Library digital gallery

This octopus looks a little mean and scary. But I still love him.

Octopus cigarette case
Image from the New York Public Library digital archive

One thing I love even more than an octopus is a squid. I did a dive once in Borneo when I looked up and an entire school of about 20 squid had materialised from nowhere right around my head. It was an odd, very eerie experience, almost like a sci-fi film (or Doctor Who episode), these squid suddenly shimmering into view.

On a sad note, though, since discovering how awesome squid are under the water, I’ve stopped eating them above the water and desperately miss the delights of calamari if I’m on holiday somewhere exotic. Mmmm, I’m thinking of it right now and salivating: that lovely crispy little ring, the lemon, the salt. Slurp.

Squid vintage image
The odd looking squid. Image from Vintage Printable

Moving on, the only thing I love more than a squid is a cuttlefish. Boy, do I love cuttlefish. They are one of the absolute oddest creatures you’ve ever seen. Pleasingly, not that tasty either, in my opinion, so I don’t have to miss not eating them…

It’s surprisingly hard to find a good vintage picture of one though. Everything called “cuttlefish” tends to be a squid or an octopus. But I didn’t want to miss the wonderful cuttlefish out, so here is one from a cigarette pack.

Cuttlefish cigarette packet
Image from the New York Public Library digital gallery

Away from cephalopods, I think perhaps my favourite under sea creature is a puffer fish. I just want to pick them up and cuddle them. (Don’t worry, I don’t…)

It’s number five in this incredible set of illustrations, though, it has to be said, this isn’t amazingly accurate.

vintage fish illustration
Image from the New York Public Library digital gallery

Are you getting bored yet? Okay, then, just one more creature for you. The amazing sea horse. So tiny! So cute! So free from gender stereotyping!

This little illustration was without doubt the most adorable I found:

Vintage seahorse image
Image from Vintage Printable

Ah, such wonderful things under the sea. And I haven’t even included dugongs or whale sharks or christmas tree worms…

But until the next time I can zip on a wetsuit – and it will likely be a good few years – I’ve been making good use of all the aquariums I can get to. The sproglet will recognise a weedy sea dragon from a hundred yards before he knows what a cow is, I suspect.

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  • Like a vintage image as much as I do? I’ve collected together some of wolves and some of gardening.
  • And having said that you might not know I’m a diver, I’ve realised that quite a lot of my projects have some nautical theme, so you probably weren’t that surprised at the revelation. A lot of my second batch of fabrics were sea-related. My octopus love snuck into some of my printed T-shirts. My screen printed F is for fish had, erm, a fish in it. And, of course, I thought it was a good idea to make a lobster necklace, so that was probably a pretty big clue to my under sea obsession.

Garden moodboard: June

June? June?! June! Where has the other half of this year disappeared to?

Still, any alarm about the rapidity of passing time is allayed by a gentle stroll around my garden, which is looking particularly flamboyant right now.

Here’s the edited version:

June garden moodboardWhy edited? Because, the back garden at the moment is a riot, a veritable riot of rhododendrons and azaleas. Which, I have to confess, aren’t my favourite plant. I counted nearly 20 plants out there. And, just to remind you, we’re talking 20 plants in a long thin London back garden, which means they’re taking up the majority of flower bed space.

Most of them are orange, red and pink, which again I have to confess, are not my favourite colours in the garden.

A shrub re-arrangement is a definite job for next year.

So, just two for this moodboard: a delicate white one which looks almost honeysuckle-like and this rather amazing white and pink-edged beauty. The bud, still all curled up, looks like a glorious sweet, I think.

I wouldn’t be sorry to find such a delicious-looking humbug in my stocking at Christmas

Though I normally prefer whites and blues, I absolutely adore the bright yellow poppies, which have been popping up all over the garden for about six weeks now. I tried to cut a few and bring them inside, but they wilt and go hard within a matter of hours…

And, apart from the clematis, that is the last of these plants that I’m actually able to identify, so if anyone can enlighten me about the others, I’d be delighted.

A clematis. This much I know
White flowers
What are these little lovelies?

These white flowers are just delightful and I’ve got lots and lots, dotted all over the place. They open up really wide and look like little stars popping up in the beds.

Purple flower
To weed or not to weed?

I wasn’t sure, at first, if this little purple flower was a weed (and perhaps it still is) but then it opened up all these lovely delicate little flowers and I’m enjoying it immensely. The poor thing is suffering badly from both of my two main armies of garden pests. Its leaves have been almost entirely destroyed by slugs and there are quite a few greenfly sitting on its stalk (still some in the photo, I notice, though I had tried to brush them all off…)

As I mentioned before, the slugs are having an absolute riot in my garden. I’ve tried removing them by hand and setting beer traps, but it’s just a drop in the ocean for their numbers. I did even cut one in half with a pair of secateurs, following the advice of someone in my horticulture class, but good god, was it a violent and terrifying end. I couldn’t bring myself to do that again.

I’m less bothered by the greenfly and have this (hugely optimistic) hope that if I leave them there, it will just encourage swarms of ladybirds to make themselves at home as well. We’ll see…

Pink flower
Slugs? What slugs?

This little beauty seems to be about the only plant unbothered by all the slugs. I want to say its a geranium, but I’ve no idea why. The very serrated leaves in the background of the photo belong to it and it’s created a nice little mound with these lovely flowers only just appearing on top recently.

Alpine flowers?
Alpine flowers?

These have a similar habitat at the back of the garden and I think they might be some type of alpine flower. There are great mounds of them spilling out over the brick-edges flower beds. Lovely.

Finally, a little trip to the front garden again. I couldn’t possibly bring myself to cut this down and take it inside, but this little stunner is a Sicilian honey garlic (or Nectaroscordum siculum if you want to get all Latin…) I planted the bulbs last Autumn, when I removed the giant cactus.

Honey garlic
Stunning, no?

I’ve got six tall spikes sticking up with these absolutely incredible flowers drooping down from the top. I adore them.

Honey garlic flowers
The first one to open

Finally, I haven’t been posting quite as frequently recently as my mock exams for my horticulture course are on Wednesday. So, instead of writing blog posts, I’ve been desperately learning four Latin names of plants that can be propagated by soft tip cuttings, trying to remember what happens in the mitochondria of a plant cell and reading about the constituent parts of soil. Normal service to be resumed shortly…