Monday, 30 June 2014

Busy Monday

It feels like we didn't get any weekend here as we have been kept really busy in the Studio. It seems odd to be thinking of Christmas at the end of June but we really have to start our push towards the festive season and making sure our shops are brimming over with lovely things. We lost out on three months work last year while waiting to move house and so now the catch up begins. 

Two new dog breeds have been introduced into our shops, both handsome looking hounds.

Chocolate Labrador - a real sweetie
Weimaraner - a dog with a noble history

We spent Saturday printing the first plate of my third floral piece and Gary continued his experiments with mono printing. These are true one of pieces of art where ink is worked onto a glass surface and then a single pressing is made by hand. He created a really beautiful abstract which was so heavy with ink instead of hanging it to dry on the rack he left it overnight on one of the Studio shelves. Alas one of our furry friends snook into the Studio, jumped onto the shelf, walked through the ink and then pranced artfully over Gary's desk, then leapt onto mine and left green 'daisy' foot prints everywhere! We discovered the culprit by the tell tale green paint all over her back paws.

I received a parcel of plant plugs on Saturday, a special offer from a gardening magazine and was astonished as to how tiny they were. Have been misting them with water until I can get chance to plant them up, hopefully this evening.

A Lilliput sized plug plant!

I did manage to grab an hour in the kitchen on Sunday afternoon. Wanted to make something savoury we could have for midweek lunches. Hunted around the cupboards for inspiration and found some gram flour so decided on some Pakoras. They only contained potatoes, onion and garlic along with the usual spices and instead of my usual approach of mounding spoonfuls into the frying pan I dug out some crumpet rings to try and get a firmer shape. They turned out great.

Spicy Pakora for lunch today - delicious

The workmen are still tapping away on our roof but have now moved to the front of the house so the tapping is slightly less intrusive, hopefully they will be finished midweek, and calm will return.
We will then have the space to finish siting all our raised beds in the veg garden and plant out all the plants sat in pots outside the greenhouse all clambering to be sunk into some earth. We live in hope that we will get a couple of butternut squash, we just love squash soup.

'Yesterday is history,
Tomorrow is a mystery,
today is a gift,
that is why it's called present.'

Friday, 27 June 2014

Bring on the weekend...

Flaming June is nearly at an end and July is waiting in the wings hopefully bringing more blue skies and sunshine to enjoy. These Fridays seem to be getting closer together, we really need to invent an extra day in every week!

So once again it's time for...

.. Fabulous Folksy Friday Finds!

It's letter 'G' this week and there's some unusual items on show, do hope you enjoy the mix. Do take a look around all the featured shops, their shop url's are under their photo's.

  'G' is for...

Such a sunny colour!

G is for Glass - in the shape of this 'juicy' orange cupboard door knob. This is a fabulous shop brimming over with clever, witty glass pieces. All available from Matthew and Estelle's Folksy Shop:

Stay, stay...good boy!

G is for Greyhound - this tiny, perfectly formed dog is modelled out of felt. More furry, felty fun back at Lydia's Folksy shop:

Rustic home for your garlic bulbs

G is for Garlic Holder - woven from willow this holder would be at home in any country kitchen. Available from Judith's Folksy Shop:

Can almost smell this soap from here!

G is for Goats milk, Lavender and Heather soap - can only imagine the heady scent of this pretty blush pink soap. Lots more scented soaps and candles from Debra's Folksy Shop:

This week we have had to shout in the Studio as joiners hammered away over our heads mending our sorry looking roof. They have nearly finished now and soon peace will be restored, as will be our roof! Once again the press has been squeaking and groaning as we put it through it's paces. Every time Gary lowers the press the cats scatter, the metallic squeak must hurt their sensitive ears. 

The final colour went on to my latest floral print, a deep, rich purple which works well. The print itself is made using 2 lino plates, the first is the background plate which shows a subtle background of poppy heads and grasses, printed in a soft green. The second lino plate has the poppy image cut into it. This is where the reduction method has been used. The first colour to be printed on top of the background was the grass green. The image was then cut away further and the poppy red printed.

The plate with it's final cut - just the purple left to print.

And finally the print is almost completely cut away leaving just the outline which was printed in a deep purple. 

Close-up showing the delicate backplate

This style of printing holds a great deal of risk as once the plate is cut away then any mistakes can mean the whole piece is ruined. It can get very nail biting especially when there is only one colour left to print. Obviously all this involves many hours of concentrated work!

It's been added to our online shops and is part of a series of floral images.

Field Poppy - Limited Edition Linocut Print

The veg garden is starting to live up to it's name and about time too. Everything is still in miniature but we have high hopes for a bumper harvest later in the year.

Small but perfectly formed baby Courgette
purple beans masquerading as earrings!

Enjoy your weekend and don't forget to stop and smell the roses.

'Live in each season as it passes: breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit'.
Henry David Thoreau

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Gentle Art of Tomato Tickling...

One of the main reasons we acquired a greenhouse for our new garden was to be able to grow our own tomatoes once again. We never got around to putting one into our last place, due to the fact that we spent a good deal of time working away so it wouldn't have got much use. But as soon as we moved in here we drew up garden plans and decided where we would site our greenhouse. So earlier this year I started some tomato seeds off in a little plastic greenhouse we've had ever since we lived in France, because they collapse down to nothing they are handy to have around for the start of the growing season. The chosen varieties included Super Marmande, Roma and Gardeners' Delight. While waiting for these to put on a growth spurt I rescued a sad looking Sungold plant withering away on the bargain shelf of a store and took advantage of a giveaway in a gardening magazine for 3 different varieties of tomatoes, (unfortunately I lost magazine details and can only remember that one was also a Sungold and the other two will remain mystery tom plants).

Once large enough, 23 of the plants where planted into the greenhouse. I decided to try the 'ring' method but instead of paying out for pre-made plastic collars I charmed Gary into cutting the bottoms off plastic pots. These were plunged into the soil borders and then the tomatoes where planted into these. An elaborate cane and twine 'rigging' was constructed for them to romp up and then the wait began.

I now have a Saturday ritual where I spend a happy half hour keeping company with all the growing tomato plants. Firstly they get their side shoots nipped out. Then they receive a dainty knot of twine to tie them higher up their canes. Their feed comes next, a large glug of seaweed extract shared out between them.

And finally comes the tickling...other people leave it to the bees, some people use paint brushes to transfer the pollen from flower to flower. But I prefer to take off my gardening gloves and with a tender touch of the finger gently tickle the flower centre and work my way slowly around each and every delicate yellow flower bell. They also enjoy some quiet conversation. Yes, like Prince Charles I too commune with nature. It must be working, talk of the weather, soil conditions and what I'm making for supper seems to be inspiring them to put forth lots of trusses of tiny green orbs. Hopes for a bumper harvest and painting inspiration abound.

Simply Super Marmande
Tiny truss of Roma tomatoes, perfect for pasta sauce

It is so different growing tomatoes here in the north of England than the ease in which we grew them in the veg garden at our little farm in France. When we bought our home there everyone told us how you just put things in the ground and they simply grow. How true they were, we would plant either home grown seedlings or perhaps something that had caught our eye at the local market and within days they had established themselves and were reaching for the sky.
We had so many tomatoes that we could pick them off the vine and eat them as a juicy snack while working the soil. And at the end of the season we had sufficient to make chutneys, pickles and jars of sun dried tomatoes to last us through the winter months.

Just planted tomatoes in foreground with old roofing used as stakes
Everything we grew there flourished, the only task other than picking things was spending time watering the veg beds, and having an acre filled with 22 beds meant two very long hosepipes connected together!

Back to here and weekend work in the Studio.
Gary finished his latest wildlife print and we uploaded it into our online shops yesterday. 
A rather shy Badger emerging from his well hidden sett in the green depths of Bracken fronds.

Mr Brock venturing out

With the end of last week being so chaotic - mainly brought about by the workmen bashing away mending our sadly sagging roof gable ends - I completely forgot to make some olive rolls for Friday night's pasta supper. Now, no matter how you try and convince yourself that homemade, seeded, wholemeal rolls will work just as well with a bowl of Spagetti they just haven't got the authentic appeal of a rustic olive roll. I found time on Sunday to rustle up half a dozen olive studded rolls to enjoy with Sunday's Italian inspired supper.

Just out of the oven...

The recipe is simply a white bread recipe but it is made extra special with the addition of a handful of flavoursome olives. I prefer to perk up my own olives, I buy brined ones and then bottle them with good olive oil, oregano, peppercorns, chilli flakes and lemon rind. After sitting in this mix for a few weeks they turn out full of savoury flavour.

And now starts the working week...
..this week will see Gary working on another countryside inspired print, while I will be cutting the final plate of my next floral piece. And, of course, there will be tomato tickling...

"If life deals you lemons, make lemonade; if it deals you tomatoes, make Bloody Marys".

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Summer Solstice

The sun has reached the full extent of it's arc across our skies and the longest day of the year is with us once again. I always note in fascination where the sun rises and sets according to the time of year. In June by the time the sun dips over the horizon it has moved more than three quarters of the way around our home. Hoping the days of high summer offer us lots of sunshine so that the many tomato plants we have planted in our new greenhouse reward us with lots of red - and yellow - fruits.

Another Friday and time for another...

.. Fabulous Folksy Friday Finds!

We've reached the letter 'F' and we certainly had a lot of fun making our selection this week. Don't forget to take a look around all the featured shops, their shop url's are under their photo's.

  'F' is for...

Sleepy Fox enjoying a nap on this comfy cushion

F is for Fox - There are lots of fun foxes and other woodland characters in Sarah's pretty Folksy shop.

Hard to get lost while wearing this flower!

F is for Flower - Such unusual blooms in Leah's Folksy Shop, especially like the idea of a wedding bouquet of these re-cycled flowers.

How about a fairy at the bottom of your garden?

F is for Fairy - Fascinating wire work can be found back in Topsy's Folksy shop including some fun bookmarks.

Such a realistic Frog, wonder if he would scare off our slugs?!

F is for Frog - Jess has not only frogs but toads and the odd snail wandering around her Folksy shop.

Our weekend will be divided between gardening jobs and the Studio. We need to build more raised beds and plant up our new plant purchases plus find homes for the Cosmos and Nicotiana plants we have grown from seed. In the Studio we both have work to do on our new limited edition lino prints, this entails more cutting away at the image, mixing inks and more printing sessions.

Here's a taster of some of the colours appearing on my floral piece, only a little a peek though....

Not quite traffic light colours

The sun painting the sky with sensational colour

Enjoy your weekend.

'Only Robinson Crusoe got everything done by Friday'

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

'Falling for Constance'

We have been working really hard for the last couple of months and even though at the start of the year we promised ourselves we would take more days off, things cropped up and our plans went out of the window. 

Yesterday was the first planned day off this year and we had such a good day we drove home with the promise that more of the same must be taken, and soon.

Burton Agnes Gatehouse
Burton Agnes Hall - with it's topiary yew avenue

We took the opportunity of a 'two for one' pass we received with 'Gardeners' World Magazine. Chose to take a look around Burton Agnes Hall which nestles in the gentle folds of the beautiful Yorkshire Wolds. The sky didn't look very promising as we meandered our way through the country lanes. They were at their 'blousie' best, a tapestry of foxgloves, lace headed cow parsley and the occasional field poppy. Thankfully the fine rain didn't last long and we were able to enjoy the grounds of the Elizabethan Hall, for the most part on our own. We were firstly drawn to the classical pond, not for the structure itself but because of the aerial acrobatics of the Swallows. They swooped down to the water and took elegant dips, some rising and falling two or three times like skimming stones across the tension of the water surface. Cameras in hand we both positioned ourselves low on the lawn edge to try and get a shot of them but they teased us by flying low in and around us and when they did dive for the pool they were just too quick for us.

The Classical Pond - the globe sculpture slowly revolves

The woodland walk was quiet and lush apart from when we discovered one of the outdoor sculptures, a wind chime of giant proportions set high in the tree canopy which we could just about reach with the point of our umbrella.

We saved the best area of the grounds until last, the walled garden. For the most part an exuberant blend of flowers and vegetables, with the many roses stealing the show. Have to say we have seen better walled gardens and weren't so excited with the inclusion of the maze and over sized board games, to us the flowers and veggie plants are the real stars. 

One rose in particular caught my eye, it's rich pink blooms, dense with petals gave off a fragrance to match it's beauty. Reading the label I discovered it was 'Constance Spry' a rose I hadn't really given any consideration to in the past. I will be making amends for that oversight, it will be the rose of choice going into our new floral border.

Constance Spry - even it's glossy leaves are fabulous!

The hall has put it's courtyard area to good use by converting the space into a gallery, shop and tearoom. There is also a small nursery area which the gardening team keep well stocked with plants they have raised from the gardens. Obviously we couldn't come away empty handed, purchases included Sisyrinchium striatum, Echinacea Primadona Rose, a couple of Leucantherums called Crazy Daisy and finally a Eryngium agavifolium which the label states grows to a height of 1.5 metres, as it's very prickly and going to get very large it's new home will be at the back of the border!

The floral 'spoils' of our day out.

So it's back to work today, full of inspiration and new ideas. Had a nice surprise when we checked out Folksy this morning, our Pinterest board, titled 'The Cat's Meow' is the featured board, it's always great to get onto the front page.

Screenshot of our Folksy front page feature

Gary has added another dog to our online shops this week.The print is of a Chocolate Labrador and what a handsome fella he is!

New dog in our online shops  - Chocolate Labrador

'What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade'. - Gertrude Jekyll

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Memories of my Dad.

Today is Father's Day so my thoughts have been of my dear Dad, sadly lost just before Christmas 2012 to the cruel Parkinson's Disease. I felt I lost him twice once when the disease took a grip of his mind and then when he finally slipped away in his sleep.
At his funeral both myself and my brother wrote something to try and share our thoughts of what our Dad meant to us. Below is the piece I wrote and it sums up my Memories of my Daddy.

My Dad - about to do a spot of welding

Aged maybe 2, 2 and a half, scooped up into Dads arms as he came through the kitchen door, nestling in the crook of his elbow as he talked to Mum at the sink.
Bath time, Dad on knees, shirt sleeves rolled up, cocooning me in a scarlet red towel and rubbing hard to get me dry.
Bedtime, snuggling down to Rupert Bear, Dad reading - the abridged version –only found that out once I could read!
Sitting on his lap, tracing a finger down his forehead, onto the bridge of his large nose, then slowly, slowly to the tip, then suddenly he’d take a snap at my finger, game ends in all consuming giggles.

Holidays, camping, laughter, camping, laughter, caravaning, sunshine, joy and laughter. Trooping through the Lake District, this happy family tribe, Dad, Mum, my brother and me, Uncle John, Auntie Lily, and my two cousins, like the Von Traps, well maybe not, more akin to  the Broons from the pages of the Sunday Post.
Perched on Dad's shoulders, not requiring to duck overly through shop doorways, I might be riding high on giants shoulders but to the rest of the world my Dad was a small man. Being dangled over a grid in Bowness on Windermere, swinging like a mini pendulum in his arms to improve the aim of the pee.
Dad and sweets – you could guarantee that if you fished deep into dad's coat pocket you’d find a sweet or two in there. Be it the humble Mint Imperial, the Fox's Glacier Mint, or better still the Fox's Fruit Thin, a large thin square of boiled sugar fruitiness which if treated with respect could last for ages. Most prized of all sweet treasures to be discovered was the Riley's Chocolate Toffee Roll, sweetie perfection.
Trips out or 'tootles' in our household. All clambering into our little white Mini to wend our way around the back waters, Bond's ice cream on Pilling sands, singing Scout songs in the round, ‘we went to the animals fair, the birds and the bees where there’…all roads led to Glasson Dock, Cornish pasties and bottled Vimto with 2 straws. Searching for snails in the ivy covered walls of the pub car park.
Riding to Brownies on Dad's cycle crossbar, towel wrapped around for a more comfortable ride. When it rained being enveloped under his canary yellow cycle cape, with only the button holes to peer through.

Dad and cats… Pimmy, Sammy, Dildrum, don’t ask.. Daisy, Emma, Polly, Lucy, his cat, thought he was getting whisky for Father's Day, he got a kitten instead! She too rode high on his shoulders, he cried like a child when she died.

Teaching me to drive, every night after tea, Mum in the back, Dad in the front and me in the driving seat. Up and down the Flyde coast, roundabouts, traffic lights, and the most important lesson given, parallel parking,  practised on a hill, backwards, Dad on the kerb, Mum in the back and me driving.

And later, instructing me in the art of wallpapering, how to measure, count out the patterns, paste right to the edges and fold using concertina pleats so paper fell gracefully from ceiling to floor.

Inherited from Dad... the feet, the eyes and a photographic memory. Spin any of his offspring around 3 times send them on a one way trip and they will always find their way home, memorizing every twist and turn of the road. No sat navs for us, just a copy of  the AA map of Great Britain and me and my Dad will show you the scenic route.

My Dad, my older brother and me on the beach

Dad, Mum and me in Austria. Wobbly photo taken by my brother

Always there with a ready smile

This post is dedicated to my dear Dad xxx

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Weekend beckons...

The weather is promising to behave itself so no doubt the smoky aroma of barbeque coals being lit will permeate the air this weekend. Friday not only heralds the start of the weekend but also...

.. Fabulous Folksy Friday Finds!

This week it's the letter 'E', and there just had to be an Elephant! We can recommend a visit to all these shops, they all offer a wealth of original creations from their clever owners. All their shop url's are under their photo's.

  'E' is for...

A little work of Art with purpose

Embroidery...this gorgeous box uses a mixture of crafty mediums along with embroidery, just love the colours! Found in Janice's Folksy Shop:

Twit-Twoo - to a handsome Owl

Embossing... a really original piece of jewellery incorporating an embossed little Owl. Lots more unusual jewellery pieces to be found back at Faith's Folksy Shop:

E is for Elephant - an enameled Elephant!

Enameling... such a fun brooch of Nellie the Elephant and she's available in other colours. Lots of fabulous enamel brooches in Linda's Folksy Shop:

Earrings decorated with one of my favourite birds

Earrings... and these have a lovely fluidity to them, they are going on my Christmas list! Catherine's Folksy Shop is a must see shop for anyone looking for contemporary jewellery pieces:

Have been so excited about the next linocut print to appear in our shop. For a change Gary has taken a back seat, (he's presently working on a fabulous landscape), so this time it's a little piece of art from me! I have been wanting to start a series of floral pieces for ages and have managed to find some time to get the first one onto the press. It's a limited edition of 25 linocut prints which were produced using the reduction method, a complicated process and I was glad Gary was on hand to point me in the right direction. 

Pink Cyclamen with spiral seed pod

I wanted to capture the essence of the Arts and Crafts movement with a nostalgic feel to the piece. I'm pleased at how it has turned out and it does have a flavour of one of those pretty bookplates that appear in old gardening books. It's now available in our Folksy shop and will be available from our Etsy shop this weekend.
I'm about to start work on the next flowery number, a summery flower this time. 

Such sad news this week of the early death of Rik Mayall his many wacky comedy characters cannot be replaced, he was a hilarious one of a kind.
This brilliant quote rings so true...

'You know the really great thing about a fudged coalition is that neither of us need to carry out a single promise of our election manifestos'.

Spoken by Alan B'Stard aka Rik Mayall.

And the final word from the  brilliantly funny Flashheart in Black Adder..

Monday, 9 June 2014

Strawberry Tables and Tomato Climbing Frames...

This last weekend was split between creating in the Studio and catching up with work in the garden, that was once the sun decided to come out and play on Sunday.

We needed the sun's rays to shine to dry out the soil as it was turning into a treacly, sticky mess making any planting very difficult. It would seem the only creatures enjoying all the damp in our garden are the family of frogs living under our log pile. We had to haul this over to the back of the garden on Sunday and so had to move them to a new abode. The family range in size from large to tiny dots and Gary commented they were reminiscent of a group of Russian Dolls. He would love to have taken a photo of them graded in size but they just wouldn't stay still, or in place for long enough! 

Two of the 'must do' jobs were to plant up the new strawberry table Gary had built with off cuts of timber plus finish planting all the tomatoes in the newly acquired greenhouse. Dread to think just how much our ebay purchased greenhouse has actually cost us in total. It started out a bargain buy but after re-painting it, buying new bolts and clips and building a base we both have decided not to calculate what has actually been spent. Needless to say the tomatoes will be treated with the same reverence the Tudors treated their recently discovered tomatoes.

The tomato canes and twine have turned the greenhouse into a jungle gym. We have raised a selection including Super Marmande, Roma, Sungold and Gardeners' Delight, plus a couple of varieties free from Gardeners' World magazine. Looking forward to a colander tumbling over with a colourful array of tomatoes.

How to shoehorn plants into a tight space...

We bought two types of strawberries, one that fruits in June/July and a late fruiting variety to try and extend the season. Once the blackbird family have spotted the ripening fruits we will have to fashion some sort of netting cover to deter them.

Hoping to keep the snails at bay

Destined for the top of a pot of homemade yoghurt

In summer months our suppers tend to revolve around salads using anything that looks tasty in the veg garden. On Saturday evening we were about to sit down to a mixed salad when Gary reminded me of how he loved my homemade Pitta breads, their pockets are roomy enough to make a feast of a sandwich. So on Sunday afternoon whilst baking our bread for the week I mixed up an extra batch of wholemeal bread dough and took the time to make half a dozen Pittas. Smiles all round.

Fresh and smelling delicious

Back to the art and as promised here's a preview of another new print to arrive in our online shops, such a cute little face!

Cute Pug printed in two colours

And here's another little face to raise a smile, one of our two girls when she was a wee kitten.

Did someone mention Cheese?

'Doubtless God could have made a better berry, than the strawberry, but doubtless God never did'
William Allan Butler.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Something beginning with 'D'

Another week marked off the calendar and another Friday, so once again it's time for...

.. Fabulous Folksy Friday Finds!

Lots of choice for items beginning with the letter 'D', hope you like them as much as we do. Do take time to visit the shops, their shop url's are under their photo's, so many lovely things await the curious visitor.

  'D' is for...

He loves me, he loves me not...

Such a pretty, delicate Daisy Necklace. Just love the pencil pieces too, all available from Linda's Folksy shop:

Reclaimed Driftwood Doorstop

Did have our eye on another Doorstop for the featured item but alas for us, (but great for John), it has been sold. Lots of thoughtfully designed recycled homewares available:

Simply, stylish summer dress

A fun selection of proper frocks are to be found in Amy's Folksy shop, just love the 50's styling of the pineapple dress:

Degas inspired Dancing Bunnies

These bunnies simply makes us smile. Lots more for Lapin lovers in Sara's fun Folksy Shop:

Here in the Studio we have had a busy week, the printing press has been worked hard, should have some new prints in our shop very soon. And just to give a flavour of what to expect here's one hanging up to dry...

Blue Eyed Siamese Cat

'Siamese Cat' and other new prints will be available in our online shops from this weekend.

'Weekends don't count unless you spend them doing something completely pointless'.
Bill Watterson.