Monday, 28 July 2014

Monday, Monday

The Tour de France finally pulled into Paris yesterday with the Italian cyclist Vincenzo Nibali taking the top spot on the podium. Yorkshire took the race to it's heart and the giddy anticipation of the tour starting in the county saw residents painting pushbikes yellow and hanging them off their homes, Pub's renaming their hostelries with a gallic twist and an entire village knitting tiny cycle jumpers to decorate the market square! It was a little unusual for us too as we saw the York race route pass by the end of the street where we had our first home in the city. Then on the final Friday of the race the route spun past the tiny hamlet we once called home in France. We used to enjoy watching the tour from the side of the road in France. We've seen a race start, with the heightened excitement and the holding of breath as the seconds to the start beep tick down. And we've camped out for hours on the sides of french country lanes to catch a glimpse of the race speed by. The fun was always to find a spot where we could climb onto our car for a better vantage point, hoping that the 'caravan' of promotion vehicles that prelude the actual race would be able to throw their freebies to us!

One of the publicity cars galloping by!

The 'tete de la course'

Our little Fermette in the Gers, South West France looked south onto the Pyrenees and the Highest peak we could see was the Col du Tormalet, one of the most gruelling climbs for the tour cyclists.

Our little bit of France with the Pyrenees on the horizon

Back here in the garden I made a discovery, a strange fruit on the large Camellia to the side of our patio area. Never having had a Camellia before now I had no clue what it was but a quick look online told me it a the seed pod which if left on the bush until it dries out will reveal seeds that can be propagated. Another use is that if picked while still fleshy it can be squeezed to release a tea flavoured oil which can be used in cooking or to soften the skin. So that's my new fact for today!

Camellia seed pod or cagary

Since our workmen finished the roof we have been able to get to the bed to one side of our kitchen doors. It's edged with some lovely old railway sleepers and is to become the new herb garden and after Gary had weeded all the big stuff out I spent Sunday afternoon clearing most of it ready for planting. It already contains a healthy Lavender and some Lemon Balm plus a blackcurrant bush which was probably a 'happy accident' from a bird dropping, this is going to be moved to a fruit bed in the veg area. Hoping to plant up not only culinary herbs but also include ones who's flowers are worthy of a place there. So I'm on the look out for Monarda plants, bronze fennel and perhaps an Angelica for it's architectural beauty.

New Herb bed cleared and ready for planting up

The Veg garden has given up sufficient to be able to make our first meal of the season off it. Granted it's not a vast amount but it was all planted rather late this year. I harvested a couple of the shallots, a large courgette, a sprig of thyme and the first two ripe Roma plum tomatoes. Once some leftover pastry had defrosted and a yorkshire pudding tin was utilised as a small tartlet tray, the four pastry cases were blind baked. The shallot, courgette and thyme were sauteed in olive oil, added to the cases along with a beaten egg mixed with some creme fraiche and a grating of parmesan cheese. Finally the tomatoes topped the tarts and they were baked until golden. A little rustic but made with love for our homegrown produce.

A celebration of all things homegrown

In the Studio we are excited that one of Gary's limited edition prints is featured in UK Handmade's Summer Showcase Collection.

Avocet - gracing the pages of UK Handmade Summer Showcase

I've tried to upload the link to the online brochure but it is misbehaving so here's the link to the site and from there if you go to the Showcase you will be able to flick through the Summer Collection brochure pages online and find our Avocet print there. It's worth a look through as it's brimming over with UK handmade wonders. Link below:

We've been busy printing this weekend too. Managed to find a free hour to print the third colour of my latest linocut, not ready for a full reveal but here is just a hint of what it might be...

What on earth could it be?!

This week will see us cutting lino plates, no doubt printing, building more fences and hopefully getting on with the herb bed.

Hope the week brings you smiles.

'Summer is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather'
John Ruskin.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Holiday Mood

It seems everyone is in holiday mood, the schools are out, the summer sun has arrived and the general mood of everyone seems lifted. The weekend stretches in front of us with all it's potential, but before we kick off our shoes and head out to enjoy the weather it's time for...

 .. Fabulous Folksy Friday Finds!

It's the letter 'K' in the spotlight and we've found a great selection of beautifully crafted items all from fellow Folksy sellers. Don't forget to take a look around all the featured shops, their shop url's are under their photo's.

  'K' is for...

Elegant key - it must open something special!

K for Key - such a delicate looking silver Key pendant. Gemma's shop is full of really original jewellery, any hand stitchers out there just take a look at her little thimble necklace, so sweet:

An Oriental flavoured purse for all your Yen

K is for Kimono - Well, 1950's Kimono material to be precise. It makes a very colourful purse with a vintage look to it. Carol uses all sorts of vintage materials to make her pretty purses. Find them all in Carol's Folksy Shop:

Such a delicate pattern, beautifully crafted
K is for Knitting - This is knitting of the highest skill level, just love the muted shades used in this heather shaded cushion. Rachel crafts some lovely items with her knitting needles up in bonny Scotland. Find blankets, scarves and cuddly hot water bottle covers back in her Folksy Shop:

A flash of blue for your lapel
K is for Kingfisher - Just love the jaunty pose from this bright blue Kingfisher. There's a whole aviary of bird life fluttering around Sarah's Fun Folksy Shop:

Two of Gary's new cat prints made their way into our online shops this week and both are getting lots of attention. The sleepy black cat is another inspired by the many photo's we have of our little black beauty and the Tuxedo is based on a friend's new feline buddy.

Black Cat Bedtime

Tuxedo cat looking dapper

In the garden the flower borders are recovering from the battering they suffered in last week's storms. The new Shiatsa Daisies were worst hit, think it might be wise to cut them back and hope for a second flush of blooms. 

The greenhouse is getting greener as the tomatoes and chillies take over every available inch on the inside. We savoured our very first tomato yesterday lunchtime, a couple of tiny ones had coloured up first and the anticipation was too much to let them stay on the vine any longer. Can't wait for the glut to commence...

As everything is vying for space under glass on fine days the Aubergines get to play outside. I planted up 4 plants that I had raised from seed earlier in the year and they are all looking very healthy with lots of flowers. Will feel so guilty when I have to stop them after two fruits appear, always want to try and nurture more fruits off each plant. I have a delicious Aubergine Chutney recipe which I am hoping I can fill the pantry shelves with!

Aubergine flower with Spider keeping guard

Enjoy your weekend.

'Life is like a 10 speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use'.
Charles Shulz.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Thunder Bolts

We've had some fabulous storms overhead this weekend, spectacular lightning shows which thankfully didn't take out the electric supply. The rain made our lane look like a boating lake but instead of ducks enjoying the water we had a large family of sparrows taking baths instead. Everything has had a good watering so that is one gardening job off the list. We haven't managed to get outside so we still have our last raised bed in the veg garden to plant up. Can't decide what to use it for, it might get a scattering of late carrots, spinach and salading seeds. In a normal year we'd think about crop rotation but as we have had to wait so long to complete the beds, instead it's a kaleidoscope of crops out there, root crops rubbing shoulders with legumes, lettuces sharing bed space with onions.

Another bargain flower find this week was four fabulous Lavenders, all costing a mere £2.49 each. Ended up buying two white, one purple with a low growing habit and another purple tufted. They are still patiently waiting in their pots as I decide where they should live in our borders.

Bejewelled flower heads
All the poppy seeds that where casually broadcast through the borders are all coming up and making a colourful splash of petals.

The first of the Ladybird Poppies

Thursday morning while having our breakfast in the kitchen we spied a visitor to the garden.

Are you looking at me?

It was a baby Hedgehog sunning itself on the Patio steps. Hoping that our ever growing population of slugs and snails will keep Master or Mistress Hedgehog wanting to stay for the summer in our garden, do hope we see more of our new prickly companion.

It's been another very productive week here in the Studio. Gary has been working on a couple of feline beauties while I have started a new reduction linocut print this time using our magical landscape for inspiration. The first sky blue colour came off the press yesterday evening and the paper is hanging on the rack to dry. Now the delicate part of the process beings as I start to cut away at the plate, one slip and it's curtains for the entire edition! The new inks are proving a good investment, they are rich and thick allowing us to blend beautiful deep shades with them. As my new piece will use four colours we are looking forward to the alchemy of mixing up all those shades.

Thought we would let you have the first peek of Gary's two new cat prints, they are on the drying rack just now and will be in our Folksy and Etsy shop this week.

Two new Cat prints - in our shops soon!

'It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent'.
Dave Barry.

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Cool of the Studio

The sunshine here is reported to be warmer than in Hawaii, so we are seeking out the coolest part of the house which is luckily the Studio with it's south facing window nicely shaded by the large Holly tree outside.

So it's Friday and it's time for...

 .. Fabulous Folksy Friday Finds!

It's the turn of the letter 'J' and we have found some great items. Don't forget to take a look around all the featured shops, their shop url's are under their photo's.

  'J' is for...

Jolly Journals for all your jottings
J is for Journal - always handy to have one on your desk for all those moments of inspiration. There is also a pretty selection of hand made photo albums and guest books available in Liz's Folksy Shop:

An heirloom in the making
J is for Jewellery Box - this fabulously crafted box is made from solid Walnut and Madrona Burr. It was difficult to choose which photo to show here as the interior is as gorgeous as the exterior. Putting this on my Christmas list! Lots more boxes back at Paul's Folksy Shop:

This jug would brighten up any table
J is for Jug -  a vibrant red jug just waiting for some Cream and Strawberries, how pretty would that look! A real cornucopia of ceramics back at Claire's Folksy Shop:

Good enough to eat - with no calories!
J is for Jammie Dodger - guilt free snacks! Lots of fun, felt creations in Jo's Folksy shop:

The skies over our garden are filled with Swifts and Swallows at present, more than I have ever witnessed before here in UK. When we lived in France we had scores of Swallows that used to visit every year. They would keep us amused by swooping down, breezing past our heads while we worked in the veg beds. Whenever it rained they had a favourite puddle outside our front door where they would take it in turns to fly low and dip into the water for a cool down. One family set up home in one of our barns, this particular barn led to the back door of the house and was the one we used most often. We watched daily as the parents gathered mud from the surrounding fields and quickly constructed their sturdy nest for their clutch of eggs. The eggs duly hatched and we then had the joy of watching the 5 chicks put on weight. We named them, 'Doe, Ray, Me, Far and Sow' and would often be heard singing it to them as we walked past their nest. Every noise they heard would prompt them to stick out their heads, cheep loudly and open the yellow gorges of their throats, ready for any tasty tit bits. One morning I had the privilege to see them fledge. One by one they took to the edge of the nest and then boldly took a leap of faith and flew to the nearest roof truss. As the last one left the nest they all made their way to the barn opening and out into the clear blue sky. I cried once the little family of Swallows left us for North Africa.

Singing for their suppers

Our French memories are at the fore front of our minds this week as many of Gary's mono print landscapes have a French flavour to them. He is busy photographing the series of prints and they will be available in our Etsy shop soon. But thought it would be appropriate to show a portion of one here as it is titled 'Gascony' the south west region of France we called home.

Gascony - with it's rolling hills and it's fortified villages

We have just taken delivery of new lamps specifically for photo shoots so this weekend we will start the long job of updating all our photo's, a mammoth task hopefully interspersed with some time in the garden, there will be some harvesting of veggies to be done and new lavenders to be planted out.

Enjoy your weekend.

'To succeed in life, you need three things; a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone'.
Reba McEntire.

Monday, 14 July 2014

In the garden...

It's been great weather for the garden this past week, hot sunshine and lots of showers. Thursday night the heavens gave the garden an overnight treat as torrential rain bounced down with such force it woke us both up. We were able to lay and hear our new 'deep flow' gutters doing their job very proficiently. By morning the water butt to the back of the greenhouse was two-thirds full!

Found some great plant bargains, the best yet, as had I paid full price they would have cost nearly £46.00 as opposed to the paltry £1.20 I parted with. The attractive collection included 3 Red Robin Photinias, a French Lavender called Encore and two deep red Primulas, all marked down to just 20p. 

All well watered and ready to be planted out.

The new flower garden has been an exercise in stocking the borders as inexpensively as possible. We have moved shrubs, lifted and split perennials from the front garden, taken advantage of all the special offer plug plants free in gardening magazines and scoured the bargain shelves in all the stores. Plus earlier in the year I planted up lots of annuals to help fill in any empty pockets in it's early stages of development. The next challenge is to move a 10 foot Rowan tree. This has set up home - probably from a bird dropping - at the side of our driveway and as we are about to erect a new fence there it has to go. Rather than just chop it down we would far rather make use of it in a large gap we have at one end of the large curved floral border. With the mind set that 'things just want to grow', we will endeavour to move the little Rowan tree to a new and much improved home.

A colour palette of Dahlias, Hebe and Lavender
Bargain Passion Flower - happy to flower in sun or shade

Other garden activity has been accompanied by the sound of sawing, hammering and nailing, all care of Gary and his recent project - building log stores for all our winter fuel. He has cleverly utilized old wooden pallets plus off cuts left over from the new gable ends to construct the first of three stores which will sit on the patio. Now begins the Herculian task of splitting all the logs to fill up the new stores.

The roof is level with the window and will be filled with pot plants

Having recently read an article about superfoods I was inspired to make something including oats. Decided on flapjacks and as we both don't like things too sweet I reduced the sugar drastically but instead added a couple of tablespoons of chopped stem ginger and 50g of dark chocolate. It very nearly turned into a kitchen disaster as the oven temperature started out too high and checking them after just 10 minutes the baking tray was a bubbling mass of oaty lava. Turned the oven down and hoped for the best. What turned out was a chocolate and ginger oat bar which might not win in the looks department but certainly wins on taste.

Chewy, chocolate and ginger oat flapjacks

Back in the Studio another floral print is almost ready to be added into our online shops. It is being mounted for photographing today and will be uploaded this evening, but here is a sneak preview of it drying on the rack

Oxeye Daisy hot off the press

We have another busy week in store. I am pondering over my next floral piece and Gary is working on a very detailed landscape alongside another feline and hound print. We have just taken delivery of some new soft lino and vegetable oil inks so we will be experimenting with these. The ink looks fabulous and will help especially with reduction printing as it has good overprinting qualities. Can't wait to try them but first we need to cut lino plates...

'Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can'
Danny Kaye.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Sun and showers...

This week has seen us, in equal measure, both bathing in bright sunshine and ducking huge raindrops. The weekend weather forecast shows more of the same so we may well stay put in the Studio and wait for some fine days to come our way.

It's Friday so here goes with another...

 .. Fabulous Folksy Friday Finds!

It's the turn of the letter 'I'  - this proved quite a difficult task to find items which fit the bill, but we have unearthed some real gems. Don't forget to take a look around all the featured shops, their shop url's are under their photo's.

  'I' is for...

A pretty purple Iris that blooms year round

I is for Iris - this lovely Iris is just one of the many glass items that blooms round at Joy's. There are also butterflies, frogs and even a caravan all made from glass, find them all in Joy's Folksy Shop:

Delicate silver Ivy leaves 

I is for Ivy - These Ivy leaf stud earrings would make any gardener smile. Jenny takes real leaves and seeds to create her jewellery, her Sycamore seed pods are especially beautiful. Find them in Jenny's Folksy shop:

Keep your bug friends happy in this bijou home

I is for Insect house - Mike makes homes to keep all the bugs, bees and birds happy in your garden. Just love the idea of a Kestrel House! All available from Mike's Folksy shop:

Love the simple rustic style of these coat hooks

I is for Iron coat hooks - add style to your hall with this statement piece of ironwork. Colin crafts metal into not only beautiful but useful items for the home. Our kitchen is crying out for one of his pot racks! Find hooks, racks and candle sconces in Colin's Folksy shop:

Back here Gary has added another beautiful Black Cat Print to our online shops. And this time she is up to mischief...

Watch out for those claws!

Available from both our Etsy and Folksy shops and we can personalize the print with your own cat's name if you prefer.

Garden update: we have this week had our first potatoes of the season. They were grown in a plastic sack as the garden wasn't ready for planting when we bought them as seed potatoes. I seem to remember they were called 'Rocket' and they might be a little small but they are delicious. We have another two sacks of them which we will allow to get larger, that's if the temptation to indulge in another potato 'fest' doesn't take hold of us!

Just add a hint of mint and some butter...Mmmmm..

Enjoy your weekend.

'Stagger onward...rejoicing'.
W.H. Auden.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Finding buried Treasury

At last we have peace and quiet back here. The roof was finally finished Friday lunchtime, it all looks very smart and Gary even found time to paint the new soffits on the back gable end with a black wood stain. This meant that the back garden was clear to be able to fit the final raised beds in the veg garden. We spent Friday afternoon and all day Saturday tidying up the mountain of wood and broken tiles that the workmen had left us with. The old wood isn't a problem to get rid of as we will cut it up to burn in our wood stove this winter, we find you can never have enough wood especially when we rely on it for our heating. We also scavenged all the bricks which come in handy for all sorts of things in the garden and have saved all the old guttering with a view to reusing it when we get around to building another log store.

The flower borders are looking fuller even though they are in their infancy. I have used annuals to fill in the bare pockets and they are blooming their socks off at present, the cornflowers with their dolly mixture of colours are doing their job very effectively just now.

The candy colours of Cornflowers

I spent Sunday morning planting up all the pot bound veggies, they all seem happy in their new homes and the cucumbers have even started to make their way up the bamboo wigwam I constructed for them. Gary loves cucumber to the point where he will even have slices on his breakfast toast, an acquired taste I have yet to acquire!

Whilst turning the soil over in one of the new beds something shiny caught my eye. Bending down to pull it out of the earth I discovered a length of gold chain with a coin pendant hanging off it. After the brief flight of fancy that I had discovered some Roman or Viking lost hoard, (well we do live near York with all it's history), I noticed the coin had our Queen's head on it and the chain was broken. Dismissing it I put it to one side in the wheelbarrow while I finished digging over the bed. Back in the kitchen as I was washing the grime off the coin the housing it was in snapped in half. What was left was a small gold coin, dated 1999, I thought no more of it and put it to one side on my desk in the Studio. Later that evening I took another look at it, it did look familiar, then it dawned on me, it was a half sovereign. After doing a little research on the internet I have found my little gold coin is actually worth over £100, so I really have found a little piece of treasure!

My little piece of Treasure

Have had very little time in the kitchen other than make homemade pizzas for Saturday's supper. Have recently found that the bread dough is much improved, (no pun intended), by making it the day before it is required and letting it slow prove in the fridge. This really does give extra flavour to the baked dough. 

One of Gary's linoprints has made it's way off the printing press and into our shops this week...

Friendly Friesian Cow with a pink nose

This happy cow fits in nicely in our Farmyard section. She was fun to print as Gary only wanted a little pink to appear on her nose and the first plate we printed just had one little pink splodge on it.

I have always had an affection for these black and white cows as they remind me of joyful camping holidays as a child. One of our favourite camping places up in the Lake District was on a farm near to Wray Castle which sits on the opposite side of Lake Windermere to Ambleside. It was rough and ready camping with no frills, the only amenities was a loo in a simple wooden hut at the top of the field. The farmer would even leave his cows in the field with us, so it wasn't unusual to have an inquisitive cow peer into the tent as it meandered past. I remember - with the rosiest of coloured spectacles - that every morning my brother and I would be sent down to the farm milking parlour to get some milk for breakfast. We would watch in wonder as the cows sauntered into the stalls and their milk would whoosh around in the large glass containers before the farmer would draw off a pint or two of frothing milk into white, waxed cartons. This was the only time I ever liked the flavour of milk, fresh from those black and white cows.

Chocolate Break - Folksy Front Page - 7th July

Really pleased to see our 'Chocolate Break' themed Pinterest board was chosen for the Folksy Front Page today, now that's a great start to the week!

This week Gary is determined to produce at least two prints, he's thinking feline, purrfect!

I will be working on the final plate of my latest flower linocut print, hopefully it will be completed by the end of the week. It's at this stage of the process that the tension rises, it is all down to how good the registration is when placing the pre-printed paper onto the press as to how many good finished prints can be included in the edition, any shaking hands can lead to disaster...

'The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.'
Ogden Nash.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Halfway through the year...

Doesn't time fly when you're having fun. Here we still have workmen clambering on our home. The roofing job is running over and the noise of the cement mixer outside our Studio is starting to interfere with our creative flow. Hopefully today is the last day they will be here, it will be lovely to finally have a smart roof and peace once again.

Roll on the weekend, but before we start winding down we need to have another...

.. Fabulous Folksy Friday Finds!

It's the letter 'H' this week so there's hares, hens, hearts and some beautiful Harris tweed to appreciate. Don't forget to take a look around all the featured shops, their shop url's are under their photo's.

  'H' is for...

Heavenly shade of Blue
H is for Hare - This wistful hare is painted onto mouth blown glass in the most beautiful shade of blue. Hang it in a window to catch the light, it's sure to brighten up any room. Lots more glass work back in Amy's Folksy Shop:

Chick, Chick, Chick, Chick, Chick Hen!
H is for Hen - this cute key ring is filled with lavender so it will not only keep your keys safe but scent your bag or pocket too! Lots more pretty hand sewing in Julie's Folksy Shop:

Every book should have a smart jacket
H is for Harris Tweed - this beautifully made book cover is made from the original Harris Tweed tartan in the shade of blue skies. This would turn any novel into a masterpiece of literature!
More covers for not just books but also tablets, Ipads and kindles in Shirley's Folksy Shop:

The colours of the garden - Heart shaped
H is for Heart - this jolly button brooch is titled 'Monet's Garden' and having had the joy of visiting those famous lily ponds with the wisteria festooned bridge we can see all the colours captured in this button collection. More buttons back at Jane's Folksy Shop:

Back in our Studio we have battled through all the disturbance with the help of Radio 4 being turned up an extra notch. Gary has created a print which will soon be seen in our farmyard section of linocut prints. My progress has been a little slower, still cutting out the second plate of my latest flower print. It has some very fine parts to it which need a good deal of concentration. Hopefully it will be ready to print at some point this weekend. 

One of our little grey donkeys trotted off to a new home this week, do hope it's near a beach.

Off to pastures new...

The garden calls..
... now the workmen are out of the back we can dig space for our raised beds. Gary built four more a couple of weekends ago, so the turf needs stripping, the holes need digging, then once the wooden frames have been fixed into the ground it will be out with the 'wild thyme' garden paint and a brush for a quick lick of paint. And then, at last, all the various beans, peas and squashes that are bursting out of their pots can stretch their roots and hopefully grow for us!

Enjoy your weekend.

'A weekend wasted isn't a wasted weekend.'