Friday, 28 June 2013

Mid-Summer Bounty

So we've had some spells of sunny weather.  Do I always talk about the weather here?  Invariably it's the first thing I mention, I think.  Today, it's lacklustre and grey out so I thought I'd remind myself of those sunnier days with a look back at the last few weeks.

The roses are blooming with gay abandon.  I adore roses and have planted many in our homes in the last decade.  They're really getting into their stride now.  Here in London, they seem to like the clay soil, and our home is filled with posies with their delicious scent.  One of the better things I've done, is to plant a David Austin Gertrude Jekyll on the front of the cottage.  This is a fabulous rose, I have one here at home, too.  Very easy to care for, it flowers from the base and has a lovely fragrance and the quintessential pink many-petalled blooms.  This one is planted in the tiniest little pocket of broken earth where the front path meets the cottage wall.  It certainly doesn't seem to mind. 

We spent last weekend in the West Country.  We went to a vintage fair at Killerton House in Devon, mixed thoughts on that one.  We managed to dodge the torrential downpours, at least.  On Sunday, we popped via the heritage railway at Midsomer Norton and I was entranced by the 1948 bus in the yard. Sadly, we didn't have time for a ride.

We did manage a ride on the train.  Proper cardboard tickets were in evidence.  Marvellous!

On the way home through the meandering country lanes, I had my eyes peeled for treasure.  A cry of "there's some" saw me veering into a lay-by and pushing out Mr HenHouse to get harvesting!

For 'tis the season for elderflower, don't you know, and we are rather partial to a spot of cordial.  I use a recipe from the WI book of preserving; it's a simple matter of leaving the flowers to steep in a sugar and water solution, along with some lemon zest and juice.  

The Mr has been doing a little harvesting of his own out in the garden.  We never get a lot of strawberries as they take more watering and weeding than we can manage. The few we do get, we are very thrilled with and they taste amazing.

Now that the English strawberries are plentiful and relatively cheap in the shops, it was time to get jamming.  I am an avid jam maker, I love cooking up a brew, like a witch with a big cauldron!  But in the main, the fact is that no other jam will taste anything like homemade.  Strawberry is tricky to set as the fruit lacks pectin.  Rather than boil it for ages, which leads to loss of colour and flavour, I prefer to use jam sugar which has pectin added naturally from apples, and leads to a perfect set in under ten minutes.

Whilst all that boiling was going on, I couldn't resist nipping through the kitchen's French windows and into the garden. The patio is looking really pretty but I must confess to a touch of melancholy that we haven't really had the weather to be sitting out on it enjoying these precious long evenings.

Those roses were begging to be cut and brought indoors, still plenty left on the bushes.

Meanwhile, we women are used to multi-tasking aren't we?  The elderflower cordial was ready for straining through it's muslin jelly bag.  It's a sticky business! 

It's been troubling me recently that I haven't been managing much on the crafting front.  There are only so many hours in the day, I suppose.  One thing I struggle with is balance.  I find that when I start a larger project like a quilt, which is really my true love, I get quite obsessed with it. I like to have long stretches of time to work on such a project, I don't just want to do an odd hour here or there. This does rather mean I feel guilty about other things I feel I should be doing, though, and as such, it's been too long since I've done any quilt making.  I need to be more moderate, reader!  Any tips?

I have been crafting though, how could I not.  I've squirrelled away a few more pretty vintage fabrics recently and have now got into the habit of straight away cutting a hexagon from each before I put them away in my stash (because then I forget which I've already cut and which I haven't).  So I now have a pretty stack ready for a rainy day.

At crafty Wednesday at Stag and Bow, I've been naughtily working on my hand pieced star blocks.  This, you may recall, is usually my holiday project, but now that it is growing, I am enjoying adding to it in my spare time.  I'm rather constrained by having the right types of fabric for fussy cutting and those spots and stripes I favour for the edges.  Constrained by not having enough fabric?  Surely not!

By the way, should you fancy learning the lovely hand sewing craft that is English Paper Piecing, I will be teaching a Saturday morning workshop on the very same at the delightful Stag and Bow on 6th July.  Do pop along to their website for details, a jolly time is ensured; much craft, chat and cake.

Anyway, in the background, the jam (strawberry and elderflower) has been bottled, and the scones, (light and fluffy thanks to Paul Hollywood's recipe), have been baked.

Do you know, I think these are the best I've ever made!  The proof, of course, is in the eating...

Have a super weekend. XXX

P.S. Don't forget that Google Reader shall be no more as of Monday.  In my right hand sidebar, you'll find a button which links to Bloglovin' which is the new reader I and many others seem to be using.  It's a very simple matter of importing your existing reader list, while it's still there, into the new format.  Don't lose your lovely blog list, it will be such a hassle to rebuild a new one after Monday!

P.P.S.  Because a lot of the comments which appear in my in box belong to "no reply bloggers" (ie. those without an email address attached) and so to who I can't reply, I have decided to try replying to comments here on my blog in the comments section.  At the risk of re-opening "comment gate", I am unsure about this to be honest, as I appreciate it means people having to come back here to read yet again.  However, one of my commenters suggested doing this so I'm going to try! Thoughts?

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

A Garden Party 1940's Style

Here we are, Wednesday already.  How did that happen?  Did you have a good weekend?  Made the most of the sunshine, I do hope?  We were off again on a little jolly, headed to the Midlands this time, with our vintage bags firmly packed.  

It took us three hours to cross approximately twelve miles of London; a three-hour trip turned into a horrendous six hours.  Good job we knew that the delightful Kateshill House was waiting for us at the other end.  Ahh, bed!

Our destination: beautiful Bewdley in Worcestershire. You may recall that we visit each year to take part in the 1940's event on the steam railway.  Sadly, this year, we are double booked.  But no matter, for last weekend, we had another reason to visit. Saturday was free to explore, the boys set off for the Severn Valley Railway and I headed off on the short walk into town.

Along the way, a spot of yarn bombing waited to be admired.

It just so happened that it was carnival weekend in Bewdley.  The previous evening, we had arrived to fireworks over the bridge on our approach.  Saturday saw a traditional carnival of floats process down the main street.  I loved this one, celebrating the Queen's Coronation.  There was even a tv on board showing a picture of the Queen at the ceremony.

Bewdley is a pretty, old-fashioned town.  A visit to the sweet shop, on behalf of the boys, was a must!

We joined up later for a little family time and headed for a destination we don't usually find time to visit.  We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the safari park, in particular, we loved the big furry boys, of course!

You could get very close to some of the animals.

The following day, we awoke to more sunshine, hooray, and headed off to the home of some friends who had invited to us to a garden party at their beautiful home.  They also happen to be vintage clothes dealers, in fact that is how we met them.  Handy!  This is a garden party with a difference; every person is dressed in authentic vintage clothing, 1930s-'50s.  Some had also travelled in style...

We were extremely lucky to be entertained by the wonderful singer Lola Lamour, well known on the re-enactment circuit, and her excellent band.  Simply fabulous!

For some, there was the chance to indulge in gentlemanly pursuits in the garden.  Others could have been shopping, per chance (a whole showroom of vintage goodies to peruse).

Back home (in gloomy weather, now, it has to be said), it was time to make room for the weekend's finds and have a little tidy.  Mr HenHouse bought me a lovely vintage RAF sweetheart necklace which I decided to house along with (some of!) my vintage jewellery collection in this pretty fabric-covered box.

Putting away Sunday's frock, I enjoyed my vintage skirts awhile. I had been getting back into the swing of wearing these in last week's sunshine.

The vintage case came home filled with gorgeous new (old!) goodies.  Mainly delightful 1940's pieces, I do love a good hat, with a bit of Summery 1950's tangerine.  It was all that sunshine!

We also found this lovely old Smiths clock.  We have been after one of these as the finishing touch for our kitchen for ages.  We'd found a smaller one in the meantime but could not resist this whopper in original condition, most importantly at a great price. I do love a ticking clock.

And now, I think it's time for a spot of lunch, with my new reading matter to hand.  This morning, I popped to Stag and Bow as usual, to take part in the crafty morning.  A lovely lady came to collect some items she'd bought from me and most surprisingly, had bought a parcel of goodies for me, in return.  I was so touched.  Thank you, Pi, you're one of life's lovely ladies.  This sort of kindly deed restores my faith, I must say.  Fabulous feedsack and marvellous magazines.  That Stitchcraft, oh my!  

Friday, 7 June 2013

Very Vintage Times

Goodness, there's so much to catch up on reporting here on this old blog.  It seems the re-enactment season has started proper and we've been to a handful of events already.  I'm grouping together in this post some great vintage themed events we've enjoyed in recent weeks.

Getting things started, we headed through the beautiful countryside to the Kent And East Sussex Railway which is a preserved steam railway and somewhere we've been many times, but never to the 1940's event.  It's fairly low key when compared with the huge events at places like Pickering and Haworth but very quaint, nonetheless.

We decided to ride on the train.  I've actually never ridden on this line before and it does go through some pretty countryside. Mr HenHouse went for his rather dashing flight sergeant's RAF uniform.

I was posing with my eyes shut for some unknown reason!  It was still a little chilly so out came Ferdinand Fox and this dress which is a lovely late 1930's velvet number with a silk lining so is quite warm.

The Munchkin was seized upon in order that he could be evacuated, and given a name label and gas mask.

At the other end of the line, there were some really good and interesting Home Front displays.  I enjoyed chatting to this lady about her vintage knitting.  I admired her vintage embroidered apron which had been made from old flour sacks (the writing was still on the reverse).

When we go to these re-enactment events, there is nearly always a display of dancing: jive, jitterbug, lindy hop, call it what you will (all different styles of dancing but broadly similar from the 1940's era and thereabouts).  Mr HenHouse and I always watch with interest and have wanted to join in.  Well, finally, a few weeks ago, this all changed.  We went to our first jive dancing lesson.  It's an exercise in concentration to learn the steps and good exercise.  The music is great, the folks fun and friendly and we're making steady progress, I think.

Our group held a tea dance on Sunday and we went along.  I was brave enough to get up and join in the beginner's session they ran and afterwards, a foolish kindly gentleman took pity on me and asked me to dance several times.  I loved it and now have the bug.  I think his toes are still intact!

Spin those records, DJ!  Remember these?

Rewinding to the day before, we took part in a vintage event of a different kind.  My grandfather's family firm was in the tv and wireless business and indeed, my Dad started work in this area when he left school back in the '50s.  As such, and as my parents were staying with us last weekend, I thought my Dad would enjoy to a trip to the British Vintage Television and Wireless Museum and we were invited to join in their annual garden party.

The Victorian house is packed to the rafters with tvs and wirelesses.  The Munchkin was intrigued.

My Dad enjoyed chatting with other people there, all dotty about anything tv and radio, and talked about his experiences back in the '50s and '60s.

Even the garden has many sheds which are also home to many more tv and radio sets.

The Mr, Munchkin and I went along in our 1940's finest, which seemed to please a lot of the other guests there.  The founder of the museum, Gerry Wells, who is now in his 80s, was kind enough to come and introduce himself to us, say how thrilled he was that we had attended in our vintage garb, and gave me a copy of his book to read.  What a true gentleman.  If you are interested in this sort of thing, I highly recommend a visit.

WEll, I must love you and leave you, readers, as I pack for this weekend's vintage event.  It's all go!  I hope you have a good one, whatever you happen to get up to...


Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Shopping Update

I know, I know, I don't post for weeks then here I am again already.  Just to say that I have spent this marvellously sunny day indoors!  I must be crackers.  It does feel good to have got this job out of the way, though.  To those of you (thank you so much) who expressed an interest in my wares, you will now find my little Etsy shop fully stocked with:

1940's style posy brooches - new versions of styles I have previously made and sold, and some I've not made available for sale before...

1940's inspired posy hair clips...

(By the way, the pink bakelite pot with the crinoline lady on was a boot sale buy the other week, £1 with its contents, the two different styles of curlers.  Found this right at the end, too.  Thrilling!)

Rather lovely (if I may say so) precious vintage fabric barkcloth cushions...

(The pink one has gone, sorry/thank you!)

And last but not least, the vintage styled hanger covers, so pretty with your best frock atop, hanging from your wardrobe...

I don't know about you, but I feel the sun is most definitely over the yard arm.  Chin, chin! Xxx

Etsy shop here

P.S.  This is my FIVE HUNDREDTH post on this here blog!  Better make it something fizzy, then?

Hello Stranger

That's how I feel reader, like a stranger to my own blog.  It's been far too long, I'm shocked to see how long, since I popped in here, so without further ado, let me get on and rectify that.  Sooo much has happened recently, life always seems to get much busier at this time of year.  I hope I'm finding you tickety boo and enjoying this rare sunshine.  Hurrah.

As I just uploaded my photos to the computer and looked through them, oh so many of them, I realised I'd better group them into some sort of order so today, I'm looking back at the times we've spent in the West Country recently.  Oh wonderful Wessex.  We've enjoyed some sunny days down at our little cottage, everything looks so much better in the sun, don't you find?  I picked a pretty posy of lily of the valley, and not a lot else (come on flowers, start blooming.)  The scent was heavenly.

Back peddling a little, before arriving at our bolt hole, we stopped off via the Vintage and Handmade Fair at Chipping Sodbury.  I'd been busy in the week leading up to the fair, working on some new goodies for sale.  Decidedly pretty but damaged cloths had their good bits salvaged and turned into these vintage-style hanger covers.  I added a little felt flower, 1940's style, to each one, and some pretty lace or crochet trim.

Talking of 1940's flowers, I produced an array of posy brooches and also, some cute little hair clips.  On the day, they were housed in a lovely vintage French fabric-covered box which I had bought the week before at the Decorative Living Fair.

The stalls were customarily beautiful.  Donna Flower tempted me with the most gorgeous of vintage textiles, of course.  I re-homed the 1940's pot holders.

Organiser Michele (Cowboys and Custard) had squirrelled away the cutest children's toys specially for the day.  A young lady was later seen sporting the wonderful vintage Clarks' shoes.

Ali from Betty and Violet had a stunning display, these tiny dolls were particularly lovely.

My stall was looking rather pink, of course.  I ran up some cushions from my stash of vintage barkcloth, much like the ones in my sitting room.

I've decided to have a rest from stalling at the fair but you will find me and my goodies in my Etsy shop, of course.  I'll be adding some barkcloth cushions, hanger covers and posy brooches and clips in the next couple of days.

The next day, it was time for some thrifty retail therapy of our own and we headed off to the car boot sale which has a very civilised start time of 1pm.  Alongside the usual linens and novels, we managed to pack a pair of wing chairs into the car.  They look pretty hideous right now but it's the shape I'm interested in and not the covering.  Watch this space for a make over.

We finished our half-term trip with a visit to our beloved Bridport, but this time on a Wednesday instead of our customary Saturday.  We were lucky as the sun shone and whilst there weren't quite as many stall on the street market, it was nice and quiet so easier to look, and much easier to park.

I fell in love with this stunning hand embroidered 1930's blouse but it was badly moth damaged.  There are only so many "display" pieces I can justify.  I'm feeling wistful as I look at it, though...

This kitchen cabinet was rather fetching, too.

Bridders never disappoints!

Memories of my cosy cottage bed stay with me.   This was the first patchwork quilt I ever made and still remains a favourite despite its somewhat less-than-perfect execution.  It was good to catch up on sleep which always seems in short supply with these light mornings.

The chairs have been installed in the sitting room and temporarily covered with an assortment of quilts, blankets and cushion which, funnily enough, I have quite a hoard of.

The morning after we arrived home, I enjoyed unpacking all my thrifty and vintage goodies.  Hmm, a pretty good haul.  I've already used one of the 10p vintage zips to mend a vintage circle skirt.  Just in time for sunny weather.

Also on the mending front, I finally finished this pretty 1940's silk blouse which I bought from the Shepton Mallet flea market.  The arm holes were teeny tiny so I removed the cuffs and re-hemmed the sleeves.  I also added some pretty vintage glass buttons, the originals had been replaced with inappropriate ones.  All ready for a Summer outing.

So there it is, back home to Summer in the City.  What better way to remember our time in the West than with a traditional cream tea.  (I used for the first time, Paul Hollywood's recipe for scones on the BBC Good Food website.  Superb!  Even my mum approved and requested the recipe.)

Now I am organised and life is back to a regular routine, I'll be back soon.  Once I've restocked that Etsy shop!