scenes from a purbeck week - part one

Back to school already but despite the weather we had a good Half Term holiday.

Quite a lot of crafting, a fair bit of cosying up under the throws with a family DVD and when the weather permitted, some good walking. We are lucky to be a five minute walk away from the beach but when the visibility's good, the sun finally makes an appearance and the wind is low, we head on over to Durlston Country Park, way up on the cliff tops.

We absolutely love it there and usually tie it in with visiting the dump. Far from being a chore, on a sunny day it's a real pleasure - I'm not kidding, this has to be the most beautiful recycling centre in the world, the views are so outstanding.

High up on the hills overlooking Swanage and beyond, the vista from this place is like something from a picture postcard. And the park itself, which is right next to the dump, is large enough that you can lose any other walkers and have the place to yourself.

{now that is a seriously big puddle!}

In the Autumn/Winter, it's the best place to pick sloe berries (so long as it's not too windy as it is very exposed up there), they are so plentiful and unpolluted too. Also, early in the year and on a sunny calm day, it's even possible to see adders basking on the rocks. Unfortunately we've never been lucky enough to see any - no surprise really if you could hear the noise our two children make!

In the Spring and Summer months you can see guillemots and other sea birds nesting on the rocks, the sound of skylarks in the fields and occasionally there are dolphins to be seen out to sea.

But all year round there is the freshest air imaginable and the most breathtaking views. Not to mention the odd dry stone wall!

{oh we are clever!!}


a letter

Someone's keen to get back to school.

(Apparently she's organising a sleepover with her best friend!)


the stencilled room

I've had a bit of a thing about stencilling ever since I visited Lyn Le Grice's Stencilled House in Penzance as a child and being blown away by the artwork on the walls. The childrens' bedroom fascinated me in particular, where ribbons and bows adorned the walls, framing the names Jack and Chloe, and there were gold stars and a moon on the ceiling. The room had a couple of beautiful old brass beds dressed with floaty antique linens and there were gorgeous painted floors throughout. Each of the rooms had a different theme and, although busy and over the top, the whole effect was just incredible.

It all sounds a bit twee now but it was absolutely magical. In fact, when I co-bought my first flat in London, I stippled the bathroom walls a mediterranean blue and had every intention of putting gold stars on the ceiling, the idea being that we could lie back in the bath and gaze up at the night sky. But for some reason I never got round to it and so never got my stencilled house. The house in Penzance isn't owned by Le Grice now; I think it's home to an insurance company (or something like that) so I expect those gorgeous paintings are long gone. Thankfully, though, the work is still captured in this wonderful book.

In my last post I mentioned that I'd used another fab book to decorate our downstairs loo last Half Term. Finally, a stencilled room!

You should have seen our "little room" before it was decorated. It had been painted (by the previous owners) in varying shades of orange, chequer board style, and it took us three good coats of white to cover it up. Thank goodness "little" is the operative word here, otherwise it would have been a very long job. We had almost a tin's worth of Alabaster left over from a previous decorating project which needed finishing up so, waste not want not, I used a couple of coats of that as the base coat. Then all that was needed was two small pots for the fun part.

I bought a couple of acetate sheets and with a permanent marker, traced over the outlines supplied in the book, then cut them out with a stanley knife.

Using masking tape to secure the template to the wall, we took turns to tap, tap, tap our paints randomly over the alabaster. The paints we used were from Ecos - organic, solvent free that are completely safe and smell innocuously of peppermint as they are brushed on.

We did take before and after photos, including lovely ones of the children getting stuck in and making their marks but, unfortunately, hubby's computer crashed and we lost the lot. (Including numerous photos taken at Longleat that same holiday.) So much for backing up your work, ahem!!

By the way, you mustn't take too much notice of the black tape around the pipe; painting we may do here, but DIY - that's a different matter!


block printing

So Half Term is upon us and what a week we have in store - weather wise I mean. Apparently we can expect rain every day and certainly the past two have lived up to that promise. On both days we have been ready for walks, coated and booted with sun shining brightly, only to find that it's tipping down by the time we got strapped into the car. So yesterday we made some time for a crafty afternoon.

I bought this great book by Lotta Jansdotter just before last HT and promptly decorated the downstairs loo with stencils from it. So I consulted it yet again and got the children designing their own rubber stamps. Thankfully the things we needed were already to hand, namely rubber blocks and cutting tools from here and a variety of paints from here.

The children began by pencil drawing their images straight on to the rubber block and then we took turns to use the cutters to carve out the designs. (The cutters are very very sharp so I watched them like a hawk and did most of the carving myself.)

Thank goodness we realised in time that the stamps would print out a mirror image, so my boy was able to get his wording done the correct way!

Once the stamps were made, we used a brayer to transfer the paint from a paper plate on to the block and then the fun began. My boy decorated the back of one of his white tee shirts with his favourite tv programme in mind ..

and my little friend made her own correspondence cards.

You can see the different effects that were made, depending on how much paint was on the block. The first attempt definitely held way too much ink, so the image was less defined and the colour too dark.

But, without re-loading, the next two cards were much easier on the eye with more detail evident and the colour a much nicer violet shade.

We were all thrilled with the results and I must say I feel really inspired to have a go myself.

I hope you're enjoying your Half Term.



healthy baking days

When I was a child we had buns. Never muffins, fairy cakes or even cupcakes. It was buns. And yesterday was so cold I decided what better way to warm up than to put on the oven and have a good old baking session.

I read a while back that coconut is one of the wonder foods and that as well as being protein-rich with a multitude of essential vitamins, calcium and iron, there are numerous health benefits including protecting against heart disease and regulating blood sugar and diabetes. What's more, because it is so highly anti-viral it can protect you against a variety of immune attackers, including swine flu. You can read more here.

I bought some coconut flour and oil from here recently which is what I used in my baking. And because coconut has a sweetness to it and I was already incorporating fruits, I left out the sugar to see how much difference it made. I made two batches, one using blueberries, the other raisins. Surprise, surprise, one child preferred the berry version and the other, raisins. Thank goodness they're quick to make and by the way, they were delicious! (I emphasise the were because they didn't hang around too long!)

This recipe was adapted from one found on the link and you can see more here.

coconut buns

1/4 cup sifted coconut flour
3 tblsp (15g) coconut oil, melted
3 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup blueberries or 2 tblsp (2 mini boxes) raisins

Preheat oven to 205 deg (400F). Mix together the eggs, coconut oil and salt. Add the coconut flour and mix well till smooth. Fold in the blueberries or raisins (if using blueberries, make sure they are dried thoroughly after washing or they will sink to the bottom). Spoon the mixture into bun cases and bake for 16 - 18 minutes. Makes 6 buns.

(The original recipe uses 3 tblsp honey but I left this out)

Enjoy the weekend! x


sewing talk

I'm totally hooked on Japanese craft books, I can't get enough of them. I'm sure it's probably impossible to get enough of them given there are literally hundreds out there with more published nearly every month. But all the same, I do own too many.

Up till now I've made a few skirts and a couple of dresses for my little friend and they've turned out brilliantly. Of course, little girls have a distinct lack of chest and hips which means sewing for them is a dream, but I've never managed to pluck up the courage to do anything for myself from one of these books. There are several reasons for this :

1. Way, way too nervous to cut from my fabric stash, what if I messed up?

2. I'm not an experienced seamstress and therefore haven't yet mastered the art of alteration (Japanese ladies are obviously smaller than we English gels).

3. Can't speak or read a single word of Japanese. Hmmmm!

I'm not too sure why the sudden change of heart. It could be because I decided what an idiot, what's the point of having fabric sitting in a cupboard, never to be used. What's the point of buying these books never to attempt anything?; It could be to do with the glass of wine I'd consumed not so long beforehand; or it could possibly be that I found some black linen from Ikea that would be so easy and so cheap to replace should the inevitable happen? Yes, I think it was all three. So after weeks of sifting though the books looking for a good starter project, I hit upon this one, Sewing Talk by Machiko Kayaki, in which one of the sizes catered for happens to have measurements that, wait for it, perfectly match mine. That is surely a sign? One other thing, fabric required? 2.1m. Fabric owned? 2.2m. Another sign, another. Yessss!

The dress I made was pattern C, a simple sleeveless shift and slightly elasticated around the neckline and arms.

Sewing from Japanese patterns isn't actually as scary as you may think as they provide very good illustrations and by flicking through the other patterns in the book, and with the help of an English sewing manual, you can normally figure out how to piece the jigsaw together. Most books provide full sized pattern sheets so you only need trace over them to create your own pattern.

I added an extra 5cm to the length of my dress to compensate for the extra height.

If you're at all interested in searching out more Japanese sewing books, then make Japan Couture Addicts your first port of call. It's a French site (can be translated) where a huge number of makes have been posted alongside the relevant book. Brilliant.

There are some fabulous knitting and crochet books on offer too but for those, I'm thinking I should learn some Japanese!


a confession ... and finally some crafting

What an uplifting day - the first in months that I've not felt the need to flick on the heating switch after the school drop off; the first I've taken off my coat and walked outside in the street; the first it occurred to me I might even get round to making some clothing with warmer weather in mind. Bring it on!!

But first, I have a confession to make. I'm afraid I've let the sisterhood that is "the 20 Minuters" down. I've been so super busy doing other admin-type things over the last week or so that the crafting has been relegated to the back burner somewhat. I have only managed to slot in a few things; namely pouches made from antique Bavarian fabric and old French and German glass buttons that I intend to use as goodie bags.

I used two pieces of interlining left over from some curtain making for inner protection, two pieces of old Bavarian farmhouse fabric for the outer and two pieces of vintage white linen for the lining. Before sewing them up into pouches, I added a scoop of organic lavender in between the fabrics and interlining. I left some unadorned so I can tie a length of vintage ribbon around the pouch, and finished the remainder off with a sweet vintage glass button. The first couple took quite a while to complete as I tinkered around and perfected my prototypes but once I worked out just how I wanted them to look, the making got decidedly quicker.

Do you remember the blouse I made out of an old duvet cover, the possible wearing of which you may have given your considered opinion? Well check out Meg McElwee's blog as the mistress herself has afforded me her seal of approval too. Another reason for taking a look is the Giveaway she's offering - namely the book I was talking about, plus some serious goodies that will be enough to make one of the gorgeous mini aprons featured inside. But wait for it, just wait for it, there are a staggering 826 comments already, with the draw on the 7th. I've never seen so many comments on one post - it must be my blouse that drew them in, teehee!!

Have a lovely weekend x


riding lesson

(Warning: seriously dark photos - you'll find out why later.)

My little friend had her first riding lesson.

Oh me. Oh my. The thrill I felt when she announced she wanted to start. I was only too pleased to nurture this one. I started riding at the local stables in Penzance when I was about eight and went pretty much every weekend for years. Then, when I moved away, I always made sure there was somewhere I could go for a quick hack, be it on holiday or weekends away.

I loved horses so much when I was little that I started spending all my spare time helping out at the stables, for free. Looking back now I can see that I was offering them very willing child labour. Horse mad youngster who'd do anything for a ride, I laboured away; mucking out, grooming, leading a horse and new rider around the arena tirelessly for an hour, all the time wondering when the offer of a free ride would come. It never mattered that the freebie would be on some nag that no-one else had booked, the one that would need constant "encouragement" shall we say, to get it to move away from a particularly tasty clump of grass, or the one that would for sure grab the nearest branch for a quick nibble and carry the entire thing around for the remainder of the ride. The same one that would over-exercise your leg muscles with all the work needed to get it going. And yet, when it realised it was on the homeward stretch, would be a nightmare to slow down as it delighted in leaving you fear for your life. Oh the blisters on your hands after that ride!

I remember Judy, the instructor, running behind one particular horse shouting "sausagemeat, sausagemeat" which did actually do the trick and got it into a laboured trot, albeit for a few steps since by the time it had finally got any speed up, it had already caught up with the horses in front.

My favourite was Robin, a lovely chestnut gelding with a super temperament. I even bought him a headband with red and blue velvet diamonds on it with my pocket money, I was so besotted, and my parents still have footage of me riding him around the ring looking very serious but also very proud. Those were the days.

My little friend had been on a pony only twice before. The first, when very young and I know she hated every moment. The second, last Summer at Lulworth Castle when she was led sedately around the beautiful grounds, which was when I realised perhaps she had some potential.

So the time arrived and she was shown her pony - a sweet little number who was "super with the children". Hmmm.

The lesson was going well, she still looked keen even after walking in circles and not doing much else. But then came the word that they would trot. Uh oh. My goodness she was holding on to that saddle extremely well. The deal was that the riders took it in turns to trot to the back of the line, leaving the rest of the group waiting for their go. But our pony didn't fancy doing that .. what do you know, he pushed the girl who was leading him right out of the way and proceeded to dance about in a way that I just knew she wasn't going to stay on. (Fortunately I'd insisted on being there, despite the fact all the other spectators had been asked to leave.) I was over there faster than Lynford Christie.

Give her credit, up she got off the ground, rubbing the dust out of her eyes. I just wanted to scoop her up and take her home at that stage because all I could think was "sausagemeat, sausagemeat" but there was only one thing for it. She had to get back on, didn't she? And she did. Bless!

And the reason for the dark photos? We'd been told beforehand not to use the flash for fear of upsetting the horses!!