Wednesday, 22 July 2020

A special hand sewn reminder of a wedding in Vendee

Hi everyone,

Welcome & thank you for stopping by.

Some of you know the story of the two weddings daughter had - she wanted a quiet, personal wedding, away from social media, & fuss; a quiet legal wedding in the family town in Dorset, then 20 of us adjourned to a Castle 'La Bergelière' chateau in the Vendee region in France where they had a celebrant led blessing they planned themselves.

During lockdown when I had a lot of time, I decided that it is time to do the Vendee entwined hearts as a reminder of that happy event for daughter & her hubby.  Sometimes the planning takes up more time than doing it - it took ages to get the plan sorted in my head of how I wanted to do it.

I used a printed pattern from a Vendee desk flag I had ordered from France. It gave me the outline I needed & I then made a cardboard template from that. Once inspired I decided to do two complimentary but different versions because it was so interesting interpreting my ideas - one in pink, one in blue.

I used French toile fabrics & drew a family crest outline which was done in a soft cream fabric, & the other in a faded vintage floral fabric.

For the pink version I couched the heart outline in various gold threads - couching is a new technique & this project was the perfect choice for it.  The cross shape at the top was beaded with gold beads ....

 Couching gold threads in the shape of the double, entwined hearts

 I decided to stamp my initials on the reverse of the canvas. The stamps needed the Ikea Fabric pen to make it darker ...

The blue one was made by strengthening blue & gold toile then cutting out the heart shapes. I hand stitched gold seed / rice stitching to fill in the heart shape. I also filled in around the crest with  two blueish beads in the random seed stitching way. It is a stitch I really have come to love because to look random, it actually needs some thought. I like the way the fill in gold stitches & the beads sit well together as they are the same stitch used in a different way ...

I added two dogs as their two precious Vizsla’s accompanied us to France & they are very much part of their lives.

I added these initial charms because that is their combined initials now with their little one & it is daughters name too ....

Sewing details of the processes to make the pink / raspberry one
The pink one had hand beading all around the lace edge .... 

Details of the process on the blue & gold crest, again there is a lot of hand stitching with the outline having a bold blue blanket stitch outline  . The beading had not yet been done around the shape ... 

Two different weddings, two very different outfits - their Dorset wedding 

A personal celebrant celebration in France - spot the dog who I added to the pink crests ...

A fairytale dress for a fairy tale chateau

 The Vendee crest that hung above the fireplace in the kitchen & it was evident all over the little town too - I thought the entwined hearts were perfect so that was my inspiration ...

The completed crests on the bought cream canvas flags / pendants 

Thank you for stopping by & gifting me some of your time. I hope you have enjoyed the process of creating a unique gift. Do you have a preference from the above?
Dee ~💕~

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Gardening during lockdown

As we passed the milestone 100 day mark,  we have much to be thankful for, especially that all my friends & family have made it through with us too.

I have been blessed by having a private garden with tall hedges that has screened us safely from all our neighbours. As a self employed, now unemployed Elective Home Tutor,  I have used my garden as my calm, green, Zen space where I can loose myself in tasks. I appreciated how fortunate I am to have this space & time. I have used the time to do a little & often in the garden - tidying, moving, repotting, planting, growing seeds & most importantly, growing more edibles.

Let me give you a peek at the garden, how we use it & the various areas ....

My herb troughs are on a raised side wall next to the kitchen - this was from the time we had our two free range house rabbits & they loved herbs. Being raised means that the herbs are away from any visiting dogs too so I know they are ready for use.

The little space next to the conservatory / patio has the large water butt & I use that space for mainly edibles that need sun but also protection from wind.  It has a little greenhouse that protects some of the more tender plants over winter. At the moment it has several troughs of tomato & chilli plants.

I also have my pea shoots growing there for salads - who else loves peashoots? I had them on the patio & found that the birds love them as much as I do so they absolutely decimated them, none left for me, so this is take two, covered with unsightly bubble wrap that is working at keeping the birds at bay.
Tomato & chillies plants which have a canopy of bubble wrap to protect them from wind & rain & hopefully bring them on to fruit this summer. I always grow things, I am from a family that gardened so this is how I relax .... 

My Elho covered planters with organic greens & foods - three of them, flanking the door. 

Our edible planters are protected against the house wall, flanking the kitchen / utility door so they can be harvested all the time for meals. The wall enjoys afternoon sun which encourages good plant growth. I always grow some salad leaves, as well as celery because we use loads of it. This year daughter grew tomato seedlings but with a new baby, she did not have the time to pot them on so she sent me a whole trough of them which I planted on in 2 troughs on the conservatory side garden, along with the chillies she had grown. After planting on what we could use, I still had too many tomatoes, so I put them out on the drive with a FREE sign & 12 pots full of young plants all found grateful new homes with the neighbours. 
I have grown on pots of herbs from cuttings which I rooted in the kitchen windowsill - some of the plants are added to my own herb troughs, others potted up as gifts.

Potting up rosemary & sage herbs that have rooted from cuttings in the kitchen window, these will be kept close for winter use. It is deeply satisfying to root & grow on cuttings that will be used in cooking. 

At the bottom of the garden is a summerhouse that we repainted with the ‘country cream’ paint that we fortunately had during lockdown. It is a lovely space to sit in & read or chat in summer.  I love the calm cream colour, especially in winter when it looks right against the green hedges.

Framed by lush green hedges, it is a favourite view of the summerhouse. When it arrived as a bright orange, pine building, I took the paintbrush to it almost immediately & the colour choice is ‘Country Cream’ - a calm backdrop colour that allows the flowers to shine against it.

I dug out the beds to the side of it so it belongs & is incorporated in the garden. I love the depth it gives to the space - my planting palette is mainly in blue, purple, pink, white / cream with some red touches. I like the restricted palette of the colours.

I updated the summerhouse planters today because it is the view from the house & bright plants make it look inviting & summery. Fortunately we have a good local nursery that needs supporting as they have been shut for weeks.
 The garden to the left of the patio is a generous lush, mostly ever green border that I love. It consists of various greens shrubs & small trees, in varying heights & shapes.  I just love the privacy it affords (even though we are not overlooked) it is nice to have that filtered view ...

I shared this recent project - it is tucked against the patio wall next to the table so we can enjoy it as it is next to the conservatory.

Our large David Austin house rose has loved the warm weather & it towered right up to the upstairs windows. It has flowered profusely & the gentle scent has wafted down to the patio. It has been deadheaded regularly (the tall ladders have to be used for that so a labour of love) and we will have to add additional wall supports for it as it gets top heavy when flowering ....

Our patio runs the length of the back of the house, with the large area at the conservatory side. This is where we spend a lot of time,  ideal for for quick meals, for coffee or suppers with friends & it is just a gesellige / social space we use all the time. I grow scented plants like lavender in pots near it so they release their scent as you brush past.  I love to light the chimnea & watch the flames while we sit outdoors.

I have pots of peonies along the house wall - they are protected there from winds & rain.  The patio has some very large box balls alongside the lawn to the garden. These were grown from cuttings at the old family home in Dorset & gifted to us as tiny plants 20 years ago. I love their structural quality & shape.  I love clipping them with hand shears - a slow repetitive action that is calming & deeply satisfying.

In my quest to have some flowers for picking for the house, I ordered seeds online & have planted up 6 pots (in predictable colours of pink, purple, blue, white) which are being protected by the Elho covered planters so the birds & squirrel doesn’t get to them before they have a chance to grow. I  would like to have a steady supply of flowers over summer - what are your favourites that you grow?

I decided these late seeds needed the plastic cloches to help the seeds to germinate & grow - so they are now covered, building up some heat & hopefully will soon be looking good. 


I know how blessed I am to have had my own garden to self isolate in; green spaces are known to be calming & improve mental health & this is certainly true during these 100+ days of lockdown.  The time has enabled me to focus on what is important & in improving my space by using my time & energy well.

When we moved in more than a decade & some more, this was the garden, so I am always pleased to know that we have managed to put our own stamp on it & that it has transformed in to a space we enjoy using. The built in fountain is long gone because it made the patio too narrow & it was not working as it properly. It was a great decision which opened up the space for us ....

This was the sale pictures of the garden when we bought our house - you can see how much it has changed, it is now our space, our efforts ...

These photos taken from the same points as the one above to remind me of the progress we have made.

I hope you have drawn some inspiration to enjoy your garden & green space, even if it is just a little balcony.

Thank you for stopping by & gifting me some of your time, stay safe & may we all weather this storm with fortitude, gratitude & love,
Dee ~💕~

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

The milestone 100 days of lockdown in the UK

It is unbelievable that we have now reached the 100 days milestone of lockdown. We did not even contemplate that on March 23, we would stay in lockdown for so long. Initially we were told it would be just 3 weeks which seemed bearable ...

Our introduction to lockdown was shortages in the shops as people went on a panic buying spree - no toilet rolls for weeks, no eggs, bread, flour, baking powder, definitely no yeast, limited tinned goods and so it continued. This was my own last shop in Sainsbury's before lockdown was announced - I was shocked at the empty shelves & bare fridges in such a major supermarket ....

I first wrote about the approaching pandemic in this post on the 21st March about living-with-social-distancing when I had to step away from my Elective Home Education

So how have I spent my 100 days .... I have spent it largely in the safety of my own space at home. I am infinitely grateful for the benefit of a private garden. Our front garden is large but we don’t use it for leisure, however, our rear garden is my haven, surrounded by lush hedges & thick green tree & shrubs which just calms the mind & is a perfect place to just be ...

 I have spent loads of time in the garden, planting, moving, clipping my plant which are in a limited palette of pinks, purples & blues - I love the limited colour. Our shed / summerhouse was repainted in Country Cream, several coats of paint to make it bright & protect the wood from our winter.

 Don’t you just love these flowers? I am planning to plant many more flowers to cut for vases in the house, they will be planted in tubs so they can be moved around as they flower.

Our David Austin house rose has loved all the additional attention - feeding, tying back against the house, dead heading - just loving the scent of the abundant blooms - you feel blessed.

My lockdown project - making an auricular theatre made entirely from reclaimed wood - how fabulous is this?

Growing my own produce
I always grow some salad greens & the quick lockdown caught me unawares so I had to up my planting. The hot weather made some of my celery bolt & run to seed - I love the seed heads & am looking at how I can use the seeds. These are grown on the raised side bed alongside my herb throughs.
While having time, I took herb cuttings which I rooted on the kitchen windowsill. I then planted up two generous planters of herbs as gifts - several variety of mints, rosemary, sage, fennel, marjoram, oregano - planted up, labelled & given as gifts from my garden. 

I also grew peas from a packet of dried peas from the supermarket - I saw that tip on a gardening programme & it worked - I planted 2 tubs - 1 to gift again. Who else loves peashoots in salads? 

Charity from home 
Last year I potted up 30 colourful bamboo pots of succulents for sale at a local animal rescue charity. With no such sales this year; I followed the example of many people in our neighbourhood where we put things out on our lawn as freebies or for sale. I am too good at growing succulents & so I decided to appeal to the goodwill of neighbours. A young neighbour is walking 30 laps of our local lake to raise funds for the same charity because they care for the wildlife on our local lake. I put out the plants on my porch, advertised it on our community Facebook & raised £25 which was donated to Freya’s walk. A great result in lockdown.

When I ended up with way too many tomato plants, I again offered them for free down on the drive & they all found new homes. Our neighbourhood community have come together to clap, to have an Easter Bunny hopping along to wish the children at Easter - boxes of books & toys appeared on drives with notes to be taken for free, to keep children busy over lockdown - we came together when we stayed apart.

A local lad started a stone snake around our lake - he loves giraffes but the one that was there disappeared & he was upset so I decided to decoupage a safari set to contribute to the community effort - this was my contribution to his 800+ snake ... 

Cooking & Baking - with much more time on my hands & difficulty in finding shopping home delivery slots, it was a time of being creative with food.
 Scones are always a favourite - they tended to be our rainy day comfort food .

Our local farmshop got some of these locally manufactured baking mixes, they were really useful when there was a shortage of all flours, baking powder & especially yeast ...

Another of these mixes was an 80/20 brown bread mix, enough to make 3 loaves. It was a very generous mix so I divided the mixture to use 2/3 & kept the remaining 1/3 for a later day. A good, heathy mix which we all enjoyed. The bread rolls were used for home made burgers ...
 Lockdown meant shortages of basic baking ingredients like flours (especially self raising flour) and the various raising agents. It was frustrating but also satisfying to know that so many people had turned their hand to home baking (something I do regularly).

Making  South African condensed milk rusks - they start as a bread then are sliced & dried out, to be dipped in tea or coffee. I had not made them in ages & it turned out well ....

We have doorstep milk delivery & alongside the delivery was a recipe for vanilla yoghurt cake. I ordered the particular yoghurt needed & made this cake. My blueberry sank to the bottom but it was really tasty, I need to do this again ...
 Date & banana bread & muffins are a family favourite - this is what we do with any bananas that go soft. I sent a batch over to my neighbours who have been strictly self isolating for health reasons - a nice hot treat for their morning tea.

I made pizza bases a few times so we could each construct our own according to our preferences - spinach, peppers, ham, pineapple, anchovies to choose from on a home made spicy tomato - really good & perfect as a treat.

Hand & machine sewing - I have always done some sewing, sometimes by hand, sometimes by machine. However, with no visitors expected for weeks, I could take over the conservatory & spread out my sewing things. The light is so good there under the glass roof so I was just in my sewing bubble, loving the freedom to just be creative. I am a tidy person so first had to organise all my sewing boxes (yes, plural) .
 Youngest daughter  had some fabric sent to me - this beautiful, blue marbled fabric is just so stunning. It arrived a few days before lockdown so I had the opportunity to select some contrasting fat quarters for the lining. She wanted book sleeves to carry her many books up & down with her so I made her a selection.

I also decided to make some needle books but decided to do some felting to go inside one of them. I had done a felting course some time back so it was lovely to get out my two little boxes of supplies & get back in to it. It is such a therapeutic activity - gently adding our wool & stabbing it to felt it. I love combining top stitching & also adding details with coloured wools, gently stabbed on to the backing felt. It is a calming activity - very needed when the world in in flux around you & you need to ground yourself ...
 In 2016, daughter had her two weddings - one in Dorset, the legal part, then we all adjourned to France for a week so they could do a blessing they had planned themselves. I loved the regional Vendee entwined hearts that are on their crest & all over the little town we stayed in. It can be seen in the image with the chef & his daughter. I have wanted to sew one for the daughter as a reminder, so I made the cardboard template & decided the time is nigh ....

I made the outline template for the crest & then used a combination of French toile & vintage, faded fabric for the two hearts. It was tricky sewing. I had bought some hand sewing threads in various shades of gold that I knew I wanted to use. I couched (a new sewing technique for me) the gold outline shape, then filled in the cross at the top with gold beads to show the importance of it. It was several days of hand sewing but so relaxing to just work on the stitching.

 I decided to make another, different one in blues but with the same entwined Vendee hearts. This one is blue & gold with much more hand stitching in contrasting blue thread.
 Working on the pink crest ...
 A calm & therapeutic work space in the conservatory - with no visitors allowed, it is a good space to work with lovely light & views across the garden. What a luxury to not have to pack up each day.

One of the most critical sewing projects was making fabric facemasks. With a massive shortage of face protection, there was no choice but to make masks that give a measure of protection while out in public. These were the ones I made for us & to gift to a friend who needed an operation.
The second lot of masks once I had managed to buy some more elastic

 Another essential sewing job was hemming fabrics I had bought for table cloths. I love buying pretty lengths of fabric to use at home because our table is rather large with two extensions. I fell in love with this fabric then realised it is because it reminds me of a set of plates I use for girlie friend suppers - a totally perfect match.
 I have loved having this space, especially the time to sort out the collection of threads, beads, fabrics, embellishments etc.  I love organised fabrics & spaces because then you know exactly what is there.

Home projects - I am always doing some projects because I love changing things & doing projects. I shared how I framed this silk scarf I had bought in Austria .

 Celebrating .... VE 75 day - our community joined in a self distancing time for the 75 years since the declaration of VE day in Europe. Like many in our community, we put up bunting, a table & chairs on our front lawn & had afternoon tea out while chatting across the road to neighbours. The huge national celebrations had been cancelled but we paid our own homage.

My special birthday came & my friends & family spoilt me with deliveries  - our Transylvania trip postponed for a year ... 

Spoilt with so many gorgeous blooms & gifts

A close friend did a socially distance cake  & rose drop along with a bag of self raising flour - in such demand & widely unavailable; a birthday in a different time with different needs ...

Easter came & went in lockdown - I still insisted on changing the sideboard & setting a pretty table for just two of us - the rhythm of life that punctuated the craziness going on around us.
 My Easter tree in the dining room - I decided to put it up as a sign that normality can be found by doing familiar things at home ....

Our Easter lunch with traditional lamb- the more things change, the more they stay the same.

A new baby, our first grandchild, came in to this crazy world, all our plans of joining daughter & her hubby were thrown to the wind as we were not allowed to travel, mix or stay over. What a relief that he arrived safely. We had bought the little booties / shoes on our Christmas market trip to Europe last December so that was very fortuitous as we had given them to the parents just a weekend or two before lockdown.

The parents were blessed by lockdown because the little lad got his parents undivided attention for weeks as no visitors were allowed. The parent birthing plan was in total disarray but they found the NHS hospital to be amazing, so there are silver linings in Lockdown.

Green spaces have been essential lifesavers in these trying times. We are fortunate to live close to a lake,  some woods & fields so have been able to get out for daily walks, seldom seeing people which made it safe.

100 days of lockdown means we have seen the seasons change during our walks ....
 Another local walk with beautiful views across our local area.
 The poppy fields have come in to flower & turning to seed heads
 Our local lake & woods - the trees have come in to leaf, the canopy above has covered the sky between the trees, the trees have their bright leaves, the swan sat on her 9 eggs, hatched them & we now feed the swan family on the lake - life has gone one quietly, resolutely all through lockdown.
In many ways it feels as if life has been in limbo, we have lost 100 days of regular life but we have gained 100 days of quality time, time to use largely as we wish & that alone is such a once in a life time event.

The lessons from 100 days .... 
I am a positive person so even though I cannot tutor & support my many students, I have kept in regular touch with all my families. I have phoned them & taken calls from them, advising them on schooling of my students & younger siblings. They have always asked after my own family & our health - the little bubble I have with the families I work closely with over many years. There is a new awareness of the work of educational settings & of how difficult it is to keep children busy for weeks at a time. It has been challenging but it has strengthened some family bonds.

There is a growing awareness of growing your own food & of the value of gardening, something I always do but I was caught on the backfoot as I had not planted up enough salad greens.

Many more people have been cooking & baking at home which has resulted in a shortage of things but I have seen this as a positive that there has been a return to traditional ways which is a good thing.  Flour had become the new wealth, Tesco home delivery slots the new happiness ....

My community has come together with neighbours looking out for each other - with us sharing things we would usually sell or gift to charity shops - items just put on drives with a sign saying FREE

Children raising funds for local wildlife & other charities because they have come to care deeply about their immediate environment & that alone is so huge ...

I initially expressed this thought:

We are all in the same boat - that sounds supportive & encompassing  & perhaps that is how we should think of this crisis times

We in the UK have watched the scenes across China & Europe with sadness, fear & then disbelief at how quickly it has gripped all our nations.  Last week, there was an air of foreboding lurking in the shadows - a feeling that we were in the lull before the storm & then suddenly this week, the Covid19 storm caught up with us & we are being tossed around in its turmoil. 

Before altering my view to:

In a previous post as we were all trying to process the Covid-19 storm that enveloped us, I put some of my thoughts to paper in this post.  I said we are all in the same boat, I have now come to realise that we are in the same storm, but in our own boats, trying to weather it best that we can.

I am now of the mind that we have come through these 100 days of Lockdown changed, in time people will write about this time, children will learn of it at school & perhaps, grandchildren will say ‘What did you do in lockdown Grandma?’ How we answer will be very different, very personal, very telling.

What did you do in your 100 days of lockdown? 

Thank you for stopping by & gifting me some of your time, stay safe & may we all weather this storm with fortitude, gratitude & love,

Dee ~💕~