I had been planning to make elderflower Vodka for weeks, since I saw the first Elderflower umbels begin to flower. I bought Vodka and waited for a lovely summers day to go out and gather some elderflowers. In came the rain, and the gales, and cold weather, Brrr, not going out in this!
Yesterday I noticed that most of the elderflowers were already finished and decided today would have to be the day, or it was all over for another year, and no elderflower vodka. This morning it was sunny and still, a perfect day, and I only needed to walk a short way from my door to find a small elderflower bush with a shady side which was less advanced than I’d seen out and about yesterday. Ten or so Umbels picked and back to my suntrap back garden.
So what else do I need? a Lemon, and a bottle of Vodka, 100g of sugar, and a glass jar.
I gently removed the flower heads from the stems, Elderflowers aren’t toxic but the wood and stems are, I don’t think I would poison anyone if I’d left the stems on but you just never know. I de-stem the flowers over a plate so I can check for foreign bodies or small creatures, which can be encouraged away or squashed according to preference. I encouraged some small creatures to depart, the ones who wouldn’t go got squashed.
On top of the flowers went the zest of a lemon, and a 100 grams of sugar, and a 75cl bottle of Vodka, (it should have been a Ltr but I only had a 75cl bottle) So only 75 cls of Elderflower vodka this year.
On top of the flowers I put 3 layers of greaseproof paper and the lemon slices, this is to hold the flowers under the vodka to stop them going brown and colouring the vodka.
I found the recipe at wild at heart foods, thanks and credit where it’s due.
note to self… next time cut the paper to fit the jar, 3 or 4 layers slightly offset, each tucked down the side of the jar slightly will hold the flowers down better. Some of the lemon slices can go under the paper, all of them is too many. I have made elderflower liqueur before, see :- Elderflower liqueur
An idea has been bubbling away at the back of my mind, I want a shed. I’m loath to admit it, but I have shed envy.
Having seen many magazine articles and even TV programmes about people who have their own little outside space, garden room, beach hut, pavilion, Hobbit hole, garden shed, I have developed a yen for my own little space, another room to furnish and decorate without the need to move or build an extension. A space I can furnish on a shoestring, from charity shops and boot fairs, and use to sit in when I want to be outside but it’s not quite warm enough. That’s most evenings in a typical British summer.
I want a little summerhouse with roses round the door, a place I can sit and sew with the doors and windows open, garden smelling wonderfully, birds making their evening chorus, hedgepigs snuffling about in the undergrowth.
My only difficulty was where on earth to put it, my garden is lovely, but very small, any kind of wooden building would be intrusively large and would take up space where currently plants are flourishing. And why would I want to replace flowers with walls?
But I also have a dirty little secret, an overgrown patch behind the garage, where I have foolishly planted a rampant rambling rose which has grown way beyond its allotted space. I had intended it to grow through an old Elder tree in the corner of my plot, but one winter maybe 8 years ago the old tree fell, and the rose just kept on growing… and growing, it has grown into a tree in my neighbours garden, it has encroached upon two trees in my garden and it overhangs the garden of the folks on the other side of the fence. In fact last summer I spied them lift up the fence panel, climb into my garden and cut a whole bough from the rose, the cheek of it! I didn’t object, they took away the remains and disposed of it, and they would have been within their rights to throw the dead branch back over the fence. The rose has grown so high over the garage roof it must stand a metre higher than the roof line, and shades my garden. Despite romantic reminiscence of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale; sadly it has to go.
Despite the fact that it smells divinely in the spring, I have to cut it down. I’ve made a start but it’s a lot of work. When it has gone, and the fallen tree cleared, and a Holly tree too, I think I will be able to make a space big enough to accommodate my little garden shed. Of course I will be referring to it by some fancy name like “the garden room” but we all know in reality it will be a shed.
I’ve already been shopping for my shed, I think I know what I want, but I can consider it all winter while I get the site cleared, no rush, plenty to think about, …ship lap…log lap, tantalized or not… should it be painted…do I need to run electricity… what type of furniture, will it be insulated so I can use it in winter…how to heat it, safely. Curtains…rugs…comfy chair………bed? ( well that’s another story entirely)
I want a shed, my sewing room shed, my peaceful place.
Our Garden furniture has been looking rather tatty for a couple of years now so we decided to treat ourselves to new ones; a table, chairs and a parasol to afford shade or shelter according to the weather. Getting rid of the old ones presented a greater challenge than expected, we couldn’t get the table down the side path; too wide, and it wouldn’t go through the house either, same reason. The bolts too rusted to easily take apart we came up with a canny solution… wait till the neighbours went out, then passed the table over the fence, past the too narrow place, and back over the fence…shhhh, don’t tell. The new ones all fold up for easy storage, so we won’t have that problem again.
I’m not sure what we planned to buy when we began looking but we did shop around before we bought, did we want rattan… no, too likely to get dirty given the secluded position under trees, did we want glass and steel…Nope, too fancy and likely to rust in our damp climate. Wood then…hmm, maybe, maybe not, which wood? What about mosaic topped and painted metal? We finally decided on wood, but teak, not a cheaper alternative and something which could be easily stored indoors for the winter to extend its potential life. My Dearest insisted on an HUGE parasol, so that he can sit in the garden even when it’s raining and not get wet. I have to say there is something wonderful about sitting in our garden in the summer rain, paradise is a garden.
Being teak, I decided to give the furniture a coat of teak oil to help preserve it, my Dearest having determined to have nothing whatever to do with any noxious substances, said that was my job…as ever.
Next task making cushions to go on the furniture, we could have bought the cushions sold with the furniture, and I did like them very much, but I could not justify the expense, four small chair cushions and a bench cushion would have cost as much as 2 chairs! How much!!!
So off to town on Saturday for some upholstery foam, and to a local factory shop for suitable striped fabric, now all I need to do it cut the foam to fit, and cover with my chosen fabric.
With what’s left of the fabric I may make some more bunting or some softer scatter cushions. All told I think I will have saved £40 or more, if I don’t cost in my time, but then I didn’t have anything else to spend my time on now did I?
One thing I did find time for, down at the bottom of my street runs a little stream, and on the bank the City Council has planted the most beautiful cherry tree which is in full bloom, so on Saturday when the sun shone all day in a clear blue sky, I took the time to walk down to the stream with my camera.
What a lovely day I had today, with nothing planned and a promise of mixed weather, we set off to Morecambe to collect my winnings, not a lump sum, sadly but a novel written by a local author, and offered as a competition prize in my local newspaper. Having collected it and noting that the clouds had rolled back, the sun was shining and the tide was high, we drove north along the promenade looking for a suitable place for lunch. We turned off the coastal road and headed for the shore at Red Bank Farm.
Red Bank Farm has a very enviable setting being sited at the very point where the sea meets the land, any further west and it would be in the sea. A High bank protects the land from being encroached upon, I guess when the Farm house was built perhaps the sea was not so close, but then the date stone over the door says 1680, so Red Bank farm has weathered many a storm since it was built.
My Dearest had a Bacon Buttie, no change there then, and I had a baked potato, butter and salad, being on the Hay diet limits my choices as I don’t eat protein at lunchtime, still I could have just had a bowl of chips, I restrained myself. They did look good though, thick cut and crisp cooked with the skin on.
A footpath passes behind the farm house, right on the edge of the beach, ancient steps form a style between the building and the wall which borders the property.
We drove on to Silverdale, a place of outstanding Natural Beauty, visited a little gallery we know and then on to Jack Scout for a walk, the sun was very hot and the day humid, so we did not walk far before my Dearest wanted to turn back. I snatched a couple of pictures near the cliff edge looking up the Kent Estuary towards Arnside.
Not wanting to set off home just yet we turned the car northwards up the A6, a route we had taken several times already this week, but stopped at Beetham, it’s one of those villages which is by-passed by the road and so is rarely seen or investigated by passing traffic but I knew there was a Pub the Wheatsheaf, which had been recommended to me for good food, so we stopped to check out the menu.
What a charming little village, with fine old houses, a set of stocks on the green, a good pub, a beautiful church (The Church of St Michael and All Angels, parts of which date from the 12th century) , it still boasts a Post Office and general store, but more than that it has its own theatre! ( The Heron Theatre, a 80 seat theatre housed in the listed 18th century grammar school ) I believe the village has its own amateur theatre group, who put on productions, and it is otherwise used as cinema, “Quartet” is showing this weekend.
There is apparently The Heron Corn Mill, a working watermill, which we did not investigate. We went home via Morecambe again to walk on the promenade, and enjoy the cool sea breeze. Whilst promenading we saw a BBC news team about to record a piece live for that evening’s news, we didn’t stay to find out what it was to be; given the lateness of the hour, and having left the 13 year old alone all day, we decided it was time to go home and feed him.
The day had been unexpectedly sunny, almost cloudless and very warm, we even got to sit in the garden till it went dark, and then the rain which had been promised but which we thought we had escaped, came down suddenly in great big drops and soaked us as we ran across the garden from the terrace to the back door, if only it would always rain through the night, and allow us clear skies during the day.
It’s Challenge Month again and this year’s challenge was to take a greetings card, and create something using the card as inspiration. We had to bring the card and finished item to the quilt group meeting tonight.
For months I have searched high and low for a greetings card which sparked my imagination, I even found an interesting sympathy card which might have worked but the card was bought for the purpose for which it was made, and went to a bereft friend, I could not find it again.
So last week I set myself a harder challenge, I would use a card I had, whether a card I had in my stash of “just in case” cards or one which had been received and kept for sentimental reasons, it was crunch time, I did not have time to look any further and would have to make do with what I had.
I found a rather tatty card I’d bought in a sale, (pictured) a hand finished decoupage card with wrapped presents and bunting. It was the bunting which caught my eye. Last year I made red, white and blue bunting to decorate the garden to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee year and the London Olympics, I made it from off cuts of furnishing fabric, cut with pinking shears and due to the wet and windy weather it didn’t survive too well, this year I had planned to make some more, in prettier colours. This card with its Sweet Pea colours chimed with what I had wanted to make, so that was decision made.
I have a triangular cutting ruler which is pennant shaped and ideal for the job of cutting all the pieces….could I find it…… not! It took me a week to search the house, The thing is, when I have lost something I know my subconscious knows where it is so I often go and stand where I think it might be and wait for my subconscious to direct me, in this case it kept directing me to where a chair stood but I kept moving the chair to search beyond it. Doh! I found it at last, on the desk chair under a pile of other things which I had shoved out of the way several times to search the area in which it was sitting. I must have moved it 5 or 6 times in the week I was searching. Note to self, tidy up for goodness sake!
Next step, what fabric? I didn’t really want to use my precious quilt fabric stash, at £12 a metre it’s way too expensive for bunting just to decorate the garden this summer, so back to the charity shops I went, this time as well as looking for checked shirts to cut up I looked for cotton or poly /cotton sheeting or duvet cover sets in the right colours and patterns, I found a lovely pair of fine cotton curtains in blue and yellow, I think they may be home made as the cotton is dress weight not furnishing, they are now in my stash;I think they will make good quilt backs for lap quilts, not bunting. High and low have I searched but no suitable fabric did I find. Desperation set in on Sunday night, bearing in mind the bunting had to be ready to hang by Tuesday night.
Sometime after midnight I went into my studio (the spare bedroom) and opened the drawers, I had decided to pull out any fabric I knew I would never use for quilting, so what did I find? A flowery pink, poly cotton I’d had for more than 20 years, it was too thin and poly for quilting and would never have graced a quilt of mine, a pale blue bought at Abakhan which was coarser in weave than I was used to and not quite what I had in mind when I bought it, and another green fabric which is at least 30 years old, looks as if it may be a Laura Ashley but I suspect is a fake, printed by another company to take advantage of the popularity of the ditsy prints Laura Ashley made so fashionable on the 70’s. There should have been a fourth colour; a lavender shade, but I had none I was prepared to part with,three colours would have to do.
On Monday evening, after work and shopping, I cut out the pennants and stitched them on the two long sides, turned them out and put a row of tacking along the edge to hold the seams in place till I could topstitch them. I really did burn the midnight oil for this one.
On Tuesday evening after work and a walk to pick the last of the Elder flowers for drying (of which more another time), and a long chat with my neighbour in the front garden, I top stitched the pennants and stitched them to a 5m length of cotton tape, eh Voila, my Sweet Pea bunting was ready to go by midnight.
Tonight I came home hot and bothered from work, and was just about to jump in the shower when Mum called, she wasn’t feeling well, and would not be going to the quilting group tonight. I took a shower anyway and while I stood in the shower pondered, should I still go, should I not? I decided not, much as I wanted to take my bunting and have it displayed as Cecily would have enjoyed a good display of work, did I really want to drive in this heat and sit indoors on such a lovely evening? No, I decided not, instead I hung the bunting in my garden, and sat on the front step in the late afternoon sunshine, chatting to my neighbour and enjoying a glass of Pimms with ice and cucumber. Sometimes the simple pleasures in life are what counts.
I’ve never really been a gadget lover unless you include my sewing kit, but one thing I have always had a hankering for is a detail sander; a neat little hand held device which I could use to save time when preparing surfaces for paint. Probably because I love shabby chic and would like to customise found objects and charity shop finds.
Last week I bought some teak oil to treat my Garden furniture but didn’t get any further than storing it in the garage, I couldn’t face the work of sanding them all down by hand with a sanding block, and hadn’t the patience to try to persuade my Dearest to do it, he doesn’t DO manual labour!
Imagine then my delight at finding the very thing I needed in my local supermarket, at a very reasonable price. No contest; one of those was coming home with me. I hardly stopped to put away the groceries, before running out to the back garden to try out my new toy. A gadget which saves time and effort is always a blessing, especially if it means you enjoy the task, even better if you can get someone else to enjoy the task instead, I wonder if I could get the thirteen year old interested…..?
My old grotty moss stained teak garden chair was sanded down and given a coat of Teak oil in less than an hour, next task is the teak garden bench which lives on the terrace in the back garden, and then the bench from the front of the house. Note the foolish mistake, I didn’t put down newspaper before I began, so now I will need to clean the paving, Doh! Next time I’ll work on the lawn, it won’t do any permanent damage.
This is one of the quilts I photographed last summer in my rainy garden, such a simple design which would work well with jelly rolls or scraps. I can’t remember the dimensions but it looks as if the Bricks are 2 ½ “ by 4 ½ “; it would work larger or smaller so long as the width was half the length in the finished brick. The white and coloured bricks are then put together round a central square of white.
I’m pretty sure this is one my mother made although I can see it was made of a pooled collection of scraps because some of them are from my stash. The block pattern was a block of the month challenge which I think I might have set for our quilting group. As I recognise all the fabrics in the quilt as a collection of “yours and mine” this must have been a joint effort for mum and me rather than of the group as a whole.
Much as I like this collection of earthy, spicy colours, they are not my colours and would not sit well in my home, which is why I guess it languishes at my mother’s house, unloved, unused. And yet I have just realised a use for it, My Dad may have to get used to being transported in a wheelchair at least over longer distances, as a retired Builder, what better than a “Brick” quilt to throw over his knees on colder days when out and about in his wheelchair.
I’m booked to take him to a hospital appointment next week, he’ll have to accept wheelchair transportation for the first time, now dare I introduce the quilt at the same time? Or should I let him get used to accepting the wheelchair first? One brick at a time I think.