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In Praise of Fathers, new and old…

fathers day hat

When your husband also becomes the father of your child, there’s no question that the relationship changes immeasurably.  You go through things together that you could never imagine as a footloose, fancy-free couple (childbirth, for one…); through a whole roller-coaster of adrenalin, hormones, thrills, spills and life-shortening panics… and most fundamental of all, joy.

Now, on this fourth occasion of Fathers’ Day, we are celebrating the general awesomeness of Daddy in a variety of ways, big and small.  We have a special honorary party hat ready for A to wear at breakfast time on Sunday (above), which I designed on my PC and then taped into a cone before decorating with braid … and then to complete the ensemble, some home-made LEGO cufflinks – a very satisfying quick craft;

LEGO cufflinks for fathers day

I ordered some blank cufflink backs on Ebay and asked Harry to select some Lego squares from his toy box. Harry is obsessional about Lego so it also commemorates this year’s passion and a favourite Harry/Daddy past-time.  Attaching the Lego bricks with Superglue makes for a very strong bond, and we were delighted with the end result.  Some men may hesitate at the thought of making such a flamboyant style statement, but we know our man well; he has been known to wear Superhero Cuffs to work and has his own dressing-up box after all (I know, I know; some things you just have to accept as unique in a marriage…)

lego cufflinks close up

lego cufflink on cuff

Tucked into his card will be a hand-made book of vouchers, giving him various treats such as time off to do Man Things (usually involving bikes, the watching of sport, rummaging in the garage and other such male pursuits), dinner and also a few activities which Harry can get involved in, like telling Daddy a great story on request.

dad vouchers 1

dad vouchers 2

dad vouchers 3

I’ve included a download of my printable below if you want to make one of these; I simply cut around the vouchers and clipped them into a book made from leather-look card stock.

fathers day voucher book

And on the subject of fathers..

One of the lovely things about writing this blog is the connections that it creates.  Usually with strangers who reach out and share stories, comments and feedback which lead to virtual friendships, but perhaps even more surprisingly with the people whom I already know and love.  When I wrote about typewriters here in February, I had a letter from my father who shared how it had brought back vividly the memory of receiving his own first typewriter, as a reward for passing a school entry exam;

‘..my parents promised me that if I passed the exam I could have a typewriter.  My recollection is that the life-changing letter came on a Saturday morning in June.  That very same morning we went off to a small shop in centre of Coventry, and I became the hugely proud possessor of an Olivetti Lettera 22.  It was one of the most beautiful objects I have ever owned.  The smoothly stylish Brancusi curves, the elegant typeface, the fluid touch of the discreetly rounded keys, the leather carrying case fusing design perfection and total practicality.  It was love at first sight…

..It was a brilliant object in its own right (and something my parents must have struggled to afford –I believe it cost £26 which in the mid-1950s, in our household, was a small fortune), but it has also become a symbol of that transition to a school that opened the doors to a future that would have been beyond my parents wildest imaginings – the opportunity of a grammar school education, university and … the world’.    
I was incredibly touched by my Dad’s letter, which went on to say that though the typewriter is long gone, it has always been for him  the talisman of the life-changing opportunity that a great education gave him.  This year for Fathers’ day my Dad will unwrap a vintage Olivetti Lettera 22, sourced on Ebay from the loft of one careful owner, who was delighted to know it was going to someone who would cherish it.  He is banned from checking my blog before the weekend, so hopefully the secret will be kept…

lettera 22

To Dads everywhere, here’s to you; may you have a glorious weekend…

fathers day voucher book

Fathers Day Voucher Book COVER

Fragile Worlds

le paper globe

I thought hard about how to prepare Harry for my recent extended trip. He’s very used to me being absent for a night here or there when work takes me away, but an absence of Eight Big Sleeps was unprecedented.  We talked about it in the few days beforehand so that it didn’t come as a surprise, and that seemed to work pretty well.  A couple of days before I left for India, I stumbled across this free downloadable paper globe kit, so we made one together and worked out where Harry would be, where I would be, and how long a plane takes to fly between them.

the globe

We painted India in bright pink so it was easy to find, and then carefully placed the globe on the fireplace where it could be taken down and examined whenever Harry wanted.

paper globe on mantel

These paper globes are beautifully tactile and surprisingly sturdy; I used 170gsm heavyweight recycled paper for ours.  If you download the PDF, you’ll see it is constructed by building a paper skeleton and folding the spherical globe segments into place around it.  I tried this, then cheated and simply abandoned the inner skeleton, instead just cutting, folding and glueing the outer pieces together to form our hollow-but-robust version.  (nb If you choose our method, you’ll only need to print the first 4 pages of the PDF).

paper globe diy

I had a few emails and comments asking about my trip, so I’m sharing a little more below; I work in healthcare ( so not creative, but very fulfilling), and I went to India to see how NGOs and government try to tackle some of the challenges of providing basic healthcare and access to education to those who live in urban slums and remote rural communities.  I expected to see – and did – some sobering and shocking things.  What struck me equally though were the things that I didn’t expect;

That there is beauty and entrepreneurialism to be found everywhere….

onion seller of ravi nagar

..That the children I met who live and work in the most extreme poverty have an irrepressible energy and joie de vivre, and bonds that run deep;

the children of ravi nagar slum

boys on roof

boys with flowers

These children (above & below) are all ‘rag pickers’ living  illegally in Deonar,  Mumbai’s largest dumping ground for waste.  They and their families pick through the dump looking for items they can sell.

Mumbai boys

…And that the next generation of women can together change their world.

women together can change the world copy

These girls live at the dumping ground but are now attending school and spoke impressive English.  Shy and proud in equal measure, their ambition is to be able to move their families out of the slum, ‘and also to become a doctor’.

India was a land of extremes; complex, beautiful, impressive and startling.  The only place I have been where you will see a man leading a goat along the highway on a length of frayed string, scrolling through his smartphone with a free hand.  And where (below) you find market stalls with the most vibrant and lush fruit and vegetables… alongside a stall selling puppies, packed into bamboo cages.  Abhorrent? Or perhaps just a different kind of normal.  Certainly food for thought.

crawford market mumbai

Back to the home-front now though, and what promises to be a weekend of sunshine.  I’ll be putting the finishing touches to the interior of Harry’s house which I’ve been busy kitting out for a Summer of outdoor living.  More next week…

Weekend notes

weekly shop

You just know it’s going to be good weekend when you go to the supermarket and find all the Spring bouquets discounted to £1.  Even then, buying flowers for yourself is somehow deliciously decadent.  Add baguettes, fresh figs, french cheese and drizzling honey and you have a sunshine feast in the making; never mind that I forgot the far more crucial household staples (domesticity will never come easily to me; lack of effort, I suspect…).

The same trip took me past a haberdashery store which was selling roll-ends of fabric; I bought some majestic raspberry velvet which will easily see Harry through a childhood of Harry Potter cloaks, wise man nativity outfits and Santa hats, plus a length of this cheery tea-party cotton for which I have a myriad of ideas; it will hang over my desk till inspiration settles.

time for tea

And on the theme of lovely-but-unnecessary purchases, the postman delivered me a long-awaited and utterly impractical lukrecja cotton apron from Polish company COOKie.  Whilst serious cooks would doubtless throw up their hands at the skittishness of my apron, I am giddy with adoration for it.  In its defence, it is made of heavyweight industrial cotton and designed for the kind of heavy-duty labour a kitchen skivvy needs.

lukrecja apron

Undermining this defence completely is the publicity shot for the apron (below), with the tagline  ’it is easy for Lukrecja to leave the kitchen to buy vegetables whilst absent-mindedly forgetting to wear clothes under her apron’.  Hmmm.  Completely mad, and all the better for it.  I have been waltzing round the kitchen in my jeans and apron, twirling and admiring myself in the oven door and every other reflective surface.  Dinner has been late.

LUKRECJA bicycle

In other despatches from the weekend, we’ve been channeling our inner Picasso, making a homemade picture for Harry’s grown-up brother who has recently moved house.  Harry adores Chris, so going to Chris’s first grown-up house is a very big deal.  In real life, Chris and his girlfriend Emma look as if they have stepped from the pages of an Abercrombie catalogue.  Harry, in the manner of Lucian Freud, has chosen to render them looking rather simian and obese, with no hint of flattery.  He stood back to examine them, then waved his hand dismissively; ‘they are done, mummy’. A 3yr old artiste.

Harry draws BIG, so I took his two pictures and scanned them in, adding the names and date, then mounted the print and placed it in a simple silver frame; he is immensely proud of his efforts, which manage to look stylish and understated in C&E’s hip neutral living room.

picture gift

The sun has shone this weekend, almost throughout, causing Britons up and down the country to hurl off their clothes and lie on every available patch of grass.  It’s a cultural kind of carpe diem; sunlight is so rare and cherished that we tend to overreact completely to the melting of frost and make the most of every ray of warmth.  In a rather more domesticated reaction, we hung washing on the line for the first time this year, and Harry tackled the spring-cleaning of his playhouse (for about 5 minutes; he gets that staying-power from me).

spring cleaning

We’ve planted our sunflowers, turned over a couple of flower beds and then there’s just been time, as the spring sunshine fades today and the air cools again, to lie on the still-damp grass and look up through our magnificent magnolia tree, which has suddenly burst into bud and bloom.

Heaven.

magnolia skies

I hope you had a lovely weekend too…especially those who planted sunflowers with us; let the race begin!!

Kate

And now breathe…

egg hunt vintage bicycle sign

It’s been a glorious long weekend; a rich and hectic mêlée of friends and family coming and going, of feasts and wintery walks, with the frenetic, chocolate-fuelled hedonism of toddlers tempered  by evenings in front of the fire with a glass of wine and some exceptionally fine grown-up company.  It was blissful.

Today we had the long-awaited Great Egg Hunt, and the day dawned chilly and bright, with anticipation reaching fever pitch by lunchtime.  Eggs were laid throughout the garden, and this tantalising invitation was visible from the kitchen window and the driveway as Harry’s friends began to arrive…

easter egg hunt sign with bicycle and playhouse

Lola the rabbit  - Harry’s favourite hand puppet – welcomed guests from her lofty basket on this ancient delivery bike (another eBay find), surrounded by narcissi, balloons and golden chocolate eggs; a promise of what awaited our hunter-gatherers.

easter basket in bicycle

Inside the house, egg-hunting baskets stood ready for collection, from pint-sized hooped baskets for those still a little unsteady on their feet through to magnificent wicker hold-alls for those determined to speed like minesweepers through the undergrowth in search of every last egg…

easter baskets waiting for the egg hunt

The race was on; stragglers who were still wrestling with wellies or dithering over basket choice soon caught up and the hunt began in earnest

egg-hunting

Every garden nook and cranny was investigated in the hunt for Easter treasure

Playhouse

The eagle-eyed followed signs placed in vintage chimney pots and scattered throughout the garden…

egg hunt sign in chimney pot

egg hunt sign on bird table

The egg hunt was followed by a festive party tea of sandwiches and cakes for anyone who still had the space left for it after the chocolate-fest of the afternoon, then every small egg-hunter left with the contents of their basket and a bag of Bunny Tails, made by filling disposable icing bags with marshmallows and adding gift-wrap paper top cut with pinking shears and a free graphic from here;

DIY Easter Bunny Tails; marshmallow treats for Easter

easter bunny tails - marshmallow treats

Guests could also choose a bunny balloon, which I made by customising simple pearlised balloons with bunny ears cut from vellum, and a hand-drawn face.  I added a bow and then threaded and glued a stripy straw onto each stick (I got quite into this; I can forsee a future post with a menagerie of balloon animals; consider this fair warning..)

DIY bunny balloon

Bunny balloons

Tea was followed by games and general mayhem, as the sugar kicked-in.  The clear-up was worth it…. a day thoroughly well-spent.

honeycomb tissue balls strung on door

Tomorrow brings a return to the fray; nursery for Harry and work for us.  Bags must be packed and diaries checked; alarms set and clothes located.  Until then though, plenty of time for one more favourite activity.  This book might finally be the one I manage not to drop in the tub…

reading in the bathtub

And the winner is…

I hope you had a lovely weekend, and one which lingered long enough to make Monday morning a little brighter than usual.  As promised, this evening we scribbled out the names of all of you who shouted ‘pick me!’ for last week’s $100 craft voucher draw, and placed the folded scraps of paper into Harry’s top hat.  And he drew out…

…Riara! Congratulations; an email will be winging its way to you with all of the details, and I’m trusting you to spend it flamboyantly and decadently on the loveliest things you can find.   

This weekend I’ve also been enjoying the last bursts of scent and colour from my gorgeous Mothers’ Day flowers (Mothers’ Day in the UK falls in mid-March); my husband ordered these in Harry’s name and then took him along to collect them, tightly clutching his piggy bank.  Harry tugged out the stopper and offered the florist £2.15, a couple of euro coins, a slightly furry M&M and a fistful of buttons which had been fed, unnoticed, into the slot; she assured him that this was exactly the right amount, causing him to swell with pride.  He strolled around the house that evening chuckling to himself and pausing occasionally to whisper ‘Shhhh!’ theatrically whenever I entered the room.  Happy days.

mothers day flowers

..and also planning a decadent weekend break to Paris in June with my best friend; decadent because it means 48hrs of being grown-up, footloose and fancy-free in one of my favourite cities, with one of my favourite people.  We’re already working out how to make the most of each minute, but if you have any insider-secrets or favourite haunts then please do let me know…

paris women

… and feeling giddy with joy at my latest junk find; this dilapidated former market stall / flower cart which I found by chance on eBay; it needs TLC and a cosmetic overhaul, but there are so many things I want to do with it (some thoughts below..).  Impractical? Yes.  Unnecessary? Absolutely.  But still, a unique and lovely thing which cost considerably less than a garden bench but will be infinitely more fun..

market barrow find

It needs a canopy, parasol or roof of some kind  but renovating it will be a labour of love.  We love having parties in the summertime so I’m picturing it hung with flower baskets and stacked high with pitchers of drink and cupcakes, strung with fairy lights to glow as the sun sets.. the possibilities are endless.

barrow montage 2

pictures above via Pinterest

… and finally I’ve been breaking in my newest happy find; raspberry-coloured Converse hi-tops, to replace my holey and battered much-loved pair. Raspberry (not red, and most definitely not pink) is my favourite colour; a starchy shop assistant once warned me that this was “definitely a play colour, madam, and one you should wear sparingly when you don’t need to be taken seriously”.   Pooh to that, say I, and wear it whenever possible, even if it means those around me wincing at the brightness.  Even so, these need a bit of scuffing and mud to reduce the box-fresh glare; I’m sure Harry will oblige.

kates converse

Mud is plentiful at the moment, as we endure the final throes of winter, complete with unpredictable frosts and torrential downpours.  Despite this, the prospect of spring is imminent and intoxicating, and we’re busy with Easter crafts and preparing for the arrival of guests.  Harry’s nursery friends will descend for a garden Egg Hunt when the clouds abate, a prospect which thrills him.

Back later this week with some of our plans and crafts, and a few ideas to share; have a great week in the meantime!

Kate

Behind the Blog: Design Elements

Are you having a good weekend?  We’ve had a lovely one; revelling in the afterglow of Valentine’s Day (a year’s supply of marmalade for him; an amazing vintage Imperial typewriter for me – I can’t stop stroking it..), enjoying a rare glimpse of Spring with brilliant sunshine and mild weather, baking crunchy, syrupy lemon drizzle cake (only crumbs left now, and a vague sense of remorse at our lack of self-control..), and the conversion of a cheerful little corner of Harry’s playroom into a Book Nook… but more on all of that next time.

As promised, this week I’m going to answer a few of the questions I get asked most often about how I design and style both the blog and the projects which feature on it.  Fonts, graphics, layouts; it’ll be something of a geek-peek behind the blog for those who are interested.  If you simply enjoy the projects and posts themselves (thank you!), then turn a blind eye and join me again next time, but otherwise let’s start by talking about fonts, fonts, glorious fonts….

fonts for blog 1

I love browsing for fonts on the fabulous site dafont.com.  There are a myriad of fonts available to download for free, which takes seconds.  You can also choose to donate to the author who created each, which I think is a great thing to do, and important for communities like dafont to continue to flourish and offer such loveliness (I’m like a kid in a sweet shop when I browse).

blog fonts 2

You can find all three of these fonts by simply Googling the name, and will be able to download them all for free for private use from various sites (if you’re thinking of using them for other purposes or commercially, check the licence details; the terms are often different).

blog fonts 3

The next most common question is about how I make the labels, signs, graphics and photo montages that I use, so let’s tackle that…

I do all of my graphics and montages in – wait for it – Powerpoint (I blush slightly at this revelation; I know it is seen as the slightly stale tool of jaded business execs the world over, but I love it, and more importantly, I know it intimately) … so no sexy Adobe tools and wizardry here.  And hence this post, I hasten to add, is just about what I do, rather than what other bloggers would suggest, or what might work best for you.. You can download Powerpoint in a format to suit your computer and have a month’s free trial before you have to commit to buying; worth it if you have the time and motivation to dabble a little and explore.

I work on an iMac desktop and use the in-built iPhoto software for simple photo-editing – usually cropping, and adjusting light (gloom & overcast skies being a perennial British problem), before importing photos into Powerpoint to create montages or add text.  Before I had my Mac I downloaded the free Picasa photo-editing software onto my ancient Windows laptop and used that very happily instead.  Toys and signs I’ve made for Harry like those below were all created in this way, as were the ‘font’ montages shown above.

harrys labels

For backgrounds and backdrops I tend to take photos of interesting textures, walls, surfaces and so on, and upload these for use in projects.  I also use books of art papers like these, often scanning them so I can play with them and use them repeatedly.  The one investment I did make last year which I love is in two polypaper photo backdrops from here, one of chalkboard and one of a faux wood-pannelled barn wall (see both below)… the chalkboard in particular I use all the time as it’s so versatile.  Often though, I just wander around the house following the light, and shoot against walls and on the wooden floor; it’s simple and instant.

backdrops

So, no magic; just a little bit of knowledge and a lot of experimentation and practice.  If you’re making crafty projects at home and printing out graphics, labels and the like, my final tip would be to purchase and use photo-quality matt inkjet paper (HP make some; I’m sure others do too). This gives a great intensity of colour and the closest approximation to what you actually see on the screen.  As a dabbling amateur, I find buying great paper like this is more important – and much cheaper – than buying a world-class printer.

A final word on graphics; most of my pictures and graphics are ‘homemade’, but if you’re in search of general inspiration then Pinterest is a great source; search for free printables or graphics and you’ll often find lists of resources that others have created.  One other gem, particularly for those who like vintage ephemera, is the Graphics Fairy, which has a treasure trove of free-to-download goodies.

See you in a few days for more crafting and projects; have a great week, whatever you’re doing…

A Pause.

end of year sparkler

My last post for a little while, as the year draws to a close and the number of sleeps ’till Christmas can be counted, somewhat feverishly, on one very small hand.  Our home, for once, is lightly covered in icing sugar rather than builders’ dust, and stockings are being shaken out ready to be hung in the hearth. Guests are arriving, menus are planned and champagne is chilling.  Christmas-Day-clothes are waiting on hangers, but close by too are the slippers, robes and soft pyjamas we’ll sink into each day as dusk falls and the fire beckons.

Before I sign off though, a HUGE thank you to everyone who has followed me since I began in late January, and for the constant encouragement, humour, comments, questions and general loveliness that have made this, for me, an extraordinary and wonderful experience.  I never quite believed when I began that anyone would actually try some of the projects I’ve described, or that a continual flurry of like-minded souls around the world would declare themselves and check in, week after week, till virtual friendships grew over shared experiences.  The comments you’ve left have brightened dull days, provided the impetus to continue, and – frequently – made me laugh aloud.

Have yourself the most wonderful of Christmases, wherever you are and whomever you are with; here’s to a great year in 2013, and a hefty dose of loved-ones and joyfulness until then.

Thank you again from a weary but jubilant

Kate and Harry x

katescreativespace

end of year hall

end of year ducks

end of year window

end of year dinner voucher

end of year stocking stuffers

end of year reindeer cupcakes

end of year placemats

end of year santa hats

Half-year review

It’s been 6 months since I started blogging, as a result of a drunken New Year’s Resolution to really do something creative this year, which had to complement rather than add to my already deliciously chaotic life.  And so this blog was born, and what an experience it’s been so far; from having my first follower sign up in January (someone I didn’t even know! The shock and awe of it.. who was this exciting person?), to the highs of having thrilling little flurries of ‘likes’ and comments when I post, and coming across kindred souls the world over.  A whole new community and world has opened up, and it’s a very lovely – and inspiring – thing.

My battered notebook in which I document ideas and plans for the blog (above) is now stuffed with clippings and scribblings, and accompanies me pretty much everywhere.  Harry, for his part, loves sitting on my lap and looking back at the things we’ve done as I scroll through the blog and show him our photos.  At 2 and a half, he has the innate narcissism of all toddlers and there is nothing finer than time spent with a cupcake and a glass of milk, watching pictures of himself and commenting on their greatness (‘I sooo funny Mummy!’.)

From being something of a luddite where web technology is concerned, I’ve come to understand a little more about how sites work and how to take good photos, though I still have masses to learn.  Stumbling across other blogs has been an eye-opener and given me great food for thought about design, layout and content.  With that in mind the more astute regular visitors will notice something of a facelift this weekend, to a cleaner, more graphic and simple site that I think is also easier to navigate.  One of the absolute best things in recent months has been people getting in touch about the projects they themselves have tried out from my blog, so with that in mind I’ve also separated out some of the most popular into a ‘Tutorials’ tab on the home page.

I’ll be posting again later in the week with my latest furniture makeover project – a seasonal play BBQ/grill that Harry is even now pressure-testing by flinging mini play kebabs, piece by piece, across the garden (it’ll make sense when I show you the pics, I promise…), but in the meantime I’d love to know your thoughts on what you’d like to see more of, less of, or how you’d improve the site – all feedback gratefully received!  Whilst a blog is in one sense a sort of personal diary, it’s also of course a great conduit for ideas, projects and sharing, and your support, feedback, and reaction has been amazing; so please tell me, particularly if you’re a regular, what’s working for you and what’s not…

See you later in the week; have a great and relaxing end to the weekend!
Kate

Neat Feet

Today Harry elected to wear his red rubber wellington boots to nursery.  Yes it is June, and they were accessorised with shorts and a t-shirt, but H is a firm believer in following one’s fashion impulses regardless of season or peer pressure. (I say peer pressure; we were greeted by an eclectic cluster of two-year olds dressed as fairies, superheroes or simply sans clothing altogether, so perhaps conventional dressing is the only taboo at Harry’s age…)

I love Harry’s feet, and always have… as a tiny baby they, like his chubby starfish hands, seemed impossibly small and in constant motion as they flexed, explored and sensed this new and strange world.  One of my favourite pictures I took in those first few blurry months was this one of H&A’s feet, which hangs in the kitchen.

Since then, Harry has developed a keen interest in footwear, albeit each new sized shoe leads to a comic day of tripping and dragging as he learns the extra clearance required for walking in longer shoes.  This morning Harry opted to try on my husband’s shoes for size; a moment I had to capture…

I’ve kept all of H’s shoes since his first slippers at a couple of months old, and often ponder what to do with them; they currently hang on nails along my office wall, waiting for inspiration.  The most recent favourites are these battered silver trainers below, now immortalised as the footwear du jour at age 2  - I did the same for him at age 1 and will keep going over time.

What were your favourite shoes as a child?  As a tomboy I lived in trainers apart from the obligatory school shoes, a notion incomprehensible to my husband as he now surveys my overflowing shoe rack and row of killer heels of a height which makes him wince. Now that my home-days are spent in sandpits and muddy fields,  I have to confess that trainers are once again enjoying a revival in my daily life, and the heels mostly just a reminder that somewhere deep inside me is a footloose glamazon in temporary hibernation…

Feathered Afternoon tea

The sun is shining at last and the birds are chirping gaily in the trees, the Biblical torrents of rain a distant memory.  Let’s draw a veil around the fact that the chirping tends to begin at around 5am in the particularly large tree right next to our bedroom window, and be grateful for small things.  Still, action is called for; Harry tends to make the most noise when he is hungry, so applying the same logic to our dawn chorus I have set about constructing these tea cup feeders (below).

I saw a version of this idea here and fell in love; ever since I’ve been scooping up random bits of china from charity shops (I also use them in cake stands like my one here, and to make pretty filled candles).  Leftover spindles and paint from our house restoration provided the other parts – though old broom handles or curtain poles would work great too, particularly for larger cups.  Paint the spindles, glue cup to saucer and saucer to spindle and hey-presto! a bird feeder.  Not just any feeder at that, but a chic and tasteful one that can be painted to contrast with (or coordinate with) your garden.  A happy consequence of the small saucers and the petite scale of these is that squirrels find them particularly challenging…. I mounted mine by our pond (below) and have watched a small army of them attempt – and fail – to hustle some seed.

A few tips… if your spindle has a particularly pointy end, use that one to dig into the ground (obvious I know, but worth evaluating carefully before you set about glueing on tea cups…).  Shallow cups and saucers work best so that the birds can access the seed very easily and without having to hop into the cup and risk missing a sighting of the local cat / fox / toddler who is stealthily heading their way.  For location, try a few ideas out – I found they look best in groups, and when spaced at different heights.  Moving them around in this bucket of sand allowed me to decide on their final position without too much exertion.  Not least because my long suffering husband was the one who lugged the pot around behind me, as I waltzed around the lawn crying ‘left a bit! No, not there!’, until steam rose gently from his brow.  Hmmm, some marital brownie points to be re-earned, I think…

A Taste of Summer

It’s raining again, plus ça change. In fact, I’m surprised that my predictive text function doesn’t automatically open each post with these words, so consistent is the dreary drizzle and grey skies.  We have chosen to rise above it and conjour up sunshine in the form of these individual bread rolls baked in terracotta flowerpots and bursting with sun blush tomatoes, feta cheese, rosemary and all manner of deliciousness.

I uncovered this recipe buried deep in a bulging and well-thumbed file entitled Magazine Clippings That Will Change My Life Or At Least Enhance It In Some Transient Way, and we set about making it this weekend.  We carefully selected some pots and gave them a good wash and burst in the oven to prepare them, then rolled up our sleeves and let loose.  Gorgeous as an accompaniment to soups and antipasti, they also went down a treat at our teddy bear Playroom Tea Party this morning, where a surprising number of rolls were nibbled and partially tasted, given that most participants were stuffed (literally), and only one, Harry, was technically capable of eating.  Hmmm… suspicious.

Recipe and tips below..

This recipe originally came from British foodie mag Delicious, and I’ve reproduced it faithfully below.  Uncharacteristically, we didn’t deviate from the instructions at all and they tasted divine; a more accomplished cook could play with a variety of substitutions and tweaks and produce some interesting variations.

Sunblush and Feta Flowerpot Bread. Ingredients & method:

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 7g fast acting dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 240g tub of sun blush tomatoes; set 8 aside before chopping the rest.
  • 150g crumbled feta
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary plus some sprigs for decoration.
  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and stir in the yeast and chopped rosemary. Gradually mix in 250ml of warm water to form a loose dough, and add the chopped tomatoes and a tbsp of the oil from the tomatoes.
  2. Tip out onto a clean surface and knead the dough for 5minutes until smooth.  Add the crumbled feta and knead again until it is all incorporated into the dough. Separate into 8 evenly shaped balls and place each carefully in a well-oiled terracotta flowerpot (you could just place these in a muffin tin or on a baking sheet instead).
  3. Allow to rise for around 30mins, setting the oven for 220 degrees.
  4. Scatter the remaining crumbled feta over the top and add a single whole sun blush tomato to each (below). Thoroughly soak 8 small rosemary sprigs then gently push one into each flowerpot for decoration (the wetness will stop them from burning in the oven).

Bake for 20-25mins, then allow to cool for as long as you are able to restrain yourself; these are best served warm, so eat as quickly as possible or give them a quick turn in the oven before serving later (they last 2 -3 days if you can manage it).