Sunshine in a flower

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Blackberries galore

(Blackberries 2008)

Well, late Summer seemed to catch up on us all too soon I feel. Now, it's September, I suppose we're in Autumn now; it certainly feels like it and the nights are drawing in at a speed akin to the fastest of Olympic athletes. The sun (despite it's best endeavours) takes longer to warm the day, but, for me at least, the most significant
signs of Autumn being upon us has to be the smell.

Our sense of smell is such a magical sense. I often think it's such an abused and taken for granted sense; usually we are only aware of this incredible gift when we smell something horrible; drains, smelly public loos (yuk), for me a shop in town that sells fishing stuff and maggots and smells like hell-it literally makes me retch uncontrollably if I go anywhere near it. I feel ill discussing it; it is indescribably awful.

Our sense of smell though is surely the strongest provoker of memories that we have? It links directly to our feelings, even if it's just the smell of fresh bread in a bakery, a fish and chip shop, a bar-be-cue. A newsagent near me has recently began stocking those large jars of sweets that used to be bought as a '1/4' but now is 100g I think! As children we were allowed 1/4 of sweets a week. We bought these from our pocket money and they were supposed to last us a week. It was always so hard to decide which to get and having three siblings, I always ended up wishing I had chosen what they had. I remember my brother loved 'Rosy Apples'. he used to let us have one of his, even though there wasn't many to a 1/4. I did like them but never chose them for myself, I liked sherberty sweets, and later 'medicinal' tasting ones like 'Kop Kops', 'Cough Candy twist' and various other herbal type ones. I have always adored liquorice, still do, especially the difficult to source 'Lakeland' liquorice from Australia (all those food miles are hard to reconcile with too when it's liquorice).

As I spied these jars of sweets in this shop, I had the same decision making to do. I ummed and ahhed and eventually decided. As the lady opened the jar to measure out my '100g', the smell of the sweets as she lifted the lid made me feel very like I was experiencing a 'Life on Mars' moment and I had been transported back to the late 1970's and early 1980's. It was phenomenal and dramatic as this sounds, it literally caught my breath.

Autumn smells of bonfires and leaves and where I live chimneys as virtually everyone has 'real' fires. Autumn also smells of casseroles and crumbles and warmer food. soon the smell (and sound) of fireworks will fill the air as Bonfire Night approaches all too quickly!

My birthday is in November and as a child I always adored Autumn, probably in part to the linking of falling leaves with heaps of presents and attention! I loved kicking leaves about. Although we do have trees where I live, the ones right by my house aren't especially dramatic. I'd love to go to an arboretum and most of all would love, love, love to go to new England in the US in Autumn/ the fall, and see the awe inspiring display of colour en masse.

(Blackberries 2008)

Back here in 'sunny Blighty', I've been blackberry picking galore, thus quite often are to be seen returning home somewhat bedraggled with purple hands with the blood from a million bramble thorns creating an 'interesting' and in some eyes I'm sure 'artistic' marbled effect from numerous (painful) scratches. I never fail to be amazed at the various bobbles and seeds attached to my legs in natures highly successful attempts at spreading seeds as far geographically as possible through the manner of attaching to whatever poor soul, be that cat, dog or blackberry hunter! On occasion I also have brought home a few caterpillars and indeed a beautiful teeny/baby snail, who have all hitched a -permisionless lift from the unsuspecting me!

(Mad apple tree 2008)

My freezer is now full of blackberries and stewed apple that should provide for scrummy crumbles and pies for some time to come. We're still only on the apple 'faller's' currently of which there are aplenty on account of the horrendous weather and storms which regularly torment us. On a more positive note, these 'fallers' are victims of the storms and high winds and thus are to be found with only a dusting of soil from the ground and thus the battle between man and slugs, grubs, is avoided.(For this I will be forever grateful as a crumble loses a great deal of charm with the knowledge that the apple from which it was made was previously inhabited by a family of grubs). My kitchen and wooden spoons have all been dyed a beautiful purple (and it is purple) along with the odd tea towel and alas a favourite top of mine is now 'individualised' by Jackson Pollock type spashes of stewing blackberries! It's clear that blackberries were an extremely useful colour provider in times when natural dyes were used entirely!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Still playing...

I've been playing a bit more with some Stampin Up stamps and here are the results! The card above is made with the 'Spring Garden' set. This set is so beautiful and ethereal, a really gentle and pretty set of stamps. I versa-marked the stems, flowers etc and then chalked on top, gently allowing the colours to merge. I actually used the chalks I received in my Stampin Up prize. Three colours only would you believe! I used the 'Bashful Blue' (love this colour so much), the 'Rose Red' and the 'Always Artichoke' which is a darkish green.

The base card is a light pink card from an Anna Griffin set off QVC sometime and I used the 'bashful blue' ink with an Anna Griffin background stamp, again from a set sometime I think, it's acrylic, I'm sure it was part of a set with a garden theme...! The sentiment is a sticker from 'DCWV' and I am annoyed as it looked the perfect colour until it was well and truly stuck onto the card. At this point, the sticker decided to become 'turquoise' instead of light blue/teal. I contemplated various ideas and think I'll end up having to matt over it and stamp a sentiment. I'm just trying to be good and use up some of my stash, and the DCWV stickers remain unused despite me getting them in a long ago parcel (mentioned on this blog) after I made some suggestions to a craft site regarding definitions of craft tools/materials etc.

The ribbon is from a local haberdashery department, the blue matting layer is a shimmery blue but part of my stash and origin unknown! The pink dotty matting is from a Karen Marie Klip polka dot pink card set. I love the colours but find these cards very disappointing as paper thin. All the cards in this range are the same; such a shame and really surprising as the range is so pretty and original, I am amazed the cardstock would be so poor. Useless for card bases but can be used for matting and layering at least so money not entirely wasted!!

The other two cards use the 'Stampin Up' 'Flower Factory' set which I think is a really useful and versatile set. Alas, the horticultarists amongst you will note that the stem and leaves are wrong and indeed are from the 'Stampin Up' 'Terrific Tulips' set. I seem to have lots of flower heads and few stems and leaves....! I thought I'd give it a go and just ensure, if I ever send these cards, that I send them to someone who won't know the difference between the leaves of a dandelion and a tulip!

'Europa' cardstock on the large card, with random matting and layering card. Also unknown in origin (as ever) are the miri card and the gingham paper. The gingham ribbon is 'Stampin Up', the sentiment is from the 'Riveting' Stampin up set and the button is from 'Love Elsie'. The rub on sentiment is 'Anna Griffin' and the crystals are again unknown but the non stick kind so thanks 'Quickie' gluepen!

The small card has random ribbon and cardstock with a 'Making Memories' ribbon slide and 'Stampin Up' crystal brads. 'Stampin up' ink pads and 'Stewart Gill' 'metallic silver' embossing powder. The sentiment rub on is once again by Anna Griffin.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Spring Garden cards

These two cards were made remarkably quickly and easily using the beautiful 'Spring Garden' stamp set from Stampin Up.

The long thin card was inspired by a card in the current Stampin Up UK catalogue. The stamps are just such fun to use. The quality is always superb and I honestly think Stampin Up stamps are the easiest stamps to use that I've come across too.

I love the way you get 'sets' of stamps, other than the odd stand alone that usually either a very large single stamp or a background stamp. The individual stamps within each set all work together, often in layers so to speak, as in the petals of 'Roses in Winter'.

On each card the stamps the flower stamps are 'Stampin Up', the sentiment stamped in black Stazon onto the red grosgrain ribbon is an unknown make (sorry). The inks used are again 'Stampin Up'(Rose Red, Bashful Blue and Always Artichoke).The red cardstock is also 'Stampin up'.

A 'Royal and Langnickel' white card and the blue card from a pack bought from QVC many, many moons ago. the green grosgrain ribbon is from 'Stampin Up' and the red bought from a local haberdashery department. the centre of the small flower on thee white card has a red snap; again, the origins are unknown...just part of my stash collected over time! I used a lovely apple green 'Staedtler triplus fineliner' pen for the faux stitching around the flower (I love these pens for journalling too). Finally, an Anna Griffin rub on sentiment was used on the blue card.

Anyway, I realise this sounds rather too much like an advertisement and that's not my job; I'm not in advertising I promise!! I think, if anything, I'm being rather evangelical about 'Stampin Up. When I first started card making I really wanted to do rubber stamping but always truggled to achieve the results I craved. Once I got my Marvy le Plume pens, I felt a whole lot better, getting some good quality watercolouring pencils also was a massive step and now to find such beautiful stamps that enable, nay positively encourage stampers to take stamping to that extra level; I'm just feeling really happy about my stamping right now. Best of all, I am really enjoying playing!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Blimey, I've made a card! (and posted twice!)

I thought I'd post my latest card creation so to speak. I have actually made a few cards lately (believe it or not) but I am always so unorganised and the cards take ages to make due to poor energy etc and then I end up forgetting to take a photo!!

Anyway, I am really pleased with this card. It's (as some of you will recognise) made using the breathtakingly beautiful 'Roses in Winter' rubber stamp set from 'Stampin Up'.

The base pink card is an unknown make (bought when I first started card making a few years ago,the green card is by Anna Griffin as is the sentiment stamp which believe it or not I've had for ages and never used!

The ribbon is from a local haberdashery department and somehow (don't ask how), I've managed to follow the instructions for the knotted bow in a beautiful book that I absolutely recommend 'Paper Crafting with Elegance' by Anna Griffin.

I used Colorbox Queue inks for the pinks of the roses and Versacolor in lime for the stems together with a Pretty Color inkpad for the sage green leaves.**

I've decoupaged the roses and asides from the fact that I think this is such a pretty card, I really enjoyed making it; the stamping was great fun! I think this stamp set could be used in some many different ways, colours and styles and certainly I've seen some beautiful cards in the galley on Splitcoast Stampers (go to gallery, choose Stampin Up as a category and set 'Roses in Winter'). I really am just so excited about this set, I feel in love with it when I first saw a card using it and to have at last it is a combination of 'phew' and ''yes! yes! yes!'!

**Oh, just thought, I could and should have used the Stampin up inkpad in the sage type colour that I won!!! I'd forgotten about that as it's all still in it's box looking gorgeous. I really struggled trying to find the right colours too! Typical! Must unpack my goodies now-they all just looked so pretty in their box....

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mrs B

Mrs B is a beautiful female blackbird who comes to visit and I just have to blog about her. I first met Mrs B last year. She built a nest just outside my back door in the small area of the overflow pipes from the bathroom. I have an extremely ugly but incredibly functional and useful plastic roof covering an area of maybe 8 foot by 8 foot (IE probably not that at all-I'm terrible at numbers and spacial awareness!).

Mrs B's nest (Mrs Blackbird..get it!), was under this covered area so sheltered from the rain. Unfortunately, we have a West facing garden so it gets very, VERY hot. In the morning the sun rises at the front, but by late morning, the sun is racing up the garden towards the house at a cracking pace. I was consequently really worried that Mrs B's nest and contents would bake. I also was concerned about cleaning products reaching the nest so I didn't let anything go down the sink or bath that could be hazardous.

Regarding the heat, I did manage to reach out of a window to put a towel over the plastic roof over the nest site. Mrs B seemed anxious, presumably as the towel made the area darker too, so I had to remove the towel-pronto!

Mrs B was a lone parent throughout her motherhood. I supported her as best as I could by providing a generous supply of live meal worms (a difficult thing for a vegetarian to do)and water which I would put on top of the sandpit/digging box for the bunnies with its canvas roof. One night I noticed she hadn't returned to her nest and it was 11.00pm and dark. I knew this meant either that something awful had happened to Mrs B, or that she had deserted her nest. I couldn't see inside the nest so had to use a mirror and angle it, and it was then that I discovered that Mrs B's brood, in reality a sole chick, had died. Mrs B had deserted the nest as there was no reason to stay.

I saw Mrs B for the rest of the Summer of 2007.The meal worm deal continued too and it was so lovely to see that she was well and nothing awful had happened to her. One day, as Summer (what Summer we may ask!) breathed it's last breaths, Mrs B didn't come for her meal worms, nor later that day, nor again. I hoped she had found a life that didn't involve relying on me for food, I really hoped and prayed this is what had happened.

Spring 2008 arrived and as the warmer days occasionally and all too briefly appeared, so too did Mrs B. I knew it was her immediately. I was so thrilled, firstly that she was alive and well, and secondly that she had remembered me and knew to come to me when she was hungry. The meal worm order resumed and as Mrs b was soon joined by another female and a male blackbird, the order increased accordingly! I think the shop must have thought I was feeding the 5,000 not 3 blackbirds! Having said that, it was soon apparent that the meal worms were providing sustenance for more than the adult birds. These incredible parents, would arrive, grab a couple of meal worms themselves and then fill their beaks to beyond capacity and fly off to their nests before returning shortly to repeat the process. The water provided was clearly much appreciated as was the large water bowl we always have outside for the mammals in my life, which developed a dual role of water bowl and bird bath!! Needless to say, once bath time was completed, the bowl would be thoroughly washed and re-filled as no one wants to drink someone elses' bathwater do they!

Mrs B has continued to visit throughout the Summer. She sits on the roof of the sandpit/digging box and peers through the window for me if I don't immediately rush out armed with meal worms! She squawks if peering doesn't work and should the back door be open, Mrs B will come into the house to find me.

Whenever I am in the garden I have the company of Mrs B. If I am in a neighbours garden or down the alleyway, Mrs B will appear and make her presence known. She's actually very patient once she's found me and will happily sit on the fence or a wall for a while whilst I finish a conversation or gather sufficient veggies and herbs for the bunnies!

Unfortunately Mr B (who isn't Mrs B's Mr B if you see what I mean!) has got to be rather aggressive, as blackbirds do, and so when Mrs B visits to eat, I have to stand guard in order to prevent the foul tempered Mr B from frightening poor, gentle Mrs B and preventing her from getting near the meal worm feast. Mr b is actually extremely brave as well as bad tempered as when I 'stand guard', I have to keep in clear view of Mr B or he tries to intimidate me and will fly towards me, such is his determination not to allow a single meal worm to be lost to another. This is not a character assassination however, and Mr B is clearly a devoted father as it is very unusual for him to eat a single meal worm. Mr B lands, fills his beak furiously and departs. Perhaps it's a man/woman thing, the ladies hang around a while, have a coffee (sip of water) and a chocolate muffin (hey, I deserve a treat looking after so many children is tough work you know)and see if anything new is in stock, maybe some apple, a bit of chicken, to break up the meal worm monotony!!

Mrs B, Mr B and their fellow blackbirds have brought me such joy with their daily antics. Mrs b is such an incredible blackbird, I never imagined a bird could be so tame unless I had hand reared her which I obviously haven't. I have no idea where she nested, nor where her Mr B is as i have caught no sight of her with a male. She is always alone. Of course, there is always a price to pay for love and I live with the threat of Mrs B disappearing one day never to return. I honestly wish I could keep her totally safe, but her need for freedom as a wild creature is a daily battle for survival. I only hope I have brought something positive to Mrs B's life, if only that I am a reliable source of food for her and indeed all birds as the bird tables are always well stocked.

For now, I must just enjoy what we have; a wild bird who for some reason chose me out of all the billions of people in the world as someone to trust. I hope I never let her down.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Back home

(Tom Summer 2006)

Tom is back home and recovering.

It was such a stressful day, not helped by the fact that the vets telephoned me when Tom was under anaesthetic to ask if I wanted his facial cyst removing as he was coping well with the anaethestic. Tom has had a cyst on his lower face, just going into his neck for approximately a year now. it grows and grows but coording to my vet was painless. I got very concerned as the cyst grew quite large indeed but one day Tom came in and had a tiny bit of blood on his scruff. When i investigated, the cyst had burst, possibly on a twig or similar as Tom adventured. Tom was totally oblivious to it and I was just glad the issue had sorted itself out!

Over the last few months the cyst has began to grow again. As before, Tom seemed entirely untroubled by it. There was no discussion of the cyst prior to Tom's denta, in fact my vet upon examining Tom stated 'Oh, it seems as though his microchip has slipped round' which was rather worrying as he was refering to this much discussed cyst.

I was really thrown by the telephone call from the vets. I had been told to telephone at 3.30pm to see how Tom had got on, so to be telephoned before then by the vets was for a few moments really frightening.

I was concerned about recovery time if the cyst was removed and ultimatly it hadn't seemed to cause Tom any pain. I said that I felt this was a veterinary decision but that Toms welfare and recovery was the priority.

In the event it was removed and poor Tom has a large wound (surprisingly large) with three stitches. His neck has been shaved and as the other side was shaved to take blood for tests last week, he'll be needing a scarf if it doesn't grow back soon! The stitches need to be removed in ten days.

I am cross though as Tom's claws were cut, very badly and at least two nails have bled. I didn't ask them to cut his nails, nor did I give permission. The claws have been very badly cut, I would guess with an inappropriate tool, as the claws are chipped and scuffed badly. All the nails have been cut, which is ridiculous and entirely unnecessary and all are far too short.

I have spoken to my vet and astonishingly he cut Toms nails. He said they'll grow back so 'you needn't worry about that, they will grow back'. Obviously I am well aware that nails grow back, my point is that they shouldn't have been cut in the first place, and certainly not as badly as this. The vet said that he cuts lots of nails and some bleed, some don't. Well, yes, they bleed if cut too short and into the quick.

It's probably best if I don't discuss this any more on here, and besides, I feel so angry and upset about it. Tom has enough on his plate without sore bleeding and chipped nails.

Anyway, he's home and safe. What a brave man he is, 'king of the jungle' as I call him. He coped extraordinarily well, and home is as it should be, everyone together.

Humphrey and Sophie

Humphrey and Sophie