complete ... but not yet finished

Dear Annie,

I'll hold up my hands and admit it- I have the tendency to be a lazy knitter. I rarely bother with gauge swatches (even though I've learnt from experience how important they are) and I seldom go to the trouble to block my knitting.

However, now that I've finally cast off my Veyla mitts, even I have to admit that a little blocking is in order. I've found some vintage red buttons and I'm all ready to commence with my finishing. Here's the 'before' shot, I''l be back soon with the 'after'...

love from,


PS: Any blocking & finishing tips from those expert knitters out there would be much appreciated!


And So We Wait

Dear Laura,

I am sorry to go on about the weather but I am British and we are having a weird old week. Today we are waiting for hurricane Irene, if you watch the news it is apparently the end of days. If you are a little less inclined to believe impending doom stories it is going to be a nasty storm. At least with the earthquake we didn't know it was coming, so all the anticipation was lost, we felt it, it stopped we discussed it endlessly afterwards but the danger was gone. Now we have had endless warnings and the stores are predictably running out of supplies as people panic. But still we wait. 

The storm is here, or at least a light breeze and grey clouds have arrived over head and I am watching out of the window waiting and wondering what tonight has in store. R is out fixing bits of the fence that might come loose and tying up the little trees. The bees are secured and still we wait.
I am working this weekend (booooo) so I have some distraction, the desk I work on is also my craft area/desk. So I see all the lovely fabric and wool and bits and bobs as I work which unfortunately will have to wait. 
I am charging everything I can just in case of power outage and sealing up the windows, we haven't gone and got our free sandbags but we are on a hill so I am sure it will be fine. Every few minutes I am glancing out of the window just to see if Irene has arrived yet. But it seems I am just going to have to wait. 

Lots of Love


Updated Sunday Morning: Seems the anticipation was worse than the storm here. Lots of loose leaves and plenty of howling wind and rain but everything else appears to be fine. 


sweet tea

Dear Annie,

Tea. You could say that it's been one of the cornerstones of my relationship with D. We met over tea and cream cakes at our university halls of residence. We spent a couple of years as friends, regularly popping to each others' flats for a cuppa. The first present that I ever bought him was some teacups. We've punctuated our entire relationship,as perhaps only the British can, with cups of tea.

Our wedding anniversary was earlier this month. A little gentle hinting sent D in the direction of the extremely talented Emma, who blogs at Silverpebble and makes fabulous jewellery in her beach hut studio on the edge of the fens.

A vintage teapot charm and two silver charms handmade by Emma make for the perfect tea-themed necklace, with a tiny amethyst (my birth stone) to complete it. Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled with it. If you haven't already, you can read all about how Emma made it here, on her lovely blog.

There was a little more sweet tea waiting for me this week, in the form of this Emma Bridgewater teapot which, along with the plates, was possibly my best charity shop find ever.

It sounds as if a cup of sweet tea was what you needed too, after your earthquake scare. I'm so glad that you are safe and sound.

Love from,




Dear Laura,

I am not going to write about crafty stuff today for two reasons, the first is that I have been working so much lately that the sewing etc. has been put on hold and the second is because we have just had an earthquake. AN EARTHQUAKE in DC. I am not in california, I was not expecting this. (There is a good video on the BBC news website www.bbc.co.uk, I was literally about 20m from where this video was taken)

We had just got back from lunch and were having a meeting in the office when the shaking started. Dumbfounded we all looked at each other, it was a gentle rocking rather like being on the metro. Confused at first I thought to myself that the white house was being attacked, I am just around the corner on the 10th floor of a high rise. The shaking calmed a bit and we all got up and walked into the main office questioning and confirming with each other that what we had just experienced was an earth quake. 

Then the big shake began, I don't remember any noise but I distinctly remember feeling like the building I was standing in had just turned to jelly, a kind of jerky jelly. And then I thought to myself, what am I supposed to do, I vaguely remembered something about standing in a doorway so I kind of tentatively did that hoping the shaking would stop and not intensify anymore. 

Once the main rocking had stopped someone shouted get out. Still in shock I didn't think twice and headed straight for the stairs still clinging to the pen I had been holding since it started. There we were met by people streaming out of the office into the beautiful summer day, there on the streets of DC were shirts and suits and ties and a whole heap of bewildered people.

I always wondered how I would feel in an earthquake and now I know, frightened, solid things feel like liquid. America is a wild world, there are animals that can kill you, weather than rips apart towns and an earth that shakes. Sometimes I dream of hills, sheep, basking sharks and the British adder. 

Due to the everything being disrupted I walked home. It really was a very beautiful afternoon.

There was a heavy police presence around the capitol building and lots of people evacuated on to the streets 

When I got home I surveyed the damage

I think we'll be ok.

Lots of love



late summer sun

Dear Annie,

I'm sorry that I haven't posted for a little while. We've been away camping in Dorset, making the most of the late summer sun. Our bell tent was given its first outing and we all love it dearly. Beaches have been played on, fossils have been hunted for (and found). There's been rummaging in vintage markets and antique shops and eating of fish and chips, cream teas, and lots and lots of ice cream.

Yes, that's another vintage blanket that you see, drying in the sunshine. Crochet this time. I picked this up (and bargained hard for it) at a flea market a week or so ago, it was just waiting for the perfect sunny day to be washed and line dried. 

Love from,



Birds on a Dress Take Two

Dear Laura,

A while back I made a dress for my niece you can read about it here .Well it turns out that she grows! can you imagine such a thing. The dress was pretty small to start with but did just about fit when she was really little.
Hello lovely lady!

So I recently picked up the dress and redid it a little to make it a little longer lasting.

First I picked it apart, the dress was too narrow, I think babies are more round than I first thought, so there was some widening of the central column.
 Extra pieces were added to the side, the last of the scraps I had left!

 It was all sewn together again and then rejigged so that the dress can come apart completely. So no problems with big heads or arm holes or anything like that.

Below is Bear modelling the dress, he is the closest I could find to a baby in the house. He doesn't look terribly dignified but he did a good job of modelling the dress all the same.

Lots of love



First Taste of Honey

Dear Laura,

It has been a little while since I spoke to you about the bees. You might remember that we got bees back in April, I wrote about the installation here. Well it takes a little while for them to settle in and we have had alsorts of excitement since then, new queens, varroa mites scares (see here for the havoc these little beast are wreaking), hive beetles, wasp attacks, thriving colonies, struggling colonies. On Saturday we went up to the roof and had a good inspection and so I thought I would introduce you to them properly.

Inspecting a frame of the thriving first hive, I would direct your attention to the bee heading directly at the camera

Smoking the bees to keep them calm

This is the queen excluder, all honey above this grating is honey for us, yippeee

So at this point I should tell you that R wears the bee suit and the hat. I wear shorts and tee shirt. which means that i hide behind the chimney pots and every time a bee whizzes past me I do a little jump and squeal. The bees are very mild even though occasionally I move to a more fatalistic thought process and imagine the bees all landing on me at once.

I love them though they are infinitely fascinating and just sitting watching the hives gives me hours of pleasure. This time we were so lucky as there was some  extra comb and honey and we got out first taste of honey.

So it doesn't look terribly appetizing due to the squished comb and other bits in there but the honey tasted delicious! 

Lots of Love



fruits of our labours

Dear Annie,
 This week, the boys and I have been busy fruit-picking. We've gathered huge juicy blackberries from the secret spot down the hill from our house, and on Saturday the whole family took a trip to a local pick-your-own farm to fill up a basket with gloriously red and sweet-scented strawberries.

The strawberries were destined for jam (I used Nigella's recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess. It was delicious, but her use of preserving sugar rather than jam sugar meant that it turned out runnier than I would have liked.)

The blackberries were used to make Blackberry Vodka, which should be ready by Christmas, assuming that D and I can resist it until then!

The leftover berries I combined with a couple of handfuls of redcurrants from the garden to make one of my summer stalwarts (yet another one from my book of hand scrawled recipes and magazine clippings)...

Summer Berry Mascarpone Tart
For the base:
100g butter
375g lemon, orange or ginger biscuits
For the filling:
2 large eggs
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
500g mascarpone
a few drops vanilla extract
grated zest of half an orange
For the fruit:
250g strawberries or cherries
150g currants (white, red or black)
100g blackberries

You will need a shallow, loose-bottomed tart tin, about 22cm in diameter.
To make the crumb base: melt the butter, crush the biscuits to fine crumbs then stir the crumbs into the butter. Tip into the tart tin and push over the base and up the sides. Leave to set in the fridge for 20 minutes.
To make the filling: Separate the eggs, put the yolks in a food mixer with the sugar and beat until smooth, then mix in the mascarpone, a drop or 2 vanilla extract and 1 tsp or so grated orange zest. Beat the egg whites until stiff, then fold them gently into the mixture with large metal spoon. Scoop into the tart case, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate again for an hour or more.
Hull the strawberries or stone the cherries and cut into pieces. Mix the fruits together and place them carefully on the tart. Cover gently with clingfilm and return to the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Longer will not hurt.
Serve and devour.
Love from, 



Quilting Time

Dear Laura,

A new little girl has recently been born into this world and there is nothing better than making presents for new arrivals. Unfortunately I am quite behind on the actual making of this one as she has already arrived. However I am sure she won't mind me being a little late. I was inspired by the beautiful quilt you made here and although I was tempted to out right copy it I restrained myself and have chosen a slightly different design. The predominant colour is purple because I know her mother is quite fond of that colour.

There is plenty to go yet, I am just pinning...
And Ironing! (note to self, plastic headed pins melt when ironed)
And attempting to sew...

I have discovered that if you iron your seams before sewing them and then lay them next to each other, you can see if they will fit properly and therefore the material will lie smoothly once it is sewn. Something I am sure everyone else already knew, but it was one of those Eureka moments for me, I had already unpicked twice! 

Once I am over this large hurdle of sewing all the squares together smoothly I think it is going to be easier although there is still plenty to do. 

Lots of love


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