Monday, July 30, 2012

Spring Around the Corner ?

It has been so dreary lately, I am desperate for signs of spring.  Any and all of them.  One of the tasks I need to do is to prune the roses.  While they can be done in July, many suggest waiting until 1 August to do this, so any new growth will not get frost bitten, as risk of frosts should have passed by 3 weeks or so after that date (when new growth would emerge).  I know from past experience that roses here  spring to life fast and well, this is a perfect growing area for them.  So I went out to trim the first lot, it being quite close to 1 August.  And I have many to do, so will be doing this off and on all week.  I got about 20-25% of them done in this first session, and have nearly filled our green bin already.  (the rest will be piled up to fill it after it gets emptied next Saturday).

I found a few early signs of spring coming soon.  Lovely coral red blossoms that open just before and during the month of August,  I will have branches for the next few weeks, to put into a favourite cut glass vase.  And small marguerite daisies.  Paperwhite jonquils, which are especially fragrant filling the room with their scent the first several days after I bring them in.  And a few creamy and bright yellow jonquils too.  Cute little grape hyacinths, with their intoxicating perfume.  And a few crazy silly roses that have still been blooming, right up to Rose Pruning Week !  A few pink, two yellow, and one red.

lalala...Pookie.just happens to turn up
after a basket of flowers
is brought in the house
 I collected a basket of flowers to take in.  It did not take long for Pookie to come around to check out what was happening.

Now he is curious !
Coming in for a little sniff.  Yum, jonquils !
(fortunately the cats do not eat these, but the last of winter's roses have already been "enjoyed" and grazed!)
The flowers make it feel like spring is soon to come.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Make Do & Mend

mended and embellished:
my old cashmere cardigan gets a new look
to complement retro spring frocks
It is the dead of winter, short days, cold chilly days, and when there is sunshine, it seems to be accompanied by a biting wind.  In the evenings we have a nice roaring fire in the firebox, and it is a nice place to have dinner.  And for a bit of time before I have to do evening work shift calls and emails, I have a bit of time to catch up on things in the mending pile.  This year it just happens to be a convergence of many wool items needing a bit of attention.  Of course, if these were items I did not wish to keep, I might not bother.  But they include ultra fine merino knits (feather weight, no bulk, excellent next to skin layer).  And some nice wool socks, still good for fitness workouts this time of year.  And also, a cashmere cardigan twin set that has had an encounter with something that left small holes in it !

The under layers and socks don't show, so a tidy mending stitch is fine.  But for the cashmere, the stitches, even fine ones, do show.  In a tiny row of ribbing, but noticeable.  So after mending them, I had to consider what to do to embellish or cover the mending stitches.

bird appliqué on back of the
sea green cashmere cardigan
First, I tackled the sleeveless shell.  Mending stitches ran down the front.  I found a pink stripey ribbon that looked cute and covered up.  I stitched that on and then considered my options for the cardigan.  It had mending middle of the back and also on one front side.

I decided to swap the green matching colour buttons with pink ones !  In a candy pink colour to match the ribbon.  In fact these buttons are not from a set, and do not match one another.  But they are similar tone and in style, so I have done them on this cardy as a mismatch set.  Then, a solution was needed to cover the mending stitches.  What, what ?  I got out several fabrics, to consider the options.  I found one with very cute bird motifs in pink, coral red, and blue.  I used Steam a Seam two sided fusible webbing to make the birds into appliqués.  Fused the bird fabric first, then I carefully cut out two of the birds.  One for the back and one for the side of the cardigan.  Then each bird was carefully fused onto the cardigan, placed to cover up mending stitches.  I knew they needed to be secured on the cardigan though.  But, with a fine weight cashmere, doing this by machine around such an intricate pattern did not seem the right method.  I thought it could pull or pucker the cashmere too much.  So each got carefully stitched with tiny little hand stitches, using button hole stitches.  It took awhile, but came out well and looked very cute.
iridescent seed beads in pink and soft cherry red
embellish the bird appliqué

I had some seed beads in pink and soft cherry red.  And embellished the front panel bird with them.  Now that took forever !  But it did look very nice and added a nice touch.

cashmere shell on left with stripy ribbon and cardigan right
with mismatch candy pink buttons and
embellished bird motif appliqué

The cardigan will look very cute with all three retro 50s style dresses I bought at Cath Kidston in London earlier this year.  And the shell and cardy will make a super cute set as well.

Now, I can't wait for spring !

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The more you see

Not long ago I had an opportunity to do some painting from photographic reference, supporting a friend who needed some work done at her direction, a specific short project with particular parameters about what and how it should be completed.  Here is one I did of hay bales, apparently they were photographed in France.  Below are some snaps showing how this developed in the course of the day.  This was worked in acrylics on a framed canvas of about 76 x 51 cm (approx).

The project took one short painting day.  From about 10AM to a  hard stop at 230P, to pack up and then head out for a late afternoon/evening work shift of appointments and meetings.  Perhaps it looks easier than it really is.  In fact, (for me, still) it requires good concentration and discipline to complete something like this in a day.  But I can do it, and I keep an eye every so often on where I am in my work, so I can keep a good pace and adjust if need be to bring things in, completed and on time.   This particular day was quite cold, so I worked all day wearing my old fave barn coat (yes, it does have paint splodged on it, not the first time it's happened !).  Note to self:  wear warmer foot wear next time, maybe the hiking boots !!

I still think it is funny that the big hay bale here is facing straight at the viewer, while the ones in the background are at a slight angle, along the curved furrows seen in the pasture scene.  But that is how the photo reference composition had it, so my painting reflects it.  As before when I painted hay bales, they look So Easy.  But I can tell you, there is a bit more to them than one thinks.  You might be surprised to learn that the big hay bale in the foreground got a fair bit of attention, to give it more dimension, more life, and richer colour.  Possibly an hour of the total work session ?  I probably could have worked all afternoon on just it !

The more you look, the more you see.  A lesson to consider and contemplate.  Still, it is good practice to work with discipline and to a time table.  Overworking a painting is the enemy of a fresh result.  All in all, I am happy with these hay bales.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dinner & Dessert

Its winter here and I have been trying out some new recipes.

First, here is a stunning accompaniment to wintry meats and stews.  Brussels sprouts have been on sale locally and look fabulous.  Cut in half and stir fried in a bit of olive oil and then caramelised with a tablespoon of vinocotto and a tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce, they are outstanding.  Serve with freshly cracked pepper.

brussels sprouts cooked in vinocotto
and low sodium soy sauce
If you haven't heard of or used vinocotto, check this link out for more info.  (You can find other links and info on line too, I just picked one to get you started !)  It is fabulous stuff and very versatile.  I hear it makes a fantastic glaze for salmon or fish.  I can vouch for it being excellent on baked fruit too--yum !  Well worth investigation and experimentation.

And a new dessert.  A cranberry upside down cake.  At the bottom of the pie-shaped glass baking dish I used frozen cranberries, with a layer of crunchy pecans over them.  And then a butter based batter gets poured over all that.  The same concept as a pineapple upside down cake.  Bake it up and when done, turn over and release from the baking dish.  It was really lovely, and served up deliciously with vanilla ice cream !
cranberry upside down cake, a stunner  and delicious !

Happy eating !  (me, I am doing my best to stay warm, but not gain weight over the winter time.  It is taking getting myself out in the chill to work out.  So far so good !)

Next Post:   a new painting exercise.