Tuesday 30 June 2015

Tankfest 2015 ... a beauty pageant for ... tanks and armoured vehicles

Last weekend we were in Dorset for Tankfest 2015 ... and, whilst I really wasn't expecting to feel this way, I have to say that it was pretty amazing. I was dragged along because the child had got lost last year, resulting in the whole festival being locked down for 20 minutes on a code red, as Mr B and several members the British Army ran around frantically trying to find him. The whole thing was so traumatic (for Mr. B) that they insisted I come along this year to sit on a picnic rug and give them a rendezvous point to come back to if they got separated.

I agreed, knowing how much they had both enjoyed the festival last year, but expecting that it would be a day to be endured rather than enjoyed (I didn't set out on Saturday morning with any great love for, or interest in, tanks!). But I spent a very pleasant day, doing my knitting on a grassy bank with thousands of tank enthusiasts, a hot sun overhead and the most amazing armoured vehicles going through their paces in the arena in front of us. It was a fabulous spectacle: dramatic with a hell-raising capital D and a great big mechanised roar ... .

Sunday 28 June 2015

Mid-summer bath bombs ...

I'm just loving these long, balmy summer days. And it's great that our barmy British weather is finally playing along with the notion that it's summer time.

How better to relax after a hot, busy day in the sun than with a long soak in a rose-scented bath? And that's just what these amazing bath bombs will deliver ... in spadefuls. They smell wonderful and, as they dissolve, they release a swirling eddy of little pink petals into your bathwater. Divine! Things could be only be improved upon further with the addition of some lovely music and a glass of something cold and fizzy to wet your whistle ... just saying ... .

Anyway they're super easy to make. Here's my recipe ... 

Wednesday 24 June 2015

When a silver thimble was wedding bling ...

Yesterday morning I was racing through gallery 116 at the Victoria & Albert Museum when I chanced upon a little exhibition called A Stitch in Time. Well, in truth it's little more than one display case on the bridge of the marble stairway that runs up to the third floor, so it's a teeny weeny bit extravagant of the good folk down at the V&A to bill it as an exhibition, but, nevertheless, it made me stop and think.

Until the second half of the nineteenth century us regular folk - not the Great and the Good with their fashionable tailors, costumiers, hosiers and milliners - would have had to get by with home-made clothes. Today sewing, knitting and the other textile crafts are regarded as hobbies, something we do for fun, but back in the day they were essential life skills for all but the wealthiest heiresses.

A good wife and mother had many talents, and not least among them was the ability to clothe her family. Being nifty with a needle was, for many, as important as being able to read and count. It was certainly a talent that a young woman would have wanted to flaunt. Oh, yes, back in the day being nifty with a needle would have been regarded as just a little bit sexy.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Black currant jam with vanilla and star anise ...

Oh happy days! I'm so in love with summer. It's totally, absolutely, no-question-about-it, my favourite time of the year.

I love those long summer days, when I can leave the garden door open, the Wonder Dog can come go as he pleases and the balmy summer breeze can blow through the house. I love that moment in late spring/ early summer when the roses go crazy and explode with colour and fragrance. I don't like to think of it as mid-summer cos' that would suggest that it was already half over, and I want to hug this baby close and make the season last for as long as I can possibly hold onto it for.

Yesterday morning I was delighted to find that my little black currant bush (of a year and a half in my garden) had borne its first decent crop, which was all starting to look very lush and ripe.  Not wanting to waste any of this precious fruit I headed out and harvested the bounty. It weighed in at a very respectable 460g, which I decided was more than enough to warrant getting my preserving pan out for.

And this is what I made:

Thursday 18 June 2015

What to do when your marmalade hasn't set ...

Don't throw it out!

I had a bit of a disaster recently with some marmalade I'd made from a batch of sweet oranges. They just hadn't had enough natural pectin in to get a good set, and my jars were full of the most delicious marmalade, which had the consistency of an orange smoothie. The flavour was great, but the stuff was impossible to use on toast!

If you ever suffer a similar disaster here are three steps to turn the situation around:

Tuesday 16 June 2015

High on the ancient walls of Girona ...

Girona is our local big town out in Catalonia. It's a fab little city that gets a bit overlooked, standing in the shadow of its big brother, Barcelona, just down the Costa. But if you're looking for somewhere with a history that predates the Romans, with fortified city walls that have lived through 25 sieges over the course of their long history, good food (we've got El Celler de Can Roca, the world's number one restaurant in town), loadsa' museums and architecture to swoon over - well, this little city could really hit your sweet spot.

It's a place that's bustling with life and activity where Emi, the Wonder Dog and I spend many a leisurely afternoon strolling around, people watching, imagining the past, admiring the present and all the while enjoying a good ice-cream. Weight-watchers beware: they make some seriously good ice-cream in this part of the world.

Sunday 14 June 2015

Swirling rose jug cover ...

Well I'd better 'fess up first: I never actually set out to knit another jug cover. It all started in an idle moment when I was at home on my own, and I wondered whether I could knit a circle using short row shaping. Knitting a circle on four double pin needles is pretty easy, but I'd never tried it with short row shaping. So I set to work, and this is what I produced:

I love the way it swirls out from the centre like a kaleidoscope. My colours were inspired by the sea, so I thought it only fit to embellish everything using a special bead made out of sea glass, beach-combed from our village beach back on Spain's Costa Brava.

It's all really easy. Please read on if you'd like to check out the pattern:

Thursday 11 June 2015

Sea Rose Corsage ...

I've been having a bit of play over here at Talk-a-Lot Towers. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, my roses are blooming and I'm really enjoying the wonderful summer weather. Earlier today, as I was trying to design a rose as decoration for another creation that I'm working on, I came up with this sea rose corsage:

What do you think? In the very centre I've made a bead out of a piece of sea glass, beach-combed from our village beach last summer. It was the inspiration for the sea blue and sand colours that I chose to crochet in - and, hence, the notion of a sea rose.

Just read on for the low-down on how to make one of your own ...

Friday 5 June 2015

Spotty dotty knitted bag ...

Does the weather influence how you look at colour?

I find that when I’m in Spain I always chose bright, cheerful colours. Back home in London my choices tend to be a bit more restrained, but over on the Costa Brava I’m drawn to the big sunshine colours. And you can see the influence of that big Mediterranean sun in this new dotty, spotty bag that I’ve just cast-off.

I've lined it with a contrasting lawn cotton so that all the woven-in ends aren't visible when I open it. It's really quick and easy to make: perfect for a weekend with your needles out in the sunshine. Just read on for the pattern.